How do you behave?

Today I wanted to take a moment to talk about how people act in a pool room. We all know that behavior in a pool room is seldom professional, in fact we almost expect the exact opposite these days. And if you play in a league or tournaments things can go to the extreme in terms of bad behavior. Anything from sharking to cheating to trying to intimidate someone, I’ve seen it all in a pool room and never been surprised by any of it. In fact, I am more surprised when someone does something honorable! Think about that for a second………how did we get that way?

No one enjoys being cheated, sharked, air barreled or any number of other things that typically happen in a pool room setting. Obviously there is always going to be someone who will do anything to get a edge when there is money on the line but what gets me is that I see people on a daily basis that would screw their own grandmother over on a friendly game. The core of it is that people have lost their sense of morality when it comes to pool, even at the highest levels we have constant reminders of poor sportsmanship. And please don’t think this is a pro bashing article, it’s not. It’s just that I believe that when you are at that level you are held to an even higher standard whether you like it or not. Fans are watching, and some of those fans are kids. Kids idolize their sports hero and start to act like them.  When they see them acting like a two year old because someone got lucky slopping in the 9 ball they think that is acceptable behavior.

Be mindful of this when you play. If you win, act like you have won before. Treat your opponent with respect. And the same if you lose. I always make it a point to pick out something in my opponents game that I liked and tell them. The best thing you can do for your own game is understand the following statement “There is no shame in losing”. No one wants to lose, but even the best player in the world has lost more games than you will probably ever play. It’s part of the process so you better learn to lose with some dignity and respect.  You will also find that when you can learn to accept a loss it releases you from a lot of unnecessary stress. If you understand that losing is part of the process you wont be afraid to make mistakes to the point where it cripples your game. Eventually you will learn how to control your fear and even use it to sharpen your focus.

I’m not saying however that you should make a habit of losing, but the simple fact is that you will lose from time to time. Everyone does. I recently played in a handicapped 9 ball tournament. I had to win 7 games to my opponents 4. I broke and ran the first game, then broke dry on the second rack. And that’s where the wheels fell off the cart. My opponent was a 14 year old boy with limited skill, but he possessed one equalizing skill in the game of 9 ball. He hit the balls hard enough that anything could and did happen. He did something to me that I have never seen before. He slopped the nine in 4 times in a row to put me in the losers bracket. And these slop shots where a thing of beauty! He had zero clue where the balls were going and was just as surprised as I was when the 9 went….and went again and again and again!

When the match was over he walked up to me with his head held down in shame to shake my hand. I told him this, “Don’t sweat it, I have won and lost before by the luck of the slop shot. Remember this when it happens to you someday and it will take some of the sting out of it. It happens, it’s just the nature of the game. Don’t feel too bad about it and don’t take pride in it. Just shake hands and go on to your next match, good luck to you. ”  Maybe he learns something positive from that maybe not but one thing is for sure, if I acted like a horses ass stomping my feet and crying to anyone who would listen he would have picked up on that and would have walked away with a bad taste in his mouth. That’s not the impression I want to leave with anyone let alone someone that is just getting started in this game.

If we make it a point to lead by example ( a good example 😉 ) the future will take care of itself. But if we live only for ourselves and don’t care about tomorrow our sport will continue to decline. We can all do a little to leave this game a little better than we found it. No one is entitled to poor behavior. No matter what your skill level, even if you are the greatest player on the earth, that does not give you the right to disrespect the game or your opponents.

So if you love this game try to remember that the next time you play. Play with dignity, show some class, because you never know who you may be influencing be it good or bad.



Durbin Cup Match

Last Saturday (2-8-14) was the match between the Durbin Destroyers and the Lindenwood Lions. This is a friendly rivalry between Mike Durbin of Durbin Cues and Mark Wilson, the coach of the Lindenwood Lions pool team. This year Mike Durbin rallied some pros to help win the cup back. He added Liz Lovely, Joey Gray and the BCA Hall Of Famer Nick Varner!

