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, June 30, 2007

Polishing the Plan

Updated my
2007 Plan For Excellence in Pool
with latest activities, achievements, etc.

Old Indian saying:
"If you don't know where you're going,
any road will get you there."

That's an obscure way of stating the obvious
that a Plan is mandatory
to get where you want to go.

It is also mandatory to USE the Plan,
and to update it with feedback from the real world.
The more frequent the use and update of the Plan,
the faster the Goal can be achieved.

I have used this Truth
with much success in business.
And it is working well with Pool.
It is a natural law of the universe.
It will work with anything you want to do.

There is more on this subject at
Think - Plan - Do - Repeat

(blog top)


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Crash and Rededication

It took only a few hours.
My adrenaline-fueled high wore off
and I crashed mightily into one of those
"What's it all about?"
monkey-brain sessions,
then I physically crashed into several more hours sleep.

Redemption came with a wake up call
(figuratively and factually)
from El Maestro,
who, when I asked him "What's it all about, anyway?
Who cares if I'm undefeated,
where does it end?
(a rhetorical question since I'm looking at either
interminable battles with ball-bangers,
or a meaningless existence of poking balls with a stick,
or.... what?
If not pool, then what?)

El Maestro answered that
the existence of Man is one of continual competition.
Without it, we die.

That's pretty basic.
So I guess I go back to the practice table
at least until I get a better answer.

(blog top)


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Friday, June 29, 2007

Invincible

Last night,
two alpha dogs faced off in battle.
One of them was me.

Only one of us would emerge the Victor.
It was him or me.

I entered this battle
with a perfect record of 6 matches, 6 wins.
This is what I had at stake.
I was loathe to lose
and soil my spotless record.

I had to win.

The match was an ugly slugfest.

My strategy was to cut off his oxygen,
to give him no hope,
to frustrate him,
to let him see only darkness,
reduce his odds of success,
to burden him with doubt...

In so doing, I played tight,
I did not Flow,
and I missed shots,
there were distractions,
the tables, bar boxes, were pure garbage.

At the end,
after two and a half hours of chessmatch,
I ruled the day.
(5-2 vs. Tony Bigbee, skill level 7)

Seven matches played, seven won.
I remain undefeated.
Alone,
at the top.

In all of San Diego APA 8-ball,
with more than 1600 players,
there are only 84 (less than 5%)
who are ranked Skill Level Seven
which is the highest skill level possible.

I'm one of them.

As of this time,
now past the middle of the session,
I have won more matches than any other Seven,
and I am undefeated.




It is early morning as I write this.
I woke up after only 4 hours sleep.
The adrenaline of last night's victory
still pumping hot in my veins.

More juicy than the victory itself
is that it takes me to the highest point.
Victorious in every contest.
No matter the opponent,
no matter the venue,
no matter the conditions.

In the Fullness of Time,
it has come to pass that
I walk among the Sevens as One of Them,
and, for this moment,
I am undefeated.
I fear no one.

After last night's match,
El Maestro shook my hand,
looked at me squarely,
and in all dead seriousness said:
"No one can beat you."

Wow.




Invincible:
The Legend of Fast Mikie
On the Path of Truth and Beauty in
The Art and Science of Billiards

as taught by
"El Maestro" Tony Sorto

story told by
"Fast Mikie" Michael McCafferty

Email now to reserve your
personalized, signed first edition collectors' copy.
only $US 22.50, limited time introductory period
includes tax and shipping
(outside USA extra).

Includes private, members only website access
to web cam, video library, and forums.

(blog top)


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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Six Matches Played, Six Won

Just wanted to shout out a big "Thank You"
for all the great work done by Brian and Jill,
the operators of the San Diego APA league.
Especially for being so fast in
getting last week's scores posted to the website.
This gives me extra time
to bask in the dull glow of my monitor,
continuously displaying the results you see below:


(click the list to see it BIG)

I'm enjoying this 6-0 undefeated streak.
However, there's a lot of pressure to keep it going.

I need to quit thinking about that,
and just focus on one ball at a time.

(blog top)


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cue Shuffle

Last match was the first competition use
of the backup shaft with the fresh tip.
(Moori medium)
I had been practicing with it
for several days before the match.

It was no different than my old tip,
just fresher.
I'd been playing with the other one for about 6 months.
The fresh one plays with more action.
It seems that there is more compression
and subsequently more grip.
The leather is fresher, more moist,
and holds more chalk.

In other news, as of today,
I resolved to abandon my X-breaker.
The non-leather tip is too slick.
Too many bad hits.
I'll use my old Predator basic cue
with a 314 shaft,
and the tip shaped flat.
It's the cue I bought to replace my Willie Hoppe.
I got it right after I joined the APA
about 3.5 years ago.
I played some nice pool with that stick,
using it for about 2 years.
Yesterday I was shooting some racks with it,
and it felt real nice.
Couldn't miss!

