Gold Crown IV

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Max Eberle's "Powerful Pool" Fundamentals DVD set

Max Eberle is one of my favorite pro players.  Sure, he's a great shooter, but he's much more than a typical great shooter.  He's smart.  He thinks deeply on the game.  And he writes well.  I have reviewed his book "Zen Pool" in this blog way back in 2007.  Great book.  Read my review here.

One thing that distinguishes Max Eberle's game is his fundamentals.  He is rock solid and very consistent in the way he approaches his game.  If you study him closely, you can learn a lot.  Now Max has made it easy by releasing a new 3-DVD set called "Powerful Pool - World Class Fundamentals - The Seven Primary Skills".  

The first DVD, about 84 minutes, covers stance, grip, and bridge, and the many variations of each of these skills.  It's very complete and an excellent video to follow along with while you are at the table.  The other two DVDs cover stroke, aim, stop, draw and follow.  The combined set runs about 4 hours and 40 minutes.

Some of his teaching methods are really innovative.  Very early in the first DVD he gets us out of the pool room into the fresh air to show the similarity between pool and the throwing motion and follow through of other ball sports.  I've seen a ton of pool training materials, but that's a first.

My practice sessions have been few and far between lately, so I am really looking forward to using these reviews to get back in the game.  

Highly recommended!

The list price is $99 for the 3-DVD set, but you can get it straight from Max, on his website: click here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Outrageous shooting!

I use a Kamui tip, but I can't do anything like these amazing shots. I guess it takes more than a great tip.

And, I'm not really into trick shots, but these are some of the best I've seen. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Longoni Cue Extension

There are many times when you need to stretch to reach a shot, and that's where the normal "mechanical bridge" comes in handy. The problem with the bridge is that you lose a lot of the feel of a shot, and you are standing in an position that is not natural. Your sight line is not normal, you must make adjustments to your aim, and the success rate for shots using the bridge are lower.

That's where this neat cue extension comes in. It fits over the butt of your cue and gives you another 14" or so of reach, while allowing you to use your bridge hand, giving a more natural feel for the shot.

It's too big to fit in the cue case, so it goes in the tournament support bag. Click here to check it out on

(I used this extension twice to good effect in my recent straight pool match win.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Be careful what you ask for!

Ten days ago a pool shooter called me out. Challenged me! What was so unusual about it was he did it on Facebook, on my birthday, and made the stipulation that I post the result of the match on my blog and on Facebook.

So, I'm just doing my job here, posting the results...

Straight pool, race to 100, final score 100 to 24. Winner: me.

Now that my contractual obligations have been taken care of, I guess I can take this opportunity to mention that I did have one run of 33 balls in that win, which was quite pleasant, especially since I have not been practicing for about 2 years.

Be careful what you ask for!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's in the case?

Updated as of September 15, 2010 as part of the PoolSynergy project.
For a look at what's in other players' cases, click PoolSynergy.

Cue Case
Made by Jim Murnak
"Vintage" model

Playing Cue

Samsara #1676, 19.2 oz.
lizard wrap

with two Predator 314 Series 2 shafts,

30" with Uni-Lock joint,
with Kamui soft tips

Break Cue

Predator Willie Hoppe Limited Edition

Predator 314 Series 2 shaft, Tiger XH tip
with Limbsaver
18.7 oz overall

(gift from Samm Diep!)

Miltonio signature bridge head
Sir Joseph Billiard Glove

Hand towel (2004 US Amateur logo)
Blue Diamond chalk
Log Book & pen

Shaft cleaner (leather pad)
Ball position marking device

Playing glasses, cleaning cloth, case

Tournament Support Bag:
Longoni Cue Extension
Snacks (Fruit/Nut Bars)
Hard Candies

iPhone 4
Swiss Army Knife
Dental Floss
Personal Business Cards

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Glass Top Pool Table review

A friend in Singapore sent me this video and asked my impression of this glass top pool table:

Here's what I told him:

As for the pool table, it is a clever thing, of course, but I think that, as a piece of furniture,
it would only fit in with a very modern/contemporary home. And, as far as how well it plays, I would have some serious reservations with it. First of all, since there is no cloth, I think that the small pieces of chalk, which are always present because of chalking the cue tip, would create havoc with slow rolling balls. On a cloth covered table, small pieces of chalk work their way into the cloth, leaving the playing surface smooth, but the glass has nowhere for the chalk to hide. It would get dirty very quickly with hand oils, smudges, etc. Very impractical. And I think it would reflect a lot more noise.

