I know that straight pool is the best game to play for beginners wanting to develop position play and touch, but Iím stuck at 14-ball runs. What am I missing?
ó S. Rao; New York, N.Y.
There are two balls you need to focus on in order to extend your runs. The first is known as the key ball, which will be the second-to-last ball remaining on the table. When you sink this ball, you want to be sure that you have good position on the next ball, which is known as the break ball. The break ball is the ball that truly determines your ability to extend your run. That is because when one ball is left on the table, your opponent reracks the other 14 balls, to keep the game going. Once the balls are reracked, you want to sink the break ball and have the cue ball carom into the rack, spreading out the balls so you have another shot. This is pretty easy, if you have planned in advance where your break ball will be. Hereís the secret: When your turn at the table begins, examine the layout and select your key ball and break ball. The break ball should be near the point where the balls will be reracked. When you have those two balls in mind, just work backward. You know that the break ball will be last, and that the key ball will be the one just before it. Now devise a pattern that will get you around the table, in position for those last two shots. This mental exercise isnít easy at first, but thatís what it takes. And youíll be flummoxed by balls that cluster together, but thatís a topic for another day.
I just watched a local tournament yesterday and thought of entering one. What would you consider the most important thing to focus on?
ó Germain Puccetti
Good practice habits, for sure. I practice in two ways: analytical practice and competitive practice. In analytical practice, I pay attention to my errors and work on new shots. I do more drills. I analyze my weaknesses. I question everything I do and work on it. In competitive practice, Iím training my mind. I play more sets against ďghostĒ opponents and against players around my level, just a bit weaker and a bit stronger. I work on keeping my mind on the present. I stay in the moment, focusing on being ready for every opportunity. I let go of my errors, focusing only on the table and being ready to play my best pool. I let my opponent know in advance what Iím training for and we donít talk, take phone calls or goof around. We take one five-minute break and thatís it. If we find ourselves distracted by something, we force ourselves to get our minds back in the match. This is important if you plan to be a competitor. If youíre at war and get shot, you donít have time to kick yourself for making an error. All you can do is reload and keep shooting until your opponent is down for good. The closer I am to the tournament, the more competitive practice I put in; the further I am to the event, the more analytical practice. Whatever you do, do not use new weapons (systems, new shots, new equipment) right before a battle.
My friend, in my opinion, takes an inordinate amount of time to shoot. Is there a rule on pace of play? Or do I have to suffer in silence?
ó Zeke; Detroit
No, there isnít a rule on pace of play except in professional televised events that need to be finished within a certain time frame. You can either stop playing him, or teach yourself to focus on other things when heís shooting. This is an opportunity, believe it or not. Your friend will not be the last person you play that does something annoying. So you can either be a suffering victim or you can figure out a way to not let these distractions bother you. I have learned to not look at this opponent at all. Just focus on the table. Or I will just imagine myself running out the table. I picture finding my perfect aiming points on the balls into each pocket. I pick the perfect place to hit a cut shot or bank shot. I keep my mind on the table so I am still focused on the match and ready to shoot. Iím patient. This will help you so much. So, personally, I would still play your friend once in a while to work on this area of your game, which will be useful. One more thing: You should remember that everyone has a particular pace and is trying to do whatís necessary to improve. They rarely do it to annoy others; they do it because they are trying so hard to get it right, and I think that should be respected. One of the worst and most common mistakes that we make at every level is rushing to shoot. Fast players make more careless errors than slow players.
The owner of my local poolroom refuses to go nonsmoking. He says heíll lose all his business; I think heíll get more business from people like me. Why do we have to suffer just because some people have no respect for their own health?
ó D. Lee; San Francisco, Calif.
Some things in life just arenít fair, and all you can do is make your own choices. Many poolrooms across America that have chosen to go to nonsmoking have lost some business; itís a valid point. They gain a healthier lifestyle and tons of happy nonsmokers. But lots of smokers also drink, and, therefore, the rooms lose money. Youíre just gonna have to decide how important it is to you.
I play sets for $20 here and there. There is one guy at my poolhall whom I usually beat and then he says heíll pay me later. Is there a set rule for this kind of thing? I want to show him your answer to let him know how itís supposed to be done.
ó D. Patterson, Portland, Ore.
I think he very well knows how itís supposed to be done. And frankly, itís on you not to play a guy who hasnít paid you the first time. At first I go on the honor system, but when he breaks that code, then itís ďput the money up firstĒ every time. If you gamble with him when he doesnít have the money, then having to remind him is the price you pay for that $20 greed. You donít need to show your buddy my answer, youíre the one making the decision to play him.
I canít get my boyfriend off the sofa unless itís to go to the poolhall. OMG, he is so lazy! He thinks heís going to make a living playing pool. How do I tell him that there is no future in pool (youíre the exception), and that he needs to grow up and get a job?
ó L. Briaz; Staten Island, N.Y.
Itís hard to tell anyone that thereís no future in something, because itís not the particular subject that makes or breaks a person. Itís the personís own actions. You can make a future doing anything in the world. But one thing I can guarantee: You wonít make a future on the couch. Whether itís pool or anything else, it takes dedication and hard work and passion, above and beyond the average Joe, to make a real future. So this guy doesnít have a job? I would give him a certain amount of time to go after whatever career choice he wants, if he can afford it, meaning at least a part-time job to cover bills during this process. Support him and encourage him, ... but, that means he should be working hard 18 hours a day trying to make that career choice work. Otherwise, what are you waiting around for? If I see a guy working hard at pool, doing drills, competing in tournaments, watching tapes, playing morning and night, and heís really improving and treating this like training for the Olympics, then fine ó Iíd see what his plans are, and, if itís reasonable, then support them. If he thinks hanging around, sleeping and playing a little pool is going to make his future, then Iíd get off his train, because itís headed nowhere.
I try to practice ten hours a week for my weekly tournament. Sometimes Iíll shoot lights-out at the tournament, and sometimes Iíll play like Iíve never seen a table before. My inconsistency is out of control. Is it just a matter of upping my practice time?
ó A. White; Cincinnati, Ohio
Mapping your practice time is never a bad idea but itís not the first thing that Iíd ask you. I wonder about the quality of your practice and whether or not the environment and your attitude in practice is much different than your competitive side. The more we practice under tournament conditions, the more our real game will show up under pressure. What I mean by that is, during your tournaments, you probably focus harder, talk less on the phone or take fewer breaks, have higher expectations of yourself, are more critical and analytical. Most people play pool during the week, and they play very relaxed and fun and have phone calls and eat something while they play, etc. But then, later in a tournament, you become a different, more serious person that your pool game doesnít recognize or know how to handle. If this is the case, get serious. When I practice, I make my opponents lag for the break. We take a five-minute break per set and no talking, no phones, no food. Just pool. I focus on staying in the moment and being ready for my next opportunity at the table. Thatís it. And if you only play ten hours a week and then compete, then you should be working the same way. If you plan to be a competitor, then practice as you compete.
I love my league night. How can I explain to my judgemental in-laws that pool is not just a sport for guys who curse and drink?
