Product Review: Perfect Aim

(There's an important update to this review, find it here.)

 

I hang out over in the AZ forums a few times a week to try and pick up tips or advance notice of new products or matches or, anything I find interesting really. Close to a year ago, I found this website: Perfect Aim Billiards.com/ and of course found the instructional DVD to go along with it. I read some of the reviews but quickly passed over the product as it was outside my comfort zone for such a questionable buy.

About 8 months ago I put something together from one of the threads on AZB about this DVD and my own experimenation. It significantly helped my game and I attributed it to the imformation I picked up from conversations authored by Gene Albrecht selling this DVD. I've been tempted to buy this DVD for well over a year now and I knew it had some questionable reviews, but every product will have some of those. I finally had some extra cash and I decided to go head and bite the bullet, especially in reference to my really wanting to get to that next level of play. I finally received the DVD and immediately watched it.

Boy did I feel like a chump afterwards.

   1) $70 (plus $10 shipping!!) for a home-made DVD with a label stuck on it put in a $0.50 jewel case with not even another printed jewel case cover.
   2) The "meat and potatoes" information was 85% repeat of what I've read in the various posts Gene uses to promote this disc (and the following discussion). ... Reviewer's note: I should make it clear that nowhere have I read the exact method he describes on the DVD - not from any post I've seen. I will say there was some guiding hints in one thread that lead me to experiment a lot at the table and kinda stumble across what Gene talks about on the disc. Still, what I discovered in my own experimentation isn't exactly what Gene is doing; he has a more precise method whereas mine is still a bit general.
   3) Production quality? eh, it's a *hair* better than the VEPS, but not by much. Someday I hope people will learn that they can not rely on the on-camera-room-mic for instructional materials. 6/10
   4) Step 8 or 9 or whatever that crazy section on figuring out if it's a 1/2 or 1/4 ball hit is ... pretty much pointless. Yes, it's a neat way of determining that information; but it's entirely unusable in a game setting.

Okay, there's my short-list of first-impression opinion/gripes. Here are my objective thoughts:

Considering I did fork over money for this DVD, I might as well try the info out. After all, the meat'n'potatoes section that I had picked up from the threads here was VERY helpful to me when I learned it. That said, if I had never heard of someone talking about eye-location before and no idea what it was... I would likely be writing this to sound like one of his testimonials. That tidbit, when I first put 2 and 3 together from the bits and pieces of the threads, was really a key to pushing my game to my next level. So, he's not selling bad information.

When the DVD was over, I was shocked - utterly shocked it had ended so quickly. One thing I would strongly suggest to Gene is to put some "Case Studies" on there - show yourself teaching this to someone and let us see the student learn it; and become enlightened. Don't script it - just film a lesson you give somewhere with good lighting and no background noise. Hearing the instructor say and demonstrate a concept is nice, but watching a student work through it and seeing the results of before/after comparison is really really important for future students/consumers.

To the people who've been playing a long time and try this method ... I don't expect it to work for you. You have trained your brain a certain way, so *anything* other than the sight-picture you have trained for is going to look incredibly wrong and I'd be surprised if you played half as well as normal trying this. I liken this method to using a super low deflection shaft ... those who learned and grew up with the old high deflection cues cannot make a ball with the OB2 or Z2; and no wonder! They have to relearn how to aim entirely! This system is similar to that, in my opinion. Great for the beginning intermediate player who has a mostly straight stroke but trouble with consistency, seeing the shot.

Objectively though, I'd still only give it a 6/10 overall. There was a lot of fluff and not enough demonstration. Simply shooting a single shot on each side of the table isn't enough variation to adequately demonstrate the point; especially as those examples were supposed to be some of THE most important shots to know/learn.

I will still experiment with the method in it's entirety to see if I can't fine-tune the method for me, but there's a good chance this disc just collects dust on my shelf. I might, should I really find myself unable to do anything with it take Gene up on his phone offer. I do really like that he stands behind his product and makes himself available for questions.

