Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2012 World Championship Sign Ups Announced

The sign up process for the 2012 WPA Artistic Pool World Championships has begun. I can't find the documents anywhere on the internet, but they were emailed to a list of players and promoters. If you're interested in signing up for this tournament, let me know. It will be held at the Super Billiards Expo, March 8-11, 2012, in Oaks, PA.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pool Synergy: Practice - What Works For Me

This month's Pool Synergy is hosted by John Biddle. The topic is about practice - what works for me.

Practicing trick shots isn't always about setting up the same shot and hitting it over and over again until it goes in (and making sure the camera is rolling when it does!). In fact, it involves certain principles that can carry over to your typical pool games. I'm going to write about two things that have helped me practice more effectively: focus and relaxation.

When I was practicing for the 2010 Ultimate Trick Shot Championship, I knew I only had a couple hours each day to practice. Instead of trying to practice everything I wanted to each day, I broke it down and focused on certain skills each day. For trick shots, this broke down into something like one-handed jump shots, one-handed multi-cue jump shots, masse shots, stroke shots, fouette shots, backward jumps, contortion jumps, speed shots, and juggling shots. I would cycle through these as my practiced progressed and build up a base skill level for each one. For typical pool skills, this could include straight in shots, shooting off the rail, stop shots from different distances, and so on. It was faster learning by dedicating larger amounts of time to certain things rather than doing everything for a little amount of time.

Another thing that has worked well for me is knowing when to take a break. It's certainly frustrating when you're trying to get better but you're obviously not. While there's much to be said for perseverance, you also need to know when you reach the point of diminishing returns. I've given myself headaches, literally, trying certain shots or skills for hours on end. Now, when I feel myself reaching that point, I turn to something else. Usually I'll turn to straight pool or speed pool to break the monotony. It takes the mind off whatever was going wrong and speed pool, at least, gets the heart pumping again. But sitting down for a few minutes or taking a quick stroll outside can accomplish the same effect.

Hope these tips can help you as much as they helped me. Keep a narrow focus while you're at the table, and know when to let off when things get too intense. Let me know if they work or don't work for you (and perhaps why). Happy shooting!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

dot nxt

After getting back from Vegas, I showed off some trick shots for at the .nxt conference for two days. It was mostly setting up shots and having attendees shoot them for themselves, but it was pretty cool. I had to keep coming up with shots that other people could make which was a bit challenging, especially when you don't know the person's skill level or calibration. You can tell someone to hit it hard, but is their hard really you're soft? It was on a 7-ft Brunswick with a slate top, so I was able to bang out some jump and masse shots too. I had a lot of fun and think most of the other guys did too. It seemed like the only interactive booth at the show.

Friday, August 26, 2011

2011 Ultimate Trick Shot Tour Championships

Just got back from one of the most competitive pool trick shot tournaments of the year. Unfortunately, I was unable to defend my title and finished in fifth. I started off slow, losing my first two matches to Jamey Gray and Steve Markle. I rebounded to win against Dave Nangle and Gordon Hedges though, then lost to Andy Segal and finally beat Bruce Barthelette to finish off the preliminary round. I had the same record as Dave, but finished ahead of him based on the tiebreaker and squeezed into the playoffs. I played Florian "Venom" Kohler in the quarterfinal and lost 7-6, missing my last shot which would have forced him to shoot again. Oh well, lesson learned. Good to have some stuff to practice after the World Cup of Trick Shots.

Monday, August 15, 2011

10 Things You Can Learn From Trick Shots

Here's my first post for Pool Synergy, this month hosted by Samm (Diep) Vidal with a theme of "10 Things". I'm writing about 10 Things You Can Learn From Trick Shots to apply to your usual games. Check out the master post to see what other bloggers are writing about!

Trick shots have always been a part of pool, whether for entertainment, proposition shots, or just to show off your skills. One question that often comes up is “Do trick shots help you with ‘real’ pool?” They may not come up during your typical 8 ball or 9 ball game so much, but there are many principles you can learn from them that you can certainly apply to other games. Here are a few of those concepts. I tried to keep the descriptions brief since this was going to be a long post, but feel free to contact me if you need expanded explanations.

1. Kisses, Combos, and Caroms

While many players view setup shots as elementary, they can open your eyes to possibilities when you’re confronted with clusters. Instead of blindly whacking into some problem balls, it’s much more efficient if you can predict where the balls will end up and you may even be able to pocket one. With setup shots like Y Not, you’ll be able to figure out how and why balls go in the directions they do after banging into each other.

2. Throw

One principle that is applied greatly to setup shots is throw. Throw, as defined by Dr. Dave (Aug 06), is the change in object ball (OB) direction due to sliding friction forces between the cue ball (CB) and OB during impact. This can be helpful when you have a combination that’s aligned slightly off where you want the ball to end up, or when you can’t see enough of the OB to cut it exactly where you want it to go. You can use throw to get it on to your intended line. Throw is affected by cut angles (or the line of the combination), speed, and spin. In setup shots like Any Questions, the last ball to go in as significantly affected by throw from the line of the combination. Similarly, in Just Showing Off, the ball traveling diagonally across the table is typically thrown 3-4 inches from its initial line.