It was a great match with amazing play from both sides but in the end The Lindenwood Lions ended up the victors with a final score of 18-14. Landon Shuffet played for Lindenwood and won some key matches as well as Sharik Sayed but it took a team effort to keep the cup. Ches Heitmeyer played excellent pool as well as Dan Otto and Sean Sommers. Some of the other players for the team that played although I didn’t get to watch them was Steven Wyatt, Jaydan Hergott and Matt Niederkorn.

This is one article I hope to revisit 20 years down the road and say “Wow, look at the pics of those great players when they were young!” There is some serious talent on Mark Wilsons Lions.

Landon Shuffet has already made some big waves in the pool world by man handling the great Earl Strickland last year in Tunica Mississippi playing 10 ball of a 10 foot Diamond table with pro cut pockets…..Landon steamrolled him to a 15-4 victory!

Then there is Sharik Sayed. This guy is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Very down to earth and as smart as they come. He has a love for the game and takes his work seriously. They call him Shark for a reason.

Next is one of my favorites Ches Heitmeyer. I met Ches a few years ago at  a tournament that he was running. I was impressed by his devotion to improving his game. Ches will be one of those guys that never looses his passion for the game. He works hard and takes nothing for granted. He has more heart than most prize fighters and if you beat him today he will figure out a way to beat you tomorrow.

Dan Otto is simply one of the guys you love to see in the pool room. Talented and fun to be around. Dan’s game is even better than I thought it was the first time when he and I played a race to 3 in a short rack game of banks. I won the first game and he wasn’t having it. If I remember correctly he handed me 3 quick losses in a row! What can I say, banks ain’t my game!

Sean Sommers is a guy that I can best describe as a slick player. I haven’t got to spend much time talking to him but I have watched him play enough to know that he has a deceptively great game. If he continues to take his game serious there may be no limit to what he can do with his game. By the way, Sean managed to go 4-0 for the day obtaining the best record of the day.

There are several other players on the Lions team but unfortunately haven’t had the chance to meet them all. There is a girl named Brianna Miller and I hear through the grapevine that she’s got game. Serious game. There is one other person I would like to mention and his name is  Remington Ludwig. Remmy is just getting started when it comes to pool, but if he continues to learn at the pace he is showing now he will be taking down some serious games before you know it. Remmy is the kind of person you want on your team. He is genuine in his comments, thoughtful in his actions and serious in his dedication.

And then there is their leader, Mark Wilson. I’m unsure of what I can say about this man that would make a person understand what exactly his impact on the pool world is. He is a great player and has played at the pro level for quite some time. But he is so much more than that. He is a insightful instructor that is sought out by amateurs and pros alike. He has recently be named as the captain for the 2014 Mosconi Cup team and yet that still doesn’t come close to being a worthy description.

Maybe the best thing that I can say about Mark is that he is a leader in every sense of the word. He cares for his students and would do anything for them. He dotes on them like they were his children. He is on a mission to raise their game to it’s maximum potential and at the same time teaches them how to be quality people. He respects the game and demands the same of his students….AND THEY DELIVER.  These students are some of the finest pool players in terms of skill and behavior that you will ever come across. Mark has led by example and when you are in his presence you will know what I mean. He is teaching more than pool and it shows. All you have to do is spend 15 minutes with some of his students and you will realize that never before have you met a group of pool players like this before.

Mark is raising the game and those who play it ………THANK GOD!


Well, enough about that, here are some pics from the day.

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Shark and Joey lagging.

Shark and Joey lagging.

Joey Gray and his flashy orange shoes!

Joey Gray and his flashy orange shoes!

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Ches Heitmeyer dropping the nine for his first win in a race to 3 against Nick Varner.

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Mark Wilson and Jay Hansen commentating. Jay Hansen is also known as "Big Truck" in the pool streaming world.

Mark Wilson and Jay Hansen commentating. Jay Hansen is also known as “Big Truck” in the pool streaming world.

Landon Shuffett and Nick Varner laying down the lag.

Landon Shuffett and Nick Varner laying down the lag.

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Nick pondering his shot

Nick pondering his shot

Landon Shuffett--his focus is amazing.

Landon Shuffett–his focus is amazing.

Nick Varner

Nick Varner

Nick Varner

Nick Varner


Sharik "Shark" Sayed Snapping the break!

Sharik “Shark” Sayed Snapping the break!