ó S. Gupta; Richmond, Va.
Option one: Ignore their ignorance. Theyíll never get it, and itís not their fault. Option two: Educate, advocate and get them involved. As a Korean, I invite as many people to Korean meals as I can. I show pictures of our traditional dresses or talk about customs I respect and appreciate. But, ultimately, telling them does very little. Bring them to your billiard place, invite them to your leagues, introduce them to people that are not just ďguys that curse and drink.Ē Change comes from action, not words.
Iím thinking about proposing to my girlfriend at the poolhall we go to. We met there, and we both love pool, so it seems like a natural, but Iím wondering if this is just a ďdumb-guyĒ idea that I will regret.
ó ďLeftyĒ (location withheld)
If you both met there and go there regularly, I think it would be very sweet. Itís not so much where you do it, itís how. The major thing you have to remember is that she will be asked 3,000 bazillion times how she was proposed to. Itís gotta be something she can brag about. So, make sure itís very romantic and unique. If youíre sure sheíd say yes, then have a bunch of her friends around to witness the coolest moment of her life, make it very original, and for goodness sake, at the final moment, get on your knees when you ask her. Good luck! Oh yeah, donít forget the rock!
My dad owns our poolroom, and heís driving me nuts. I canít practice or play a league match without him constantly correcting me, sometimes in front of dozens of people. Iíve asked him to cut it out, but his response is, ďBut Iím right.Ē I donít want to be so drastic as to go to another room. What can I do?
ó J.W.; Miami, Fla.
I understand your problem. We all want respect from our parents, and we also never want our confidence undermined, especially in public. When you ask him to ďcut it out,Ē is that also in public? I wonder if you can take him aside or even write to him, expressing not that he is wrong, but instead, how it makes you feel. Him respecting your need to grow as a player on your own is not a matter of him being right or wrong. We canít do everything for our children, but by stepping back, he gives you an opportunity to learn from your own mistakes and be prouder of your own accomplishments. Communication is the first step. Tell him you know his advice is intended to be helpful, and you appreciate that. Iím not sure if heís helped you, but if he has, you donít want that to stop, you just need to give him appropriate boundaries on how thatís shared. Let him know you still respect his opinion and want his help, but to offer it in private. The bottom line is that pool should be enjoyable. If Dad canít work with you after you are sincere and tell him in private, then it might be time you go on your own. Itíll stink paying table time somewhere else, but if it means youíll improve faster it might be worth it.
Everybody tells me that I should follow through more, but I see plenty of guys get around the table with pokey strokes. Whatís the big deal?
ó Blake Brannigan; Ames, Iowa
Follow-through is a mystery. It shouldnít matter, but it does. Big time. A stroke that stops just after contact with the cue ball is invariably short, jerky and ineffective. Follow-through makes a noticeable difference. Imagine a baseball player who took a mighty cut and stopped as soon as the bat made contact with the ball. Or a tennis player whose racket froze in midstroke. It doesnít happen, because following through helps keep the rest of the stroke on line. In pool, you should follow through at least 12 to 18 inches on every shot. Sometimes the lay of the table makes this impossible, but, whenever possible, you should try to shoot through the cue ball by this distance. If you donít, your stroke will become jerky, and your accuracy will disappear. So remember: all the way back, all the way through. People have told me that I have a long stroke. The insinuation, of course, is that itís too long. Maybe. All I know is that it has served me well, and I like it. Earl Strickland and Efren Reyes also have long strokes, and I havenít seen it doing them any harm. Perhaps it is easier to control a short stroke, but the important thing is to find a stroke you can live with. In truth, everything else is extra. If you donít develop a reliable stroke, you will severely cramp your ability to grow as a player.
Iíve been playing terrible lately in my league matches. And when I try to make adjustments, it just gets worse. Iím thinking of just quitting. Maybe Iím not cut out for this. What should I do?
ó Andrea W.; Beloit, Wisc.
Donít turn on your game. I often hear people who miss a series of shots walk away from the table saying, ďI suck.Ē Thatís a good way to get yourself into a rut, not a particularly good way of getting yourself out. And never start working on your stroke in the middle of the match. Trust me. Your stroke is there. Itís been there. It did not abandon you, so donít abandon it. If you were lost at sea, would you throw away your rudder? If you were in the middle of a war, would you toss your best gun aside and pick up an untested one? No. So, relax. You are not going to improve on hours of practice with 30 seconds of adjustments in a pressure-packed situation. It just doesnít work. Dance with the partner you came with. Donít get flustered, and donít let your opponent see that you are unnerved. If you saw someone moaning and crying at the table, would you be afraid of him? No. You would think he was ripe for the taking. So donít give your opponent that edge. The best thing to do is sit calmly while your opponent shoots. Donít waste time kicking yourself. Instead, think about how much you are looking forward to your next turn at the table. Tell yourself that you are warming up, that youíre just getting going, and that when you do, there will be Hell to pay. That should end your streak of misery pretty quickly.
I am a very competitive person, and sometimes I want to win so badly, I think it sharks me. If the match is close, I tend to psyche myself out and give the game away. Is there such a thing as wanting it too much?
ó R. Skinner; Memphis, Tenn.
A lot of people say that the difference between winning and losing comes down to which player wants it more. I think you can want it pretty badly and still lose. There is a difference between desire and motivation: It is easy to want something; what is hard is translating that desire into action. When I was a young player coming up, I wanted to be number one so badly I could feel it boiling in my blood. It was the first thing I thought of in the morning and the last thing before I went to bed. But it didnít happen just because I wanted it to. I used that desire to motivate me. It became the force that woke me up every morning. It whipped me to get to the poolroom an hour before my friends so I could practice before we played. So set your goals high and do what it takes to meet them. Desire without action is a waste. Youíve got to let your hunger lead you somewhere. But itís important to enjoy every small step of your improvement, especially once you have set lofty goals. Otherwise, it is easy to get discouraged. What if you still canít beat the town ace after 20 weeks of practice? Doesnít matter. Beginners get all wrapped up in results. Forget about results. They will come. You will meet your goal when you stop bludgeoning yourself for your failure to meet it.
I really feel like Iím aimless and floundering when Iím at the table sometimes. I need a solid pre-shot routine. Any suggestions?
ó L. Beaz, Washington, D.C.
A.The four-part shot routine is the best way to maintain focus, no matter what conditions you face. First, make a decision about what you want to do. That is the easiest part, but it is important. Look for the best shot available, always keeping in mind that you want to establish cue-ball position for your next shot. Second, picture the shot happening exactly as you intend it. Picture it in as much detail as you can. Visualize the speed of the cue ball and its entire path around the table, from start to finish. The more detailed the visualization, the more your body will make it happen. The third step in the routine involves your aim. Get down on the shot and find your smallest possible target. Look at the cue ball, the object ball and your pocket. Then focus on the object ball and find that one atom-sized dot, the tiniest place in the universe that you can imagine. Narrow your vision. The fact is, the more precise your aim, the more accurate you will be. Period. The final step may be the hardest. You have to trust yourself and let your stroke go. Just let it go. Take your practice strokes and say, ďI know this ball is going in.Ē If you have any doubts, do not take the shot. Once you make it, get up and start again from step one. Seriously. And remember: You cannot question yourself once you are down on the shot. Negative visualizations will result in missed shots. Get up and make a new decision.
