Thursday, November 30, 2006

Touchy Feely

Ever since I took the game back up again four or five years ago I’ve been more or less obsessed with loss of my shot making ability and my practice sessions have been geared to improving my play in that area. Recently, however, after losing yet another match because of my inability to control whitey, failing to execute easy position on the nine and instead leaving myself with a difficult shot, I decided to start working on improving my touch.

My buddy Al informed me that touch is very much like shot making – once you lose it, he said, you never get it back. But I’m a hard one to discourage. Besides, my shot making has improved a lot since I started my comeback. Of course, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but I’m not missing as many “easy” shots as I used to. I take heart in the fact that even though I’m nearing my 60th birthday, I am still getting better.

So, a major focus of my recent practice sessions has been position play and cue ball control. I start just by hitting the cue ball, trying to make it travel two diamonds farther every shot until it’s made three trips lengthwise across the table. Then I work on stop shots and follow, trying to follow shots of different lengths one diamond, two diamonds, and farther. It seems to be working. I’ve been winning more games and matches.

I recently started playing in a local 8-ball bar league. Bar pool, as you probably know, is significantly different from pool room pool. The rules down here are berserk: no safes allowed; ball in hand behind the head string after a scratch; and players, regardless of the situation, are bound to make an “honest effort” at making a ball. You can imagine the fudging that goes on in this area. My play has been inconsistent. I was 12-0 after the first 3 weeks, but am about .500 since then. Not that I’ve been playing badly, though I did make a couple bad choices. It just seems that I haven’t been getting my share of the breaks. You know, an opponent misses and accidentally safes you up, and other things like that.

Anyway, we’re cruising along in first place because even while I’ve been floundering my teammates have been wreaking havoc upon opposing forces. Here’s a picture of The 8-Ball Posse:

Left to Right: Jeff, Billy, Ace, Boogie

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Way I See It

There are a few things going on in my pool world. First, as I approach my 60th birthday, I can happily claim that I am still getting better. For some reason, of late, my shot making has improved significantly. Not that I’m making a lot of outrageous shots, I’m just making a lot more shots that I should make. I don’t know if it’s a natural progression or if I’m doing something different that has led to the improvement. I have made changes to the way I visualize my shots – focusing on the path or channel the object ball will follow on its way to the target, finding the point on the backside of the object ball what would place the cue ball in that channel, then delivering the cue ball to that point. In the method I was using before, I seemed to spend more time staring at the object ball hoping the contact point would magically appear.

I’ve also shortened my stroke by gripping the cue about 6 inches to 8 inches behind the balance point. Speaking of the grip, I’ve been consciously trying to restrict my index finger’s involvement. It seems too much index finger throws my stroke off line. I guess my other keys regarding the grip are “light but firm.”

In other news, I’m playing in a pool league. Friends at the local beer hall asked me to sub the first week of the season, then, when they discovered one of their members had gone missing, invited me to join the team. After 3 weeks, I’m still undefeated and we're in first place. That could change seeing as so much luck is involved in bar style 8-ball and we haven’t played the best teams yet. Still, I’m having fun and have discovered that second-hand smoke isn’t as thick on week days as it is on tournament nights.

And, I've cashed in the last two 9-ball tourneys I've entered, the Wednesday Night handicap tourney at Capone's and the Thursday night open at DJ's, finishing third in each. Old codgers of the world unite!