TAKING INVENTORY

IN MANY PAST ARTICLES, I’ve focused on the fundamental mechanics of playing solid pool. Much of the information I have given has been in the shape of principles as they relate to alignment, aiming, stroke, and mental effectiveness. Hopefully, some of the ideas, tips, and “secrets” I have given you have provided benefit to your game. The fact that we are all a little different in form and ability, and the fact that there are players who have success with many different styles proves that there is no ONE way of playing pool right. However, tried and true fundamentals hold up over time and under pressure, and one can often find benefit in working to make his own technique simpler, more effective, and to the point. Usually, the proof is in the pudding. The litmus test of your game is in your results; the ability that you can consistently display and in the high points you can reach. Your low points or slumps are useful in showing you what could use improvement in your game. So in this article, I will not teach you a new tip or secret; rather I will give you a list of questions for you to ask yourself that could help you assess the current state of your game, and help push you in the right direction to make intelligent improvements. I’m sure you have heard that it can often be the questions we ask ourselves that help take us to the next level in anything we do. So I’ve created a list of questions for you that relate to different aspects of your...

POWER BREAK

FORGET THE SOFT BREAK for now; instead, I have a couple tips for you to help you break with more accuracy and power. Since you will be hitting the balls hard, your stance needs to be more stable than ever. So often overlooked is the bridge hand, which is a third of the tripod formed also by your feet. Breaking from the rail is good not only because the angle of approach on the one ball (the head ball of the rack in 9-Ball) is conducive to pocketing balls, you can also get really solid with your hand on the rail. I do this by planting the heel of my hand (palm) onto the table as well as my fingers. This really allows me to put my weight into my arm and table which makes my tripod really solid; and solid is good, good, good. One key is to keep the weight into your palm even on your backswing. You don’t want to sway backwards with your backswing and ease up on the pressure into the table with your bridge hand. So, especially with your last backswing, lean forward into your bridge hand as you pull the cue back. When you start your swing into and through the cue ball, your hand will already be snugly in place, allowing you to exert your sledgehammer break into the stack. After you contact the cue ball it is OK to take your hand off the table in classic Johnny Archer style, but not before. Or just leave your hand there and follow through like Earl Strickland. When breaking from the bed...

HOOP CONTROL

A VERY SHARP STUDENT of mine recently informed me that more than two basketballs can fit in a regulation basketball hoop at the same time, and that good players actually aim for the ball to go into a certain part of the hoop depending on the situation. Maybe I should not have been surprised, but I was, and I earned an even greater respect for higher level basketball. This same student of mine was excited when I told him about “cheating the pocket” and demonstrated to him that more than two pool balls can fit into a pocket at the same time, which is true on most tables. Even if two balls cannot fit in, there will still be some room to work with. “Cheating the pocket” is basically deciding what part of the pocket you want the object ball to enter, either to increase your chance at pocketing the ball or to change the cue ball’s rebound angle off the object ball for playing position on the next shot. Professionals do this all the time. Because the pockets on most pool tables are pretty wide, this can lead to a little carelessness and slight loss of accuracy in shot-making. By just trying to make the ball into the pocket in general, it may bobble in a few times and even miss once in a while. The forgivingness of the pockets may lead to carelessness. Sometimes I have caught myself playing worse on a big pocket table than I do on a tight pocket table. So what I do now is try to pretend I’m playing on a tight...

BRIDGE LANGUAGE

IN POOL, YOUR BRIDGE hand will determine how well you can communicate to the cue ball where it needs to go. Developing your stroke is also important, but now we will focus on the bridge hand, that device which guides the stroke and helps keep it on line. Some people simply have more dexterity than others and quickly learn to form sound and solid open-hand and closed-hand bridges. For others, making a sound bridge comes in varying degrees of difficulty and the time spent in developing the bridge hand is especially well worth it. All of our hands are unique, and if you do not have the bendy double-jointed fingers of many of the pros, just try to maximize the potential that your fingers give you. If you simply cannot make a good closed-hand bridge no matter how hard you try, you can still be effective with a good open hand bridge. Think of someone fluent in sign language. They easily change from one distinct symbol to the next as they communicate. When they transform from one symbol to the next, do they fidget with their fingers for a while as they form the next symbol? Not if they are fluent. That is the idea with pool. It is ideal to be able to smoothly and easily lock your bridge hand into the chosen form for the present shot. Many top players will even form their bridge in the air and finalize it by squishing it onto the table, thus locking it in place right away. Locking your bridge in ASAP will enable you to focus on your stroke...

WOW CHIA-CHING

CHIA-CHING WU OF Taiwan. To watch him play 9-Ball, you really would not be surprised to see him win the World 9-Ball Championship. He’s got good form, a straight stroke, steady rhythm, great shot-making, excellent cue ball control, smart patterns, poise, an awesome break, and a ton of confidence. Oh yeah, and he’s sixteen years old. Sixteen years old? Are you kidding me? Actually, skilled and talented teenaged pool players are not extremely uncommon, but good enough to win the world title? And then if such a kid is good enough…to actually get out there and do it? That’s incredible! More than well done kid; you just rewrote the pool history books! Johnny Archer was the previous youngest world champion at 21, surprise- surprise. And I was impressed to see Thorsten Hohmann win it in 2003 at 24 years of age. But 16 years old, really? You are not kidding me? Most people are asking me if this kid really plays that good. I’d say yes. I had the thrill of watching him win the tournament in person. It is amazing enough that a 16-year-old won, but how he did it was more incredible and has undoubtedly won him countless lifetime fans. In the race-to-17 finals, losing 16-12, he had ball in hand on the 2 ball after the 27-year-old Kuo’s untimely no-rail foul, and ran that rack to make the score 16-13. Needing to win 4 games in a row, the 16-year-old Wu proceeded to break and run precisely 4 racks of 9-ball on pool’s greatest stage, in the most urgent of all moments. To top it off,...