42 Tips to Improve Your Game
This is the first anniversary edition of PoolSynergy, A Monthly Collection of the Best Writing on Pool! I’m very proud of all the previous issues, and all the many contributors we’ve had in the past year. I hope to keep this going, and improve on it in the coming 12 months. This month we’ve got 14 great posts from many of the brightest, most interesting minds writing about pool. The topic is “3 Tips”, with each of us providing three valuable tidbits of information on various aspects of the game. I’m sure you’ll find plenty to like.
I took a friend and frequent playing partner to PoolSynergy Billiards, my favorite virtual pool hall yesterday to share with him some of the many joys of playing in a great place. It’s celebrating its one year anniversary and I knew it would be crowded with regulars. The players there are all warm and friendly, respectful of others, and willing to share what they know with anyone interested enough to listen.
My friend Fred is somewhere between an advanced beginner and an intermediate player. He’s hooked on pool, and has a deep and abiding love for the game and is always interested in finding ways to improve his play. He was really in luck tonight, since 13 of my closest pool buddies were there and each one agreed to share three tips that if followed, and practiced, would help Fred to play better, win more games (not the same thing), and enjoy the game more.
What follows is a very short summary of the collected wisdom of some terrific information, along with links to where you can read more of the details they passed on, that clarified the tips and made obvious why they were of so much value.
First we approached a table where Mike Fieldhammer and Poolriah were playing straight pool. While Poolriah was on a long run, Mike quietly got Fred started on his cram session with 3 tips on equipment, How to shop for a choose a suitable playing cue, How to care for it, and why and when to add specialty cues (like a break or jump cue).
Poolriah’s timing was excellent, playing a great safety just as Mike was done. While Mike worked out his best reply, Poolriah ponied up 3 excellent stroke tips. “First, keep the arm muscles completely relaxed. Second, generate power with an easy, loose swing. And third, gradually add muscle power in small increments as you get comfortable.”
Smiling from ear to ear with his new found knowledge, Fred was surprised when I guided him over to the next table over and introduced him to Gail Glazebrook and John Barton, halfway through their marathon 8 Ball race. While Gail worked her way through yet another break and run, John shared three ways that choosing the right shot can help you win more games. “Choose a shot you know how to do, choose shots with the highest percentages of success, and choose shots you won’t lose on.”
Cutting her run short when she got a little out of line and realized she wouldn’t be able to get on the 8 Ball, Gail hooked John and said he’s going to have trouble choosing a best shot from that position. While he pondered, Gail explained her three miscellaneous tips; straight in is bad, Don’t manhandle the cue ball, and Always follow through. “Hey Gail”, says John, “watch me manhandle this cue ball.” And he plays a great masse shot to begin his runout.
“This is great stuff”, Fred tells me, amazed at how open my friends are with their knowledge. “Where I’m from, people don’t share like this.” “Well”, I tell him, “we’ve got several more tables of wise and experienced players to learn from, so keep your mind open and make sure to take notes.”
Next up, playing one pocket, are PoolBum and Michael Reddick. After the introductions, Michael says “You know, Fred, a good One Pocket game relies on having strong safety skills more than any other game. Here are three easy to learn, but highly effective safeties you’ll want to add to your arsenal, no matter what game you play: the half ball, the one ball, and the stop shot safeties.”
“True enough” says PoolBum when he comes back from the table, “but you’ll also have to learn how to handle your emotions, and keep your cool in tough situations or you’ll find that all the rest of your knowledge and abilities are worthless, since you can seem to execute anymore. My tips would be to play a champion, learn to deal with sharking, and learn how to play through an embarrassing gaffe. You’ll be thanking me every time these come up.”
Our next stop was at a table with only one player, St Louis Johnny, who was practicing the classic “L” drill. “Practice”, says Johnny, “is the fastest road to improvement. Directed practice, best of all. My 3 tips for you would be 1) choose the correct drills, 2) record your performance, and 3) Analyze your results. Keep at it and soon enough you’ll be able to give any of these guys a run for their money.”
“I’m not sure I’m dedicated enough to practice by myself like that”, says Fred. “When I come to the pool hall I usually find someone to play with because it’s more fun.” “It is”, I agree, “but if you set aside some time for directed practice you’ll get better much faster.”
As if to say “see, St Louis Johnny’s not the only one with dedication and discipline”, we stop next at another table with a lone practicing player, Gary Frerking. After the introductions I ask “So Gary, what are you working on, and what 3 tips would you give Fred, here?” “Well, I’d suggest he work on the same three specialty shots I’m practicing. There’s the rail first shot, the ticky, and the rolling follow-in shot. They’re not hard, they come up all the time, and you get a great feeling when you use them successfully, especially when some Captain Hook is gloating over how tough he’s left you.”
The last table we stop at is a 9 Ball ring game with 3 players, Samm Diep, Jarno Virtanen, and Melinda. “Competition is where it’s at”, volunteers Samm, It’s all about preparation, concentration and having fun. “I agree, Samm”, says Melinda, “competition will keep you sharp. My tips would be to prepare for conditions before a match, including equipment, temperature, and surroundings/atmosphere.” “Ditto, competition is what we 9 Ballers are all about”, said Jarno. “My three competition tips would be 1) understanding why we express frustration, 2) using frustration as a tool, and 3) understanding the real meaning of competition.”
“Wow, this has been a heck of a day”, says Fred. “We’re not done yet”, I reply, “Let’s get a beer and sit with a couple of my favorite railbirds over there sweating the ring game.”
“We’ve been watching you working your way around the room, guys, and picking up all those good playing tips, but we’ve been thinking there are some important off-table things you should know as well”, says Dagwoodz. “My 3 best tips are about behavior off the table: stay physically fit, get plenty of rest to maximize concentration, and develop routines prior to going to the pool hall, since they will subconsciously prepare you to play.”
“I like those”, says PoolCueNews, “but I’ve got a few of my own that you don’t want to miss. First, despite what you may have heard, drinking does not improve your game. Second, do a little research about your destination pool hall before you walk through the door, and third, never, and I mean never, ask anyone in a pool hall for tips or advice.”
After Fred had thanked everyone one more time for their time and their tips, we headed home. “I didn’t get a chance to hear from you tonight, John, you were so busy introducing me to your wonderful friends. What would you have offered as your three tips?”
“It’s hard to believe you’ve got room in that brain of yours for more info, but OK, here are my 3 tips. One, be a student of the game, two, become fastidious about your pre-shot routine and your stroke, and three, be honest with yourself, since focusing on weaknesses is the fastest path to improvement.”
“You know, it’s a shame I can’t learn all this as fast as I can hear it” Fred says, “but, you know, that’s OK, because at least I’ve got the opportunity to make these part of my game, if I work at it.”
I hope you liked this month’s edition, and i especially hope you took the time to visit all the contributor’s sites and read the details behind their tips. Don’t hesitate to leave us your thoughts, either here or on the relevant post at the other blogs. Bye for now, and see you next month over at Melinda’s Pool is a Journey.
In the main menu on this site, (in the upper right corner of this and all pages) along with Home, About, FAQ and Contact, you’ll find PoolSynergy. That button will take you to a page with the schedule for PoolSynergy’s next few months, along with the list of all past editions. This is necessary because PoolSynergy is hosted by a different blog each month, but it will always be published on the 15th and it will always be worth your time to find it.
P.S. Fred took pictures of all his new friends, but they didn’t all turn out. Good thing he’s better with a cue than a camera.