Gold Crown IV

Gold Crown IV
FastMikie's Fun House, Del Mar, California

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

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:

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 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: 

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...

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   Later, the IPT - International Pool Tour started doing some free streaming, also using

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 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 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 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 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.


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.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cutest Cueists: Jamilra

Jamilra and Jeanette

Maybe it's just me, but the photo above gets me thinking that I'd like to see more of this in pool:  a top ranked player like Jeanette Lee (on the right) teaching a young newbie.  

Jamilra is her name.  She's supposed to be a "top Uzbekistan fashion model" according to the Dragon Promotions press release from the Second Annual Showdown in Seoul Korea. However, when I Googled "Jamilra", I could find almost nothing. except for these yummy images.

I want to thank Charlie Williams of Dragon Promotions for showing us the way, and for Jeanette Lee for her leadership and good example.  It makes me want to find a young, impressionable newbie just like Jamilra and teach her everything I know, and even some things about pool.  I'm thinking I might start looking in Uzbekistan...

For photos and info on my other "cutest cueists" hit parade, click here.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 28, 2008

What do you read?

You can't be shooting pool ALL the time, right?  And you can't be reading about pool all the rest of the time, right?  Isn't there some saying like "All pool and no ... makes Jack a dull boy"?   So what's your "..."?

Surely there is more to life than pool, right?

Recently I was fiddling with my Facebook page and discovered a neat little applet called Visual Bookshelf where you can share some of your favorite books.  Of course, you have probably seen my complete collection of pool & billiard books, DVDs, etc which I'm always expanding, desperately hoping to find some shred of insight that will help me improve my game (and sometimes I do!).

But, back to the central theme of this post:  there's more to life than pool...  One of my favorite philosophers is (was) the greatest of all Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, who suggested "From one thing, know all things.  From all things, know one thing."  (Hey, it's philosophy, it's supposed to be simple, yet complex.)  During those times he was not slaying his adversaries, or sharpening his skills, and his blades, he continued to learn about life, death, and art by being involved in activities outside of sword fighting.  And, of course, these things helped him stay alive when opponents were bent on lopping off his head with razor sharp swords.  He was very good at staying alive, and was never cut.  He died a natural death, an old man.

So, applying all this to the main point:  What do you read?  Seriously, I'm interested.  Here's a list of some of my favorite reading, not pool related.  You might be interested in joining up with the Virtual Bookshelf and swapping a few books, or recommendations, or insights, not just with me, but some of the other members.  Maybe we can all learn something from each other, and maybe, as Musashi suggested, "... from all things, learn one thing" (pool).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving at the Fun House

It's Thanksgiving, and a New Moon all on the same day.  What more could you ask?  How about the world's best cookies?  

Many years ago, my daugter Kendra made me a batch of cookies that were the best I have ever had, and that's saying something for a cookie connoisseur like me.  And so it has become a tradition on my every birthday, Fathers' Day, and Christmas that she whips up a fresh batch for me.  I live for these days!

However, I have never been one to leave well enough, or even Great, alone.  I have been secretly making continuous improvements to her recipe and after exhaustive experimentation and testing (it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it), I am ready to announce to the world that I have concoted the PERFECT cookie.

As my way of giving thanks, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am sharing some of these wonderful little bits of heaven with some special friends, and for the rest of you, I give you the recipe.  You know what they say, give a pool shooter a cookie, and you feed him for a day, but give a pool shooter a cookie recipe, and you feed him for life.  Now go and do this in remembrance of me...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Cloth: Simonis 760 Tournament Blue



Yesterday was a big day here at FastMikie's Fun House.  I finally got the new cloth installed, and it is most excellent.  

After searching for the BEST, the Michelangelo of table mechanics, and based on recommendations of friends, I finally selected Steve Leistikow ("TableMechanic" at AZ Billiards forum) to do the job.  He started in on disassembling the table and then moved to recovering the rails, and that's when I got my first look at what a quality job Steve does.  

