Sunday, August 29, 2010

APA Team Nationals Wrap Up

Thousands of APA players are headed home this weekend after a very full week of tournament play at the 2010 Team National Championships. Although I didn't participate in any of the marquee team events this year, I made several trips to the Riviera to check out exhibitor booths, watch the action, and participate in a few Mini Mania tournaments.

I did my best to keep an eye out for Las Vegas teams and saw a few here and there, but honestly lost track of most of them amongst the hundreds and hundreds of teams in the various events. I wish there was some sort of regionally based listing we could refer to that list all the Las Vegas teams (for example), their current status, and the time of their next match... but I guess maintaining something like that might be a pretty big task (although I bet an enterprising programmer could build it into the APA's tournament management software pretty easily, since team numbers and member numbers appear to be regionally encoded).

Vinnie and Jim discussing strategy during a time out.
Anyway, one of the teams I was able to follow fairly closely was an 8-ball team from Las Vegas called "Vinnie and the Youtes." Two of the members on this team, Vince Ciano (capt) and Jim Tellier, are on my APA Masters team... and Jim is also a co-worker in the 'real world' so I kept in touch with them and cheered them on as much as I could. They did a fantastic job wading through the sea of 732 teams to make it to the "sweet sixteen," only to lose a heart breaker of a match in sudden death.

Taking 9th place in this tournament is a huge accomplishment, and something they should all be proud of for sure! The team that beat them ended up taking 3rd place, and they were in turn beaten by the team that took 1st. Well done!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shooting Naked

I shot naked last night, for the first time in over a year... and I did it at a Mini-Mania tourney at the APA Team Nationals amongst thousands of other pool players. And no, I didn't get arrested. I'm talking about shooting without a glove, of course.

I started shooting with a glove a little over a year ago. I was shooting with a fairly inexpensive Cuetec cue at the time... not one of their high-end models or anything, just a standard run-of-the-mill mass-produced one. While I don't recall the details of the shaft construction on that one, it's obvious that the shaft is sheathed with something... a fiberglass-like material, I believe. They advertise the design as reducing warpage and so-on and I will say it's a decent cue (it took me to APA Singles Nationals, so it can't be all bad). I never really liked the feel of the stroke against my skin though... I had to use quite a bit of powder, and then found it all getting gummy on me in fairly short order.

I noticed several teammates and others in the league were using gloves, so I decided to give it a try. I liked it for the most part... it certainly solved the smooth stroke / powder / gummy situations. I used a glove for quite awhile, even after I got my new Tiger cue a few months ago.

Recently, however, I've been doing some drills intended to work on my stroking... trying to get a nice smooth stroke in general, and also trying to improve my fine speed control. It was during those exercises that I realized I was giving up something wearing the glove... I didn't have the full 'feel' of the shaft sliding across my fingers, and I believe it makes a difference! Taking the glove off made me much more sensitive to minute changes in the speed and direction of my stroke, allowing me to fine tune things to the point that I was performing the drills better without question!

So, if you're using a glove "just because" - put some thought into why... if you're shooting with some sort of composite shaft like I was, maybe it is the best overall solution for you... but if you have a silky-smooth maple shaft, try taking the condom off and experience the feel of the shaft sliding between your bare fingers - you might like it! Try some fine speed control drills with and without the glove and see if you notice a difference like I did. To me, it really was pretty dramatic.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Re: Epilogue

OK, regarding the epilogue in my previous post... I looked it up in the APA Team Manual and the other team DOES have to demonstrate the ability to field a 23 team with players on the roster, not necessarily players present at the match. The other team did have a SL 3 player on the roster who did not make it to the match and they would have been able to stay under 23 with him. It was a moot point anyway since we won, but they were fine by the rules as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


It's APA playoff season, and I must say I've had a couple of good weeks! I love it when things come together and seem to peak towards the end of a season.

As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm on three APA teams: 9-ball on Monday nights, 8-ball on Wednesday nights, and Masters on Sunday. All three teams made the playoffs. OK, it wasn't exactly a big deal in Masters since there are only four Masters teams in the division so we all made the playoffs. And speaking of Masters, we didn't fare all that well - despite hanging at or near the top of the rankings during the majority of the season, we took a bit of a tumble toward the end and ended up in 3rd.

Monday night was a different story. My 9-ball team has really come into its own... it feels like family, and we really work together well. In the first week of playoffs, I found myself in fairly good shape in the 'cleanup' position... the last match. I didn't have to actually win the match for us to win overall, but I did have to score a non-trivial number of points. The heat was on, and it was mine to lose! I started out a little shaky to be honest, and found myself in a rapidly deepening hole. I was able to pull things together in time, though, and mounted a nice comeback to score the needed number of points - yeah! - on to the next round of playoffs, playing for first!

