Sharks and Sharking

For those of you who are not familiar with these pool terms here is what they mean.

Shark- a person (usually a better player) who lies in wait for a game they know they will win, unlike a hustler who will underplay his skill to get you to play. A shark is a predator and at no time does he/she play the victim. A hustler lets you think you are the shark.  In short the difference between the two is that you choose the hustler, but the shark chooses you.

Sharking- distracting your opponent or doing something to intentionally hurt their chances of winning that would be considered immoral, unethical or out right against the rules. There are a million different sharking techniques, some of which I will list on here later.

For the purpose of this post it is important that you know the difference, today I am mainly talking about Sharking techniques and how to deal with them, not how to deal with pool sharks. (we can discuss that later!)

It strikes me odd that it is called “sharking”.  Because when a shark does his thing he isn’t necessarily “sharking” someone, and someone who is sharking isn’t necessarily a shark!  Recently on a forum I frequent they were talking about whether or not a person was being sharked by this other players actions.  I noticed right away by the peoples response who would be easy to shark and who wouldn’t.  Not that I condone it, in fact I used to really let it bother me that people felt they had to do it against me.




So, what do you do if you are being sharked by someone? Get mad? Most do, and end up losing because of it. I have found that the best defense against someone’s sharking tactics is a good sense of humor. I recently played a guy in league that was making blatant sharking moves against me. He would pick up the chalk off the table after he missed and take it with him to his seat (it was not his), he would move all of my stuff on the table while I was shooting, he constantly coughed while I pulled the trigger on almost every shot, he would jingle his quarters when I was shooting the money ball and he made sure he was in my line of sight on almost every shot!

Normally this would have pissed me off, but it was so obvious that it cracked me up. And whats more is that this guy was one of  if  not the best player in the league. So it occurred to me that I must be making him sweat and he feels that he needs to get a edge to beat me. Then something happened that made me take notice. I realized that once he noticed that his sharking moves were not working on me he got worried, his focus was gone and his confidence shriveled.  In a sense, he sharked himself!


Right then and there I learned that the best way to deal with this type of behavior is to realize that it’s a weakness on their part. They feel they need to do it to win, and when it doesn’t work they fall apart. Look at it this way, if they feel that they need to shark you then that means that they think you are better then they are.  It’s a compliment in a weird twisted sort of way! So laugh it off, keep you’re sense of humor and watch them squirm!


Here are some sharking tactics I have seen over the years, what are some that you have came across?


–The classic unscrewing of the cue as you shoot the money ball.

–Jingling pocket change as you shoot.

–Talking to you during you’re stroke (not always a shark but some do this on purpose)

–Excessive slow play.

–Farting! Yep, I played a guy once that seemed to fart every time he missed, I learned to take my time before approaching the table!

–Moistening the chalk to cause a miscue.

–Cleavage! Several women I know have been guilty of this one!

–Intimidation or trying to bully someone. I haven’t had this one tried on me since I was a kid, I’m 6’2″ now and about 220 lbs!

Those are just a few, there is literally no limit to what some people will do to shark you. Just roll with the punches and take it all in stride and remember, it’s their weakness, don’t let it become yours.



Slump Buster

My last post was about taking a break from pool as  a way to renew your hunger for the game. Sometimes we get into a slump and we don’t have the time to take a break,  and sometimes in the middle of a match the wheels fall off the cart and you cant do anything right. What do you do then?

This is something I used to struggle with quite a bit. I would try different cues or whatever gimmick was on the market at the time. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, I needed something that was consistent. I found the answer in a baseball game!  Anyone that knows me knows I love baseball. One evening I was watching the Cardinals play (my favorite team) against Chicago and our pitcher wasn’t doing very good. In fact he couldn’t do anything right at all.  His mistakes were snowballing and before you knew it they were in a hole too deep to get out of. A week went by and it was that same pitchers turn. I was hoping to see him turn it around but unfortunately he was still in a slump. In the 3rd inning our commentator,  Al Hrabosky, who used to be a pitcher, made a comment that really made sense to me. He said that there was something wrong in the pitchers delivery, his mechanics were off, and until he fixed that he would remain in a slump.



Al Hrabosky The Mad Hungerian



Well, Al Hrabosky the mad Hungarian was right on the money. A light bulb went off in my head, if it works for pitchers why not pool players? I myself had been in a bit of a slump during that time so I decided to return to basics. I went to the pool table and focused on the basics, rebuilding my stroke from the ground up. Before I knew it I was back on track and playing better than before. But the real test of this theory would come almost a year later.

It  happened at a tournament. I had been shoot great all week leading up to the tournament and my confidence was high. When I got to the tournament I decided I would play a few practice games and thats when it happened. If you have ever seen the movie “Tin Cup” you will understand this phrase, “I got the shanks!”  Nothing was working right, I couldn’t even make a spot shot which is usually automatic for me. My confidence shriveled to nothing and the tournament was about to begin.

I draw a easy match right off the bat and I thought, “Good, this is what i need to get my confidence back, I’ll beat this guy and get back on track.”…….NOPE…… I got my butt whooped,   bad, I mean really bad! I scratched the break, gave up ball in hand at least a dozen times. I miscued so much that I thought there was something wrong with my tip. Then it hit me, I remembered the Cardinals pitcher and what Al had said.

My next match I had complete focus. I went through a mental checklist paying close attention to every detail of my stance, grip and stroke.  I found a mistake in my stance that was screwing up my stroke and got it corrected.  By the end of the first game I had caught a gear and blew through the losers bracket. I ended up with 1st place and I owed it all to a Cardinals game that happened over a year ago!

