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.




Sunday, January 28, 2007

Saturday Night at the Pool Hall




El Maestro and I are shooting 9 ball for a few hours,
when some young movie star looking guy
starts talking with Tony
and all of a sudden I've got a match.
Race to 7 games in 9-ball.

This ain't no beauty contest,
so I've got nothing to worry about.

With the flip of a coin, I break,
and after several turnovers,
I win the first game.
That feels good.

And then it begins...
He wins the next game,
because I scratch on the nine.
And he wins the next game,
because I leave the nine in the jaws.
And then he wins the next game,
because I have no idea why,
by now I'm almost in a coma.
It's 3-1 his favor.

My spirit is unfocused.
My energy is low.
My mind is unclear.
My mojo ain't happenin'.

I was sluggish from a big Mexican meal.

I felt like Rocky Balboa,
on the ropes,
taking a heavy beating.

It just won't stop.
He hammers me again.
It's 4-1.

And again!
It's 5-1.

Lesser men would have already given up.
By this time they would simply be pushing balls,
waiting for the end.

We have all seen pros on TV,
when the score is real lopsided,
against them,
they almost sit lopsided, slumped,
in a pose of submission,
a picture of undeniable defeat.

El Maestro taught me to
show no fear,
no emotion,
and certainly not submission.

El Maestro also taught me
to make adjustments.

I would just have to
increase my focus,
increase my energy,
dominate the table,
and shoot like I know I can.

Where does it come from
to be able to recover from such
great deficit?
Is it possible?

Fast Mikie,
again,
digs deep,
and speaks:
"Ok, PJ, that's enough of a spot."

Fast Mikie wins the next 6 games in a row.
And wins the match, 7-5.

When I finally got to the hill ahead of him,
6-5,
the pressure was enormous,
my body heat escalated off the charts,
my mouth got sandpaper dry.
I have not yet learned to control my physiology
but I am studying El Maestro
who has great powers in this area.


The last shot I had to go 3 rails
fully around the table for
short side position on the nine
which was frozen to the short rail.
Of course, you already know it worked,
but when I was down on the shot,
knowing I needed this to be a sweet shot
for six games in a row, and the match,
and a major-league comeback victory...
well, the stress was extreme.

It's all about the glory,
I suppose.
Mortals aspire to heroic deeds.

One thing I have learned
is that heroic achievements never occur
if one has given up.
It is the man who persists unrelentingly
who wins.

Heroic deeds require dire circumstances.
Like, maybe, being down 5-1 in a pool match?
Did I allow myself to get so beaten,
so that I could enhance
The Legend of Fast Mikie?

It would seem unlikely, but
Brinksmanship
is a game I play with myself.

I'm naturally lazy,
I resist doing anything at all
unless it is absolutely necessary,
and then, when I do something,
I want it to have the greatest possible reward.

That's when I focus like a junkyard dog.
I can persist like a mofo.
Persistence is my secret weapon.
In itself, persistence requires no talent.
Just put your head down and keep going.
"Never, never, never give up."
(Winston Churchill, during WWII)

It was a good night at the pool hall.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Back in the APA




Tonight was my first
team 8-ball match in the APA
in a couple of years.

One of the reasons
I dropped out of the APA team events
is because the championships in Las Vegas
allow smoking in the tournament rooms.

Although I smoked unfiltered cigarettes
for more than 20 years
once I quit I became sensitized to the smoke
and now I can't stand to be around it.

On my first and only Vegas
championship tournament
(in 2004, click for story)
the air was so bad
I vowed to never return
until they banned smoking.

And now they did it.
It wasn't APA who did it however,
it was the State of Nevada.
So that means I can go back.

The Masters Triple Play tournament,
The National Singles,
the mini tournaments,
and the team events
are all now "in play" again for me.

So, back to tonight...
I was first up,
playing against a skill level 5.
(Mike H.)
When I last played APA,
I was a skill level 6,
so I needed 5 games to his 4.

I won, 5-0.

I felt comfortable throughout
because it was evident that
my opponent could shoot good
but needed experience with strategy.
All I had to do was block a ball on him,
and he had to let me win.

It almost seems unfair.

I was shooting pretty good.
Two or three dumb mistakes.
But it was a strategy win.
It seems that I am finally getting it.
A few months ago I was clueless.

It reminds me of an old Buddha saying:
"The ox is slow, but the earth is patient."

My favorite shot of the evening:
I break and sink a solid,
and the rest are runnable
except for the 4 ball which is blocked
except for a cross-table bank
as the only option to get out.
There are other easy shots on the table,
but I take the bank on the trouble ball
for the opening shot
and get shape for the rest of the run.

Most opponents would not know
why I would take such an opening shot
and of course when it goes in
(which it did, of course)
they might get the feeling
they are in the presence of a higher power.

Confusion to the enemy!
I love it.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Surprise match-up


I'm at the pool hall a few minutes early
when El Maestro walks in.

He says he wants me to shoot some "A" player.
(Chuck J.)
I say sure, anybody, anytime, any game.
It's not about Who.
It's about the balls and the table.

He points to some guy
sitting in the big chairs by the window,
but to me the view was all blurred.
I really didn't want to see the guy,
because it really didn't matter who it was.
All players are the same.
Their sole function is to rearrange the table
if I let them.

The essence of the game
is contained within the green area.
And the gray area (the brain).

For the record, I won 7-4
but more importantly I feel that
the win was a fine gift to my instructor
who watched the whole set with great pleasure.
Some of my shots were
truly beautiful.

It was one of those events
where it could be said that
the planets were aligned favorably.


Interestingly,
it was the first day of the New Moon,
a time when my creativity and sensitivity
are heightened.


