The game of pool is A LOT more complicated than most people think! Even seasoned pool players may not realize how things really work on the table but if the ball goes in the hole, who cares right? Well, I can make some really difficult shots and even run out a rack from time to time but then again I also miss easy shots, long straight shots or do stupid things that will cause me to lose a game and not completely know why. When bad things happened I usually just chalked it up to a bad roll, luck, drinking too much, not drinking enough or maybe it was my equipment… Sound familiar?
I was sick of making excuses and wanted to figure out why I had such ups and downs my game and more importantly, I wanted to be a better pool player so I decided to consult a professional billiards instructor to get some answers. It turns out that the real reason for my inconsistent play was that I did not truly understanding the pool universe and how to navigate it. So with my trusty sidekick, Frank the PoolDawg, I set out on an epic quest of knowledge and enlightenment which brought me from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the windy city of Chicago and Tom Simpson’s Pool School; An experience that has exponentially improved my abilities and changed the way I view the game of pool.
Tom has been a professional billiard instructor for nearly 20 years and in addition to founding the National Billiard Academy he is also a Columnist and Technical Editor for Inside Pool Magazine. His three day intensive weekend classes are held at Pool Halls all over the country and I can tell you from my personal experience that there is no better way to improve your ability and your understanding of the game of billiards then by attending one of these sessions.
I’m originally from just north of Milwaukee, WI so attending the Chicago session also allowed me to catch up with the Fam and they where more than happy to drive down to see me off to my first day of pool school.
It was truly a reminiscent experience having that first day of school feeling again. Only this time I traded in the backpack for my Elite pool cue case and instead of going to a school I went to the Pool Hall… both of which are an upgrade in my book!
Frank and I showed up early to warm up and we were pleasantly greeted by the friendly instructors, my new schoolmates and the nice 9ft Brunswick tables.
Day One of the class is dedicated to Rock Solid Fundamentals so we began by getting evaluated. One of the tables was set up with a video camera and a laser on one end with the staff of instructors on the other end evaluating our form on several shots.
I noticed a lot of note taking from the instructor side of the table and when we watched the video it was very apparent that I have my work cut out for me!
Tom and his all star crew of instructors (Mark Finkelstein, Lance Kepler and Mark Powell) made sure to come around to each person in the class to spend time poking, prodding and molding our fundamentals so that by the end of the day we looked like real pool players. We covered every aspect of the proper fundamentals from the stance and different bridges for every situation all the way to sticking the finish. Now every time I pick up a pool cue I’m practicing the “magic move” to keep my stroke in proper shape. After a day of breaking our bad habits and rebuilding our bodies into robotic billiard machines, Frank and I were tuckered out.
The next morning I jumped out of bed ready to learn but Frank needed a little hotel coffee to knock off the cobwebs so while he was trying to fit his head into the coffee cup I caught up on the readings and went back over my fundamentals.
Day two was all about controlling the balls and in order to properly control the balls we had to learn and understand the ball behavior and what happens at the moment of impact. This turns out to be pretty complicated stuff (more E=MC2 than A+B = C) but Tom took us through it step-by-step with different practice shots and tools like the Elephant Practice Balls (which Tom actually invented) so it was easier to understand and see the results on the tables. We worked on stun shots (the most important shot in pool), spin effects, speed and spin control, kicks, banks, throw and I think that we even covered the effects from Higgs Boson. It was a lot to learn and by the end of the day my head was spinning like a Florian Kohler trick shot.
After getting broken down and rebuilt with Rock Solid Fundamentals in day one and having my brain melted learning about the physics of the game and controlling the balls on day two I wasn’t sure what to expect for day three but I was, at this point, deftly aware of what Tom means when he uses the word “intensive” to describe the class. It turns out that day three was the gold at the end of the rainbow covering the Secret Aiming Systems of the Pros. I can’t really talk about this too much since then it wouldn’t be secret but I’m sure Tom wouldn’t mind if I told you that we covered three different methods including the Quarters System, the Shish Kebab System, and the Holy Grail System (which I am pretty sure was developed by an Alchemist).
By the end of class I was easily making extreme cut shots that I may have completely whiffed on just a few days earlier. The best part of day three was that it gave me confidence so I could concentrate on speed and positioning and because of that other shots where easier too.
I left the class a transformed pool player. Before I was an alright shooter but now that my fundaments and my understanding of the universal amount of factors that affect the way things happen on a pool table are improved, I am a greatly improved shot maker. Obviously, I am still not perfect (nobody is) but Tom has given me the tools and pointed me in the right direction to get better and that makes a world of difference in becoming a great pool player. Feeling good about our game and the improvement we experienced over the weekend session there was only one thing left to do…. Get some Chicago Style Hot Dogs!
Special thanks to: Tom Simpson, Mark Finkelstein, Lance Kepler, Mark “the Skunk” Powell and of course my trusty side kick Frank!
If you would like to transform your own pool game you can contact Tom Simpson (classes@PoolClinics.com) to find out the details and to get signed up. Here is the most recent list of upcoming classes:
Columbus OH: National Billiard Academy headquarters
2012 December 1 – 3 ………… booking now – 2 spots left
2013 March 23 – 25 …………. booking now
Atlanta GA: Two Master Instructors and Special Guest Instructor & Pro Player Shawn Putnam!
2013 January 5 – 7 …………… booking now
Jacksonville FL: Two Master Instructors!
2013 January 19 – 21 …………. booking now (MLK Holiday Weekend)
Charlotte NC: At one of the Top 10 Billiard Rooms in the country!
2013 February 16 – 18 ………. booking now (Presidents Day Weekend)
Philadelphia/NJ area: Two Master Instructors!
2013 March 9 – 11 ……………. booking now
Baltimore MD: Three Master Instructors!
2013 April 27 – 29 ……………. booking now