Interview With SVB

Editors Note: This interview was conducted in Russia in November by Mikhail Kablukov and Vladimir Zavyalov of propool.

Q: Shane, we are happy to have you as a guest here in Moscow.  Especially given the fact that's the very first time you have been here. 10 years ago you were kind of "under the radar", virtually unknown to the public, maybe known only for amateur BCA wins. What made you turn into professional?

A: I went to school and then I went to college for one year, that's when I decided I wanted to be a pool player. So I started to travel around the country playing a lot of money games. In 2006 (I was 22-23) I joined the IPT. Since then I started travelling more and more, and 2007 - that's when I won my first major tournament. US Open - champion, Reno Open - champion, more and more titles. So from there I started travelling around the world.

Q: You come from a pool playing family (Shane's grandmother, Jeanne Bloomberg, is a VNEA national champion; his mother, Timi Bloomberg, a BCA national champion; and his aunt, Gari Jo Bloomberg, a three-time VNEA national champion). As far as we know it was your grandfather who made a lot to build you as a player. Could you tell a little about him? And maybe other relatives who inspired you to be a pool player?

A: My grandfather owned a pool room in Rapid City, South Dakota, for 10 years. And I was there pretty often, 3-4 times a week. I played in amateur leagues when I was younger, from there I started to play pool.

Q: When did you start to treat the game seriously?

A: Probably when I was 13-14 years old. One day I was watching pool on TV and I said to myself that I wanted to be a professional pool player. And that's when I started to become serious about the game.

Q: Do you remember who were the players on TV? 

A: Earl Strickland and Francisco Bustamante.

Q: Could you also tell us a bit about your mother and aunt who were excellent amateur players?

A: I remember them playing since I was a little kid, they were state champions. My grandmother played pool also, so they were on a team together. They went to the nationals in Las Vegas and they won. Everybody in my family plays pool except my father. 

Q: Back to your grandfather, is it correct to say it was him who made you a player?

A: Well, he gave me some hints, but mostly I learned everything on my own. My grandfather knew everything about the game, he saw lots of professionals and how they become champions. So he gave me some pointers.

Q: Why do you play pool at all? And what do you like about this game?

A: Playing pool is a competitive sport. Competitions are all over the world, so it lets you travel. Most interesting thing about this game is meeting different people, that's my personal favorite.

Q: If there is no pool, what would you do?

A: I would go to college, get a degree, and do something connected with animals, fish, etc., some biological thing. I like animals.

Q: Any interests or hobbies outside of pool? 

A: I like to go fishing, like to go hunting, and I like to play golf. More outdoors activity, you know (smiling). I used to go hunting a lot in the fall when I was younger, now since I'm travelling a lot I'm unable to do that.

Q: Is there any other sport you are involved?

A: Golf. 

Q: What's your handicap there?

A: 8 handicap, maybe 7. John Schmidt, for example, is 2 or 3.

Q: Who was your idol at young age? Pool idol or just a sports athlete? 

A: Francisco Bustamante, pool player from the Philippines

Q: What's your interest in other sports?

A: Nowadays I like to watch basketball, tennis and sometimes golf.

Q: Who is your most wanted rival, if any? The one you are looking to play the most?

A: I have already played Efren Reyes, already played Earl Strickland... They were probably the best matches I had, so... now I'm looking forward to play younger players.

Q: From the USA?

A: Anywhere. Lot of European players are coming up.

Q: Can you name a player who together with you could draw the most audience today?

A: That's probably me and another American player, Earl Strickland, he is very popular in this sport. Or of the Filipinos, Efren Reyes. 

Q: Who is your toughest opponent today?

A: Still Francisco Bustamante.

Q: Really?

A: Yes, he is my number one.

Q: Frankly we were expecting to hear something like Ko Pin-Yi.

A: Oh yes, the Taiwanese player, he beat me in the finals. Twice. 

Q: What it takes to grow into a player kind of you are now? 

A: A lot of hard work, practice 8, 9, maybe 10 hours a day, dedication. It's all about the process of preparing to the tournament, taking care of yourself, going to gym. That's a lot of work involved.

Q: Do you practice as much as before?

A: Not any more. Now I've been trying to do other other things in life, not about pool. And I've been playing quite a lot of pool in past ten years.

Q: How much time do you spend practicing now?

