Raj Hundal's Thoughts on the US Open

This is a great interview... harsh, and brutally honest. I'm sure it's shocking to see one of the pro's talking like this, but I think it needs to brought to the mass's attention. The only thing that might deter people from listening is that it's Raj... Honestly, he hasn't been a top-10 player in a few years. He's always close, but never quite seems to make it across the line. Regardless, the message remains the same. The game has changed; and not necessarily for the better.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

Some 9 Ball Action (with video)

So, Friday I was contemplating what I wanted to do... hit the usual place and just bang some balls, maybe practice a bit and see who shows up. Or I hit The Rail and look for a game.  I was pretty sure I could find a game there as that place has a lot of younger people that like to play some cheat sets.  Well, as I was finishing dinner and watching some US Open action, I got a txt from Asmir asking if I wanted to play a bit.  I decided that I did.  So, I readied myself and headed up to SportsCenter for some 9 Ball action.  Races to 7, even.

Overall, I came out on top, which is good (and I think a first with this guy for some reason).  The first set was pretty sloppy, neither of us played too well, and no one ran out a full rack all night.  There were a few 7 ball outs, but that was about it.

I won the first set 7-5, I think it was.  We played again, and he quickly got it up to 3-0 by combo-ing the 9 off the 2 or 3 a few times.  I made a few great shots, including one rail runner that was about an 80 degree cut from the side pocket, but I over-stroked it and the cueball followed the 9 into the same pocket off 2 rails. :(  I made the same shot later that same set, but didn't scratch that time.  Overall, he rode the 9 out 4 times, I scratched on the 9 at least once, meaning he won that set handily at 7-3 or something.  I played poorly, giving up BIH too often.  Oh well.

We played again and I was determined to play well again. I took a break, washed my hands and face, did some calming breathing and came out ready to play, serious and ready to win.  As such, here's the first rack of the 3rd set.  It was also probably the best out of the night. Also, as I realized my hard-break wasn't working at all, I was suddenly hit with the hours of the US Open coverage and how they changed their break according to the table.  I tried moving across the headstring, left to right, but nothing was consistent.  So, I decided to take a note from Corey Deuel and went with a much slower break.  As it turns out, that was the most repeatably productive break of the night.  I think of the breaks I had in the last set, I made the wing-ball 80% of the time. ;)

vs Asmir 9 Ball - Decent Out from Johnny101 on Vimeo.

 

Later in the set, I concentrated on playing smart, and as such one rack had a few good safeties, including one that gave me BIH with 4 balls on the table. (Video) Although I still got out of line quite a bit that night, I'm not really "unhappy" with my play; just sort of disappointed with my focus coming and going.

Another benefit to this night was I actually got to use my jump-cue several times.  I'm still not a sure-shot to make the ball, but I'm getting much better at getting over balls and hitting the object ball.  If the target is within a 1x1 diamond of the pocket, there's a really good chance I'm making it.

vs Asmir 9 Ball - Safety to Win from Johnny101 on Vimeo.

 

I'm definitely gaining confidence with long thin cuts, although they aren't hangers yet, I'm not nearly as afraid to shoot them anymore, as this video shows back to back slices to get on the 6-9 combo for the rack.

vs Asmir 9 Ball Slicing Out from Johnny101 on Vimeo.

 

However, my steam ran out and I started to struggle when I was up 4-1 in the last set.  I missed a couple of 9 balls, an 8 ball that was dead position to the 9 twice and before I knew it, he was up 6-4; on the hill.  The pressure and hour was getting to both of us as he missed a few very makeable shots and I was able to get it to hill-hill.  I played a poor shot and he ran down to the 7, missed and left me a very close-ball rail runner, which I hung up.  He also missed that pretty bad, which left me a relatively decent shot to get on the 8-9 combo along the long rail.  I sunk the 7 and got great shape on the 8.  I had to cut the 8 just a little bit to knock the down the rail those last 2 diamonds, and in it went.  He was visibly upset about the loss; as well he should be.  He missed the out ball too many times.  On the other hand, I gave him FIVE games by missing the 9 or 8.  So, really, I should've won that set 7-2, but oh well.  A win is a win.

