Tag Archives: Billiard Industry

Samsara Cues Shop Tour Part 2

Posted on 22. Jan, 2013 by .


Here’s another video of the Samsara Cue shop in Rugby, ND.

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Thirty-One Tips: 31. Please purchase something from the Billiard Coach

Posted on 31. Jan, 2011 by .

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Dear Readers,

I sincerely hope you’ve grabbed some educational, inspiring, or entertaining material from this month’s series of articles. If so, please consider taking a lesson, buying some pool gear, or tossing a small donation my way. I’m available for lessons/coaching by appointment and I’m compiling a list of some special deals on cues for a February Blowout Sale. Please contact me if you’d like me to email you a private preview of some of the bargains coming up.

Maintaining this blog and the forums takes time and money. I’m happy doing it, but I too must make a living. Thank you to all of my clients who’ve taken a lesson and/or bought any products from me. I hope you’re happy with your purchase. If you are, please pass along the news of your experience to someone you know. Referrals are very important to my growing business.  Thanks again.

To wrap up this month’s marathon of articles, here’s a piece I authored for the American Cuemaker’s Association.

Thanks for tuning in,

Mike Fieldhammer

Why buy an American made cue?

© 2010 Mike Fieldhammer, BilliardCoach.com

America has a long tradition of cultivating craftsmen and artisans.  Modern cue making innovations were pioneered in the United States and we have a rich history of woodworkers, machinists, and players veering course and developing into full time cue makers.  The American Cuemaker’s Association celebrates the craft by honoring the year’s best achievement in cue building with annual awards at their banquet each March. Players and cue collectors around the globe reap the benefits of the ever advancing art and science of cue making. Beauty, performance, and artistic vision meld with a magical quality to become the wand that pockets balls with beautiful precision.

Cue makers who belong to the ACA deserve a pat on the back and a buck in their pockets for keeping players in top gear. The association was founded in 1993 by a group of guys whose goal is the same now as it was then.  In essence, they wanted a trade association for American cue makers that meet a high standard of quality in their cues and conduct business in the highest ethical manner. As many players who have bought cues from an ACA member can attest, the process and the product can be exhilarating and a source of pride and joy to use for years and years. The technical prowess of an ACA member is a certainty.  Other trades have a system to signify proficiency and experience with terms like apprentice, journeyman, and finally master craftsman.  One could think of the ACA as those cue makers who have reached the master craftsman level.

Samsara 8 point pool cues.

Some cue wielders relish the chance to spec out a weapon of exacting details to bring out their best game.  “I’d like a strong taper, ivory ferrule, lizard wrap, 3 shafts, and 19.3 ounces please.”  Others have a certain look as their primary concern such as certain color veneers, white with brown spec linen wrap, and a Hoppe ring, with no rubber bumper. No matter what your preference is, you’ll probably find just the right artist for your dream cue within the ACA.  Meeting face to face or by a series of phone calls and email exchanges, ACA members take pride in their customer service and will be happy to have you contribute to the design process.

Follow up service can be just as simple and pleasurable, if necessary.  ACA members have a reputation of taking care of their customers.  Discuss the warranty with your ACA cue builder. They are members of the ACA because their product meets a certain build quality that is reviewed by a panel of cue experts. This is one of the criteria each member has passed to gain entry into the ACA.

After the sale, follow up is also top notch. Decide to change the weight or get another shaft as a spare?  No problem. ACA cue makers are likely to be within a couple of time zones of your local time and are easy to reach.  Shipping and delivery times are generally reasonable and you don’t have to worry about the cue being subjected to a transoceanic flight or boat ride.  Since wood still breaths and moves, minimizing environmental effects is important.

ACA is kind of a better business bureau for cue builders.  You can bet that members of the group have been making cues for many years. Even freshmen cue makers in the ACA have probably been making cues for ten years of longer.  The craft is so specialized that it can take years to attain a reputation and the skills to build a product worthy of entry into the American Cuemaker’s Association. Similarly, it is likely that your cue builder will be around for many, many years to come.  Making a living building cues is just as difficult as making a living playing pool, yet most ACA members do it as career.  Passionate, experienced, and highly skilled, these elite cue makers have found a way to make their love of cue making into a lifelong devotion and way of life.

