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I Think I Unsucked Myself August 16, 2008

Posted by Mitchell in Science & Technology.

I went down to the pool hall after work yesterday and I finally started playing again like I used to which is MUCH better than I have been doing lately. Lately? Hell, the last several for many years really. I was a lot more consistent in my play and making shots that I should have been making all along. To make sure that this wasn’t a one-off kinda night I went back today and played a couple hours on one of the larger 9-foot tables they have instead of the 8-footers we use for league play and that I’ve been messing around on.

There’s no doubt about it. I’m back. And I figured out what I was doing wrong.

I’ve played pool off an on most of my entire life. I learned the fundamentals of the game from my father when I was a kid on a pool table we had in our home.  He was and still is a very good player himself who learned how to play on a snooker table when he was young.  Anyway, the point is – good fundamentals.  I knew how to shoot the ball and reliably make most of the routine kind of shots you get during a regular game without having to think about them too much.  That’s probably 75% to 80% of the game right there.  The rest of the game is dealing with problem situations with advanced shot making (banks, combinations, caroms, etc.) and figuring out how to use position play to minimize problem situations and not use advanced shot skills at all if possible.  It’s that last bit – the position play that separates pros from amateurs.  If you watch the best pros the vast majority of their shots seem to be easy ones.  They are using precision cue ball control to set themselves up with successive series of easy-ish shots.  I’m digressing though.  Let’s get back to my problem.

My problem was that I had forgotten my fundamentals. Or, at least forgotten how to use them on the instinctual level.  It was like peridically forgetting how to ride a bike and suddenly crashing into stuff from time to time on easy, straight paths.  It didn’t make any sense to me and I at a loss as to how to help myself.  I started reading up on other fundamental shot training methods – aiming at ghost balls and whatnot and  tried them.  It helped a little, but I was still disconnected from my own skill set.  When I got The Shaft and I had immediate improvement I was very excited.  This didn’t last though – soon I was having a lot of the same problems.  This made even less sense and my frustration grew.  But, I started noticing something though:  I usually played my best at the very beginning of practice.

Ok, so this meant that I was doing something to change my gameplay as it went on from the correct thing to do, to the incorrect thing.  I recently read an article about focusing on establishing routine as a way to connect with the funtamentals.  I tried the guy’s routine – stand this way to line up the shot, move this foot here, that foot there for the stance, blah blah blah.  It didn’t help much but that was his routine, not mine.  But something clicked.  I was doing something in my routine that was throwing me off and not letting me connect to my fundamental skill at the game.  Last night I finally figured out what the hell that was.

When setting up a shot from an upright position I mentally lay down the lines that connect the centers of the pocket, object and cue balls at the correct angles to make the shots.  I then position myself so that the cue is in in the correct line to the shot to “make it so”.  Then I settle into the crouch positon to aim the ball and fine tune adjustments to the line from the new perspective.  I then look from the cue ball to the object ball to the pocket while making my practice strokes until I pull the trigger and shoot the ball.  And miss.  Well, not always, but a lot more than I should – thus The Problem.  Did you see the error in my routine?  It was here:  fine tune adjustments to the line from the new perspective. This was from looking at the object ball to the pocket from the crouch position.  I was second-guessing the lines I could see from the more comprehensive angle and my initial physical positioning to use them.  I have been fighting my fundamental instincts all this time!!  Once I realized this my old routine just snicked into place and a lot of my problems went away.  I still have something of the new bad habit of trying to adjust my shot line from the wrong position, but the more I play the less that should happen.

I’m really looking forward to next Monday night.



1. doubleplusundead - August 16, 2008

Cool, glad you’re getting back into it. I wouldn’t mind learning how to play, I think there’s a pool hall downtown. Maybe I’ll have to go at some point.

2. Lemur King - August 16, 2008

Good to hear that un-sucking does not mean to blow (as in “I didn’t think that it was physically possible to suck and blow at this game at the same time”).

You describe it so that it sounds like you’re having to do like in chess, think three or four moves ahead, which I’m usually struggling with the current shot.

3. Enas Yorl - August 17, 2008

Ideally the player should have a plan for running the entire table coming in after the break. The pros often do if there’s a good spread with no obvious problem areas. I’m not that good, and likely never will be so planning beyond 3 or 4 shots is mostly useless.

As for your game, you still need to establish your fundamentals. Obviously without seeing you play I don’t know exactly what your specific issues are, but in my experience the basic mechanics of shot making are the big barriers. If you really want to improve go out and play with someone you know can shoot pretty well and ask him/her to teach you. Or hang out in a pool hall and watch the better players. I knew a guy back in college who went from the worst player I’d ever seen to one of the better ones I’d ever faced over a summer break. He learned how to play by hanging out in a pool hall all summer and getting some of the older players to teach him. Or you can pick up any number of “How To…” books and DVD’s out there.

4. ~KC~ - August 19, 2008

Going back to basics usually helps!
Excellent on you…

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