Finally, I am thinking that some shots, such as draw, jump, masse, etc, might be difficult without cloth, which creates the friction that is needed for these shots. I would think that if such advanced shots were possible, the demo video would show it. Also, if it played as well as a pro table, then they should have some pro testimonials, but I have not found any.

The price appears to be about 3 times what a professional grade tournament Brunswick sells for in the USA (list price), which is what I use here at The Fun House, and is the standard in the industry, the Gold Crown.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Watch Out Mika, I Gots Me A Kamui Too...

All of a sudden you notice that your tip needs replacing, or that it's going to need replacing soon, and every time you shoot pool after that you get to thinking about that tip... Sooner or later you just know that if you don't get the damn tip replaced like *right now* you're going to be using it as an excuse, and that is just not acceptable.

That's what happened today. I could just not bear the thought of hitting any more balls with that old Moori medium, and I was Jones-ing to try a Kamui soft for way too long (have you *seen* the videos on the Kamui site?). So I dragged my lazy butt out of my easy chair and headed out into the god-awful heat of Santee, which is a 50-mile round trip from the cool breezes of Del Mar. There's only one reason for such a sub-optimal way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and that's Trust.

Dave at Quality Billiards in Santee, CA has been doing my cue work for years, and, as the name implies, he has always done a quality job. I'm not going to change now! I even endure the cigar smoke just to get the best work in SoCal.

I was thinking that I wanted a Kamui soft, but Dave says the Kamui soft is like the Moori medium, and that if I wanted something softer I should get the Kamui super-soft. That's what Mika uses, he says. Yes, Dave, whatever you say. You are the tip-god and I am just a wannabe. I go have a fast lunch and it's done when I get back. Forty bucks. He grinds the tip down to my preferred nickel shape and cuts it back to my preferred size, and I'm good to go... I hit a few balls on his table, and I just know this tip is going to be a good friend.

Watch out Mika, I gots me a Kamui too...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Touch shot, impossible without right english

Two rails to the pocket is only possible with right english. Impossible with center ball hit.

Right English creates the angle off the first rail, an un-natural angle, which will then contact the second rail so that ball is given to the target. The fun here is in finding the touch. It's geometry AND physics. The angles are exaggerated because of the spin and speed.

Good pre-match warmup to settle down and get to know the table.Second shot rattled and dropped.Last shot dropped clean.Requires smooth follow through.Challenge to dial in consistently.

Touch shot.

(iPhone 4 video experiment with clarity, sound and upload procedure, link with facebook, etc.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nobody doesn't like the Magic Rack

Update 7/11/2010: All of the following still applies, except that it is not good for straight pool because so much play is in the area of the rack. It definitely can make a ball roll off-line when slow rolling. Now, here's the review I wrote two months ago:

In the history of pool, it seems that more creative energy has been given to ways to rack the balls consistently tight than any other aspect of the game. Remember the Sardo rack? Now there was a Rube Goldberg contraption if ever there was one. And what about the Laser Rack? That attempted to solve the problem with getting the rack straight, but didn't do anything about getting a tight rack. And of course the Delta-13 aluminum rack is a great product; it produces a more consistently tight rack than anything else I've used so far.

But I've just seen the future, this weekend at the Mezz 10-ball tournament at Hard Times Bellflower, CA. That rack was used exclusively for the entire weekend, and while there might have been some justifiable anguish with the tight pockets (sub 4"), there seemed to be general agreement that the Magic Rack was a good thing.