Me and Nick Varner

Me and Nick Varner

Dan Otto

Dan Otto



Entering the arena as a warrior

Earlier today I saw a post on my facebook page from David Sapolis. In it he quotes Forrest E. Morgan. It is a excellent way to look at competitive pool. I have posted this with David’s permission, in it’s entirety for you to enjoy.




Enter the Arena as a Warrior

You have to enter and exit the arena as a warrior. To be a warrior, you have to think, feel and act differently than everybody else in the room. You have to be one of those special people that is willing to go beyond the ordinary and towards the extra-ordinary. As Forrest E. Morgan tells us, you have to “set yourself apart from the rest of society by your personal excellence in everything that you do.” Not many pool players possess the ability, discipline, commitment, or determination to live up to that.

To prepare your mind, your body, and your game for personal excellence you will need to exercise exceptional discipline and persistence in absolutely every aspect of your life. If everybody was able to do this, then everybody would be a champion. We know that is not the case. To be a warrior – to be a champion – it requires a commitment by which you hold yourself to a standard of excellence in everything that you think, everything that you say, and everything that you do. There is no room for weakness. There is no room for negative thinking. You have to conduct yourself in a way that displays, creates, promotes, and breeds excellence. Your mind must foster, nurture, and promote excellence.

Competition is the stage for you to display and showcase the results of your commitment to excellence. Competition is what you have prepared for – competition is where everything counts. During your training you have starved yourself of competition. You have prepared yourself to enter competition ready to feed off of your opponent’s fear, nerves, and lack of confidence. You capitalize on each and every one of your opponent’s errors in judgment, in thinking, and in movement. You sense your opponent’s fear and indecisiveness as if you were a hungry lion tracking the blood trail of his injured prey. You sense your opponent’s downfall – and you sense his fear of the inevitable – and you are prepared to transform his imagined fear into a harsh reality.

You are a warrior, you are a predator, you are a champion, and you are a winner. You have trained your body and your mind to perform in accordance with your training, dedication, and commitment to excellence – and you play to win – and you play to win DECISIVELY. ~ Blackjack’s Random Thoughts

Last December I set up a lesson with a well known instructor named Mark Wilson. Mark has been a professional player and instructor for over 20 years. He has played all over the world and taught people from all over. His skill and spotting flaws in a persons game and knowing how to correct them has amateurs and pros alike seeking his guidance. The first thing I noticed about Mark was his passion for the game. He really cares about pools future and how to improve it. He has dedicated his life to improving how the game is played by others. The day of the lesson I wasn’t even sure we were going to be able to have it at all. It snowed all night the night before and road conditions were horrible. I had to drive 90 miles to meet Mark at Cue and Cushion pool hall in Overland Missouri (just outside of St. Louis). But the conditions were so bad it took over 3 hours to get there. At one point were were stuck in traffic at a stand still for 1 hour without moving because there had been a bad wreck. IMG_0609



Mark also had a decent drive ahead of him to get to the pool hall so I was impressed when he didn’t want to call off the lesson. I would have made it if I had to walk, that’s how bad I was looking forward to it! So, Mark shows up and right away he gets down to business. He starts me off with a series of shots to determine my skill level and to have a look at my stroke.

Mark takes video of his students so he can show them their flaws, from their stance, grip, balance whatever. He starts me off with the basics and explains to me how important each one is and why. The whole time he weaves in a few stories and other items of interest so that he can maintain your attention. It was obvious that he put a lot of thought into his lessons. I really appreciated his attention to detail, his professionalism and his dedication to improving my game. I really felt that he cared as much about the way I play as I do.


It wouldn’t be fair of me to tell you everything he taught me but I will say this, if you get the chance to work with Mark, you wont be disappointed. The lesson went on for about 8 hours, I stopped once for a restroom break for about 3 minutes and that was it.

Here is a guy that had a little over a hour drive, in bad weather. Then spent 8 hours teaching me the finer points of the game. Then, had another hour drive ahead of him and only charged me $300.00!!! If you think that’s impressive than wait until you hear this. As our lesson comes to a close Mark asks me what hotel I was staying at. He said he would be willing to give me a ride there so my wife wouldn’t have to get out! (My wife stayed at the hotel while I was working with Mark, and did some shopping!) Mark said that he had to run by Lindenwood University first but he would drop me off after. He said he wanted to show me the billiards program that they had started at the Unviersity and that he was the coach. So of course I want to go!

So we head out to the school and Mark takes me around the campus and tells me about the history of the place. Eventually we get to the building where they set up a brand new pool room for the team. Only the team gets to use it, it’s not for the rest of the student body. They bought 4 brand new 9 ft Diamond tables and diamond lights. The tables are covered in Simonis tournament blue cloth and have brand new Super Pro Aramith pool balls! My dream room!

For me this is like walking into a church! Mark said he had a few things to do on his computer and invited me to play some while I waited! He didn’t have to tell me twice! I played around for 45 min or so before Mark finished and by then my arm was about to fall off anyhow from shooting so much that day. So we packed it up and headed for the hotel. Mark dropped me off and gave me his number with instructions to call him in a couple of weeks to go over what I had learned and he would give me a few more things to work on for the future. I went back up to my room and told my wife how it went. I couldn’t believe the effort Mark puts into his teaching. He really cares about his students and it shows. It put a desire in me to really improve. He gave me the confidence and the knowledge to reach that next level and he showed me how I can continue to teach my self to improve.  He even invited me to meet up with him at the Derby City Classic tournament and said he would introduce me to some of the pros and maybe play a few games with them! By the time the night was over my head was spinning. I had gone over a ton of info with Mark, he set me up with a solid plan to improve my game and has continued to talk with me over the phone and through emails to answer any questions and check up on my improvement.

I told him I had a 9 ball tournament coming up and asked what he would recommend I do to get ready for it. He set me up with a excellent practice routine which I outlined in a earlier post. I can not recommend this guy enough. If you really want to break through to that next level of play I really suggest that you take some lessons from a professional.  Obviously, I recommend Mark Wilson but there are other great ones out there and a few of them travel across the country teaching folks.

EDIT: While I was writing this Mark Wilson was selected as the captain for the 2014 Mosconi Cup American team! Congrats Mark, you deserve it.

Pool Workout

This is something that my instructor set up for me to do in addition to my regular regimen. Mark Wilson is a amazing instructor, if you ever get a chance to take lessons from him I highly advise it. I will be doing a article solely about him in the near future  so be sure to check that out.

Break Shot- 30 minutes

Mark advises having someone rack the balls for me while I concentrate on the break shot. All you do is break and rack over and over. The main thing is to concentrate on hitting the head ball square, controlling the cue ball all while maintaining perfect fundamentals.  Do this for 30 mins., this is not a competition to see how many times you can break in 30 min but rather to attack the break shot with solid focus and control. Even if you only break once per minute, the main thing is that you maintain your fundamentals on every attempt. I make a note in my practice journal what percentage of the time I made a ball, how well I controlled the cue ball and if I scratched. (Scratching is the main thing to avoid, it is more important than making a ball.)


9 Ball Ghost (BIH) 10 Games

This is my favorite part. You rack up a game of 9 ball, break and then start with BIH (Ball in hand) You attempt to run out, if at any point you miss or scratch that rack is over and that game goes to the ghost. You then re-rack and start all over. If you run out, you win! I play 10 games of this and record my score. I also make note of how long it took me to play 10 games.  (If I am doing well it will take over 1 hour)


Playing Safe- 30 minutes

This is pretty simple to do but very worth while…and humbling! Put a ball on the table and try to hit it and move the cue ball to a pre-determined place on the table. I use a dollar bill as my target. Move the target around randomly, try different speeds and distances. You really need to push yourself. If your not hitting the target at all than try a easier set up. But really push yourself to get that pin point control. You will see this pay off big time in a match.  It’s worth every second.


15 Ball shoot until you miss- 10 racks BIH

Here you rack all 15 balls, break, then take ball in hand and shoot in any order. You keep shooting until you miss, scratch or make all 15. You get a point for every ball made. If you miss or scratch your run is over. Record your score and re rack. This is done 10 times and then you add up your points. Log your average, this is a good indicator of your improvement. It will help you with patterns, shot making and shot selection.


