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.




Monday, March 31, 2008

Cancer with your billiards? No Thanks!

With a few hours to spare on Sunday afternoon,
I figured it would be good to get out of the hotel
and get my mind off my father's funeral tomorrow,
so I Googled for "billiards" in the area
(does anyone use Yellow Pages anymore?).

The closest was Markley Billiards, on Markley St.
(quite the imagination for names!)
in Norristown, PA.
When I checked their website,
all it mentioned was cues for sale,
nothing about tables,
but I called, and asked.
"Yeah, we're a pool hall." says the voice.

So I set the nav system in the rental car,
and was transported the few miles
to the shopping center on Markley St.
but the pool hall was very well hidden
around back, with no sign facing the road,
next to the liquor store, just as well hidden.

I was really looking forward to seeing
what had happened to my stroke
in the 10 days I had not hit even one ball,
but as soon as I opened the door,
I was hit by the disgusting smell of cigarette smoke.
The low ceiling and lack of fresh air
assured a short life for everyone in the packed house.

The counterman notices me right away
"Fresh meat!", I'll bet he thought.
But he keeps his cool and simply asks
"Can I help you?

Yeah, like I'm there to buy a used car, or something?
But I know there is no way I'm going to stay
in that cancerous haze.

In all innocence and stupidlty, I ask him:
"Is there a non-smoking section?"
He looks at me like I'm from Mars,
and I turn on my heels and leave
the dead men shooting pool.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Obituary: The Passing of The Patriarch, my father



McCafferty, Charles F. Sr. "Bud", March 27, 2008, age 92 years, Patriarch of the McCafferty Clan of Philadelphia, with ancestors from Doon Well, County Donegal Ireland. Born in West Philly in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish on August 19, 1915. Graduate of North Catholic High School, class of 1932. Married Verna Marie Meier of Philadelphia on April Fools Day, 1940.

After training at Sheepshead Bay, NY, served during WWII in the United States Merchant Marine, enduring the rigors of the high seas, delivering war materiel in support of the Allies, sailing the Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean, from Brazil to Russia, and points in between, in the engine rooms of defenseless cargo ships, hunted by wolf packs of Nazi U-boats, while his bride and two young sons prayed at home for his safe return. The prayers worked. Many were not as fortunate, paying the ultimate price for our freedom. (Can we ever say "Thank You" enough?)

After the war he worked for John B. White Ford and subsequently founded McCafferty Ford in Langhorne in 1954. Attended University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. Recently of Blue Bell, PA and formerly of Glenside, PA.. Beloved Husband of the late Verna M. (nee Meier). Loving father of Charles F.Jr. "Bud" (Linda), F. Michael, Verna Walters, Kathleen Bean (Zenas), James (Barbara) and Eileen Koolpe (the late Harvey) also survived by 15 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. Additionally survived by his late model, low mileage Ford Taurus, currently available for purchase (call 856-628-1065 for info). Funeral Mass Monday 11:00 AM Our Lady of Grace Church 225 Bellevue Ave., Penndel. Relatives and friends are invited to his viewing at the church Monday after 10:00 AM. Interment: Our Lady of Grace Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the Charles F. and Verna M. McCafferty Memorial Scholarship Fund at the La Salle College High School,. 8605 Cheltenham Ave. Wyndmoor, PA 19038.




Verna and Bud, seen here plotting their next adventures, while on a walk among the trees, near their home. Photo taken during the week of their 84th and 85th birthdays, respectively, August 2000.

Having accepted the mission of securing a banana for the fruit salad, this young (mid twenties), impetuous couple eloped by stepping away from the preparations of a dinner with the parents
and drove through the night in their tired, 60hp '37 Ford coupe to Warrenton, Virginia and were married. The day was Monday, April 1, 1940, April Fools Day. They remained partners in marriage for 64 years, until the passing of Verna on October 19, 2004.


My father never played the game of pocket billiards.

I'll be returning to the practice table next Tuesday,
April Fools' Day...



Saturday, March 22, 2008

Six balls on the rails - Long

I saw a drill similar to this in a recent issue of
Pool & Billiard Magazine,
but it had only 4 balls, one on each long rail.
So I added the balls on the short rails
for an extra-challenging runout in 9-ball.




Click here for the video link.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wagon Wheel Draw Drill



Paul Potier, the Canadian pro,
showed me this very challenging drill
designed to improve draw accuracy.

The idea is to sink the ball into the side pocket
and in the same shot to direct to the cue ball into
the next ball in rotation on the rails.

When you hit the next ball in rotation,
remove it from the table
and proceed to the next ball in rotation.

Score 1 for each shot taken.
Lowest score possible is 12,
and I am working toward that goal.
This video shows 20 shots,
my best so far.

My first attempt was over 50 shots.
It can get frustrating, but if you stick with it,
your total shots will come down fast,
and you'll learn a lot about your stoke
and concentration.