I just love it when someone comes along and invents something which is so simple, so obvious, that you wonder how come it wasn't invented a long time ago. When you compare the Magic Rack with the Sardo rack, you would think that the Sardo rack is some sort of weird joke. It's just a super thin slip of plastic, triangle shaped, with cutouts for the balls on the perimeter. You place the balls by hand on the triangle and the balls nestle in for a perfectly tight rack. And it's perfectly silent, unlike the very noisy Delta-13. And it does such a great job that tournaments move along much more quickly because it's so easy. Spectators are spared the boredom of watching players go through all the contortions of trying to get the balls to behave.

Want to know what other players think of it? Check out this thread on Billiards Digest Forum.

Where can you get one? It's so new that you can't yet order from their website,
but you can send an email to

Of course, as usual, this is NOT a paid endorsement.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Last Resort Straight Pool Break Shots

I just found this little gem on YouTube showing some straight pool break shots that you might want to try if/when you get out of line on the shot you really wanted. I like the one at :50 because I discovered it on my own, but the rest are new to me!


Friday, June 04, 2010

Max the Machine!

Max Eberle is a ball-running machine!
Watch as he runs the table in 1-Pocket.
And he makes it look so easy...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

PoolSynergy, April 2010, The Most Important Thing

This is the 6th in a monthly series of posts written in coordination with selected pool bloggers. For the month of April it was my turn to choose the topic, and after giving it a lot of thought, I went to the heart of the matter and wanted to know "the most important thing about pool".

I have been studying, practicing, taking lessons, competing, teaching, and writing about pool for the last 6 years, and not once have I heard or read anything claimed to be "the most important thing". And yet it seemed to me that there had to be *something* at the top of the list of really important things you had to know/do/be/think to truly master the art & science of pocket billiards. This was my opportunity to ask other pool bloggers to consider the matter deeply and to share their secret of pool with me, and the world. The only problem with this plan is that I had to deal with the issue as well. And now I have a greater respect for the difficulty of the task than I did when I first came up with the topic!

Without further delay, here is the list of 10 pool bloggers who have had the courage to take on the challenge. They are listed in no particular order, as I wouldn't want it to be misunderstood that they are being ranked based on their writing. I know some of these people personally, but most I have never met except through their blogs. You will notice that some of the names below are professional players and/or pool writers. Some list only a first name, and some list only an obscure "handle" in an attempt to disguise their true identity, for whatever reason.

However, based on my own experience of blogging for the past 6 years, I have come to realize that pool bloggers (for the most part) are some of the best people on earth, so I encourage you to read these stories carefully for clues you can apply to take your game to the highest levels. To read each story, click on the title to the right of the author's name. Here they are:

Gail Glazebrook: The Criticals

Melinda: Lessons

Samm Diep: Humility

"p00lriah": Choices

Michael Reddick: Shoot softly

John Biddle: Attitude

Charles Eames: Sense of Wonder

Max Eberle: Touch

Michael Fieldhammer: Always Seek Knowledge

Michael McCafferty (aka "FastMikie"): Focused Breathing

Focused Breathing: The Secret to Pool, and Everything

This article is the 5th in a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers entitled "PoolSynergy".

This month's topic is "The Most Important Thing in Pool".
The scenario is that you have only a few moments to live,
and you take your final moments to reveal the secret of pool,
considering everything you have learned by study and practice and competition,
all your physical experiences, all your most intelligent thinking and analysis,
and you reveal this secret truth just before you slip away.

What is the Most Important Thing in Pool?

It is your breathing. I know this to be true from personal experience, but I will not simply ask you to take my word for it; rather I will hope to show you the way to experience this for yourself, and to use it to take your game, and your life, to ever greater levels of excellence.

Most people think very little about their breathing. After all, it is a relatively automatic function. We will almost certainly breathe enough oxygen to stay alive from one minute to the next without a lot of conscious thought on our part. It's the survival instinct built into humans, and all known living things. Breathing is the function of taking in oxygen for the purpose of mixing with the bloodstream to feed every cell in the body with this essential nutrient. Breathing will happen automatically if we ignore it completely and we will continue to exist.