Check out the photo below.  You're looking at a before/after photo of two rails, upside down, facing each other.  On the left is the prior rail covering job done by someone else. On the right is the new job, done by Steve.  And this is on a part of the table no one will ever see once it's assembled.  'Nuf said, eh?

BEFORE                 AFTER

About 8 hours later, the job was done, including releveling, lowering the table an inch, and drawing the rack outline on the cloth (for straight pool).  Needless to say I was chomping at the bit to hit some balls.  It had been a couple of years since I hit some balls on fresh cloth.  It's something I really enjoy, not just because of the perfection and cleanliness, but because the behavior of the balls is so different from cloth just a few weeks old.  Most of all, I wanted to try drawing the cue ball the length of the table, and how sweet it was when I actually did it!  My life is now complete.  (I'm easy to please.)

Next, Steve and I got into shooting some 8 ball to give the setup a good test.  We played at least half a dozen games, and I gave him the breaks each time (I'm still hurting in the shoulder).  Needless to say, this setup plays LOTS faster than the old cloth, but I liked the speed and won all the games except one.  I even made a few nice shots, enough to be moved to say to him "Go and tell all what you have seen here tonight!" (only partially joking).

Thanks, Steve!  You did a great job.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

E-mail Inbox: Lester from Kansas City

Every once in a while, a pool shooter will discover this blog, and even more amazingly, actually read one of my pool short stories, which are somewhat hidden around here like Easter eggs. Today, "Lester from Kansas City" stopped in for a visit and found the story about my surprise match up with Loree Jon Jones. It wasn't my pool that caught his attention, but my cue. And then he gets into one of his fondest memories about the Fat man himself. Let's hear it from Lester:

Just read your story of retiring your Hoppe (cue). I bought my Hoppe in 1965 maybe. I got robbed but I sure wish I had it back. My stick was a 19.5 with a pool shaft and a snooker shaft. It was sweet.

But the thing that struck me was the story of you beating the lady (Loree Jon Jones). I have a similar story but it is not about me. I have the knowledge of what to do but had a vision problem and depth perception was poor, it also created an additional problem of my stroke wavered. I am good enough to win from most amateurs but never would have been a contender no matter how hard I practiced, which I did ten hours a day for several years.

But my story was not of me. There was a kid barely 16 we lived in Kansas City in the mid 60s his name was Jimmy Warner the kid was a natural he was taught by a old stick named John Rags. John had glaucoma and could hardly see, still he was a hell of a snooker player. He taught Jimmy. One day every one at our home pool hall Pass Time Cue heard Minnesota Fats was going to give an exhibition over at the Golden Cue in Raytown Missouri just a few miles away so we all jumped in our cars and headed that way. Now Jimmy had the best 9 ball break at that time in Kansas City it was not unusual for him to make 3-5 on the break and would run three out of five after the break, the kid was great.

Well the same thing happened with Fats. He asked if anyone was up for a 9 ball game with him and Jimmy stood up. Fats couldn't believe that a kid would stand up to him and started to laugh him off. A lot of the audience were in the know of who Jimmy was and they started snickering to, not at Jimmy but at Fats. Now Fats thought that they were laughing at Jimmy so he changed his mind and decided to make Jimmy look foolish so he gave Jimmy the break. Bang, Jimmy broke made 4 and run. Fats looked choked like he had swallowed a cow and told Jimmy to break, bang Jimmy hit that rack and made the 9 on the break. The fat man couldn't believe his eyes and made it look like Jimmy was just lucky last game Jimmy never gave him a shot. Fats quit, told Jimmy to sit down and everybody laughed including Fats. The fat man made a few trick shots and left town.

