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Speed is Speed and One Pocket loves no one

Posted 03-19-2014 at 10:30 PM by Lesh
Updated 03-19-2014 at 10:38 PM by Lesh

Since I came back to pool, I have learned many things that I must admit, every serious pool player should know and take some time to see if it fits into their game throughout the evolution of their game. Just because a concept does not make any sense or suit your fancy at one particular time does not mean that it will fail to take you to the next level later on.

I shall illuminate my point.

I loved to use bottom (draw) English as my vehicle to move the cue ball from shot to shot. I would select shots that lent themselves to this. It was not a complete failure, and I think that its partial success and aesthetics made me want to stick with it longer than I should have. People would OOOooo and Ahhhhh when I would snap a simple shot in the side and rip that CB around like a rainbow to get a weird leave on my next ball, I liked this a great deal, it made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile and I'd believed wholeheartedly that I was intimidating my opponent.

One day last year, I was shooting like this and a quiet unassuming older gentleman came over and asked me if I would like to have someone to shoot with (offering his services as my opponent) and I was pleased as punch. Yet another person I can awe with my dazzling draw ability. Soon I would rule the earth and all would sing my praises, and I would be the benevolent Emperor with the wicked awesome draw shot.

We played several racks of 8-ball and went back and forth for a little bit. But then he shifted gears and shot softer, deliberately with zero english on the ball. Natural angle rolls and perfect speed. He missed some shots, but it was becoming extremely evident that I was not going to be able to pocket a ball even if he did miss a shot because he would always leave me in a position I could not draw myself out of or otherwise even hit any of my object balls.

After he'd had enough of my silliness, he thanked me for the games and said he was going to call it a day. I stopped him and asked him to explain to me how he was able to completely shut my game down. He smiled and said "you simply aren't seeing the balls on the table, son. Pay attention to what is available to you and play three shots ahead at all times." He left me with the best advice any pool player could ever get and it went straight over my head. Long live the mighty draw! It was a freak incident that an old codger made me feel like I was doing anything wrong.

I do possess a modicum of intellect, so the incident ate at me. I watched the old man play other people... covertly sweating his game from an adjacent table. Setting up shots that he shot, stroking the CB the way he did, trying very hard to see what he was looking at and what he was thinking. He played One-Pocket mainly. I went over to him as he was packing it in for the day and I asked him to explain the game of one pocket to me so I could try it out by myself to see if I liked it or not. He smiled and explained a basic break style, the rules and object of the game, and even a few finer details that would help me focus on getting balls to do what they should do in this game.

A year later, the old man still kicks my butt in 1P, but I can play him even up and win a few here and there. But the best thing that ever happened to me was I learned the supremely important value of ball speed and consistency. Dealing with known values amid a sea of change is a very good kit of weaponry to have. I am just now starting to see the entire table, and it is like it has been staring at me the entire time. It is like I am seeing an old familiar face staring back at me that is glad that I can finally see their worth. Precision and accuracy are fine things to have, but I have found that imagination and relentless consistency are the true masters of any game of pool.

One Pocket has brought so much understanding to me about how to navigate with the CB that I shoot well in every game of pool... 8 / 9 / 10 ball, straight pool and one pocket are all equally manageable for me. 2 weeks ago I played a game of straight pool and ran 48 balls. The last time I had played straight pool before that was 26 years ago... and I sucked.

I read no books, bought no DVD's, and my stick is relatively inexpensive (McDermott G501). I have been playing pool nearly every day for the past year however, and some days I shoot for 5 or 6 hours at a stretch in focused solo practice. That, and I have a pack of merciless, unforgiving, pedantic, cranky, vile old men that dog me every chance they get.... bastards, one and all. Everyone should be so lucky. I hope a few of them survive long enough to see me win a nice fat tournament.
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