Iím just a beginner, and Iím still not comfortable making my bridge. I canít seem to remember how to make the right shape ó muscle memory or something. What am I doing wrong?
ó Sheila S.; Oklahoma City, Okla.
A.Just keep with it. Repetition is the key. Iíll tell you story about how I first developed mine. I copied the bridge of Johnny Ervolino, who played at Chelsea Billiards in New York City. (Donít be afraid to imitate great players. If it works for you and it feels right, incorporate it into your game. If it doesnít, drop it.) After studying it for hours, I walked home to my studio apartment, trying to keep my fingers locked into the shape I saw him using. But as bedtime approached, I became convinced I would lose it overnight. So I rummaged through a drawer and found a roll of electrical tape. I wrapped the tape around my left hand, which I had kept frozen in the bridge position. I drifted off to sleep like that, and when I woke up in the morning, there was the bridge. I padded over to the shower, but once I turned the shower on, the tape got wet. As I lathered up the shampoo, the whole sticky mess turned inside out and caught in my hair, and I had to pull it out, piece by piece. I toweled off and taped my hand up again. So it went for about three weeks. Every time the tape came off, I rigged it up again. When I had no tape, I would just put my fingers in that position and try to keep them there. After about three weeks, I had a sturdy, reliable bridge.
On league night last week, I played one match totally in the zone. I mean, I couldnít miss if I had my eyes closed. The next match, I was terrible, and I just about lost it. How can I consistently get in dead stroke, and stay there?
ó John Liu; Los Angeles, Calif.
A. Everyone says the zone is indescribable. Iím not so sure. I think it is intensely personal, though, so you have to find out what it means for you, what it feels like when you are in the zone. If you treat it like a mystical happening, it will remain an unpredictable muse. The next time you emerge from the zone, analyze what happened internally. What did it feel like? What were you thinking about? Were you walking around the table differently? Moving around more or less than usual? The more clearly you can recall these elements, the better your chances are of returning to that state, or at least of duplicating its conditions, so that you are freed up to play your best. If you start playing poorly, I can give you two words of advice: Donít panic. If I am playing poorly, I will adjust my game and play a little bit safer. Take easy shots, or play defensively, making your opponent shoot difficult shots. Donít get frustrated. Even it that moment you canít outshoot your opponent, you can still outsmart him. Pretty soon, heíll be cursing himself, and you will have regained the upper hand.
I mostly play 9-ball but I have recently been playing 8-ball with the APA. I frequently make most of the balls on the table with ease, but I canít close the game. I have considerable difficulty with winning, when I know I can outplay most of my opponents. What can I do?
ó Alfred Gomez: Miami, Fla.
A. If you are talking about having trouble finishing a rack thatís open with no trouble spots in sight, then I would suggest two things.†Work on better pattern play ó meaning, better decision making ó†and work on your endurance. What I mean by your endurance is your ability to stay focused rather than get focused.†My best advice for both of those is to play straight pool. You will learn about pattern play and how to keep your focus rack after rack, as opposed to 8-ball or 9-ball where you get to regroup after every rack. In straight pool, you have to sustain your focus through 100 to 200 balls. When I ran my first 100 balls, it wasnít because I got better at pocketing balls. The shots donít get harder after 100 balls; it just gets harder to stay focused.†You might want to take some lessons with a top pro like Jerry Briesath or Mark Wilson for pattern play and stroke mechanics. And again, make sure to practice staying focused rack after rack, without breaking your focus to talk on the phone, get a beer, etc. Focus comes from your brain, which is a muscle. Work that muscle, baby, and it will endure!
I canít decide what my boyfriend loves more ó me or pool. The only time we spend together is at the poolhall. How do I decide if heís really serious about me? How do you convince someone that being obsessed with something (like pool) is bad for him?
ó J.H., Denver
A. I donít know if itís a bad thing to be obsessed with something. A lot of great things have come from obsessed people. But it can be bad for a relationship. You both have to make compromises on how much time you spend together and how. If pool is just some random hobby, and heís not willing to make some compromises, then he may be someone you need to let go, even if itís only to show him what heís missing out on. If he doesnít realize it then, he never will. If itís someone who is completely passionate about something he loves, that heís ďinvestingĒ his time in pool because he believes in it and has a goal toward it, I would say, please donít kill that in him. Support it, maybe groom it, guide it, but donít crush it. Donít crush whatís in a manís heart. For one thing, talk to him more about it, so you can understand him better. Something that heís that serious about is worth understanding. Also, maybe you can be involved. And if you canít, then he needs to find some time for you doing things you like also. If he sees you making the efforts to support him and he canít make similar efforts to support the things you love at some point in the day, then he may not be worth keeping. He needs to know that youíre investing too, and he needs to appreciate and respect that.
Iím so tired of the terrible equipment that we play on at my local room. It makes the weekly tournaments almost meaningless, and I know itís bad for my game. Everyone agrees. How do we get the owner to sink some money into some decent tables and better (or just new) cloth?
- Andy Cho; New York, N.Y.
A. You may never convince someone to help you, when it comes to their pocketbook. But as far as competing goes, my advice is to never complain about the equipment. Thatís a loser move, and a sure sign of a faulty attitude. Professionals do it all the time. ďIsnít this cloth a little fast?Ē theyíll ask. ďI love this cloth,Ē Iíll tell them. ďArenít these pockets kind of thin,Ē they want to know. ďThe pockets are perfect,Ē I respond. Truth is, I love whatever Iím playing on. Because whether I love it or not, Iím playing on it. We all are. And the first player who stops fighting the inevitable and learns to embrace it has the best chance to win. Itís not that I donít recognize when conditions are different from what Iím used to. I just accept the challenge. I know that if I had played my whole life on that cloth, with those pockets, it would be no problem. Itís just a question of adjusting, and I can do it in an instant, because I know it can only help me. What good does it do to complain? Will the cloth get slower? Will the pockets expand? I donít think so. Same goes for the layout of the room. If your opponent hits a shot that leaves you in a tight spot near the wall, where you have to use the shorty cue, grab that shorty cue off the rack with a smile. Make your shot.
Iím so frustrated with my game. Iím at the point where I can make some pretty sophisticated shots ó banks, kicks and English ó but I still miss the easy ones. What am I doing wrong? Is it mental or physical?
- John Tyler; Phoenix, Ariz.
