Lately, I have been getting the feeling that
I have finally developed a stroke.
This is a major breakthrough for me,
because for the last 3 years I have felt that
I did not have anything close to what could be called a stroke.
What I have been searching for is a stroke that is
smooth, flowing, reliable, confident, accurate, and
above all, looks and feels good.
I have this theory that if a thing looks and feels good,
that it is probably natural and effective.
Recently I have discovered what it means to have a stroke.
I am getting a new feeling as I follow through.
But the feel is something else.
A lightness in the cue,
as if it floats and slides easily in my right hand.
I am thinking that I am experiencing what
is said about "letting the cue do the work".
And that other famous quote about a stroke being
"a beautiful throwing motion".
The best stroke I have ever seen was
during my Road Trip, in Aurora, Colorado,
at a place called the Rack 'em Cue Club.
The shooter was a black dude called "Georgia Boy".
He was a road player and a hustler,
and called New York City his home.
Had been playing the game for over 50 years,
and his stroke was such a thing of beauty
that it is almost impossible to describe.
The thing that struck me the most was
how the cue almost danced in his hands
with what is known as a slip-stroke,
whereby the forward (hit) motion of the cue
was actually completely un-gripped.
His stroking hand was not touching the cue
in any way.
Rather it had been thrown forward at the
beginning of the stroke,
and was caught at the end of the stroke.
His wrist was extremely light and flexible,
almost whippy (although not as much as Bustamante).
It was totally mesmerizing.
He wouldn't let me videotape his stroke,
but I have it clearly imprinted on my mind.
It could be that meditating on his stroke
has caused mine to become more like his,
or, rather more like a true stroke
which is personalized to me.
It is the job of the stroke to deliver
a variable amount of energy
along a variable longitudinal plane
along a variable vertical deviation from the horizontal
and have the cue tip delivered
to a variable place on the cue ball,
and to continue to follow-thru after the hit
either on the same or different
variable energy, plane, etc.
The stroke, or the forward motion of the cue,
guided by the hand/wrist/forearm/arm,
is what delivers all the above variables.
The evolution of my stroke made a major step forward
when I started to deliver a full stroke
A full stroke is a confident stroke
and it delivers consistent, known results.
I have learned that it is better to deliver a full stroke
and adjust with english/throw/draw/follow than it is to
vary the speed of the stroke, especially at the low end
where table anomalies are more influential.
Although I have heard these things for almost 3 years
from El Maestro himself,
and from reading,
but some things can only be learned by doing,
over and over and over.
Time and attention are the keys to learning.
I'm sure there were many times when El Maestro
must have thought I was a complete dunce, but I knew that
"I will persist until I succeed".
One of my favorite sayings is:
"The ox is slow, but the earth is patient."
For more on this topic,
see this post at my biz-blog called
The Art and Science of Success in Business.
Success in pool follows the same rules
as success in anything.
It was a perfectly awesome Saturday afternoon
the weather was clear and warm,
and I just got the car washed.
After a week of hermit-like cave dwelling,
I had a hankerin' to get out among the populace,
so I called El Maestro and offered to drive north
to Oceanside and shoot some pool on substandard tables.
It was a great drive.
Top down, of course, stereo blasting,
soaking up the fresh air and sunshine.
(I really should get out more often!)
It's important to get on other tables occasionally
so that I can test my ability to adjust to
changing conditions and other players.
Tony and I got into some 8-ball right off,
until "Sidewinder John" showed up to say hello.
Tony told me that Sidewinder has been an "A" player
for a long time, and that he has been shooting a lot
of carom billiards lately and figured we should
match up for a race to 7 in 9-ball.
That's when I saw how he got his nickname.
He's got a sidearm stroke way more pronounced
than pro shooter Keith McCready.
But it must work for him because he shoots good.
And, with his carom experience, he sure knows
his way around the rails.
We traded games until we got to 2-2,
then he squirted ahead to 4-2,
but I came back to get the score 6-6,
and that's when Tony stepped in to stop the action.
What a bummer!
I was looking forward to a come-back win,
but it wasn't going to happen.
He said it was because he just wanted to see
if I could get to the hill with John,
(which he said he figured I could)
and that's all that really mattered.
I'm looking forward to a re-match!
Later, El Maestro and I shot some more 8-ball,
and I was doing a lot better this time,
in the lead this time at around 5-4
or something similar, when he stops the set again
for me to play some guy Jeremy for a couple of games.
I'm sure there's a lesson in all this for me somewhere.
Tony says I need to always be matching up against
different players on the road to pool excellence.
I guess that's more important,
in my stage of development, than who wins.
And he's the boss, so how can I argue?
I need to take my ego out of it, right?
The Zen approach would be to
let go of attachment to the outcome.
El Maestro himself appeared at Mikie's Fun House yesterday
and we got right into some 8-ball.
He won all 3 races-to-7 by a wide margin.
With half an hour remaining before he had to leave,
I suggested we play some straight pool.
He broke, and I ran 15.
He ran 14.
Then I ran 25.
And then it was time for him to leave.
On his way out, he was still wondering why
I can be so good at straight pool
and have such trouble with 8-ball.
Truly a mystery...
Could it be simply because I enjoy straight pool
more than I like playing 8-ball?
That's probably one good reason.
One thing I like about straight pool is the freedom.
I can shoot any ball,
rather than being limited to stripes or solids.
Also, position is easier because I don't need
to pick my way around balls that are not in play.
And, I like that it is a longer game than 8-ball.
I like the idea of the potential for long runs
rather than being limited to 8 maximum.
Another thing about straight pool:
there is none of that macho breaking action.
I like the gentle nature of straight pool
where clusters are broken up with quiet precision
rather than a Big Bang.
And, because of the break in 8-ball,
Luck plays a big role in the outcome of a short game.
Skill, and endurance, takes a bigger role in straight pool.
I'll bet Efren likes straight pool better than 8...
Yes, there has been some monkeying around
with the photo at the top of this blog...
The current photo features the sunset from last night.
Additionally, this photo was taken in natural light
whereas the previous photos used flash.
I like this new one a lot better.