Gold Crown IV
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Strangely, things started out poorly with a loss in the first match, but it was all good news after that and I sailed to the finals against Eric the Brit, whose reputation preceded him as having held the crown at this tournament for 10 weeks straight. No question he was the man to beat. I guess I got lucky because he scratched on the 8 in the first game, and I won the second for the 2-out-of-3 match.
The tournament took place within 12 hours of the New Moon, which is always a good time for me, so I guess I had everything going my way.
I'm on my way home, just pulling in the driveway, when Dr. Mark waves from his pickup truck and follows me down the driveway. It seems he's got a few spare minutes and wants to try his luck at some 8 ball. His timing was inauspicious, of course. He breaks dry, and I run out. He wants to go again, for the World Championship, but it was my day, and he left after going down in flames in two games.
I'm writing this within 90 minutes of both wins, so I'm all jacked up on New Moon Lucky Alpha Geezer moxie juice, and thinking maybe I should try another tournament tonight and see if I can pull a three-peat hat-trick.
Hey, it could happen!
Monday, July 28, 2008
ABSTRACT. Skilled (n = 12) and less skilled (n = 12) billiards
players participated in 2 experiments in which the relationship
between quiet eye duration, expertise, and task complexity was
examined in a near and a far aiming task. Quiet eye was defined as
the final fixation on the target prior to the initiation of movement.
In Experiment 1, skilled performers exhibited longer fixations on
the target (quiet eye) during the preparation phase of the action
than their less skilled counterparts did. Quiet eye duration
increased as a function of shot difficulty and was proportionally
longer on successful than on unsuccessful shots for both groups of
participants. In Experiment 2, participants executed shots under 3
different time-constrained conditions in which quiet eye periods
were experimentally manipulated. Shorter quiet eye periods resulted
in poorer performance, irrespective of participant skill level.
The authors argue that quiet eye duration represents a critical period
for movement programming in the aiming response.
(some people say its 90%, but the difference isn't worth arguing about)
There are no billiards related posts there, yet, but I'm thinking that the mental part of most sports should be relatively similar.
I knew I was going to like this blog when I read agreement with my previous posts that it take 10 years of practice for a novice to become an expert.
I always like it when people agree with me!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
So it was off to Quality Billiards in Santee, CA to get Dave Whitsell to remove some weight from both my break and playing cues. Now the break cue is 18.7 oz. and the playing cue is 19.2 oz. and since they now have no weight bolts at all in the butt, that's as light as they're going to get.
They feel better, but the proof will be in the playing.
While I was at the shop today, I also got one of my spare shafts fitted with an Elk Master tip, which Earl Strickland highly recommended. And not just any Elk Master tip, but only the 20 year old tips which are much different than the current kind. As luck would have it, Dave W. had a few, so now I should be able to stroke like Earl. Right...
Experiments! You might think that after 5 years of serious play I would have figured out what works best, but there are so many choices, I may never settle down to one combination of shaft/tip/weight/cue/etc.
I was feeling particularly blah all morning, and really didn't feel like competing. And it was looking like the car-gods were not going to let me anyway... the car had a dead battery! But Triple A showed up and replaced the battery in half an hour, in plenty of time for me to decide that it would be good practice for me to compete even when I'm not feeling great. After all, tournaments don't happen when they are convenient for ME, so I need to just suck it up and do the best I can.
In my last match, I missed an unbelievably easy shot to get easy position on an easy 8 ball for the win. I guess it was so unbelievably easy that I must have just taken it for granted, and the result of that is predictable: disaster!
Overall, I did play some nice shots, and some nice runs. Isn't that what it's all about, playing well?
Monday, July 21, 2008
It is said that those who can, Do.
And those who can not, Teach.
Tonight I was giving deep thought to
how I might teach the game of pool,
and I got to thinking that
I would teach it as if it were
The Way of the Sword,
as it would have been taught to Samurai warriors.
I would start a student
with a way to approach the table
with respect and full commitment to a plan.
Initially, the student uses only the cue, no balls.
