Gold Crown IV

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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Win a $5000 Game Room

Check out this press release:

Media Contact:
Laura Bruskin
212.337.4047 /



New York – December 29, 2009 – It’s time to dust off those pool sticks and pick up the video camera because Sears is awarding $5,000 in Game Room equipment to one lucky pool player, or creative videographer! Beginning today, Sears and Jeanette Lee, the Black Widow, are launching the Hit Us With Your Best Shot billiards contest. Found at, the contest will award one tricky pool player with a $5,000 Sears game room makeover. Five runner-up prizes of $100 Sears’ gift cards will also be awarded.

To enter, contestants must submit a short video of their best billiard shot to; something to rival the killer moves of the Black Widow herself. Submissions will be judged on accuracy, originality and technique, as well as via a public voting forum. Only U.S. residents 18 and older are eligible and there is no purchase necessary. Void where prohibited.

Video submissions will be accepted between December 24, 2009 and January 17, 2010. After entries have been collected, the public will be given the opportunity to vote for their favorite guru of pool; Voters will also be entered to win a $25 Sears gift card.

“We are thrilled to have Jeannette onboard for this program,” Hugo Malan, SVP and President, Fitness and Sporting Goods of Sears Holdings. “We know our customers are some of the best pool players around, and we’re excited to see them in action and to give them the opportunity to put their skills to the test, in front of arguably the best pool player in the country!”

For more information on Hit Us With Your Best Shot, and a full list of rules and regulations, please visit

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Play vs. Work

Dan stopped by yesterday, an unplanned visit, to shoot some pool.  It has been several months since our last session on the table, and with his taking on a new job and me out of competition this year, we were both somewhat out of stroke.  However, every time we get together, we both compete fiercely because we both want to win, so it's always a good match.

This time, however, I decided up front to just relax and have fun.  Sure, I wanted to win, but since I had not practiced at all recently, there was no expectation of winning.  

In fact, just two days before, a couple of friends stopped by for some 3 player cut-throat pool, and again, it was just pure fun, not at all serious, and I played very well, winning almost every game.  So it was with this precedent that yesterday I just dropped the whole idea of competition in favor of pure play.

An interesting thing happened:  I learned a few things that I almost certainly would not have learned if I was in serious competition!  We played a game of straight pool to 100 points, and normally we both play very tight, with lots of safeties, but this time, with no requirement to win, I played a lot more loosely, and took several break shots that involved multi-ball carom/combinations buried in the rack.  A couple of shots didn't score, but some produced spectacular results.  

These sorts of shots appear often in straight pool, and you'll never know if they will go unless you take them.  Some of these shots are marginal, or so outrageous that any smart competitor will choose to play safe rather than take a chance of opening the rack for the opponent.

So, in a way, serious competition can keep you from trying these shots, and learning more about what makes them work (or not).  Sometimes, only pure play can teach us important lessons.  Advice of the day:  lighten up, go play, and learn something new!

Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do.
Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.
Mark Twain

Man is most nearly himself
when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.

The true object of all human life is play.
Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.
CK Chesterton

We don't stop playing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop playing.
George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pool Synergy Index


A monthly collection of articles, all by different authors,
and all with different takes on the same theme.
The theme changes each month.

Click the date for a list of authors and summary of their article.

11 articles
Theme: an interesting pool related story that either happened to you or 
that you heard of that inspired you in some way, e.g. a moral to the story.

9 articles

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What I Learned From My Father the Grifter

No, not MY father (he was a car salesman, and one of the good ones).
"What I Learned From My Father the Grifter" is the title of a story in Men's Journal about a gambler/grifter/pool hustler which continues the legend of pool players as the evil underbelly of society.

Read it at 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Breathing, rhythm, consistency, control


Breathe in.
Breathe out.


Notice how your body and your mind relax when you breathe out.
This is good.
A relaxed body is healthy.
A relaxed mind is clear, unworried, free of stress.