This entire workout takes me 3-4 hours on average per day.



While doing this or any other practice routine it is paramount to make sure that you are consistent. Be disciplined in your fundamentals. Don’t allow yourself to become lazy or complacent. Make sure you take your time, look at the shot,study it. Then get down on the shot and take slow deliberate strokes. Only pull the trigger when you are confident in the shot.

If you are just strolling up to the shot poking at it and moving on to the next, save yourself the time and aggravation and take up poker. If you want to truly improve, practice with purpose. Be diligent,  stay focused.


Sorry I have been gone so long. Life got in the way! I’ve got a lot to talk about since I have been gone. I have been working on my game, playing more tournaments and taking lessons from Mark Wilson.  I never stopped playing but with work, 2 kids in college and being involved in a non-for-profit organization it’s was too much to keep up with my blog. But I have a little more free time now and I will try to get back to blogging on a somewhat regular basis.


I have been trying to play in a variety of tournaments this last year. I am mainly interested in 9 ball or 10 ball although I have played in a few 8 ball events. Unfortunately the amount of people that know how to run a good tournament in my area are few and far between. Often there are to few tables vs the amount of players or in some cases I have been to tournaments where the person running it had 10 tables at his disposal but only used 2 or 3 at a time and really dragged out the event.

Here is what I look for now. Diamond tables and lots of them. Reasonable entry fee and green fee, I don’t want to feed quarters into a table all night long. A tournament director that knows how to keep things moving, don’t waste my time and I wont waste your. That’s it really. I don’t  need much beyond that. I prefer a clean non smoking venue but it’s not a deal breaker.

I have done fairly well at the tournaments I have been in lately although I haven’t won any in the last 6 months. I was cruising undefeated through a 9 ball event but had to leave due to my wife’s poorly timed illness. 😦  I am planning on playing a big event in 2 weeks. There are supposed to be a lot of strong players in this one so it will give me a chance to see where I stand in that area.

I have been training hard for this 9 ball tournament. For me this one isn’t about winning. I just want to go there a really play my best. I don’t care if I am 2 and out if I play strong. But I do feel that if I bring my best game I will be able to land in the top 5. Time will tell. I will let you know how it goes.

Later today I will post my practice regimen, stay tuned… it’s a workout!

Pool league updates and excuses!

WOW, it’s been a long time since I updated this blog. Sorry about that but I have been busy doing a variety of other things like running a website for our pool league, making wine, keeping the family happy, Christmas and all the other things that keeps my world turning.

Okay, so enough of the excuses! As some of you may know I started coaching my own team this year. I got rid of the players that were bad for the team in the sense that they were bad for moral. What sucks is that they were good players. I instead opted for people who had a good attitude, wanted to play and improve, but most of all just want to enjoy the game. And what do you know, we are in third place at the moment! Two of the guys who hardly got to play in the past two years are playing almost every week and kicking ass! I am really proud of what we have accomplished as a team and the fact that we are threatening to get second place is amazing.

As I said at the beginning of the season, I don’t care if we are in last place as long as we are having fun. But isn’t it funny how a person can preform with they are content and confident. We have almost the same team as last year with arguably less talent and yet we are doing better than we were a year ago.

Next week will be a tough one for us, but, if we can manage to win the majority of the matches we might be able to grasp second place before the season is out. Either way, I am happy. I have seen a change in this team that is worth more than getting first place for the next ten years.


On a personal note, my game has also improved. There have only been 2 guys that have beaten me this year and I am going to play one of them again next week I hope. I am looking for a little revenge! He is a great player and played extremely well last time we met. I also managed to play well against him but I made a few mistakes and he was able to capitalize on them and keep me in my seat. I wont make that same mistake again.

The biggest change in my game this year has been utilizing stop shots to set up better angles which lead to more run outs. I am doing less with the cue ball and that seems to minimize my margin or error when I get slightly off line with my position play. It’s the old marksman saying, aim small, miss small.





So my pool game is going good for now, my Cabernet Sauvignon in bottled up and aging nicely and my Pumpkin wine is in the carboy, the family is doing ok and my dog in nestled under my pool table while I practice and the world didn’t end on 12-21-2012. Life is good.

How did your year go?