He learns how to approach a shot,
the stance, how to hold the cue,
the open hand bridge,
and practices with these elements
for thousands of strokes.
All before even one ball is placed on the table.
The stroke is the most important thing,
and it can be learned more easily if
the outcome-orientation of pocketing is eliminated
so focus can be on the process of
stroking through the cue ball.
Just when the student gets to the point
where they think they will never advance,
they get their first shot at a cue ball.
The student learns to
stroke the cue ball in the center,
with no regard for speed control,
just focusing on center ball hit,
a smooth easy stroke,
and the basics of stance and bridge.
More thousands of shots like this,
focusing only on mechanics of
center ball hit and smooth stroke,
all building on the previous foundation
of stance, bridge, etc.
The student next learns a modified lag shot,
how to stroke through the cue ball
and move it to the foot rail,
and directly back into the tip of the cue stick.
This gives visual feedback to
prove the true center ball hit,
and teaches speed control.
The first exercise:
Line up 3 balls on the head string,
each one opposite a diamond on the head rail.
Lag each ball downtable and back to the head rail.
One point for each ball within a diamond of the rail.
Do it until you can score 9 points in a row.
Next, same drill, except lag only
from the headstring to the foot rail.
Third drill, to lag 3 lengths,
from headstring to foot rail,
back to the headrail,
and back again to the foot rail.
All results are recorded.
Progress is charted over several weeks.
Next, the basics of side spin (english).
And then high and low hits.
Exercises to hit low and have the ball
stop spinning backwards at various chosen
places on the table.
Exercises to bank with center ball,
then banks with english.
To this point might take several months,
all without an object ball.
This builds a strong foundation in fundamentals.
Eventually, an object ball is introduced.
Short, straight in shots.
Stop, draw, follow and english are learned again
for their effects on the cue and object balls.
Short cuts, aiming, speed control,
use of rails for position...
all with only a cue ball and object ball,
with emphasis on the process, not result,
the stroke being fluid and relaxed.
Lots of video.
Review of videos of the student's own performances,
and review of videos of the great players.
"The Zone is a mighty fine place to be."
She then goes on to give suggestions for ways to prepare for The Zone, to create the conditions for it, to welcome it, etc. I give the book my "Good Stuff" 4-star rating.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
He was shooting fast and too hard, and missed a few shots, which seemed to get him shooting faster, and so it went until I stopped him to ask why he's nervous.
Of course it was because I was watching...
And so began Lesson One.
The game is only a little bit Physical, and a lot Mental.
The Physical game consists almost entirely with what happens when you hit the ball, at what speed, angle, spin, and stroke. Physical also includes equipment, and personal conditioning, the ability to endure long hours of competition and still stay sharp. The Physical game is, at the most, about 20% of what must be learned and perfected for success at a high level. Optimum results can be achieved if we focus on the 80% of the game. Therefore, we never discussed any of the Physical aspects of the game.
The Mental game consists of virtually everything else, including Focus, Concentration, Relaxation, Self Image, Self Talk, Strategy, Rules, Pre-shot routine, match preparation, etc. Here are the Mental things we discussed.
- Relax. Stress causes all sorts of problems, and solves very few. You are either in control, or out of control. Control your physical state and you will perform better. Relax by controlling your breathing, and by slowing down your actions. Walk around the table to help relax. It gives you time to breathe, and pays a dividend of better perspectives on your next shot, and position for the one after it, and the next, etc. Consistent pre-shot routine will help condition your mind, and establish the rhythm which builds confidence.
- Focus. There is no world other than what is on the table, there is never anyone watching, never any TV or other player, or spectators, or any other thing whatsoever. There is only the table, the balls on it, and especially the shot at hand. If some element of your environment breaks into your focus, (pretty girl, spectator talking, obnoxious drunk, TV too loud, etc), then you need to get back into focus before you shoot. If you think that some distraction is bothering you, then you give yourself permission to fail, and you can not win with that attitude. Do not interact with your opponent in any way. Show no emotion, no reaction to either good or bad shots.