A. It still amazes me when I miss a straight-in shot after having played for so many years. It shows how billiards is a mental and physical sport, rather than something like, say, chess, which is fully mental. Pool requires knowledge and a good stroke, and playing great pool requires more. It requires a level of focus that needs to be developed. It requires that we improve and then trust our swing, a swing that needs perfect timing in order to have accuracy and consistency. Sometimes, we get up to the table and see a tough shot that we know requires our full attention, and so we thoroughly go through the pre-shot routine and make the commitment necessary to execute the shot. Then we might have a simple shot that we take for granted and thus skip certain steps of the routine. The problem is that every shot is so delicate that it only takes the slightest lapse in concentration to miss. Anyone in the professional ranks can make great shots, but the champions miss fewer easy ones. They are more disciplined and do not take the simplest shots for granted. That's not to say it still doesnít happen. Often, I catch myself taking my eye off the target, worrying about where I want my cue ball to end up. But even that means that I did not go through my pre-shot routine and did not focus fully on the shot at hand.
Settle an argument between me and my dumb boyfriend. He thinks that he plays better when he's had a couple drinks, that it "cures" him of the tightness in his stroke. I can sort of see his point, but isn't the trade-off in your losing your ability to make good decisions?
- J. Slattery; Denver, Colo.
A. Tightness can lead to tentative, jerky strokes that leave you with no fluidity and no control over your shotmaking. That is why some players believe they play better after a drink or two. It relaxes them, and their stroke becomes more fluid. Unfortunately, their concentration also blurs, and when they keep drinking, their vision falters, their breath begins to stink, and they start mumbling incoherent and ineffective pickup lines. But I digress. It may be true that one drink can loosen you up. But the effects wear off quickly, and the answer is not to take a second drink. It just doesn't feel the same; you'll start to lose your focus, aim and coordination. The real reason players rely on alcohol, I think, is to get confidence. That is a little pathetic, though, and certainly not good for you in the long run. Liquid confidence is a poor substitute for the real thing, which is earned through practice and studying the game. When I have real confidence when I walk into the tournament arena, everyone in the room - the crowd and my opponent - knows it. They know I've come to play. You can't tell me that doesn't provide an advantage before the match even starts.
I'd love to play pool for a living, but apart from the IPT tour, I don't see how you can make any real money (unless I was as talented and pretty as you). Can you honestly recommend going pro?
- Lauren L.; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
A. To be honest, I rarely recommend this to anyone. Play pool? Yes! I recommend everyone play pool. Being a professional is a different story. A professional pool player means you need to be good enough to beat most people in your state, if not everyone. It means you make your living on prize money and endorsements, which usually will require you to do shows for sponsors, give lessons and clinics and do trick-shot shows. Sponsors and events don't usually fall in your lap. So you also need to be able to maintain a base of customers and continue to market yourself. Having good looks helps, but all the stars are not gorgeous. You must have great talent and personality, an image that is memorable to fans, and a story that reaches people's hearts and gets them to pull for you. It means that no matter how tired you are, you must be gracious at all times. You must travel all over the world, rarely seeing your friends or family, not knowing when you will get another appearance or do well in another tournament or how long your contracts will last. For a woman who wants stability in her life, I chose a profession that has very little of it. So why do I do it? I love pool, I love competition, I love people. But I tell you, everything in life has a price. Do you love pool so much that you are willing to give up so much? It's up to you.
How is it that pro pool players - people who have dedicated themselves to this one sport - can miss dead-on easy shots in tournaments? I'm amazed when I see a player make a two-rail kick shot on the 6, then blow a hanger on the 7. What's going on there?
- Nate Rodgers; Indianapolis, Ind.
A. What a great question. What allows us to miss a hanger after coming with an incredible shot is exactly what keeps us coming back for more. If this game was simply mathematics, we would use a calculator and be done with it. Pool is the balance of the physical and the mental. The physical training allows us to develop the proper swing, know where to hit the object ball and understand where our cue ball is going. It's our mental game that does the rest. We have to calm our mind and trust ourselves. We have to stay focused on one thing at a time. How simple is it to drive? Sit and let the car move forward. But people still crash, because, as easy as it is to drive, just adding one more thing to your brain, like turning the radio on, can take your focus away, sometimes with a costly price. It only takes a second to lose your focus from the shot at hand. And we are human. As pros, we are better overall, but the more you know, the more things you can think about and question and doubt. It's not how easy the shot is, it's what we're thinking about at that precise moment, which makes it possible to mess up the simplest tasks. But, as we train more, we will learn to focus on the shot at hand and nothing else.
I remember that you used to get accused of sharking players a lot. Just the other day, a guy at my poolhall tried to start a fight with me, because I drank from my beer when he was down on his shot. Is that really sharking? I wasn't trying to do anything (although everybody does at one time or another).
- John H.; Madison, Wisc.
A. It is very tempting to use whatever advantage you can to win. But it seems more important to me to win with dignity. That is why I was so upset when players accused me of sharking when I first joined the WPBA tour. I think it may have been easier for them to claim that I was distracting them than to face the fact that I had ripped them up on the table. If you want to avoid similar accusations, here are a few simple rules to follow. Don't move, blink or breathe while your opponent is shooting. Don't flip your hair, don't pour your drink, don't light your cigarette, and don't go into your old high school cheerleading routine when your opponent is about to shoot. These tricks are old - everyone knows them, and you look cheap. My theory is this: Rather than trying to distract your opponent, step up to the plate. Practice, and improve your skills until you can win fair and square. It feels infinitely better. To tell the truth, when I'm shooting I could care less what someone else is doing. You could yell "Fire!" and I'd still go through my pre-shot routine. But most people are not like that. They get distracted by the music, the people walking past, and by the firemen rushing past with hoses blasting.
What are some of the things that you know now but wish someone had told you when you first started?
- Peter; Houston, Texas
A. I really wish I knew the importance of the stroke - that sure and consistent stroke. There's been so much importance placed on such elements of play as decision making, strategy, position play, the break, and using English. However, the bottom line is that if your stroke isn't consistent, all the knowledge in the world has little value. I wish I knew that. I would have spent more time developing a slow backswing and perfect timing, instead of practicing goofy bank shots. If your stroke is consistent, then you you can always tell how and why you've missed a shot. But if your stroke is all over the place, then there is no telling. Get that thing solid and smooth. See if your body finishes while still down on the shot and whether your cue tip finished all the way through the ball instead of up in the air to the left or right. I also wish I knew more about the break shot back then - that the faster and harder you pull back to break the balls, the more energy that's going in the wrong direction. I wish I had been more aware of the importance of taking my time and keeping a steadier pace and my composure. Now I see so many amateurs who are so disciplined at the table. I wish I knew how many careless misses I could've avoided. Some people would tell me to slow down, but they didn't tell me why.
I'm appalled at what some women are wearing to the poolhall these days. It seems like there's a fine line between sexy and trashy. I know you got some guff early in your career for your style of dress. What would you tell women today about how to dress for pool?
- T. Stoudamire; Chicago, Ill.
