Tag Archives: PoolSynergy

Recharge to Avoid Pool Burnout

Posted on 15. Dec, 2011 by .


Burnout: The dreaded risk of quitting pool due to overwhelming pressure and exhaustion of living the tough and stressful life of a pool player.

I’ve been playing lots of pool for more than twenty years and it has been my life for the past six years. Michael Reddick’s topic of “Recharging” is vital to my lifestyle so that I don’t get burned out.

Once upon a time, I read a book that was named or had the message “Work to live, not live to work.” The message was that once you quit working, you should have plenty of interests and hobbies to keep you busy. I guess there are people out there who don’t know what to do with their time once they retire. Pool is my job, but I cultivate plenty of other areas so that I don’t feel useless or lost while not playing pool. These pursuits also relax or excite me, thus recharging me for pool.

My recharging methods vary with situation and season. Summer, large tournament on the road, or the regular grind of being in my home town busy with lessons, leagues, and local tournaments.

Summer: During the summertime, I try to do some DIY projects around my house. This summer I repaired a segment of ruptured underground sprinkler tube amongst other maintenance chores. I hauled away a couple of truckloads of tree and bush clippings with the help of a pool teammate. This summer I spent some time visiting my family too. My folks are in Arizona during the winter, so I spent some time with them in Minnesota.

I still teach pool lessons through the summer, albeit a much lighter schedule. It’s still enough to keep me in pretty good stroke, but not at top gear.

Blistered Fingers from Bass Guitar Lessons in the summer

This past summer it kind of backfired. I admit I was not at all prepared for the summertime Seminole event in Canton, OH. Jesse Engel and I drove out to Fiddlestix in one day and my performance was rusty and frustrating. Usually in the fall, I’ve got a couple of weeks of leagues and serious practice under my belt before the first important tournament. Now that I think about it, my trip to Ohio was doomed to fail.  I accept and learned from my mistake. The story still has a happy ending — the Monday spent riding roller coasters at Cedar Point on the way home was the most exciting day of my summer.

Big Tournament on the Road: One of the great things about traveling for tournaments is the opportunity and freedom to explore the area and do some site seeing. If possible, I try to arrive a day before a tournament to rest up. This is especially important if traveling takes more than half a day. Getting to the event with enough time to settle in, relax, and warm up on the equipment makes for a more enjoyable and usually more successful tournament outing. Think about it, if the whole ordeal of getting to and playing in a tournament is less hectic, it will certainly be less exhausting and easier to repeat in a week or in the next month. I also love staying behind an extra day or two. I enjoy watching (or preferably playing in) the finals and not having to frantically pack up and store baggage Sunday morning before matches begin. Even better, I’ve enjoyed some terrific tourism Monday or Tuesday after an event when the rest of the world is back to work.


Regular Grind in Minnesota:  My routine when I’m around home is pretty pool heavy. Taking breaks, no matter how brief, help me keep my energy and interest level in pool high. I’ll watch a film, listen to music, read, or even overclock my pc as an enjoyable respite from the pool player lifestyle. It’s funny, but just last week I started playing again with an old favorite cue of mine and I watched a good portion of snooker’s UK Championship. Both of these things strangely tweaked my interest in pool and recharged my spirit and enthusiasm. I guess sometimes a little hair of the dog is the best cure for burnout!

Mike Fieldhammer


Miscellaneous items that I am sure to have around to recharge my energy:

Crossword puzzles. A stack of them in my special clipboard.

Cooler and healthy snacks…vital for R&R in the hotel room or on the road.

Pillow—Must for good night’s sleep whether I’m home or away.

Listening to music. FLAC format please on my quality headphones.

A book or an audio book if driving.

Click this Host Link to read Michael’s into to this month’s Pool Synergy topic and to read other articles on the same topic:  http://angleofreflection.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/poolsynergy-december-2011/

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PoolSynergy: Thanks for the tip!

Posted on 15. Nov, 2011 by .


Check out Melinda’s introduction and links to all the thankful bloggers here.

Melinda is one of the most thankful people I know. She’s called upon the PoolSynergy faithful to write about something in the realm of pool that we’re thankful for. I brainstormed a quick list of more than a dozen items that sprang to mind, but each one deserves some solo attention and shouldn’t be lumped into one big list. So, there are plenty of things I’m thankful for this fall and here’s just one of them: Moori original layered tips.

Moori Cue Tips

The oldies, but goodies. Original Moori tips.

Tip technology has come a long way in the last fifteen years. I remember my college days when I played more pool in the Augsburg game room than I did studying. My tip choice in those days were the ubiquitous Le Pro which was and still is a decent tip. Once every 6 weeks I’d use my poor college student’s lathe(my lap) to trip down a fresh tip. Some Le Pro’s lasted a little longer than others but they all mushroomed. My lap served as the platform for a spinning cue shaft several times a week to sand down the mushroom. Thankfully the Japanese introduced a game-changer about a dozen years ago. The layered pigskin cue tip named Moori. I stockpiled a bunch of M and MH tips back when they were boss. Now I change tips about every 8 months and mushrooming is a minor inconvenience just once. A week after I install a new tip I trim down the slight mushrooming and the tip is good for months.  Confidence in my tip and peace of mind is a key ingredient for me to play my best pool. Trusting in my tip is a good thing. Thanks!