- Positive Self Image. When you are playing, you are not a "C" (or whatever) player anymore, you are not "in a slump", you are not "trying to figure out what is wrong". You must become your favorite pro player! Move like that player, chalk like that player. Use the same number of warm-up strokes. When your opponent is shooting, and you are in the chair, then sit in your chair the way your favorite pro player sits in their chair.
- Positive Self Talk. Speak to yourself only in positives. The student du jour missed a cut on a 4-ball, and said to me: "That's the angle I have trouble with, I almost always miss that shot." And of course, when you tell yourself such a thing enough times, and especially before you shoot at it, you are giving yourself permission to miss, permission to lose. So there is only one thing to say to yourself when faced with such a shot: "I love this shot! I love having this opportunity to play better than ever, an opportunity to make the shot, an opportunity to learn..." I reminded him of the words of Henry Ford:"If you think you can, or if you think you can't... you're right!"
- Simplify: 1. Limit cue ball travel. The farther it must go, the more it can go wrong. 2. Don't play for position if you already have it. This is a common costly mistake. 3. Take care of your trouble situations early. (clusters, railshots, loners, etc.). 4. Play 3 balls ahead. So you can set up the right angles.
- Study. This involves assuming the spirit of the Student, and to seek out all possible knowledge which will help your game. This includes learning from teachers, reading, videos, etc.
- Practice. Long hours of focused practice must be done in order to build the eye/hand coordination and muscle memory and to develop a personal style and rhythm and to confirm what is discovered by Study. Practice must consist of drills which test the skills and offer a way to quantify results. Records must be kept to demonstrate improvement. This builds confidence.
- Competition. Only competition provides the opportunity to put it all together. It gives you the reward for Study and Practice. You will learn what truly works, and what doesn't, and what you need to Study and Practice.
- Take notes. A student shows readiness to learn by carrying a pen and paper. It is an affront to the teacher for a student to appear without a pen and paper. Notes must be taken to be sure you remember what you need to Practice. If a student shows up the first time without pen and paper, I will give them a pen and some paper. If they do not take notes, I will tell them what notes to write. If notes are not taken, there will be no further lessons. Likewise, if lessons are not practiced, there will be no further lessons. The reward for the teacher is that the student demonstrates that the lessons are learned. Behavior must be modified for success.
One of my favorite quotes is: The danger of communication is the illusion it has been achieved. It would be easy for a Teacher to think that he has actually taught something, that the student has actually benefited from the teaching. It would be easy for the student to think that he has actually learned something that has been taught. In the great majority of student/teacher situations, both people are under the ILLUSION that the communication has been achieved. The fact is that the great majority of student/teacher situations are a waste of time, because of one simple fact: most students don't do the work needed to benefit from the lesson.In the words of Paramahansa Yogananda: "The results can not be achieved unless the experiment is made." There are very few students who want the result enough to do the work.
Yesterday was another one of those days. M. R. came by the Fun House for some 9 ball, race to 9. I took the first 4 games in a row, then lost focus, started trash talking, and he caught up to tie the match. And he stayed with me when I went to 5 games. It was at this point that I had to bear down hard and shut up with the talking, and get serious. It worked, I took the next 4 games in a row for the win, the final score was 9-5.
I would much rather not keep score, and simply enjoy the beauty of the game. This would encourage taking risks, and risks beget successes, and learning.
For most people, however, keeping score is a way of measuring their success, or failure. They do not want to learn, only win. And if they do not win, they do not want to learn what they can do to win next time. Some people prefer to think they can figure it out on their own, and will prove it next time.
For them, here is a message from Issac Newton:
If I have seen a little farther it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.
Even Newton, one of the greatest minds in history, learned from those who came before him. We are all students, or we learn nothing. Ego must melt before the spirit of the student is revealed.
Friday, July 18, 2008
I had heard about this tournament about 6 months ago, but didn't get around to checking out the event until the day before yesterday. I drove up there to play a few racks on the tables and see what kind of players I might be up against. There were only two tables, smaller than regulation 9-footers, but bigger than barboxes. And they had that nappy cloth. But the room was deserted, so I just hit some balls on both tables to get the speed, and had to leave early because they close at 4 in the afternoon! What is up with that? What do seniors do at 4pm?