Brand new Limited Series Samsara D-12. In Stock.

“Made in the USA” and “Buy American” are slogans and bumper stickers that have been floating around for years.  In these days of economic crises, they ring as true as ever.  Think about cue makers in the following statements. “When you buy goods made in the USA, you help keep the American economy growing.” This certainly applies.  Even more true when you think about many Cuemakers  who started in another’s shop and eventually spun off to become a well known solo craftsmen.  Or the tradition of passing the cue shop down to the next generation of sons and daughters.

“When you buy only American-made products, you insist on a higher standard.” Also true, ACA cuemakers raise the bar for cues made in the USA and around the world.  If cuemakers disappear across the country, quality could slip as the competition dwindles.  Buy American and help keep your friends and neighbors – and even yourself – earning a living wage. Imports won’t have to strive for high quality to complete.

Next time or any time you think about buying a new cue, consider buying American.  American Cuemaker’s Association, that is. You’ll be supporting a rich history of American craftsmen dreaming up revolutionary designs for essential equipment to pocket balls in a centuries old game. In return, you’ll get a cue that will have the ACA member stand behind.  It’s their profession.

Mike Fieldhammer is a full time tournament player and professional billiard instructor. Mike’s team “Who Needs a Billiard Coach?!” recently won the BCAPL National Team Championship in a field of 674 teams.  He also is a cue collector beginning with a Bert Schrager purchased while still a broke college student in 1990.  Lessons, gift certificates, and some collectable cues are available at the Billiard Coach Store.

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Thirty-One Tips: 26. Know the Rules

Posted on 26. Jan, 2011 by .


Know the rules.

Well worth the time to know which rules rule.

Many players in the United States enjoy participating in pool leagues. We’ve got many choices including BCAPL, APA, VNEA, ACS, UPL, TAP, and countless other regional or local acronyms to pick. Trouble for an active pool player is to know which set of rules is being used at various tournaments as well as casual play in a pool room or tavern. The official global federation that has a very complete list of rules is the World Pool-Billiard Association known as WPA. I think they have a pretty good rules committee and revise the rulebook every few years. It seems that every league organization customizes the WPA rule set to best suit league and tournament play for their customers.  You must be familiar with each set so you can take advantage of fouls by your opponent, avoid making fouls, and so that you aren’t taken advantage of by being ignorant to the prevailing rules.

Some examples of league specific rules:

  • BCAPL:  In 8-Ball, a scratch on the break shot is now ball in hand anywhere on the table not just behind the head-string.
  • VNEA:  In 8-Ball, if the table is open(if no player has stripes/solids as their group of legal object balls yet) you may call safe and establish your group by legally pocketing an object ball.
  • APA:  In any game, jump cues are not allowed.
  • WPA:  In any game, the table or rail cannot be marked with anything.
  • VNEA:  In 8-Ball, the eight ball is neutral after the opening break shot and may be used as the first ball contacted in a combination shot to establish stripes or solids.
  • BCAPL:  In all games, phenolic(Non-Leather) tips are forbidden on break cues. Phenolic and some other man-made materials can be used on jump cues.
  • APA:  In 9-Ball, calling a push out after the opening break shot is not allowed.
  • APA:  In 8-Ball, Stripes or Solids is determined on the break shot if there is no foul and only one suit is pocketed.  The table is still open if nothing drops or one or more of each suit is pocketed.

These are just highlights of a few rules that differ depending on which set of rules is in play. Do your homework and know the rules so you don’t make any silly mistakes.

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The BCA Trade Show: 27 Years Old and Nearly Extinct

Posted on 24. Dec, 2010 by .


A comparison of my first BCA Trade Show in 1990 and the 2010 BCA Trade Show.

By Mike Fieldhammer, Billiard Coach, LLC. Player, Instructor and Retailer.