Click here for the video.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Morning After: The Blog of Shame

Last evening's alcohol-fueled euphoria
gave way this morning to
waking up in a fog
and the realization that
yesterday's winning margin was only one game.

And of course, a one game win is irrelevant.
It could have gone either way,
especially in nine-ball
the most luck-affected game of pool.

Additionally,
when I consider that the match was against
El Maestro himself,
I realize that it was all an illusion.
If he was really into the game,
he could easily have walked away 5-0 winner,
as he does so many times
to so many other players.

And then, I remember the sharking I did.
Completely inexcusable, of course.
Like the time I threw a block of chalk
into the corner pocket he was lining up
with the nine ball.

So, ignore yesterday's blog entry.
It really did happen that way,
but it was all an illusion,
and doesn't count for anything.

Another lesson re-leaned is
the importance of Balance,
especially when it comes to Guinness.
Moderation in all things, Musashi says.
The way my brain feels today
it may be days before
my practice sessions return to Optimal.

Humility.
I must get more of it.
It is rarely, if ever,
found in a pint of Guinness.



Sunday, March 16, 2008

St. Paddy's Day Prelude

Sitting here drinking a pint o'Murphy's stout
with a shotglass of Bushmills Irish whiskey
drop't in it...

The sun has just set to a perfect
Green Flash.

Getting in the spirit of the morrow:
St. Patrick's day,
the patron saint of Ireland,
my ancestral home.

Aye, it's true that I'm Irish,
and this time of year
an Irish lad celebrates the sainthood of Patrick.

Said celebration involves
mass quantities of dark delicious draughts
of Guinness, Murphy's, Bushmills and more,
much more...

But the Irish are a race of thinkers,
philosophers and writers
(professions ideal for their lack of manual labor)
It is a wondrous thing that such sedentary occupations
require a high state of hydration,
and it is for this purpose that God created Guinness.

In any case,
it is appropriate that I celebrate early,
for today was a great day.

It is irrelevant that I just got my butt kicked
in a game of 8 ball
by my buddy Dr. Mark Kalina.
He shot good pool,
and heck, it was only one game.

A truer test of skill would be, say,
a race to 5 games, in 9 ball, for example.
Like, for example, the set I played against
Tony Sorto
you know, El Maestro himself,
the one who taught me so much of this game.
He says there are a few things yet
he has not taught me,
and he is saving them.

But it didn't seem that way today.
Today, the student won, 5-4.
Close match, hill-hill.
But he scratched,
leaving me the 6, 7, 8, and 9.
He was helpless
as I ran them out.
El Maestro was vanquished.
And there were witnesses!

We played at Family Billiards in Oceanside.
There were several witnesses, in fact.

If my world were to end tomorrow,
I would go a happy man,
fulfilled.

And that is why I am enjoying my pint o' Murphys
with it's Bushmills whiskey shot drop't in it.
And that's why I think I'll have another.
And if I needed an excuse for a third,
it would be that I'm in training for tomorrow.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

to all.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Optimum Practice: Pool Stats

Jack Welch, legendary CEO of GE
was fond of saying:
"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

So too with pool, I believe.
Management of my game is being done
with Optimum Practice
which includes keeping records
so I can review what I need to work on.

Over the past couple of weeks,
I have developed an Excel spreadsheet
to record progress (or not)
with ten drills.

Here's the spreadsheet

I try to improve it a little
every once in a while.
Let me know if you have
questions and/or suggestions.



Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just when you think nobody notices...

Check it out...
I just got this email:

Dear Michael author,

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We evaluated your blog based on the following criteria: Frequency of Updates, Relevance of Content, Site Design, and Writing Style.

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If you want to vote,
see the sidebar --->

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nine Ball Overdose + Efren Story

I haven't seen Jim D. for many months
so it was good to get a challenge
from him in a couple of 9 ball sets
here at the Fun House.

Jim came in 32nd in the
2007 US Amateur Championships in Atlanta,
so he can offer some good competition.

He took the first set 7-5
and I took the second set 7-4,
leaving the tie-breaker for another day,
because my Optimum Practice session
was due to start.

Unfortunately,
I was so wiped out from the competition
that my practice was sub-Optimal,
and I had to end it early.

With the nine ball and the practice session,
it was more than 7 hours of pool,
but I need to build my endurance
if I'm going to be able to handle
some of the bigger tournaments.
I'm working on it...

Jim has been around the pool scene
for a long, long time,
and has a ton of stories.
Here's one:
Efren Reyes once bet that he could
sink one thousand spot shots
without a miss,
for $1,000.oo
and he won.

Yikes!



Meet Dave Hines, Practice Assistant



Meet Dave Hines,
Billiards Practice Assistant
at FastMikie's Fun House.

Dave is a dedicated student at UCSD,
majoring in applied mathematics.
He is also an accomplished classical guitarist,
and speaks Japanese and Spanish.

Dave is shown here setting up the Sorto String
for the 81st time since being hired
just 8 days ago.