The next day (yesterday), I went back for the tournament, which started at noon. This is one of the better tournaments I have ever played. No fee to enter, free lunch, and if you win you get your name on a plaque on the wall and a gift certificate for a free dinner at a local restaurant. No money, no prize for second place, but hey... didn't cost anything to enter either.
When I walk into the place, there's already about a dozen people, all "seniors", shooting pool and watching. Of course, I'm the stranger in this tight group who has been getting together for this event probably since Noah parked his ark at the beach. So there were a few comments about whether I was really old enough to enter, because I had all my own hair, etc. I assured them I could prove my age, and we all kinda laughed it off in good humor.
We got started soon enough, with 19 players in all, which was a lot for this event. Because they absolutely had to finish before 4pm, the solution they developed was to remove 4 balls from the rack, 2 stripes and 2 solids. It's a funny-looking setup... a ten-ball rack with an extra ball on the bottom, center. So we're playing 8-ball with 11 balls. Ok, I'm flexible, I can work with that.
I lost my first match because I knocked the 8 in early, so I was pretty cautious and focused on my next match because I sure didn't want to go 2 and out in my first attempt here. The good news I won all the rest, right up to the finals, which was a best of 3 match with all 15 balls, against Paul E. who I had played earlier in the tournament (I won). But this time he got the best of me, playing some nice pool, and won the tournament. He was real happy about that, as it seemed like he had been trying for a long time and this was his moment in the sun. I'm almost kinda glad that he won it, and I didn't just waltz in to this tight little group of good guys and steal the tournament in my first outing.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The flashback moment happens when we're working on my 9-ball break shot, and of course something doesn't look right about it, so both Johnny and Earl are telling me to do this, do that, do something else, all of which I'm trying and getting better results all the time.
And that's when Earl produces this strangely shaped fabric bag, three sections, but all together they form a rounded triangle about 10 inches long, and weighing about 5 pounds, and he comes at me with this thing and says to me: "Here... stick this in your pants!"
Say what? Excuse me?
I guess any Earl fan knows how he uses weights strapped to his bridge hand and arm, to help keep him down on his shots. Earl is a real inventive guy and doesn't hesitate to try anything that will help his game, no matter how controversial. But what the heck is going on with this thing he wants me to PUT IN MY PANTS? I'm thinking that I would do ALMOST anything to play like Earl, but this may be going to far.
He sees my reluctance, and doesn't give up at all. He shows me how he wants me to hook it over my belt, half in and half out of my pants, in the small of my back. Oh, OK, like that... that's a bit better than I was thinking.
Now, I can't say that I broke any better or worse with that Earl-bag on my butt; I just remember that I probably wasn't going to be wearing that at my next tournament. But you may see Earl wearing it!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
We are dealing with my draw shot, and Earl notices that I'm moving my body when I shoot, and is telling me that I don't need to use a lot of force or power to get a lot of long distance draw, it's all technique he says. I know this, says I... sure I know it's not power, because girls can do it. Allison Fisher can power draw the length of the table, so I know it isn't power. Of course it's technique, but exactly WHAT technique, what am I not doing, what should I be doing?
The basic flaw is that I'm not staying down through the shot, so Earl comes over and stands behind me and holds down my upper stroke arm and tells me to shoot the long draw shot without moving my arm. Then Johnny gets into it and comes over and puts his hand firmly on my head, holding me down.
Are you getting the picture here? I got Johnny Archer and Earl Strickland holding me down while I try to shoot! Can ANYBODY shoot in that situation? Hey, why not just put me in a body cast?
It was just too funny, but at the same time it was totally serious, so I tried to stifle the laughs and just did what they said, and I'll be darned if it didn't work. Not perfect, not even great, but it worked, and it gave me the indication of what I need to do to get the job done. It will take many hours of practice, I'm sure.
There are more flashbacks, and I'll get around to writing about them sooner or later.