I can't say it was a good confidence booster, but in reality, it sort of is.  I mean, I didn't play my "A" game and he didn't either.  I think we played right around our average speed with the normal ups and downs that come along with being a C player.  It does show progression in my game, and not overconfidence, which I was really suffering from a few months ago.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

Finally An 8-Ball Success Story

8-Ball League Logo

Last night's league was nearly exactly what I needed.  I got to play in the 1st round, out of necessity because 2 other players were late, but as it turns out, I think it was the best. I avoided any pre-league games with the teammates and instead opted for playing 3, 4 and 5 ball ghosts just to get loose on another table.  Each time I do this, I play well, I think it's a sign. ;)

So, on with the match: I win the lag, break dry.  My opponent runs 3 and decides to play something of a safe and blocks a pocket where I have a dead ball combo frozen to his ball. He leaves me with this layout: (click through the 10 pages to see each shot played out)

My plan was to come off the 5 in the side, get nearly straight on the 6 in the corner, play the 2 down table off his blocker.  I shot the 5, got relatively straight on the 6 and decided to double-check my idea, so I called for a coach.  After explaining it to him, he added the suggestion that when I play the 2 off his 14, to draw back a little and ensure that I'll have a shot at the 1, which will carom into the 11-4 combo.  So, I went on about my way, sank the 6, got a little behind the 2, but still drilled the shot, but the 14 came directly back off the bottom rail and kicked my cue ball all the way back up table.  Still, I had the shot the 1-11-4, so I called for someone to watch the hit, fired at the 1, sank the 4, but my other balls sort of jumbled up towards the bottom rail, leaving something like this:

I played the safe diagramed when I realize I had no real good offensive shot.  This would also force him to either shoot something to free up the 8, or go up-table and most likely leave me a shot on the 7 or 3.  He banked the 14 straight back trying to hide either the 3 or 7 and unfortunately hid neither one.  I played the 3 and went forward to get the 1 next.  Drew back a bit to play the 7 up-table in the opposite corner, which left me a tight cut on the 8 to pass the 12.  It barely slid by, but went clean. :) 

I was super excited.  It was my first win in 3 weeks, and it was a commanding win, I think. I might have broke dry, but from the moment I came to the table, I took control and I held control, I played smart, I didn't over-think anything; when I realized I was taking too much time, I called for a coach.  I really hope that persuades my captain to play me the 1st round more often, since I told him a long time ago, I'm more solid out of the gate than at the end of the night after sitting for 2 hours.

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Filed Under: 8-Ball

Long Match, Disintegrated

Friday night, after a short bit of running some errands, I was feeling a little frisky and was thinking about looking for some action.  As it happened, there really wasn't anyone around at my usual place when I got there.  About an hour later, in walks Zack.  He's another local who's been asking to play.  He shoots pretty good, gambles a lot of people, always gets weights (appropriately though).  So, we decided to play a bit.  The game was one pocket, me giving him 9-7.  We decided to play by-rack, instead of by-set. 

It started off okay with us trading racks for a while, then I got up 2, then 3, back to 2, up to 3.  We teetered there for a while then Xy came in with some leftover chili-5way and fries.  I wish I had taken the opportunity to eat something; but I didn't want to overload my body with carbs, so I just slow munched on a Snickers bar for a while.  Maybe that was my mistake.  Because from there, Zack got even, then I got 1 back, then he won 6 racks in a row to go up 5.  It's not nearly 5 in the morning, and we've been playing since just before midnight. We play again, and I get one back, but then I lose the game after.  I call it quits, the room owner wants to go home, I'd been up for 23 hours at that point and I realize that I'm not going to come back in the amount of time available.

It's unfortunate that I ended on such a terrible note, but it's a good lesson learned, I think.  In the beginning, I was focused, I was smart, I was tight with my position and I took the time to read the balls, the stack and visualize the routes and outcomes of collisions.  By the end of the night, I found myself so down in the ball count, I had to keep firing at my hole.  When I made the ball, I didn't play shape on the next one because I was unsure I'd make it.  The times when I would play shape, I'd miss and leave him 3 or 4 balls; and I only did that when he needed more than I would leave him - but it only took once a rack to give him a giant lead, then I spent the rest of the rack trying to be defensive, while still making a ball of my own once in a while.

I have some videos I'll be posting later this week when I get some more time to edit out the racks, but in the meantime I will be thinking about how to improve my end-game strategy.  I will be spending some more time over at OnePocket.org.

Overall, I feel like I played relatively well - up till around 2am that is.  When I first got there, I was just doing some 9-ball work and was feeling pretty good. The first few hours of the one-pocket match, I felt pretty good. I cleared his pocket with reasonable control, I moved balls to my side while protecting them. I felt like things were mostly going my way.  Then somewhere along the way I got comfortable, I guess. Over-confident possibly?  Whatever the cause, I feel like I beat myself more than anything.  Started hearing myself saying those negative comments after a shot, or when coming to the table.  Just a result of being too tired, too hungry. 

So, I have some things to work on, mental strength training mostly. I dont think I missed any one shot more than once, so I don't think I have any shots to practice; which is a nice change. :)

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Filed Under: One Pocket

Eye Location - A Reasonable Breakthrough

I've been quiet around here lately, mostly because I haven't been overly inspired by anything.  I will say that I have been working on my break and I think there's a marked difference between my break from a few months ago and my break from a couple of weeks ago.  The differences are subtle, and the video differences don't help point them out.  The outline is that I start higher in stance, my bridge hand is full-palm on the table bed, I have more forward motion in my body as well as more upward motion.  The result of all of this that my break speed went from around 18 to around 20 while still keeping some decent control.  I have a video which isn't posted anywhere that's compilation of all of my breaks and there's a definite change.

But, to the point of this entry.  Last night I went to play some bartable 8-ball, as usual for Mondays, and I wasn't really sure how the night would go.  My last few evenings at the pool hall have not been that great.  The confidence in my game seems to have dropped since my last entry when I was feeling really good about things. I had a number of runouts that week and thought I had finally topped my hurdles, as it turns out, not quite yet.

I'm playing with my team captain, and it's like playing the ghost. I only have to miss once, and I lose the game.  That's fine and well and all, but it doesn't really do me any good to sit there and not be able to practice.  Anyway, after a few hours of that he leaves and I'm so pissed off at that point I couldn't wait for him to leave just so I could hit some balls.  I missed a number of cuts that I shouldn't have.  He commented once about how I'm missing shots that I should never miss (which he says probably once a week to me); and how when he first recruited me I was making balls better than now.  Well, I know for a fact that's not true; but it probably seems that way since I'm making much tougher shots, there's no reason to miss the easy ones I do.

Anyway, I had been really struggling with one particular shot (for at least a month or so) that really should be a hanger, but somewhere along the line I got the angle confused in my head and became scared of it because I missed it so many times.  I lost one-pocket games due to this shot, I lost 8-ball games, I lost 9-ball games... all due to this one shot that I used to make all day; short-rail, long-rail, left, right didn't matter. Somehow, during one of my aiming practice sessions or something I completely lost all ability to read close-ball angles.

The troublesome shot:

Yeah, that easy-ass shot. (Ironically, I can make this without problem if it's along the long rail, but on the short rail - back-cutting is a huge disaster) I was determined to figure this out.  I had read in various places about eye location and how important it is to have your eyes in the right location for the shot.  I also knew about eye-dominance and have sort of automatically been placing my cue under my dominant eye, but what I wasn't doing was adjusting the location based on the shot.  I dont think everyone does this, but for me, for right now, I think I finally have it figured out.  I set up that shot and shot it with the eyes in the same place, in line as I looked at it; and it never really looked right.  Then I set it up again, and placed the cue in a different spot, or rather, I moved my head to place my eyes in a spot until it looked right to me.  When it looked right, I swung through that line.  When the shot went, I remembered my head location in relation to my cue and found that my eyes needed to be in different places for different angles. 

Specifically, cutting the OB to the left meant my eyes needed to be centered over the stick, for all other shots, I could continue to use my dominant eye over the cue.  But once I started to make this adjustment, I started making shots that had been troubling me for some time.  Shots that I always guessed with before.

Now, I'm not saying that all cuts are hangers now, but I am very excited about just how much better the shots are looking while I'm down on the table.  So, I'm hoping this is another mental "AH-HA!" moment.  It was really working well last night - tonight will be another test, if I get a chance at the table that is. Last week at league, I played 1 game, hit 4 balls (including the lag) and that was it... for 4 hours.  At least tonight there's a bunch of tables availble so I will be able to play at least.

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · General · Training

Fancy Shot I Discovered.

While playing around in a one-pocket match last night, I found myself in an awkward situation - I need both balls and my opponent has just missed the 1 ball, leaving me this with layout:

I first tried to shoot the 2 with the intention of the red-line path.  I got position, but I did miss the 2 ball.  After the game, I set up the shot again and tried it a number of times.  I found out that hitting the 4-railer was pretty consistent, almost moreso than the 1-railer.  I scratched a number of times on the 1-rail shot, but for each of those times, I also came up short off the 4-rail path.  I'm not sure which is the "better" way to try and focus on.  I know it's good to have *both* shots in my arsenal, but if there's one to practice more than the other, I don't know it.

I have to wonder if I had subconsciously picked up this shot from watching Scott Frost trailers - this isn't a shot I would ever think about.  Regardless of where it came from, I like it. A lot.

In other news: I'm watching the WPBA Atlanta Classic stream today, and it's making me wanna go play pool tonight.  However, I can't. I'm working a friend's wedding tomorrow and I need to prepare for it.  So, no pool for me this weekend.  HOWEVER, there's a local tournament on Sunday, 9-Ball, bar tables, races to 5 even, $10, split-quarters.  I'm tempted to try it, I *should* have a good chance at getting through the first few rounds, but ... I'm just not sure how I feel about it yet.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · General · One Pocket

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