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.




Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sorto's Tortured Tip


Here's the tip (Moori soft on a Joss cue) Sorto used on the featured video.  Notice that the tip is almost gone.  And if you enlarge the image a couple of times, you can see the separation between shaft and tip.  It could have gone at any time!

He really tortures his tips, keeping them freshly roughed up (usually after every trip to the table) with the Ulti-Mate tip tool, and mercilessly grinding away with the chalk on every shot, (as you can hear on the video), totally wearing out one tip in less than 2 months of weekly league play (not a lot of play).

Personally, I find the condition of his gear unbearable, but as he will tell you, in Honduras you learn to play with whatever is available, and that's usually a lot worse than you see here.  You can't argue with his results!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sorto Rotation - Perfect Runout with cliff-hanger ending





For the first time ever, recorded on video!

Something extraordinary happened at FastMikie's Fun House today. And I got it on video! Tony Sorto ("El Maestro") did in fact run a perfect rack at Honduran rotation pool.

Honduran rotation is extremely challenging, and is the ONLY game they play in Honduras, the birthplace of Tony Sorto.

It starts with the 1-ball on the foot spot, and the other 14 balls frozen on the rails in ascending order, as you see in the video. The game requires a wide range of skills including banks, combinations, as well as pinpoint accuracy and extraordinary touch.

This is the first time a perfectly run rack has been recorded on video. Yes, it is that challenging! Try it!

1. The one ball is a natural spot shot, from behind the head string, but positioned so that the cue ball falls onto the inside edge of the 3-ball, bumping it just off the rail. This sets up a later bump on the 6. That's right, on this opening shot we are playing 6 balls ahead!

2. The 2-ball is easily enough pocketed but the flawlessly played strategic draw into a bump on the 6-ball is a key setup in the run.

3. The 3-ball is easy only because the play on the 1-ball popped it out. In this shot, Sorto gives a good bit of inside english to kill the travel, avoiding trouble with the side pocket and offering shape on the 4-ball.

4. The shot on the 4-ball is classic Sorto. Gobs of inside english, with a rail-first hit on the 4-ball cause the cue ball to go downtable under the 15 ball, and then back uptable in a most unexpected display of control and touch, delivering the cue ball to the 5-ball.

5. The 5-ball is relatively simple because of the spectacular position off the 4-ball, and because the 6-ball is waiting near the side pocket, thanks to the perfect shot on the 2-ball. It seems as if there is some Grand Plan going on here, and there is!

6. The 6-ball is so simple, but remember that this easy 6-ball was set up earlier by a shot on the 2-ball. Now it may become clearer that this game is quite a bit more than it appears.

7. Sorto is heard to speak for the second time in this video when he says "Not what I wanted, but I'll take what I get." And then he proceeds to lay the object ball cross corner with such confidence that he doesn't even watch the lazy slow roll to the hole. Sorto stays down through it all, with utter confidence that it will drop.

8. The 8-ball is a combination on the 9-ball, and he left himself perfect on it with his spectacular shot on the 7-ball. He sinks the combination and the cue ball follows to the head rail and back out for the bank on the 8-ball.

9. The 8-ball is banked almost nonchalantly, surprisingly gently, coming off the rail for natural shape on the 10-ball.

10. The 10-ball gets inside english, of course, but with strong follow-through and top english as well. I love this shot, one of the first he taught me. It's almost a diagonal, downward-twisting motion of the cue at delivery. The action it produces is poetry, coming around nicely, three cushions for the 11.

11. The 11-ball is a carbon copy of the 10-ball, but of course different, especially with regard to speed and touch, but Sorto handles it flawlessly.

12. The 12-ball is surprising in its simplicity, but it leaves you wondering because it is so far away from the 13, which now seems impossible. Could he be playing for the three ball combination?

13. This shot is absolutely stunning, on several levels. First of all, it is completely unexpected, and it happens so fast, with such incredible force, and with such deadly accuracy.... well, the senses are overloaded on this one.