Learning breath control is one of the most important things you can do to improve your pool game, and your life in general.  I learned this when I was learning and practicing yoga every day over a period of years.  In yoga, breath control is essential to build strength and flexibility.  With this background in yoga, I started to learn pool, and it was surprising to me that there was virtually nothing written about how breath control is integrated into the sport.   So I had to experiment on my own.  Soon I discovered that it is best for me to start releasing my breath just prior to releasing my stroke, and in such a way as to still be releasing that same breath after the stroke is finished.

I also learned the importance of the pre-shot routine and I made breathing a definite part of the pre-shot routine, coupled closely with walking around the table as a way to relax, get into a rhythm, see more options, line up the shot more effectively, and add consistency to my game.  This was one of the secrets that El Maestro Tony Sorto mentioned over and over: rhythm.  Unfortunately, in the early days of my pool education, I had no idea what he was talking about when he mentioned rhythm... I just wanted to put the ball in the pocket.  I was completely unconscious of the finer points of the game.  Rhythm is created by our breathing, and our movements.  It starts with breathing.

I discovered over time that rhythm is the visual music which is evident when a player's movements are consistent from one shot to the next.  Rhythm is revealed in how quickly or slowly the player moves, how he carries his body, facial expressions, how he sits while waiting for a shot, etc.

For players with the best rhythm (in my humble opinion), I suggest you study Allison Fisher and Ralf Souquet.  You will notice that they are in total control, starting with their breathing, their emotions, their moves, their strokes, their game.  Carefully study their behavior when they are not shooting and you will see that they are in such total control that it is almost inconceivable that they would miss a shot.  

These are the best examples I can think of to study the effectiveness of consistent control of breathing as a method for emotional and physical control through rhythm.

Pool Synergy, What is YOUR Pool Story?

This article is the 2nd in a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers entitled "PoolSynergy" .
To see others, go to:

Assignment: Write an "interesting pool related story that either happened to you or that you heard of that inspired you in some way, e.g. a moral to the story".
Deadline: December 10, 2009, 10AM

I have already published hundreds of pool stories, many without any moral and/or interesting content, so to save the reader a lot of time, I then summarized the better stories into a book called "Invincible". It's free. Click the link. So I'm done. End of FastMikie stories.

Instead, let's talk about you and your pool story.

You have almost certainly heard that we are all the masters of our fate, that we can achieve whatever we passionately pursue. It's interesting to me that if this is true, then why do so many people do so little with their lives? The answer, in many cases, is that we have difficulty truly believing that we can do anything we commit to. It's an overwhelming thought. And even if we might be able to accomplish something extraordinary, how do we do it? Did you ever take a course titled "How to get whatever you want"? Me neither. But, over time, and with a lot of study and trial and error, I was able to figure it out. And that's when it really got interesting for me because I started to simplify my System for Success, and prove it in the pursuit of my goals, and now it is second nature to me.

You can do it too. Your story of pool, and the story of your life in general, when you look back on it from some future date, can be anything you imagine it to be, if you follow a simple procedure: Think - Plan - Do - Repeat. I have written about this and put the basics into a Quick Start Guide which you can download here.

In last month's Pool Synergy article, I promised to discuss Your Plan for Excellence in Pool. Without a Plan, your life will be ruled by Random Events, so your personal pool story has almost zero chance to turn out the way you want. A plan is essential. It is the road map for how you get where you want to be, starting where you are right now.

A plan is given enormous power if it is written down and reviewed frequently, and updated with what you have learned along the way. Even more power is generated if it is revealed to other people who can help you. There is an old saying that if you fail to plan, you are in essence planning to fail. So there is really no alternative if you truly want to achieve anything worth while. You must have a plan.

Start now. Pick up a pen and start to write your Plan for Excellence in Pool. What should it look like? Amazingly, it really doesn't matter what your plan looks like in the beginning because one of the secrets to success is that any plan is better than no plan. Part of the planning process is that you will continue to update your plan as you progress toward your goals. Your plan will continue to get better. The most important thing is to start. To get you started, consider these words, which are the most powerful I have ever read because they reveal how you can use the laws of the universe in your favor:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which
kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one
that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents
and meetings and material assistance, which no man
could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has Genius, Power and Magic in it.

