In last month’s Table Talk, I shared with you the importance of working on your fundamentals. This is such an important topic, that I’d like to show you some more examples of top players who occasionally slip and forget the basics.
This time, we’re going to look at Bonus Ball.
Before we look at the video, let’s talk a little bit about Bonus Ball, and what makes it so challenging in this video. I’ll leave looking up the rules of the game as an exercise for the reader.
First, the pockets are very tight. The corner pockets are only 3-7/8 inches wide. A billiard ball is 2-1/4 inches in diameter, so the pockets are only slightly more than an inch and a half wider than a billiard ball. Very small targets indeed, with little room for error.
Second, you only have 3 pockets available to you: two corners on one side of the table, and the opposite side pocket. With only half of the pockets available, ball position becomes VERY important (This rule is in place for pros. The amateur rules allow for any pocket).
Third, as an added challenge, you must finish a game in 15 minutes. You have only 25 seconds for each shot and only one timeout.
Add it all up, and it means pressure! When you are under a lot of pressure to perform, your fundamentals are what will help see you through. Let’s see how they affect our pro players.
9:30: Tom Kennedy has a very tough shot on the purple ball in the lower left corner. Notice when he is stroking that his elbow is bent back a bit — we won’t hold that against him, because he has been shooting that way for many years. However, when he shoots the ball, he doesn’t follow through, lifts his stick, and stands up. He misses the shot by less than an inch, but that can be the difference between winning and losing in this game.
14:15: Thorsten Hohmann is cueing over a ball, and the shot clock is winding down. He rushes his shot, and doesn’t follow through. His cue pops up into the air, and he misses.
27:08: Scott Frost is attempting a very difficult bank shot back to his corner pocket. Instead of taking his time (he had plenty of time on the clock), he rushed his shot, poked at the cue ball, and dropped his hand off the rail after the shot. He didn’t leave Hohmann an easy shot, but the result was not a safety, and Hohmann was able to make a difficult bank.
39:45: Let’s look at a positive example. Ralph Souquet is a consummate professional, and his mechanics are nearly perfect. In this shot, he makes a difficult cut shot and leaves his partner in great position for the next shot. I want you to pay particular attention to how long Souquet stays down on the shot.
These guys are pros. They have been playing the game for many years, and have refined their game to a level most of us only dream of. Yet, even they can slip up from time to time when they are under pressure to perform. Bonus Ball is designed to put a lot of pressure on the player, so having the discipline to stick to the fundamentals is paramount.
Here are a few things to remember, and practice:
A steady, even stroke, following through the ball about the same distance as the prestroke, will help you to keep your aim true. It will also help you control your speed, improving cue ball control. When you poke at the ball, you have less control over just how fast the cue strikes the cue ball.
You might hear this a lot, but what does it mean? It means don’t move after the shot.
Follow through, then stay. Don’t stand up. Don’t drop your arm. Don’t move your cue stick. Freeze!
You might think “But Michael, the cue ball is already moving. Standing up isn’t going to change that, right?” True, but if you get into the habit of standing up after your shot, eventually you will stand up during your shot. When that happens, you will move your stick, and your aim will be off. You’ll miss.
If you stand up on your shots, you’ll soon be sitting down in your seat. STAY DOWN.
You might be told time and again the “proper” stance, and to make sure your elbow is in alignment. Yes, there are wrong ways to stand, and bad arm positions. But the most important thing is that you are comfortable, and that you establish whatever works for you to make balls consistently.
When you reach that point, try to be consistent. Don’t change your stance. Don’t move your elbow to a different position. Your body has learned certain positions, and developed muscle memory. If these positions have been working for you, then keep doing it. Look at Francisco Bustamante, for example. He has a very unorthodox stroke, and his elbow is way off of center. But it works for him, and he is one of the best in the world. Who’s going to tell him to “ﬁx” it? He is very consistent, in the way he shoots, in his pre-shot routine, and his ability to wipe the ﬂoor with you.
When you go to the pool hall or your local bar, don’t just put a bunch of balls on the table and bang them in. Your practice should have purpose. Make sure you always work on your fundamentals, and do a proper “check-up” from time to time. Have someone video-tape you, and watch the tape yourself. There is a reason football players review game ﬁlms. Even the pros make fundamental mistakes, and can always use improvement!
This article was published in the July 2013 edition of The Break Magazine. Check it out!