Tag Archives: stroke

How to snap out of a slump in 5 minutes.

Posted on 03. Jan, 2012 by .


Tip # 3/31: Jump Start Your Brain and Your Stroke

This tip can be filed under the “Strange but True” or the “Your Mileage May Vary” category. Credit to the legendary local all-around player “Fast” Freddy Lamers for this unusual tip. If you’ve just shot a dozen balls straight into the rail in the middle of a tournament, you may think you’re living your worst nightmare. Perhaps you’ve just gotten stuck in a long race or knocked to the B-side and there’s still more of this living hell to come. Welcome to the quick acting, hard hitting, mid-session slump!

Please deliver me from this slump!

Please get me out of this slump STAT!

Don’t fret. Things really can’t get much worse and why not try something desperate that might shake you awake and get you back to the land of the living? Here’s what to do. Hopefully, your opponent will need to take a bathroom break or maybe you’ve got a short wait before your first match on the left side of the tournament chart. Whatever the case may be, the first chance you should spread all 15 balls out on the table and try to shoot them all in standing on the wrong side of the cue. I mean opposite handed. Righties:  pocket all the balls left-handed. Lefties: run out like other 90% do.

You shouldn’t worry about patterns or what sequence you shoot these balls. The idea is to give your brain and body a shock. It’s like getting the defibrillation paddles to your chest.

Emergency defibrillation - Shock the system

Don’t ask me how this works or how often it works. Like I said, it can be miraculous or it could blow up in your face. But you’re already looking down the barrel of a bazooka, so what have you got to lose?

My theory is (because analytical is my middle name) the unusual feeling of doing something that you do so well and naturally with your dominant hand feels ridiculous. This strange and awkward feeling gets the other half of your brain working and you’ve got to actually think about these simple actions that you normally can do in your sleep. Postulate number two is (see-analytic!) that when you switch back to your dominant hand everything feels so easy and natural that you get a quick shot of confidence and reassurance. See? You can make balls. The nightmare has ended — Now, get back to work.

Best of luck, Mike.

P.S. If you’ve got any topics that would make a nifty tip, I need suggestions! TYIA.

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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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Effective 8-Ball Break Shots, Part II

Posted on 10. Aug, 2008 by .


Part II

© 2008 Mike Fieldhammer, BilliardCoach.com

Part I of the break shot details the most common approach to breaking by hitting the ball at the apex of the stack. This article will detail a highly effective alternative—the second ball break.

As summarized in part I, a successful break shot can be defined as follows:
• One or more balls have been pocketed
• The cue ball is in a position that offers an opening shot
• Object balls have scattered sufficiently and few clusters exist

The second ball break still benefits from a tight rack, but is more forgiving. One of the two balls directly behind the apex ball is struck and the action of the rack can be thought of as an explosion from the center of the rack. Energy from the cue ball is directed at the core of the rack with the object balls scattering from the inside out.


This concentrated strike is more of a sniper shot than an all out blast. Accuracy supercedes power in the second ball break. English and spin are employed to make aiming at the small target even more difficult. The power of the stroke must be held in check so as not to sacrifice a deadly accurate hit.

The cue ball must originate from near one of the side rails. This offers the shortest path and most advantageous angle to hit the second ball as full as possible. The cue ball should miss the apex ball and impact the second ball back. Clipping the head ball may cause a scratch in pocket ‘1’ or even jump the cue ball off the table. Steering too far clear of the head ball can be costly as well. Hitting too thin (low) on the second ball can send the cue ball straight into the corner or into the long rail and across to scratch in corner pocket ‘2’. Even if the scratches are avoided, you may be stuck beneath the stack or on the foot rail with no shot at all.

Outside English and draw (Low left in the diagram breaking from the left side rail) should be used in moderation to contact the side rail and direct the cue ball to the shaded oval position zone. As in the head ball break, the center of the table will offer the most options for an opening shot. Don’t overdo the low, outside spin because a scratch in pocket ‘3’ is possible. Cue ball kisses are highly likely, but if the cue ball is sent along the path illustrated the kiss may not hurt you. Keeping the cue ball away from the pockets greatly reduces the chance of getting kissed into a scratch.

Players new to the second ball break should begin without employing any left or right spin. Play the shot with draw only and focus on an accurate hit on the second ball. Some players have great success without adding the sidespin and hitting the break with high speed. Equipment and playing conditions may influence how you choose to shoot the second ball break shot.

This alternate break shot works well, especially when the head ball smash break is not satisfying the first two goals of breaking. You’ll often make a ball but may face a more difficult run out due to a less effective spread of the rack. This can be a smart move if you’d like to avoid leaving the rack wide open for your opponent to run out after a dry head ball break. Your opponent may have more work to run out a second ball break if you fail to make a ball.

Spend time working on powerful but controlled head ball breaks as well as the precision second ball break. Having two effective break shots in your arsenal will make you a more deadly run out weapon. Choose your break shot based on results of warm up games, table conditions, and what you observe from other skilled players. Getting an opening shot is the first step to running racks. Break well!

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