Archive for 'PoolSynergy'

Top 10 Favorite Pool Photographs

Posted on 15. Aug, 2011 by .


This months Pool Synergy topic is called “Ten Things.” Click here for Sammy’s list of lists:

Ten Favorite Photographs

I’ve got thousands of photographs of pool players, venues, and tournaments. My hard disk space is in the Terabyte range. It would be impossible for me to pick ten favorite photographs that I’ve shot, but I can pick out ten that have real meaning to me and relate a little story behind each one.  Click on any photo for a better look.

1.  Let’s start with our own Pool Synergy hostesses for this month. Samm Vidal Claramunt played in the APA’s US Amateur Championships in November of 2009 at Stroker’s II in Tampa, Florida. I traveled with her to celebrate my 40th birthday. Just days before we left, I had my first ever MRI and learned of my CMC or Basil Joint Arthritis. I returned home to a letter from the IRS telling me they’d selected me for a full tax audit for the year 2008. Talk about a triple whammy of bad luck in the span of a week. The good news is I captured this fantastic action shot of the “Cherry Bomb” jacking up for a jump shot. Too bad that great big pool room recently closed. It was the perfect venue for large tournaments. I wonder, what happened to Jeanette Lee’s billiard table that was set up in Stroker’s II?

2.  Speaking of “The Black Widow”, Jeanette Lee is easily the most recognized and remembered professional player in my lifetime. Novice students as well as non pool playing friends and acquaintances always pull her name or moniker out of their head and ask about her. I never get sick of it. It’s a good sign for our industry and a real feather in Lee’s cap that she’s got such marketing penetration. Pictured is Lee in the now extinct TAR Room at the Derby City Classic in 2010. This is the year she won the Louie Robert’s Action Award, the title that goes to the player who is in near constant action and often gambles the most during the 10 day event. Lee has always had my respect as a serious gambler. Her nickname, drab/sexy couture, and flirty sharking during exhibitions don’t impress me and in fact repulse me. The way she dresses down and gets down for the money does. I doubt there’s ever been or ever will be a female player that bets as high and as often as the killer arachnid.

3.  Shane Van Boening’s devastating 10-Ball break. The South Dakota Kid has been on a wild tear for some time. I can’t think of any American player who has benefitted so much by the shift to 10 ball as the tournament game of choice. His break is something to behold.

4.  If you’ve been following my blog, you know of my maniacal obsession with snooker. I enjoy watching matches via my computer live from the UK, China, or most recently Thailand. There is some spill over to the United States. Snooker pro Tony Drago and the most famous referee in the world Michaela Tabb appeared in Las Vegas in 2009 for Barry Hearn’s World Pool Masters 10-Ball event. That was pool, not snooker, but here is John Morra playing in the Can-Am Snooker event inLas Vegas in June 2009. This makes me dream of going toSheffieldand snapping pro snooker matches. Barry Hearn and Luke Riches (if you are reading this), I’d be happy to cut my teeth taking photos at a qualifier event or even just lugging cables around The Crucible.

5.  Ralf Souquet was just voted into the  Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame. The first European player to get in, “The Surgeon” takes the game very seriously and has played at a top level for many years. I played him in the US Open one year and led 2-1 before he reeled off ten wins in a row to retire me. Watching his focus from the point of an opponent brought new understanding to what this man can do. He’s probably the most consistent players and a threat to win any tournament he enters. Also, Souquet is slightly older than me, so it gives me optimism that my game can still improve to reach a higher peak.

6.  Sigel in 1990. This photo is special to me since it marks 21 years of photographing pro pool players. I wrote about this trade show last December.

7.  Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman is as serious as he can get with his signature caricature on his vest, his $12 logo watch, and big red bow tie. He is seated in front of a Gabriel Billiard Table enjoying his real passion. An entertainer by trade—the hardest working trick shot performer, competitor, and teacher—he confessed to me that he loves competing in 3-Cushion Billiards. If he ever retired from touring with Marty “Miss Cue” Rossman, he’d probably play loads of three cushion. He’s not too bad either, averaging north of .700 I suspect. I also have enjoyed 3-Cushion for over 20 years, thanks to my Bert Schrager cue purchase in ’91 and my favorite billiard author Robert Byrne.