3. English or spin

While practicing trick shots, it will also become apparent what effects spin has, not only on throw, but on the reaction of balls coming off rails. Shots like the Triple Reverse or Robin Dodson Jump show extreme examples of what you can do with spin. This can help get you out of jams especially when there’s not natural kick angle to your target ball.

4. Banks and Kicks

Speaking of which, there are plenty of trick shots that involve banking or kicking at balls. Practicing these will help you learn what aim lines you can use and how you can change the path of the balls by adjusting your aim point, the amount of spin you apply, or the speed at which you hit. Some examples include the first part of the Timing Masse, 7 Rail Kick, and Wizard’s Tray Shot.

5. Spin Transfer

This brings me to spin transfer, which is most apparent in certain bank shots, such as the Backward Bank and The Glove's Squeeze. In the Backward Bank, spin is transferred to the object ball allowing it to grab the rail and take a line to the side pocket that is not initially obvious. The other object ball just helps maximize the spin transfer, but check out Vernon Elliot’s Bank Shot to see a more natural (and much harder) version. In The Glove’s Squeeze shot, you have to put draw on the cue ball which imparts a top spin on the contact ball. With the right angle, you can get it to roll straight in to the pocket.

6. Speed Control

Most people think of speed trick shots as lagging a ball toward a pocket and then firing in as many balls as possible in the same pocket before the first ball gets there. Getting the lag speed just right is a skill in and of itself, and some shots require the timing ball to be lagged multiple rails, like in Corner Collation. Practicing these have helped me better gauge my speed for shots to improve my cue ball control. There are other types of speed control shots as well, such as 321-123, which tests your ability to dial in your speed rather quickly.

7. Useful Shots

While it may not happen often, there are certainly times when a “trick shot” does come up in a typical game. I’m not saying it’s always the right shot to take, but it’s nice to know all of your options. Take the Two Rail Reverse for instance. It’s hard enough finding a pocket for the object ball no matter where the cue ball is. With a little knowledge and a little practice, this shot can become a good choice, even if the cue ball position isn’t perfect.

8. Table Adjustments

This is a more subtle skill that’s important to success in pool: adjusting to the table (and other equipment) that you’re playing on. Between tables that play fast or slow, cushions that bank long or short, cloth that’s worn, new, or fuzzy, balls that are dirty or clean, room’s that are hot or cold, and air that is humid or dry, there are a lot of variables that affect the play of the game that are out of your control. The quicker you can identify these issues and adjust to them, the better you’ll play. It’s always frustrating to go to a new table and try a shot that you rarely miss and never be able to make it. Understanding why you’re missing and what you can do to adjust is a big part of the game, especially when it’s your first time playing on a particular table.

9. Patience and Persistence

Practicing trick shots is very much like shooting drills. It can be repetitive and frustrating, but the payoff at the end is worth the investment. Challenging yourself with shots that push your skill limits will only make you better and will teach you how to channel and focus your attention to little details that will improve your game. There have been many times in my career where I would see a shot and think, “I’ll never be able to make that!” Most of those shots, however, I have since made. Sometimes it takes a couple hours, others take a couple years, but having the mental toughness to persist and patience to accept that it may take more time is something that will make drawn out sets in tournaments seem short.

10. Fun

One of the best things about trick shots is that they’re fun. While the process may be arduous, once you learn how to make a shot, it’s fun. It’s fun for you and it’s fun to show off to your friends. It’s fun when you finally figure out a shot that you’ve been working on for a while and it’s even more fun when you didn’t think you could hit the shot in the first place! And fun is what pool should be about!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Finished up my APA season. There's still one week left, but I'll be in Vegas for the Ultimate Trick Shot Tour Championships. I played one of the best players in the league, so I only needed to win 3 to his 5. I took the first two games, then he took the next four to go hill-hill. He broke the last rack and failed to make a ball (I don't think he made any balls on his break all night, actually). I managed to run the table after that, so I finished off strong.

I'll be taking next season off unless the team really needs a sub at some point, so it was a good finish. At some point in the last game, I just started focusing on making the shot and not trying to do too much with the cue ball. That had gotten me in trouble in some of the previous games, like when I tried to draw the cue ball while using the mechanical bridge. I guess it's easier to take the tough shot, than to try to take a tough position for an easier shot.

Well, I don't remember my whole run, but I got to the following position at some point with stripes as my group. Sure there was an option to pocket the 10 and draw back to try to play the 15 in the same pocket, but I thought putting too much stroke on it might make the 10 rattle out, so I played a little safer and brought the 15 back the other way (pg 2-3). Once I got on the 11 ball, I just played it safe and rolled it in (pg 4) to give myself a shot at the 8 since most of the pockets were blocked. Again, it was not wanting to try to do too much with the cue ball. Sure, it wasn't the easiest shot on the 8, but I gave myself a chance and it worked out this time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Sorry for the lack of updates. I've managed to ride a 4 match losing streak down to a 5 ranking now. Last week, I was down 4-1 in a 5-5 race, but started playing better the last two games before scratching on the 8 ball to lose 5-2. I've found that wrinkling my eyebrows like Jeanette Lee does helps with my focus. We'll see if that technique holds over for the next time I play...

