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, September 29, 2007

Rule Rant - the break shot

There's probably more than one stupid rule in pool.
And some inconsistency.

For example:
In 9-ball,
if you get the 9 on the break, you win,
but if you scratch and get the 9 on the break,
the 9 is spotted, you give up ball in hand,
and the game continues.

In 8-ball,
if you get the 8 on the break, you win,
but if you scratch and get the 8 on the break,
you lose.

Why should the rules be so inconsistent?
Nine ball is played on tables that are rented by the hour.
Nine ball is preferred because it is a fast game,
so you get more (games) for your money.

Eight ball is played on tables that are rented by the game.
Eight ball is preferred because it is a slow game,
so you get more (time) for your money.

But with coin-operated bar tables
all balls, 8 included, stay down,
so the 8 could not possibly be spotted
and therefore the rule must declare
a winner or loser when the 8 is sunk.

Ok, how about if you are playing on a table
where pocketed balls are not imprisoned?
Like this morning, at the 8 ball "Blast",
on bar tables that are unlocked,
for league play.
Surely then the rule would not apply, right?
Wrong.
Even when the reason for the rule is removed,
the rule still applies.
It's madness, I tell you!!

The purpose of the break shot in 8 and 9 ball
is to spread the balls around the table
in a relatively random layout,
and at the same time to sink a ball,
stay at the table and continue to play.
While the object of the break shot is acceptable,
it relies almost entirely on Chance for the result
and therefore makes a mockery of 8 and 9 ball
as a test of skill.
The most important shot of the games, the break,
relies to a great extent, on Luck!

Now, consider straight pool.
No such thing as Chance on the break.
You have to call every ball and pocket.
The opening break of the game is a safety.
This truly marks straight pool as a game of skill.

But, back to 8 and 9 ball...
When will the rules be changed?
A professional player wants to win
by demonstrating his skill, not pure Luck.
And, to lose by Luck alone is the worst.
Like this morning,
when I sunk the 8 on the break,
and scratched on the same shot.
Automatic loss of game!

I think 8 ball is the only game in pool
where you can lose on the break.
It just doesn't make sense.

(blog top)


Fresh Air and Sunshine

After the US Amateur championship
preliminary round, last weekend,
I thought my pool year had ended,
I was already in vacation mode,
ready to take some time away from the table,
really looking forward to some
stress-free time without competition,
some time for reflection, and writing,
and other creative projects...

That mindset lasted only a couple of days.
Then El Maestro called to announce
that I must compete, with the team, one last time,
at the 8-ball "Blast".

But this blog entry isn't about that.
This is about Fresh Air and Sunshine.

Our team was eliminated in the first round,
and I was home, lying on the floor,
enjoying some yoga moves,
stretching out the stress of my match,
when all of a sudden,
something warm,
on the side of my face...

Sunshine!
Warm afternoon autumn sunshine.
The finest kind of sunshine, for sure.
As I am soaking it up,
the thought occurs to me that
it has been too long since
I have felt this good stuff.

My body, uncontrollably, moves closer
to the warmth of the rays.
(science calls it a "tropism")

I start to notice the freshness of the air
a faint ocean breeze
slightly bracing chill,
enough to get my attention.

Why has it been so long since I have enjoyed
these simple pleasures of
Fresh Air and Sunshine?

Pool.

If I had not gone on pool vacation,
absolutely, for sure,
as of noon today,
I would not be enjoying the
Fresh Air and Sunshine
because the blinds would be drawn
to close out the glare of of the afternoon sun.
It's impossible to shoot pool into the sun.

And, the windows would be closed
to shut off the breeze which
would rattle the blinds when drawn.

So, I have discovered,
Fresh Air and Sunshine
are the enemy of Pool.

And now that I am on pool vacation,
I can once again exhilarate in the
simple joys of existence.

Fresh Air and Sunshine is addictive.
So is pool.
Yet, they are mutually exclusive.
It's like when worlds collide!

(blog top)


Trophies and Patches Galore!