I quit playing the pool halls around Kansas City I loved the action but knew I was not going to make a living with a stick, I lost track of Jimmy and never knew what happened to him. Lost my Hoppe oh well. I hope this will give you a chuckle. Lester From Kansas City

Thanks for sharing, Lester!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I pay $3.50 instead of 25 cents for chalk

About 5 years ago I was in Las Vegas for the APA team 8-ball national championships, my first-ever exposure to a big pool event. There were lots of companies selling stuff: cues, tables, cases, etc. I stopped at the Longoni table to check out the neat cases, and noticed something called "Blue Diamond" chalk which they were selling for about $3.50 per cube, but you had to buy 2 cubes minimum.

I'm thinking to myself that they gotta be NUTS. What could possibly be so special about a cube of chalk that would make it worth 14 times more than a regular cube of Master chalk, the standard of the industry. Everybody uses Master chalk, right?

Needless to say, I passed on the opportunity to pay such a ridiculous amount for chalk.

Fast-forward 5 years, and I noticed this thread on AZ billiards forum about Blue Diamond chalk. Some people were skeptical, of course, just like me. And others just raved about it. But I still didn't get any.

But in the fullness of time, I finally broke down and ordered some here. It was a pretty girl who pushed me over the edge (what else is new, eh?).

Now that I have been using the stuff for a while, I'm a convert. The stuff is WAY better than Master chalk. I keep the Blue Diamond chalk in my pocket chalk holder for personal use, and I leave the regular old Master chalk out on the table for guests to use. Momma didn't raise no fool...

How is it better? I notice it lasts longer, goes on easier, more completely, in a finer layer, no clumping (especially important in a humid environment), gives better control, less miscues, yadda-yadda-yadda. Check out the AZ link above to see what others say.

So, while I was checking out the Blue Diamond stuff, I also got some Sang Lee chalk to test. I figured that if Sang Lee can do those incredible masse' shots with chalk he recommends, then maybe there's something to it. Not only do I like his chalk better than Master, but it comes in a trick plastic box to keep the stuff from being affected by humidity (the enemy of chalk). Check it out here. Sang Lee chalk is even a bit more expensive than the Blue Diamond.

The latest development in chalk is the NIR Super Professional product by Longoni. I have a box of 3 cubes, but haven't started to test them yet. More on that stuff later.

The bottom line is this: once I know there is something better out there that can help my game, then I just have to use it. Especially if it's only going to cost a few bucks more.

Disclaimer: I don't sell the stuff, and I don't get a commission if you buy it. I just like to share my discoveries. I'm a giver... Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pool & Billiards Library: DVD Additions

It seems that the recent pool matches on TV have been mostly re-runs, so when the IPT offered competition 8-ball DVDs for less than 5 bucks each, I jumped at the chance to buy a few DVDs featuring my favorite players.

I play these, and others, when I'm on the treadmill in the morning, and during my yoga/stretching and shoulder exercises. The best thing about these DVDs is that I can stop, skip back, replay, slow motion, etc. This really helps to learn what is going on. And of course, the more I play them, the more I can learn.

These new disks feature some of my favorite players: Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, Johnny Archer, Earl Strickland, Thorsten Hohmann, Charlie Williams and others. The more I watch their play, the more I can model what they do, how they stroke, position, safety play, etc.

Of course there is more to my Pool & Billiard Library than just competition DVDs. There are lots of instruction books, autobiographies, full-length movies, and reference materials.

To check out the entire FastMikie Pool & Billiard Library, click here!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Second Place, giving up the breaks

Yesterday's visit to the physiotherapist left me in more pain than I started out with, so I was thinking I might just pass on today's 8-ball tournament in Encinitas. This morning I was feeling even worse, but I figured, what the heck, maybe I'll just show up and watch the action.

Yeah, right... I'm such a pool whore, I can't get near a pool table and not hit some balls. Once I got to the tournament, there was no way I was just going to watch. But my right shoulder hurt so bad I decided I would give up the break, and just play nice and easy.

