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Question #14, February 2023: Should Kids Be Encouraged To Become Competitive At Pool?

Steve Lillis

Steve Lillis

Competition can be positive or negative depending on your attitude and what you learn and experience. Pool should be no different than other individual sports like golf, tennis, and bowling.  Playing and competing to win in pool can bring out creativity, stamina, patience, and determination which can also be applied to other aspects of one’s life.

The skills and experience necessary to win in pool have many applications in other areas of life.  Most careers and occupations require time and energy to develop.  In pool a young player must not only gain the knowledge but also through practice and determination develop the necessary skills to win.  Without competition it would be difficult to measure one’s improvement.  In the work world holding a job, being paid a fair wage, and gathering the respect of fellow employees and the public is also a measurement of a person’s determination to be successful and productive for society.

Unfortunately, there is a negative side to competition just as there is in the workaday world of our society.  In pool, gamboling for example can lead to greed and all sorts of practices designed to get the money by any means necessary.  This also applies to society at large as people in the marketplace can charge unfair prices, mislead customers, and act only in their own self interests in order to succeed.  A young pool player can learn to win by getting angry, being unsportsmanlike like sharking or distracting their opponent, cheating, or hustling their opponent through deception.

In conclusion, a young player will hopefully learn to compete in a Godlier way.  As a Christian, Jesus is my example!  He did not receive justice but gave his life for us to redeem us and pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross.  He taught us to forgive and do good to them who hate you, pray for those who despitefully use you, and bless those who curse you.  He also said to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.  Can you imagine a generation of young pool players displaying these attributes?  I think sponsors and fans would love to see players competing with these character traits.  Truly the love of the game and a love for people would be magnetic to bring our sport higher to the next level!

Tom Rossman

Tom Rossman

I see no problem with kids becoming competitive at pool, as long as the challenges they face offer wholesome and ambassador reflections of positive pocket billiards, while presenting high standards to “Play Skillfully with a Shout of JOY” (Psalms 33:3)!

Note: Well structured league and tournament formats provide a great exposure to the aforementioned traits of competition.

On the other side of the ledger, any back room association (gambling) when playing competitively can erode one’s joy and often create hurt, bitterness, and anger in not only his or her personal attachment to the game, but also (and often) in the “heart” of one’s opponent. I believe this type of competitive offering should be avoided at all costs.

The main encouragement to our youth should focus on the following three “games”:

1) Game “of” the heart…first and foremost (over all else)…playing with a heartfelt “victory source” in each situation, regardless of the final paper score,

2) Game “in” the mind…with disciplined mental concepts for progressive and productive practice and proper application to the myriad of situations than can arise during  competitive moments,

3) Game “on and off” the table… sharing stewardship principles that reflect the “sport gift” of billiards / pool in a positive way and with thanksgiving for what God has entrusted us to watch over.

In conclusion, young or “young at heart” should be encouraged in the theme, goal, and declaration of:

2 Timothy 4:7 — “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”

Blessings to all…

Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman

Mike Massey

Mike Massey

Yes and no, depending on the motives.

As a Christian, and believing  that Jesus died for our sins, our main purpose in life should be to glorify God the Father and enjoy life by living the way Jesus teaches us through studying his word, which I believe is the Bible. And the Bible says that when you are born again by believing in Jesus and what he did for you, you are a new creation. All things are new, and you don’t have to be controlled by the old sinful nature.

In any sport you should try your best to win. You play at your best ability by playing by the rules, and if the game is pool, that means even calling fouls on yourself if you have fouled.

You should never shark (distract) your opponent while he or she is shooting. Win or lose, be nice and shake hands with him or her. You should try to play your best, but I also personally believe you should never wish bad rolls upon your opponent. I believe wishing bad things upon someone– for self-gain especially– is witchcraft; which is nothing more than works of the self-centered Adam nature.  We must realize that as a born-again Christian, the Adam nature is supposed to be dead, and it’s no longer you that lives, but Jesus. We were bought for a price–the precious blood of Jesus when he was crucified on the Cross for our sins.

We must also realize that if a young man or woman becomes good at pool and wants to become a professional that only a few are honestly making a living playing in tournaments. The sad part about it is that they usually end up playing in money matches–and that world can become very dangerous. I know many players who have ended up in prison, beat up, or even killed. And it all started as a result of them being a good pool player.

When I was living the life of a gambler, more than once I found myself looking down the barrel of a gun. I’ve been sucker punched, hit over the head with blood spurting out of it, and robbed several times. I’ve had my drink spiked with drugs–once being with LSD, which messed me up for years.

I’ve been arrested 5 or 6 times, and one of those times, the law even took my money. I could have been killed many times, but by the Grace of God I wasn’t destroyed. I hope that maybe I can help keep others from going down that road of destruction. No one is immune to these things if their ego gets out of control by wanting to be the best in their sport.


Like I said before, try your best, but that does not necessarily mean wanting to be “The Best,” but wanting to be your best. Enjoy every moment, but don’t get caught up in desiring to be THE BEST, because if you do, there will be much strife and heart ache. You might attain greatness for a while; however if you attain it without humbleness, your ego may be satisfied, but you will have no true joy. The Joy of the Lord is our strength, and through him we can do all things that strengthens us. But to attain that joy we must do it his way–and the Bible teaches us that.

I thank God for my talent of playing pool. It has taken me all over the world and I’ve had many experiences, some very good, and some very dangerous. My spirit wants to serve God and please him more than anything, because of what Jesus did for me. But my flesh (Adam nature) wants to serve his “Father” which is Satan. There’s a tug of war going on in my soul, which has already been won at the cross. So, I have to keep telling myself that, and walk after the Spirit instead of the flesh. The old me died at the cross, but the new me lives because of the cross. Walking after the Spirit is life, and walking after the flesh is death.

