D I A R Y
of a

P O O L    S H O O T E R

The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.




Saturday, October 29, 2005

What is the Cause of Victory?

Recently Malve sent me an email
saying he played a guy who normally beats him,
but this time Malve won 7-0.

Naturally curious, I asked him WHY he won,
and he replied simply that he only missed 1 or 2 shots.
I guess he thought about it some more,
and later sent me this fuller explanation:

In answering your question about how and why I did so well in my recent pool shooting, I should probably add that the reason I only missed a minimal amount of shots is because among other things, I am...

1. becoming more comfortable with my new cue
2. becoming more confident/comfortable with the adjustments I have made to my stroke as recommended during my lesson at Hard Times
3. thinking about the smartest simplest patterns to "get out"
4. staying focused more on all shots specifically the "easy ones" (as if there were such a thing)
5. getting up more often when uncomfortable
6. playing safety more often when I have a relatively easy shot to pocket but a low likelihood of getting position on the next ball or aiming for a cue ball leave that will position me well for a subsequent safety
7. breaking better

I complimented him on thinking more deeply about the true cause of his victory, and got his permission to reprint his answer here to be discovered by.... you?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Masters Trophy, at last!

MVP Masters trophy, for my undefeated 2005 Spring Session

The trophy above is the physical representation
of the pinnacle of my pool endeavors for the last 2 years.

The engraving reads:

MVP Triple Play Masters
Spring 2005
Michael McCafferty


What it doesn't say is that I was UNDEFEATED
and against some of the best players in the division.
And that's what means the most to me.
(click here for final standings)

I picked up this bit of bling last night,
more than 3 and a half months after
the final results were published.

It was worth the wait, of course.
But like many of life's more memorable events,
the morning after brings some unexpected thoughts...

Like: "Is that all there is?"
And: "What next?"

I'll be working on those questions,
and keep you posted...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Trouble!

On a recent trip back east,
to my college reunion,
I met up with my old pool nemesis John Green,
and had the distinct pleasure to whup him soundly.
That was something I had always wanted to do,
but I always came up short in the attempt.
He was always just a little bit better...

In our conversations about our college days,
he remembered a speech I gave in Public Speaking class.
It was the words from The Music Man,
the ones about Trouble, Right Here in River City,
and about how the game of pool is the work of the devil.
I didn't remember that event, but he sure did,
and for that amazing memory of his, and his great game,
I dedicate this blog.

For your enjoyment, here are the lyrics to "Trouble".
For an audio recording, click here



Ya Got Trouble

A pool table, don't ya' understand?

Well, either you're closing your eyes
to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
by the presence of a pool table in your community.
Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here...
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Why sure I'm a billiard player.
Certainly mighty proud to say...
I'm always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
with a cue in my hand are golden.
Help you cultivate horse sense
and a cool head and a keen eye.
Didja ever take and try to give
an iron-clad leave to yourself
from a three-rail billiard shot?
But just as I say,
it takes judgement, brains, and maturity
to score in a balkline game,
I say that any boob kin take and shove a ball in a pocket.
And I call that sloth.
The first big step on the road
to the depths of deg-ra-Day--
I say, first, medicinal wine from a teaspoon,
Then beer from a bottle.
An' the next thing ya know,
your son is playin' for money
in a pinch-back suit.
And list'nin to some big out-a-town Jasper
hearin' him tell about horse-race gamblin'.
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no!
But a race where they set down right on the horse!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey-boy sittin' on Dan Patch?
Make your blood boil?
Well, I should say.
Friends, lemme tell you what I mean.
Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table.
Pockets that mark the diff'rence
between a gentlemen and a bum,
with a capital "B,"
and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!
And all week long your River City youth'll be frittern away,
I say your young men'll be frittern...
Frittern away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
Get the ball in the pocket,
Never mind gittin' dandelions pulled
Or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded.
Never mind pumpin' any water
'til your parents are caught with the cistern empty
on a Saturday night and that's trouble,
Oh, yes we got lots and lots a' trouble.
I'm thinkin' of the kids in the knickerbockers,
shirt-tail young ones,
peekin' in the pool hall window after school.
Ya got trouble.
Folks, right here in River City.
Trouble with a capital "T"
and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!
Now, I know all you folks are the right kinda parents.
I'm gonna be perfectly frank.
Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes
on while they're loafin' around that Hall?
They're tryin' out Bevo, tryin' out cubebs,
Tryin' out Tailor Mades like cigarette fiends!
And braggin' all about
How they're gonna cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen.
One fine night, they leave the pool hall,
headin' for the dance at the Arm'ry!
Libertine men and Scarlet women!
And Rag-time, shameless music
that'll grab your son and your daughter
with the arms of a jungle animal instink!
Mass hysteria!
Friends, the idle brain is the devil's playground!


Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital "T"
that rhymes with "P"
and that stands for pool.

We've surely got trouble!
Right here in River City,

Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones moral after school!

Mothers of River City!
Heed that warning before it's too late!
Watch for the tell-tale sign of corruption!
The moment your son leaves the house,
does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee?
Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger?
A dime novel hidden in the corn crib?
Is he startin' to memorize jokes from Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang?
Are certain words creepin' into his conversation?
Words like "swell"?
And "so's your old man"?
Well, if so my friends,
ya got trouble,
right here in River City!
With a capital "T"
and that rhymes with "P"
and that stands for pool.

We've surely got trouble!
Right here in River City!
Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!
Ho ho, we've got trouble.
We're in terrible, terrible trouble.
That game with the fifteen numbered balls is a devil's tool!
Oh yes we got trouble, trouble, trouble
With a "T" and that rhymes with "P"
And that stands for Pool!

New Goal: Run 100

Malve came by yesterday
wanting to give his new stick some action.
He picked up a new Predator 3k4 with a Z shaft last week,
and shot some nice pool with it
in its maiden voyage here last Thursday.

We started off with a race to 5 in 9-ball.
He got off to an early start with 3 wins in a row.
I came back with 4 wins in a row.
Then hee won, putting us both on the hill,
but I took the final game.

We switched to straight pool,
and played 3 games to 50.
I won the first by a ton,
he won the second by 1 ball,
and I took the last one by 25 balls.

Somewhere in all that shooting,
I had a run of about 20 balls.
That got me to thinking about my previous high run,
which I remember as being 35 balls,
but that was about 40 years ago,
right before the Dark Ages,
that 4 decade long period of No Serious Pool.

My little run of 20 balls last night felt good,
but it was over too quick, almost didn't feel like it happened.
So I have set a new goal: Run 100 balls in straight pool.
From what I have heard about such a goal,
it doesn't come easy.
It may take a year or two, maybe five or ten.
But I figure it's out there,
waiting for me to learn enough patience,
and enough technique, and enough skill.
It should keep me busy, and off the streets at night,
and out of trouble, and engaged in something with a purpose.
Sure beats watching TV.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Drawing Lessons

Oh, to be able to draw!
How does Allison Fisher draw the full length of the table?
And with such apparent ease!

Sure, I can draw the cue ball a little bit,
but as the distance between the cue ball and object ball
increases, the amount of draw, for me, decreases.
There seems to be a wall.

Yesterday, in our
marathon 10-hour lesson,
El Maestro once again tried to show me the power draw.
"Watch closely" he would say, and proceed to draw
the cue ball in ways I can only describe as magical.
But of course, it all happens so quickly that
it is impossible to see what is actually happening.

He suggests strongly that if I were a better student
I would surely have been able to master this shot by now.
I suggest that if he could teach, then I would be able to draw!

Very frustrating!

For a long time I have felt that
my stroke is flawed in some basic way.
Certainly it is inelegant, to say the least.
The harder I hit the ball, the less accurate I am.
To me, this is wrong.
I think I must be flinching at the last nanosecond,
or blinking, or ... something, but what is it?