A. Aw, shucks! Yes, I did get some guff earlier in my career, but to my amusement, those same women now are dressing more like me! I have always felt that women should celebrate their femininity rather than feel like that have to chew tobacco and spit in order to be respected as sportsperson. I also feel that, as women, we need to respect ourselves if we are to be respected by others. I do agree that there is a fine line between sexy and trashy. When I go to the poolroom, I like to be comfortable. I would feel a bit silly going there to practice in stiletto heels. Too much makeup and overly revealing clothing seem to send the message that you're not there for pool, you're there to pick up guys. Which is fine; I'm not one to judge others. Just remember that what you wear sends a message. What's great about pool is that you can go there and hang out for so many different reasons and have a great time. I'm there to play pool and don't want the distraction of guys gawking at me, so I dress more casual. Bottom line, what do you want people to focus on, your pool game or sex? I want only to be attractive enough to lure them to the pool table, not to my bedroom. Whatever you choose to dress in for pool, respect yourself and have fun.
I live in a small community that I thought had a competitive pool environment until I went to Las Vegas for the BCA National 8-Ball Championships. My question is this: How do younger players continue to grow in their game when they are in an environment that isn't that difficult to stand out in?
- James (no address)
A. Well, it sounds like you've been doing a pretty good job already if you made to the illustrious BCA Championships. There are a lot of books and videos that have all kinds of drills that you can practice to help with position play, banks, systems, etc. There are tons of tapes from Accu-Stats Video Productions that you can buy of championship matches where you can analyze pattern play, pre-shot routines and fundamentals along with the commentators, which will help exercise your mind and decision making. For on-the-table experience, there are local and regional tournaments everywhere. You may have to travel on weekends, but many people do. If you travel and end up cashing, keep going. If you win those tournaments, perhaps it's worth investing in the entry fee for a national event. If you can't even win the local events, then you might keep practicing at home and make appointments to play the best players in your area until you beat on them. And when you practice, bear down on every shot. Pretend that you are in a tournament and want to crush your opponent. When the nerves start working, you will already have good habits to fall back on.
I always have trouble playing my best friend in our local tournaments. Somehow, it's tough to really get in my best competitive mindset. How do I forget he's a friend and get the "Eye of the Tiger"?
- Jon Ryker; Chicago, Ill.
A. I don't understand this, because, friend or not, I tend to want to rip all of my opponents' throats out on the table. I supposed the solution for you lies in what you choose to focus on. If playing in tournaments were about your friendship with your opponent, I'd lose every time I played against my close friend Helena Thornfeldt on tour. This is about the fact that you have worked hard on your game and deserve to reap the rewards. And understand that this friend of yours probably would just as soon take you out faster than you could blink, because tournaments are not about friendship. I used to play in a lot of tournaments and I had no problem beating my friends, because I'd much rather have them watching me play than the other way around. But I did feel bad to be the one to knock them to the losers' bracket or out of the tournament. To remedy this, my friend and I had a rule that if we knocked each other out and got in the money, we would cover the other's entry fee. That made us much happier than simply giving a "Hey, sorry, man!" Focus on the positive of your win - like, if you beat his butt, it will inspire him to improve, making you a very positive influence on him. At least I choose to think of it that way! Good luck.
My husband knew when we met that I absolutely loved pool. I was playing six days a week and shooting in tournaments whenever possible. I still love to play, whether it be 8-, 9- or 3-ball. My husband and I now sell billiard supplies and put equipment in bars, etc. This is where the problem comes in. My husband no longer wants to play the game; he's just interested in the business side of it. I have no problem with the business side but I still want to play! I'm getting to where I feel guilty if I take time from the business to enjoy the game. Could you offer any advice?
- Lisa Kamler; Saint Joseph, Mo.
A. To me, success in life is about happiness. I find happiness through balance in my life. It has to do with you and your husband agreeing that there is a time for business and a time for leisure; a time for work, a time for family, a time for friends. If your husband enjoys working, by all means, support him with what he wants to do as long as he still makes time for you as a couple. Likewise, as long as you still make time for him as wife and friend, you should be allowed to have your own time to do what you enjoy. This is better for your husband, because he will have a happier, less-stressed wife. The alternative is that you may have a little more money with you both working, but you'll feel sad and frustrated. Write your goals down and decide what's really important to you. Prioritize these and share your findings with him. Explain to him that although he chooses to spend all his time working, he needs to support your wishes as well!
I am the captain of a local APA team. I and other team captains have noticed that it's often very difficult to coach our wives/girlfriends. Quite often, a call of "time out" generates hostility from our significant others, rather than acceptance of needed advice. However, the same hostility is not present when anyone else on the team is coaching. Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
Michael Leech; Newport News, Va.
A. It seems to me that most of the time, hostility comes from feeling lack of respect. Is it possible that the other people talk to your wives more respectfully than you do? Does your wife feel that you respect her pool game and feel she's an important part of your team? I suggest finding a private time to speak to her. Address your concerns and ask her for some suggestions on what you can do to make her feel more comfortable with your calling her on a time out. She might feel you're picking on her, and it humiliates her. Perhaps this isn't your fault, but it would make things better if you made a lot more effort to spend time focusing on the positives in her game, so that when you do coach her, it's not just criticism. Just imagine bowling with a group of friends and your wife picking you out and coaching you on what you think is a simple decision. Even if she knows more than you, wouldn't you find it humiliating? It shouldn't be, but it is for some. Try to understand that it's tough for the pride to take and enjoy the fact that you as a couple can share a sport that most can't.
My girlfriend works as a bartender at a poolhall, and is always getting hit on by guys there. She doesn't take them seriously, but I just about lose my mind when I see it happening. I don't really enjoy playing at the room anymore because of it. How do I get over it?
Andy; New York, N.Y.
A. This is like actors who have actress girlfriends and can't stand to watch them kiss another guy on stage. Some can stand to watch it because they understand it's just business. Some say business or not, that's a very private thing. If you can't look the other way, and it drives you up the wall, you will have to stop playing there when she's working, or she will have to find another job. It's just how it goes. Sometimes guys get jealous because they are insecure, but there are differences. If my George just talks to a woman, I may not get jealous. But if woman after woman actually flirts with him, and part of his job is to stay there and listen rather than walk away, someone's going to get bitten by the Black Widow. I don't know if you'll get over it, or if you should have to. You might need to talk to her about this and find out who is doing what, but the immediate thing for now is not to stop playing there altogether but to stop playing there when she's working. And she should be sensitive to your feelings by focusing harder on making you feel secure and special, particularly when you are at the club. Just remember, of all the guys that go talk to her at the bar, you're the one she chose.
How important is formal, one-on-one training? Is it more difficult to reach the top of one's game without stroke-mechanics analysis (video or other), position play and strategy advice from a qualified professional? Are pool schools a worthwhile investment (yours included, of course)?
Ethan Weikleenget; Buffalo, N.Y.