14. Sorto knows he is closing in on a perfect rack. After such an adrenaline pumping shot on the 13, it would be easy to shoot the next shot too quickly, but Sorto shows the wisdom of his many years with this game, and and he is shown taking a bit of extra time on the bank shot into the side pocket. And he comes 3 rails for shape on the 15.

15. A shot like this is where many a choke would occur, but Sorto nails it with such an abundance of confidence that one could truly say that he achieved the limit with this shot.

And there you have it. An historic moment in the world of pool. Congratulations, Tony Sorto! You have shown us the world class shot-making skill that it takes to complete a perfect rack in Honduran rotation, and to do it on video, first time ever, so we all can enjoy it and learn from it. Fantastic!

Gracias, Maestro.

Friday, December 26, 2008

There's More to Life than Pool: Facebook

Facebook is quickly becoming the community du jour.  

Check it out and Friend me up to see what's going in Life Beyond Pool.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mika Immonen's DVD pool lessons

Mika Immonen has just released a new 3-DVD set called "Mastering Pool". Here's the link: http://www.mastering-pool.com/

An excellent product overall. Three volumes: beginner, intermediate, advanced. Each one equally well produced, with Mika Immonen doing all of the shooting but none of the talking, which is done by a professional off-camera voice. While you get great lessons, you get none of the personality of Mika. In fact, there is nothing at all mentioned about his physical training, and nothing on the mental aspects of pool. Maybe these things will come in a later product for serious players.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Learning about controlled fury

Two weeks ago, at the Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament, I managed to make to the finals against Paul H. who took advantage of an opportunity I gave him (I missed a shot) and he played very well for the win. Another second place for me.

I've have developed a sort of tradition that anyone who wins against me, or comes close, I invite to play some pool at FastMikie's Fun House. It's a chance for them to play on a good (perfect) table for a change, and gives me a chance to learn some more about their game. And so it was that I invited Paul H. to stop by my place for some pool this week. He called me yesterday and said he was shooting some pool on the tournament tables (8' Olhausens) and maybe I wanted to join him.

Unfortunately, I couldn't because I had to wait at home for a plumber to show up and install a new faucet in the guest bathroom. So I suggested he drive south to play on my table, and of course he jumped at the chance. (Probably what he had in mind anyway!)

Paul's a good shooter, and right out of the box he has me down a couple of games. For whatever reason, my energy was low, and I just wasn't playing very well. My head wasn't in it, possibly because as the minutes ticked by, I noticed that the plumber was later and later, and no phone call to let me know what was going on. That kind of inconsiderate behavior really pisses me off, so in the middle of the match with Paul, I call the damn plumber who tells me that because it was raining he didn't want to take his truck out. WTF? Ok, I'm thinking, so you are a puss, but why didn't you let me know? and he starts in on such a line of BS that I am now completely coming unglued, blood pressure is soaring, I'm going purple and apoplectic, which is not a good look for me, nor a good feeling, so I hang up on the bum, and try to settle into the game at hand. Well I blew that game in progress as I was just bonkers, but I breathe and focus on the game, and even though I was down 5-1 at the time, I won the next 5 games in a row to win the match 6-5.

It got me to thinking that maybe what turned my game around and got me winning was the high energy from the phone call. I am reminded of the times El Maestro has told me that when he is feeling low energy, he just loves it when his opponent will try to shark him or talk smack to him because it gets him really going and focused and committed to completely destroy his competition. He calls this state a "controlled fury". So I'm thinking there's a lot to that because that's what happened to me yesterday.

Of course I can't rely on a call from my (ex-)plumber to get me going in a match, but I'm thinking of other ways to get the blood flowing and my mind focused...

OK, that brings us up to today's weekly 8-ball match in Encinitas. The short story is that I made it to the finals again, but fell short on some really excellent play by Bob who won his first tournament there in a while. Major congrats to Bob for some really first class shooting.

The good news is that I'm getting to the finals, the bad news is that I'm coming in second place. The positive spin on that is that I'm due for a win. And I just love it when that happens!

The only item of note in today's tournament is that I did have one break and run out, and that was sweet. Notice that I actually did break, which indicates that my shoulder was feeling up to it, a real sign of progress in the healing department.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Feedback on Live Streaming Video from Fun House


Last night's experiment in live streaming video was a qualified success.

1.  I won the 5-ahead set of 9-ball.  

2.  People actually watched.  Not a lot, and not for long, but there were viewers.

3.  Some high powered viewers logged in and chatted it up, including world champion Thorsten Hohmann, who caught a game or two while waiting at the airport for a plane from Taipei to Manila, and Mr. Wei (pronounced "way") Chao from New York City of CueTable.com fame (check it out), and Marcus "forcefollow" on YouTube (check him out).

However, I was not satisfied (am I ever?)...

1.  The clarity of the video can be improved.  I was using the webcam built into the MacBookPro (laptop) computer.   This unit seems to be optimized for a distance of a couple of feet, not the distance of the pool table.  Also, it seems to be sensitive to light, so we had to dim the pool table lights to keep from getting a washed-out image on the video.  The lights on the table were so low that it was really too low to be shooting pool, and I missed more than one long thin cut on a 2-ball (or 4, or 8, or 6) up against the rail shadow.  The edges just disappeared.

2  The camera angle could be better.  Since I was using the laptop computer for the camera, I couldn't use the tripod I use for my video camera, so I put the laptop on the fireplace to get up high enough, and that gave a diagonal angle, which probably didn't help with the overall image.

3.  I was trying to read the chat comments and answer chat questions verbally, so it was distracting from focusing on the game.

4.  I gave absolutely NO notice of the event.  After the event started, I sent an email to everyone in my email contact database who I had previously tagged with "pool".  If I missed you, and you want to be on future notices, please let me know.  This event was rather spontaneous.  I will give more notice in the future.  If you want to be removed from such notices, just let me know and I will de-pool you.

5.  I gave out a link that was sub-optimal.  It would have been more direct if I had given out this link: http://tinyurl.com/638gnn 

Overall, it was a good learning experience.  Things will get better.  Thanks to all who visited and caught some action.  

You might want to try this yourself.  Heck, if I can do it, you can too...

Monday, December 15, 2008

FastMikie is LIVE, NOW, streaming video

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Free Streaming Video: Everybody's Doing It, even me!

It seems like free streaming video for pool matches started relatively recently, maybe about a year ago.  The first I saw was produced by The Action Report
and it was very well done.  It seemed like it would have been very expensive for all that bandwidth, and the cameras, etc.  Little did I realize that the bandwidth was free, because they used the services of Ustream.tv.   Later, the IPT - International Pool Tour started doing some free streaming, also using Ustream.tv.

That got me to checking out just how difficult it would be to do a live, streaming video directly from FastMikie's Fun House (my living room!).  So I pointed my browser to Ustream.tv and nosed around and a few clicks later and my MacBookPro was sending live streaming video around the planet.  Well, ok, nobody was watching because nobody knew about it, but hey, it was working!  

It wasn't the best clarity because I was using the built-in webcam on the Mac.  I tried to hook up my Hi-Def video camera for a much better streaming video, but that gave me some challenges at the time.  That's the next step.

Last night I was watching The Reno Open being streamed by AZ Billiards using Justin.tv. The video was only a little jerky, but it was still good enough.  Things can only get better.

Soon enough there will be a ton of sites streaming pool, from pool halls to garages and basements and living rooms all over the world.  Truly a thousand channels and nothing worth watching, most of the time.

Once in a while, like today, there will be more than enough.  For example, at noon Pacific time, the Reno open finals will start, and a world away, the Mosconi cup will also be running, probably concurrently, and both streaming video to anyone who wants it. Watching both at the same time could cause brain damage!  