When I find out, surely I will be king!

He has me do all the obvious things
like shoot as low as possible on the cue ball,
hit it harder, follow through, etc.
Nothing but a wimpy, girly-man draw, if any at all.

Then Tony has me use an open hand bridge,
and instead of hitting the ball with a level stroke,
he has me try shooting somewhat downward on the ball.
The results are better,
but still not as spectacular as I want.

He suggests lifting weights to build a stronger arm,
and then changes his mind.
It seems that there is no solution to my ineptitude.
Then he remembers how he cured my break shot,
which was surely even more inept (less ept?)
than my draw.
One of the things he had me do that helped my break
was to deliver an exaggerated follow through.
This also helped me when shooting over balls.
Maybe that's the solution!
But by then, my mind and body were fried.
I'll have to give myself a day or two to recover,
and see if that helps.
Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Local 9-ball Tournament Results

I finished in fourth place.
In the money.
As always, all pool winnings go to charitable causes.

Match 1. won 3-1 vs. Ryan B. (C)
Match 2. won 3-0 vs. Scott B. (C)
Match 3. lost 1-3 vs. Brian K (B)
Match 4. won 3-2 vs. Eric M (B)
Match 5. lost 0-3 vs. Rey (A)

The highlight was the shutout against Scott B.
who beat me about a year ago in a regional
playoff for a singles tournament (APA).
It was good to "even the score", of course,
but he wasn't playing great.
It would be better to win against his best game.

I should have won match 3.
I didn't take advantage of my opportunities.
I must learn why I tend to undercut shots.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Moonlight Pool



I really enjoy shooting pool alone.
And it's even better late at night,
and I dim the lights over the table,
way down to where the hard edges are blurred,
and the colors are muted so much that
the two and the eight and the four all look
about the same.

At times like these, it is not so much that
I line up the shot visually as I sense the shot.

Last night I really got into it,
and was shooting for hours,
until my right arm got so tired I had to stop.

Keeping me company was a perfect moonset
in a clear sky over the Pacific,
and the music of the waves.
It is at times like these that my spirit is most peaceful,
and some shots happen which are truly cosmic.

I highly recommend installing a dimmer on your table light,
and finding the quiet peace of solo low light pool.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I Got The (new) Shaft!

My new Z+ (or is it a 314- ?) arrived mid-week,
and it is totally sweet!

(Maybe that's what helped me spank Sorto yesterday!)

This new shaft, as you may remember,
is a standard Predator 314 shaft turned down to 12.3mm
almost half a millimeter smaller diameter than standard,
and a bit more than half a millimeter fatter than
a standard Predator Z shaft.
Now, half a mm may not sound like much,
but I have always felt that the Z shaft was too skinny,
and the 314 was too fat,
and that something in between would be just right, for me.

Tony told me several times that he didn't like the Z shaft
because it is too thin, and wanted me to use a fatter stick.

So now I got one, and I beat him with it.
Now that's a confidence-builder!

I should mention that Seybert's Billiard Supply
did a great job, gave me a good price,
and delivered ahead of the promised date.
You can't get better than that!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Milestone Matches

After the exhibition by Dr. Cue,
I met up with my instructor, Tony "El Maestro" Sorto,
to shoot some 9-ball at the local pool hall.

Tony is all business, and doesn't give me a chance to
get in any practice shots at all.
He racks immediately and announces: "Race to 7".
He always lets me break, for two reasons:
1. If he broke, he would run out almost always.
2. I need the practice with the break shot.

Getting the break is my only spot, even though
he is a much better player.
Duh, that's why he's my instructor!

Some days, the gods are in your corner,
the planets are aligned in your favor,
and the rolls go your way.
On such days, I might win a game or two,
and maybe even three from El Maestro.

But tonight was extraordinary!
Not only did I win the first race to 7,
I won another race to 7 immediately after it.
These wins were not even hill-hill,
but more along the lines of 7-5, 7-4.