It's not every day that I get two of the world's greatest players to hang out at my place and stroke a few, so pardon me if I'm still a bit amazed by it all.
I set the tone of the evening right off the bat. I said right up front that I already knew they we great, so they didn't have to prove it with fancy trick shots. What I wanted was hard core lessons. Watch me shoot for a bit and then tell me where I need to change. I told them to relax, no performance anxiety here, it's not about you guys entertaining me, it's all about me learning what I can in the few hours we had together.
We started off with Johnny and me shooting some straight pool, which he says he really enjoys. He showed it, running a couple of racks on me, and of course I was completely out of stroke after not shooting for the last 10 days, and nervous of course, what with me playing one world champion while another world champion is watching.
Earl noticed that he could help me with my bridge, so we got into that for a while, and then Johnny shows me how to use my new jump stick (Predator Air), which was very interesting because I never jumped a ball before, but Johnny had me doing it in no time flat. Then Earl gets me using his stick to hit some radical english/draw/cut shots which I can not make with my stick, and we start talking cue weights, and tips, and wraps, and taper. And they both worked with me on my draw shot. Oh, I can draw the ball, of course, but my draw fades fast when I get 5 diamonds away from the object ball. They showed me how to deal with that. Next we worked on my break shot. Johnny helped a lot with that.
Do you get the impression that I was getting light speed pool lessons and that I could never learn at such a pace? Well, that's why I had the video camera running the entire time!!
After several hours of trying to absorb the wisdom of pool champions, we took a break and just sat down and talked pool for a while. Just two gods and a wannabe, hanging out. Johnny drinking Mountain Dew and Earl and me drinking water. We talked about the early days, when they were just getting into the game, we talked about some of the mental part of the game, how they prepare for competition, and how they deal with the pressure, and on and on...
And of course the video camera was running the entire time. But it wasn't "in your face" video like you have on TV. The camera was on a tripod across the room, and I operated it with a remote control without a lot of fuss, so it was really like it wasn't even there. But some things came up that they wouldn't want to get out, so of course none of that video will be seen on YouTube unless they approve it first. I promised them that up front, so they would feel completely comfortable with the camera running.
Just before midnight they had to leave, to drive north to Los Angeles to get some shut-eye before their next tour stop, so I asked them one final favor: to show me their favorite shot, but not a trick shot... a shot that comes up in competition, a shot they are faced with that is real tough, but for some reason they just smile because they love the shot, the action, the challenge. And, of course, the video camera got it all.
I guess I'll be doing some video editing for a while.
I walked them to their car, and realized that I didn't take any photos, but it really didn't matter. I don't need my ugly mug messing up a photo of Johnny and Earl just to impress others. I would prefer if what I learned from them could find its way into my stroke and my game, and some day, after pulling of some incredible tournament-winning shot, I could simply say: "Johnny showed me that." or "I leaned that from Earl." That's good enough for me.
What impressed me the most about the entire evening is that both of them were real easy going people, helpful, polite, and considerate. Yes, both of them. They get along real good with each other, and they gave me their full attention. And when you consider that they had just put in a full 8 hours teaching 2 different classes of pool students at a pool hall in town, well, I guess that's a real tribute to them both.
Wow, what a night!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
It was good to take a break. And it's good to be back.
Monday, July 14, 2008
1. Pool players in general "like to watch" rather than read.
2. There is a high degree of functional illiteracy among pool players. (?)
3. My writing sucks.
4. Pool players are lazy. ("A picture is worth a thousand words.")
5. All of the above.
I would agree with #3, when I'm in a humble mood (rarely), but I get enough positive feedback via email and my guestbook to keep me un-humble most of the time. I have always suspected that I am among the very limited number of people who actually read anything about pool, and an even fewer number of people who spend money to buy books about pool.
(check out the FastMikie Billiards Library)
If my hypothesis is correct, I'll have little negative feedback about suggesting that many pool players are functional illiterates simply because they will never read this! That sort of reminds me of the thought that the Clairvoyants Association never has to notify their members of the time and place of their meetings. Think about that... I'll wait...