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Filed Under: Gear · Training

Consistent Variations

The mantra of this blog (even moreso in my twitter) in the last several months has been a lack of consistency. Not even from week to week, but day by day. Case and point: Last week's APA matches. Wednesday, I draw a 6 in 9-ball. So it's a 55-48 race. I win 55-19. The honest part of that story is that he dogged the first or second ball 7 out of the 9 times I let him to the table. However, I played really well, had another break and run and played some good safeties. In other words, I played a good, strong SL7.

Now, on to the Masters match the next night. As I'm warming up I'm hitting them "ok"; nothing terribly exciting about things. I'm making balls decently, but my position is all over the place. I decide to give up the 9-ball position routes for simple bar-box position play. Things improve, but still not quite up to par. I draw a friend Alan for the first round and we play 9-ball first. I'll skip the drawn out detail summary and just say that I lost 3-7. The games I won were because he gave them to me ... literally. I never made a money ball on my own stroke. He would either miss and hang it, or scratch on it.

What I find interesting is that even though he is winning, he's so upset with himself that he's complaining about my getting lucky rolls. I complain with the best of 'em, but when I'm winning (handily) I almost never actually complain. The difference here is that I was getting the rolls; far more than he was, but yet he was still marking up the games. True, I gave him far more chances than he should have gotten - and he had to work for each one of those wins; I never left him easy.

But, this also goes to show that I was playing so poorly that even with the luck I couldn't win.

Skip to Friday night, after dinner and a few drinks my stepdaughter, her boyfriend and I hit up a pool room of her choosing and play 10-ball. Now we're on 8 foot tables I've never played on (with pink - PINK! cloth). I play exceptionally well! Break and run in 10-ball, and more times than not, if they let me at the table on the 3 or above, I was out. Now, it was just for fun, so no pressure, and we were all celebrating her birthday, so shots and drinks were included. Still, I'm too competitive to not take any time spent at the table with some level of seriousness. I was even jumping over half-balls with my full cue (which I can almost never do).

Here's a shot she snapped of me; she was late in the capture as the object ball had already dropped and I was just beginning to stand up. Still, I really stayed down on that shot. lol

I run through this pattern of good/bad/good/worse/awesome/terrible it seems with each consecutive day played. I have been trying to pin down any and all possible causes to this sort of variance in my game. The big ones: sleep and nourishment are always first under the microscope. And it's absolutely true that on the days where I don't have enough sleep I don't play well - unless it's my 2nd or 3rd day on short sleep. (re: Midwest 9ball and DCC) Second to that is my mood/mindset/attitude. If I'm in a good mood, I'm going to play better. If I'm angry with something off the table, I play well. If I'm the least bit frustrated with the game itself, I play terribly. If I started off in a good mood then get frustrated, I can usually pull myself back to a good place through either "faking it till I make it" or some breathing exercises.

I know everything left to work on in my game is completely mental; and knowing that just makes my failures worse to me. I think it's time to re-read Pleasures of Small Motions and/or Zen Pool.

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Filed Under: General · Training

A Personal Goal Achieved

Since I started the APA league, there has been just one guy who has beaten me every time we play; even though we are the same skill level. It's not just that he wins, but he wins by a landslide. The first time we played was my very first match in the Masters league and he skunked me 7-0. Now, I gave away a lot of games that night, but over the last 10 months, in regular APA and in Masters, he continues to just walk through me. I've beaten players that beat him, so clearly there was something just mental about playing him that I just couldn't manage.

Last night was Masters league and the draw dictated that I had to play him. I told my teammates that I'll be the sacrificial lamb this week. When they asked why I told them I just can't beat this guy. They tried to give me some encouragement, as teammates do, but every time I think "I'm due to win." I still get killed. Back in the Fall, he broke his grip hand, but was still playing. I drew him once in 9-ball league and thought "Finally! I have a chance" ... still lost.

Backstory cut short, I decided tonight I wasn't going to try and out-shoot him. His cueball controls is better than mine and he's more consistent. Instead, I was going to try and simply out-play him. Play smart, play the percentages - and above all make the ball.

We started off playing 8-ball and he made a rare mistake early in his runout, which left me a pretty open table, so I get the first rack. :) Then he gets the next, I take the 3rd, he takes the next 2. So it's 2-3 him at the end of the 8-ball set. Then we start the 9-ball segment and I get the first two of those, taking my first lead, then he ties it, but I re-take the lead at 5-4 and he again ties it. He breaks and is on his way to a break and run, but misses the 5. He leaves this table and I play a couple of great "recovery" shots to win the rack:


I didn't like just cutting the 5 and staying on the top side of the table for the 6 - I might run into the 9 getting shape on the 7. I've been practicing this shot lately and I'm getting the hang of it more times than not. I visualized the shot, the ending position and traced the path of the cueball with my eyes before getting down.

Having over-ran position on the 7, I was forced to come with another good shot:

This puts me on the hill! I break decently but there are some clusters and we play a bit of a safety battle which he does win, but then he hangs the 6. I take a little extra time making sure I make the ball on each shot. I shoot the 6, get a little too straight on the 7, which is on the rail near the side pocket with the 8 nearly the headspot. I decide to just take the table as it is and not to force anything. I stop on the 7 and slice the 8 in accepting a longer shot on the 9, which was just above the footspot. I had been practicing spot-shots earlier in the evening, so I was extra comfortable shooting both of these shots. As I bent over for the 9 I started to think "I'm about to WIN!" - but I got back up and said "not yet..." and started my pre-shot routine over again. Took a deep breath, lined up the shot, trusted my stroke and alignment and kerplunk went the 9!! I FINALLY WON!!

More...

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · 9-Ball · League

Won My First Tournament!

Okay, okay, it was a 6-person mini tournament, but still - I won it! It went like this: After the Top Gun 8-ball tournament some of us that went out early decided against playing an APA Singles board (which is a $20 entry and no payback; it gets you into the regional singles tournament for a chance to go to Vegas) and instead thought it'd be fun to play a mini-tournament. We could only get 6 players, but it was late in the evening and a lot of people just didn't feel like playing another one. It was a cheap $10 buy-in, paying only 1st and 2nd spots, per usual.

The draw happens and I (an SL7) draw George, an SL5. So it's a 55-38 match. I win the lag and I BREAK AND RUN! The first time in what feels like a long time. I continue to play pretty well, but make a few mistakes. Still, I win the match something like 55-28.

My next match is against an SL3, Shelly, so the race is 55-25. I have no idea how this girl actually plays, but I decide that this match is going to *have* to be more strategic. 3's aren't going to run out, but they win because they nit pick the balls off while the higher SL's are trying to run out and leaving hangers. So, I stick to that game plan. If the table is tough, I move a ball and play safe, if I get out of line, I play safe. I do put up another break and run to the night's score. :) I win the match 55-16.

Now I'm in the "finals". The oddest thing of the entire evening was happening in the other half of the bracket. There's an SL4 who is having the luckiest night of his life over there. First, he beat a super strong 5, then he bested an SL7 (a teammate of his, and someone with whom I have a fairly even record against). So there was some suggestions from the peanut gallery that he and I just split the finals, but as luck-driven player myself, I knew that a) luck runs out and b) I could outplay him anyway. So, we start the match and it's a 55-31 race. And for the first 15 points, we stayed almost even - some due to my own bravado; trying to get out on super tough layouts and he was making shots his teammates were uttery perplexed by. But then, I said "ok. he's done." I started playing safe on him, knowing he can't kick with accuracy and that he'd get frustrated and take him out of his groove. Secondly, I made a mental effort to play the simplest shapes I could, relying on my speed control and shot-making to get through the rack. It worked wonderfully. Coming from nearly tied in the mid-teens, I win the match 55-20! I broke and ran the final rack (or would have if I wasn't stopped on the 8 as my sinking the 7 was my "out ball). Afterwards, the peanut gallery all suggested I finish my break and run, and I wanted it as well - but I was already out of the game and I sliced the 8 down the rail and it bobbled; though I had perfect shape on the 9, which I did go ahead and make. But everyone "awwwwwww"-ed when the 8 hung up in the jaws.