Begin it now!

and here's another famous quote:

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,
and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,
he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary;
new, universal, and more liberal laws
will begin to establish themselves around and within him;
or old laws will be expanded and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense,
and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.

To me, these are beautiful thoughts, to "live with the license of a higher order of beings"? It is a promise made to us by some of the greatest minds our world has ever known. A promise to each of us, all equal in our abilities to imagine a future of our own desires. All we need to do is take that next step, and keep on taking one step at a time, until we have achieved our dreams. Planned steps, of course.

To get you started, check out my Plan for Excellence in Pool, 2008 and 2007. This will give you a framework you can use to customize your own plan.

Begin it Now!

This article is the first of a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers entitled "PoolSynergy" . This first month's theme is STRATEGY. To see others, go to:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pool Synergy, Strategy: The Impossible Dream

This article is the first of a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers entitled "PoolSynergy" . This first month's theme is STRATEGY. To see others, go to:

The Impossible Dream

Every day many people have their first experience with pool. Some of them become fascinated with the movements, the colors, the possibilities, the challenge. Soon they find ways to play more, to learn the fundamentals, and to improve rapidly. They find it very gratifying to become good at something new and to earn the acclaim and respect of their peers.

Many of these people dream of some day mastering the game at a very high level. Unfortunately, there are very few true masters of pool. Of the millions who are introduced to pool each year, the vast majority, probably 98% of them, will remain throughout their lives with only the most rudimentary skills. Of the 2% whose skills improve beyond mediocrity, the very great majority of them, probably 99% of them, will still fall far short of becoming an acknowledged Master.

The reason why there are so few players with skills at the highest levels is certainly not due to the lack of knowledge. Today, there is a dazzling array of resources for the passionate player to learn. There are teachers, books, videos, training devices, drills, and competitions so numerous that anyone will find their efforts at learning richly rewarded. And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the heart of the matter -- effort.

It is easy to dream great thoughts. But it's doing the work that makes all the difference. And the secret ingredient in doing the work is perseverance. One must continue to do the work over a long period of time. Ten years is the generally accepted amount of time it takes for anyone to become a master at any chosen endeavor, anything from brain surgery to billiards. Ten years of full focus and dedicated work. For a pool player that means hitting about a million balls. Maybe you could do it in only half a million, but don't count on it.

The sad fact is that people are lazy to begin with, and over time their priorities change, they become discouraged, they lose interest, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt intrude. Life Happens. This eliminates all but the most passionate and dedicated, and even then it takes some luck along the way. Luck is always lurking in the background, and you never really know which way it will take you. But luck aside, it's really all about doing the work.

And, of course, doing the work intelligently makes all the difference. For example: one aspiring player may work 12 hours a day hitting balls to improve skills and never advance to master level, while another player may work half that, but do it in a way that builds skills rapidly to master level, possibly taking as much as 2 or 3 years off the path to mastery.

In fact, there exists a generalized methodology for becoming successful at almost any endeavor. I have for many years studied and continuously developed a System for Success which I have applied to several "adventures" in my life, from business, to aviation, to billiards, yoga, and others. Now, fully retired, I give back by mentoring several business Protégés in this System. It is my intention to share this System, and how it can be applied to mastery of pool, in easy to read and understand articles in these blogs.

However, I must give fair warning. It is highly unlikely that you will ever ascend to the level of master of pool simply because you will not persevere. The odds against anyone reading this and applying the principles of the System for Success, and staying with it, are astronomical. And yet, I write these words, with the hope that, given enough time, someone may discover them, and apply the lessons, and persist until they succeed.

So my first bit of advice is to forget about it. Choose some endeavor that has a higher payoff, or don't even bother with trying to master anything. The odds are so against it. Instead, live life fully, get some sunshine on your face, breathe fresh air, find opportunities for random acts of kindness, allow your inner peace to blossom. Do this before you attempt to master pool and you will at least be happy and healthy. Which is the higher goal, to become successful at pool, or at Life?

However, if you are so driven, so obsessed, and so committed to mastering the fine art of billiards, then the best strategy you can have is to read everything you can, intently watch a zillion pool videos (lessons and competitions), take lessons from a master, practice until your fingers bleed, compete against better players every chance you get, and stay with it for years, and years, and years.