I really got the billiard bug in college.  What a stroke of good fortune that the small private college I attended had four regulation 9-foot pool tables – two Brunswick Gold Crowns and two AMFs covered in thick green Mali cloth.  The pockets were large and the game room was voluminous.  Even with those four tables, there was still room for two classic pinball machines – High-Speed and Eight Ball Deluxe.  When I wasn’t in the game room which had regular hours from 10 am to 11 pm, I was pursuing my dream in my dorm room.  I poured over the new issue of Pool and Billiard magazine each month and Billiards Digest every two months.  The latter was still bi-monthly in the early 90s. I even put new Le Pro tips on my cue every six weeks or so using the old “Lap Lathe.”

One deep desire that this new obsession ignited was the need to attend the 1990 Billiard Congress of America Trade Show.  The trade show, established in 1983, was flourishing in the billiard boom caused, in part, by the 1986 film “The Color of Money.”  I got a couple of industry badges for my college playing partner Elliot and me, and off we went to Louisville. We hit the road in my college sweetheart’s Chevy Nova and arrived at the Bel-Air hotel late on the eve of the big show. I can tell you, it was like heaven. All, and I mean all, the heroes I’d been reading about in my dorm room were there.  I hadn’t even seen many of them play on television, let alone in person.

Thinking back, I recall that there were only a small number of big names in professionals who WEREN’T there. In attendance were Mosconi, The Miz,  Hall, Sigel, Varner, Strickland, Rempe, Balukas and more Hall of Famers. Carter, Vickery, Ellin, Taylor, Butara, Hopkins, Archer, Davenport, Pierce, Howard, Martin, plus all the big names in women’s pool were there. The industry was thriving. Players (sponsored or not) must have felt that it was a necessity to attend the trade show.

Exhibiting companies had booth after booth.  I cruised the aisles of the show with care not to miss a single booth.  In my few days at the convention center, I knew if I dawdled or missed a booth I wouldn’t have time to track down the companies I missed. There was an occasional non-billiard industry exhibitor that I harrumphed and skipped on by, but booth after booth of interesting products occupied my time. In those days they did a big charity “Challenge the Pro” event at the trade show.  Demand was so high and time was so short, that it was luck of the draw as to whom you would play.  Elliot played Nick Varner, his hero.  Side events like this were standard at the trade show. There was also a time when they held the Hall of Fame inductions and a professional pool tournament to coincide with the BCA Trade Show.

I was hooked. Over the next 20 years, I’ve attended all but a handful of the trade shows.  I missed Houston and Charlotte of course, but made it to New Orleans, Nashville, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and many times to Las Vegas. These days, even the draw of Vegas doesn’t pack guests into the Las Vegas Convention Center.  In July, the enormous LVCC facility hosted not only the BCA Trade Show, but also a FISHING convention.  Staying at the hotel Elvis made famous, the Las Vegas Hilton, our BCA Trade Show host hotel, was the hot spot in sin city.  Not because of all the billiard industry folks, but because of all the anglers and Elvi. Once a year, the Hilton hosts a contest of Elvis imitators. Strolling around the hotel, I couldn’t have flung a fishing lure without hitting a fisherman or an Elvis. The booming billiard industry was a small fish in that pond. I spied a pool player once in a while, but I could hardly escape the others.

Las Vegas Hilton Loves Anglers

Las Vegas Hilton Dedicated Channel

I stood in a cabstand line with guys from a fishing industry company just down the block from Jimmy Wetch’s pool room in Minneapolis. It was the big industry event in the fishing world and they even had one closed circuit channel in the hotel rooms running fishing shows 24/7.  I suppose those early risers had to have something to watch between 5:00-8:00 a.m. when the show floor opened up.

All this activity made me mourn the double-dip recession the billiard industry is stuck in. These days at the trade show, professional players are scarce.  Those who do attend usually are those who are involved in pool in a business nature.  Think Charlie Williams, Allen Hopkins, Laura Smith, etc.  Some are heavily endorsed players like Shane Van Boening. Others are posers like Shanelle Lorraine. In any event, the traffic at the show seemed to me to be the hard core retailers, ones who’ve been in the business so long, they’re not star-struck by pro players or don’t know or care who they are.

