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February 2008: Varner’s “astonishing” five-rail draw
Player: Nick Varner
Event: Sands Regency XX
Date: Dec 7-11, 1994
For the second installment of our new monthly feature detailing amazing plays on the cloth, we take a close look at a tricky position shot that’s executed as well as you’ll ever see: Nick Varner’s five-rail draw shot in his match against Rafael Martinez at the Sands XX Professional Billiards Tour 9-ball Open in Reno, Nev.
Varner had the 1994 Player of the Year race sewn up already when he arrived at the event. And he was performing well in Reno before running into a hot-shooting Martinez in the fourth round. Inheriting this layout below, Varner took about 50 seconds to size up the situation before getting into his stance. Sinking the 1 ball wasn’t the issue; rather, he needed to get the cue ball back downtable for the next shot on the 2.
“Normally you’d hit this with high-left English, but the three balls by the head rail were blocking the way,” Varner said, with a chance to review the shot 13 years later. “I ended up using extreme low-right, hitting the cue ball at 4 o’clock as close to the edge as I could.”
The difficulty was in cutting the 1 ball at just the right spot. Too thin, and the ball would jar in the pocket. “The toughest part was hitting it full enough. ... And you have to hit it just a little under warp speed,” Varner said, laughing.
Another concern was hitting the cue ball with enough low-right English to get the long angles off of the rails. Varner assumed that the new, slidey tournament cloth helped in that regard.
Martinez won the match, but Varner’s shot has achieved a level of notoriety. As Accu-Stats match commentator Grady Matthews intoned in his trademark deadpan, “I’m electrified and astonished. That might be the single-greatest position shot I’ve ever witnessed.”
(Check out Accu-Stats’ full library of great shots and amazing matches at www.accu-stats.com)
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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