The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
JAX pool school - what I learned: Drill - 7 on the Long String
This very challenging drill was recommended by Thorsten Hohmann at the Predator pool school in Jacksonville, Florida, May 21-22, 2008.
I tried it a couple of times at the school, but didn't make it through. This video is the first time I made it on my table at home, as part of my daily practice routine, on the 4th day of attempts, my 35th attempt overall (maximum of 10 attempts per day).
I really needed this drill, because these are exactly the sort of shots that challenge me. Practicing these shots will help me "see" the line more naturally.
The thing I really feel good about in this successful attempt is that I was interrupted with a phone call, and the subsequent message on the answering machine, and the shadows on the table caused by the late afternoon sun were bugging me, but I just bore down with greater concentration and didn't let all that stuff throw me off.
The rules: All balls are on the Long String. Cue ball on the head spot. 7 ball on the foot spot, 3 ball on the center spot. All balls evenly spaced (every half-diamond). Cut each object ball in ascending numerical order, into alternate corner pockets. Foul on scratch.
Tony Robles mentioned this book, almost in passing, as one of the things which Alex Pagulyan used to improve his game. Of course I ordered it immediately and started into reading it yesterday. There's a lot of stuff about football, volleyball, basketball and nothing about pool, but the principles are the same no matter what sport (?) you play. The mental aspect is of the utmost importance in competition.
I will be adapting some of the principles in this book.
Any serious pool competitor will want to check it out. Click the photo to go to Amazon.com and read some of the reviews, and order the book.
For more (lots more) books on pool, and the mental aspects of pool, check out my Billiards Library.
This drill was recommended by Thorsten Hohmann at the Predator pool school in Jacksonville, Florida, May 21-22, 2008.
I tried it a couple of times at the school, but didn't make it through. (You try doing a new drill with Thorsten Hohmann watching!) This video is the first time I tried it on my table at home.
The rules: Start with ball-in-hand. Shoot the 8, then the 1, then the 8, then 2, 8, 3, 8, 4, 8, 5, 8, 6, 8. Spot the 8 after you make it. Foul if you bump into a ball. Good drill for getting shape on balls at opposite ends of the table.
As you can tell, I wasn't comfortable with the hit on the 5 ball, and got back up from the shot twice, and then over-hit the ball, but came out ok. It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. Sometimes it's all about recovery!
I have received lots of emails wanting to know what last week's pool school was like, what I learned, etc. So this post will hopefully help to answer some of the questions, and keep other people from asking the same questions. It wouldn't be very efficient to answer all of the emails separately, so I'm going to do it all here. But not all questions will be answered in one post. It's just not possible. This will take some time, lots of it.
For starters, the overall experience was like drinking from a fire hose! The wisdom of four of the top pool geniuses on the planet came at us (20 students) non-stop for about 12 hours a day for 2 days. I brought a video camera and a still camera and a notebook, but found that trying to record, or take notes interfered with the process of trying to learn by doing.
Efren had an interpreter, so the language challenge was always present with his teachings. Both Efren and Bustamante did not have much prepared in advance, so our time with them was spent mostly running racks, and when we got stuck, or wanted advice on how to play a shot, we stopped and they got into it with us.
Thorsten Hohmann was excellent. He showed me a few things I used to improve my stroke considerably, and for that one thing alone, it was worth the price of admission. He also showed us some of the drills he uses to practice, and I'll be putting them into my own practice routine. After all, if he can do it, I can do it, right? I guess I'll find out...
Tony Robles was definitely the most organized in his teaching style because he had prepared handouts with notes, diagrams, etc. He does a lot of teaching, and it shows.
As I had observed before, when I attended the IPT match last month, these professionals look a lot bigger on TV than in person, and it was definitely true here as well. I guess it's that old truism that the camera adds 10+ pounds. But they also look taller on TV, so why is that?
Charlie Williams, the organizer/promoter, was everywhere and handling every detail. And he did a great job. At lunch on the second day, he impressed me with his ability to go around the room and introduce every individual by name, and with a bit of info about each one. This included all of the teachers, of course, and every student, and vendors, the room owner, and more.
It has only been a few days since I got back to San Diego, so most of what happened at school has not really sunk in yet. I haven't yet had the chance to get back into my practice routine. That starts tonight, and this will be the first opportunity to add some of the new drills I learned, and some of the strokes Efren showed me, the break Bustamante showed me, the draw Thorsten showed me, the backhand english Tony Robles showed me...
So stay tuned. I'll get around to it all, but it will take some time.
El Maestro called to get me to play on his TAP league 9-ball team, a one-time thing, as a substitute for a regular who couldn't make it. The timing was right to play for a few hours before I had to go to a party, so I showed up at Pacific Q Billiards this afternoon at 2pm. This is the site of my 3rd place finish last week. Today's match was against Todd, who I played in last week's tournament (and won), but he seemed a lot more motivated for revenge, and since I had to spot him a game, I figured it would be close.
But I didn't focus on the score. I only focused on playing well, and keeping my attention on the game. In fact, I had no idea of the score until Todd came up to shake my hand after I sank a 9-ball. Just for the record, it closed out at 6 to 3.
After the 9-ball game, El Maestro told me he had set up a straight pool match for me against Mark, who sent me home in the semi-finals in last week's 9-ball tournament. Straight pool is my favorite game, and I had never played Mark this game before, so I was looking forward to seeing how I would do against him.
He wanted to play to 60, for 20 bucks, but I told him I don't gamble. He agreed to play anyway, with the proviso that if he found some action we would stop immediately.
We lagged, I won, he played the typical safety break, and then I ran the first rack out, 14-0. I stayed in the lead all the way and the final score was 60 to 26.
I played well, on balance, and stayed in the game. All in all, it was a successful Sunday.
One of the highlights of my attendance at last week's pool school in Jacksonville Florida was having a nice long lunch-time conversation with Shanelle Loraine. I was already seated at the long table, as were most of the other 20 students, instructors, vendors, and others, but as luck would have it, there was an empty chair next to me, and that's when Shanelle Loraine walked in with Charlie Williams, the organizer/promoter of the school, and he seats her next to me. How lucky can a guy get?
She's got a great personality which will help her rocket to celebrity status soon enough.
When you meet Shanelle, ask about her time as a 4-H member, and her times working in the cigar store with the Harley Davidson pool table in the back room. You are not likely to hear this stuff in the news stories about her game and her pool history. But here is an interview of Shanelle Loraine by another of my Cutest Cueists, Samm Diep.
In a few hours, too few to get a good night's sleep, I'll grab my cue case and a couple of bags and head to the airport, and fly to Jacksonville, Florida for a pool school with 4 gods of pool offering some of what they know for two days at the tables. I'll be in a class of about 20 players. The teachers are Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, Thorsten Hohmann, and Tony Robles.
As a major bonus for making this un-hermitlike excursion from my Fortress of Solitude (FastMikie's Fun House), and risking my life by being flung cross-country in an aluminum tube while inhaling the probably diseased breath of 100+ other captives for 6 hours, I get to have the enormous pleasure of meeting up with an ex-girlfriend who I haven't seen in 15 years. Well, ok, not just "an" ex-girlfriend, but really the best girlfriend ever. And, in my life, "ever" is a long time.
So, if the plane goes down, it can easily be said that I was on my way to meet 4 Gods and a Godess. And you can't ask for much more than that for your final day on this planet...
Shot some pool with El Maestro today, at Family Billiards in Oceanside, where the tables seem to produce random results from cushions with dead spots, unlevel slate, and torn cloth. It was challenging, and even laughable, but it reminded me that I need to play on such horrible conditions because this is the Real World, a world apart from the perfection of Mikie's Fun House.
It is the Real World where competitors are waiting to test me. So I must be able to play, and win, under such extreme conditions.
Afterwards, we talked at the local Starbucks, where El Maestro made it clear that I must work on my mental game. He readily admits that I can make the shots, but my overall game will improve as I improve my ability to focus and stay positive. As an example of my failing in this regard, he referred me to my last post on this blog where I allowed myself to accept 3rd place because I was tired, and of course that is completely unacceptable.
As he is telling me these things, and reminding me that he has mentioned many times before the fact that pool is 90% mental, I found myself fully agreeing with him, and realizing that I have heard this many times, and realizing that I am one of the most positive people I know... but in the case of Thursday night, I was not positive enough to fight the fatigue, to hang tough, and to find the way to win.
I had been looking at this past Thursday night tournament as just one of many tournaments that I'll be playing on the long road to the US Amateur Championship in September. I was just going through the motions, getting some tournament experience after several months of no competition, I wasn't expecting anything extraordinary, I wasn't expecting to win, and with an attitude like that, of course, it would be highly unlikely that I would win anything.
What I learned from talking with El Maestro today is that I need to treat every shot, every game, every tournament as an opportunity to prove, and improve, my ability to focus, to concentrate, to ignore distractions, to fight like a junk yard dog, and to win.
I know I can do this. My success in business has been the result of highly focused behavior over long periods regardless of distractions and fatigue. I know that winners never quit, and quitters never win. I know that not just pool, but all of life is 90% mental. My challenge is to demonstrate that I can master the mental game.
And so it is, that on this day I do begin life again as the New, Improved FastMikie, who will never again offer an excuse, or speak negatively in any way, and will continue to look for every opportunity to improve my ability to focus and improve my mental game.
Last night I took the long way to get 3rd place in the weekly 9-ball tournament at Pacific Q Billiards in Encinitas. I lost my first match (race to 3) to James who never let me look at a ball. That's no fun!
So I had to work my way through the one-loss side to get to the semi-finals, five hours later, and by that time I was so tired I couldn't bear the thought of winning and facing a race to 5 to determine first and second place. I just wanted to go home. I got my wish, and lost 3-2 by missing a dinky 8 ball shot after a picture-perfect run out.
I shot pretty good all night, felt comfortable, stayed focused, and played safe when I didn't have an easy run out. On balance, it was a very successful tournament for me.
There's so much that has already been said and published about Loree Jon Jones (aka "Queen of the Hill"), that there is very little I could add to her story. Well, there is that time I beat her 2 out of 3 games in 9-ball, with my 45 year old pool cue, and asked her to verify it in writing on her publicity photo handout (shown above). Read the whole story, click here.
What I remember most about spending some time with her is that she is a real classy lady, and has a great fun personality. And, of course, she's as great looking in person as she is in her publicity photos. Check out this excellent shot from her website:
I think Loree needs a new publicist. When you use Google Images for Loree's photo, the first two images you get are the one at the very top of this blog entry, the one from my website, not hers! That's just not right. In fact, her website doesn't show at all on the first page of images. And even if you Google for her website, it doesn't show at all on the first page of results, but my site is there, with the link to the story I mentioned. So, Loree, if you get a break from chasing after those young kids of yours, and read this, you need a better publicist who is up to speed on search engine optimization!
But maybe, if you're as cute as she is, you don't need no stinkin' search engine optimization...
Check out the Loree Jon Jones official website. When you get there, check out the tip on the pool cue in the photo on the top right of the page. Is it just me, or is that cue tip totally flat? What's up with that?
You could shoot with a broomstick, Loree Jon, and you'd still be great.
Billiard Practice Assistant Dave didn't make it to work tonight because he was moving, and instead of taking the night off, I got ambitious and played in a local 8-ball tournament. (Stagecoach Inn)
On balance it was a decent night of pool competition, especially considering it was only my second tournament in about 8 months. I came in tied for 7th, out of the money, but I won 4 matches, lost 2.
The important thing for me was that I was playing pretty good, and I kept my focus when I was playing, didn't try any outrageous run outs, played some good safeties, my back held up without much discomfort, and I didn't get nervous and do really stupid stuff.
I feel certain that I could win in extended races against any of the players there tonight, but this was only a race to 1, and anything can happen in a race to 1.
For example, I got there early to play a few games and get the speed of the tables, and in one of the games I kicked to a safety on the first shot, but didn't hit a rail after contacting the ball. The opponent didn't realize it was a ball in hand situation, and he figured he was snookered. So I mention it's ball in hand, and he goes and runs the table! So much for being Mr. Nice Guy. But, again, there little chance that I would have lost in a race to 7 or more. That was the only pre-tournament match I lost, compared to 4 others won.
The tables were exhibiting some bizarre behavior. In one situation, I rolled the cue ball table-length for a safety, and it rolled off by more than a foot! Holy Mackerel, Andy! I should have known better than to slow roll on a bar table, but I'm so used to playing on the perfect Gold Crown IV at Mikie's Fun House that I just expect all tables to play that way. I guess that's why I need to get out and play tournaments: to remind myself what it's like in the Real World, and how to make adjustments.
OF COURSE Jeanette Lee belongs on the list of Cutest Cueists. She's great looking, got a fun personality, an outstanding pool shooter, totally dedicated to the game, and she even plays straight pool (14.1). Ok, she's married, and a mom, but she's still drop-dead gorgeous.
I played some 9-ball with her a couple of years ago at the WPBA tournament at Viejas Casino, outside San Diego. It was a pro-am thing, just for fun, and boy did she have fun sharking me. I'm lining up a table length thin cut and she puts her face down on the rail, right in line with the shot. How the heck am I supposed to shoot that way? I guess I can't complain; all the money went to charity.
There's not much to say about Jeanette that hasn't already been said, and she's got the most famous face in pool today. If you want more neat photos, check out her new website. When you get there, be sure to click on "For My Fans" and sign up for access to the special bonus material.
"Ain't nothing in the world like a big eyed girl To make me act so funny, make me spend my money Make me feel real loose like a long necked goose Like a--oh baby, that's a-what I like!
Of course, mentally, rationally, I am all for women being able to shoot pool against the men, and I agree that they should be able to play as well as the best of the men, and that they are equal under the Constitution of the US (as amended), but they do possess some magical powers we men do not comprehend, and are powerless to combat. However, "vive la difference"!
A no-brainer for the list of Cutest Cueists is WPBA's Jennifer Chen. She has been one of my favorites for a long time. This morning I watched her TV match against Allison Fisher in the 2001 San Diego WPBA tournament. She won 7-6 in the semi-finals, after winning against Allison earlier.
This was the first time anyone had beaten Allison twice in the same tournament, up to that time.
Two days ago I had a 4 hour lesson with Scott Lee (Internationally Famous Pocket Billiard Instructor and Trick Shot Artist).
He teaches the very precise BCA-approved style characterized by the Set-Pause-Finish system.
My style was developed on my own, by watching others, so it is a soup of intuitive quirks that is completely unreliable.
Therefore it has been my search for consistency that has brought me to Scott Lee. I knew of this BCA system because I had a lesson in it about 4+ years ago, when I got back into the game after being away from it for 40 years.
That first and only lesson up to then was so alien to me that I never even tried it after the lesson was over. I was still finding my way, and didn't want to really WORK at it.
Now, after years of searching, I'm ready to give it a try. I admire and respect the strokes of Allison Fisher and Karen Corr, who both use this BCA style of stroke, and it is impossible to argue with their success.
On the rare occasion where I would try the pause at the end of the backswing, it felt good, and delivered good results, but I never built it into a habit.
Scott Lee's 4 hour lesson was like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. There is so much to learn that 4 hours is barely enough to get the concepts.
Fortunately, he videoed the entire lesson, and left me with a DVD so I can review at will. And he gave me written instructions for drills, which I have added to my Optimum Practice session.
Last night was my first go with Set-Pause-Finish and the associated Personal Eye Pattern and keeping my elbow from dropping. But trying it all at once is like trying to walk down the street and chew gum at the same time while rubbing my belly and patting my head and skipping rope.
It's going to take getting used to. But I think it may be worth the effort.
Why don't the numbers from these two sources agree? I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation that would be too boring to hear, and who cares, anyway?
I'm just amazed that anyone visits! After all, it is my sorta-private pool diary, but it's open to anyone who finds it, in the spirit of sharing. If you find something useful, great! If you have a suggestion, please let me know, I'm always looking to improve my game.
Last week I was getting some supplies at Quality Billiards, and some shaft work done by the owner Dave Whitsell, and had an opportunity to try an OB1 cue.
It played very nicely, with a good feel. It reminded me that I had an OB1 shaft at home that I bought many months ago to try, but never found the time for it.
Today, I hit some balls with it and liked it a lot. It gives a definitely different sound to the hit, and feels smoother, even though it has the same tip (Moori medium) as my Predator 314 series 2 shafts. I should try it for a couple of practice sessions and see if there's an improvement in my scores.
It shows only 15 practice sessions, because I missed 4 sessions due to being back in Philly for my father's funeral, but I did get in a total of 33.4 hours practice, pocketing about 3700 balls, averaging 1.7 per minute, which shows me I was taking care of business.
Additionally, I had several perfect drills and achieved several personal bests, and had opportunities for learning through experiments, all of which give me more confidence and knowledge.
Overall, I feel very good about my progress, and I know that continued Optimum Practice will yield excellent results.
I didn't get in very much competition during April. A couple of 8-ball matches with El Maestro, which we split 1-1, and a game of straight pool with Dan S. which I lost 100 to about 93 (?).
El Maestro says I need more competition, so in May I will be heading out of the Fun House to test myself in some tournaments.
The important advantage of video recording of practice sessions is that it reveals Truth. For example, the video below, from last night's Optimum Practice session, clearly shows that I do not stay down on the shots on the 5 ball.
I should replay this a lot, and say to myself, maybe scream it, "Stay Down".
I'm thinking I also should focus on a pause in my back swing on these shots.
This is two attempts at the drill, with a pretty picture as intermission, which is sort of like putting lipstick on a pig.
Drill attempt #1 finishes successfully, #2 does not. In both attempts my shot on the 4 is sloppy, but it goes anyway, and the shot on the 5 is horrible because I slipped my stroke and jumped up, but it goes. So much for the "Bad" (or is it "Ugly"?).
The Good is the shot on the 6 in both attempts, which I could watch all day. Top inside english to get nice shape on the 7, which sets up the 8 to get down-table on the 9.
You may have seen this drill before, but this is almost certainly my best attempt. Video recorded in last night's Optimum Practice session.
The shot on the 8 ball is the best one of this attempt. Because I went a bit wide with my position off the 7, I got almost straight on the 8, so I really had to hit it very firm, with lots of top left. Notice that the cue ball hits the bottom rail beyond the 9 ball and then the english takes hold and brings the ball back to the other side of the 9 for the right shape.
A shot like that is just so beautiful, it keeps me coming back for more. The first time I saw Tony make that shot, I thought I was hallucinating!
The shot on the 1 ball is also noteworthy in that it reflects a change in my stroke that I have been focusing diligently on. For years I would jerk the cue stick back on a draw shot, but notice that here I'm leaving the stick in the followed-through position.
For the rules of this drill, and other details and video, click here.
I won't bore you with some shot-by-shot analysis of the matches last night. You can see them yourself for free at the IPT website.
But here are a few observations. This was the first time I have seen a live professional pool match, in person (not on TV).
1. Gods are smaller in person. When I arrived on the scene, the first person I recognized was Oliver Ortmann, one of the world's top straight pool shooters. He was burning a cancer-stick in the parking lot. My first reaction was something like: "Is he sick? He looks a lot thinner than on TV. And shorter too."
And then I saw Rodney Morris, and he looked a LOT less imposing than on TV. Same with John Schmidt. In fact, every pro looked substantially smaller than they do on TV, except for Efren Reyes, who looked the same. Go figure.
2. The audience was tortured with some of the hardest bleachers ever. There's a business opportunity in seat cushion rentals! I would have paid dearly for one.
3. Mike Sigel truly is "The Mouth". I extended my hand as he was catching a smoke outside during a break. Just wanted to say hello, and that was all I got out when he lit into a non-stop breathless description of how many racks he ran recently, then missed an easy shot, and then ran another bunch of racks, and kept on talking so much that eventually I just turned around and went back inside, leaving him to bore another couple of hapless dudes who were standing nearby. He just may have a medical disorder. Pathological blatherer.
4. I'm an idiot. I forgot my camera. Duh. For some photos and more/better commentary, check out OMGWTF.
5. The event was in Hollywood, so there were some luminaries in attendance, including TV's Joe Rogan (Fear Factor) and a bevy of beauties looking to be discovered. When you watch the video on the IPT website, and you are looking for me in the stands, among all those famous personalities, I'll be the only one you don't recognize!
6. When you watch the video, some of your more memorable moments will not be about the pool, but instead about the interviewer-babe who was wearing almost nothing. A friend asked me what I thought of her "top", and I had no trouble remembering my primitive, instinctive reaction: "Mommy!" My secondary reaction was equally universal: "Yo... interview ME!" Don't get negative on me about this. I'm a guy. Guys are dogs.
7. When is it inappropriate to shake hands with someone you really admire? In the men's room. In one of life's more awkward moments, I found myself alone in the men's room with Efren Reyes, during a break. He was waiting for a stall to clear out. I had just turned around after washing my hands. There he was. Pool-God almighty. Only a few feet away. All I could blurt was "I know you!". He smiled his Efren smile, awkwardly. Realizing I had probably already said too much, I bolted, awkwardly.