Gold Crown IV

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What matters...

It matters not whether you win or lose;

what matters is whether I win or lose.*

What is it about Winning?

We downplay winning in all cases except when WE are the Winner. We tell ourselves that it's really all about how well we play the game. We offer up all sorts of excuses for winning that invalidate the win, such as Luck (lucky roll, lucky draw...), just as we excuse ourselves for losing; and thereby negate the importance of competition completely.

In fact, we say that competition is essential in order to improve. And of course, competition is all about Winning and Losing. The loop of madness continues.

I like how we even create special rewards for Not Winning, such as Rookie of the Year, Sportsmanship Award, Miss Congeniality, Hall of Fame, Lifetime Achievement Award, and one of the cruelest: Finalist.

All of this philosophy comes during the celebration of Darwin's contribution to the theory of evolution and the survival of the fittest, natural selection. And this is even more support for the essential nature of competition, essential to the survival of the human species! Competition has been built into our DNA, it is our life force, it keeps us moving forward.

We can tell ourselves all we want that it is all about how well we play, but when a man approaches the table with cue in hand, he is on a mission of domination, or he is meat.

I must compete.
Competition is meaningless.
Therefore my life is meaningless.

All right, now that I have all that sorted out, I can get back to practicing those IPAT drills.

I have been looking forward to restarting these drills because it is a form of Competition but without all the accoutrements of competition, such as the inconvenient opponents, bad food, filthy toilets, bad equipment... I could go on and on, but why drag this party down any more than I have so far. Suffice it to say that the IPAT drills have all of the chewy goodness of competition without all the stick-in-your-teeth nastiness of competition.

*these words are attributed to a
Darin Weinberg.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

IPAT - The New Playing Ability Test

The name IPAT could be mistaken for one of many products made for the iPhone, but no! It's the new name for what used to be simply PAT, which in turn is the acronym for Playing Ability Test (for pool). I think PAT was designed for the European market and IPAT is the product for the USA. It's all the same, as far as I know right now.

We don't know why they changed the name, but we do know it's THE BEST test for pool playing ability that I have yet seen. Last spring and summer I was very focused on practicing with the PAT drills.

What makes these drills so effective is when you actually keep score the way they suggest so that you can measure your progress over time. There is nothing else out there that covers such a wide variety of shots, and such a wide variety of skill levels, from rank beginner to world class tour player. This allows you to
see not just your own progress but also how you rate against other players all over the world, shooters who you would never be able to play in person!

While I was using the PAT tests I noticed one severe flaw in the entire system was the need to do a lot of arithmetic to figure the scores. And that leads to a lot of simple mistakes, which gives scores that are wrong, and it's just not FUN to do all that number crunching.

So, being the compulsive inventor that I am, and a giver, I wrote an Excel spreadsheet to make it dirt simple. No arithmetic at all. Just enter the number of shots made for each drill, and my spreadsheet takes care of all the rest.

Problem solved, right?

Not so fast, FastMikie!

Now, out of nowhere, there's this IPAT which seems to be a minor repackaging of the PAT product. Thorsten Hohman, the world champion, does the shots in the drills on the videos included with the product. I bought my copies of the PAT from him, on his eBay store. He told me that the product would be repackaged for the USA market.

Here's the new website for iPAT:

Check it out. I'll be doing a lot more posts and videos about this great product in the future as I explore the differences and the drills and the improvements it brings to my game.

Monday, February 16, 2009 contest for February

I'm not at all happy with this runout, but I sent it in to anyway, just so I could be one of the first five people to submit a video and earn a polo shirt.

The 1-ball was really an ugly shot, and because of it, I got poor shape on the 2-ball. However, I stroked the 2 very nicely, even if I do say so myself, hitting it almost full and giving lots of low right on the cue ball. This spins the 2 into the pocket and holds the cue ball from getting on the wrong side of the 3-ball. From there on it was a piece of cake. The shot on the 6-ball was weak, as I wanted to get a lot closer to the 7-ball, but I recovered. The rest was easy.

In the background you hear Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 "Pathétique": II. Adagio cantabile, mixed with a little bit of garbage disposal noise from the cook.

Check out for other entries, other contests.

Billiard Table Cover System

You gotta see this:
From Italy, a billiard table cover system that is so simple and effective, you'll wonder why it hasn't been done a hundred years ago!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On the complexity of pool, and Life in general

The book I am currently reading 

gave an interesting example of the complexity of life and the impossibility of predicting future events.  It used the actions of billiard balls on a table as an example.  Here is the example given, on page 178 of the hardcover book:

"This multiplicative difficulty leading to the need for greater and greater precision in assumptions can be illustrated with the following simple exercise concerning the prediction of the movements of billiard balls on a table.  I use the example as computed by the mathematician Michael Berry.  

If you know a set of basic parameters concerning the ball at rest, can compute the resistance of the table (quite elementary), and can gauge the strength of the impact, then it is rather easy to predict what would happen at the first hit.  The second impact becomes more complicated, but possible; you need to be more careful about your knowledge of the initial states, and more precision is called for.  

The problem is that to correctly compute the ninth impact, you need to take into account the gravitational pull of someone standing next to the table (modestly, Berry's computations use a weight of less than 150 pounds).  And to compute the fifty-sixth impact, every single elementary particle of the universe needs to be present in your assumptions!  An electron at the edge of the universe, separated from us by 10 billion light-years, must figure in the calculations, since it exerts a meaningful effect on the outcome.  

Now, consider the additional burden of having to incorporate predictions about where these variables will be in the future.  Forecasting the motion of a billiard ball on a pool table requires knowledge of the dynamics of the entire universe, down to every single atom!  

We can easily predict the movements of large objects like planets (thought not too far into the future), but the smaller entities can be difficult to figure out - and there are so many more of them."

So, the next time you miss a shot, you can blame it on some electron at the edge of the universe, or more likely, that Fat Bastard sitting on the bar stool nearby.  In any case, beware of combination shots, and don't run into any balls that are not absolutely necessary.

"Fat Bastard" a villian in the movie 
"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"
(and my nemesis in the 2007 US Amateur Championship)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to avoid choking under pressure

From the esteemed journal Scientific American, the way to avoid choking under pressure. Not that I have ever choked under the pressure of competition, but I have heard that it is a phenomenon which occurs with some frequency in the general population of pool players, so for those poor souls, you may read the article here.