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The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.




Monday, February 15, 2010

PoolSynergy, February 2010, My Favorite Pool Player





This article is the 4th in a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers entitled "PoolSynergy" . To see others, go to:


It would be easy to say that my favorite pool player is Willie Mosconi, who is generally acknowledged to be the best of all time, and because he holds the high run of all time (526) and because he won more straight pool titles than anyone (straight pool is my favorite). The problem with choosing Willie Mosconi as my favorite is that I have never seen him play in real life, and there are NO videos of him playing a significant amount of straight pool. So Willie Mosconi is more of a fantasy player, not good for real world learning, for me or anyone.

A player who I have watched intently, in real life, and who has plenty of videos available is Allison Fisher, who I have always regarded as an extraordinary player not just because of her great ability, but because of her demeanor. She held my interest as a role model for a while because so many videos were available on ESPN.

And then I met Johnny Archer, and he ran 120 balls on my table at my home, and did it like it was a walk in the park, and I got it all on video (see it here)! After that performance, he was a natural to take over as my favorite player. And what a nice guy, too! Really a first class human being.

But again, Johnny Archer would be an obvious choice for favorite player, and there's not much to share with you, dear reader, by offering an obvious choice.

So, allow me to introduce a player who I have watched more than any other player, and therefore I can state that I am more of an expert on his game than any other player alive or dead, and I consider him to be, without question, my favorite player. Tony Sorto is "El Maestro", the man who taught me the game.

The best proof of his impressive shot making ability is this one video clip where he runs a perfect rack of 15 balls in rotation, with 14 of the balls frozen to the rails. This is the game they play in his native Honduras. It has never been shown on video until he did it, on my table.


Click through to YouTube and watch this video, and follow along with the notes under "more info" (on the upper right) to see what's going on with each shot.

What I see when I watch this is absolute focus, total confidence (watch the 7-ball bank, and the 13 ball bank is spectacular!), and the rhythm, even when it is interrupted on the 14 ball bank, and the outward calm masking his inner "controlled fury", and his magical mastery of english as demonstrated on the 4-ball shot to get position on the 5.

Here's the full description of the run:

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. A historic moment in the world of pool. Congratulations, Tony Sorto for showing 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 all the world can enjoy it and learn from it. Fantastic! Gracias, Maestro!


1 Comments:

Blogger jbiddle said...

Your write-up of the runout had me spellbound, and I'd seen it before! Your writing and love of the game contributed very heavily to my decision to start a pool blog of my own. The student to one can be a master to another. Thanks.

Monday, February 15, 2010 8:03:00 AM  

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