However, if we give some thought to our breathing, and control it in certain ways, we can completely change the functioning of our body and brain and emotions. And if we practice breathing in certain ways, we can achieve extraordinary things.

It all begins with the breath.

Consider that one of the most important things that we can do to relax is to take a deep breath and exhale slowly, and repeat. Our best performance at pool, and life, will certainly occur when we are relaxed. When we relax, we are confident. And we know that confidence is essential in pool.

Synchronize the timing of your breath and your actions. Exhale when you lean down to set your bridge, of course, and when you release your 9/8 ball break stroke (big exhale!). This is most likely going to happen automatically. But do you control your breathing so that you are most relaxed and synchronized with your stroke on a long straight-in shot. How is your breath changed for a long stop shot, or draw? Your breath will happen during these times anyway, of course, but if it is unfocused to harmonize with your shot, you will lose focus and energy, and your body will not deliver what you have in your mind.

How does your breathing figure in to your pre-shot routine? Or, not at all? Ideally, your breathing will be a metronome to pace your movements, to keep you in rhythm, and soon you will slip into "the zone" where everything you do just flows, calm and easy.

What is your breathing style when you have missed a shot? How do you breathe when you are waiting in your chair? It is so important to know these things if you intend to master this art form we call pool.

If you are focused on your breathing, you will not be distracted. If you are focused on your breathing you will not be thinking about the score, or your opponent, or spectators, or whether this is an easy or tough shot, or whether your are hungry or have to pee. If you focus on your breathing, you will be able to create energy when you are tired, and yet be able to relax yourself if you become agitated.

Consider that the ancient practice of yoga has for millennia brought strength, health, and well-being to those who do it. And yoga is merely focused breathing co-ordinated with various body movements.

In fact, it was my intense practice of yoga for several years that got me to find the benefits of focused breathing. When I subsequently took up the study and practice of pool, I was amazed to find that there was virtually nothing written about breath control in the playing of the game. With experimentation and practice, I discovered breathing methods that worked very well for me. I practiced focused breathing with long straight-in shots from the rail, probably because I had often read that this is among the most difficult of all shots. With some practice, I learned that it was best to start to release my breath slowly and gently just prior to stroking through the cue ball, and continuing the exhale during the stroke and follow through. I learned that if I would do this, my probability of making the shot was greatly increased. Knowing this, my confidence on these shots was much improved, which in turn would further increase the probability of making the shot. It soon developed that this became my favorite shot, and I took great pride in being able to make these very difficult shots with consistency, and in fact looked forward to making these shots.

Focused breathing releases stress, anxiety, worry, fear, and all manner of ugly, completely undesirable emotions, mind traps, and bodily conditions. Imagine how much better you would play if you were impervious to these energy and attention sucking parasites?

As your breathing improves, so will your confidence. And soon you will notice that something wonderful starts to come into your game: a quiet smile will be faintly visible because you will be feeling so good on the inside that a smile is an automatic by-product. And with the smile you will feel better and be more naturally relaxed and more fully enjoy the game.

As your focused breathing brings you new levels of excellence, you will, in time, achieve what can only be achieved by a higher order of being: Invincibility. However, we remain human beings, and we cannot inhabit this sacred place for very long. But while we are there, it is heaven on earth.

To start down this path, I recommend yoga to learn the principles of focused breathing and movement. Apply what you learn to your game of pool.

That is all I have time to say. It is my parting gift...

Michael McCafferty
April 12, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Most Important Thing About Pool, by Max Eberle

This month’s challenge by my friend “Fast Mikie” McCafferty is to impart the secret of pool into a concise phrase, if possible.

This has special meaning to me because my Grandfather Charles “Pop” Eberle once asked Willie Mosconi what is the most important thing about playing pool. Willie told my Grandpa one word, “Touch.” So little and so much all at once. This had to be true for Willie as Pop reported that when Willie wanted to draw the cue ball 6 inches, he drew it 6 inches…when he wanted to draw it 8 inches, he drew it 8 inches.

