ADAPT…THE ONLY OPTION.

ADAPT…THE ONLY OPTION.

Now I know why growing up I never heard a Filipino pool player complain about table conditions, it’s because the billiard table conditions in the Philippines can be so difficult that even “bad” conditions on a pool table in the States is like a well manicured PGA Tour golf course compared to the normal conditions over there. A week ago I returned to the USA from my trip to play in the PACMAN Cup in General Santos at the southern end of the Philippines.  It was my first time traveling there in the summer time hot, wet, and muggy season, and wow how extreme the conditions were.  Not only were the tables playing tougher than in Fall, Winter, and Spring…  The humidity was making my hands a even face sweat while I was busy trying to adjust to the different tables. Actually the best conditions were in the tournament arena at the PACMAN Stadium and even better in the air conditioned SM Mall in “Gensan.”  All the other tables away from the venues were in outside venues and so directly affected by the humidity and pollution in the air from nearby trikes and jeepneys…  Needless to say it was a crash course in adjusting to extreme conditions, and it was a lot of fun! Great local kids in Gensan up for a game  Ken, a local 16 year old talent!   at the PACMAN STADIUM for the singles event Of course there is the talcum powder.  Most players in the Philippines use it, and even dump a big pile of it on the side rail near one of the...

ADJUSTING YOUR CUE BALL CONTROL FOR ALL SPEEDS OF CLOTH

Playing on different speed tables, often in the same tournament, in back to back matches, is something you need to be ready for if you’re a competitive pool player or even if you just like to perform at a high level all of the time. This ability will directly affect if you are a winning player or not, if you take the cash home or not.  So let me give you a few recommendations for adjusting to different cloth speeds… Pick smaller position areas or spots as your cue ball landing goal.  I like an area about the size of a quarter as my cue ball target.  What this does is gives you accurate feedback on your results based on the force you used, so that your next cue ball speed control attempt can be delivered with more accuracy, and probably more accuracy than your opponent who is most certainly picking bigger zones.  It’s amazing how fast you can “get the feel for the speed of a table” when you do this. Put your emphasis on cue ball control.  Sounds basic and it is.  Winning strategy is usually simple.  Your shot making process should basically stay the same anyway so turn up the volume on your awareness of how hard you need to hit each shot.  This will directly affect your speed of stroke. Learn from your results.  Pay close attention to just how long or short your cue ball is going when you miss position. As always, stay down during your stroke.  Stay down and follow through…  This solves countless problems and helps you focus on cue ball...

BREAKING UP CLUSTERS & MOVING BALLS IN 14.1 STRAIGHT POOL

While this concept will apply to all games such as 8-Ball, 9-Ball, and 10-Ball, it really comes up all the time in 14.1, enough so that you could say 14.1 really is ALL about how well you break up clusters, and manage the cue ball after it contacts the cluster. It is really easy to fall into the trap of being happy with just hitting the cue ball into a cluster and then taking what you are left with and assuming it will be good because you did your job of breaking the cluster. With the World Tournament of 14.1 coming up in a month at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, NYC, this topic is at the top of my mind now and the more I play 14.1 the more I see the importance of this part of the game. A cluster could contain anywhere from 2 to 14 balls (as in the break shot), and if you want to get really technical, just bumping a solo ball into a new position as in creating a break ball could be considered a cluster as this is the type of accuracy or planning that I’m going to be addressing in this article. When to break up a cluster… First off, consider whether a “cluster” needs to be broken up in the first place.  Often there are one or more loose balls next to a cluster that could be picked off first but because of their position, they appear to be part of the cluster.  Many times you can pick a few of these off first or use one of them as...
CONSISTENCY AND PRE-SHOT ROUTINE IN POOL:  WARMUP STROKING PATTERN