So, my answer is yes, and no.

Tommy Kennedy

Tommy Kennedy

I think it would be okay if the person wants to pursue playing and getting better. But I don’t think they should try to make it a living, unless they want to give their whole life to it. But for the game itself, then it would be a good thing. It is just like any other game or sport someone pursues. I personally don’t hang out in pool rooms anymore than I have to. To me it is just a waste of time to just be in pool rooms for other than witnessing and playing a tournament. I pray to God to show me another way to make a living if He has other plans for me. So I am trying to get away from it as much as I can. There are other things and better things in life to do than to waste your valuable time in a pool room. This is just how I feel. And until the players can make a substantial payday, it just isn’t worth it anymore. Pool hasn’t become a real sport in people’s minds and they don’t treat it as such. And only very few make a great living at it. So for now I will be praying for a way out of the pool scene. But until He takes me out of it, I will continue on.  

And lastly just to add a negative view point about most of these events, It has become mainly about the Calcutta and it has become for the most part a circus atmosphere and a gambling event under the guise of a tournament.  Look at the event that just happened about a month or so ago. It boasted of having over 200,000 in calcutta money or maybe even more. And also the Derby City Classic is a circus atmosphere and Gambling extravaganza. Where are the events that just have a tournament and no Calcutta and people enjoyed playing and seeing some good pool and good players play. The people really appreciated and respected the players and their accomplishments. It is really sad. I miss those days and I loved when the crowd was there just to appreciate the players and the tournament. It wasn’t all about the money back then. Those days are GONE!!!  

I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be negative, but honest, and it is a forgotten thing to love and respect the game and its players. There is more I can say, but for now I will leave it where it is. 

Thanks for listening everyone, 


Discipline Your Game For Success

Discipline grunge rubber stamp on white, vector illustration

As serious players work to improve their pool game, it is important to employ discipline to play at a high level. Discipline can come in the form of many different things, including having discipline to refrain from drinking while playing pool all the way to making sure not to rush through shots that require more time to properly assess.

Often players beat themselves by doing things they shouldn’t, including not getting enough rest or losing focus during tough matches. Again, discipline is what helps players manage challenging situations and continue to improve.

Examining discipline

Discipline is simply defined as being able to train using self-control.  When you examine your game, how disciplined are you?  Below are a few places to examine your level of discipline:

Being disciplined won’t make you a great player, but it will put you in the best position to succeed.  Conversely, by not being disciplined you will never reach your full potential, prompting the big question: How good do you really want to be?

When you study the world’s best at anything – pool, business, education, etc. – one constant you will always see is a high degree of self-discipline.  Often it is not their natural talents that sets them apart, but instead it is their willingness and commitment to doing everything that is necessary to be the best – and this starts with self-discipline.  No, there are no short cuts to being the best, and the quality of your game can improve dramatically by getting away from cutting corners and instead putting in the work.  

Final thoughts

The great thing about discipline is that not only does discipline lead to peak performance, but it is also something every one of us can improve if we are serious about being great.  You may not have been blessed with an eagle eye, but you have every opportunity to outwork the competition and develop the discipline needed to overcome adversity – good luck!

How To Play Your Best In 2023

3 Mental Tips From 3 Pool Legends

1. Mosconi’s Ability To Focus

It would be impossible to summarize the entirety of Willie Mosconi’s mental greatness into only a single

tip. From his childhood, Mosconi was primed to become a pressure player — defeating every great player that lived during his generation. His transformation into the greatest player in the world was both preordained and historically significant.

But that is not to say there’s nothing you can learn from Willie Mosconi’s mental greatness. Sure, you might not have the added benefit of prodigious ability or a lifetime of training, but there is always room for improve- ment, especially when that improve- ment comes from one of the greatest players of all time.

Steve Cook once asked Mosconi, “What do you do to focus?’” He said, “Actually, I hear everything.” Mosconi’s point: the key isn’t to try to avoid the noise — it’s to grow comfortable in it. To hear everything but pay no attention to it.

In some ways, that’s easier said than done. A great way to practice this skill is to read with the TV on.

For your game, practice the same. Learn to be comfortable in a distracting environment without losing concentration on the shot at hand.

2. Ronnie Allen’s “No Bad Days” Approach

Every pool player is going to have bad days. They’re inevitable, and in one of the delightful ironies of the sport, they have a nasty habit of showing up in the precise moment we need them least (like, for example, a big tournament or during pool league). Bad shots, in that very same vein, are nothing more than a fact of life for a pool player.

But reacting to bad shots and bad days? Now, that’s where champion players set themselves apart, at least, in the mind of Ronnie “Fast Eddie” Allen.

Allen said one of his biggest lessons was to learn how to forget the bad — or at least learn to live with it.

“That’s one of the things I’ve learned — or maybe just matured into, I guess, is the right word — is learn how to page11image100296448forget bad shots and move on to the next,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world. I’d be upset for about a minute or two and then I’d move on to the next shot and if something else pops in my mind I’d try to focus on my pre-shot routine. You got to learn to go out there and do your best. Even after a little bad luck, you still got to be a fighter, a competitor, and just see what happens.”

