Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spot on the Wall... for the Win

Yesterday I was in a 10-ball tournament, a monthly "tour" tournament hosted by the local Vegas Billiards Buzz. I drew a very solid competitor in the first round, the winner of the previous month's tour event, so I knew I'd have my hands full. In one of the early games of the match he didn't have a very good shot on the 8-ball so he banked the 8 around the 9, freezing the cue ball to the back of the 9-ball. A damn nice lock-up safety, leaving me with the approximate layout shown:

Obviously no direct shot at the 8-ball. The 10-ball took away the natural one-rail kick and even minor variations that might have been available with English (and of course being frozen to the 9-ball complicates the whole English proposition in the first place). I considered a two-rail kick off the head rail, but awkwardly bridging over the frozen 9-ball? Ummm... no. I considered a two-rail kick just past the 10-ball, but I wasn't crazy about that option because it was one of those just get a good hit and hope for the best options... and my opponent was very capable of running the remaining three balls unless I got really lucky with the final positions after the shot. The natural angle for that two-railer was flirting with the point of the corner pocket as well.

I didn't see any reasonable options for tying up balls with an intentional foul.


I did NOT want to give this one up without a fight.

At some point I noticed that even though the 8-ball was a fair distance from the corner pocket, it was either on or near the natural three-rail kick line... so I started to consider a three-rail kick. Like many people, I've played with three-rail kicks from time-to-time, so I had a reasonable feel for them - especially on tables like the Diamond bar-box I was playing on. I don't recall ever trying one from this shallow of an angle before, though.

Enter the "spot on the wall" or "distant point" method. I have no idea who first came up with this, but it's been discussed by numerous people including Dr. Dave Alciatore, Bob Jewett, Robert Byrne, and others. One of Dr. Dave's write ups on the technique can be found here.

I've only casually experimented with the technique, but I knew this was a golden opportunity to try it out for real. I called the 8-ball in the corner (due to the handicap against this opponent, the called 8 was a money ball for me). I picked a line that I felt was a good "known" three-rail line for me... looked up to find a spot on the line (the edge of a chair back on an empty ball stool by the bar). I side-stepped over to lock in on the line-of-aim through the center of the cue ball, approached the table and got into my stance on that line. I stroked through the cue ball with slight running English and watched as it came around three rails to hit the 8-ball perfectly, dropping it near center-pocket below me. For the win. Booyah!

As you might imagine, this generated quite a buzz from the bystanders... I was able to pull out isolated comments like "wow, did you just see that?" One person I didn't know even came up to me after the end of the match (several racks later) to tell me it was the best shot he's seen in a long time.

It always feels good to hear comments like that of course, and I suppose that's why some people watch pool - to catch the occasional thriller; somewhat like watching hours of cars going around a track waiting for an occasional exciting wreck.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

So last month I talked about a new league that I joined - mainly hoping to get some experience against better players and so on...

My voodoo dolls must have worked, because enough people weren't available that I finally got the call and played last week.

Headed over to the bar (on the other side of town, so it was a bit of a drive), I put some thought into what I was hoping to get out of the match. It's a round-robin format with five players per team - so I'd be playing one game of 9-ball against each of the opponents. Not thinking negatively but rather realistically against this caliber of player, I realized that I could very well go down in flames 0-5 in my debut.

I hoped I'd pull out at least one game for a 1-4.

I was pleasantly surprised to go 2-3, even though I didn't get to break at all! Yeah!!! With this format, the initial break is determined by a coin toss, then each successive break is determined by the preceding game - so if your teammate playing before you wins, you break... if he (or she) loses, you rack.

That was last week. This week, my voodoo dolls came through for me once again and a couple of the usual players on my team weren't able to make it.

This week, the friggin planets were aligned for me or something because I pulled off a 4-1!! Woohoo!

This week, I got to break several times and my break was working fairly well so that definitely helped. In fact, I almost dropped the nine in one of the top corner pockets on one break (the 2 and 9 intercepted the cue mid-table and tried to herd it into the same corner as well... but it ended up being the 9 that rattled the pocket after being hit by the 2). The balls ended up in the position shown in the diagram (there were other balls on the table, but I'm omitting them because I only know generally where they were and these are the important ones... the 1-ball dropped in the side on the break).

I was thinking to myself, WTF do I do with this??? I didn't really see any decent safeties, and obviously the semi-hanger 9 was a concern if I turned the table over.

I elected to go for the 4 by making about a 1/8 hit on the 2. I knew that would at least ensure a good hit on the 2 and that it would clear the 2 away from the 9... hopefully putting the 2 in a tough spot. I narrowly missed the 4, but the cue came back and dropped the 9! Yah!! During the flurry of high-fives and fist-bumps back at our table, our captain asked me if I actually played that shot (he obviously doesn't know me that well yet)... and I didn't even attempt to fake it, I just responded with an authoritative "F*CK no!"

But wait, there's more...

Remember I mentioned there were pros and ex-pros like Max Eberle in this league? Well, I found out that our team is getting a pro too - how cool is that?? One of my teammates is a friend and snatched him up. My understanding is he'll be living in town for awhile in support of something big coming up with Bonus Ball. They haven't announced it yet, but they have hinted at an upcoming announcement on their Facebook page.

Since the Bonus Ball people haven't announced anything yet, I feel like maybe I shouldn't mention any names. I wouldn't want all ten of my readers blabbing about unsubstantiated rumors, right?

Anyway, hey, check out this cool shot I got of someone at the Andy Mercer tourney a couple of weeks ago... ;)