The day after a long day at the table
is a day to relax.
I started with at least an hour of
stretching and breathing (yoga).
Especially good for the lower back.


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Friday, January 19, 2007

Russian pool



Check out Russian billiards!
Big table, enormous balls,
tiny pockets.
Any ball can be the cue ball,
and you score by sinking any ball,
even the cue ball...

Check out the final shot in this video,
where he uses reverse english ("russian"?)
on a carom shot,
to spin the cue ball into the pocket
for the win.

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In search of the perfect cue shaft...



For the first time in 3+ years,
I am happy enough with the shaft I'm using
to reorder an identical shaft.

What could possibly earn my approval?
The Predator 314 series 2,
with a Quick-Lock joint
and a Moori medium tip,
extra long (30").

All shafts before this have been Predator,
and in normal length (29")
but I have experimented with
the Z-shaft
and custom 314 shafts cut down
to 12.25mm.

I think the extra inch in length helps
on reaching some shots,
and also the overall balance of my cue.

I evolved from a Moori soft to medium
because the soft needed constant attention.

Seybert's gets my business,
because they are easy to work with,
they stand behind their work,
I can order online,
and get it fast.

I ordered another shaft today
because the tip on my current playing shaft
is getting kind of low,
and flatter than I like,
so I did some shaping
to get it to nickel radius,
and roughed it up to hold chalk,
and now it is playing sweet again,
but that's about the last time I can do it.

This was the opportunity to get a backup shaft.
Then I'll send in the one I use now,
for a fresh tip.

A fresh tip shoots sweet.

Watch out, Efren...

;o)

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Las Vegas goes Non-Smoking



In a turn of events which defied the odds,
the state of Nevada passed a law
restricting smoking in Las Vegas,
especially in the hotels,
and that means pool tournaments!

The last time I shot pool in Las Vegas
about 2 and a half years ago
at the National Championships,
the smoke was so thick and disgusting
I swore I would never return
until they outlawed smoking in the pool rooms.

Today I got the official notice.
See this link.

You may be wondering how I did
at my first/last/only tournament in LV...
Read the story here:
Agony and Ecstasy in Las Vegas.

This new development now opens up
the possiblility of rejoining an APA team
to compete for the singles events...

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Practicing Practice

A reader asked me how I practice,
which I figure is a great question,
because I have asked myself that
same question many times.

Here's how I answered him:

My practice sessions are not very disciplined.

Many times I just throw all 15
object balls on the table, randomly,
and then go for the run,
but sometimes I vary the experience with different ideas,
sometimes I try to run them all
from the same side of the table, for example,
or try to run them without the cue ball touching a rail,
or a ball other than the OB.

One thing for sure,
I almost never ignore a missed shot.
When I do miss, I always replay the shot
until I feel comfortable with it.
I feel it is essential to never leave that
negative image of the miss in my mind.

I never practice my 8/9 ball break shots,
first of all because I don't like all the noise,
and second because it seems like work to rack them each time.
How lazy is that!?
;o)

Sometimes I hit all the balls really soft,
other times with strength, confidence.
Sometimes trying a kill shot instead of soft roll...

Sometimes going 2 or 3 rails instead of just one rail
to get position.
Sometimes with reverse english, or none at all,
to see what happens...

Many times I will take the tougher shot,
like cutting a ball down the rail instaed of banking it,
or cutting a ball into the farther-away pocket
instead of the obvious one.

I should definitely practice more bank shots.

If I didn't vary my approach to practice,
I'm sure it would seem like work, or boring,
so I try to keep it interesting.

So, practice for me is not about doing everything right,
but about learning, discovering,
and that never seems to get boring...

Hope that helps.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

My First Two-Pack



TWO!

Last night was my first time
for break-and-running two 9-ball racks in a row,
in a challenge match.

It's amazing what a few years of practice,
and learning from a Master,
can do for a shooter's game.

Next stop: 3-pack, 4-pack, 5-pack, more...

If I can do it,
so can you.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Praise from El Maestro




The last time Tony and I shot some pool,
a couple of weeks ago,
I ran through a rack of 8 ball,
and then almost all of another rack
(missed on the last shot)
and he actually told me
"Those two racks were PROFESSIONAL quality"

He was referring to the choices,
the shot selection, etc
that I made,
as well as the precision position.

That really made me feel great,
and affirmed what I had been suspecting
for some time:
that my game has taken a step up.
It was only a few months ago
that my 8-ball patterns were awful.

Again today,
after shooting for about 7 hours straight,
he gave it up again
telling me that I was shooting good.

So I guess I'd have to say
I'm feeling pretty good about that.

For the last 3 years,
I thought he wasn't giving my game any compliments
because he was some kind of tough guy.
But all the while it was just because
I didn't deserve any compliments!

But I still have a LONG way to go
to reach his level.
Some of the things he does with the cue ball
are just plain unbelievable
until you see it happen,
repeatedly.

Namaste'
El Maestro!

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Save the world, or shoot pool?




That's a tough decision...
I really enjoy pool,
but saving the world needs help.

I'd hate to have the world come unglued,
and I'm standing around poking a ball with a stick.
Especially if I can do something about it.

So I took a few days off to deal with
some pressing social issues
such as global hunger and poverty.

Check out
2clicksAday.org

It gives all of us a way to
contribute to the solution
with the least amount of energy
(2 clicks!)
so we can all go back to shooting more pool
and still sleep good at night
knowing we did a good thing for our world.

So much for hunger and poverty.
I'm working on war and disease next,
but I'm thinking that these things might
be a bit more time consuming,
so I gotta get right back to it
before my stroke gets all wobbly.

The primary website that describes the approach is

ThinkPlanDoRepeat.com




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