Next month: Your Plan for Excellence in Pool.


A definition of Success:

To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...
to leave the world a better place...
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

On the essential nature of Persistence:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve
the problems of the human race”

(Calvin Coolidge)

Further reading on these topics:

Quotes on Perseverance, and Persistence and Success.

Generalized System for Success: Think - Plan - Do - Repeat

This article is the first of a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers entitled "PoolSynergy" . This first month's theme is STRATEGY. To see others, go to:


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mika Immonen: “Mercy is a Disease”

What a beautiful concept!  ("Mercy is a Disease").

This morning I read about Mika's quote in the blog Pool Cue News and Review.
And then I Googled the phrase and found that there was only one link to that exact phrase being used in that context, and it was in the London Evening Standard (today!) with a good story about Mika and how he doesn't get into much idle chit-chat.  

I really appreciate a person who can get a major thought out in as few words as possible, something I always try to do, but seldom achieve.  Click the two links above and read more on this winning mind-set.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Easy Street Billiards For Sale

Check out the website for Easy Street Billiards at

Nice place, eh?  Man, I wish I lived in Monterey, CA so I could hang out there all day long.  Wouldn't it be great to own the place and make a few bucks, hopefully, and shoot pool on nice tables with mellow customers?

If you see yourself owning this place, call Michael Stansbury, owner, at 831-521-4442, and tell him Ricky Bryant told FastMikie about it.

Only $125,000 from what I understand, including tables, furniture, the works, free and clear.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

New tournament at Blarney Stone

Starting tonight, a new tournament on Friday nights.  Check out the details below:

The Blarney Stone Pub
9-Ball, double elimination, 8pm. 
Race to 2. $6 entry fee, bar adds $2.50 or more per player. 
Pays 1-4th & top women. When full board will pay 6 places.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Video experiment using iPhone

A 360-degree tour of the billiard room at FastMikie's Fun House, while standing at the foot of the table.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Loo Door at FastMikie's Fun House

I have been wanting to do a new door to the loo, and give it a billiards theme. It has taken a few years to get around to it, but here's the final product. They will be lined up around the block just to pee and peek at this wonderful work of art.

The stained glass work was designed and fabricated into an extraordinary work of art by Don Myers Stained Glass in Oceanside, CA. The door is solid cherry with brass hinges and handles, and was custom designed, built and installed by Roberto Mendez of MZ3D in San Diego, CA. I strongly recommend both of these excellent artists.

I think this completes the Fun House for now. I am quite satisfied that my work of the past 6 years is good enough to allow me to focus on my new project, and my new home away from home, the Airstream.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Joy of Not Practicing

It has been several weeks during which I have not practiced at all. Haven't even picked up a cue for at least 10 days at a time, and when I did get around to hitting a few balls, it was really very good.

Tonight, for example. I started out stroking poorly, awkwardly, until soon enough the good feeling came back and I began stroking very nicely and doing things with the cue ball which were creative, and yet natural. And sometimes, outrageously precise.

Pure fun! I was not playing pool with the concept that I was working to get better, to improve my skill so that I would be able to compete and win. It wasn't even a thought in my head, except to notice that I was NOT thinking that way, and that was a major part of my thinking for the last 6 years. It was very liberating.

Truth and Beauty, at last!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What's next...

It has been said "When one door closes, another one opens."
Well, I'm not so sure that's true in every case, and my pool door has certainly not closed entirely (just played for 4 hours yesterday), but since I have cut out tournaments and the focused practice needed for tournament play, there's a lot more time to do some of the things I have been wanting to do for a long time. So here's just one of the new things in my life:

Welcome to The Adventures of Airstream Mikie!

Pool has kept me inside too long. Fresh air and sunshine and moderate exercise is important for human beings (so I'm told), and this is one way of getting out more often. The Corvette convertible is going to be sold because I have only one parking spot for the Airstream hauler, a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. The Airstream is a new (2009) Sport 17 model, the least expensive of all the Airstreams, and is just barely the smallest (the "Bambi" is smaller by about 8 inches, but lots more expensive).