3. Lassiter’s Endurance

It is perhaps the biggest mental hurdle faced by amateur pool players: they’re not capable of keeping focused for numerous games. Sure, for 2-3 games their focus is good, but then what? Ultimately, isn’t the goal for every player to be locked in for the entire tournament? And if it is, how do you get there?

if you were a marathon runner working towards a race: train for it. At least, that’s the answer according to seven-time World Champion Luther Lassiter.

Shortly after winning the World Championship, Lassiter shared that he’d been playing insane amounts of pool in the lead-up to the tournament, all with the goal of “elongating” his focus. Here’s what he said:

“I’m just making more and more progress just by trying to elongate my focus. I might try to play 10 hours a day when I go out and play for 6 it doesn’t feel like it’s that much of a strain. I’m trying to use my mind like a muscle and just make it stronger by working it hard. As I’ve gotten older, it’s been more difficult for me to maintain focus, good visualization and see the shot.”

If you’re struggling with maintaining focus through the entire tournament, perhaps your best bet is to play longer sessions during practice. Hey, it worked for one of pools legends, maybe it can work for you, too.

Spectrum Of Speeds


When I took up pool back in 1968 one of my first steps was to buy and study Willie Mosconi On Pocket Billiards. In it, the great Mosconi emphasized that Speed Control is the one big skill that separates

fine players from the rest of the pack. That lesson was quickly seared into my brain and, from that day forward, I made sure that speed control would be the best part of my game.

Your chosen speed for all position plays, safeties, and kick shots will fall on a spectrum that I created for Play Your Best Pool (1995) called the Spectrum of Speeds. This useful concept will help you to visualize the speeds you will routinely encounter. The Spectrum of Speeds runs from

1 (extremely soft) to 9 (extremely hard), and it covers all points in between. The learning process is aided by the combination of a number AND a description of that number. The illustration shows you the nine

Primary Speeds – the ones that are in whole numbers. I may also help to learn the Spectrum if you think of the three main groups of speeds – soft, medium, and hard. And then break each of these into three subgroups as shown.


When learning to estimate the correct speed, try using a Process of Elimination. To help you to understand how this process works, let’s take a look at a method that I used when I played golf. On approach shots I would start the club selection process by estimating, for example, that a 5-iron would be too much club, while an 8-iron wasn’t enough. That meant that the shot required a 6-iron or a 7-iron. I might further refine my choice by making it between a soft 6-iron, or hard 7.

Turning to your pool game, you can use this technique to zero in on the correct speed of stroke. After looking at a shot’s Speed Picture you might conclude that a 4.0 (a medium-soft stroke) is not going to be hard enough, and that a 6.0 (a medium hard stroke) is too firm. So, the speed you need has got to be a 5.0 (a medium stroke), or close to it. It could, for example, require a speed of 4.8 or 5.3.

When playing in competition you obviously should not be thinking of a number when down over the ball – but learning to think along a Spectrum of Speeds can enable you fine tune your speed for the shot you are about to play.


Your ability to control the cue ball’s rolling distance after contact.

SPECTRUM OF SPEEDS – A scale that runs from 1 (softest) to 9 (hardest) for position plays, safeties, and kick shots.

SPEED PICTURES – The position of the balls and your target for the cue ball combine to give you a good idea of the speed you will need.


Another useful technique in planning your shots is walk over to where you will be standing for your next shot. Point your tip where you want the cue ball to go, and align your cue down your desired line-of-aim. Many top pros use this method, including Justin Bergman, who is an expert at previewing his shots. This visualization helps you to program precisely where you want the cue ball to go.

Precision Speed Control must be developed in your mind, so it helps to have a starting point, and pointing your cue down the line-of-aim is an effective way to kickstart the process.


When planning your speed of stroke, the first step is to evaluate the Speed Picture, which is made up of the position of the cue ball, the object ball, AND your position play target. This involves searching your memory bank for similar shots. With sufficient experience, this process happens very quickly, maybe even subconsciously.

Once you have chosen the required speed and the other elements of the shot, it is time for the execution phase of your routine. Part of this process requires translating your idea of the correct speed into a feeling for speed of stroke for that shot. After standing on the line-of-aim, you may wish to take a few Air Warmup Strokes (AWUS). These help you to loosen up your stroking arm and to develop a feel for speed. (Note: a very high percentage of pros now use this technique on most if not all of their more challenging shots.)

Once you land in position for the shot, you will further refine your feel for speed as you take your Warmup Strokes (WUS). And after you have fully developed your feel for speed, your line-of-aim, and the type of stroke you are going to use, it is time to play the shot! (In a moment I will go through a list of techniques for playing power shots.)


When practicing emphasize shots in the 4-6 range because they form the foundation of your position play routes (see table). Be sure to spend a fair amount of time on shots with speeds of 2-3, especially if you play a lot of Straight Pool, Eight Ball, and 1-Pocket, games that require a lot of softly played position routes and safeties.

I think you will enjoy practicing shots in the Soft Category (1-3) because

they place no special burden on your stroke (unlike Power Shots). Pay close attention to your speed while practicing these routes and you will quickly dial in a sizeable number of valuable and commonly occurring position plays – AND safeties, too!

For soft shots (1-3), try using a little shorter bridge, limit your wrist action (if any), and take as many WUS as needed to zero in the precise speed required. Be sure to accelerate smoothly, and follow completely as you would with the higher speeds.



Now, for the Power Shots, which make up the 7-9 segment of the Spectrum of Speeds. In my book/video, Archer vs. Reyes, you will find 18 examples of position plays at speeds of 7, 8, or 9. They are listed in the book second half of the book.