(click the photo to see it BIG TIME! go ahead, click it!)

Look Ma!
Three trophies and three patches!

These trophies go with the hundred bucks
Tony gave me last night
for our 8-ball team's performance in
the Summer Season.

Of course,
none of this would have been possible
without the help of El Maestro.
Gracias, amigo.

The trophies, left to right:
Division Champion
Perfect Season
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
Notice that they have my name on them,
so they're not returnable!

Here's another look:

(click the photo for a closer look! you know you want to!)


The patches, left to right:
8-ball Break & Run
8-ball On The Break
Most Valuable Player (MVP)


All this stuff,
for only 3 months of my life,
(not counting the 4 years leading up to it)
stressed beyond belief,
hanging out in pool halls,
no life to speak of...
It's like poking yourself in the eye
with a sharp stick.
It feels great when you stop.
I highly recommend it for everyone!

Now, if you'll excuse me,
I need to buy some trophy polish...

But before we go, let's take another look, shall we?

(last chance to click the photo and see it BIG TIME! go ahead, click it!)


(blog top)


Friday, September 28, 2007

Bar table lessons

Late this afternoon, I met El Maestro at
Hensley's Flying Elephant
850 Tamarack, Carlsbad CA
for a review of bar table concepts and strategies,
in preparation for the 8-ball Blast tomorrow.
This competition decides if we get to go to Las Vegas
for the National Championships
next August.

The lessons:
Smaller tables mean more clusters,
the need for more precision position,
probably more safety play,
the need for greater cue ball control,
there are no long shots,
hit the ball more softly.


It was the first time I picked up a cue in 6 days.
I was shooting mediocre,
but I ran the last rack of 8 ball,
so it was good to end on a high note.

Another high note was
the $100.00 in cash El Maestro handed me
for my share (1/8) of the team money for winning
the Division Championships.

My favorite charity will appreciate the gift.

(blog top)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Gold Crown Five



Available in October, 2007,
Brunswick is releasing the new
Gold Crown V
which is essentially the same as the IV
but with some cosmetic changes.

One noteworthy bit:
There will be a Tournament Edition
featuring tighter pockets
engineered to WPA specifications.

No information is available on the Brunswick site,
but here's a link to it at Triangle Billiards.



(blog top)


Famous Owners of Brunswick Tables


Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln, on a bad hair day

The first real American celebrity who owned a Brunswick table was an immensely important person in American history—Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a self-confessed “billiards addict.” He described the game as a “health inspiring, scientific game, lending recreation to the otherwise fatigued mind.”

It is quite possible that critical issues of national interest—slavery, international relations and the civil war—were handled over the slate of a Brunswick table.

the Brunswick website
has info on other famous owners

(blog top)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I need a vacation!

Yesterday was the first full day back home
after being on the road for a week.
It is SO good to be back at the Fun House,
to wake up in my own bed again
to breathe fresh ocean air,
yadda, yadda, yadda...

But what is best of all is that
the pool year is over.
The Fast Mikie pool year, that is.

My year revolves around the
US Amateur Championships,
just ended.
For the past 4 months I have been
focused on that one event,
and now that it's behind me,
I get the opportunity to relax.

I feel like the Terminator,
One-armed and battered after confronting the T-1000
The Terminator utters those immortal words:
"I need a vacation!"
Here it is in 5 seconds of video, with quote.

Yesterday I tried to put it all into perspective.
It seems like an appropriate time to ask
"Where do I go from here?"

Contrary to a recent post,
I'm not going to quit the game.
(And besides, I didn't get any offers for my gear!)
But there will be some changes.
My thoughts of August 1, 2007
have not changed.
So I'll be taking a break from league play.
In fact, I'll probably take a break from pool,
serious pool competition, that is.
A pool vacation, maybe through January.

I'd like to spend some time doing some OTHER stuff,
the stuff I put on hold to be serious about pool.
Like party with friends,
get some time on the beach,
doing some freestyle Frisbee.

