Tag Archives: PoolSynergy

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: Favourite Game

Posted on 15. Apr, 2011 by .


For all the PoolSynergy crew’s articles on their favorite games, please visit Johnny’s PoolSynergy summary here.

I nearly wrote this about 8-Ball on the common 7 foot Bar Box, but that would have been so, well, common. I’d wager that 8-Ball is the most well known and accessible game to most players in the United States. League players, like it or not, drive the biggest and most successful businesses in our floundering industry. I would have liked to write about how as an instructor and as a player I’ve elevated the game to a beautiful science. It really is my favorite game to compete and teach because of the blend of strategy, knowledge, and execution required to play it at the highest level. Going this direction with my article makes the game inaccessible and somehow highbrow in a way that depresses me. Rather than go down that road, I’m taking the easy way out and writing about something that excites me in a different way. Maybe it’s the allure of something I can’t have, but I’m smitten with snooker.

Obviously, I’m a pool fanatic. I teach, compete, sell cues, photograph, and write about the game I love. You may be surprised to hear that in the last three years, I’ve watched much more snooker than pool. The draw of it is hard to explain and it is even harder to convince others to give it a try. I get so whipped up about watching streaming snooker from overseas during a tournament that I practically become evangelistic telling every pool player I meet or teach to tune in.

What’s to like about watching snooker? The game is rarely boring. Sure, there are some dull matches where both players are performing below their norm. More often at least one of the competitors is clicking along at a world class level. The game is so complex that a variety of situations arise to add drama and excitement to the match at hand. Snooker is aptly named for if a player cannot accumulate enough points by potting (pocketing) the balls remaining on the table, he can snooker his opponent hoping to add points to his tally if the other player doesn’t make a legal hit. Depending on the referee’s call, the player might have the option to have the balls restored to the snookered position and have the player re-shoot. This can lead to 3, 4, or more fouls and enough points for the player to come from behind and win a frame. I believe that defense is valued as much only in the pool game of One-Pocket

Offense is highly exciting and respected. Snooker professionals have lifetime running totals of “Century Breaks.” These are runs at the table of 100 points or more. It only takes a 74 to Nil lead to secure a frame (game) of snooker, but players continue their inning at the table. Not so in other cue sports. I recently watched a Greek 3-Cushion Billiard player run 21 and out on Dick Jaspers and he didn’t continue his run because it is considered bad form. This was even in front of a paid audience and the way he was playing, he could have set a personal best high run. More impressively, he made the run under the constraints of a shot clock. No such thing exists in traditional snooker tournaments. Most players are accepted and loved for their personal pace of play. And snooker breaks are normally continued until a miss or total clearance is achieved. Snooker players can let out their stroke, intimidate their opponent, show off for the crowd, experiment with the table conditions, pursue the elusive maximum break or high break for the tournament, or just try to add another century break to their resume.

Old timers say the snooker characters like Paul Hunter (oops-sorry-Alive: Kirk Stevens), Alex Higgins (both deceased), young Steve Davis, Jimmy White, and others brought so much personality to the game it was captivating. The current cast of players is a little dull by comparison, yet there is much to like and admire about these professionals. It is true that Higgins lost my respect and O’Sullivan is a wild card. Still the talent that oozes from these guys is beyond reproach. Most of the other players can be summed up simply as classy and talented professionals. If every pool player was forced to watch half an hour of snooker as an etiquette lesson, I believe the world of pool would be a better place. Seeing guys compete in formal attire consisting of dress shoes, slacks, tuxedo shirt, bow tie, and vest is bloody classy. The way they carry themselves and behave is inspiring. Like Ian Flemming’s super spy 007, they are calm killers except that they treat their opponents (and ladies) with respect. Players routinely pat the rail which is equivalent to clapping for an excellent safety by the other guy. They also wave their hand apologetically when they get lucky. It is so moving to see Peter Ebdon jump out of his seat and chase down Allister Carter for a hug after he makes his first tournament 147 in a televised match. I’ve seen players on an adjacent table pause play and peek around the dividing wall to watch the last few pots of a guy’s maximum.

I’ve shared a couple of things I love about watching snooker, but haven’t really mentioned the obvious: skills and execution that have to be seen to be believed. I have shown some non-player friends and family to watch a few clips of the game. While being good sports about it, I don’t think they grasped the difficulty of the game and as such didn’t connect with my awe and appreciation of what the players do. If you’ve got enough experience and ability playing pool to know how tough and complex the game of 8-ball can be, you’re going to be amazed watching proper snooker.

I could go on and on about the things I love about these telecasts. Such as referees in white gloves. Expert commentary by lucid and well spoken ex-professional players, yet delivered with loads of kitschy British slang delivered in charming accents. The commentary is so good that fans in the stands buy wireless ear pieces to tune into the telly commentary while watching the match in person. High-definition broadcasts with computer aided virtual table view, television intros and sidebars of the highest caliber, etc. They are playing for a first prize of a quarter of a million sterling pounds. That equates to over $400,000 in American currency. That is for just one tournament!

The venue adds to the pressure of the prize purse and title of World Champion. Held at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, players are dropped into the frying pan with huge crowds mere feet from the playing area.  Take a look at Ding in the in-line photo gallery which shows the close proximity of the crowd to the competitors. This intimate setting puts extra pressure on players whose every twitch, gasp, or bead of sweat is under the microscope.

Get into it! The first match should be a cracker. Defending champion Neil Robertson faces 21 year-old Judd Trump who won his first professional event at the China Open just this month. This is the biggest event all year and has the longest matches of any event. It’s a single elimination event lasting 17 days. Just the first round is the best of 19 frames and the matches get longer until the finals, which is a best of 35. Let’s to billiards! Er, I mean snooker. Let’s get these Boys on the Baize!

Important Resources:

Wikipedia page on the 2011 World Snooker Championship

Television coverage listing on the World Snooker site

Look on my forums as the event progresses for links to live streaming matches

Mike Fieldhammer

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