A: Before a tournament I usually practice 3 to 4 hours to get used to table conditions.

Q: What's your recipe against bad rolls? How do you cope with them?

A: Usually it's just trying to stay positive. When the balls don't roll your way there is nothing you can do about it, it's a part of the game. I've already accomplished something at many tournaments. So bad roll is not a big deal, it's not the end of the world.

Q: Do you remember what was your first playing cue? 

A: It was a Meucci. Then I went to JossWest, then to Schon, and now I have a sponsor with Cuetec.

Q: I suppose it was Cuetec who picked you, not vice versa?

A: Yes. 

Q: Did it take you long to consider their offer?

A: I won 2007 US Open,  they called me in 2008, and around the end of that year we signed a contract. 

Q: How long did it take to get used to new Cuetec? 

A: About two days. It took some adjustments on aiming, as all cues are different.

Q: Did you do any changes to shaft diameter or anything like that, or is it completely standard model ?

A: That's a cue I just took off the wall and play with it. 

Q: How long have you been playing with a glove?

A: I started using it 2 or 3 years ago because of weather conditions, because of humidity. Sometimes my fingers got to stick to the shaft. Now when I use a glove I don't have to worry about that anywhere.

Q: Do you use it every time now?

A: Yes, everywhere I go.

Q: How come you started to play with a cue extender? 

A: Earl Strickland first started using it. He is one of those players who are very smart about the game, very dedicated, so he generally knows what he is talking about. A few changes here and here can make a difference. It feels comfortable to play with cue extension.

Q: We think we noticed every time a standard triangle rack is used instead of a racking template you inspect the balls racked pretty close. Is there anything special you are looking for?

A: I practice a lot, therefore I rack for myself a lot, and as I'm racking I can see the patterns a little bit, how the ball would go in the pocket. So I learned a lot about racking, and when the referee is racking with a triangle I can try to read the rack and know where to break from. A lot of have to do with cue ball placement and break speed.

Q: You are one of most feared bar box players in the world. Could you tell us who are not quite familiar with small tables, how different is bar box play from 9-footer? 

A: It's a big difference. I see a lot of professional pool players who don't like bar table because they don't understand the game. When you play on bar table you have to be more cautious, because on bigger tables you have more room for cue ball traffic.

Q: Now let's turn to your 10-footer experience.

A: 10-foot tables started to come around in last couple of years. I think they are for taller players (smiling). I don't think it would work for shorter players, like, say, the Filipinos. Again, that's a different game than on 9-footers.

Q: In your first 10-footer challenge match vs Earl Strickland he obviously dominated. What was the main reason for your defeat there?

A: Earl has been around for many years, and he played on 10-foot tables for many years, and I have played on it only once before our match. So I don't know much about the game like he does.

Q: We have heard from your Eurotour event experience you don't fancy Dynamic tables (which are also used here at Kremlin Cup). Is there anything special you don't like about them? 

A: I think they have new pockets now, I don't know actually, I haven't played on them for about 7 years. Pocket size is probably much bigger compared to US tables. So it must be the pocket size which I don't like. I prefer tighter equipment. 

Q: What is the best table you played on?

A: I like Diamond tables, table conditions are always the same. I think these are top quality pool tables.

Q: What drives you forward now when you are one of the very top players of the world? What motivates you to practice further and harder?

A: I have certain goals in my life that I'm trying to accomplish and maybe retire in a few years (smiling), 5 years down the road or so. I'm also trying to accomplish some financial goals.

Q: How do you plan your routine practise session? Do you have a favorite drill?

A: Usually I like to play longer shots, so I set up long shots and just shoot them in the hole. Before a tournament I practice for a couple of hours. When at home most of the time I work on harder shots, practicing for 6 to 8 hours. When I prepare for a tournament I don't have enough time to do that. The only way to improve is work harder.

Q: Which of the fundamentals you believe are most important?

A: Two of them are most important, the grip and the bridge hand. If you don't have those two you can't win.

Q: Which element of your game would you call the weakest? 

A: Probably playing off the rail. When the cue ball is on the rail, especially on longer shots. 

Q: And which is strongest then? 

A: That's probably my break. And cue ball control which is usually pretty persistent.

Q: And what's your attitude to jump shots? 

A: Jump cues gotta go. Jump cues are for amateurs.