One of the things I like most about freestyle Frisbee
is that there is no score,
no winner, no loser,
just pure play.

There is no stress to remain undefeated.
There are no team members counting on me.
There is no schedule to adhere to.
I get to breathe fresh air, soak up the sun,
play in the surf, get some exercise.
And think of the money I'll save:
Frisbees are a lot cheaper than cues.

I found freestyle Frisbee about 28 years ago,
and it is probably the one thing which
helped me endure the 40 years of
The Dark Ages of No Pool.

Here is
My Frisbee Page


I can taste the fresh air already.
I'm heading down to the beach...

(but, like The Terminator, "I'll be back!")

(blog top)


Monday, September 24, 2007

9-Ball, the movie, special offer

From the website:

Only 2 bucks!


THIS IS A SPECIAL LIMITED TIME OFFER!

ACT NOW, THIS OFFER ENDS SEPTEMBER 30, 2007.

Everyone who buys a DVD during this special offer

will receive not only the first edition DVD of "9-Ball,"

but also two free tickets to see the movie.

It will be mailed to you immediately upon release.

This price does not include shipping.

Go to the website

(blog top)


Sunday, September 23, 2007

I need the eggs

It's the "morning after"
and I feel used, and abused,
and have lost my self respect.

I'll get over it, I guess.
Life goes on.
(what little there is left of it)

But seriously,
what sort of life is it
to go around poking a ball with a stick?

Is this what a grown man should be doing?
Is this a suitable raison d'etre?

Moments of doubt like this
are part of the human experience, right?
Even Mother Teresa had her crises of faith
so an average geezer like me is entitled, right?

And, speaking of geezers,
maybe I should just admit it,
once and for all,
let it all hang out:
I have realized lately
that I am almost always the oldest person
in the tournament (any tournament).

What does that tell me?
Am I (choke) too old?
Who am I trying to kid?
Am I, like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills?

Even Mosconi, the Great One,
had no particular love for the game
and only did it for the money.
So, if I don't need the money,
(good thing, 'cuz I ain't making any!)
why do I test myself at this?

I hate to lose.
So why put myself in tournaments
where losing is mandatory for all but one?
Who am I to think I can win
against all odds?
Why do I do this?

The only answer I can come up with is because
"I need the eggs" *




*That's a line from the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall
in which he tells the story:

I thought of that old joke, ... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.

(blog top)


Saturday, September 22, 2007

For Sale: Cues, Case, Table, Balls, Trophies

I quit.

After today's performance,
there can be no other alternative.
This was more than a humbling experience.
It was humiliating!

I could get into the details,
but it would be too painful to relate,
and I would never want to see it again in writing.

The only good thing that happened
is that the fat shark who beat me
was beat 7-1 by Jeff,
the same Jeff I won against last night.

That's about the only good thing
I can take with me on the long drive home.

I did not shoot good pool.

Why, you ask?
(go ahead, ask)

Is it better to lose with no excuse,
or to at least have some excuse?

The best I can come up with for a reason
is that for the past several weeks
my left shoulder has been in major pain.
I haven't wanted to say anything about it here
because I never want to give myself an excuse
ahead of a match.
Don't want to jinx myself.
Never want to give myself an excuse for losing.

But, last week, the pain got so bad,
I went to see the doc,
(and I NEVER see a doc)
who diagnosed "rotator cuff tendinitis"
and gave me a shot of cortisone.
That helped a little, for a couple of days,
but then it came back two days ago.

I've been pumping myself with Advil,
and that helps a little.

Then, as if things couldn't get worse,
late last night, after my match with Jeff,
my RIGHT shoulder is real tight and painful.
WTF?
Maybe it was from breaking in my match last night.
Maybe I'm overcompensating with my right
for all the pain in my left.

Maybe I'm just looking for an excuse.
But I guess I'd rather have a reason
(rather than NO reason)
for shooting as bad as I did today.

But, I'm now in serious pain,
mentally and physically.

I think I'll seek the services
of Mr. Guinness and Mr. Bushmills.
Old reliable!