OK, so now I'm all geared up and ready to hit the road. Where to? Well if you click on the link above, you can read all about it, but the short answer is The Beach. Or, better, ALL the beaches on the west coast of North America, from Cabo San Lucas to Anchorage. Not all in one trip, but over time. Lots of time. You can't be in any rush when you're hauling a ton and a half of tin behind you.

And, yes, I will be taking my cue case with me, and will be shooting pool every chance I get. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mosconi Exhibition Shots

This next shot just popped up on YouTube, courtesy of "Mosconi526" who says he saw it in a video of one of Willie Mosconi's exhibitions. What a great opening shot for straight pool, but I'm wondering if anyone ever tried this in a serious competition. In any case, it sure is spectacular!

This next shot, also courtesy of "Mosconi526" is another Mosconi exhibition shot which requires an extraordinary stroke to perform. WOW!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Giving new meaning to shooting "lights out"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thanks for the memories...

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 05, 2009

Pool Wars

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I like playing with my old balls

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Anyone want to play some straight pool?  Please?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thinking Body, Dancing Mind

Monica Webb read this book and recently won back to back WPBA pro pool tournaments, her first wins in 10 years of trying. I'm thinking that maybe something in this book might have been a key in her success.

Thinking Body, Dancing Mind: 

Taosports for Extraordinary Performance 

in Athletics, Business, and Life

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Super Aramith TV Pro-Cup balls

After 5 years of beating up my set of Brunswick Centennial balls, I splurged on a new set of Super Aramith TV Pro-Cup balls. The first thing I did was weigh each ball, twice, right after unpacking, so there would be no chalk or other schmutz on them to interfere with accuracy. Here are the results:

Weights (using digital scale):

One ball is 168 grams
Eleven balls are 169 grams each (includes the "measle" cue ball)
Four balls are 170 grams each

Yo, Aramith! We can put a man on the moon (so I'm told), but can't make billiard balls of consistent weight? What's up with that?

The best bridge?

A Facebook friend from a land far away asked my thoughts on Larry Keller's Pro Justa-Bridge, so I figured I'd share it here:

About a year ago, I bought one of these Pro Justa-Bridges and like it a lot. However, some guest players who have never used one would get freaked-out with it and ask if I had a "normal" bridge that they are used to.

One disadvantage is that they are not flat, and it is difficult to fit it in a typically crowded cue case, but that's not that big a deal as you'll be carrying other stuff that won't fit in a cue case.

The final analysis: Excellent product, well built and well designed.

I got mine at (click here for price/info/buy)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Video experiments - Shooter's Point of View

I got to fiddling with my new micro-sized Flip Hi-Def video camera and it struck me that I might be able to rig it so that I could do videos of some of my practice routines, from the point of view of the shooter (me). I think I have never seen such videos, so I decided to experiment with the idea.

When I get to inventing, the first thing I do is a prototype. It's not supposed to be be flawless, or elegant, just a proof-of-concept. The guidelines are simplicity, modular, easy to assemble/disassemble, and using materials at hand. This prototype was very simple and I was so proud that I didn't resort to duct tape! It included a baseball cap, the camera attached to a Gorilla tripod, and a necktie to hold the camera/tripod onto the hat. That's all. I was happy that it didn't feel overly heavy and didn't seem to bother me when shooting. Although the setup was totally idiotic looking, I wasn't trying to make a fashion statement

Two things need to be changed:
1. The focal length of the camera lens didn't give the right sight picture. It needs to be more wide-angle.
2. The camera would be more properly mounted closer to eye level.

One interesting benefit that I didn't expect: When you play back the video you can very clearly see when you moved during the shot.

I'll post a short POV video, soon, if I can get over a persistent case of laziness.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Fresh Balls are happy, perky balls!

When I got to playing some carom with those 3 fresh balls, I noticed that the behavior seemed different, and I couldn't quite figure it out.

One thing that was throwing me off was that I was using mis-matched balls. The red and yellow are from a set designed for European 8-ball, which are about 4 grams lighter than the measle cue ball. The hit sounded wrong, so I replaced the measle cue ball with the cue ball that comes with the set of mustard & ketchup balls.