And such is the delusion of writers in general: thinking that someone will actually read what they write. I can not find the source, but I have heard that the percentage of books actually read in their entirety is tiny compared to the total of books sold, which again is a fraction of the books published.
Why do writers write, especially if what they write is seldom, if ever, read? I have no idea about those other poor souls, but I have addressed this burning issue in this post. The short story is that I get value out of it even if nobody reads it. So if you are not reading this, then I'm not the slightest bit bummed, but if you are reading this, then I'd seriously enjoy hearing from you if you have any thought to share about how to improve this blog, or the videos.
If you are one of those who prefer to watch, you can subscribe to my YouTube videos, if you haven't already. Click here, and then click the big yellow button when you get there. As of this writing, there are exactly 70 videos I have contributed to humanity, almost all of them pool related. And a few oceanfront related. Enjoy!
Saturday, July 12, 2008
It's called a "Wordle". You feed it a bunch of text from your website, and it grinds away and comes up with your own personal wordle, based on the frequency distribution of the words in the text. Simple, right?
What you see above is what I got from feeding it a bunch of text from my main website, and this blog. Once again, proving that there's more to life than pool.
What's in your wordle?
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
After watching my all-time favorite movie "Out of Africa" again, a few nights ago, I was reminded that I've been spending too much time indoors, and I need to get out more. Preferably, more time on the beach, doing some freestyle Frisbee.
Pool is cool, but Frisbee is the best. For starters, there is no score keeping, it's just pure art-form, pure play. Additionally, it's better exercise, more aerobic, and you get fresh air and sunshine. Finally, consider these immortal words: "When a ball dreams, it dreams it is a Frisbee."
Unfortunately, my style of frisbee requires a beach, and daylight hours, and a little bit of wind is good, and somebody to throw it back... all of which makes pool a lot more convenient. So when given a choice, I'll take BOTH!
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
It involves stroking the cue ball to go between a gate only two ball-widths apart, three times, as shown in the video.
The first several times I tried this drill, I was having no success at all, even though in PAT Level 1, the drill only requires two passes through the gate, and I had no trouble with that. It appeared that the extra speed required by PAT Level 2 was severely testing my stroke.
About that time, I heard about the LaserStroke product. It's a miniature laser beam which slides over your cue shaft and reveals just how straight your stroke really is! I decided to check it out, and, in a word: "Wow!" I could not believe how wobbly my stroke really was. I couldn't keep that laser still while stroking, at first, but after a couple of sessions with this device, I got much better at it. And my performance in the drill is much improved.
It's a real-time bio-feedback device for pool shooters!
I showed it to a couple of other players, and they were also very impressed. You will be too. It's utterly simple to use, reasonably priced, and there's nothing else like it that I've seen. It's so small it will fit easily in your cue case.
Check it out: LaserStroke.com
We started off with some 9-ball, which I won 7-2.
And we finished with some straight pool, which I won 100-39.
I was shooting pretty good straight pool, but I can do better. I'm working my way up to a 50-ball run. I can feel it...
Friday, July 04, 2008
Click below for the new
Playing Ability Spreadsheets - all levels
You will notice that these new ones are much simplified with less visual clutter from columns which are of no interest to the user, but which show factors and intermediate calculations, etc. These rows are really "hidden" and (if you like the clutter) can be unhidden by simply highlighting all columns, right clicking and then clicking on "un-hide".
Another feature allows you to set a "threshold" below which your drill performances will be highlited. (see column R for this factor).
Additionally, I have added links to YouTube videos which show the drills which I have recorded.
Again, please let me know if you have any trouble or suggestions.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Here's PART ONE of two clips of some more straight pool practice, this time a run of 24. It starts with a somewhat broken rack after a failed break shot. This was a struggle, but there are some decent shots needed to compensate for my less than perfect position plays.
At 4:20 in the first rack I pulled a nice round the table shot for position on a secondary break of the rack. I didn't want to shoot the 10 ball because I wanted to keep that for my break shot for the next rack.
Here's part two: