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Old 11-19-2010, 05:23 PM   #1
Frank the Tank
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I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

As the title says, I'm a better than average player. I'm a university student in Canada and 8 ball is pretty much the only game we play. Pool is more than something you do after you have a couple beers to me. I don't aspire to be a pro but I want to get better partly because I have fun improving and partly because when I take an interest in something, I want to be very good at it.

Compared to Wamy, Viffer, and other serious players in this forum, I'm sure I'm miles and miles behind but I could beat most of my friends, schoolmates in the student lounges, and bar pool players though I've never played for money. There's been a couple nights where I spent 2 or 3 hours in a bar playing for free because they run winner stays on and challenger pays (the rules are call shots, behind the line on scratches, and automatic loss when you scratch when you're going for the 8 ball). My main strength is potting. I have a rudimentary understanding of position (thanks to youtube and this forum) and am disciplined enough to take defensive shots when it's tempting to pot and keep shooting. My weaknesses are long range shots, and controlling the cue ball after it contacts the object ball.

Though I don't aspire to be a pro, I'd like to be able to play in some amateur/recreational tournaments and hold my own. I'd also like to get into 9 ball and snooker (though after reading Wamy's well and watching some youtube videos, it seems that I would have a very frustrating couple of sessions). So, any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 11-20-2010, 10:25 PM   #2
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

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Originally Posted by Frank the Tank View Post
I'd like to be able to play in some amateur/recreational tournaments and hold my own.
Your asking where you go from here right? The answer is in this statement I quoted. Play in as many local tournies as you can. Also, join a league (preferably a league you know has solid players).

What I'm saying is, put yourself in an environment that you know has players of your level or better, preferably better. Putting yourself in a circle of better players will do a few things:

1) Confirm your ability, good or bad.
2) Playing better players will only make you better (provided you actually have the ability to get better.)
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:08 AM   #3
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

There are basically 2 key things you have to do to get your game to a very high level:

a) put in a lot of hours of practice,

and:

b) play under pressure a great deal.

Feel for position and games can be steadily learnt just playing with weaker players or even by yourself, although it will be slower than it would be amongst good players as you will not pick up on the sort of shots that work best in certain spots quite as quickly.

Pressure play can only be learnt through either cash, league, or tournament play. Of these, cash has the highest turnover and will get you better much faster than any other. The downside is that unless you are very good at handicapping and/or pressure play it will be a very expensive education. Tournaments and leagues will do it much cheaper, but the turnover of games is much slower and so will take you a lot longer. They also have the key problem of being very hard to do well in without already being good - the worse you are the fewer the games you will get.

Imo the best way value way to improve is to try and get long, low stakes handicapped matches with very good players. Try and get something like a 7 start to 10 at nine ball against a very skilled player for 20 or 30 dollars and pay the lights. Most good players will take offers like this just to pass the time and make a bit of money, and as a coaching rate it actually works out pretty cheaply. Watch what they do very carefully and start trying to take a few more risks (you will have to anyway to have any chance in this sort of game) - you will be surprised how quickly you get better at reading the table and evaluating shots.

The odd match like this mixed in with just pounding away on a winner stays on table at a bar and a few league games/tournaments will pay dividends very quickly if you focus hard.
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Old 12-03-2010, 04:14 AM   #4
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Spent the last couple weeks searching for a pool hall with a league or regular tournaments. The 2 places near me don't have a league or host tournaments and due to the high table prices ($12/hour), lack of membership deal, them being open during bar/club hours (4 or 5pm - 2:30 am), and the club style decor (actually has a couple bars/lounges and a dance floor), I've deduced that they aren't the sort of places where I can find serious pool players and offer to pay the lights and learn by experience while they kick my ass. One of them is also hybrid pool hall/bowling alley/sorta club.

This third place I found was pretty far away. It's like sports bar/restaurant/pool. They advertise regular 9 ball tournaments every Sunday but since their website hasn't been updated in about 4 - 5 years, I'm not holding my breath. I guess Montreal doesn't have that big of a pool enthusiasm.

So, I've been shooting in the student lounges and bars. One of them has 2 tables in great shape and decent cues. Been playing quite a bit of 9 ball lately. I noticed that the better I get at 9 ball, the worst I play at 8 ball. Perhaps it's because I'm starting to adapt to a more open table in 9 ball and can't quite make the mental adjustment when switching back to 8 ball. Or maybe it's because I have an easier time setting up a difficult shot for my opponent in 9 ball (and thus gaining ball in hand from a scratch) than in 8 ball. Anyways, I'm still having a blast shooting pool and still trying to find somewhere where I could hang out with and learn from more experienced pool players.
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Old 12-30-2010, 09:05 AM   #5
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

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I noticed that the better I get at 9 ball, the worst I play at 8 ball.
This is normal for most people when they switch games and eventually leads to a deeper understanding of both games.You are probably "over thinking" shots in 8 ball that would be natural no brainer get on with it shots if your brain wasn't busy attacking the 9 ball game. I had the same problem with poker, when I learned omaha my texas holdem game suffered and I had to go back to basics and play all nitty for a while to get the game back together. But eventually I was better at both games.
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:39 AM   #6
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

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Spent the last couple weeks searching for a pool hall with a league or regular tournaments...
Some from this list seem promising:

http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/blo...l-in-montreal/
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Old 01-02-2011, 11:31 PM   #7
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Cool, thanks Wamy. I'm gonna check some of those places out.
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Old 01-05-2011, 07:43 PM   #8
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Isn't there still a pool room called Le Skratch in Montreal? I think you could find everything you'd ever want in that place.
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Old 01-06-2011, 02:50 AM   #9
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Google mapped it. Like a 10 minute walk away from where I live. Sweet. In keeping with the Montreal tradition, merci beaucoup, Wamy et dino poker.
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Old 01-06-2011, 04:21 PM   #10
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Le Skratch opened up a franchise location near Toronto a few years ago and it was an amazing pool hall, I'm sure the Montreal place will be a good one too. fyi, there are a lot of very good championship caliber pool players in Montreal, and I guarantee many of them hang out at le scratch. "Machine gun" Luke Salvas is from Montreal and he's an unreal treat to watch.

When I got really interested in pool I spent hours and hours at the pool hall, even when I couldn't afford to play. My old hall had 2 nine-ball tournaments a week, and sometimes I would just rail the best players and try to guess what kind of position shot they were going to play before they did, and then evaluate why they made a better choice than me if I was off.
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Old 01-06-2011, 06:47 PM   #11
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

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My old hall had 2 nine-ball tournaments a week, and sometimes I would just rail the best players and try to guess what kind of position shot they were going to play before they did, and then evaluate why they made a better choice than me if I was off.
This is one of the best ways to get good cheaply, and provided me with a great deal of my pool education when young and broke.
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Old 01-19-2011, 11:39 AM   #12
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

recommend tourney play over league play a league is going to feature tons of very casual players and lots of downtime its mostly just a social gathering
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Old 01-19-2011, 01:49 PM   #13
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Just an update for anyone who'd like to know about my pool progress. Thanks to youtube, I learned how to back screw. I think it's the coolest thing ever and whenever I can, I'd do it when potting the 8 or 9 ball just for the hell of it.

Also, question about going to a proper pool hall (like one of those places where the goal of being there is to play pool, not a bar that happens to have several pool tables). Is it easy getting a game if I'm there alone and is there any etiquette or social norms I should be aware of?
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Old 01-21-2011, 06:03 PM   #14
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

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Originally Posted by Frank the Tank View Post
Just an update for anyone who'd like to know about my pool progress. Thanks to youtube, I learned how to back screw. I think it's the coolest thing ever and whenever I can, I'd do it when potting the 8 or 9 ball just for the hell of it.

Also, question about going to a proper pool hall (like one of those places where the goal of being there is to play pool, not a bar that happens to have several pool tables). Is it easy getting a game if I'm there alone and is there any etiquette or social norms I should be aware of?
Just hang around a bit and see if you can find someone who looks close to your speed, and then if you see them playing alone or just hanging out watching just go up and ask them to play. You can even make it known that you're a beginner looking for cheap or fun games and word will spread.
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Old 01-23-2011, 10:38 PM   #15
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

never heard of backscrew.

but get on a table and practice making easy shots and putting the cue ball in different places for position. until you can make easy shots and get where you want you cant get much better.

a few hard hours by yourself will equal hundreds of hours batting them around in leagues.
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Old 01-23-2011, 10:45 PM   #16
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

okay screw back is draw in the u.k.
this is a fundamental easy thing you must learn. one of the most basic shots. you need to be able to draw from two inches to across the table length. and control the distance and angle it goes.
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Old 01-25-2011, 03:40 AM   #17
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Can't find Le Skratch in Montreal. Google maps tells me there's one a short walk from where I live but it's not there when I actually took the trip there. What is actually there is a massive office building. The other Skratch locations are located in the outskirts or suburbs which isn't easily accessible without a car. However, I did find a place called Fats Billiards (Maybe a reference to The Hustler). Small bar/lounge on one side, 7 very well maintained pool tables on the other side, very cozy but rugged feel to the place. $7 bucks an hour and cheap drinks ($5 for a well made gin and tonic). Went there a couple days ago after class. Place was empty so I got a table and banged some balls around by myself and got into a friendly game with a guy who just stopped in for a quick drink. Think I may have found the spot.
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Old 01-25-2011, 01:54 PM   #18
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Go to azbilliards.com, find the 'Canadian Pool' section and then start a thread asking for best places to play in Montreal. I'm sure you'll find lots of good ideas, it's supposed to be a great pool/snooker town.
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Old 02-02-2011, 06:16 PM   #19
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

from the sounds of it, i used to be about as good as OP, or maybe a little better, back in the mid 1990's boom. could hold the table pretty well in decent bars. were a few guys much much better than me at larger clubs/bars.

i've got back into somewhat. i think playing on much bigger table but wow, have my long shots ever gone downhill.

i'm wondering if i need special glasses or contacts. my natural stance seems to have me looking about my lens, which i presume is really bad.

love to see pool make a huge comeback
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Old 03-16-2011, 04:19 AM   #20
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

Another update for anyone who cares.

Found a couple halls with decent tables and sticks couple of weeks ago. Been spending more and more time shooting pool. Practicing by breaking 9 ball racks and trying to run out (still haven't yet. I'm gonna get there one day. The reason I could beat most of my peers and bar pool players is that most of them do not understand that a safety shot is an option, not because of awesome abilities at running rack after rack.). Last session, I started breaking a full rack like one would a in straight pool, giving myself ball in hand and see how many I could run. (Current high count is 6 or 7. Could be higher but I find counting balls distracting).

Digression: WTF! Why do people not play straight pool? It's so fun. Any ball is on and because of that, safeties are a little harder. You have to work on splitting up packs and making long shots and going 2 or 3 rails to get back down the table to shoot some shorter, easier shots. I'm going to try and teach my friends straight pool.

I'm getting frustrated by the 9 ball break because on the table in my student lounge and in the student bar (2 separate tables), I could sink atleast one ball 90% of the time and 2 balls maybe 60-50% of the time but on the tables on some of the pool halls, it's hard to even sink 1 ball off the break half the time. Usually, it's either head ball into the side or one of the wing balls into the corner or bouncing off the jaws or part of rail near the corner pocket and then into the opposite corner. I've been experimenting with my break technique. I like to break from the left side so my bridge arm could sort of brace against the rail. Sometimes, I use a closed bridge and hit the cue ball as hard as I can at the center of the one ball. Other times, I use an open bridge and try to add to the power by pushing off my back foot so my stance when I'm done breaking looks like I'm trying to knee someone in the balls. I find I sink balls more often this way but also lose control sometimes and glance off the head ball rather than hit it square on.

Starting to get the hang of English now. Still, sometimes, rather than rolling off to the side I want it to, the cueball stops in place and spins for like 15 seconds. Meh, I'll get better at it.

Also, I've decided to sink some money into my own sticks and accessories. Did some research and I could get a Scorpion cue, an Action Jump/Break cue, a 2 butt 2 shaft hard case, an extension, and a glove for 260 bucks including shipping. I didn't want to order off the internet but after extensive research (including calling the Montreal tourism hotline) I've come to the conclusion that there is not a billiards equipment store in this city I could reach without a car/90 dollar cab ride.
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Old 03-16-2011, 02:19 PM   #21
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

hey frank, good update.

my update is that i've been playing tons of different tables, although found some great tables that are free and not too crowded. so i'll be playing there.

two big breakthroughs i had were:

1) realizing how the balls contact each other. before i would aim center
of cue ball to key contact point on object ball. too many undercuts. now i try to hit same angled spot on cue ball and object ball. maybe someone can explain it better than me. i think it's basic advice. i've just made it complicated.

2) find aiming point then go into stance. before, i went into stance somewhat consistent with aiming point then aimed. far too imprecise before. your arm wanted to go in slightly different direction than you set up.

two small breakthroughs.

1) i'm cutting a bit more on shots along the rail. that way i can sink the ball straight in or off the rail slightly. makes the pocket effectively bigger. i assume i don't need to call a little late nudge off the rail

2) being comfortable with very soft shots. is dependent on playing on high quality table

one thing i need help with:

i just can seem to get long multiple rail leaves like they show in books. i don't care right now as to hitting the exact leave properly, more like i can't get the forward velocity on the cue ball after contact. something is sucking the energy out of these leaves??
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Old 03-16-2011, 07:08 PM   #22
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

I don't know what you mean by leaves, I'm a little behind on the lingo. I can't find an affordable coach and I don't like learning from books so most of my knowledge comes from youtube videos and getting down and practicing on my own. Maybe it's the follow through? In every sport I've played that involves throwing, kicking, or hitting a ball with a part of your body or a club or stick, the coaches always emphasize how important the follow through is. You're not supposed to pull back the cue stick right after contact, the tip should end up a couple inches past where the cue ball was.

About the aiming stance thing, I think that's what I need to work on. When I get into crouch and the line is perfect, I rarely miss but when I get into crouch and shuffle around to readjust, that's when I start missing. Problem is I do that alot because I can't find the correct aim point just from standing but then by moving around, you're not in proper stance anymore and very often, at the last second, my arm would hit my hip or thigh or stomach and completely screw up the shot.

And balls on the rail just piss me off. When I have to cut them, more often than not, I hit the wrong point and they bank off the rail and roll near the pocket though I've sunk the impossible shot before though from a closer range. (Thinly veiled brag: didn't set it up to practice, it came up a few times during games. The most recent one, I broke, sank the 1, 2 froze on the bottom rail about a little under a foot from the corner pocket, cue ball ended up in almost a perfect line with the 2 ball and close to the balk line. Beat: Did not run out. Variance: Won by safety plays) Maybe I should start missing the object ball by a hair and then using English to bounce the cue ball off the rail in that direction to sink balls on the rail.
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Old 03-16-2011, 08:58 PM   #23
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

frank, no problem...... i'm not totally sure on my terminology either. i think "leave" and/maybe "shape" refers to where you want the cue ball to end up. some of the books i read have exercises (i haven't done) where you would sink a ball in the corner pocket and then the cue ball would hit a couple of rails setting you up for another shot.

i used to be great at extreme cut shots and also getting shots at reasonable angles of the rail (these really depend on the table i think), and i seem to have lost it, although maybe it's different tables causing it.
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Old 03-16-2011, 09:01 PM   #24
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

i'd say just find your aim (even if it's not perfect) then set up. really really helped me. the old way was to just set up fairly general and then adjust body and arms (but generally not feet). so i think in the old way my arms naturally want to go to relaxed position which is not consistent with my aim. when i see very specific aim first and then take stance, then my aim and a relaxed arm are often exactly the same.
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Old 03-16-2011, 11:24 PM   #25
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Re: I'm slightly above average, where do I go from here?

i find when setting up a shot taking a step back from the table and approaching the table (i.e. take a step forward in to the position to take the shot) helps get my body in the right position with the right aim.

i dont know if anyone else finds the same but it just helps me if i line up the shot first from a distance then i can keep focused as i approach the shot on were i want to hit the object ball and cue ball.
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