Even though I never really got to watch Willie play except a few trick shots and on tape, I knew it was possible because that’s the kind of control my Grandpa had over the cue ball, and that I got to watch plenty of. Pop ran countless one hundred plus runs in his career as well as innumerable racks of rotation, both games that require a high level of cue ball control.

After developing my game and ability to make shots and control the cue ball with accuracy, my phrase for the most important thing about pool is: “Decide that you will make the shot, and exactly where you want the cue ball to go, then focus only on achieving that result until it happens.” This will require the luxury of focused practice, and persistence in the long term. In the short term on your current shot, it is what will create success time and time again.

This is really the same thing as “touch” as Willie describes, because it is impossible to have touch towards something if you don’t know what you are touching towards. Once you know your outcome, then you can implement your talent into the touch category and develop it.

Knowing your outcome will also produce the results you want more often in the competitive arena. Know that you are playing to win. Know that you are playing to run out. Know that you are playing to make this shot and land the cue ball “right there”.

When you play with this kind of clarity, the details will take care of themselves. You will find the answers, the teachers, the success, the wins, and the pure enjoyment from shots, games, and tournaments well played.

Stay In Stroke

Max Eberle

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Jim Murnak Video Interviews of Pool Celebrities

Jim Murnak is a builder of first class custom cue cases.
I use one and like it a lot.
He has expanded his focus and produced some excellent video
interviews which you can find at this link.

So far, I have enjoyed the videos of Samm Diep and Gail Glazebrook
and surprised at the low-key persona of world champion Mika Immonen.
There are more interviews there, and I look forward to playing them all.
These are more in depth than what you might typically see elsewhere.

New Look?

Somehow, the look of this blog has taken on a will of its own,
with text from the left column bleeding over into the right column.
I have no idea why, and it will take some sleuthing to dig out the buggy code.

Usually, in such a situation,
the approach I take is to delete code until things start to work again,
then put stuff back until it breaks again,
eventually learning where it hurts, fixing it and moving on.
And, usually in such situations, I come out with something completely different.
So if you see something strange on this blog, we will both be surprised at how it turns out...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"I wouldn't walk across the room to watch Fats shoot...

... but I'd drive across the country to listen to him talk."
(Jersey Red)

I'm really liking this remark as one of the top
Minnesota Fats stories of all time.
For the full story, check out R.A. Dyer's website at this link.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Most Important Thing About Pool

Dear fellow PoolSynergy bloggists...

In the fullness of time, it has come to be,
my turn.

Thank you for your attention.

It has been interesting watching and participating in this experiment,
although I feel particularly constrained by writing on a deadline.
It is an un-natural act.
I feel that writing should spring out from the spirit.
Writing is like other bodily functions,
which should not be required on command.

Well, now you know how I feel about that.

This month's subject, if I may be so bold to suggest, is...

"The Most Important Thing about Pool"

And here is the basic premise. You are in this scenario.
You are watching a loved one struggle with their game,
and you are on your way out,
only moments to live,
victim of blue chalk disease
which pisses you off because you paid more for the good stuff...
but let's get back to the story.

With only moments to live,
you want to impart the true secret to pool,
all the knowledge, experience, emotion, physicality, and spirit,
the true essence of pool...
the one thing about pool,
that if it was truly done,
one would be the master of all,
the Embodiment of Pool.

What is that?
You pick up your pen*, and write...
Follow through? Keep your head down? See the shot? Have fun?
How to use the rails? Inside English? Depends on the cue ball in use?

What is The Most Important Thing About Pool?

Fade out.
Your writing goes on to become a classic.
Book, movie, t-shirts, fame and fortune.
It all starts with what you write this month...
No pressure...

So, I hope you have fun with this month's topic.
Thanks for your participation, and your time.
Now, let's all work for a deadline (!) of midnight on April 10, 2010
(ok, if you like to work late, then make it 9am on April, 11.)



* remember pens? I loved those...
And books!
They really worked well together, didn't they?