A. Of course, getting formal coaching is helpful to anyone's game assuming that you take time to find a good instructor. I've heard there are no short- cuts to becoming a champion. Well, I disagree. Getting qualified help is the best shortcut you can take. You can make the same mistakes over and over and not even realize it, and in one lesson have the instructor pinpoint and correct something that's really been slowing you down. I had Jerry Briesath videotape my game after 15 years of playing great pool and winning tournaments, and, wow, was it humbling. I found that I slightly turn my wrist on particular shots - shots that I didn't feel were up to par with the rest of my game, and I never knew why. The tape doesn't lie. I feel it really helped the consistency of my stroke and my confidence to shoot the shots properly. And yes, pool schools in general are a very worthwhile investment. You gain a lot of knowledge in a short period of time, and you get to know champions and their different points of view on the physical and mental aspects of the game. The personal attention will remain with you a lifetime. Jerry Briesath, Mark Wilson, Allison Fisher, and Mike Massey are among the top players and coaches who teach at pool schools.
What advice do you have for beginning players in general?
Jordan; Palo Alto, Calif.
A. Develop a preshot routine, practice your butt off, and enjoy giving your best effort on every shot without goofing around. Play competitively and practice with the same mindset.
How do you balance family life with pool?
Brian Murphy; San Antonio
A. This is my life journey - to learn how to do this. I'm very hardworking, competitive and ambitious, so it's easy to let my business take over my life, even though that's not what's most important to me. You have to know what your priorities are. For me, it's God, family, friends, and continuing to develop myself as a person as well as a player. Oh, and I can't forget being a wonderful mother to my new daughter, Cheyenne. So with these things in mind, I make time by putting them into my schedule first, before committing to anything else, and then fill my schedule from there. I can't tell you how many times an entire day went by and I felt like I had accomplished nothing. That's because what I was doing was not directly in line with my goals, so it wasn't satisfying. I want to be happy and satisfied, and that comes by achieving my goals. It's great to spend time with friends or get involved with charities, but balance is more important than we want to admit. And having a great husband who will put up with your nonsense also really helps!
Consistency is one of my biggest problems. In league play, I tend to play better against higher-ranked players, and not so good against those ranked lower than me. I feel that I'm not doing anything differently. What's your advice?
Dave Hernandez; Colorado Springs
A. I absolutely understand. It's my curse also. Maybe it's because I don't show my opponent enough respect. Or is it that I don't show the game itself enough respect? If our stroke fundamentals and our preshot routines are solid, we should be more consistent. But there's still the psychological side of the game. The problem is that when we play weak players, we take them for granted. And by the time we finally play our game, it may be too late. I have decided to deal with this problem by deciding beforehand what my final score will be with this person. It's embarrassing to admit, but very effective. I think about what I look like when I play my best pool. I want to give this person an education on what a professional really is. I wanna crush her, 9-0! I want her to walk away with the new goal of wanting to be the next Jeanette Lee, or to never run up against me again! Ha ha! Sick, huh? But effective. When I put myself through this kind of exercise, I really come out of it as a killer. I decide who needs to show up at the table that day - not the nicey-nice Jeanette, but instead the true Black Widow, who devours her victims, big and small. Hey, I never said I wasn't crazy, just smart. Take my advice, just think about crushing them.
Dear Jeanette: I have been playing pool seriously for about eight months, and have been improving rapidly, but I've been told that I'm getting too cocky about my abilities and pissing other players off. I know that I still have a ton to learn about the game, but how do I show other players that I am confident without alienating them?
Conner Ogden; Chandler, Ariz.
A. I think it's great that you want to try to be more congenial or at least be respected by your peers. If your main focus is showing confidence, then you should look at what traits you see in others who exude confidence. I find that the more people talk about themselves, the more they show their insecurity. Efren Reyes, on the other hand, has a very confident game, as do Johnny Archer, Allison Fisher, myself and others. Confidence shows through solid fundamentals. Making clear decisions allows you to stay down on the shot rather than jumping up to see if the ball is going in. Let your game do the talking. People ask me what I do to intimidate my opponents. I don't waste my energy off the table. I just focus on keeping my opponent sitting in the chair while I run out. There's nothing more intimidating than that. Also, remember that if you want to improve, it's great to maintain the respect of your peers, so they can help you when you need it. Encouragement and support from others will result in faster progress. In fact, the harder someone works, the more people notice, because everyone can talk the talk, but it's hard to walk the walk and put in the work that makes a champion.
Dear Jeanette: I ran into a nice gentleman at the local poolhall who is a very good pool player. To my surprise, I saw this man in the pulpit one Sunday. I am confused, but don't know if I should approach him about it. Is it wrong for preachers to be pool players?
Michael, New Orleans, La.
A. Oh my goodness! I'm not sure what your impression of our sport is, but why would you imply that a man of God might be too good for our sport? Billiards was originally considered the Sport of Kings. It is a way to express yourself artistically and an opportunity for social gatherings. What I've always considered great about this sport is that you can be any age, sex, size, race, and religion and still enjoy it. I, myself, am a Christian. And although that doesn't make me nearly perfect, I'm proud to say that it is my belief that God has a plan for me, which includes billiards, and that if I can get out of God's way, I might find out sooner what that purpose is. Certainly, this sport is for preachers as much as anyone to enjoy. There is nothing "evil" or "bad" about playing pool. On a separate note, even if pool was "bad," preachers and other Christians never profess to be perfect. They strive to live God's purpose. I'm as selfish and stubborn and flaky as the next person. It doesn't make me, or not make me, a Christian. FYI: "Gospel Trick Shot Ministries," a group of Christian players, has a Web site if you'd like to check it out. There are many Christian pool players. Sorry if I sound harsh. I do appreciate that you asked instead of just sitting in judgement.
Dear Jeanette: When I go to local tournaments, I can't keep my mind on playing. I get too many thoughts in my head about what's going on at home and what I need to do. I guess I need to get more focus. Any ideas?
Jamie; Versailles, Ky.
A. I guarantee that if you quit your job and start trying to make your living by winning local tournaments, you'll find that your focus will suddenly get much keener! Hee hee! Seriously, though, I understand you love the game. Unfortunately, love is not what makes the 9-ball go down. Love is what keeps you getting up after you fall. Sharpening your pre-match preparation is essential for focus. Why are you there? What did you go there to do? And do you really want it? If you are hungry enough, focus will not be your problem. I have great focus. But this is because I can't stand to lose. I want to win so badly that thoughts outside the table just don't enter my mind. Sometimes that hunger just isn't there when you start a tournament match. That's why I always separate myself from the crowd before a match and make time to prepare myself. How do I want to play? What am I like when I play my best pool? How will I react if my opponent gets lucky or if I find myself down in a match? If I get ahead, will I be steady and finish strongly? I want to be prepared for all circumstances and know in advance how I will choose to respond. Then, once I get to the match, I can focus on playing my best pool.
Dear Jeanette: When you practice, what do you work on the most?
Chuck Courtney; Lombard, Ill.
