Pool Synergy
This month’s issue of Pool Synergy asks: What’s your story? How did you get started and why do you keep coming back?  Click the logo above for the complete list of stories this month.
When it comes to my story, I find it’s best to start at the beginning.  When I was 13, my parents thought it would be a good idea to get a pool table so that I could have friends over to the house, instead of me running off into the wee hours of the night (aka an hour past the street lights at that age).  So, we got a pool table, some house cues and little booklet by Minnesota Fats that came with the package.  I really enjoyed the game, as much as I could with no real training at that time.  I have fond memories of  certain shots – which ironically are some of the shots I have trouble with now – although I do still enjoy watching a ball ride the rail all the way down the table.  In my banging hours after school it didn’t take long for me to notice that there’s a pattern to the movement.  At that time, I couldn’t identify it, but I really enjoyed sending the cue ball 3 rails into the corner pocket.  I remember challenging my friends with that shot.
Soon, a few more of my friends had talked about playing pool enough at home that they had gotten a table for their own rec room.  It wasn’t long before we had daily cut-throat matches scheduled. Nothing to do? Make a few calls, we can play pool somewhere tonight!
We only knew two games then: 8-ball and cut-throat.  I knew there was a game where you shoot all the balls in numeric order, but I thought it was called “straight pool” (it wasn’t until just last year I learned of my mistake, but that’s later in the story).  I had seen 9-ball racks, but didn’t know what the game was about. Hey – I was 14 and had never seen a pool hall.  I had seen The Color of Money, and yes in the privacy of my own room with no one home, I was a pool shooting samurai too. 
I continued to play at random places (friends houses, college, bars) at random times, and I always loved it – and wished I could play more often.
Fast forward a number of years – I’m out of college and working full time on the complete opposite end of the city, unfamiliar territory at the time. Through conversation I had discovered there was a pool hall, open for lunch near by. One day the “lunch crew” decided to go there.  I was happy to join them.  This was the first time I ever saw a 9 foot table – and the first time I ever played on one.  I was hooked immediately. I started going there for lunch as much as I could.  They had a pretty darn good chicken sandwich, and the price was right.  Sometimes, I’d stop by after work and play a few hours on the way home.  As time went on, I decided that I should have my own cue.  So, I bought something that looked snazzy and was the weight I had settled into when I was in highschool, 19oz. That’s all I knew … and that I thought $300 for a cue was absolutely outrageous. LOL
Over the next bunch of years, I continued to frequent pool rooms as often as I could.  I gave myself little drills to do and made-up games to play.  Like, toss the balls out and kick, combo or bank all 15; or something I called “Alternating 8-ball”, in which you couldn’t shoot more than 2 of a suite in a row. I also tried to play rotation (though I still called it straight pool then). I tried to work on my form by making the same bridge every time on every shot.  Little did I know I was making the absolute WRONG bridge. haha  I would make random pool friends and ask them random pool questions when I see them do something I didn’t understand.  I loved learning and trying new things – but I never found my way to something better.  I played alone 90% of the time, it’s understandable.
Then, last year – 2009 – something terrible happened.  My truck was stolen, and it had my cue in it.  As it turned out, this was a blessing in disguise. I did get my truck back – but no cue. I, again, had a new job and a new lunch-time pool hall.  I went there one afternoon to pick out a cue and decided to try and learn all I could about cues.  I had so many questions and asked for all the pro’s and con’s for each type of joint, tip, ferrule, wood, shaft, size, length, wrap – and more importantly would I – someone who knows nothing – notice the difference in any of those things?  After trying out a bunch of cues, I ended up with one that I really liked the look of and something that felt comfortable in my hands.
Shortly after that, I decided that if I was going to have a new cue (one much nicer than my last), I should really learn how to use it – properly.  It’s been a year, to the month, since I got my new cue, and August will the mark my 1 year anniversary of being a real student of the game. 
What keeps me coming back to the game? Education and self-improvement.  I love learning – and I love employing knowledge just as much.  I love watching old videos of myself and thinking “what was I doing??” – then watching more recent videos and thinking “wow – I guess I have improved – but I still have a ways to go.”  I look forward to my own “monthly review” to see how I’ve done.  I like going through my practice log and seeing the number of innings required to comlete racks continue to shrink.  Most egotistically, I love hearing the guys I’ve been playing with the last year comment on my progression when I win the sets now.  Every time I play, I learn something.  Lately, I’ve been playing a lot of one-pocket.  okay – a LOT of one-pocket, so of course I’m learning – or should be.  The president of the math club in college in me absolutely adores the strategic aspect of the game.  So much more than I ever thought I would.  I still work on my other games, 8, 9 and 10 ball – but if you ask me today what I want to play, I’ll probably say one-pocket.
Whoever said you don’t learn anything in a pool room has obviously never spent any time in one.  There’s interpersonal politics, business and finance, psychology, physics and geometry, spatial reckoning and mental prowess.
So – why do you play pool?