I noticed that the balance point
of the Predator is about 2" forward of the Samsara.

The Predator is 18.8 oz. with Limbsaver attached.
The Samsara is 20.4 oz.



(blog top)


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Friday, June 22, 2007

Sweet Squeaker

Someone once mentioned to me that
the secret to winning at pool
is to never let your opponent get "on the hill".
Well, duh!

However, there is a certain simplicity to it.
If the other guy gets to the hill,
and the game has any element of luck
(and of course it does)
then anything can happen.
And, "anything" in this case means you can lose.

This sets the stage for last night's match,
my first public appearance as a Seven.

The team captains toss the coin
to decide which team puts up the first player.
I wasn't watching,
but I guess we lost the toss
because all of a sudden I get the nod.
I'm being put up "blind"
without knowing who the other team puts up.

This is not to our/my advantage, I'm thinking.
Surely, if they respond in a typical way,
they will throw a lower skill level player at me,
which means they only have to win 2 games
and I have to win 6.
Naturally the element of luck works in favor
of the player who needs the fewest games to win.

The other captain didn't miss a beat.
He puts up their UNDEFEATED skill level 3
who, as El Maestro says, shoots like a 5.

I have heard El Maestro speak of the
extreme danger in situations like this.
For example, if the low skill level player
should luck into an 8 ball on the break,
or I scratch on an 8,
or rattle an 8 in the jaws,
or some other such awful thing,
then with only one win,
the other guy is "on the hill".

So there is added pressure to
exercise immediate and total control, from the first shot.
I win the lag, and the first two games,
but my opponent, somehow, gets the third game,
and now I must be flawless for the next 4
or my undefeated record is gone,
and my debut as a Seven will
result in the humiliation of defeat by a S/L 3.

I know I have to shut my opponent down totally,
leaving no possibility for them to run out,
or even get lucky.
I must play safe until I can run out, absolutely.
It turned into a marathon of 105 minutes.
I won, 6-1.
(vs. M. Morgan, s/l 3)

The last game was most interesting.
I broke, made a solid,
and as the balls came to rest
I saw that solids were sitting pretty for a runout.

It was at this time that the Devil Himself appeared
on my left shoulder and whispered:
"Go for it."
And on my right shoulder, an angel whispered:
"Mikie, Mikie... it's hill-hill, be careful.
Remember what we learned about
the folly of effortless spectacular runouts?"

The Devil laughs mightily and sneers:
(I could swear the voice was George Bush)
"Are you kidding? A child, a moron could run this table!"
"It's a break and run for the win! How juicy!"
"Go for it Mikie... show your Seven stuff."

The angel probably said something wise,
but I didn't hear it,
as I was salivating at the thought of
my first Break and Run patch
in my first appearance as a Seven.
I could feel my already oversized ego
expanding to new, untested dimensions.
Explosion was imminent, and probable,
but such bloated egos are deaf to wisdom,
blind to all but ever more self-aggrandizement.

So I go for it...
And it goes nicely until,
with two solids and the 8 left,
El Maestro calls timeout.

He counsels one way of dealing with the out,
and I share with him my plan,
which he approves as being more cautious
(saving for last the
solid blocking a stripe)
but it involves tricky position play
to carom the 8 off a stripe, into the side,
and shooting from the rail on that final shot.

Such was my plan, and
I pocketed the remaining solids,
both down-the-rail shots from across the table,
and fell into position for the 8-ball carom
for the win.

Sweet.

(blog top)


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Seven At Last!



This morning the latest list of players was published,
and above is a small (humble) version of the list.
To see the list in all its glory, click it.

The first thing you will notice is that
yours truly remains at the top of the list.
Closer inspection will reveal that
my skill level is now a 7 (Seven),
the highest skill level possible for 8 ball.

It was only 8 months ago
that I was getting beat regularly
in this game of 8 ball.
On reflection, the primary reasons
were that I was not recognizing natural patterns
(patterns that give natural position on the next ball)
and I was therefore trying impossible runouts.
Two simple ingredients for disaster.

This fulfills one more of the goals in my
2007 Plans For Pool Excellence.

I should take this moment to say "Thank You"
to my instructor, Tony Sorto ("El Maestro"),
for, without his genius it would have been
impossible for this pig to learn to sing.
Gracias, amigo.

OK, now back to the practice table,
and to achieving the other goals...

(blog top)


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Monday, June 18, 2007

Left Handed Win

Remembering one more highlight of last week's win:

It was the last shot of the match,
I left myself long and awkward on the 8-ball,
but it plays ok as a left handed shot.
I hesitated, went for the bridge,
and El Maestro yells out
"Shoot it left handed".

He sure pushes me.
It was only 6 months ago (exactly)
that I first shot a ball left handed in a match.
Now he wants me to shoot lefty
for the game/match ball...