A. As my game continues to develop, so does my practice regimen. Right now, my focus is on my pre-shot routine and the perfection of my stroke. These things seem basic, but they never can be solid enough. I already know how to aim, I already know where to shoot the ball, and I have enough knowledge about the game. That's not to say I can't get better in those areas, but it's not what hurts me the most. I can know all I want, but if I can't get my cue ball where I want it to go consistently, then where I'm aiming doesn't matter. This goes back to the perfect swing. I strive for a slow backswing and pendulum follow-through. I practice them over and over again. In my pre-shot routine, I want to make my decision standing up by picturing the whole shot, direction and speed. I want to find my point of aim while standing and then approach the shot with that target in mind. I want to focus tighter on the ball as I get down lower on the shot. Once I'm down and I'm ready to let go, I will trust myself and give it a pure swing and not get up until I see true contact from my cue ball to the object ball. These things will not make you a champion in and of themselves, but, with hard work, they will get you there quicker and steadier than anything else.
Dear Jeanette: I can't seem to find many people who can keep their head on during a match of pool. I concentrate very hard on not blowing up at a shot that is missed in pure stupidity. However, I get frustrated that my friends are frustrated. Is there anything that I can do to help create a less hostile environment?
Adam, Las Vegas, NV
A. The best way to teach anything is by example. This means keeping your composure at all times. This is very hard to do because we are so passionate about the game and about winning. I myself can get frustrated, but I need to get over it quickly in order to allow my best pool to come out. You have a few options. If you are around a lot of people who are rude and hostile when they play, you may consider finding new friends who can be more positive for you. If you choose to tough it out, then disengage. Separate yourself completely from how they act and focus on yourself. Don't react to anything they say or do negatively. Just be the gentleman you are, and they will see it. They will have to deal with their own demons on their own. Be careful trying to give advice to those people whose trust and respect you haven't yet earned. They may not understand your intent. If you must say anything, then go positive. Compliment them when they make a good shot, when you notice them focus on a particular rack more than usual. Help them see their own positive actions.
Dear Jeanette: What is the most effective way to silence your opponents' mind games?
A. I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but if it's squashing an opponent's attempts to shark you mentally, I can help. There is no single solution to this. I try to prepare myself for these kinds of things before the match by deciding to completely ignore sharking. I'm giving them no fuel, and almost laughing at their desperation. I show them no reaction at all. Let them focus on sharking me, while I focus on pocketing each ball. If it's too late, and they are already doing something to the point where I just can't take it anymore, again, I will not show them any strong reaction. I will politely walk over and ask them very sweetly to stop whatever it is they are doing. Usually this is enough, and then it's off my mind. I can play pool again, and they're sitting there embarrassed that they were caught. Often, they are confused and disappointed that they couldn't inspire a more hostile reaction from you or take you out of your game. If you don't get upset and lose control of their game, it hurts their games that much more. They just aren't expecting you to react so graciously. Again, if you can ignore them completely, that's great. Inside your mind, decide that what they are doing is silly and just focus on pool. Otherwise, handle it quickly, quietly, and move on.
Dear Jeanette: What are your thoughts about the pre-shot routine? How important is this for improvement of your game
Utrecht, The Netherlands
A. Having and following a pre-shot routine is vital for improvement of your game. I approach my shot, make a solid decision, picture the entire shot (direction, speed control), find my smallest possible target, and then I bend down and shoot the shot with all the confidence in the world, even when I don't have it. I truly believe that almost all errors in a pool game are made when one of these steps in the routine are not followed. It's a basic checklist that allows your mind to focus better when it comes time to make the ball. Body alignment is so important, so that's the first step. I never change my stance while I'm down on a shot. I will get up and reposition myself. I make my decision while standing and commit to that decision. When I picture the shot, I picture the cue ball traveling, contacting with the object ball, the object ball going in the pocket, the path of the cue ball after contact and the speed and direction that the cue ball takes. This is super-important for developing your feel for speed control and position play. Once all these steps are completed, I find my target. I focus so tightly on my target that nothing else can enter my mind. Just trust yourself and let the shot go with a pure stroke, staying down to see the final contact of cue ball to object ball. The more you practice this routine, the more consistent you will become.
Dear Jeanette: I know you have endured back pain all your life. I have degenerative disk disease. Bending over to make 4 or 5 shots in a row is trouble. Do you do special exercises to help with your back pain?
Magnolia Springs, Ala.
A. I'm not a doctor, by any means, so I can only tell you what I do. I keep my stomach tight to help support my back through many stomach crunches and sucking my stomach in at all times. Squats are helpful when picking things up off the floor rather than bending at the waist. I only do low-impact exercises, nothing that is bouncing or jarring, like jogging. I walk briskly and, best of all, I swim. Swimming supports your back while strengthening it. It develops your chest and back muscles and helps regulate your breathing which can be tough when your back is really hurting. When I lay down, I keep a pillow under or between my knees depending if I'm on my side or back. I practice in half-hour segments. Any longer than that strains my back, which affects the quality of my practice. I never practice break shots, jacked-up shots, powers shots or jump shots repetitively because I wear out. But I do practice them. I also sit in chairs with back support. It sounds like a pain, but I've accepted that I have been blessed with a bad back so that I can be a role model, and in order to do that I've got to be a tough cookie and find a way to win.
Dear Jeanette: I'm 19 years old and I've been playing for about 3 years. It's my dream to go pro, but I wonder if it's worth it. What do you think?
A. I meet people all the time who want to go pro. It's great to have a goal, but you need to be sure that's what you want and why. If you want to go pro to become a millionaire, you may have to pick a different sport, ... for now anyway. I started pool because I loved it and I still do. But as I got older, I learned the importance of my other responsibilities - mainly, paying my bills. I didn't make enough in pool tournament earnings, and I still don't, to provide the style of living that I wanted for myself. So I started thinking about it. There are many ways to make money in the field of billiards. You can teach private or group clinics, or do trick-shot and challenge exhibitions. You can be a retail dealer, poolroom operator, salesperson, work for a billiard company, or of course, get a sponsor. But to be sponsored, you need to be marketable. You need to convince your sponsors that through their support, they will get positive exposure and sales that they might not otherwise get. This means playing great pool, speaking well, living well, and being a leader and an ambassador. Most of all, show that you understand the value of a win-win. This means networking and understanding your sponsors' goals and helping them achieve those goals. Play pool because you love it. Remember that. You can be a champion in anything that you are willing to work hard and sacrifice for. Do some research on what it takes to be a pro, what the costs and benefits are. And work your butt off. If you aren't up to that challenge, quit and do something else, because you won't make it if you don't work hard. All the best.
Dear Jeanette: I read that you had laser eye correction. What were the pros and cons of the treatment afterwards, including in regard to your pool game?
Middle Village, N.Y.
A. Yes, I had eye surgery. The obvious pros are that I can wake up in the morning and see the alarm clock, and I can see the shampoo and soap in the shower. It's so cool. The expenses of time and money for eye appointments and errands to buy new contact lenses are all gone now. In terms of playing pool, I can see the edge of the ball a little crisper. I always wore contacts, so although glasses weren't an issue, I often had cloudy or dirty lenses in smoky places, and they would get really dry in dry weather and irritate my eyes, which made them tired. As far as cons, I haven't had any that I can think of in pool. The biggest thing that bothers me now, after having worn contacts lenses for so long, is my sensitivity to different air conditions. Things like smoke, chopped onions, cleansing sprays, detergents, etc., are unbearable. I didn't realize that I had never cried cutting up onions, but, without the protective contact lenses, my eyes felt everything that most people are already accustomed to. It's not bad, but it's the worst thing I can think of.