Wow! The lighter cue ball really makes a big difference in how far I can draw the ball. Now I want to use it all the time!

Another observation: This set of balls was virtually brand new although I have had them for a couple of years. I think I had never used the cue ball that came with the set. A brand new set of balls plays real nice. Fresh balls are happy, perky balls!

Monday, May 04, 2009

3 Cushion!

A funny thing happened today. Not funny ha-ha, funny strange.
I was hitting some balls, experimenting with cuts, and I drifted into focusing on position, and then the position I was aiming at was another object ball, and all of a sudden I was playing 3 cushion billiards and it was fun, so I broke out a fresh measle cue ball, and a fresh red and a fresh yellow, just to make it look more like 3-cushion.

Then it hit me: this is the first time I ever actually shot 3-cushion billiards. And it surprised me that in the last five-plus years of pool, there has been no carom and no snooker, even though I have always wanted to shoot some carom.

I can't even think of where there might be a carom table in San Diego. There was one table at Family Billiards in Oceanside, but they just closed.

First thing I noticed is that carom billiards requires more brain power. It's a rare thing in pocket billiards that you have to hit 3 cushions for shape, but in carom it's every shot. And the more complex shots require more skill with a cue. I'm impressed, totally.

I did make two points in probably twenty tries, but those two points seemed to give more pleasure, more outright satisfaction, than if I ran 20 into pockets.

Other observations: the first object ball seems to come into play when least expected, such as double hits, or when playing on a pool table, falling into a pocket, and while on the subject of pockets, I found myself not being able to shoot a few shots because the pockets were in the way. Also, the larger balls used in carom would take more english and travel farther with a given stroke, so it seems that would contribute to a more pleasurable experience.

Someday, when I can afford a large house on the oceanfront, I will be sure to have room for a carom table, a snooker table, and a pool table.

And a ping pong table. Oh yeah!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Another one bites the dust - Family Billiards, Oceanside

After 18 years in business, Family Billiards Center in Oceanside has sold all the stuff and closed the doors for good, just this past Wednesday.

This was where I first won money in a pool tournament. I got 30 bucks for third place, the first time I entered the tournament. I was a "C" player then, in May 2004. Good times! Click here for the story.

And, I also won that tournament, in February 2006, as an "A" player, a few weeks after David Nakano told me I was no "A" player. Click here for the story.

I'm sure they held on as long as possible, but increased rent finally did the place in.

Good luck, Buddy (the owner). Thanks for the memories!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nick Varner shows me some Straight Pool

Imagine what you could learn about straight pool by having Hall of Fame pro Nick Varner coaching you on each shot, explaining patterns and strategy and shot-making...

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to have that fantasy become reality, right at home on my own table, and even got it on video, in 3 parts, for a total of only 29 balls run. When my run come to a close with a safety, Johnny Archer spots a kick into a 5-ball combination for a break, and continues his run to 120 balls. That big run is on another set of videos. These three clips are Varner coaching me.

This was all completely unplanned. The original intention was to play some straight pool to see how high a run the three of us could put together with me playing every other shot (Johnny, me, Nick, me, Johnny, me, etc). With both of them coaching me on every shot, I figured I'd learn a lot. We were going along pretty good and then Nick misses a dinky shot ("I forgot to aim!") and the table looks so good, and I've been getting impatient to hit more than one ball in a row, so I change the rules and want to run solo, whereupon Nick coaches along with some input from Johnny.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Johnny Archer runs 120 at FastMikie's Fun House

Nick Varner calls the action while Johnny Archer runs 120 balls.

This video starts off with Nick Varner coaching me through my last rack, where I get myself in trouble and play safe. That's when Johnny Archer spots a kick to a 5 ball combination for a break shot and proceeds to run out the rack (12 balls) and keeps on going for a total run of 120 balls.

What is exceptional about this run is that Johnny does it despite all sorts of distractions, interruptions and while carrying on conversations about the shots and the strategy as he goes.

There is a lot that can be learned from these videos!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Johnny Archer and Nick Varner at FastMikie's Fun House!