CONSISTENCY AND PRE-SHOT ROUTINE IN POOL: WARMUP STROKING PATTERN

A big part of putting yourself into a trance of consistency is your stroking pattern during your warmup strokes.  An entire book, Pleasures of Small Motions by Bob Fancher Ph.D. was written with this aspect of your game as being THE most important part of performance on the pool table.  There is some merit to this. If you take a look at video of Efren Reyes at various stages throughout his long career and pay attention to his pre-shot stroking pattern, you’ll notice how little variation there is in what he does as the years go by.  Every top player develops their way of taking warmup strokes and that becomes very helpful or necessary in creating rhythm inside of their game. The coordination of your eyes to the movement of your cue is very important and you ought to put some effort into finding a way of doing it that works for you.  Once a player “gets in stroke” that also means that their arm and grip are warmed up along with their eye movement sequence as it relates to the warm up strokes and final delivery of the cue.  If you do all of the previous components of your pre-shot routine, get your bridge set firmly, and THEN get into your stroking/eye movement pattern, your likely hood of success on any given shot will increase 10 fold. There is no magical one correct way of organizing your practice strokes or some magical number of practice strokes for you to take, yet when you find one that does work for you, that becomes your magical result producing sequence.  You...
CONSISTENCY IN POOL:  PRE SHOT ROUTINE, SECURE YOUR BRIDGE

CONSISTENCY IN POOL: PRE SHOT ROUTINE, SECURE YOUR BRIDGE

If the pre shot routine is a sequence of events that you can repeat in order to generate consistency in your game, lets just say that securing your bridge is probably the most important event out of that sequence.  As many pros as there are, there are that many styles of play, yet one thing that is not optional is having very well secured bridge onto the table and if you watch closely just HOW a pro will secure their bridge, you’ll notice that they do it very well is how.  The moment that the bridge hand becomes secure is the moment you know a shot will soon be fired off.  When you start to address the shots and table well with the bridge hand, your quality of shot results will surely have taken a quantum leap as well.  A pool player will ever only be as good as their bridge will allow them to become. This makes this step in the sequence of prime importance.  A good analogy would be to that of a rock climber.  Imagine you are 1,000 feet off the ground on the vertical face of a granite cliff and your only way out is up.  You reach upwards feeling around for a suitable hand hold on which to grab so you can pull yourself up and free your other hand to look for a new hand hold and continue the process.  Knowing that your life depends on each hand hold, you will surely make sure that you have a great grip each time you decide on a hand hold.  Grip first, then continue. The...
CONSISTENCY & PRE-SHOT ROUTINE IN POOL… MULTI-TASKING

CONSISTENCY & PRE-SHOT ROUTINE IN POOL… MULTI-TASKING

Going through the elements of your pre-shot routine in pool does not have to look like 1 then 2 then 3 then 4… It could be more like take care of 1 and 2 while setting up for 3 and 4, then handle 5 while maintaining and solidifying the previous steps. So while you plan your shot (pre-pre-shot) you could be getting a feel of your grip and chalking the cue.  Then as you get your foot set up on the stroking line, you could be getting your bridge ready.  Then as you step into the shot, you could solidify the bridge onto the table that was already pre-prepared, and so making it solid is that much easier. Each element of your pre-shot routine should be given thought and practice, and mastered.  They will become as notes in a composers piece, and the composer is you.  Add your own style to the way you get into the shot, add your own flair to the way you do things.  Or look boring, it’s up to you as long as you start to get the job done on the pool table with consistency.  Think of the stroking line as the melody, and all the elements of your pre-shot routine are the notes within that melody.  Hit your notes cleanly and you can make music on the pool table.  Play out of tune or just make noise …and you may be forced to listen to your opponents music more than you’d like.  The challenge and choice is yours. Set all of this up out of your creative mind.  Know how good you...
CONSISTENCY & PRE-SHOT ROUTINE:  STEP & DESCEND INTO YOUR STANCE

CONSISTENCY & PRE-SHOT ROUTINE: STEP & DESCEND INTO YOUR STANCE

A couple days ago I talked about the importance of footwork in your pre-shot routine in playing pool.  I mentioned that you can get your back foot positioned (on the stroking line and the correct distance from the cue ball) so that you can then get into your stance.  Also the importance of clear thinking on what you want before getting into your stance. Before moving forward, I want to suggest that you do have  a few options when it comes to your stance setup footwork.  Many people when asked, don’t even know what they do with their feet to set up, they just do it naturally.  This can be good especially if they’ve practiced hard to make shots, and now this unconscious footwork works for them as an automatic success system.  However, putting more effort and attention can help greatly improve consistency in shot making and cue ball control. Here are 4 major options of footwork you can choose: Position your back foot on the stroking line in the location where it will be during your stance, so that you can simply step forward with your front foot and as soon as the front foot lands your body and bridge hand then follow and your stance if formed. Position your back foot, then step forward with your front foot and get both feet set, pause, and then descend onto the table with your bridge hand. Stand a little closer to the shot with your front foot in place and then step backwards putting your rear foot in place last, and then descend into your stance. Stand in the...
CONSISTENCY… PRE-SHOT ROUTINE:  GET TO THE STROKING LINE