The benefit I see for myself to broadcast from my own home table is Learning. For example, my instructor El Maestro, could watch one of my practice sessions from his home, or wherever, and not have to make the long drive to be here in person.  He could watch my pattern play and make comments either via text or on the phone, which could be on speaker phone, or even another video chat setup such as Gmail or Skype.  The possibilities are expanding!

One thing missing at this time are features I get with TiVo, such as time-shifting, or subscribing to a video, having it automatically recorded for later view, or pause the live stream, replay, slow-motion, etc.  These will surely come as the technology evolves.

What fun!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Compete for fun, or for the win? Why not both?

For the last several times I played in the Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament, I wasn't really going for the win. I was taking it easy, just playing for the fun of it. I've been recovering from a shoulder challenge, but the last couple of days it hasn't been so painful, so I decided to get serious and win it for a change.

Well, I didn't get the win, but I did come in second. I would have had more fun if I won.

This gets me to thinking about Fun and Victory, and how they are related. For example, I can have fun if I'm not trying to win, but if I'm trying to win, then I seldom have fun, unless I win. So it's either fun OR win, or fun AND win, depending on the original intention.

That just doesn't seem right. I'd like to change my attitude and play for fun all the time, without the expectation, or the Need for a win. That way I'll get at least one thing I want every time.

The definition of Fun, for me, will be "playing well", and that means making shots, playing smart, playing percentages, playing safe when the circumstances call for it, and staying focused.

I've got to remember that last part, staying focused, and let the fun stay inside my head until the tournament is over, and not give up my emotions when I make a great shot, or miss an easy one.

If I can do this, every tournament will be good practice for the next one. I'll have more fun, and probably more wins.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Extra Holiday Cheer

You're probably going to buy some gifts during this holiday season, right? Wouldn't it be great if you could save some money AND have a little bit of every purchase go to a worthy cause? It's really easy. Just click on the banner ad below to do your shopping at Amazon.com for some great prices, and the stuff is shipped direct to your door, or direct to the giftee. Save gas, time, stress, and it's all returnable! Of course the best part is that a little commission is paid to me, and I give it to this worthy cause.



If you buy something at Amazon.com and you DON'T use the above link, then Amazon keeps the commission. Either way, you pay the same low prices. But if you use the above link, then you can spread some extra holiday cheer, no extra charge.

So, there you go. That's the entire proposition. Save money, do some good for your fellow human beings who might not be as lucky as you. What's not to like?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

In the Zone!

A few days ago, Dr. Mark stopped over to shoot a few racks of 8-ball, and the most magical thing happened...

Without any warm-up, from my first shot to my last, I was making the most incredible shots.  I could see angles so clearly that it was almost an out-of-body experience.  Even banks, and at the oddest of angles, were dropping cleanly.  

The Zone is a freaky thing.  You never know where/why/when, but when it appears, it's a wonderful thing indeed.  How I wish it would come back soon.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Searching Twitter for Pool/Billiards in real time

Life moves fast on the Internet, and almost nothing moves faster than Twitter.

Twitter has grown into a real-time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices.  In countries all around the world, people follow the sources most relevant to them and access information via Twitter as it happens—from breaking world news to updates from friends.To see what's going on in the pool - billiards - snooker world, up to the second, (by people who use Twitter) click on this link: 

That "tiny URL" will expand into a much longer one, and you'll see it in your URL address bar of your browser.  You can see how easy it is to modify it to suit your own purposes, or just see the search link at Twitter.

Another way to use Twitter Search is to copy the search URL into your Reader (I use Google Reader) so that fresh stuff comes to you automatically and you don't have to enter the URL each time you want to search, and you are sure not to miss anything on your selected topics.

It's a good bet that this free service will continue to expand rapidly and then be taken over (either bought out, or crushed) by somebody like Google.

Enjoy!

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