World pool champions Johnny Archer and Nick Varner
gave me private lessons for the last 3 hours.

Archer ran 120 in straight pool.

I got it on HD video!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Miscellaneous Catching up

Maybe I'm too busy with facebook to do a better job of reporting, but in the interests of completeness and transparency (which seems to be a new buzz word), there are a few random bits for the record.

1. In the first of the recent three tournament wins in a row, the worthy opponent was a guy I had never seen before, John H. In the finals, for the last game, I broke and ran out. He never got out of his chair. Bummer way to lose, but a great way to win. So to see what he had going for him I invited him over to shoot some pool at the Fun House, and he chose 9-ball. I don't remember the score, dammit, and that's why I should be writing this stuff down as it happens. Maybe I'll do an iPhone app for keeping scores... In any case, I do remember that I played pretty good and won convincingly. He's a good dude. Into radio controlled airplanes.

2. In the second of the recent three tournament wins in a row... there ya go again... I can't remember the details, so if you were in the finals of that 8 ball tournament a couple of weeks ago, and you want me to mention your name here, as the guy who came in second, just let me know. Maybe I'll remember later, and maybe I'll remember that I forgot it, and maybe I'll come back here and write it here, and nobody will ever know because nobody reads this stuff anyway.

3. In the last, most recent of the 3 wins in a row, the big Quarterly Tournament, which gets my name on the plaque on the wall, thereby granting me immortality in some very small degree... the worthy opponent was "Ball in Hand" Benny. He is a lot of fun. When he makes a great shot, and when he misses, he says "I love this game!". Gotta like a guy like that. Anyway, I played good, and so did he, but I won.

4. When Samm was in town, we played some pool here at the Fun House. In 9 ball, and she won 9-5 and we played some straight pool and I won 50-27. She was using the ICEBREAKER break cue and getting some great action with it. My break was not working at all.

5. Samm Diep and I played in the Hard Times tournament up in Los Angeles, and we both did the 0-2 barbecue. I could not get motivated, and I was not pleased with my performance. Objectively, I should be able to win against both of those players. But not this Sunday.

6. Mike R. called me out on my facebook page, so I messaged back "Bring it on..." and the match took place at time that couldn't have been more poorly chosen, and amazingly, I'm the one that chose the time! How did I get to be this old and still be an idiot? Maybe I was being efficient by trying to schedule lots of things to happen all on the same day, so I can have the other days all to myself (which is what we hermits do), but I wound up scheduling a pool match...

a) immediately after a lunch appointment with one of my favorite female friends, so this guarantees that my mind will be completely unfocused on pool. Usually I will clear my entire day leading up to a tournament. More time for preparation.

b) at the same time when my assistant Carol would be here working. Her cooking is always a distraction in a very good way, but not if I need to be shooting some serious pool. Since it was her last day before her vacation, there were extra details to be dealt with, and of course this did not help my focus.

c) at the same time as I had scheduled a plumber to do some maintenance. Isn't that the most bone-headed thing to deal with during a pool match? It seemed that every 10 minutes the plumber would be missing a part, need to make a call, needed to ask a question, or just wanted to watch a few shots!

What was I thinking to have scheduled this perfect storm of madness? Needless to say, and as much as I choke on the saying of it, and in the spirit of full disclosure, transparency, and such, and as I agreed that I would so do, I am giving the score of the match in the smallest of font sizes because I refuse to admit it into my reality, so here: (9-ball, 7-5, 7-3) Didn't see that? Well try highlighting that area with your cursor... In any case, I do have to admit that he was breaking well and getting plenty of opportunities for early outs with combinations. It seemed that all I could think of was how stupid I am for scheduling this match for such conditions.

It occurred to me that a wise man would have chosen a more appropriate time for combat, and then it hit me... these are the words of Sun Tzu in his classic "The Art of War":

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all ranks.
He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

Italics in the above are mine, to indicate where I screwed up. Maybe I'll remember next time.

7. The $20 gift certificate for pizza which I won in the last tournament (I would have preferred a trophy), I intended to use to treat the guys in that tournament. When I called to order a couple of large pizzas, it was $37. What the heck. Hope they enjoyed it.