I am a 15-year-old kid and have already become addicted to gambling. I am a solid pool player who can run racks and take money off a lot of people, but I feel my gambling often gets out of hand and I am somewhat powerless to control it. Do you have any advice on how to deal with it?
A. I used to love to gamble but was never quite addicted, because my love of pool overpowered it. I don't think there's any good in hustling someone, but sometimes the pressure gambling puts on you can strengthen you, forcing you to make smarter decisions. Unfortunately, it's crippling as well if it controls you. Once the love of gambling takes over, getting better is irrelevant. You begin to only care about winning at any cost and ignore the importance of improving. Once love of gambling takes over love of sport, improvement stops. You don't want to practice anymore; you only want to play when there's action, because who wants to show their real game for free, right? You say you're powerless. That cop-out answer is why we have so many so-so players out there. A person can think any way he wants to think. We can't choose what happens to us but we can control how we respond. Do you want to be someone who is pitied or someone who inspires? You need to believe in yourself. I believe in you. I believe that you can do anything you want. Get yourself out of that environment and give yourself back the control.
What would you say is the best thing for a pool player to practice and master?
Colorado Springs, Colo
A. Fundamentals, through and through. Of course, what you know doesn't matter if you can't get your cue ball where you want it to go consistently, but what's the most important of all? I'd say the stroke. Get that thing solid and smooth. Slow backswing, smooth finish. If your stroke is consistent, then you can always tell how and why you've missed the shot. But if your stroke is all over the place, then there's no telling. Focus less on whether you pocket the ball and more on perfect delivery of the cue and whether your cue ball contacted exactly where you meant it to hit. Pay attention to whether you are executing your intention. See the hit - the contact between the cue ball and the object ball. If you can do that, then you will always be learning. See if your body finishes while still down on the shot and whether your cue tip finished all the way through the ball instead of up in the air to the left or right. There is so much to learn, but, as in all other ball sports, it's about the perfect swing/stroke more than any strategic process. Learning how to aim and planning position play is secondary. The perfect, consistent stroke is the best and quickest way to billiard mastery. My personal coaches for that are Jerry Briesath and Mark Wilson. If you're having trouble, a coach can get you there. Good Luck.
My wife loves to watch women's professional pool, and has started to really enjoy playing pool. However, she seems to not like the way I coach her. Any advice on how to help coach a beginner?
- John Brewer
Grand Junction, Colo.
A. . I've learned from one of my coaches, Jerry Briesath, that there is an art to teaching that people take for granted. My honest opinion is that you forget teaching her, get her an instructor either recognized or certified by the BCA, and leave your time with her fun and relaxing. It'll be better for your marriage to have something that both of you share and enjoy rather than you taking the teacher role. Leave the teaching to a pro and play with her in a way that is challenging for both of you. Perhaps you can give her ball in hand at the beginning of her turns or let her make her balls in any order while you make yours in rotation in 8-ball or 9-ball. There are many different games you can play. If getting another instructor is not an option, then make sure you are patient and encouraging and keep things fun. Don't sweat the small stuff; she won't get everything right away. First focus on a smooth and steady stroke. Keep fundamentals basic and don't try to make her perfect. These things will come with slow progression. Keep a slow backswing and perhaps pick up a book, "The Black Widow's Guide to Killer Pool" (hee hee), to give you more pointers on where to start.
It seems like my biggest problem right now is
concentration. When I bear down and focus, I do well. But eventually my mind
drifts off, and I make very basic mistakes. Do you have any tips on
maintaining your focus?
- Jeremy; Edmonton, Alberta
A. I wish it was easier to control the human mind. The best we can do is
train ourselves to be more disciplined.
Here are some suggestions.
1) Bear down on every shot during practice. Pretend that you are in a tournament and
that you want to crush your opponent. If you do this during your practice
time, then doing it during a tournament will feel more familiar. When the
nerves are there, we lose our feel, and habit kicks in. If we have good
habits, then they will get us through the match. Focus only on the current
shot - no cell phones, no conversations, no unnecessary breaks.
2) When entering a match, get as familiar with your surroundings as possible - every
painting, every person, every detail. Let nothing catch you off guard and
distract you during the match. Get used to the equipment and everything else
in the room as best you can. By match time, everything but the match will
3) I used to have a hard time playing weaker players,
who tended to bring my game down. Now, it's a matter of attitude. I
challenge myself to shut them out, 9-0. Perfect pool. Crush them. I don't
want to lose a single game, and I think about that right before a match. And
I go into the match hungry and determined.
There is a girl who comes into my local poolroom and plays pretty well, and I'd like to get to know her. But I'm not sure how to approach her without looking like all the other bozos who hit on her. How can I introduce myself and make a good impression?
Bob Brown, Chicago, Ill.
A. I'll tell you the truth: It's really hard saying what makes a man stand out.
If I'm a pretty good player, then, for sure, a man who plays well is attractive. If he's good, he might go get on a table nearby and play pool by himself or with someone and look focused and intense and give her a chance to notice how good he is.
I would just play pool and be myself. Act like a gentleman and not a showboat. At first, I wouldn't even look at her. Maybe take a break to talk to someone briefly enough to let her see your smile come out. A guy with a nice smile is always endearing. I definitely would dress nice, but in a casual way. Pay attention to how she dresses and what she eats. Healthy or not, dresses up, or in grunge. Maybe strike up a conversation about that. But whatever you do, don't be too direct. Allow her to notice you without making her feel on guard with you coming at her right away. If you both already know each other, then you have no excuse - ask her out.
If you have some signal she likes you, then ask her out or at least ask her if she wants to play some pool. If you don't get any, just try being friends first and let your personality win her over. Go with your instincts.
My girlfriend constantly complains about how much time
I spend in the poolhall. How do I deal with this? How do I get her to love
the sport like I do?
John Capalbo, New York City
A. I couldn't stand how much my husband watched basketball until he lovingly
asked me to join him. This was of course after he'd spent the last few days
doing things I enjoyed. I sat down and watched as I had before with boredom
across my face when he started to ask me if I knew anything at all about the
game. He proceeded to tell me the rules. He made us popcorn and told me
about certain moves that I could recognize, like the pick and roll,
lay-ups, etc. Learning terminology and strategy made it so much more fun for
me. And every time I took the time to watch, he'd tell me a little more.
Now, it's something I enjoy regularly and look forward to when I can watch
him play at the gym with the guys.
You may not ever get her to love pool the way you do, but the best chance
you have is to make it fun for her. That means teaching her in a really fun
way and giving her fun experiences. Give her incentives or make deals with
her just to start.
Make sure you never let her feel she's competing for attention. Tell her how
much you appreciate how supportive she is and ask what you can do to be more
supportive of the things she loves. It's always a give and take, and the
more you give to her, the more she'll be responsive to your needs.