That decision turned out OK, as I went undefeated in all 6 of my matches to get into the finals with Eric the Brit, a formidable competitor. Although I made it past Eric in one of those 6 previous matches, I lost the first game of the final race to two, and in the next (and last) game I was leaning over the table for a long shot when I was called with a foul when my shirt touched a ball, so I gave up ball in hand and you just don't give Eric ball in hand and survive. Congrats, Eric, you played great.

That left me with second place, giving up the breaks. And I hadn't touched a cue in the last 7 days. Not too shabby. But I sure wish my shoulders would get better. Patience, grasshopper...

The shirt foul was all my fault. It was a bone-head move to play with a loose fitting shirt. Live and learn.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

How many FastMikies to change a light bulb?

The answer is NONE.

The doctor says I shouldn't raise my hands much above shoulder level, with the specific warning against trying to change a light bulb, as an example of what not to do.  This is part of the results from yesterday's meeting with a new physical therapist.  My shoulder challenges (pain, reduced range of motion, etc) were not getting much improvement with the previous therapist, so I decided to get a second opinion with full-on medical evaluation with an orthopedic surgeon.  The new doc prescribed the new therapist.

He also prescribed an arthrogram, a special form of MRI which produces an enhanced image after special dye is injected into the shoulder area.  And before they do that, they need to determine, via blood test, if my kidneys can handle the dye.  Hold on...  this is sounding radical, especially with all the sticking of needles, etc.  I'm going to wait a bit and see if the new therapy can help.

Of course, now that he mentioned it,  I have noticed that there are about 5 lightbulbs that have gone dark at the Fun House, so I guess I'll have to delegate the changing of the bulbs.   Or, as the Chinese proverb says:  'Tis better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

All of this relates to pool because jump-shots are an absolute NO, and masse' and break shots need to be dialed way back.  In fact, I think it was a jump shot that further damaged my right shoulder supraspinatus muscle.  Who knew pool could be so rough on the bod?

In other news, I didn't make it to the finals in the Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament, but I did play some really nice pool, including one runout that featured two bank shots and one carom.   And in other games I did some really nice shots and lockup safties.   I have been focusing more on playing well and less on winning, and I seem to enjoy it more.  Gunny made it to the finals again, all the while complaining that his vision was real bad.  (How do you get to the finals if you can't see?)  When he gets his eyes fixed he's going to be a serious competitor!  But it was John who prevailed for his first win in the 3+ months I have been going there.  Congratulatons, John!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Student Actually Learns Something!

Every once in a while a student will actually pay attention, and then, against all odds, actually DO something with what they learn.  Case in point, this email I received over the weekend:

Hey Michael,  I  just want to say thank you for the lessons, I  used your help last week and this week. I  put in practice a couple of shots: the break, the rail shots, the english you taught me, shooting a ball on the rail to the corner pocket and come back 3 rails for the 9 or the 8 which I  did twice.  Every time I  chalk, walk around the table, did a couple very good safeties, and something that I  remember you told me to do, step back if the opponent starts talking to me or get close to me when I'm shooting.  That happened 4 times - I  told my captain and didn't try to talk to the opponent which really makes them mad, which is very good for me.  Once again thank you very much.  Hope I can shoot some pool with you so I  can learn something new.   (CD)

Teachers live for student feedback like this!   When is the last time you actually thanked one of your teachers?   Do it now!  (assuming you actually learned something from them)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Stroke Zone by Bob Henning

This just-published book will join "The Pleasures of Small Motions" as one of the masterworks of the art of billiards, especially as it occurs in competition.

I have all of Bob Henning's books and DVDs, and give them all the highest marks, but this little book is the best of all of them. I plan on reading it many times, until it becomes a part of my being.

To get your copy (only $19.95), email Bob Henning directly at and tell him FastMikie sent you! That won't get you a discount, and it won't get me a commission, but it'll be a fun way for me to thank him for writing an extraordinary book.

Finally Here: The Billiard Encyclopedia, 3rd edition

Subtitle:  "An Illustrated History of the Sport"

After many delays in publication, and a wait of more than 6 months after I ordered it, this epic work finally arrived at my doorstep yesterday afternoon.

Because billiards has been around for several hundred years, there is a good bit of billiards history, therefore this is a really big book:  600+ pages and 10" x 13".  Huge sucker!  And a zillion photos and illustrations.  It will keep me busy for a long time.

This new 3rd edition just started shipping a few days ago.  The 2nd edition was sold out years ago and a bidding war on those old copies more than doubled the cover price, if you could find one.  I never did get one of those previous editions, so I'm feeling good about spending some serious reading time with this one.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bare handed with a fresh tip and sanded shaft

This afternoon's win in the 8-ball tournament was made especially sweet because I was stroking with a brand new Moori tip (medium), just put on two days ago.  Dave Whitsell,  the cue guru, also likes to sweeten the shaft with some very light sanding.  I worry that multiple sandings, over time, will alter the playability of the shaft.  But I also love, really love, the feel of a lightly sanded shaft and a bare-handed (gloveless) loop bridge in a low humidity environment.  It's very sensual, almost feels like living skin.  Freaky!

The sensory experience is heightened even more when the stroke is flowing and the table and the balls behave well and kindly.  Triple freaky!

It all gets flowing and good stuff happens.  I win again. 
I remember that I am still, and always will be, a student of the art.  I enjoy doing these public live art performances.  I like to focus on performing my art, which I have found, frequently leads to a tournament win.  Focus on the process, not the result.  One shot at a time.

More tournament notes:  I lost the first game, but won the next 4, to make it to the finals where I lost the first game of the race to 2, but did what I had to do, and I got a roll.  Gunny is always a worthy opponent, and it was close because he was playing good.

So it occurs to me that I faced six different games where I absolutely had to win, and I did.  I also faced two games where it was not absolutely necessary for me to win, and I didn't.  I think this is one of the more interesting things about pool is that it can be such a microcosm of Life in general.  What we learn is that we can do almost anything we can imagine, although we actually do so little.  The thing that keeps us from achieving according to our imaginings is that we so seldom take the next step, committing to the goal, and the process.  Commitment is the key.  Once you are truly committed, the result draws near. 

Nothing creates Commitment more than a do-or-die situation.  If you see your situation as do-or-die, then your mind will be focused, your stroke will be true, you will take nothing for granted.  What more could you want than to have Victory hanging on every stroke?

Winning under challenging conditions

I won the Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament (again), but it could have turned out differently...

The outside temperature shot up past 85, and I guess that kicked in the room air conditioning higher than normal, and it got pretty nippy, and that is not a good thing for me.  With a low blubber index, my bones get cold fast, and I start to shivver and shake, and then it seems I gotta pee, and I just can't shoot very well when I'm in that condition.  (Now you know my Achilles' heel.)

I guess I got lucky, and won anyway.

That helps me get over my non-win last week, about which I refrained from blogging until now.  My mom always said "If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all".  Hence my quietude.   Suffice it to say that I did not win last week, and it was all because I let my head get in the way.  I was shooting very well until the end when the playoffs started.  I was undefeated with 5-0 record, and there were 4 other players with a 4-1 record, so I just naturally assumed that the 4 would play down to only one, who I would play in the finals.  But it didn't happen that way.  Instead, I had to play two of the one-loss players, and the "injustice" of it all tweaked my brain so bad that I was just not playing the shot in front of me, at all.  

Wouldn't it be great if there were a switch we could use to turn off our emotions and negative thinking, and leave only the pool-shooting brain functions?

I'm working on it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

There's more to life than pool: Sunsets

Sometimes you just gotta stop and enjoy the sunset.  If you don't get these where you live, then try smelling the roses, or kissing your wife/lover/(both?)/kids/dog/whatever.  

There's more to life than pool...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The winner of the race is fearless from that first step

"The winner of the race is fearless from that first step."

This excellent quote is the personal tagline of Holly Ryan, the Manager of the National Championship Series for Cue Sports International.

That kinda says it all.  Thanks, Holly!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Long Road Ahead

Vacation is over.  My pool year begins again.

My 3 weeks of no pool practice ended Saturday when El Maestro came by FastMikie's Fun House to shoot some straight pool to 150 points.  He won, of course, but that was expected since I haven't really practiced at all for so long.  But I had a decent run of about 22 balls.  Well, that's what he told me.  I wasn't really paying attention to the running count, just focused on the shot of the moment.  And I figure that's a good thing.

Yesterday, Earl and Paul E. stopped by for some cut-throat and some 9-ball, so that helped get me back into stroke a little.

And it was yesterday morning that I got back into my physical workout routine with some time on the treadmill.  I use the treadmill time to watch & study one or two previously recorded TV pool matches.  In addition to the treadmill, I do  several stretching and strengthening exercises for lower back, shoulders, and  neck, a few of the areas that have been giving me trouble in past pool tournaments.

I have 11 months to prepare for the next U.S. Amateur championship.  It's a long road ahead, but it will go by fast if I just take it one ball, one step, at a time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Unexpected Win

This is my time to relax after many months of focused practice. Now, absolutely no practice for the last 3 weeks. So I was getting restless and decided to show up for the Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament. I just wanted to hit a few balls. I really wasn't expecting anything. Surprisingly, I won.

Some thoughts:
A. I played well because I was loose, relaxed, and without expectations for the outcome.
B. The advanced techniques I use in my "Optimum Practice" routines allow me to play well with a lot less time on the practice table.
C. I got lucky.
D. All of the above.



Monday, October 06, 2008

FastMikie Teaches - and Learns

This past weekend, two new students visited the Fun House for their first, possibly only, lesson.  Both of them had been shooting pool for about a year, both having no formal instruction in billiards.  

It was like looking at myself, 5 years ago.  I could see in them the challenges I had, and I could see how much I have learned, and I could also see how much work it will take to grow beyond their existing level.  

The teacher may Teach, but the student must Do.  It is only by much practice that any Learning can take place.  The teacher can only offer ideas and suggestions, but the student learns nothing without many hours of focused practice.

It is said that "The Teacher Teaches What He Needs To Learn".  A major revelation of this past weekend's teaching is just how painful and challenging it must have been for El Maestro during those early years when he was teaching me.   Gracias, El Maestro.   Namaste'.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Browser buggy? Try Google's "Chrome" browser

I long ago moved beyond Microsoft's browser to Firefox, but lately Firefox has been acting strange, like freezing up completely, then crashing.  That's what got me to check out Google's new browser, named "Chrome".

It's fast, dirt simple, and tight.  If one tab crashes, it let's other tabs live.  And I love the feature where you can drag a tab to the desktop to automatically open a new window with the tab.  

PC only, not Mac yet.  It's free.  Try it: Google Chrome

Friday, October 03, 2008

New Cloth Project: Finding the "da Vinci mechanic"

I have decided that the cloth will be Simonis 760 tournament blue. What is still undecided is who will take that cloth and create the canvas where I will perform my art.

In fact, that canvas, that table recovering project, is another person's art. I am looking for that "table mechanic" who treats his work as art.

Why all this focus on quality of the work? For starters, I'm a Virgo, which means perfectionist, meticulous, etc. I'm going to be spending a LOT of time with that table, not just playing on it, but also because it is the focal point of my living space, and because I am in my living space virtually 24/7. Whatever flaw there may be in the re-covering job will be noticed.

Another reason why the quality of the work is important is that I get some very important and knowledgeable people in the pool world who visit "FastMikie's Fun House" (my home) and who play on this table. They deserve to play on the highest quality equipment possible.

It would be my goal to have my table be of such high quality that a visitor, after playing on the table, would be driven to say that it was the best they have ever experienced. These are the conditions I want for myself, and for guests.

Ideally, the artist I'm looking for would be local, close enough to be able to make any adjustments after the initial work. It seems that there are always a few details that crop up after the fact. However, reputation trumps location. And it would be unlikely that the best would happen to be local. If there were someone who is generally acclaimed to be the best table mechanic, and they were not local, then I want to consider the extra cost of transporting them, hotel, etc. Of course, with this artist coming into town for this "commission", they would be well taken care of, with the best meals, lodging, transportation, and other niceties. All of these things will communicate my message of appreciation for their creation.

The artist who would clothe my table would be encouraged to sign his work. Why is that not done now? Why would it not be traditional for a table mechanic to leave his mark in some out-of-the-way place on the table? I can not imagine doing my best work and leaving it un-signed!

I have heard from many sources that the best mechanic in Southern California is Ernesto Dominguez. Yes, the professional pool player. I have called him and asked him to do the table, and he said it was too far. But maybe I caught him at a bad time. I didn't get a chance to tell him how important a job it is. I could have done a better job of helping him see how important it would be for him. Maybe I could make it fun as well as profitable for him. Maybe I could send a limo to pick up and deliver the Leonardo da Vinci of billiard tables in the style befitting his reputation? Would he be more favorably disposed to do my table if he knew his creation would be in many videos, seen by many people worldwide, and that each of these videos would mention his name as the table mechanic? Would such an artist be interested in the fame and glory that comes with the commission? Maybe I could also buy a lesson or two in the game while he is here. What would it take to attract him to this opportunity?

Or, maybe there is another da Vinci. Maybe there is a Michelangelo?

There is no rush. No deadline as for a tournament. No search for some lowest bidder. Only the best.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Welcoming the perfect stroke

In the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance", there is talk of finding that perfect swing that is yours alone, and that is there, looking for you as much as you are looking for it. A perfect swing that is effortless, and as if by magic, human will is transmitted through the arm and out into the ball itself, making it perform in ways fantastic.

Bagger Vance: Look at his practice swing, almost like he's searchin for something... Then he finds it... Watch how he settle hisself right into the middle of it, feel that focus... He got a lot of shots he could choose from... there's only ONE shot that's in perfect harmony with the field... One shot that's his, authentic shot, and that shot is gonna choose him... There's a perfect shot out there tryin' to find each and every one of us... All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us... You got to look with soft eyes... See the place where the tides and the seasons and the turnin' of the Earth, all come together... where everything that is, becomes one... You got to seek that place with your soul... Seek it with your hands don't think about it... Feel it... Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be... Now I can't take you there... Just hopes I can help you find a way... Just you... that ball... and all you are...

This movie is about golf, not pool, but golf and pool are a lot alike. And it got me to thinking about some of the Zen-like concepts of finding the perfect golf swing and applying it to the perfect cue stroke.

Both the golf swing and the cue stroke are a single co-ordinated physical motion of the arm hand wrist fingers which is the link between the brain and the ball.

I continue to have feelings that my stroke can be improved. On the spectrum of stroke perfection, with "poking a ball with a stick" at the low end and Efren Reyes at the top end, I am definitely closer to poking.

This yearning for my yet-to-be-found perfect stroke comes at a good time for me. There is a year before the next US Amateur championships.

This is an opportunity to welcome a perfect stroke into my life. An excellent project for the New Moon.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Asia 10-Ball Championships in Seoul, Korea

I just received a "Stage 2" invitation to the Asia 10-Ball Championships in Seoul, Korea to be played November 11. 2008. The nice thing about a Stage 2 invitation is that I am automatically qualified and do not have to go through the qualification rounds in order to play with the best. How cool is that? Kinda!

Why me? Maybe because I was a student at the Jacksonville Predator Pro School put on by Charlie Williams' Dragon Promotions, who is also running the Asia 10-ball championships. And maybe because they need to fill the field of 96 players.

Since I have yet to beat all the best players in San Diego, there is little reason to travel to Korea for competition.

Also, Seoul in November will probably be a good bit colder than Del Mar, CA. I'm a fan of warm. So I'll stay home

Guinness TV ads featuring pool

Check these 3 short advertisements for Guinness, featuring some historical aspects of the table, the cue, and the cloth.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No more Mr. Nice Guy

If I wasn't such a nice guy, maybe I would have won.

During the Encinitas Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament (with only 11 balls) one of the players "Gunny" said he was having trouble seeing the ball at a distance because he's looking over the top of his glasses. So I showed him how to adjust his glasses so they ride higher on his nose and he will be seeing through his glasses for clear vision on long shots.

I was just being me, a Giver, Mr. Nice Guy.

Well, you know the rest of this story. This guy comes back and has me hill-hill in the final then breaks and runs out for the win. A nice run, too. He deserved it.

But maybe next time I hear someone having trouble with something I won't be so quick to help, especially during a tournament.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Cloth Project

The tournament this past weekend was played on Gold Crown III tables with tournament BLUE Simonis cloth. The good news is that I really liked the way the tables played with that cloth. And since it's time for new cloth on my table, I figured I'd check into the blue. So I left a message on AZ Billiards forum to see if others have some experience with the blue cloth. What a great response! Here's the thread.

I hadn't even thought about Simonis 760, which is faster than 860, so I went to the Simonis website to fill in some blanks, and that was very informative too.

So I figured, why not just call Simonis and talk to a human being, right? What a pleasant surprise... a very nice voice named Felice answered all my questions very capably.

Simonis 860 and 760 are same price. The 760 is faster, designed for straight pool (my favorite) and is made of 70% wool and 30% nylon. The 860 is designed for 9 ball and is made of 90% wool and 10% nylon. The HR cloth is only made in 860 designation, it stands for High Resistance, and it is a thicker cloth but manufactured in the 760 blend but not sheared as flat, so it's slower and plays at the 860 speed.

Felice confirms that 760 would be better in a humid environment, such as my place, and the tournament blue will be better for video. She even recommended a person to install it that is near me. (In Long Beach, Mike at 562-397-6755.)

The tournament blue 760 sounds like what I want.

First Day of the Rest of My (pool) Life

The US Amateur championship is the focal point, the highlight, and the climax of my pool year. That was last Saturday. Sunday and Monday were travel. Tuesday was a buffer day, to enjoy being home, to do nothing except bridge between the past year and the new year ahead. Today is the first day of the rest of my (pool) life.

It is time to rededicate myself to goals and the process for achieving them.

I have started documenting my daily routines and have already discovered ways to make them more productive. It continues to amaze me how improvements are always possible.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Home Again

The indescribable bliss of "Home".

One of the main features of FastMikie's Fun House is the hammock. This photo was taken during a recent intensive Hammock Therapy session. It is a well-known fact that wars can not be fought from a hammock, therefore if everyone spent more time in hammocks there would be less war. I'm doing my part.

It is so good to be Home again, with my food, my bed, my space, my sky, my ocean. These feelings are quite new to me. For the last 30 years I have lived in many different places along the coast in and north of San Diego, always renting, never in the same place very long. Many of those years were spent on long periods of barnstorming, flying my open-cockpit biplane wherever the wind wanted to go at the time, on the go for months at a time, living out of a small bag of clothes. All that time there was no "Home", only a place to go back to, or leave from. This new feeling of "Home" is strong.

Road Trip Photos

CA Hwy 1, somewhere south of Big Sur

Notice the speed in the head up display shows only 52 mph on a stretch of road that I would normally be doing well over 100. For some reason, I decided to take it easy on this trip, and enjoy the scenery. I love this coastline. Completely deserted, wild, pristine. The weather is always changing.

There is a new law in California which prohibits cell phone use while driving, but there is no law against taking photos. Go figure.

Ragged Point Inn, 15 paces in front of Room 29, looking south

Ragged Point Inn, 15 paces in front of Room 29, looking 400' straight down

FastMikie, on the road, somewhere south of Big Sur, 2008