Monday, September 06, 2004


ANOTHER typhoon is approaching. A big and strong one, they say. My blog will have bunch of typhoon-related posts this year. Just for a change, I’m going to post about my long-term hobby, pocket billiards ( or pool).

I tried this game for the first time in 1991 while I was in the U.S. My friend from Honduras, if I remembered correctly, taught me how to play 9 ball. By then I had seen “The Color of Money” in Japan, not because I liked the game of pool or Tom Cruise. I AM A PAUL NEWMAN FAN. I enjoyed watching him in “The Color of Money” very much, but I didn’t feel like actually playing the game myself, so I didn’t take part in the famous “pool craze” of that time.

After coming back from the U.S., I saw another pool movie, “The Hustler.” THIS turned me into a pool fan! It was then that my endless struggle started….. BTW, I do believe that this movie should not be colored. In my opinion, “The Hustler” and “Casablanca” should be in black and white.

I learned the basics of pool (stance, bridge, stroke, etc.) at a pool hall in Osaka. Then I slowly proceeded to stop shot, follow shot, and everyone’s favorite (kidding!), the draw shot!! They taught me how to aim by using an imaginary ball.

I don’t know about other countries, but there are 2 practices that Japanese pool players almost always recommend to beginners here. Those are what they call “center shot” and “bowlard game”. The "center shot" here is a practice of straight shots with the object ball on the center spot and the cue ball usually at 2 points behind, and you aim to sink the object ball in one of the corner pockets. The bowlard game was invented by a Japanese professional pool player, I heard, and its rule is basically the same as bowling. You use 10 balls and continuously pocket them, but it doesn’t have to be in number order. When you miss twice, that’s the end of one frame. These must be very good practice, but unfortunately I’m not good at either of them.

And here I am: an obachan player who got stuck when started thinking about positioning the cue ball and using English. Looks like I’m going to be stuck here forever, or maybe getting worse.

My favorite professional pool player is, everyone’s favorite, Efren BATA Reyes. But what’s fun to watch is Earl Strickland. I have a VHS video of 2001 Masters 9ball Championships, Reyes vs. Strickland, and I just cracked up when I heard what Strickland said to the audience. (He called someone an idiot or something, IIRC.) He must have a lot more legendary games.

As I wrote before, I have my private cue: Adam Twin Joint. I love watching cue catalogues. Honestly, I’m not good enough to be able to tell which cue is easier or harder for me to use. I have tried different cues in the past, including cheap house cues, but no matter which one I used, my object balls kept missing the pockets just the same. What I know about cues are mostly from books and websites. I've read things like that Predator 314 shaft is great because it reduces cue ball deflection, and Tad is hard for beginners to use, etc. But I'm sure I wouldn't be able to tell 314 or Tad from others if I actually used them.

When I see cue catalogues, I just enjoy the variety of designs of the cues. Most custom cues (except the carbon fiber ones) are made by putting many different kinds of woods together. That gives beautiful designs to the cues as well as a better function, I heard, because different characteristics of different woods add up, making up for each other’s weaknesses. Amazing!

Billiard is 당구, according to the online dictionary. (I wonder if it’s related to 撞球.) I found some Korean websites on billiards which will be fun to read and help me learn Korean. Something to keep me in front of the PC for the rest of the day :)
posted by obachan, 9/06/2004 10:47:00 AM


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commented by Blogger Tatsuo Tabata, 9/07/2004 8:35 AM  
I've deleted my comment posted just a few minutes ago, because there was a grammatical error.
Billiard is shokyu as you wrote in Chinese characters. What is the difference between billiard and pool (pocket billiard)? The balls of pool, I guess, are numbered, but those of billiard are not. Right? I play neither pool nor billiard. But they seem to be good games for physicist; there can be some application of mechanics.
BTW, did you find "Surely you're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" at the university library? If you didn't, you can get an inexpensive paperback copy at a bookstore dealing overseas books.
commented by Blogger Tatsuo Tabata, 9/07/2004 8:52 AM  
I’m no expert, so I wish someone would correct my mistakes that I probably have here.
As far as I know, when used in a broader sense, the term “billiards” seems to include most (all?) games that require shooting balls with a cuestick on a special kind of table. But when a guy in the movie “The Hustler” said, “I don’t play pool. I play billiards,” he meant by “pool” the games you play on a table with pockets, and by “billiards” those played on a table without pockets, I think.
Looks like “pool” and “pocket billiard” means almost the same thing, except “pool” sounds more American to me. Pool balls are numbered 1-15 (except the cue ball), and you get points for sinking object balls into the pockets.
Officially, the games played on a table without pockets are called "carom." You use only red ball(s) and white balls (both unnumbered), and get points for hitting the red ball(s) with the white one(s).

I'm sure physicists have great advantage in knowing how balls will move and why. Controlling the balls in the way you want is another story, though.

Thank you for the information on the book. I haven’t been to the University library yet, but I checked out the Japanese version of “Surely you’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” at citizen’s library here.
commented by Blogger obachan, 9/07/2004 11:47 AM  
Thanks for your detailed explanation about pool, billiards and carom. You're quite right to say guessing the movement of balls and controlling them are different things.
Congratulations on getting a digital camera! I looked at the expanded versions of your watercolors. They convey your good skill much better than cell-phone photos.
commented by Blogger Tatsuo Tabata, 9/08/2004 9:13 AM  
Thank you. It's very nice of you to say that, but I still think bigger pictures are showing more of the bad points ih my watercolors.
commented by Blogger obachan, 9/08/2004 3:53 PM  

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