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Don't Miss the Gems
The February PoolSynergy is a wrap. The general topic is who your favorite player is and why. Many of the best and most commited owner/operators of pool websites are contributors to PoolSynergy. You can find a complete list of all of the February posts at this month's host, Gail Glazebrook's site confessions of g squared. You can check out PoolBum's submission here.
There's not really a player who I would identify as my favorite. But over the years there have been many players that have had a significant impact on me personally or my game.
As a kid of 13, I spent every available hour at Mr. Billiards, the local pool hall in Niles, Illinois. More to the point, every available hour plus some that weren’t actually available (such as my last period Junior High School history class). I got to the point that I was a fair ball pocketer. Straight pool was the game of choice back then and occasionally I’d run a rack. Rare were the times I actually got to the end of the rack having a decent break shot to continue my run. Not letting the facts get in my way, I considered myself a good player.
Along came another kid, nicknamed Brillo (his reddish hair resembled a brillo pad). He was a couple years older than me and was purported to have a high run of 33. I was awestruck. I can’t say I learned anything specific from Brillo. Just realizing that it was possible to get through two racks and into a third was lesson enough. It opened my eyes to the potential that someone other than the greats I watched on Wide World of Sports could run balls. This knowledge led me to watch the pros with an eye to see what exactly they did to string together racks. Having one simple shot after another seemed to be key which meant playing more precise and better thought out position. I actually started to improve and would eventually become a solid (not great) player. 40+ years later I still remember. Thanks Brillo.
Fast forward to the US Open 9 Ball Championship of 2003. I had recently adjusted my stroke and my grip. However, in the heat of battle I found it difficult to maintain the loose grip, smooth stroke I had been working on. I was struggling and behind in the score about 3-7 to a player from Japan. As luck would have it, midway through my match, Corey Deuel was assigned the table next to us. I have always admired Corey’s stroke. Watching his super smooth, relaxed stroke had a great calming effect on me. Seeing how fluidly he threw his cue through the ball was just the magic I needed. I found my stroke and ended up winning the match (my only win, lol). Thanks Corey.
I suppose if I was forced to pick a favorite player it would be Efren Reyes. Not only because in his prime he was the best all-around player of all time (my opinion) but because of his attitude. He's a humble and generous soul. I have lots of Efren stories about his stellar and creative play, like the time in a one-pocket match when both he and his opponent needed the last remaining ball. His opponent had made a fine multi-rail bank and left the object ball in front of his pocket. The cue ball nearly scratched in Efren's hole and came to rest so deep in the pocket that Efren was corner hooked. Getting the object ball away from the pocket or making it and scratching behind it were low percentage at best. After considering his options (what options you might wonder, lol), Efren gently hit the cue ball with such good speed that it came to rest on the foot spot. An intentional foul that resulted in one of his balls being spotted... directly behind the cue ball to block the shot for his opponent!
Something even more impressive (at least to me) happened at Derby City several years back. Having won his one pocket match Efren was heading back to his hotel room to relax before his next match, which would take place in less than an hour. He had just turned in his match result when a spectator stopped him. Would Efren mind saying hello to his friend who was on his cell phone. Apparently, the man's friend was a big fan of Efren. He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and took the phone and proceeded to have a 20 minute conversation with a total stranger. No longer having time to go to his room, he hung around the arena until match time (which he won). Just goes to show, you can be a good player and not give up the qualities that make you a good person. Thanks Efren.
My point is that it isn’t necessarily what people say, or show you that can impact your game. Sometimes it may not even be apparent that you just had a lesson. So, pay attention to what’s happening around you. When you least expect it, there may be a gem hiding in the situation.