Sunday, July 31, 2011

English as a Lifestyle

OK, I seem to be continuing this trend of getting fewer posts up than in the past, but I'm sure it's just a phase I'm going through - LOL.

Truth be told, I've been extremely busy and playing pool nearly every night of the week lately. It's been a good run - but during this burst of activity, other parts of my life have fallen behind a bit. I haven't been able to concentrate on focused practice and drills. I haven't been to the gym in who knows how long. Normal around-the-house 'stuff' is falling behind a bit. My kids don't recognize me anymore (unless they want money or food).

And so it goes in the life of a Pool Hall Junkie!

Truth be told, I've enjoyed this burst of activity, and I think it's done my game some good. I don't begrudge any of it, and I don't feel like I've 'lost control' or burnt myself out. In some ways, it reminds me of the Fartlek training I did back in my high school years (hey, I didn't name it, only did it... and no beans were harmed).

I picked up some new experiences, played in new leagues, and met new people. All good things for my game!

Starting next month, I've decided to consolidate my league play a bit to free up some nights for other things like deep practice (The Talent Code) to focus on improving specific areas of my game. I've identified several areas that need attention, and put together a plan that should address them quite nicely. I'll be discussing the elements of my plan in future posts over the next couple of months.

Back to my recent burst of pool hall activity - one of the "new" things I did was join a 10-ball league. I've played in a couple 10-ball tournaments before, so it's not a completely new game to me... but this is the first time I've played it in a league setting. I've noticed that 10-ball has improved my overall game a bit. The called-shot format has forced a bit more discipline upon me... especially since you can only call one ball and one pocket. While playing 9-ball, I occasionally take shots that involve two or more balls through caroms or billiards. Often, I'd take such shots knowing the odds were good that I'd sink one or the other, or maybe both and any of the possible outcomes were fine as long as I made a legal hit and pocketed a ball. When you have to call one and only one ball/pocket, you're forced to look at the shot more critically.

The break is a little different in 10-ball too, but I'm happy to report that I've done a pretty good job of sinking balls on the break more often than not.

There are only two weeks left in the season, and it's been a great experience. I really like my teammates, and it's given me exposure to players I've never played before as well.

One such player I played last week. I had to spot him a game on the wire, so he's somewhat less average on the average hack scale than I am.

Um... have you ever picked up on something with an opponent that made you simultaneously cock your head to the side in WTF-type amazement, try to keep a straight face, and get eye contact with teammates to see their reactions? Of course you have! Well, at least some of you have.

This opponent seemed to be seriously enamored with English. Overly enamored. Terribly, dreadfully enamored.

Prior to most shots he'd stand upright, studying the shot... then say something like "1.5 right" to himself... get down on the shot and shoot it. I must say I usually ignore what people are saying to themselves at the table, and so it took me a little bit to pick up on this... but once I did, I found myself being drawn in with serious jaw-dropping WTFifness!

He was using English on just about every shot. Worse, it became apparent that wasn't just using English for position on the next shot. After missing a not-too-difficult bank into the side pocket, for example, he made a remark to his teammates along the lines of "I didn't get enough English on that one, I needed one and three-quarters tips of right and just couldn't get it."

And his teammates nodded silently.


That shot in particular could have been made with a center ball hit... or pretty much anything in the vertical plane (draw/follow) and/or varying degrees of right or left English. Sure... some choices may have led to a scratch, but he wasn't explaining away a scratch... he was explaining away a miss! Bizarre. And even more bizarre that one of his better teammates didn't point that out to him at some point (he does have a couple of really good players on his team).

Numerous other thoughts came to mind: how was he "calculating" the needed amount of English for the shot in the first place? Was this method calibrated for his tip? His cue? The cue ball? His stroke? Was he even remotely aware of the numerous factors that affected the applied spin on the cue ball?

Anyway, it was entertaining.

Sure, there are differing opinions on the use of English, but personally I try to follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) as much as possible. I cue in the vertical plane of the cue ball whenever possible, and try to set up for natural position if I can. Of course that's not always possible. Yes, I use English here and there to get better position on the next shot. On occasion, I screw that up pretty badly which brings me back to Earth!**

The use of English for the sole purpose of sinking an object ball (via spin-induced throw or cue ball to object ball spin transfer) should be a very rare thing, in my opinion.

The bottom line is English introduces all sorts of additional variables into your game that can affect aim: throw, deflection, swerve, and squirt to name a few. Worse, some of these effects vary due to other factors such as ball cleanliness and so on... which introduces even more inconsistencies into your game as you travel from venue to venue!

** Ironically, I screwed up shape badly on the final 10-ball of this match with overzealous use of English... but managed to recover, thank goodness.