I have this nice shutout going,
and I do not want to look stupid
by missing a shot left handed.
But I must be Fearless.
I shot it lefty.
And it went in.




Whatever you can do, or dream you can, Begin it.
For Boldness has Genius, Power and Magic in it.
Begin it Now!


(Goethe)

(blog top)


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Ronnie: Autobiography of Ronnie O'Sullivan

I've just finished reading
Ronnie: The Autobiography of Ronnie O'Sullivan
the world champion snooker player.

I got interested in learning more about the game
and the player,
after watching this video on youTube
in which he achieves a maximum break 147
faster than anyone, ever:




I also learned a little something about
the differences between pool and snooker.

(blog top)


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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gimmie a break!

The words from Bob Dylan's hit
"Just Like a Woman"
keep running through my head:
"... but she breaks just like a little girl."

And that's kinda how I've been feeling
about my own break lately.
In my last match I scratched
4 times on the break!
That makes it a whole lot tougher to win matches,
and makes "Seven" unnecessarily more difficult.

El Maestro has been pushing me to break
using my playing stick, not the X-breaker,
and to shoot into the second ball in the rack
instead of head on.
I was doing ok with that break on my 9' table,
but the match last week was on an 8' table,
and it seemed more difficult to hit the 2nd ball clean.
Maybe the angle of incidence is narrower
because the table is narrower.
So maybe I gotta hit it with more low left...

What I do know is that when I finally stop
hitting the break like a little girl,
I'll definitely be playing better pool.

My break challenges probably come from
my upbringing in the game of straight pool
where there is no heavy breaking.

One more thing to learn,
and to perfect.

(blog top)


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The Glove's Dirty Little Secret

The glove doesn't keep your hand clean.
Seems like it should.

Especially considering the awful organisms
that must exist in the cloth of a typical table.

Think of some of the life-forms who play pool,
and it doesn't take much
to imagine the kind of parasites, viruses
and other disgusting debris on the average bridge hand,
and therefore on the average pool table
in the average pool hall.

It seems quite amazing that pool players as a species
have not been wiped out by some highly evolved
flesh-eating ebola virus that
festered and mutated
in the dark, deep in the slow cloth
of the back tables at Amsterdam Billiards,
after being deposited from the fingernails of
local degenerates and
illegal alien shooters from all over the third world.

Aye, a devil's brew of filth and disease,
awaiting your slightest touch.

Good God, give me a surgeon's gloves!

I'd like to design something better than what's available.
First of all, I'd want the glove to cover the whole hand.
Maybe add rubberized fingertips
for better grip on the balls when racking.
Holes and cutouts in the back and palm for cooling.

Gotta wash the glove frequently.
Certainly after every away-match,
before using it at the Fun House.

Although now I've got more laundry to do,
I still like the glove for shooting pool.

(blog top)


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Friday, June 15, 2007

Keep playing like that...

After my win last night (5-0),
my opponent said:
"Keep playing like that, and you'll be a 7."

From his lips to God's ears...

(blog top)


Thursday, June 14, 2007

New Moon, New Insights

Just a few thoughts about The Game,
on the evening of winning my match,
and also the evening of the New Moon.
The times around a New Moon and Full Moon
seem to find me writing...

A pool match is a zero-sum game.
There will be one Winner, and one other guy.

Winning feels good, of course,
but Playing Well is more satisfying.

Playing Well is
To stroke well and true, and with creativity,
and designed to win.

Playing well is to be Strong, and Fearless.

Playing Well
is
Love of the Game,
made visible.*


Playing Well creates the Win.

Tonight I won again, 5-0.
(vs. Jamie Day, skill level 5, then in 4th place)
I am undefeated so far this session, 5-0.
Four out of my 5 last opponents
didn't earn a single game against me.
I'm thinking that means I am getting better at
controlling the game.

I felt I played better tonight.
I did miss a couple of shots,
but I played a couple of real nice ones,
so on balance I did pretty good.




After my match,
El Maestro was coaching another team mate
on a safety play.
I suggested a different approach
and El Maestro adopted it to the situation.
This tells me that
I'm starting to see the game more clearly.

I can only get better with more experience.




* reminder: (c) 2007, all rights reserved!

(blog top)


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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Close shots

Yesterday,
El Maestro was in the neighborhood,
and happened to have his cue,
so we went at it for 8 hours,
playing 8 ball, 9 ball,
and Honduran rotation.

He found a new flaw for me to work on:
Close shots.
Where the cue ball is within an inch of the object ball.
I have spazzed the shot recently.
But El Maestro has complete, easy mastery of it.

The larger the island of knowledge,

the longer the shoreline of wonder.

