Ken’s Corner: A monthly look at things and events involving pool players in the UPA

The two and half things necessary to be a good pool player…

When it comes down to it, there are two types of athletes in both physical and recreational sports. First there are those who succeed based on natural talent, and who have a big advantage over other players in their innate ability to see things before they happen. In addition, these types of players also have the physical and mental skills to do what their ‘vision’ tells them to do to achieve the right outcome.
A great example of someone born with a genius level natural talent is the world champion snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, whose knack to be able to see an entire run based solely on there being a single red separated from the pack is something that can’t be learned simply through practice or experience.
The second type of player or athlete is the one who learns their craft based on practice, experience, and an internal desire to both succeed and become better. This type of player makes up 90% of all athletes who participate in a given sport, but will rarely go beyond the pinnacle of the ‘Hall of Very Good’.
Yet with this being said, in the game of billiards there are three primary actions that the average player needs focus on to both improve their game, and to elicit a better chance for success. And I break them down to two physical requirements, and a mental one.
The two physical ones are something you can control through practice, but sadly are also ones in which nature over time can cause your body to break down in. And these two things are of course the stroke and your eye.
Billiards is a game in which hand/eye coordination is extremely important because if you have a correct stroke setup, the ball will always follow the line in which your eyes are attuned. And with this in mind, if your game suddenly for no reason begins to falter… ie, if you are suddenly missing shots that in the past were virtually automatic, then looking at either your stroke or your eye(s) may be the root cause.
(If you remember the movie The Color of Money, Paul Newman’s character improved his play after coming to the realization he needed his eyes checked and to start using glasses)
The other area that a good pool player needs is one that comes from both experience and the ability to envision things before they take place, and this is why I give it a Half point versus a whole one. Great players can envision not only where the cue ball will go after being struck by the cue, or after striking another ball, but they can also envision a ball’s speed as it travels around the table. A great example of a player using uncanny vision was when Chris Melling made an unbelievable shot during his now famous 8-ball run against Mika Immonen where he played a bank on the cue ball and where his ball setup the opponent’s ball to be in the perfect spot for him to carom his called ball into the pocket.
All of these two and half things necessary to be a good pool player are both teachable, and accessible through practice. And improving oneself in just one or all of these areas will inevitably improve your game, and help you progress towards the level your abilities were destined to go.