Top pros like Joshua Filler, Shane Van Boening, Fedor Gorst, Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz, and Jayson Shaw have such solid fundamentals that they, like Archer and Reyes in their prime, see only the most modest decline in the precision and accuracy of their strokes when playing shots at these high speeds. In contrast, amateur’s strokes tend to break down when they attempt to play power shots. If this describes you, then help is on the way:

Techniques for Playing Power Shots (7-9)

  1. Do some AWUS before landing,
  2. Add several inches to your bridge,
  3. Add several super smooth WUS to your pre-shot routine,
  4. Emphasize a smooth transition during your WUS,
  5. Cock your wrist on your final stroke,
  6. Use a smooth transition like you did on your WUS,
  7. Accelerate smoothly into contact,
  8. Be sure to release the cue freely into contact,
  9. Follow through completely, and
  10. Pose for a picture.

This list may appear a bit daunting, but you can master these techniques by adding one or two elements at a time during practice. When you have mastered an element, add another, then another. In time these techniques will become second nature, thus requiring little to no conscious effort to execute at an acceptable to high level.

As a bonus, while you emphasize speed control in practice – which includes a smooth stroke, a gradual transition, and acceleration patterns that begin slowly and smoothly – you will find that your quest for a solid and straight stroke may be met as a byproduct of improving your speed of stroke!


Diagram 1

Diagram #1 shows 1 and 2-rail position plays along the Spectrum of Speeds, from Soft (3.0) to Medium (5.0). It features the cue ball’s ending spots for speeds in the whole numbers, and a couple more in the gap between these speeds. In practice, you will need to be able to fine tune your speed along all points on the Spectrum. In our example, there are two such speeds – 3.6 and 4.5. Obviously there could be plenty more, such as 2.8, 3.4 and 4.7.

As a practical matter, when you are playing you will not be thinking about numbers like these. I am simply showing them to give you an appreciation of the huge range of speeds that you must have at your command if your goal is to compete successfully at higher levels – say B+ or above.

Back to our example, I suggest that you set up this shot and try to send the cue ball to the five locations shown, and others in between these positions. As you play these shots, focus on developing your speed during your WUS. Hold your follow through and evaluate your results. Zero in how your stroke felt, and how the cue ball’s location compares to your objective.

Diagram 2

Diagram #2 shows a stop shot, and a shot at 9.0, which is extremely hard. Interestingly, you can stop the cue ball dead using various combinations of cueing. In our example, centerball cueing with a medium stroke (5.0) will give you the desired result.

You can also stop the cue ball dead in its tracks by using a soft stroke and a tip or so of draw. In play, you will encounter a wide variety of stop shots. When the cue ball is more than a little more than a diamond from the object ball, you will need to use draw. The amount of draw and your chosen speed will largely bea matter of preference – a softer stroke with more draw, or a firmer stroke with less draw. So, experiment to find out which combinations work best for you.

The shot on the 7-ball shows a Pound Shot. This category of position plays is employed when you’ve left yourself with a cut angle that’s smaller than ideal – one that requires that you use a speed in the upper range of the Spectrum of Speeds. To play shots like this,
I suggest that you use the list of ten techniques that I mentioned previously. These will combine to give you the kind of stroke that does not break down at the faster speeds, and that is up to the challenge that these shots present. If you can master shots in the 9.0 range, you will own a skill that can separate you from your peers.

In closing, while skill at aiming and shotmaking are mandatory for playing fine pool, in truth, being able to consistently pocket routine to mildly challenging shots is only the price of admission to playing at the upper levels of the game. To be top player, you must be able to control the distance that the cue ball rolls after contact. In your efforts to master this critical segment of the game, I believe that the Spectrum of Speeds could be of great value. Good luck!

I Can’t = I Won’t

The word “can’t is a very absolute word, meaning that when we believe that we can’t do something there is absolutely zero chance of it occurring.  Sometimes in life it is appropriate and accurate to say, “I can’t,” like if someone asked you to jump 30 feet off the ground, or make yourself invisible.  Obviously humans cannot do those things, so it makes sense to say I can’t in those situations.  But how many times in life have you said “I can’t,” but really what you meant was I don’t know if I can do it or not?

While it might seem like a small difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t know,” the difference is actually quite big.  Remember, “can’t” is absolute; it means that under no condition whatsoever could you do something.  Applying this to pool, sure there are tough shots on the table at any given time, but are they always impossible?  Difficult is one thing, but impossible is another, and herein is the place where words matter.  Rather than being 100% confident that you can’t do something, why not instead say to yourself that yes, this is a very difficult shot, but I have made tough shots in the past and if I hit this right I might do it again here.

Can’t = Won’t

A technique I use with clients at my office is to have them substitute “I won’t” every time they say “I can’t.”  Why?  Because saying I can’t actually result in the same outcome as I won’t, even if it is more difficult to say it that way – and that’s actually the point.  As humans, we don’t usually like to say I won’t do something because it sounds as though it is a choice, whereas saying I can’t makes it seem like you simply do not have the ability, no matter how hard you think or try.  

When we say I won’t do something, it makes us think more about why, as well as conjures up self-pride prompting us to take more control of the situation.  On the other hand saying I can’t relieves you of even trying – so why try??  The best pool players do he confidence, focus, and creativity trying to make the best out of every tough situation.

Final thoughts

When we stop using words like “can’t” and instead say I can, it improves our focus and lets our creative mind take over and look for ways to solve the shot in question.  Try to approach every shot with the same exciting energy and look for every way possible to be successful.  Why tell yourself you can’t do something, and therefore eliminate any chance for success?