8.  Jesse Engel, age 16. Gambling in a ring game with some excellent players in the fall of 2008. I love his expression that seems to say, “Look out everybody.” Here he is at the same pool room in a tournament we co-produced a couple of weeks ago. We’re driving out to Canton, OH for a Seminole Pro 10-Ball event next weekend.

9. FargoBilliards. Frequent blogging topic for me as I feel it is the best pool room in the country and less than 4 hours from home. This image was also my first cover shot. Billiards Digest used it in their annual architecture awards in the October 2009 issue. I’ve had many photos of players published in all three pool magazines, but I’m also proud of the work I did for Executive Billiards. I believe they still use this image in some of their ads.

10.  Efren. What else can be said about him. If you haven’t yet seen him play in person, make it your mission. I know he’s been featured in Accu-Stats matches, streaming events, and ESPN telecasts. But I’m telling you, seeing what he does in person is different. I mean somehow indescribable. Sometimes I tell students the difference between me shooting in balls and Efren shooting in balls is like the difference in watching some old dude who can make 100 free throws in a row vs. watching Michael Jordan in his prime knocking down fade-away jumpers. They both count, but one is so much more beautiful than the other.

And just because my amps go to eleven, bonus photos that I’m very proud of. Two consecutive years, I’ve captained “Who Needs a Billiard Coach!?” to national team championships. In 2010 we won the BCAPL Open Team Championship. This year we won the VNEA International Masters Team Championship. I’ll have more to write about this year’s crazy event soon. It takes a while to sort out all the stories from being on the road for more than a month straight.


Mike Fieldhammer


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PoolSynergy: Picking up the cue again

Posted on 15. Jul, 2011 by .


6 Things You Should Know Before Coming Back to the Game of Pool

So you’re thinking of making a comeback, huh? Do yourself a favor and read up before you enter the shark’s den. Brushing up on this knowledge can make your return to the ring much easier, more enjoyable, and less stressful. For PoolBum’s introduction to this topic and for links to all the PoolSynergy writers, visit PoolBum’s blog here.

Review pool room etiquette. Don’t be the bad guy by unknowingly offending players. Review my past article about proper behavior here.

Please help keep our tables clean.

Read and know the current game rules. Things may have changed since you last picked up a cue. Last pocket 8-ball is a gambling gimmick. 1 and 15 in the side pockets is strictly for the old guys at the retirement home. Now there’s ball in hand anywhere and anytime. Racking rules (where certain balls must be placed in the triangle) are pervasive.

Check your equipment. Nowadays, 19 ounce and lighter are the standard. Especially for break cues. Faster cloth, livelier cushions and tighter pockets call for precision and touch. Those heavy hunks of lumber you used to push the balls around are antiques. It’d be like a reincarnated Bobby Jones trying to play a 7,500 yard US Open golf course with his Niblick, Mashie, and Spoon.

Gambling is more dangerous. Years ago if you played just a little bit, you’d have a good chance at winning several dollars in casual games for money at the pool room or bar. Today, if you gamble, you’d better be ready for a tough game! The level of play these days is miles ahead of the standard of 40 or 50 years ago. This is the most important thing I can tell you about gambling: Post Up! This means both players shall place take their wager and agree to put it on top of the light or have a houseman hold the dough. This is for everybody’s protection. The winner will get paid and hopefully sour feelings or words won’t get in the way of the debt being paid off. Much more could be written about matching up, but this will have to suffice for now.

Know if you’ll practice alone or want to play against someone else. The days of showing up and having many opponents to choose from are gone. Leagues might take up all the tables. Call a friend first. Call the pool room first and make sure you can get a pool table.

Don’t be forced into a game you don’t care for. Keep an open mind about playing various games, but remember that if you picked up pool for your love of One-Pocket, Banks, or Straight Pool by all means play those games. Younger guys will pester you to play 9-ball, 10-ball, or 8-ball. Give them a try if you like, but don’t be afraid to ask them to play your game. You may pick up some great ideas from their fresh approach to your classic game. Likewise, trying their game might teach you a few new shots.

Nearly four years ago, I wrote an article on this same topic. Check that old piece out for a couple of other ideas. The 2007 article is located here.

Welcome back and enjoy your time at the pool table. Consider them golden.

Enjoy pool and avoid Trouble.



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Pool Synergy: The Perfect Pool Tournament

Posted on 15. Jun, 2011 by .


Steps to follow for a great tournament as told by our Pool Synergy writers.

In this month’s edition of the Pool Synergy blogging initiative, I’ve asked our panel of opinionated players to tell us what they think makes for a great tournament. It is my hope that pool room owners, tournament directors, counter men and women, players, and event promoters will see this collection of ideas and incorporate them into tournaments around the world.

1. Michael Reddick explains that it’s not really about the  tournament, but WHO shows up that makes it a great event. Read about it here.

2. Gail Glazebrook, C.P.A.( Go figure!) appreciates well organized, classy tournaments that are always trying to improve. Gail is, of course, a player, but also has experience running tournaments. She’s well qualified to audit a tournament from both sides of the TD desk.   Read about it here.

3. Jake Dyer takes a look back in time to one of the greatest tournaments of all time, the famous Johnston City tournaments of the 1960s. Read why these became so legendary that we’re still talking about them 40-something years later  here. Read about it here.

4. Poolriah says he isn’t much of a tournament player but he’s got plenty to say about what makes for a great spectator experience at the event. Read about it here.

5. I like it when tournaments feature something unique, fun, or rewarding. Certain things make for a memorable tournament experience that sets one apart from another. Mike Page at Fargo Billiards & Gastropub has hit a couple of home runs. Read about it here.

6. Melinda comes at this question from a pure player’s point of view and she knows what she’s talking about. She points her finger directly at the Tournament Director (TD) and tells it like it is. Read about it here.

7. Detroit Larry, who lives in San Francisco, is a first time writer on the Pool Synergy team. He writes about weekly “Hi-Tech Tournaments” he’s running that have a web presence. Read about it here.

To sum up, here’s the condensed list of ingredients to make a great pool tournament.

  1. Make certain that you invite the who’s who in your region to make it to the event. Get the right mix of characters in the hizzouse and you’ll be sure to have an exciting atmosphere.
  2. Class it up and make it ultra organized.
  3. Try to create an event that will be talked about for years.
  4. Make it a joy to attend for non-playing spectators.
  5. Think outside the box to entice players to think fondly of the event and feel glad they made the trip.
  6. Have a Tournament Director that helps players compete at their best and makes them want to come back again.
  7. Leverage the web for recruiting and results.

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Pool Synergy: Tournament Directors Unboxed

Posted on 15. Jun, 2011 by .


I would like to ask all Tournament Directors to please step out of the box. The scary trend of plummeting tournament attendance requires some fresh thinking. Michael Page, owner of Fargo Billiards & Gastropub, has served up some super fresh twists on traditional tournaments. Maybe having the largest pool room in the western hemisphere and having it located in Fargo, North Dakota has motivated him to do whatever it takes to produce great pool tournaments. His next big event starts next week on June 25. I’ll be there.

Nothing beats a quality open tournament.  While handicapped and divisional tournaments have their places, playing in them is a little like fishing in a stocked pond.  The reason—the real reason—most of us throw our lines in the river is for the possibility, however remote, that a thirty-pound Channel Cat grabs the other end.  We’re all dreamers, and as pool players we’re lucky enough to be able to throw our lines into the water for the cost of a steak dinner and a bottle of wine. – Mike Page

For example, Mike Page at Fargo Billiards held a full field calcutta at 11am for his noon start event. 80 players or so were on the auction block. He announced a free breakfast being served buffet style at 10 am. This was such a nice perk for players and railbirds alike. The bonus is the attendance for the calcutta was huge and everyone was in a great mood and ready to spend a little money having been comped a delightful meal. The calcutta was record setting- over $10,000 in the pot. Every penny was paid back to the top 8 spots.

Another thing Page does in weekly tournaments is to have a bonus pot that one player from each tournament has a shot at winning. The challenge is called “Speed Rack.” A video is the best way to show this.

Of the many ways to enjoy competition in pool, I favor tournaments. Leagues, matching up, practicing with pals all have a soft spot in my heart, but tournaments get my adrenaline pumping more than any of them. We all know the pool world has been in a slump and quality tournaments are taking it on the chin. I feel that most players will try entering a tournament at least once in their pool career. Sometimes that experience will get them hooked or put them off of tournaments for life. In my dreams for a better pool world, I wish all tournaments were crafted to be an ideal experience for all involved. This would ensure growth of that event and others, since whole crops of tournament players would be grown.

Check out all of the Pool Synergy authors that have ideas for the ideal tournament on my summary page here.

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