Q: How did you master one pocket that fast? 

A: In the US lots of people like to play one pocket, so I learned by watching a lot of matches. And I played a lot of matches myself, including big money games, that is what helped to improve my one pocket game.

Q: And what about straight pool? We've heard this year you ran over 300 balls, that's massive! 

A: I started to learn this game more, so I started to understand it better. Again, I didn't ask any advice, I learned by watching skilled players how they break the balls, how they pick key balls for the break, set up the right shot. If you know how to do that you are going to run a lot of balls (smiling).

Q: Who in your opinion are the best 14.1 players nowadays?

A: Darren Appleton, he's a tough opponent in straight pool, and Thorsten Hohmann, he knows more about this game.

Q: If there is a big prize for the one who beats Willie Mosconi record (526 balls), how long would it take? Do you think you could do that?

A: Yes, I think I could beat it. If one is going to play straight pool for the whole year, somebody would eventually beat it. But there are no tournaments of straight pool, so not so many people are competing straight pool now.

Q: What's your best run at straight pool?

A: 305.

Q: Imagine there is only one world championship per year. Which format would you choose for it: game, equipment, knock out or double elimination, race to how much?

A: I like 10-ball on a Diamond table, 4" pockets, double elimination format, winner breaks, race to 15. Nowadays the races are too short, anything can happen, a lot of luck involved.

Q: Common belief is you are not as good away from home as you are on your own soil. Could you name main obstacles the player like yourself has got to face when playing abroad? Maybe food you are not used to? 

A: Usually it has something to do with the sleeping. Different time zones for different countries, sometimes sleep is difficult. Food is not a big deal really, but adjusting to time properly could be very difficult for a travelling player. 

Q: What was the biggest money match you played? 

A: That was against Efren Reyes 3 years ago at the Derby City. It was 10-ball race to 23, and I won. 

Q: And what was the highest stake you ever played?

A: 50 thousand. 

Q: Was that one pocket?

A: No it was 10-ball again.

Q: How often do you stake your own money? 

A: I put myself in every tournament. I've been putting everywhere myself for 3-4 years now. 

Q: So you don't have any backers?

A: Sometimes for big money matches I have my friend John Mars from Detroit, MI, helping me. He likes pool, he's a nice guy and a big friend of mine.

Q: Do you remember your first gambling match?

A: Probably when I was 16, I played a road player that came in to South Dakota. Eventually I won about $200. 

Q: The Filipinos have a reputation of toughest gamblers. How do you estimate winning percentage against them in money matches? 

A: High percentage. I've been all over the Philippines and faced many of them.

Q: Did you win or lose more?

A: I won more. 

Q: What's the favorite win of your career so far?

A: My favorite tournament I won is the Challenge of Champions, which is a month ago. It was four players for $25 000.

Q: And what makes it so special?

A: When I got that pool buzz watching Strickland vs Bustamante on TV long time ago which I mentioned before, it was the same tournament. 18 years later it is same event, same organizer, and it is me winning it.

Q: That's really amazing. What do you think about the future status of American pool? 

A: There has got to be a lot of changes. But nowadays it is very difficult to make a living playing pool. 

Q: Do you see any coming world stars among the American youngsters?

A: There is a few players coming up, keeping stronger and stronger.

Q: What is the toughest event nowadays? 

A: US Open is very tough to win. And Derby City Classic. 

Q: And which one has the strongest field? 

A: Strongest players for competition, that would be Derby City. It's takes a lot to win the All-Around title, one has to perform well in various games of pool like banks or one pocket. 

Q: Could you share your thoughts of Mosconi Cup overall as a tournament? 

A: To me Mosconi Cup is just another event. Pool players in general want to get on the team, so it's definitely a great event. And it is probably the only event around the world that could make pool better.

Q: In the past team USA was defeating team Europe for several years straight. Why do you think did the tide turn recently? Any certain reasons for that?

A: I think a lot of have to do with... with decline of pool players in America. Some events are lost in America, players are not competing that well. There are more professional tournaments in Europe. A lot of players are playing in Europe, they play same format at every tournament.

Q: What are your expectations about coming event in Tropicana, Las Vegas?

A: I think if everyone of my team can work harder like I do, we have a chance to win. I want my team to win and I will try to help them, but I think we need to work harder.