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to get more people playing pool

This article is the 5th in a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers entitled "PoolSynergy" . To see others, go to:

Pool has a bad reputation because it has earned it. It's simple Cause and Effect. Pool is the way it is because of everything that has happened, and not happened, to cause it to be that way. But let's not beat a dead horse. We can't change the past; it's more productive to focus on what can be done to make things better.

There's a lot of talk about how the billiards industry has fallen on hard times, and how pool has a bad image in the mind of the General Public (people who don't play pool). There's always talk about what can be done to make things better, but it seems that there's no consensus, and nothing gets done. Pool just keeps circling the drain, hoping for another movie with Paul Newman to give it a shot in the arm. But that would just be a temporary fix, and do nothing to address the real problems.

This month's PoolSynergy topic is an opportunity for me to express a few thoughts that have been on my mind. One of the cardinal rules that I try to live by is to speak only positive thoughts, but when you are dealing with pool, I feel I have to abandon that rule and deal with some really negative stuff that bugs the livin' bejeezus out of me, such as:

1. Use commentators who can speak English properly. I won't name names, but if you graduated from high school, you should know who they are. There is just no reason whatsoever that pool tournaments should have guest commentators who routinely use double negatives (even triple negatives) in a sentence. It perpetuates the stereotype that pool players are uneducated low-life bums, or stupid, or criminal, or all of the above. Additionally, it speaks volumes about the sort of people who run the tournaments and who run the organizations that control pool. None of it is good. Why is there not more pool on TV? This single factor could be one of the prime reasons. TV executives certainly know that these commentators are bad for TV, so pool doesn't get the coverage it could.

2. Live streaming video is a great step forward, and getting better all the time, but still nowhere near good enough to get anyone other than pool addicts to watch. It would be much better to explain the strategies instead of having commentators just killing time with inane banter that has nothing to do with what is happening at the moment. Show more stats of the players during the dull moments of video productions, rather than have someone rattle off a few disjointed facts. People remember a lot more of what they see than what they hear.

3. Commentators should deal with the game going on, and not the instant messaging chat. Am I the only one who goes full-screen with the stream so that I can see it better? And if you go full-screen, you lose the chat feed, but the commentators seem to use the chat feed as a crutch to fill in dead air with blather which is completely unrelated to the game at hand. There's only so much of this disjointed stuff I can take before I just mute the commentating completely. I just want an intelligent, live analysis. Is that too much to ask?

4. When making a product for network TV, edit the video to delete all the think time and rack time. Show only the excellent run-outs, the great shots, and the "color" moments. Use slow motion to accentuate the details. A major problem with pool video broadcasts is that there is so much dead time. Only die-hard pool fans want to watch players think. And nobody on this planet wants to watch a player trying to get a decent rack, re-racking ad nauseum... If you want to attract more people to pool, then you have to make it more interesting. That means action! This is the internet age; the average attention span is now down to around 5 seconds. Get with it.

5. Invest in video products that show the best of the game, by the best players. This could be paid for by BCA, APA, WPA, etc. if they would co-operate to increase the number of players rather than competing for an ever-dwindling number of players. Use more CGI and tricks of the video trade. Look what's being done with football and apply some of the tricks to pool. It doesn't have to be expensive if it's done in post-production.

6. Get local players into the game with national and regional contests. Use video to show the winners and post the videos online. Recognize and reward excellence and more players will be brought into the game. There is one excellent method that has been developed which is independent of the APA rating system, or the BCA rating system. So you don't have to join these organizations, and keep paying dues and showing up for matches at inconvenient times and places. It's the International Playing Ability Test (IPAT) and anyone can try it, but there's too much math involved for people to deal with it easily. But the principle is excellent. It just needs to be simplified. That's why I created a spreadsheet program to do all the math easily. It's available here, free.

Oh, I could go on and on, but heck, I just like to play pool. I don't want to get all worked up about what's wrong with the business and marketing models in the industry, but since I was asked, well, now you know. Thanks for listening. Have a nice day!

This article is the 5th in a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers entitled "PoolSynergy" . To see others, go to: