Scotch Doubles 10-Ball - WINNER!!!

So, this weekend was a Scotch Doubles 10-ball event.  I was already planning on attending, since I was running the stream for the event, but wasn't sure if I was going to get to play.  At sort of the last minute, I asked the question on social media and got a response right off the bat.  As it turns out, it was the best decision.  Why?  Because WE WON THE TOURNAMENT!!

Here are the finals:

We played pretty well all day, got the rolls, took advantage when we got the chance and just stayed positive all day.  We did kinda lose ourselves while on the hill early in the 1st set, so before we started the 2nd set, Jake and Ryan actually asked us if we wanted to split.  Jean and I talked about it and we decided to go ahead and split it.  We played out the event so there'll be a winner, but that way there's no pressure about the money or anything.  

Normally I'm not a fan of splitting - but that's mostly because there's no tournament winner when people split. In this case, we also agreed to play it out so there would be a winner.  Of course, whichever team won the event would then wish they had not split, and the 2nd place team is happy they did - but hey.  1st or 2nd is still a good payday!

Just adding more money to the DCC pocketbook!  I'm gonna try and get in some more weekly tournament to add to it between now and the end of the month.

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Filed Under: 10-Ball · Tournaments

So Many Irons

Sorry folks for not posting in such a long time.  I've been going crazy with other projects.  I'm still playing a lot of pool and doing pretty well overall.  I want to say I've turned a corner and I think it's been a long enough streak that it's not just a streak.  I really think I've hit a new gear.  It's not one of those "my game jumped up 3 levels" kind of gear; just a "my game is pretty consistent now" kind of gear.

In addition to the new website, which has been sucking most of my free time away, I stole the time to attend a 2-day seminar with Mark Wilson. At first, I was concerned that I had just wasted money because I felt like it wasn't tailored to my own areas of concern enough.  But, then I thought about it and while it was heavily geared toward fundamentals, it was also a lot of forced attention and forced practice on things I rarely, if ever, get to do.  So, I knew that I'd have to just wait and see how things turned out.

Well, here we are almost 2 months later and I'm seeing the results manifest.  My pre-shot routine is far more stable, my pre-strokes are straighter than they've ever been and my command of the table is more consistent than ever.  Also, there was one piece of advice that struck me more than anything else and it's helped my mental game by leaps and bounds.  It's simple to say and something I'm sure I've heard time and time again, but for whatever reason; that time it struck the chord that rang true.

Since then, I've won 85% of my league matches, I've won a tournament, and placed in the money in others.  I'm breaking and running out more often and I'm keeping my head in a much better space more often than not (finally).

I can't help but wonder what I could be doing if I weren't so busy with everything else and actually had the time to practice I'd like.  So, what are these other things?  In addition to STLPool.net, I've been tapped on the shoulder to start up the streaming division of a new billiards company!

That's right!  Let me introduce you all to The Players Club!

We've already streamed one event over Thanksgiving and will be streaming at least 1 event a month going forward.  You can watch all the videos on STLPool's youtube channel (until the new TPC channel gets off the ground).

Here's the finals of that event though if you wanna see how my first live-stream went:

On top of all of that ... I've been really working on several things around the house, dealing with the holidays, the new job and just general life things.  Still, I'm very excited about everything that's going on right now, both personally and professionally.

2015 will be a HUGE year for pool in St. Louis.  TPC will be launching a points-based series of events; something of a tour.  There's a bunch of sponsors already involved, not from the billiard industry, so companies with money are getting involved.  The prizes listed for the next year are out of this world!  There's finally going to be something that draws pool players to the area, like the old days!

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Filed Under: General

You Are What's Wrong With Pool

Since this is Pool Awareness Week, I thought I'd write about something I'm quite passionate about: The Perception of Pool.

Pool players gamble. It's a fact. Everyone, at some point in their pool career, has gambled. Hell, even before I knew what a carom was, I played my friends for a dollar a rack. It's not going away and it's an element so deeply embedded into the sport, outsiders rarely know any other way to play the game.

Sadly, in professional pool there isn't enough money in the tournament circuit (in the United States) to support a pool player, so gambling is something of a necessary evil. However, that isn't to say there aren't ways of making it respectable; as there are. Challenge matches have become quite popular lately. These are televised (or streamed online) events, which people will (and do) pay to watch. There are sponsors coming on board adding money to the prize fund. There are referees, commentators, arena-style environments and VIP seating for these events. This is a respectable manner in which to gamble and as such, not part of the problem. If you don't want to be on a big stage with hundreds or thousands of people watching but still want to gamble $20,000 on a game of 9-ball, or perhaps you just play for $100, $10, $2, whatever - but you aren't risking your livelihood and you don't gamble more than you can afford to lose - you are gambling respectably; and thus, are not part of the problem.

The problem is when someone plays pool just so they can gamble on something. I'm sure we all know a couple of people who do nothing but look for action, all day, every day. And not just action; but the right kind of action; action they're the favorite to win. Sometimes, they're not the favorite, and even that's okay too; because they have action. And that's all they need. They don't need a car, a job, new clothes, a decent cue, sometimes they don't even need a place to stay; but they need action.

Okay, fine; have your action. You can even talk about your action, but do NOT try and sell yourself as a stand-up pool player. You are not a representative of what pool needs these days. You are a person with a gambling problem, period. You're constant nagging for action, begging for weight, turning games down that are too hard and boasting about playing for $10 over 10 hours like some kind of road player are what's wrong with pool.

Ironically enough, there is a real life road player in town this week, and playing for BIG money. But no one posts about it on social media, no one is complaining about having to give up too much weight, or not getting enough and certainly no one will post the results of the multi-day match-up. This is how you gamble; quietly and only within the realm of your own business.

Pool players need to be respectable. They need to be presentable and honest. They need to change the public's perception of the game, and consistently reinforce that. Mark Wilson and his entire goal with this year's Mosconi Cup team selection have been doing exactly that. And it has been so well received that it has spread beyond the limits of the Mosconi Cup. Other pro players are endorsing this kind of behavior. For example, Scott Frost lead a huge campaign for a young boy, Hunter Cole, battling cancer earlier this year. This change isn't restricted to just players either. Pool rooms have opened their doors to humanitarian efforts, like fundraising tournaments for local charities or special needs kids. Some companies are now following suit, best exemplified by Universe Project's Mission Statement; and that includes top-rated pro players like Johnny Archer, Dennis Hatch, Rodney Morris and Jennifer Baretta. Even beyond that, in social media, pro players are posting positively charged messages about pool, about the future of pool, about the new generation of pool players.

We, the pool playing community as a whole, are on the precipice of a new era of pool.

So, why in the world would anyone post something as asinine as this:

This kind of mentality perpetuates the stereotype of the ill-fated hustler. This ruins the progress made by respectable organizations trying to drag pool up from the seedy underbelly in which society had [rightfully] placed it decades ago. This kind of glorification of irresponsible behavior is killing everything the rest of the pool world is trying to do.

To quote Scott Frost, "It's not 1965 anymore!". In this one, simple image, the poster has just undone a year's worth of clawing out of a hole that pool has been anchored in for decades. Sure, it's a funny phrase; and it's fine to say to your friends in private or a particular room; but it has absolutely no place in the public facade of pool. It portrays a person who admits they have a problem; someone who likely has lost all of their earthly possessions at some point due to gambling (why else would someone want to help them by calling the hotline); and yet, this person is requesting more money to continue gambling.

Also embedded in this image is an age-old style of bravado: Bet Something! One might as well call the viewer "CHICKEN!". Those two statements are equally juvenile and only hurt the image of pool. This image disguises yet another known issue: that of the "Alpha Male". The implication being that one must prove themselves; and this can only be done by risking everything on a high stakes bet. [sarcasm]Because, surely no one can play as hard or as fierce without having their house on the line. [/sarcasm]

Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with gambling. There's nothing wrong with adding something to the outcome of a match. Players like to challenge themselves and they like winning something more than the last game of a set. But how it's done matters greatly. How you gamble matters. How you present yourself as a pool player matters. People who are good action, will typically always be good action, and able to find quality action. What that means is if you are a respected gambler, someone who wins gracefully, loses gracefully, gambles responsibly (relative to your financial standing), and pays their debts then you are good action. However, if every time someone tries to make a game with you, it takes longer figuring out the terms and gathering the money than it does to actually play the match - then you are not good action. You are a problem; a hassle that people will only deal with once or twice before realizing it's just not worth it.

People who are good action can be good for pool, they generate a buzz amongst the players and can draw spectators to the event. People who are bad action sometimes get more buzz, but it's all negative press; and in this case, there is such a thing as bad publicity. It's this unfortunate consequence that continues to spread the negative reputation of pool. The horror stories about people in gambling matches having guns drawn on them, getting robbed in the parking lots, and other negative outcomes tend to get more press than "Joe Smith won his $2,000 match, shook hands, bought his opponent dinner then left without incident." When ideally it would be the other way around.

There is good news for pool, however. The younger generation, for the most part, are being brought up in respectable establishments, with respectable goals, driven by honor and integrity, not machismo . The work of Mark Wilson and the Billiards Education Foundation are the two most notable contributions, on a national scale, to this effort. They are enforcing these quality traits in their members, and inspiring known players to change the way they present themselves to the world. Just in the course of this year I've witnessed a regional player transform from gambler into a respectable, professional pool player. It has been quite a privilege to witness. The social media posts from a year ago compared to today are worlds apart - and the pool community is better for it. The other followers of this player are seeing a positive example and I hope are taking notes.

The time of the chest-pounding pool player, grunting his successful swindle for all to see is coming to an end. I, for one, give an excited round of applause for this exit. It was an enjoyable story time, but it's over now. This is the time of positive pool. This is the time when the community can prepare itself for public consumption. This is the time when pool needs to position itself so that it can start competing with larger sports. It needs to do this if it ever hopes to have a chance at getting big company sponsorships. If pool wants to bring on Pepsi or Budweiser or Nike, it will need to be presentable and respected by the general public. We all want to have events with millions of dollars in the prize fund, this is how we start to build those opportunities.

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Filed Under: General

Tournament Review: Kenny's Jack'n'Jill October 2014

Let me just start off by saying I WON THIS TOURNAMENT!!!

Okay, now that that's out of the way I can talk a little more objectively about the event. ;)  This tournament was a Jack'n'Jill Scotch Doubles 8-ball event, with team limit skill level of 10.  My rating at the host location is just a 5, and my partner's was a 3.  So, we played as an 8 combined, which meant we only had to get 3 wins per match. Most of the teams were a 9 and couple were a 10; though 9's and 10's both went to 4.

Although I don't remember feeling particularly amped up that day, and quite honestly, I expected to be out of the event by 5pm (and was planning on attending another tournament that evening).  But, the pool gods had other plans for me/us.  We started off winning our first match 3-2 pretty easily.  We had good layouts and just played smart; even though both of us were unfamiliar with the equipment as they use the lighter red circle cueball and had just put on new cloth.  This event has had a history of long delays between rounds so I was shocked when we were called to play again just about 30 minutes later.  We faced off with a team I thought had a good chance of cashing.  But, the rolls kept coming our way, and their 4 kept making mistakes.  Again, we won 3-2.

Now it was near time for lunch, but I was far too scared to eat as that has been my downfall in the past.  I stuck with a combination of water and coffee for a while and that seemed to work out well.  For our 3rd match we had to play the bar owner and his teammate.  But, same as the last match, we were able to take advantage of the rolls and their low skill player left too many opportunities for us to capitalize.  We didn't start off well in this match, and found ourselves down 1-3; they were on the hill, we needed 2.  The balls aligned themselves just right and we were able to steal that match!  And just like that, we were in the HOTSEAT!

Another team, friends of ours, had just lost to the team we would face in the hotseat match.  They warned us their 3 was playing very well; didn't miss a ball the whole match.  I don't know if that affected us or not - I'd like to think it didn't; but who really knows.  This was a tough match and it went hill-hill; but we made a couple of mistakes late in the match and they won the hotseat, sending us to the left side.  However, that means we were guaranteed 3rd, in the money for both the tournament and the calcutta.  From here all we had to do was have fun and shoot some pool as everything beyond this was a bonus. :)

We had a good long wait before we'd play again (about 3 hours) so I ordered a proper dinner, high in protein, low in carbs/fat; while continuing to hydrate thoroughly with water to offset the soda and coffee.  We waited and watched our friends battle through the 1-loss side until it was finally time for us to play.

Here's where things got weird - in a cosmic sort of way.  Their high skill level started making rookie mistakes - like scratching in the side off a ball near the foot rail.  It's as if the pool gods again reached down and gave us the golden favor of the rolls.  We fought hard and had to make some tough shots, but we came with it when we could and we progressed to the finals!

Before the match began I offered the waiting team a chance to hit a rack since I know they've been sitting for longer than we sat.  They were very appreciative and I wanted to make sure if we won, it wasn't because we were warmed up and they weren't.

We would have to beat them twice to take the title and we fought for it.  We fought hard and they tried every bit as hard; perhaps too hard.  We made it to hill-hill in the first set and played a long-table ball blocker safety.  Their high skill level pulled out his jump cue, jumped the blocker, cut the 8 in the corner... followed by the cueball in the other corner.  We won the first set!

The 2nd set we quickly got up 2-1 on them and held them down with smart play until our knight in shining armor appeared.  On a wild shot, the 8 ball flew around the table and sat right in front of a corner pocket - just behind one of their balls.  Their ball was so close that nearly any touch of their ball would sink the 8.  We quit making balls and just placed the cueball in areas of the table where they couldn't use another ball to slide in off the rail and off the 8, solving that problem.  We continued this pattern until they tried a couple of desperation shots; which did not work out for them.  Soon, they found themselves stuck behind a blocker and forced to kick at their last ball, which was nearly frozen to the 8, hanging in the pocket.  They used their coach earlier and it was their low skill level's shot.  After a lot of consideration and measuring and calling a ref to watch the hit, we observed as she swung the cueball off the rail trying to barely miss the 8, which she did not, and it bounced off their ball, into the pocket and dropped.  WE WIN!

I was a bit in shock - I had never won a tournament so I was kind of standing there like "it's over, right? we won, right?".

Afterwards, I reflected on how I played and realized that a few things were key to this win.  First and absolutely foremost, the biggest key to this success was staying positive.  Even though I missed a couple shots (and really, only a couple all day) and we lost some racks because of it - I never got angry.  I didn't get upset and I wasn't defeated or deflated when we did lose.  Secondly, I'm attributing my focus on the table.  I stuck with my pre-shot routine and I didn't pull the trigger until I was confident in the shot.  This forced me to play a little slower than usual, but in most cases, it ensured a good shot with good position for my partner.  Thirdly, hydration. I probably drank 100oz of water throughout the day and only about 16oz of soda and coffee (each).  I didn't eat a lot at any one time.  I snacked mostly; just enough to keep my energy up without being full.  I also went outside to enjoy the beautiful day after every match.  I walked around the parking lot and soaked in the sun.  Lastly, I accepted what the table gave me.  If was left with a tough bank, I didn't get annoyed that I had to shoot it; I made up my mind to shoot it and it went.  I had to shoot 4 tough 8-ball banks throughout the day and I made every single one of them.  Banks that I never make were going in clean.

Everyone has heard that phrase "When it's your time to win..." and I had never put any stock in that phrase.  I thought it was one of those things you tell people who can't win to make them feel like their time is coming.  Well, perhaps that's true - but that night - I lived it. It was our time to win.  The gods blessed us with more rolls than anyone else in the tournament and we stayed strong and finished what we were allowed to finish.  Did we get lucky? Absolutely.  Did we play well all day? Absolutely.  Who's say what the difference was - I don't think it was anything tangible.

And for now, I will just bask in the high of winning a tournament. Leaving a tournament with more cash in my pocket than I entered with. Gaining the respect of my peers and opponents. Hearing the applause for a long day's work.

It very well might have lit a new fire in me.  I'll talk about that in another post later.

Here are some pictures from the event.

Here's the bracket:

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · Tournaments

STLPool.Net Is Here

Some of you may have noticed I haven't been posting too much recently.  There was a very good reason for that and I can now finally tell you all about it.

 

This website has just launched live.  This affects my posting here because I am the creator and author of this new site.  I've been working on this site, in every spare moment I could steal, forgoing practice, tournaments and social engagements in some cases.  This is the fruit of my labor and I couldn't be happier with the reception it has had so far  Go check it out and let me know what you think!

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Filed Under: General

Another Milestone - 2nd package

After I worked on drills for a while (see previous post) I closed the night playing the ghost.  He still won, but I had another great milestone moment!  I posted a few months ago about my first-ever 2-pack.  Well, it happened again!  Apparently, what I need to do is to lose horribly to my sparring partner, then play the ghost for an hour or so in order to do this. Wink

Obviously, the next step is to get that 3rd rack.  Before I can do that though, I REALLY need to work on my break.  It's completely gone on the big-table these days, but I've built it up before, I can/will do it again. 

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Training

Training Update: Rail Workout

Sunday I sparred with a guy who's been kicking my ass for a while and that trend continued.  It showed me a couple of things though, which is the best part of sparring.

1) I was missing frozen-rail shots, particularly going forward 3 rails.

2) I lost my mental control and focus, resulting getting upset at every single thing ever, resulting in an Earl Strickland type of outburst.

So... instead of unscrewing and going home, I stayed and worked on things (after taking a 20 minutes break to just collect myself).  It was a great thing because I accomplished another drill I haven't done successfully before.

The Rail Workout, aka, the Karen Corr drill via Joe Tucker has been in my drill book for years, but I can't recall ever completing it as well as I did that night.  And I was filming!

I used low/outside on the first shot, low/inside rail-first on the 2, straight high on the 3, high/inside on the 5, low/inside rail-first on the 5 and straight high on the 6.  Now, that's not the strictest way to execute this drill, but it is an important part of doing drills.  Don't set yourself up for failure by making the drill TOO hard.  The next time I do this drill, I'll start with allowing me to use any english I want.  Then I'll forced myself to use only high/inside going forward 3 rails.  Another variation would be to only use low/outside 2 rails.  And finally low/inside rail-first.

After that, I could further complicate the drill by shooting the balls all into the same pocket, working my way down the table shooting down the rail.  I can also mix it up by placing the balls an inch off the rail instead of frozen, which changes the rebound angle just enough to make position less than automatic.

I will post again with updates as I experiment with these options.

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Filed Under: Training

The Teaser

I haven't had time to do much of anything lately.  Mostly because I've been entirely focused on a new project which is nearing it's completion.  Let's just say that if this project works as expected, there'll be a new major online resource for the local pool community.

I've spent 200+ hours in the last  couple of months working on this new site, which doesn't leave time for much pool.  Though, I've had some great matches and some absolutely horrid ones as well.  But, that's to be expected when every waking thought has been related to the project.

