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By George Fels
The late advertising genius David Ogilvy once asserted that the words “How to” in the headline of any given ad could increase readership by up to 20 percent. Knowledge is power, after all, and everyone wants it. So imagine the combined attraction of these new works on billiard instruction.
You want to know how to bank? There’s something here for you. How to rack? How to kick? How to play safe? It’s all here — advice from multiple continents and spanning three centuries.
Don’t miss this chance to upgrade your game — because 20 percent more of you are already on the case.
(In addition to the contact info provided with each item, many of these books and DVDs can be purchased through www.pooldawg.com, www.ozonebilliards.com, www.seyberts.com, and www.accu-stats.com.)
About the highest praise you can offer a pool instructional book is that it makes you feel like playing. Henning, one of America’s better-known teachers (his first effort, “The Pro Book,” is in its sixth printing, and has been translated into two languages), has created a piece wherein any given page can do that. Of his book’s 338 pages, Henning devotes the first 109 to an advanced look at fundamentals, and while pool’s basics have been covered and covered and covered elsewhere, you’ll appreciate his insights into them; almost all of them are new. (He even has an entire chapter on staying down.) My favorite sections of “The Advanced Pro Book,” however, are sections 4 and 5, which deal almost exclusively with the mental game. How many players have gone from intermediate to advanced when some savvy teacher told them, “Let your stroke out”? Are you familiar with that phrase? Henning offers an entire chapter on it. His four pages on focus are sheer genius. Henning’s diagrammed shots are also superb, including the advice he offers within them. “The Advanced Pro Book” is highly, highly recommended.
“The Advanced Pro Book” is available from www.bebobpublishing.com.
Here is a book by one of my favorite players. It’s a collection of 40 essays, ranging from the title itself to actual balls-on-the-table instruction. While Zen is most often linked with meditation, Max enlarges on the topic this way: “Playing pool is Zen in that it does require your present-moment awareness, the enlightenment that comes from the accumulation of direct experience, and the contemplation of the many nuances which are inherent in your self and in the game.” Most of the rest of the book details how to go about this. “I can be in the Zen state without being ‘in the zone,’” Max tells us, “and this is how I search for the zone and eventually find it.” The sport with which Zen is most readily associated, of course, is archery, and Max enjoys drawing those comparisons. The ancient hustlers’ dodge called “Lookaway,” in which the player turns his head before striking the cue ball, is totally analogous to the Zen archer’s turning his head before releasing the arrow, and champion archers set up their shots almost identically to the way good pool players do. In discussing how the backswing sets up your stroke, Max introduces the concept of hands/eye co-ordination, and actually body/eye co-ordination, as both your hands need to co-ordinate what you’re looking at. It’s unassuming (just 112 pages), but “Zen Pool” can help you elevate your ability, break through barriers, become more consistent, and achieve “the zone.” It works both in theory and on the table. Don’t miss it.
“Zen Pool” is available at www.buybooksontheweb.com, or by calling (877) BUY-BOOK.
“The Best Damn Pool Instruction Book, Period!” isn’t. But it’s still, well, a pretty damn good one. Mr. Schneider is a BCA-certified instructor and a graduate of not one but two cue-games instruction academies. His 14-chapter book is certainly complete enough, and his chapter on what he calls “Specialty Shots” is probably worth the purchase price by itself, explaining some highly advanced shots that have never been analyzed in print before. Where he goes a bit amiss is in organization. The book offers extensive explanations of safeties, banking, kicking caroms, and even massé and jump shots — that all precede his chapter on position play! Talk about running before you crawl. What this means is that “The Best Damn Pool Instruction Book, Period!” can only help you on a pick-out-what-you-want-to-learn basis. Yes, he does begin with the basics (and excellently at that; his set/pause/finish stroking drill is a fine one if you accept that the height of the backswing is where the pause should go), but no beginner is going to develop his or her game by taking on these chapters in order. On the other hand, “TBDPIB,P!” is about as good as any resource out there right now for the intermediate player who seeks advanced status. Not only is there the above-mentioned chapter on specialty shots, but Schneider also covers multiple-rail kicks and banks, and even his insights into the basics can be of help to better players who hit slumps.
“The Best Damn Pool Instruction Book, Period!” is available at www.fellpub.com.
“Precision Pool, Second Edition” is a well-written book that doesn’t seem to be quite clear on what kind of book it wants to be. It begins with the basics, yet it has advanced aiming tips and tricks as early as Chapter 2; it goes to work on English, deflection and throw in Chapter 3. And the authors also make the peculiar decision to teach the breaks from all four of pool’s major disciplines in the same chapter. But none of these organizational vagaries should discourage you from taking a good look at “Precision Pool.” It’s two chapters longer than the original version; as before, Kanov and Stauch write well together and are extremely thorough. Combined, they have an authoritative, friendly “voice” that will make you comfortable virtually at once. Their chapters on Position and Pattern Play are especially good, their chapter on mind/body toughness even better. Perhaps this book’s most attractive feature is its “Put It In Practice” asides, which depart from the main text for a few paragraphs to make suggestions as to how you can implement its advice immediately. The book’s diagrams are uniformly superb, as are the color photographs demonstrating playing techniques. Whether the authors are taking on familiar subjects or breaking new ground, they do find insights that you probably will not have seen before. Their chapter on position play, especially the instruction “Don’t cross the line,” is particularly illuminating; I put that into application a few hours after reading it, and to my immediate benefit.
“Precision Pool” is available at www.humankinetics.com.
“The Illustrated Principles of Pool & Billiards,” written by BD columnist David Alciatore and amplified with a companion DVD, largely depends on good old science. The nuances of spin, cling, squirt, swerve and “squerve” (the dreaded combination of squirt and swerve) have never been analyzed and explained as masterfully. “Illustrated Principles” introduces over 80 playing principles and more than 250 illustrations and photos. A mechanical engineering professor and a genuine Ph.D., Alciatore writes well of pool’s basics, but it’s not until Chapter 4, “Spin and English,” that his instruction really begins to sing. And he’s equally masterful at integrating his scientific knowledge with on-the-table playing instruction.
“The Illustrated Principles of Pool & Billiards” is available at www.dr-dave-billiards.com.
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Since 1978, Billiards Digest magazine has been the pool world’s best source for news, tournament coverage, player profiles, bold editorials, and advice on how to play pool. Our instructors include superstars Nick Varner and Jeanette Lee. Every issue features the pool accessories and equipment you love — pool cues, pool tables, instruction aids and more. Columnists Mike Shamos and R.A. Dyer examine legends like Willie Mosconi and Minnesota Fats, and dig deep into the histories of pool games like 8-ball, 9-ball and straight pool.
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