(blog top)


I beat the boss!

Last night was the last night before the tournament.
I'm hitting a few balls at the site,
(Shoreline Billiards, Mountain View, CA)
getting in stroke and feeling pretty good.

A clean cut lookin' guy comes over
asks me if I want to shoot some pool.
I figure I shouldn't.
I figure I should just stay inside my head,
ignore all outside influences,
get the feel of the tables.
But, for some unknown reason, I say Ok.

He asks if I'm here for the tournament.
Yes, I am, I says, not giving up too much info.
He suggests we play the format, 8 and 9 ball.
Sure, I says, why not.

So I ask him if he's here for the contest.
He says yeah.
So I ask him if he has qualified here before.
He says yeah,
like every year for the last 12-13 years!

Yikes! (I says to myself inside my head)
So I gotta ask: What's your name?
Jeff, says he.
Hmmm. Jeff. I remember seeing a business card
at the front counter, with a Jeff-something as owner.
Jeff? says I. Jeff the owner?
Yeah, he says.
Yikes! (This time I says it out loud)

Unfair, I says.
You own the place
and you compete with your customers?
Totally unfair, dude.

Now I'm curious.
So I asks him,
with all the qualifying you've done all those years,
how'd you do in the Big Show back east?

So he's real laid back when he spells it out:
Pretty much always in the top 20 or so,
a bunch of times in the top 10,
best finish was 3rd.

Yikes, yikes, and double yikes!
Looks like I'll be rackin' balls for him tonight.

But then we start in to shootin' some pool,
and I put all the stuff out of my head,
and hey, guess what, he misses a ball
just like regular human beings!

And, in the fullness of time,
we get to hill-hill,
and I win the match.

I beat the boss!
Never woulda figured that in a million years.
But, hey, I would have to admit,
I was shootin' pretty good pool.

So I break my stick down
and go home to get some rest
for the big tournament in the morning.

Back at the hotel,
I look at the business card again:
Jeff Szafransky, Owner, BCA Instructor

Yikes, and he's a BCA instructor!

Sleep comes easy.

In the morning, I wake up fresh, relaxed,
and it strikes me that my first thought,
almost as if I was dreaming it,
is that "I'm going to make it through"
(I'm going to qualify)

What a great omen!
Nothing can stop me now.
I'm confident, I'm mentally ready.
I have prepared well.

(blog top)


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Inside English Likes Fast Mikie Blog

Before I left on my trip
I grabbed a couple magazines
(pool related, of course)
in case I got bored.

So last night,
on my way out the door for dinner
at Ragged Point,
I took the September issue of
Inside English Magazine
which covers the pool scene in
PA, IN, MI, OH, IL, IA, WI
and thereabouts.
Nothing in my area, but I like the writing.

I open to the table of contents
and almost fell out of my chair
when I saw my name listed in the author column.
WTF?

Well, I do remember, vaguely,
that the publisher, Sandy Schuman, contacted me
a long time ago,
about me writing some stuff for their magazine
and I think I said something like
Sure, and if you like something in
any of my blogs, you can publish what you want.
And that was the last I heard on the subject.

And now, here I am, listed as writing a story.
I wonder what I wrote?!...
So I turn to page 11,
and there's a headline:

"Some of the Best Pool Writing is Online
Best of the Blogs
A (sic) Edited Look at One of Our Favorite Blogs
Diary of a Pool Player (sic)
The Adventures of Fast Mikie
by Michael McCafferty"

Wow!
Look Mom! I wrote something and it got published!

Bottom line is that Inside English
cut and pasted several pieces of
several different blog entries
from the past couple of months.

Check it out.
Click here.


Needless to say,
I really enjoyed my dinner
reading all about me!

;o)

(blog top)


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mini Road Trip

This morning I packed a bag,
grabbed the cue case,
and headed north.