Mike Fieldhammer

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PoolSynergy: Practice What You Preach

Posted on 15. Sep, 2011 by .


I think it was comedian Stephen Wright who said, “Somebody told me ‘Practice Makes Perfect.’ Then my Mother told me ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ so I quit practicing.”

John Biddle (The Godfather) this month’s host and founder of PoolSynergy chose the topic of Practice: What works for me? Read his introduction and summary article here along with all the links to the other writers.


Getting a cortisone injection this week for my thumb joint arthritis.

I’ve been a billiard instructor for 17 years. Hundreds of players have trusted me to tinker with their mechanics, coach them through passion to get excited to practice and improve. The part of teaching pool that comes difficult to me is assigning drills. It’s hard for me because I know every player is different. I predict in John Biddle’s topic this month, we’ll hear of many different ideas about productive practice routines. Believe me, what is right for one person might not be right for you.

I am terrible at conventional practices. My serious pool playing friends quit asking me to practice years ago. I’d rather spend time with them chatting over a cup of coffee or playing boot hockey. For me, having a good time hanging out with a friend always seems to get in the way of a serious practice session. Shooting drills on my own is also a lost cause. I may try a drill once and a while, but it is usually in the context of learning how it works and the level of difficulty so I can relate this information to a student. Scoring drills or maintaining focus is tough for me on my practice table. The stereo, computer, or stack of reading material on my desk beckons me and my efforts wane midway through the drill.

Despite all this, I’ve reached a very high level of play. My story is probably as unique as everyone else’s. What has worked for me is the following routine: Learn, Teach, Compete and Repeat.

One bite at a time. Individuality: Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.

Step 1: Learn. I read. My billiard library has over 600 books plus huge catalog of my own teaching materials. I also watch high level pool tournaments live and on video whenever I can. I’m not a fan of streaming pool matches online, but am a complete sucker for watching live snooker matches from Europe and Asia via the internet. I’ve blogged ad nauseam about the quality of the BBC telecasts and the high standard of play. I also surround myself with great playing teammates and friends. Not a week goes by for me without learning something. I know a lot—in fact I’m an expert. I’m also wise enough to know there are countless things that I do not know. One of the reasons I love the game is that I can be a lifelong student of the game. This accumulation of knowledge and playing skills is so exciting to me, that I’ve got to share it. Being a professional billiard instructor (Billiard Coach) is the perfect vehicle for me to pay it forward.

Byrne’s book on the right started my book collection in 1988.

Selection of rule books from my 600+ book collection

Step 2: Teach. Teaching students forces me to demonstrate perfect cueing techniques and verbalize complicated concepts. Performing and informing students helps me internalize the information so it comes out naturally under the pressures of tournament play. I love to share my enthusiasm and knowledge of the game. Like a musician on the concert stage, energy given to the audience is amplified and sent back. This give and take excites me and spurs me on to become a better instructor and a better player. This one thing has kept me from burning out and loving the sport more than ever, even after 23 years of obsessive play.

Teaching my nephew 11 years ago.

Step 3: Compete. Tournaments are the biggest motivator for me. They push me to perform at my best and motivate me to learn more and prepare for the next. Here are a couple of photos from my archives. Me playing with a couple of famous Pinoys in 1999 and one of my first big matches on the TV table. This is the me playing Charlie Williams in the 2007 US Open. I lost 11-9 but pushing myself and playing frequently in professional events is one of the best ways to improve. I regularly play in the Derby City Classic, US Open 9-Ball Championships, and recently several Seminole Pro 10-Ball Tour events.

Me vs. The Korean Dragon Charlie Williams on TV in the 2007 US Open 9-Ball Championships. (Charlie won 11-9)

Efren – me – Francisco circa 1999.

I should write a whole instructional column about the benefits of stepping up and playing above your head in a non-handicapped, one division tournament. In fact, I’ve started running those types of events in Twin Cities. Mark your calendar and get details of the event here – Next event is October 1, 2011 at Biff’s in Spring Lake Park, MN.

Step 4: Repeat. I know the improvements that I’ve made that I worked extremely hard for are my proudest achievements. Remember, if this game was easy we wouldn’t play it for our whole lives. Practice or more importantly, find your own unique methods to improve and you’ll enjoy this beautiful game for life.

Mike Fieldhammer

Professional Billiard Instructor

Samsara Cues Player and Dealer

Authorized Predator Products Distributor

The butt sleeve. For Sale!

My current playing cue. For Sale!

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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: http://www.pooltipjar.com/2011/08/10-things-ps-host/

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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