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.




Friday, June 26, 2009

Giving new meaning to shooting "lights out"

Dan S. happened to be in town on business and was looking to get a bit of dinner, before he made the long drive home, so we hit the local sushi joint. Dan didn't say anything about shooting pool, and he knows I'm retired from serious competition, so I took advantage of the situation to enjoy some sake with my sushi. (Ordinarily I never drink anything alcoholic if I'm going to play some pool.) Dan decided to abstain from the sake, concerned about mixing drink and driving.

We had a leisurely meal, and I finished a nice flagon of hot sake, and that's when the devious devil Dan challenges me to shoot a bit of straight pool, knowing I'm a pushover when it comes to my favorite game... I'll play any time, any place, any opponent. The thought crossed my mind that Dan would definitely have the upper hand due to the element of surprise, my sake-soaked brain, and my lack of table time. Surprisingly, it didn't turn out that way.

Just as we started, one of the 6 lights over the table went dead, and in the middle of the game, another light went dead. Both of these lights were at the head of the table, which doesn't get a lot of use in straight pool. I didn't bother fitting some new bulbs, because I didn't want to interrupt the game! However, when you are shooting a long shot on the 8 (or 4, or 6) into the dark end of the table, it gets interesting. The only good thing, as Dan remarked, is that the pockets usually stay in the same place.

The match went well for me, and I won easily 100 - 70.

I wonder if the sake loosened me up? I played my share of safeties, but I also made some seriously strange shots, including a double off-angle combination involving four balls. It was a beauty! Sometimes wacko shots just look so right. Did the sake enhance my imagination to see such a weird shot?

I can't believe I'm even asking the question, but should I start drinking before pool?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thanks for the memories...

It was almost 6 years ago that I set myself to learning this game, with the goal of seeing how good I could get with it. I feel that I have learned a lot, and won more than my share of competitions. I never had the goal of turning pro, and really never had the goal of doing a lot of competitions. It wasn't about proving myself to others, or making a public spectacle of whatever knowledge and skill I might have developed. Rather, it was a personal thing, inwardly focused. Competition was simply a way of learning more about myself and the game, not about domination of others. This blog was intended simply to document the story as it unfolded, and share what I learned.

And now, in the fullness of time, I have arrived at a point where other activities have come to the top of my list of priorities for living a balanced life. Since these priorities are not pool related, the details are off topic for this blog, so you are spared the boredom of reading about them here.

It was a difficult decision, but here's how it breaks down: Shooting pool at a high level, for me, requires a lot of time-consuming practice. It becomes an addiction, not unlike the addiction of flying an open-cockpit biplane, which consumed my life for almost 7 years, or yoga, which was my focus for several years, or freestyle Frisbee on the beach, another daily addiction for many years, and even the addiction to success in business, which consumed so much of my early life. I have certainly enjoyed these addictions, but there is a point of diminishing returns to all pleasures.

And now it is time to move on. I know this because I have been having recurring thoughts that there is more I can do, more I must do. I want to take some of the time I spend poking a ball with a stick, and re-direct it to doing something good for others, and I have already started down this path. I think I have learned a lot, especially about how to achieve goals, and I feel that it is time to share some of what I have learned with others who are looking for help.

Thank you Tony Sorto, for all your time and energy in trying to teach this pig to sing. And thank you to all the others who have contributed to my learning and great enjoyment of this game.

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Some Frequently Asked Questions
(which I have frequently asked myself in coming to this point):

Q. Are you quitting pool? Are you selling your table?
A. Absolutely not. I love the game. And I look forward to playing on my table for as long as humanly possible, and hopefully that will be for many more years, but significantly fewer hours per week. I look forward to many hours of solitude with the game, as well as occasionally sharing the experience and my table with friends who play the game well.

Q. So, that means no more tournaments?
A. True. Certainly for the foreseeable future, and that includes the US Amateur championship in September, for which the entry form is due in two days, and which helped me arrive at the timing of this decision.

Q. What will happen to this blog?
A. Less frequent postings, of course, but it will still be here. New posts will appear from time to time, as I find new things to write about. And I look forward to hearing from readers who help me keep up the list of tournaments in the San Diego area.

Q. Was this a snap decision?
A. Actually this has been coming for a long time. For each of the last 5 years, I have updated my Plan for Excellence in Pool every year around January. Except for this year. That was an early warning sign, for me. And my practice time has diminished steadily for the last 8 months, to the point where it had become obvious that my motivation was waning. It was a tough decision, because I know that with reduced time on the table will come reduced skills, and that's not a happy thought, but there is more to life than pool, as I have blogged about many times.

Q. So, what's next?
A. So much to do, so little time! Many projects, too many to go into here, but one which stand out the most is mentoring: helping entrepreneurs along their path to success in business.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Pool Wars


Pool Wars author Jay Helfert seems to be a thinking man's Forrest Gump of the pool world, always in the right place at the right time for some of the biggest pool events since the 60's. For example, Jay was racking the balls during the match when Earl Strickland won the "million-dollar" prize for running 10 racks in a row! Jay was the guy who got Keith McCready a role in the movie "The Color of Money"... the list goes on and on.

This is a great read for any pool player because Jay Helfert is the real deal. He started his pool career as a road hustler, then tournament director, then promoter. And he's got great stories about all of it. And he doesn't hold back a bit. His stories are filled with fights, knives, and guns (including his own 25 caliber hand gun).

It was a real pleasure to read this well-written first person history of pool during the last 40 years. You'll learn the inside scoop you won't find anywhere else. Pool Wars... You'll love it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I like playing with my old balls

A couple of posts back I mentioned getting a new set of Aramith TV Pro Cup balls.  Right after that post, Dan W. showed up to play some straight pool, and of course I wanted to try out the new set of balls.  But that wasn't working out very well because I was missing almost everything; couldn't run more than 5 balls, and even that was a struggle!  What's up with that?  

To make matters worse, Dan was reiterating the many reasons why the Aramith balls are horrible, why they have killed the finesse game, why old-school pros hate these balls, etc.

So, after about an hour of agony, Dan hit the loo, and I switched back to my Centennial set, including the Brunswick Centennial blue circle cue ball.  What a huge difference!  My first turn at the table I ran 19, and it felt so good.  It seemed that the cue ball was really trying to do what I had in mind, whereas the Aramith "measle" ball seemed to do whatever the heck it wanted.  Not a good feature for a cue ball.

Dan says it's in the finish they use, probably for the purpose of keeping it cleaner longer, but whatever it is, it causes inconsistent results.  I'm thinking that maybe the threshold for control is precipitous in the Aramith ball, but scalar on the Centennial, if you catch my drift.

The upshot of the evening is that Dan totally whupped me like a red-headed stepchild, which he always does.  But that is expected, he plays at a higher level than I do, so I get to watch (and learn, hopefully).   

Anyone want to buy a brand new set of Aramith TV Pro-Cup balls, only used for a few racks?


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In other news,  Dan S.  (not related to Dan W.) stopped by unexpectedly to hit a few.  We played some 9-ball, a short race to 5, which I won at hill-hill.  

And in other-other news, I found myself at the Hungry Stick in San Diego and got into an impromptu competition with David C. as my first draw.  I got lucky and won the super-short, anyone-can-win race to 3 in 9-ball (my least favorite game) 3-0, then got bounced out in the next two draws. 

Anyone want to play some straight pool?  Please?

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