So, what's this project going to do then, you ask?  Well, I won't just come right out and tell you, but I'll let some of the menus do the talking.  Looking for something to do this week, well this might help:

Maybe you're interested in finding something new?  We've got you covered:

I can't possibly know everything, unfortunately, which is okay because it allows me to pick up new things.

I'm super excited about this and I can't wait to show it off in its entirety, but for now, this is all I can say about it.  Look for updates in the next week or so. :)

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Filed Under: General

Jayson Shaw vs Shane van Boening

I just saw this:

This will be an amazing match!

It's a PPV $40 over 2 days.  Next weekend has been booked!

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Filed Under: 10-Ball

Knowing the Cue Ball Path

People are always talking about the importance of knowing tangent lines and they're absolutely right.  However, what they tend to overlook are those odd paths that happen after contacting a rail - after the tangent line calculation.  Sometimes english plays a major role, sometimes it doesn't.  Speed always plays a role.

Let's start with a classic amateur mistake:

 

We've all been there.  Shooting a duck in the corner pocket and needing to back down table for the next shot.  Our experience tells us that we want the cueball to "run" or "go forward" so we hit the shot with top spin, expecting that it will take off after making the 1-ball.  But what happens is something entirely different.  We put too much top-spin on the ball; so much so that after the cueball bounces off the headrail, it still has top-spin on it, but now the direction the cueball is moving is the opposite of the direction of the spin.  The friction from the spin of the cueball reacts with the direction of the ball which makes the cueball stop dead - on the wrong of the side of the table.

Solution: Use center ball.  The natural roll picked up by the cueball over the cloth will maintain the speed required for position and not interfere with the rebound off the headrail and send the cueball back down table.  Advanced players will help this effect by adding side-spin to the equation, sending the cueball around 2 or 3 rails to get back down-table.  You can't use draw because the object ball will significantly absorb the forward momentum of the cueball, leaving just the backspin on the ball - and then altering the tangent line; which in turn, leaves the ball heading dangerously close to the other corner pocket.  A "stun" shot would be ok, but again, the speed required to hit a stun shot with enough leftover velocity to get around the table increases the difficulty of the shot exponentially.

Let's look at another classic mistake:

 

This typically happens when the player has learned to draw the cueball pretty well, but still hasn't quite figured out how to control it with precision.  You can hit this shot with pure draw or draw with outside spin, hoping to avoid this disaster; but neither work without serious pro-level draw control.

Solution: Let the cueball go forward and in/out of the corner.  You can look for a bank, or you can draw with inside english so that the cueball still has the effect of going forward off the side rail, but forcing it to hit the bottom rail instead of the pocket (this is an advanced stroke, and will take quite a lot of practice).

While you're learning these sorts of tricks, keep them in the back of your mind as sometimes, they will come in quite handy.  For example, last night in league, I came to the table looking at the wrong half of the 7 ball (playing 10-ball).  I couldn't make the 7 in the corner, I couldn't cross-bank it at the 10. I couldn't cross bank it up table.  I could have tried to bank it in the upper right corner.  Then I noticed where the cueball would go if I did try that.  So, then I abandoned the idea of making the 7 and focused entirely on where the cueball was going.  I called the 10-ball and my opponent looked like I told him a joke.  I know I had to a little of a stun shot , but that would send the cueball to around the 2.5 diamond, but I needed to hit around the 3rd diamond, so I added some outside english to "stiffen" the rebound a little more.  I got down, and pulled the trigger and watched with absolute glee as the cueball bent off the side rail and twirled right into the 10-ball, sending it into the pocket.

 

My opponent and teammates all congratulated me on an excellent shot and I explained that I just had to help it a little - no matter how I hit the 7, the cueball was heading that direction.  It is, to date, my best carom in a competitive setting.

So, the next time you scratch in a place you never thought you'd ever scratch, remember what happened with the cueball.  Catalog how you hit it and what the cueball did in your brain - someday you will be able to use that information to your benefit.

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Filed Under: 10-Ball · General

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