In other news, I've been asked to take part in Pool Synergy next month. It's basically a collection of pool bloggers that each write their own take on a given topic every month. The prompt for next month was pretty vague "10 Things...". I'm planning on writing 10 Things You Can Learn From Trick Shots. If there's anything you want to hear about in particular, let me know and I'll see if I can slide it in.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seven up

Little late, but last week I got bumped up to a 7. Smashed my opponent 5-0 in a 5/3 race. I probably caught him on an off day. Also had a rackless night since I won the lag and the winner breaks. Apparently though, you have to be a 4 or lower to qualify for a special 'rackless night' patch. Oh well.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 4-6-3

Sounds like a baseball double play, but those have been my handicaps each week now. So this last week I played against a 7, which made it a 6-2 race where I had to win 2. Yeah, I like my odds against anybody with that matchup. I ended up winning 2-1. My opponent missed a couple 8 balls, so maybe it shouldn't have been over so quick. We also played on bar boxes, which made it a little more interesting. Wonder what my handicap will be next week?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pool playing robot

Check out this pool playing robot. Could be my next competitor.

League last week

Played my first match as an APA SL6 last week against an opponent of the same handicap. I got smoked 5-1. I managed to scratch in the first few games, which essentially gave them away. He gave me one back scratching when I only had one object ball left. I had a chance to get a second game but missed a difficult shot on the 8, hanging it in the pocket for him to finish off.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

APA Handicap

So, the whole 'newbie starts as a 4' lasted me all of one week. I've been bumped up to a 6 already. Too bad there's a bye week this week.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Boston's a wrap

As my one or two loyal readers may know, I have made the move from Boston, MA to San Jose, CA. My 8 ball league in Boston wrapped up just before I left though, so I didn't strand my team in the middle of the season. They had just bumped up my handicap though and I finished 1-2 at that level.

As of last night, I just joined an 8-ball APA league with a friend of mine. It's mostly out of Shoreline Billiards, but there are teams from a couple of other local pool halls. I started out as a SL4 since I had never played APA before. Of course, that's a bit low for me, so I managed to win my match pretty easily over a SL6 3-1 and she wasn't really too happy about that. I'm sure she'll get me next time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 World Championships Recap

Just got back from the 2011 WPA World Artistic Pool Championships at Valley Forge. It was a great event with 33 players, the most we've had in a while, with a few new names as well. I played well, shooting solid through my first three rounds keeping myself in the top 10. Then I lit up the jump discipline hitting 39/40 points and scored well in the masse's too to take 3rd place after the prelims. That got me a bye going into the playoffs.

I played Abram Diaz in the quarterfinals, who just came off a victory over JR Owens. I took an early lead, but Abram fought back. It wasn't until the jump and masse disciplines when he stumbled again and I was able to capitalize when I finished off the match. It ended on a bit of a funny scene as both he and I missed one of the easiest shots in the program three time each.

In the semifinals, I played Jamey Gray. I took an early lead, but he took advantage in an opening during the draw discipline. He spread it out after that and ran away with it by the end. The semifinals and finals were taped by Comcast in 3D, so maybe I'll be on TV at some point. They also did player interviews. Andy Segal beat Gabi Visoiu in the other semifinal and then beat Jamey in the final.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Poor Man's Power Draw

The new 8-ball league season is a few weeks old and I'm sporting a 3-1 record right now. My latest match was a doozy going hill-hill in a race to 5. It even included a cue throwing incident (my opponent, not me) which made it all the more entertaining for the spectators. It was a good match all the way through though, but the winning out went something like this:

The first shot was reminiscent of the Power Draw shot, but just moved back a little. I knew it was going to come off the other long rail then and the spin would kill it. I came up a bit higher than I wanted, but it got the job done. The rest of the run was mostly academic, just as long as I didn't over power the 10 ball.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mike Massey trick shot news clip

Here's another Mike Massey news clip, prominently also feature Jim 'Coach' Barnard.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Java Billiards in Federal Way

Over the holidays, I spent some time at Java Billiards in Federal Way, WA. It's a great little place, very family-oriented, with arcade games and coffee and snacks. I even did a mini show there and shot around with the owner and his kids. I just missed the karaoke New Years Eve party, but I guess that's probably music to their ears ;) Anyway, go check this place out if you're in town, Doug and Chris are great people and the rates are very reasonable. I'd pick one of the 9-ft Murrey's over the Brunswicks if you can though.

Mike Massey, Abram Diaz, and Jim Barnard on Fox 5

Check out this news clip from San Diego's Fox 5 for a show Mike Massey did in the area last month. Abram 'Too Tall' Diaz and Jim 'Coach' Barnard make special appearances as well.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 World Cup of Trick Shots on ESPN

Looks like the debut airing of the 2010 World Cup of Trick Shots has moved to January 16, 2011 from 2:30-5:30pm ET. Currently it's only listed on ESPN HD, but standard ESPN has an opening for that slot. UPDATE (1/10/11): It is now listed for both ESPN HD and ESPN.