Perfectly timed it to avoid the worst of the traffic
and slipped thru LaLaLand like poop thru a goose.
Onward, non-stop thru Santa Barbara,
a brief glimpse of the Pacific at Ventura,
and quick pit-stop/refuel at the Solvang turnoff,
pressing onward, ever onward
for the great central coast of California
where the road almost disappears
to only one lane in each direction,
and then gets even more narrow,
twisting impossibly into mountain/sea switchbacks.

Past the tiny town of Harmony, population 18.
Past San Simeon, where the
richest man of his time
built a castle beyond imagining.
He could have built it anywhere in the world,
and he chose here, south of Big Sur.

And here is one of my favorite places on earth.
Ragged Point.
My room is just a few feet from the edge of the cliff,
dropping 200' to the sea and the rocks,
and oblivion.

I have flown this coast many times
in my open cockpit biplane.
This place always brings a deep breath,
an easy smile, an open spirit, and peace.
Stress simply evaporates.

There are no phones in the rooms here.
But there is a wireless internet connection.
Go figure.

The first order of business is yoga.
Six hours of high speed driving
demands bodily dekinkification.

Then walk the cliff,
soak up the sunset.

Tonight I'll have a good meal,
meditate on the challenge ahead,
get plenty of sleep, to the sounds of the surf,
then a good breakfast,
and continue north,
for the tournament of the year.

I have prepared well.

Life is good.

(blog top)


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pool History

It seems that the history of pool
is more interesting than the present.

Check out the new website by R.A. Dyer
PoolHistory.com

(blog top)


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Yo! Check Out My Willie

UPS just arrived!
It's here at last!
Check out my new Willie:


(photos not to same scale. duh.)


In a time long ago and a land far away,
when I first started shooting pool,
I spent 15 bucks and bought
a new Willie Hoppe signature cue
made by Brunswick Balke Collender.

I still have that same cue,
half-a-freaking-century later!

When I started playing pool again,
about 4 years ago,
after enduring the Dark Ages of
40 years of No Pool,
I retired my old Willie
immediately after a match with Loree Jon Jones,
world champion & Hall of Fame pool shooter,
during which I won 2 out of 3 games of 9 ball.
(read the true story)

That same day I bought a cheapo Predator playing cue
to take advantage of the low deflection shaft
offered by new cue technology.

Recently, Predator Cues introduced a replica Willie
The Willie Hoppe Limited Edition
and since I'm a sucker for reliving my youth,
and a cue-a-holic, I got one.
(#169 out of 500)

I'll use it as a break cue, 20.5 oz,
with a 29" Predator 314 Series 2 shaft
and the Tiger hard tip.
It even comes with a spiffy 2-cue case!

I bought it
online from Seyberts.
Good people.
Good prices.



Willie Hoppe reigned as a world champion for 47 years,
longer than any other human, in any sport.
He was inducted into the
Billiards Congress of America (BCA) Hall of Fame
in its opening year, 1966
beating Willie Mosconi by two years.

(blog top)


Run Six Balls



Practice is one of my most un-favorite things.
I'm lazy. I find excuses to avoid it.
And yet, it is the path to excellence.

To be interesting, practice needs a challenge.

For example: run six balls.

This little test seems easy enough,
but it has bugged me for a long time.
It was first shown to me in 2004,
when I was competing in the US Amateur's
in Berlin Connecticut.
The guy who showed it to me said
he has never seen anyone do it,
not even the professionals he showed it to.
Well, now there's a challenge!

To be fair, maybe he/they didn't try it
as many times as I have.




Rules:
Position balls 1-6
frozen on the rails, at the diamonds, as shown.
Start with ball in hand.
Pocket the balls in order, 1-6,
into the same corner pocket.
No banks. Must not use opposite rail.

Sounds easy, right?
Try it!!
You'll be mighty surprised.

The tough position, of course,
is getting from the 5 to the 6.
And, getting on the 4
so that you can get right on the 5.

Once you have mastered this drill,
then try it without hitting any other rail
other than the one on which the ball is resting.
Then send me the video!