Knowing that I shouldn't push my luck
and play a third match, I quit winners,
and proceeded to strut and howl and generally
celebrate the greatest day of my pool career, ever.

After I calmed down, I sat next to Tony,
who was very subdued all along.
He turned to me and said:
"I'm not going to teach you any more."
To which I replied smugly:
"There isn't any more you CAN teach me!"

I am sure that my words will come back to haunt me.
When Tony gets energized by that sort of smack-talk,
he is unbeatable.
I am sure I have lessons in humility coming my way.

But until then, my hat size has just expanded a bunch.
I may even need two hats!

Tom "Dr. Cue" Rossman

This afternoon, "Dr. Cue" appeared at The Stagecoach,
a local pub which hosts APA matches 3 nights a week.
It's amazing that such a pool-world famous artist
would come to such a remote corner of the planet
and perform for such a small crowd (about 30+),
but there he was, and it was FREE, courtesy of
the APA and coordinated by the local chapter operators,
Brian and Jill Frankland, who did an excellent job.

Dr. Cue is an extraordinary pool shooter,
and puts on a really entertaining show.

I showed up early and got a front row seat,
so I got to see Dr. Cue warm up and get the
feel of the table, which was an education in itself.
Can you imagine putting on a professional exhibition
half a dozen times in a weekend,
on as many different tables?

After about 10 minutes of banks and wing shots,
he had it dialed in!
If you haven't seen his show, I won't spoil it for you
by telling you all about it here,
but I was most impressed with his wing shots
and wing caroms and 4+ rail kicks.
It shows that he has done this a few times before!

Click this link to learn more about the man,
and his show, and a few video lessons, and more!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Local 9-ball Tournament Results

Match 1: won 3-1 vs. Kellen (D)
Match 2:
lost 1-3 vs. David Nakano (A)
Match 3:
won 3-2 vs. Marcello (A)
Match 4:
won 3-1 vs. Grumpy Theresa (D)
Match 5:
lost 1-3 vs. Ken J (A)

The highlight of the night was against Ken J.
In the first game I broke and ran out.
In the second game I had a nice run going and got
to a tough cut on the money ball.
Made the shot in the lower left corner,
but let the cue ball loose,
and it scratched in the upper right corner.
Almost stung Ken J. twice in a row!
That woulda been sweet.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda...

It's not good to miss against "A" players!

Back to the practice table...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Straight Pool Bible by Babe Cranfield



Babe Cranfield was one of the all-time great players.
Hall of Fame, of course.
And reported to have a much higher straight pool run
than the world record claimed by Willie Mosconi.
His list of accomplishments is quite impressive.

Straight pool, according to the Billiards Congress of America, "is generally considered to be the game that provides the greatest all-around test of complete pocket-billiards playing skill, requiring great concentration, accuracy, shot-making, defense, patience, and knowledge."

This is an easy book to read,
and it seems to be too short
when compared to others on the game.
But it is written by the king of straight pool,
and therefore is a must-read.

Click on the link above to buy it from amazon.com
and you will save $6.38 off the retail price,
and a portion of the proceeds goes to charitable causes.

Monday, October 03, 2005

New Custom Shaft - Is it a Z+ or a 314- ?



Today I ordered my long-thought-about experiment.

The Z-shaft (at 11.75mm) which I use for my playing cue
seems too thin, and the 314 shaft (at 12.75mm)
which I use for my break cue, seems too fat.
So I have always felt that I wanted a 314 shaft
cut down to a compromise between it and the Z.

I called Predator customer service at 888-314-4111
and they say it's ok to cut the 314 down to 12.3mm
and they even gave me a lead on who could do it:
Seybert's Billiard Supply and they'll do it for only
30 bucks, and give me a $50 discount on the shaft,
so I'm still saving 20 bucks and getting a custom shaft!
And they will ship it in a week.

Such a deal.

Now I expect to never again miscue,
and never miss another ball.

Move over Mosconi...

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