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Tips & shafts
By George Fels
Consulting Editor George Fels has been writing for Billiards Digest since 1980, and his "Tips & Shafts" column is usually our readers' first stop when they crack open the magazine. For better or worse, pool has been his only mistress for 40-plus years.

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Best of Fels
January: Thatsalls
January 2021

By George Fels
[Reprinted from June 1999]

That is not a typographical error, even though it looks like one. The expression is merely a pluralized way of grouping together cue games events so far over-the-top when it comes to luck, good or bad, that they cause oneís opponent to raise one hand as though halting traffic, unscrew his cue and snarl, ďThatís all!Ē as though all further hope were lost.

Here are some of the stranger things Iíve accomplished (besides waiting one full generation-plus for a custom cue) or seen:

ē I made six balls on a 9-ball break once, including the 9. This is fairly unusual, but not especially remarkable, and would amount to little more than bland braggadocio, were it not for two factors: 1. I canít stand 9-ball, and since this wasnít a rapid-fire tournament, I canít even remember why I was playing; 2. I hit that break very, very badly. In fact, I missed my point of aim on the 1 ball by so far that I was way over on what bowlers call the Brooklyn side; the cue ball came off the bottom two rails and went after all those object balls I had sent to the right like a cattle dog herding strays. At least three of the six pocketed balls went into the bottom corner on the same side I broke from. I have never seen a break or results even remotely similar, at any level of the game, before or since.

ē In my first week or two of the game, I caught a roll so lucky that I consider the subsequent 40-plus years of lousy breaks only partial compensation; an object ball lay on the far side of a side pocket, but pocketable there with an extremely thin cut. With typical beginnerís anxiety, I executed a stroke that did approximately everything wrong that can be done wrong. The resultant miscue not only sounded so horrible that players winced a full three tables away, but created some indescribable cue ball spin that took the ball well wide of its target for a total miss, then toward the opposite corner where it somehow came off the bottom two rails to kick the object ball in. In other words, I began in the wrong half of the table, yet somehow found a three-rail path for the cue ball that still brought it in short of the side pocket. Youíd need a proís skill with draw and/or reverse English to replicate that same path ó not that I can think of a single reason youíd want to.

ē My one-pocket opponent left me well up-table, with the score 7-6 my way, one object ball fairly near his pocket and close to the bottom rail, the other on the spot. I sought to three-rail the threatening object ball out of there to safety, Instead, I stiffed it more than I meant to, sending it toward the side pocket on his side. There it caught the point of the far pocket jaw and rebounded into the spotted ball, clipping it neatly into my pocket for the game. You probably canít ever duplicate this one exactly, since it took place on a 5-by-10 table, now all but extinct. But Iíll still gladly give you 500 tries on the table of your choice. And pay your cab fare both ways.

ē I have seen this happen to billiard players besides myself, although you wouldnít want to sit on a hot stove waiting for it to come up. The shot is a force-follow, around-the-table, four-rail affair thatís meant to score long upon a ball near the side rail. What happens instead is that the first object ball precedes your cue ball around the table, catches the absolute dead crotch of the corner, walks up the rail and kisses you out. This is about as stinky a freak kiss-out as I can think of, considering that many players would have trouble hitting the dead corner crotch five times out of 10 with cue ball in hand, let alone with an object ball thatís been driven three rails.

ē The late Bill Romain vs Larry ďBoston ShortyĒ Johnson, 1964, three-cushion billiards for fairly serious dough. Romainsís cue ball lay on a diagonal line between the other two, the red near a corner, Johnsonís ball two-thirds of the way up-table along the opposite long rail. Romain clearly intended to cue Johnsonís ball thin, spin out of the corner and hopefully come in either a bit in front or in back of the red to complete the billiard. Instead, he hit the first ball so wretchedly that he got double-kissed back across the table width, thence around the table the natural way, with accidental quadruple or quintuple spin, to score game point yet. Johnsonís partner, Marcel Camp, as dauntless a cue games gambler as ever drew a breath, pulled out on the spot. The dispirited Johnson played a few more games on his own and was thoroughly barbecued for his efforts.

ē A pool ball is over-hit towards a corner pocket, where it jaws, bounces all the way across the table, then returns to score as intended. I canít remember being on the favorable side of this one in the last 30 years, as I rarely hit the balls that hard. But Iíve been on the receiving end of this delight twice in the same session any number of times, and twice in the same game into the same pocket at least once.

ē Playing one-pocket, especially late in the game, a player buries a ball inside the jaws of his own hole. His opponent not only extricates it from there but gets an off-the-point bank that sinks the ball in his pocket instead. Seems obnoxiously lucky, but Danny DiLiberto and other top players can demonstrate this shot any old time on request. Iíve made it myself, achieved far more through wild-eyed desperation than inspiration.

While I do not believe in the concept of billiard gods, I believe quite devoutly that the game will occasionally send you all-too-clear signals that you were not meant to win on a particularly lovely evening.