So, overall, last Saturday was a really a good day. I won some money - more than I spent that day, and I played pretty well.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

8-Ball Top Gun (FL2012) Tournament Review

This weekend was the 8-Ball Top Gun tournament from the Fall session of my local APA league. Now if you've been paying sort of attention here, you might have picked up that barbox 8-ball is a) my weakest game and b) my least favorite game. I'll skip the reasons why and get to the tournament itself.

The tournament started at 11am Saturday, so of course I stay up way too late Friday. Still, I was there at 11, with coffee in hand. After warming up a bit and feeling pretty good, I await the draw for my bracket (which were all 6's and 7's). Around 1pm the brackets are drawn and I draw my old team captain, Les. Here's where I make my biggest mistake of the day: I know she's not playing well lately and I don't give her the respect she deserves. I essentially try to run out every rack and in doing so cause more problems for me than for her. She played well, as she should, and wins the match 5-2. So, I lost my first round match.

I sit at the bar for a while and nurse my gatorade, have a cliff bar snack and just listen to my music for a while. About an hour or so later, I'm called to play my next match against someone named Matt - a player I'm not familiar with. I lose the lag and he breaks - and break's them very well but doesn't get out. I come to the table with a pretty open rack and fairly easy pattern. As such, I do run out without an issue. I break, make a couple balls and am well on my way to run out, until I overrun position on my key ball just slightly. I rush the shot and catch the point of the side pocket. My opponent runs a few balls then makes an error and lets me back at the table. I clean up. 2-0 now. I break dry and my opponent runs out. 2-1. He breaks dry and I try to run out, but hook myself trying a break out. He gets out 2-2. He breaks and make a ball, runs a few, misses a shot, I get out. 3-2. The same story the next 2 racks, I win 5-2!

As I wait for my next match I have another snack and another coffee/energy drink (those Starbucks energy drinks have been a staple in my pool game lately). I discover that I play Bill S. He's the player I lost to horribly in the 9-ball Top Gun tournament a few months ago. Although, I played him in Masters league just a few weeks ago and won handily so... who knows what could happen. I realize that he's a better barbox player than me, he has decades of experience on this equipment so my only hope to play simple and strategic.

I don't recall who won the lag, but I can tell you that I played some of my best barbox 8-ball ever. I played very very smart, I ensured that no matter what, I made the ball I was aiming at. And I never really tried to get out on a rack that didn't lay for an easy out. I played safe when necessary and I was rewarded. In addition to that, I was getting some good rolls as he was missing a few more shots than I would ever expect. As such, I won the match 5-1!!!

Winning that match put me into the final 4 bracket and into the money! Our score-keeper happened to the person the winner would play next. He was one of the only 7's in the tournament. So, I was faced with one of the strongest players in the league and only had a few minutes to mentally reset. I lost the lag and Jeremy nearly made the 8 on the break - but lucky for me, nothing else went. I ran out a tricky rack and took the early lead 1-0. From there, I only needed 3 games, and he needed 5. Long story short, he got them all. He played really well and I dogged a few shots; which is all he needed to clean up. So, I lost 1-5, which was tough, but still it was a lot better finish than I had expected.

So, even though I played exactly 50% pool (rack total for the day was 13 wins and 13 losses), I feel like I played decently. I'm happy enough with my results - but I know I can do better. I know that my mistakes were purely mental; rushing or taking too great a risk on a shot. Sometimes those risks paid off - but when there's no good safe, or if the safe was as delicate/hard as the shot itself, I wanted to go down swinging. It paid off wonderfully in the match with Bill, but the few times I tried it against Jeremy, it didn't work. So, I should learn from those experiences.

I will say this though, my nerves have become much less of an issue when I get into pressure situations. I keep my mind focused a little better and I think clearer than I did 4 months ago. I also tried to really change some of my internal dialogue. Mostly changing from things like "I can NOT lose this match" to "I really want to WIN this match!". It's the same message, but one focuses on the negative while the other focuses on the positive. I wasn't able to hold that mantra all day at all times, but overall, I feel like I had a decent mental game. I played in a mini 9-ball tournament after this and I'll write all about that in another post.

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · League · Tournaments

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