Five Mental Game Tips

Minnesota Fats once said: “Pool is mainly played on a five-and-a-half-inch slate… the space between your ears.” Pool is undoubtedly one of the most mentally challenging sports there is. It’s an individual pursuit and there’s nobody to help you when you have bad luck, or your opponent gets a good roll. 

Almost all the top players are students of sports psychology.  They use mental game strategies to help them find the right frame of mind before a game, and to give them methods to stay in a “happy place,” for the duration of their match.

There are some key psychological pointers that can help average players stay mentally tough on the table. Below are a few of the best, they might seem obvious, but ask yourself whether you employ these simple mental game strategies during a match. If not, perhaps you should start.


All negativity stems from thinking about past mistakes or fearing the unknown. If your mind is ahead of you, how are you going to focus on the immediate task – the shot you are facing at that moment? You can’t control what will happen two games from now or what happened 30 seconds ago. All you can do is concentrate on your next shot.  


Each time you come to the table your objective is to run out. Don’t think about what has gone before, or any possible worst-case scenarios, just focus on how to run the balls in the most efficient way possible. 

If you play bad position that results in a difficult shot, try to think of it as a new challenge. Don’t just wallow in self-pity; start over. Remember, your objective is to run out or pocket the money ball any way that you can.


Most pool players dwell on poor shots. What’s the point? Once it’s been hit, nothing can be done about it. The only thing you can affect is what happens next.

A great way to let off steam and forget the errors is the “chair rule.” It’s a psychological strategy employed by several top professionals.  After a bad shot, you can vent your frustration (internally) until it’s your turn again.  After you get up from your chair to shoot again, that shot is history, it should be totally forgotten, and your mind should move on to the next stroke.


League players are often guilty of giving up on their matches too early. Remember, your fortunes on the table can turn with one good stroke, or one decent break.

Amateurs who get the most out of their game tend to give it their all until the very last ball is pocketed. If you get to a point when you realize, there’s no chance of winning – set different kinds of goals for yourself.  You might try to get 2 to 3 games in a race to 9 rather than being whitewashed 9-0.


If you’re having one of those days where the balls just don’t seem to fall, don’t get down on yourself. Focus on the positives. Eventually the law of averages will win out.  Stay in the present!  Don’t dwell on the past or think about the future.   A positive attitude goes a long way and is a key part of overcoming challenges you may encounter during match play.

World Class Pool – January 2023

This shot comes from the 2022 Derby City One Pocket match between Alex Pagulayan and John Gabriel. The score was tied at 2-2 and Pagulayan lead two balls to one in the case game. The right hand pocket was Gabriel’s pocket.

Gabriel studied the layout for nearly a minute and then came with this beauty. “I realize it looked crazy but the ball was dead. I honestly thought the cueball would come straight off the rail and kick the 5 ball to my hole” said Gabriel after the match. “I did take into consideration that I was playing Alex on his table! Sometimes you have to take the scary shot.”

Coming To Terms

Who Is Phil Capelle 

I am so excited to announce that I am now writing a monthly instructional column for the Billiards Buzz, and that I am  thrilled to be a part of Mike Howerton’s team at AZ Billiards. 

The subject of this initial column will be Shadow Ball, a concept that can help you with planning and playing position. Before we begin, I want to acquaint those of you who are new to my work with a brief look at my life in pool because this will show you the confidence to consider layering  my key concepts into your game. 

I took up pool in 1968 while in college, and then spent the next 27 years competing  in leagues, money games, and tournaments. I also logged countless hours practicing all facets of the game. In late 1994 my passion for pool won out and I left the financial services industry to write, full time, about the game.   

The following 28 years have been spent writing pool books (12 and counting), columns  (300 for Pool & Billiard Magazine),  and covering tournaments for various publications, and on my Facebook page. You can find samples of my work at and at, which recently added my two videos to their collection.  

For the last seven years I have been conducting extensive research on pool and on a variety of subjects – ones that I have been able to put into the billiard context. Throughout these years I have been building  my case for pool and why I feel that most people can benefit greatly from playing what I call Serious Pool.

Capelle: A Brand You Can Trust

In this product rich world of ours, brand names can serve as money and time saving shortcuts to our decision making process. When it comes to pool instruction, the various media that you invest in need to be based on concepts and principles that work because, after all, your game is on the line! In sum, I want you to think of instruction by Capelle (the person and the brand) as that which you can trust your game as you strive to Play Your Best Pool. Besides, if you believe in my ideas, you will be motivated to spend the hours at the table that are needed to become a fine player.

The Format

This format for this column includes text that more than adequately explains the key concepts. I will make liberal use of diagrams and I will put a special emphasis on introducing new terms that can help you to learn and play our great sport. 


My love for pool diagrams is shown by the more than 4,000 of them that grace the pages of 10 of my 12 books. I make such liberal use of these pool pictures because pool is a highly visual game, and a student’s learning process can benefit from most if not all of them. While creating each diagram, I stick to Einstein’s Rule, which  states that, “everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler!” That means letting the balls, travel lines, position zones and other necessities do the talking. And, it is critical that the diagrams are drawn to scale, and that they show realistic views of shots and strategies. This leads to my maxim that what you see in a diagram can actually be played at the table! 

New Pool Terms   

Players of a super-detailed sport like pool can benefit from terms that give you short and memorable ways to learn, master, and retain key concepts. In most (if not all) of these columns I will 1) introduce new concepts, 2) build on existing ones, and 3) offer refreshers on the ones that are vital to your success.

These new concepts and terms  will be introduced in the body of the text, and they will also be showcased in Pull Quotes. In this inaugural column I will be featuring Shadow Balls, as I mentioned previously. 

I like to dress up text by  capitalizing key terms, and by employing a variety of graphic techniques – anything that help you in learning and remembering the key concepts that combine to make up your game. You can see examples of my use of graphics in my book,  Six Words to Pool Greatness.

Shadow Balls 

Obstructers are balls that rest on or close to the cue ball’s preferred path to your position zone. These troublemakers can force you to alter a position route, or even to abandon it in favor of another. You may even need to play your next shot into alternate pocket, if possible. Clusters are groups of two or more balls that make it difficult if not impossible to pocket the balls within them.

In between clusters and obstructers are what I call Shadow Balls.  These balls rest within the boundaries of what would otherwise be an ideal position zone, if not for their presence. 

Diagram #1 shows a layout from 9-Ball. Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the 8-ball is not on the table. Without it, the goal is send the cue ball from the 3-ball to the shaded zone for shape on the 4-ball.Position A is the bulls-eye. With the cue ball at Position A,  you can easily send the cue ball across the table, off the side rail, and out to Position B for excellent position  on the long side of the 5-ball. 

Now, let’s examine the position with the 8-ball where shown. As you may have guessed, the 8-ball is a Shadow Ball because it encroaches on the shallow-angled side of the position zone. With the 8-ball in this position you could still attempt to play for Position A, but if you do, you could easily end up behind the 8-ball. You can avoid this disasters by playing for a thinner cut on the 4-ball, as shown by the cue ball at Position C. Or, if you want to avoid that shot, you could send the cue ball to the other side of the 8-ball, possibly to Position D. From this location, the best route to the 5-ball is a long and challenging follow shot to the right end rail, then six diamonds down the table to the vicinity of Position B.

To recap, without the Shadow Ball, the three ball sequence (3, 4, 5) is not difficult. With the Shadow Ball in place, you are now faced with a pattern that is fraught with danger. Now to come up with a feasible Plan B, and then elevate your execution while performing your warm-up-strokes. 

Diagram #2 shows an end-of-rack layout in 9-Ball. This time, imagine that the 9-ball is in the alternative position as shown. Now getting position on the Long Side of the 7-ball is not hard – providing you steer clear of Pocket C! Getting on the 8-ball with the cue ball in Position A, B, or C is relatively simple. 

Now let’s consider the 9-ball in the original position, where it acts as a Shadow Ball. If your speed is a little bit off, which could easily happen given the cue ball’s long journey down the table, you could end up hooked behind the 9. 

In this case, the solution is to play shape on the Short Side by sending the cue ball to Position D. Normally the Long Side is better because you have a bigger zone. But when a Shadow Ball is lurking in the vicinity of your next shot, the wiser course could be to play to the Short Side as shown. The key to sending the cue ball to Position D is directional control. You must avoid the point at Pocket E, and you want to play to the left side of the 7-ball. Once again, spend a little more time plotting the course and then preparing for your final stroke while you’re over the shot.

Diagram #3 shows an end-of-rack position, the kind that you routinely encounter in Straight Pool. Layout like this are featured in my book, Break Shot Patterns. (The book and companion video can be found at 

In this position, the 4-ball acts as a Shadow Ball, making it difficult to get on the 15-ball. This time, you can knock the Shadow Ball away from the 15-ball by sending the cue ball on a precise path off the rail and into the 4-ball. In one fell swoop you ridded yourself of that pesky Shadow Ball and got shape on the 15. However, I would advise that you save the 15-ball because it is in excellent position to act at as a key ball to the key ball. The connection is shown by the red line from the 15 to the 11-ball. In Break Shot Patterns I label this ball a K2. The key ball is simply a KB.  

In some positions like this where you strip away the Shadow Ball, your best course of action is to play the ball you just liberated. But that’s the beauty of 14.1 and Eight Ball because these games often enable you to change your plans on a moment’s notice. 

Factors To Consider When Facing A Shadow Ball:

How close is the object ball to the Shadow Ball?”

Is there a playable position route to good shape on the object ball?

What impact does a cut that is less than ideal have on your route to the next ball, and on the pattern?

Can you bump the Shadow Ball away from the ideal position zone?

When playing 8-Ball or 14.1, what is the best time to rid yourself of the ball that is being shadowed?

Does the Shadow Ball force you to choose or play to another pocket, such as on the short side (see Capelle’s Principles of Position #4, page 131 of Play Your Best Pool).

Incorporating Shadow Ball Thinking Into Your Game 

I advise that you go to Mike’s Accu-Stats page, pick out one or more videos, and watch then watch them with your newly acquired Shadow Ball Filter in place.  Try to recognize Shadow Balls as they appear. Hit pause and make your plan for the shot. Then carefully observe how the pro deals with the problem, or if they fail to handle the situation, which in their defense, is not always so easy to do.

Next, practice one of more of your favorite games and be on the lookout for Shadow Balls. When you encounter them, plan accordingly and then go into your A Level Execution Mode!

I hope you enjoyed my maiden column for the Billiards Buzz, and that the ideas discussed above become a strong addition to your game!

Question #13, November 2022: What are your thoughts on the typical music that is played in today’s pool rooms and bars?

Steve Lillis

Steve Lillis:

Music is a very powerful medium and affects the mind, heart, and soul of individuals. Unfortunately like the game of pool it can be misused and misunderstood!  The volume and beat of a song is not near as important as the message! People even in the Christian church have argued over music for 2,000 thousand years! In pool rooms it is no different! Some of the music being played today is obviously hateful, obnoxious, and down right evil in my opinion! If the message portrays violence, hatred, illicit sex, and the like it stands against the Word of God and against what the Lord Jesus taught us! However, we as believers are called in the Great Commission to be in the world but not of it! Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners. We also are chosen to be salt and light to the world! Each Christian pool player will have to decide if God wants them to be around an environment which goes against their soul! I have chosen at times to be in those pool playing negative musical environments as the Lord leads to represent the Kingdom of God! May the Lord Jesus guide you as well as you play for his glory!

Psalm 33:3 ” Play skillfully with a shout of joy!”

Tom Rossman

Tom Rossman: 

Pool rooms and bars today are exposed to an untold number of musical selections because the technology of “playing them” has expanded to the vast internet access resources available to the listening public. Nothing appears sacred in music anymore.

This exposes patrons to not only wholesome, uplifting, and clean tunes of the past and present, but also the “dark side” of musical temptations, bad language, and suggestive imagery.

In addition, loud decibel levels of music make it almost impossible to tune out the “negativity of musical inclusion” when chosen by someone. I believe the options are very limited to a person that finds themselves in that type of environment as he or she becomes audibly uncomfortable.

One can leave the venue or one can ask the owner to “turn” the music down. I have found that these two options often miss an opportunity of personal witness. Let me explain:

On Tuesdays I go to a billiard room in Indianapolis to enjoy special fellowship time around the carom table with my 3-cushion buddies. Several months ago, it happened — the music started to blare with some of the most “uncomfortable” lyrics my friends and I thought impossible. It continued and seemed to get worse as the minutes passed.

Then…something else suddenly happened! Heavenly music filled the air. The musical storehouse in cyberspace released an array of songs with lyrics of praise to bring a calm but joyful sound to the room. Patrons started to hum (even sing) and experience a comfort to their recreational time. The former musical darkness went dormant, as the uplifting music started to “share the light” of Jesus.

How did this happen? A pool-playing friend of mine had contributed several dollars to the internet jukebox to let the “light” overcome the darkness. And it did…

When Amazing Grace came across the room’s “loud” speakers you could almost sense the Holy Spirit controlling the airways to touch the hearts of those who had played the original “dark” music.

No one complained and everyone enjoyed the “sweet sounds” of God’s music for over an hour. Playing Skillfully with a Shout of Joy (Psalms 33:3) became a peaceful experience as the Game of the Heart (Jesus focused) took center stage!

Lyrics from Amazing Grace stanza:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Try this option the next time you find yourself in an environment of darkness and watch the light of Jesus remove the stumbling before you!

Blessings and sweet music to ALL…

Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman

Tommy Kennedy: 

I hate most of the music they play. It is mostly cursing and swearing and taking The Lord’s name in vain. I don’t know how people listen to this garbage on a daily basis. It’s always really loud and to me abusive. If the music could be done away with, I would enjoy going to pool rooms. It is just unbearable!!! It makes me sick to my stomach!  But don’t forget, this is Satan’s world for now and he is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the children of disobedience! So we can’t expect anything else from Satan’s children!!!  What’s amazing to me is the people that go into the pool rooms aren’t even phased by the horrible music. It’s like they are so insensitive to it and they are so controlled by Satan to one degree or another. I have never heard anyone complain at all about the trash they are listening to!!!  Tommy

Mike Massey

Mike Massey: 

Music is one of the most powerful influences of the soul and to the soul.

First of all, born-again Christians realize that we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood, we wrestle with the powers of darkness, Satan, and his demons.  Satan was defeated at the cross, and him and his angels know that a time is coming that they will be totally helpless and not be able to tempt and use humans for their evil desires. Until that time, however, he will try everything he can to keep people under bondage, and as slaves to their carnal desires of lust, gluttony, fornication, and vain glory.

Carnal desires are okay when they are controlled for the right reasons. We, of course, need to eat and have a sexual relationship with our wife or husband. And using our natural talents to glorify God is a good thing as long as we are not boasting about how great we are.

Hell is made for Satan, his angels, and false prophets. Until a person is born again, he’s like a puppet on a string, trying to satisfy his soul with these canal desires. But it doesn’t matter how hard he tries, he can never fill that void and overcome without the help of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter how successful he becomes, or how many relationships he has, there’s never enough.

Getting back to the music; most of the music that is played in the sports bars and pool rooms is about partying, drinking, illicit sex, etc.  When I say “illicit” I’m sure born-again Christians know what I’m talking about. It’s very plain what the bible says about sex: it’s for a married man and woman to have children, and for their pleasure, and for them to be together often so they are not tempted. Anything outside of that is sin, and the wages of sin is death.

Hearing is one of the gateways to your soul, so if the music is about drinking, sex, or even human sorrow that causes self-pity, or guilt, it will definitely influence your soul unless you have the full armor of God by walking in the spirit. But even then, you must be careful that the spirit is not so grieved that you want to lay down and die.

Some of the music is from Satan worshipers, knowingly or not knowing, that they are blurting out the anger and filth that is in their soul. And if you agree with this trash, it will get in you and try to influence you to do the gross things they are blurting out.

That’s how the demons work to try and use us. When a person is in an environment that’s saturated with the rap music of “F” this “F” that, and all the TVs are going at the same time, he is subject to be possessed by demons who are trying to overtake his will, especially if he is drinking and taking drugs.

I believe that is the main reason for all the shootings that have happened over the years.  Before I learned how to pray and resist Satan, I could have easily destroyed the whole world.  I was drugged with LSD and was like an animal crawling around in the woods, not knowing what I was. Anything I thought of, I became. And it lasted for years. I still get attacks from the enemy and I want to fight him with my fists. And, of course, I lose. But when I fall into the hands of my Savior, and truly call upon Him, Satan and his demons run because they can’t stand to be in His presence.

No one could hurt Jesus before the cross. Just like he said: “You’re not taking my life, I’m laying my life down.” And he did it for you and me.

I’m not using the drug incident as an excuse, because I was a horrible sinner even before that. I still battle all the temptations that I mentioned above, and will until the day I die and go to be with Him from glory to glory.

The bible says to resist the temptation and draw close to God. If you let God fight the battle, the Devil and his demons must flee.  Ask God the Father to give you the Holy Spirit that will comfort you and guide you through this evil, fallen world into His world of eternal joy. As a Christian we get glimpses of that life when we walk after the spirit rather than the flesh, and that’s what keeps us going in this world.

Music can also be a way of worshiping the true God that created the heavens and earth if we do it in truth and spirit. Or it can be a story about what God has done in your life through Jesus. The reason I said “through Jesus” is because he said, “I’m the way, and no one gets to the Father except through Me.”  King Saul was tormented by demons because he was Jealous of David, but he would still have David come and play the harp to drive them away.

Jesus came in the flesh to teach us how to live, but his main purpose was to die on the cross and shed his blood for us.  If he hadn’t done that, no one would have a chance to be saved from eternal damnation. But since he did, we all have a chance by repenting of our sins (evil ways) and believing and accepting the free gift of salvation for what he did and not by our own good works. It’s free. You can’t earn it, and you don’t have to.

I know it’s expensive to operate a billiard room, and difficult, because of the overhead. I wish that some billionaire Christian would open a chain of billiard rooms, with no alcohol and no music for Christians to go to and play and fellowship, and also offer some healthy food and good books that teach the true word of God. I’m sure that idea wouldn’t be a money maker, but it would be a great service for Christians who like pool and don’t want their children corrupted by the filthy language, music, and gambling that is going on in most pool rooms today.

I’ve traveled to every continent except Antarctica, and it’s the same way anywhere you go. This whole world seems to be becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah. The bible says in the last days what seems right will be wrong, and what seems wrong will be right. But this world will be destroyed by fire, to burn up all the things that we’ve created that are an abomination to a holy God. The Earth is like a bad apple in the universe, but it still belongs to God.  No one knows the date or time, but it will happen and there will be a new heaven and earth, and all tears will be wiped away with no more pain and suffering.

That’s what the believers who have truly accepted Jesus have to look forward to.

Mentally Strong

Although pool is a physical game, it’s almost impossible to win a match without a strong mindset. But why do some players thrive on pressure while others choke? In this article, we will attempt to find out.

Whether you consider yourself mentally weak, or have the mental fortitude of Shane Van Boening Joshua Filler, or Jason Shaw, players of all skill levels can improve their mental game. In fact, mental toughness is something that can be learned through training techniques.


Losing from a winning position is never fun. Which begs the question: what happens when a player chokes?

Players who choke are likely struggling from a lack of ability to stay focused on what’s important.  For example, a player who takes the game easily may already be thinking about winning the match instead of playing in the present. Or a player can be so disappointed about missing a shot, or losing a game, that he or she loses focus and can’t stop thinking about past mistakes.

I like to call it living in the past or the future and the secret is to try and play in the present all the time. The quicker you can do that, the better. When a player chokes, they generally take their eye off what’s important in that moment.


I like to advise players who struggle to close out matches to adopt certain routines. First, you need to train your mind to be able to accept that something can go wrong. This can be done off the table by talking about “What if?” scenarios. What if you lose your first match 5-0? – what’s your response going to be? What if you win the first match 5-0? – what’s your response going to be?

By talking through the various match scenarios, players will learn to control the controllable aspects of the game with mental training. In other words, they won’t get anxious when something happens that’s outside their control.

It all comes back to: what is the process you are going to follow, what have you practiced, and can you replicate it during a match?


What is mental toughness? It’s most likely the ability to stay focused on what you are doing, at the expense of everything else that is going on.

So, if you’re playing on an unlevel table with slow cloth that’s all irrelevant. I like to call it noise, it’s just interference. If you can ignore that interference and focus on what you are there to do, then you’re giving yourself the best chance to have your very best performance.


Here are my five top tips for this subject:

1. Work on your self-confidence

Pool players need to call on their inner reserves to maintain self-confidence during a game. Studies have shown that champion players in any sport report high levels of self-confidence and low anxiety and are able to control emotions before and during competition.

2. Develop performance routines

The brain and memory are very complex. Sometimes we find it difficult to remove negative thoughts in situations that require us to be positive. When I work with players, I try to encourage them to record as many positive features from their training and competition as possible. For example, where players have had a very good session practicing their break it is important that they recall as much information from that practice session as soon as possible.

3. Accept you won’t always play at your best

Not even the game’s most successful players perform their best in all their matches. Let’s say a player competes in 30 matches. The player may view three of those as great while three might be perceived as not very good. It is how they perform in the other 24 matches that will likely determine their level of success – so have that in mind for 80% of the matches you play.

4. There’s no such thing as having a “bad day”

Never speak in terms of having a “bad day” as this gives you an excuse to continue having a bad day.  Making excuses beforehand is a form of self-handicapping behavior, which stops you changing the situation.

5. Be comfortable being uncomfortable

This attitude epitomizes our journey in sports.  Being uncomfortable is part of playing pool so learn to be comfortable with it.