The thing I really enjoy about this drill
is that position must be so exact
that it is important to Pay Attention
to very subtle adjustments in english and speed.

I learned a lot from all that practice!

The famous Japanese Zen master Dogen told his students,
“Practice is enlightenment.”
This wise teaching applies to billiards and to life.
As we train with absolute commitment in every step,
our practice becomes enlightenment.

(blog top)


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

College Billiards Tournament


College Billiards Grand Re-Opening Tournament
5303 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
(619) 582-4550

September 15-16, 10am practice,
11am start of tournament

9-ball
$30 entry fee
limited to 64 players
winner earns "at least" $1,000.oo

handicap: A,B,C
double elimination
BCA pro rules
race to 7 on winner's side
race to 5 on one-loss side
finals race to 13

(blog top)


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chinese Pool Like Chinese Arithmetic



I don't understand the language,
but I was ROTFLMAO anyway.

Here's a translation from Tina H:

1st Host: (asked Shin-Mei) You don’t want to get married?

Shin-Mei: I am still looking…..

GYK: I am helping her to look for it.

2nd Host: Looking for what?

GYK: Looking for a boyfriend.

The host: If I lost this time, she doesn’t need to
look for anybody. I’ll belong to her.

GYK: We all heard that!

1st Host: That’s right. Before the game begins,
let’s have some fruit.

3rd Host: Those fruit are the balls.

Rule:
There is no order, but the pitaya (dragon fruit) has
to be the 9 ball.

The break cue- sugarcane

(Later, they took off the plum, because it’s too
juicy and break too easy.)

2nd Host: Do you really need to put chalk on the sugarcane?

1st: Can this chalk be any bigger?

1 ball- orange

Guest: I can’t believe she still can play position.

2 ball- apple

3rd Host: I love you (in Korean)

3 ball- lemon

4 ball- guava

1st Host: If you (GYK) can clean the table, I will
really marry Shin-mei.

GYK: You can get married now.

5 ball- coconut

6 ball- lime

7 ball- kiwi (fell out from the table. GYK: It’s a
fault, so ball in hand.)

9 ball- Pitaya

1st Host (asked Jennifer): Do you want to talk about
how could you make a stop shot on the object ball?

Jennifer: Nobody has done this before, and nobody
will.

1st Host: Sorry~ Ball in hand.

(He missed)

1st Host: Fate crosses paths. If Shin-Mei can pocket
this ‘9ball’, Jennifer should marry to me.)




(And so, Fate saves JenChen for Fast Mikie!)

(blog top)


Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Best Pool Magazine


Billiards Digest
is the best publication available.
First class product.
Highly recommended.
Five star rating.

Check out my Pool Library page.

(blog top)


Friday, September 07, 2007

The Incredible Lightness of Imperfection

Last night was the first match
in a new session of APA team 8-ball,
and I lost.

I missed one shot on the 8
but an embarrassing margin.
I made a costly, and rather stupid, mental error.
And, generally, exhibited relatively mediocre play
against an opponent who played well.
(4-1 vs. R. Dusenberry, skill level 6)

The great joy of this otherwise ugly evening
is that I have removed
the enormous burden of Perfection
which I have been carrying
for the last 3 and one half months.

The gods favored me with omnipotence
only for a little while,
and then, last night, reminded me that
I am human.

It has been 4 years since I took up this game.
I have yet to find the easy, relaxed, fluidity
which El Maestro demonstrates so naturally
and so consistently.

I yearn to play
solely for the sweetness of the game.


(blog top)


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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

How Sweet It Is

In a dramatic turnaround from this past weekend
when El Maestro came by the Fun House
and for 9 hours beat me like a red-headed stepchild
in 8-ball and 9-ball,
tonight I turned the tables and went undefeated
in the weekly Stagecoach 8-ball tournament,
finishing with a match against El Maestro himself.

The 80 bucks for first place
goes to my favorite charity, as usual.

I had to post this blog entry right away,
just in case I died in my sleep tonight
and didn't get the chance to record this epic win.


(blog top)


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