Lao Tsu and/or
Ralph W. Sockman

(blog top)


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Exercise in Humility

I am torn between the requirement of full disclosure,
and the importance of Humility,
so I have taken the middle road
and publish herewith the current standings
of the APA team 8-ball division.

Notice that even though the list
has more players on it with each publication
I have made the size of the overall list smaller.
That's the Humility part.
I'm trying to get to the point where the list
is so small you can hardly read it,
and then I will have achieved maximum Humility, right?
That logic may escape someone who is not
on top of the list!

Is there an MA for Megalomaniacs Anonymous?

The other thing that keeps me Humble is
that my skill rating is still only a 6 out of 7.

I will persist until I succeed...



(blog top)


Saturday, June 09, 2007

More On: Effortless and Spectacular


Pelicans At Peace With The Wind


Taking a break from the practice table,
I looked outside for the first time in hours...

The afternoon light was ripening,
seaside clouds grew more dense,
the setting sun cast long shadows,
the sea was at peace...

This is what my Nikon captured.
Photo completely untouched by any effects.
All natural.

Miyamoto Musashi said:
"From one thing, know all things.
From all things, know one thing."

With no hard edges,
the image heightens the sense of perfect peace.
Although it is a flight of 3 pelicans,
there is a sense that the leader is a solitary bird.

I can learn from this,
and apply it to my game.
Now it's time to get back to the practice table...

(blog top)


Friday, June 08, 2007

Love the Glove



I bought a glove a couple of weeks ago.
I
was skeptical, but curious, and it was only 10 bucks.
I didn't get around to trying it out
until a few days ago.
I didn't want to use it in a match
without first getting some practice with it.

Why use a glove?
I favor a closed bridge for most shots,
and my hands get sweaty in pressure situations
especially if it's hot and humid.
This causes drag on the stroke.
Powder works ok, but it's a mess.

At first, the glove felt weird,
but with persistence,
it started showing some advantages.
The big plus is that it gives a consistent feel
under all conditions.
Another advantage is that
I can tighten my grip with the closed bridge
and this helps with a more confident shot.

Tonight was my first public use of the glove.
It was an APA team 8-ball match.
I won 5-0.
(vs. Tom Oeschger
, skill level 6)


So I guess I'll be using the glove for a while.

(blog top)


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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What Motivates Me



SL=Skill Level (7 is highest)
MP=Matches Played
MW=Matches Won
Pts=Sum of Opponents' Skill Levels in Matches Won


It looks like all the teams got their paperwork
submitted early, so the stats were released early
and I have an extra couple of days to enjoy it.

Actually, being #1 is only partly what motivates me.
The real motivator for me is to be able to
put on a good performance.
The ranking in a list is the result of playing well.
That's what I need to focus on.

Now I need to get back to the practice table,
and work extra hard so I can stay in first place.

(blog top)


Friday, June 01, 2007

The Folly of Effortless Spectacular Runouts

Fast Mikie wins again, 5-2.
(APA 8-ball, vs. Michael A. skill level 6)

That's the good news.
And of course winning is better than
a sharp stick in the eye,
but I am still not pleased with my game.

I want to win more easily,
with more Flow,
where each shot follows effortlessly
from the previous shot, and
each position appears natural and simple,
and there is no Angst,
no "Sturm und Drang".

My game must be painful to watch
because it seems so painful to me.
I feel that pool is, in the main, a competition,
and yet almost equal part performance art.
Winning is the Primary Requirement,
but Style is also mandatory.

El Maestro says that
I go for unlikely, unreasonable runouts,
that I need to play more safeties,
to push a ball in front of a pocket,
to tie up my opponent
and let him make the mistakes.

I do see the Truth of this approach.
It it incontrovertible.
And this causes me much conflict.

My spirit is filled with Unbounded Optimism.
I just naturally feel drawn to finding
an extraordinary solution to the runout,
even if it is low percentage,
and maybe so much the better!

I want effortless spectacular runouts.
Is that asking too much?

It seems that my life has been
a succession of inventing extraordinary successes
gained only after creating extraordinary challenges.
It's the Brinksmanship I enjoy.

To play safe at times of greatest challenge
seems to be like drinking day old champagne.
Yes, I see the Zen-like simplicity and elegance
of a perfectly finessed lockup safety,
and yes, I understand intellectually that
such a ploy would give the better odds of victory.

It must be my Ego which is the block.
Grotesquely bloated after years run amok,
my Ego needs to find Humility.
I need to absorb Sun Tzu's Art of War
wherein he teaches:

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles
is not
supreme excellence;
supreme excellence consists in
breaking the enemy's
resistance without fighting.


Therefore the skillful leader
subdues the enemy's troops
without any fighting;
he captures their cities without laying siege to
them;
he overthrows their kingdom
without lengthy operations in the
field.

I must learn this.
I need to resolve this conflict within.
And I yearn to play with more Flow.

I will work diligently on this.

(blog top)


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