This is a great moment in billiards history,
but nobody knows it yet.



News Flash: Practice Really Works!

Who knew?

You hear all kinds of people say
that you have to practice a lot
in order to get better at this game,
but how many people actually do it?

I didn't, that's for sure.
Not real practice.
Oh, sure, I'd bang some balls around
every once in a while.
Maybe, very rarely, I'd do a drill or two,
but nothing focused, consistent, and measured.

It really is amazing to me that
my results have been so good without practice.
I can only attribute it to the
teachings of El Maestro Tony Sorto.

Imagine what real practice could add to my game!
I had always been wondering that myself,
so I invented the concept of a
Billiards Practice Assistant
and followed through with the idea
and documented the job description
and put help wanted ads here and CraigsList.com
and after an extensive vetting process
actually hired someone for the job
and he has been working now for only 8 sessions,
but the results have been
far greater than I had expected.

Last night was my 8th "Optimum Practice" session,
and I set new records in several of my drills,
including back to back runs of the Sorto String.

Practice works!
Who'da thunk it?



Monday, March 10, 2008

Road Stories from Freddy the Beard

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Honduran Pool



Tony "El Maestro" Sorto showed me this very challenging
version of rotation pool played in his native Honduras.
The video shows about as far as I have run in this game.
One day I'll post a video of El Maestro
running the entire table.

Can you run the table?
Try it! All your skills will be tested.
What it shows me is that I need to practice my banks!

The balls are set up as shown at the start of each game.
Each ball is worth points equal to its face value
(1 ball = 1 point, 15 ball = 15 points, etc).
Shoot in rotation, lowest numbered ball first.

If you foul, the next player gets
ball in hand behind the head string,
and must shoot forward only,
(even if the lowest ball is behind the head string)
and you deduct from your score
the number of points equal
to the ball you were supposed to hit first.



Friday, March 07, 2008

Fast Mikie is (almost) back!

For several months I have been working hard
to recover from the shoulder pain
which afflicted me during last summer's
undefeated season.

All it took was several months of
medical attention, physical therapy,
and strengthening exercises,
and now the pain is almost completely gone.

Of course, during all this time,
my stroke and my game
had deteriorated significantly,
but with the recent hiring of Dave,
the Billiards Practice Assistant,
and after only 7 days of Optimum Practice,
3 hours per night,
I can safely say that I will soon be back
in stroke better than ever,
and looking to demonstrate it
to anyone who feels strong enough to try me!

Check out this video:



This was done last night,
in Hi-Definition using the new camera,
but of course it will not show clear HD
because YouTube doesn't send it out that way.
But you will see it in HD on the DVD coming soon.



Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pocket Billiards with FastMikie and Friends



"Pool is like dancing chess."

These are the words of Bob Fancher, Ph.D.
a pool-shooting psychotherapist who wrote

The Pleasures of Small Motions
Mastering the Mental Game of Pocket Billiards


This classic should be read several times
as we grow in our skill and
appreciation of the game.

The brevity of his writing about an infinite subject
is an indication of his brilliance
and his skill with the language,
but it says nothing about his skill as a shooter.

So if you're reading this, Bob,
(or "Doctor" if you prefer, and I respect that)
I hereby invite you to
"paint on green canvas"
(Bob Watson)
here at FastMikie's Fun House
at a date and time of your pleasure
and to join in on a session of

"Pocket Billiards
with
FastMikie and Friends"


to be video recorded in HiDefinition
on location at the world famous
FastMikie's Fun House
Del Mar, CA
(north of San Diego, along the coast road)

FastMikie's Fun House
is a pool player's fantasies come true:

Immaculately maintained facility throughout,
including:
Brunswick Gold Crown IV
Fresh, flawless Simonis 860 cloth
Fresh ball sets,
Aramith, Centennial, Euro
Extensive selection of cue balls

Open bar
Gourmet kitchen
Request your favorite food/drink in advance.


Extensive Billiards library

Cue collection (limited)

Hi-Speed Internet connection
Wireless network
Full control lighting

Totally Private Party
Del Mar, CA
Seaside residence
Huge ocean view

You and up to 3 guests
Me, El Maestro (if available) and guest.

Become part of Billiards History.

Free schwag: Very limited edition of
the exclusive Mikie's Fun House t-shirt.
(ask about corlors and sizes available)

Looking for Action?
Although FastMikie's Fun House is an
action-free zone,
there are pool halls in the area
where you will find whatever
game and stakes to suit your interest.

But wait, there's more!

Click here for more about Del Mar, CA
Del Mar race track
Del Mar Fairgrounds
Torrey Pines Golf Course (public)
The beaches, the mountains, the deserts, Mexico.
Sea World - Wild Animal Park
San Diego Zoo

Where to stay
Weather forecast
Check airlines in/out of San Diego.

-- 0 --

So, Doctor Bob, you on?

In any case,
you have written a most excellent book,
a real gift to the game.

Thank you.


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