Other than the crew from Peters Billiards, I was the only player/fan/business owner from the Twin Cities.  All of the pool room owners who used to attend the show skip it now.  Same old, same old they say. I can’t blame them for skipping an expensive vacation to schmooze with their industry contacts on their own dime. I totally understand saving the money and tending to business on the home front.  It’s not like they’re missing out on some enormous three day wholesale sale. I’d wager every company taking orders in Vegas would honor the same summer special price for a phoned in order in the weeks following the event.

Even industry players are finding a reason not to buy an exhibitor’s booth at the show.  It is easy enough to get a “Non-Exhibiting Manufacturer” or “Retailer” badge to get into the show.  A savvy person can do all the networking and business meetings they care to while wandering the aisles and meeting for coffee or a meal during the trade show.  Hot and fresh companies like Mezz, OB Cues, and Kamui Tips didn’t have a booth at the show, but made their presence felt.  I’d bet everyone at the show, exhibitors and attendees all had contact with at least one of the people from these three companies.

There are great things about the BCA Trade Show even with a fraction of the excitement of my first experience 20 years earlier. This year there was the potentially game-changing announcement of the partnership with Bankshot Entertainment, Coco-Cola, and Sysco.  There were some terrific industry specific round tables.  (Although scheduling it during expo hours make it tough for exhibitors to sit in. I only made it to one session because I was manning the Samsara Cues booth.) Great information was delivered in some Q&A sessions with some very successful people willing to share their trade secrets. A buyer still gets to handle and try out new products. Face to face meetings are still so much more meaningful that email exchanges and phone calls. Business gets done at the show. It still is a necessity for companies to attend at least every other year.

I’m not ranting about this just to blow off steam, I want to present several possible solutions.  If the show was opened up to the public, I could see the BCA Trade Show returning to its former glory within a few years.  The reason exhibitors attend the show is to book business.  If players, fans, and the general public (AKA potential customers) could stroll the aisles and hob-knob with professionals and industry players, the show would grow.  Exhibitors would make more sales. More exhibitors would purchase booth space. More customers (wholesale and retail) would come because they could do more shopping.  It would snowball!

Being involved in the billiard industry for 20 years now, I can tell you that it is a small industry.  Sure, the trade show has been TRADE ONLY for 27 years.  I would also bet that EVERY SINGLE EXHIBITOR would be willing and able to hide the dealer price book under a desk and have products marked at retail cost.  Good manufacturers value their dealer network and would also be able to route on-site sales through an appropriate dealer should a sale to a customer happen.  Dealers in meetings with exhibitors would honor the secrecy of their discount in pricing and keep the costs hidden from the public.  General information about margins in the industry isn’t a big secret.  Internet shoppers beat up or bypass dealers to save on sales tax or shipping anyway. Dealers who attend the trade show will no doubt be better educated to sell and support products they carry.  I can’t think of a single reason not to have manufacturers, dealers, and consumers all attending the BCA Trade Show.

Encouraging pool fans to attend the trade show isn’t that difficult.  Professionals draw fans and running a small 16 player invitational tournament wouldn’t be too tough to orchestrate. Many instructors attend the trade show and could be harnessed to conduct pool school classes for anyone interested in learning to play better.

Even though the cost of attending and putting on the trade show is more in Las Vegas than other cities, it has proven to be the biggest draw for attendees.  There would no doubt be a flood of pool players, fans, and consumers who would jump at the chance to look behind the wizard’s curtain and attend the industry only meeting at the hub of the billiard world, Las Vegas.

As a BCA Instructor for 15 years, I’ve had good reason to attend the trade show.  My business Billiard Coach, LLC is a retail member of the Billiard Congress of America organization.  I fully support the BCA and its present leadership, especially Ivan Lee and Rob Johnson.  With the economy and the billiard slump, they are doing a good job, but we need to breathe new life into the BCA.  How about letting customers in?  What have we got to lose? Host a 16 player pool tournament. Run the most comprehensive instructional camp in the world to teach the game.  We must do whatever we can to put potential fanatics in a position to get bit by the bug, just as I did 20 years ago at my first BCA Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

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