CONSISTENCY… PRE-SHOT ROUTINE: GET TO THE STROKING LINE

This is CONSISTENCY month.  January 2014, and this week is PRE-SHOT ROUTINE week. First I’ve covered setting up your feet and chalking the cue as part of your routine. Ok lets back up a little bit first.  Before you can position your feet or your back foot onto the stroking line, you must find and get your eyes squarely “ON” the stroking line.   That step needs to become the foundation of all your shots and all elements of your pre-shot routine, at least once you get into the set up phase. The step of getting the eyes on the stroking line first (before getting down into the stance) sounds so obvious, yet too often I see players NOT finding the line first, and so their entire shot making process begins with little hope of success.  Luck and ability/talent to compensate become their crutch or best hope. You need to organize every stance set up for every shot, AROUND THE DISTINCT VISUAL CONFIRMATION OF THE STROKING LINE.  Let me repeat, you need to organize every single shot/stance set up, AROUND THE DISTINCT VISUAL CONFIRMATION OF THE STROKING LINE.  What does that really mean?  Don’t get down to shoot a shot until you stand on and see the line you want to shoot down. So the key element of your pre-shot routine is to find and look down the stroking line.  If you can add this to your game, almost any sequence of events after that will produce a much greater measure of CONSISTENT success for you on the pool table, for years to come. ABOVE:  This is (the yellow line)...
PRE-SHOT ROUTINE ELEMENT:  CHALKING UP

PRE-SHOT ROUTINE ELEMENT: CHALKING UP

Chalking your cue not only has an important physical function to playing the game, it serves as an important element in your pre-shot routine that contributes to your consistency as a player. Chalking is a ritual that helps with your success on the table. It has a place in the sequence in the way you get into your stance / shots and therefore deserves your attention.  For starters begin to pay attention to how and when you chalk the cue.  Notice if your chalking frequency and technique changes depending on what is happening on the table or in a match.  See if you can notice a rhythm about the way you chalk when you are playing well and try to duplicate it or recreate it all the time. Also if you don’t have a personal chalk, how neat are you with the chalk on the table?  Do you lay it down upside down allowing everything around you to get filthy?  Or do you have more respect for the game than that, I hope so.   I may be a personal pet peeve of mine about players who are really sloppy with the chalk but those guys tend not to beat anyone.  Don’t be one of them if you want to be a champion. Look at how snooker pros all carry their own chalk and it is a part of their pre-shot routine.  The table stays clean and the game moves faster.  Plus you don’t have to go hunting for chalk constantly have to be moving it out of the way… Instead of making chalking just something that must be...
PRE-SHOT ROUTINE:  BEGINNING OF CONSISTENCY IN PLAYING POOL

PRE-SHOT ROUTINE: BEGINNING OF CONSISTENCY IN PLAYING POOL

The pre-shot routine is a much talked and written about phenomenon in the game of golf, and as important as it is in golf, it is in playing pool. An effective pre-shot routine leads to consistency in your game and successful results over and over again.  There are plenty of items on your physical checklist to take care of in a short amount of time and if you’ll need a solid mental pre-shot routine as well, to keep you focused on the task at hand which is getting both the object ball and cue ball to go and land where you want. Clear thinking presides over all of it.  Know with clarity what you are working to accomplish on every shot.  That being said, build in clear thinking to your routine.  This could be classified as (pre)-pre-shot routine.  Thinking over your strategy, even if it’s just a visual glance of the table to see the pattern so that you know with confidence what your first shot will be, is critical to winning pool matches consistently, and against tough opponents.  To keep them in the chair, get clear on your game strategy. Once you’ve decided on a shot, know get clear on that shot.  You’ll never be a great position player if you don’t pick out where exactly you want the cue ball to land.  You’ll also have a slower time adjusting to table conditions if your targets are hazy at best. Now that you know what you are planning to do with clarity, it’s time to get set up.  This is the beginning of the real pre-shot routine, and...