Our captain chose to lead off with me in the championship match. We were playing a very familiar team, one who had beaten us just a few weeks prior. My opponent was a solid one who I've played before. I don't recall the outcome of the previous matches (this was before the point I started keeping track)... but my sense was that we were pretty well matched. And we seemed to be during the first rack... we both jockeyed a bit for position and got our feet under us, shaking off the jitters inherent during the first game of a championship match. I was slightly ahead after the first rack, sunk the 9-ball and set up for the break. I had a nice solid break, sinking three balls... and darn near ran the rack. I wasn't able to get very good shape on the 8-ball, so I played it on the safe side and left him a tough shot. He missed, and I completed the run out... taking all 10 points on that rack! I kept rolling fairly well, and ended up with a 17-3 victory to start us off. Our next two players also won by good margins which left us in decent position to put it away in the 4th match. They put up a SL 5 player, and we decided to put up a SL 3 player since she'd have to sink fewer balls for the same number of points. Like my match in the previous week... she didn't have to win, only had to sink enough balls to get the points. Difference was, this was in the 4th match instead of the 5th match of the night - we had the luxury of a very comfortable margin to work with! Our 3 played very well and darn near made it - she fell only ONE ball short. That left our cleanup player, a SL 6, with only one match point to make - 9 balls, not even a full rack. It was academic at that point, and we rolled to an easy victory to take first place in the division.

Wednesday night 8-ball didn't go quite as well. We lost the first week, so we ended up playing for third in the second week of playoffs. Week two started out UGLY. Our best two players went up first... and both lost to solid players with slightly lower SLs and therefore a bit of a handicap advantage. So we were down 2-0 and things were looking very grim. It was the other team's turn to put up a player, and they put up their highest ranked player... a 6... hoping to polish us off in three straight matches. Our captain gave me the call because, frankly, I was about all we had left who had much of a chance against this guy since we already burned our heavy hitters. I'm happy to report that I was having a GOOD night and quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 5-3 race - I was on the hill! He managed to battle back a bit to win a couple of very close games before I won 3-2. We were still in it - clawing to stay alive! We put up a solid SL 3 and they matched him with a SL 4. The momentum was on our side though, and we took the fourth match to tie things up at 2-2. There was trouble on the opposing bench at this point though... their aggregate SL was at 19 and all they had left in the house was a SL 5 so they had to forfeit the last game due to the 23 rule! We won the match to claim 3rd in the division!!

Epilogue: Thinking out loud here - somewhere bouncing around in the back of my mind is a clarification about the APA 23 rule specifically stating that a team needs to show the ability to field players adding up to 23. I remember a comment stating something along the lines of "you can't just win your first three games if you don't have the players present to round out the roster" or something to that effect. I'll see if I can remember where I saw that and dig it up.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I participated in a smallish local unhandicapped tournament last night. I was playing well, and found myself in a semi-final match against a very good player (rated significantly higher than me). In this tournament, the matches were 8-ball race to two on the winner's side of the bracket and 9-ball race to two on the one-loss side of the bracket.

Anyway, we each won a match and were hill-hill. He was on the 8 and I was at the table with two balls left. He had played a so-so safety and left me with a long shot on only one of my balls from near the rail. I had a tough cut on my object ball, but the long bank seemed to be close to dead on. Further, I realized I'd leave the cue ball in a safe position if I played a stop shot on the bank... so even if I missed it, I should be safe. It seemed like a good way to go, so I went for it. Unfortunately, I didn't put a lot of thought into the "what might go wrong" part. It requires a firm stroke to execute an effective stop shot at that distance (probably close to 5 feet). You also have to hit it dead-on (or at least close). Missing the dead-on part of the equation with a firm stroke tends to get real ugly in a hurry, and that's exactly what happened. I missed the shot and lost control of the cue ball and, of course, it ended up in good position for his shot on the 8-ball.

In hindsight, I did have a much safer, higher percentage defensive shot available... and that's the way I should have gone. I saw the possibility at the time, but dismissed it in favor of the more risky, more aggressive offensive/defense shot and paid the price.

One of these days I'll learn... hopefully  ;)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Powerful Pool

A new set of DVDs arrived on my front porch last week - Max Eberle's Powerful Pool (also available through Amazon). As you may recall I dove into Dr. Dave's VEPS a month or so ago, so I guess I've been in the mood for DVDs lately.

I like Powerful Pool a lot, and plan to watch it over and over again for awhile... and probably circle back to it from time to time as a refresher after that. In this set of three DVDs, the accomplished Eberle works his way through the most important fundamentals of pool such as stance, bridge, stroke, and aim. His casual and easy-going style makes this a very approachable and watchable set of DVDs for pretty much anyone interested in improving upon their pool fundamentals. Max takes things a bit beyond the pool table, even making a field trip out to his backyard to draw a few very interesting and appropriate parallels between pool and other sports.

I believe Powerful Pool is well suited for beginner and intermediate players, as well as probably more advanced players than they are willing to admit. While observing a local APA league player who happens to be a skill level 6 in 8-ball, my girlfriend leaned over to me and commented "this guy does just about everything Max said not to do in his DVDs." Of course, having just watched Powerful Pool with her the day before, I was thinking the exact same thing! While the player in question survives fairly well at SL 6, he tends to be very inconsistent in his play and has probably peaked some time ago. He and I have traded matches during unhandicapped APA Master's play, so even though he's currently a higher SL than I am, I've beaten him and quite soundly at that.

It's tough to compare Powerful Pool to VEPS. I don't really feel they compete with each other at all. They are completely different animals. As I mentioned earlier, Powerful Pool focuses primarily on body-centric mechanics that apply to just about every shot in pool in an easy-to-watch format whereas VEPS concentrates more on specific shots and related physics in a format intended to be digested little by little (with liberal use of the pause and rewind buttons on your remote). In my opinion, the two DVD sets complement each other well, and both belong in any serious pool player's library.