I’d Bet my Nickel on Jack

One of the most colorful pool playing characters I have ever come across was a gentleman named “Nickel” Jack Goode of Liberty, Kentucky. Coined the nickname, “Nickel Jack” because he wore nickels in the crevices of his ears during play, Jack was a player from the “old school,” he played little defense and was perhaps the best kick shot perpetrator I have ever seen.

In fact, after playing against Jack for many years I cannot recall a single time where I ever saw him foul on a reasonable kick shot. On many occasions, I questioned Jack about why he was such a good kicker, but being the dramatic storyteller that he was he would always dance around the subject by telling a tall tale about a recent gambling excursion. To hear Jack tell it, no matter who he beat it was always for $2,600.00.

One day, I went to the poolroom and was shocked when the room owner informed me that Jack was in the hospital and was given less than 24 hours to live. Surprisingly, when I returned to the poolroom a couple of days later, Jack was smoking a cigarette and was playing the “Cherry Master” machine. Being shocked, the first words out of my mouth were, “Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” Jack laughed and took long drag off of his cigarette, blew some smoke and said, “I am too mean to die!”

He then went on to inform me that it was a monumental day, because he had just picked the Kentucky Derby winner and had won several thousand dollars. I said you must be as good with horses as you are at kicking. Jack said, “Yep, almost!” Then he said, “I never did tell you about the strategy I use on kick shots.”

According to Jack, when you are kicking you’re better off going into a ball on a flatter, narrower angle. “It’s much easier to hit and control,” he said. After talking to several pro players, what Jack said was in fact true and accurate. To prove this, set three balls up along the long rail. Then shoot each ball into the rail rubber of the end rail as shown (where the “red star” is located). Notice that ball 1 will go into the pocket after hitting the rail rubber, but ball 2 ball jaws the pocket and ball 3 doesn’t come close. Now, imagine your cue ball is on the opposite side of the table where the yellow “X” is located. Now you have to kick at that same pocket (where the red star is). Percentage wise you would be better off kicking further down (near where ball 1 is positioned) and shortening the cue ball up with left English. The flatter angle makes the pocket play much bigger and the inside spin helps the ball roll into the pocket.

The ball obviously can be pocketed kicking higher on the cushion, but kicking lower on the rail near where the 1 ball is located (shortening the shot up with inside spin) gives you a much larger margin of error.

In fact, there is a reverse English kicking system that can be used to calculate such a kick. Jack called it the “Nickel System.” The starting point for the kick shot is the placing the cue ball in front “side pocket diamond” aiming into the first diamond on the opposite side of the table as shown below (the path of the dotted cue ball). Here, kick into rail with maximum left spin. Hit the cue ball with a firm speed and it will take you to the corner pocket.

Adjustments are made in halves. So in other words, if you were 1 diamond above the side (cue ball “A”) you would aim ½ a diamond higher than the starting point (using the same speed and spin). If you were 2 diamonds higher (cue ball “B”) you would aim 1 diamond above the 1st diamond starting point and so on.

Sadly, after a long battle with cancer Jack finally passed away, but each time I return to Campbellsville, I think about the day Jack shared a closely guarded secret. Jack was the best kick shot artist that I ever had the pleasure of playing against. During a local tournament one man said it best, “I’ve seen a lot of players come and a lot of players go, but when it comes to kick shots, if I had to pick a player, I’d bet my nickel on Jack.”