So remember next time everything is going wrong, go back to your basics. Video tape yourself shooting or have a friend that knows what to look for, watch you. A slump is mostly caused by something wrong in your mechanics. If you can find the problem and correct it mid game you are going to become a hard player to handle.

Taking a break can help your game.

Do you feel like your game isn’t getting any better? Or possibly even worse? Well, sometimes what you need to get to that next level is a break from pool all together. A little vacation from the game can be a very good thing, it gives you time to devote to other things in life like family or even other hobbies. Most avid player have found that a little break every now and then helps rejuvenate that hunger that drives us to become better.

So with that in mind I have decided to take a short break from playing. (only a couple of weeks, but I will still be writing articles for my blog)  Now that pool league is done for the summer I can take a vacation with my family and enjoy some of my other favorite pass times, like Baseball, BBQ, and Wine! Especially the wine! I enjoy making it, drinking it and visiting other winery’s with my wife.

Below are some pictures of a wine trail event I went to last weekend with my wife Jackie. We visited 9 winery’s in and around the town of Herman Missouri.



And so it begins at Adam Puchta Winery in Herman MO.



Each winery had a pairing of food and wine for you to try out. Some were better than other of course, but we seemed to enjoy them all.




This was Stone Hill’s offering, some bread, Humas and a semi sweet Vingoles. Not Bad!



The grape vines in front of the Stone Hill Winery in Herman MO. Nice View!



Stone Hill Winery main building.




People lining up in the wine cellar at Hermanof Winery. If your one of the folks in the pic that didn’t want to be included I’m sorry, especially that demon eyed guy on the left!


The back patio at Hermanof Winery. Its a great place to sit and enjoy the day.

Hermanof Winey, main building.



Three Saints Winery, Cabernet and ox tail soup. I though it was kind of hot for soup this weekend so Jackie and I split a bowl. Both were good.



The wine cellar serving room at Three Saints Winery.



The patio at Three Saints Winery.



The George Husmann Wine Pavilion at Oak Glenn Winery. Okay, I got to be honest here, Oak Glenn is not my favorite wine. In fact of all the Missouri winery’s that I have been to Oak Glenn has been my least favorite so far. Allot of people like them but they just are not my cup of tea. But the view from the hill side is very nice…..see below.




View from the vineyard at Oak Glenn Winery.



More of the vineyard at Oak Glenn. I’ll say this for them, they keep the vineyard looking nice!



This is Bias Winery, the wine here isn’t as good since the new ownership has taken over but it is still good. Give them time and I am sure it will be as good as it used to be and maybe even better. The micro brews here are pretty darn good as well.



This is the old truck at Bias Winery. I love the way the old truck looks!



This is the main hall at Robler Winery. Good wine and great people.



The view of the vineyard from Robler Winery.



Bommarito Almond Tree Winery. I saved the very best for last. Bommarito’s wine is amazingly good. Without a doubt, the best I’ve had. Even better than the $200.00 bottle of Cab my boss gave me!
Their Norton wine is the most balanced, smoothest wine I have ever had. Their Port is in a league of it’s own. Every wine here is worth every penny. We have been case club members here for 3 years now, if you haven’t been and your in the area its a must visit.




This is the main entrance. I wish I would have got some pics of the inside and back patio. The grounds here are beautiful and your welcome to bring a picnic basket and enjoy the day there.



Okay, if my recommendation of the wine isn’t enough to get you interested, than maybe this will. They made Jackie and I a pizza (on the grill outside). It is the best pizza I ever ate, and I am a pizza fanatic! This was so good I wanted to go there the next day just to get more pizza! (we already had another case of their wine!) Jackie tried to coax the recipe from him but he wouldn’t budge, who could blame him!




And that’s my adventure for the weekend that gave me a break from pool. So if you find yourself getting a little burnt out or you have reached a plateau in your game, try giving yourself a break to recharge your batteries. You just might find that it’s  just what you needed to get back on track and improve your game.


I’ll leave you with some views from the lake at the resort we stayed at, enjoy!




Pool History

Have you ever wondered where the idea for chalk came from? Or why the cloth on a pool table is usually green? How about the invention of the leather tip. Well I have done a little research and compiled some interesting facts about the game we love. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

The first written reference to “Billiards” appears in Edmond Spencers’s Mother Hubberd’s Tale in 1591. Nearest I can gather, billiards is derived from popular outside games like croquet, golf and bocce. People enjoyed these games so much that they wanted and indoor version to play during the winter months. The first billiard tables were covered in green cloth and had no rails. Instead of the cues we know today, they used maces ( similar to a golf club) to push the balls around the table rather than strike them.

Early billiard games involved various pieces of additional equipment, including the “arch” (related to the croquet hoop), “port” (a different hoop) and “king” (a pin or skittle near the arch) in the 1770s, but other game variants, relying on the cushions (and eventually on pockets cut into them), were being formed that would go on to play fundamental roles in the development of modern billiards.

The pockets on a pool table were originally designed as a hazard, like sand traps in golf and weren’t always located on the rails, sometimes the pockets were cut into the tables surface! Eventually the game evolved into three cue sport classifications we know today. Billiards, Snooker and pool.

The cue has undergone a series of changes since it’s original form, the mace. After a while people realized that when the ball is close to the rail it was hard to use the mace, so they turned it around and hit the ball with the “tail” end. The word queue is french for “tail”. Eventually the “cue” as we know it evolved from this.

Early cues didn’t have a leather tip since applying spin wasn’t really part of the game at that time. People would push the cue’s end into a plaster wall or ceiling so that a chalk-like deposit would form on the end, reducing the chance of a miscue. In 1807 Francois Minguad was studying the game of billiards while being held in Paris as a political prisoner, and experimented with a leather cue tip. The first tip was reportedly made from from a piece of leather taken off his shoe. It has been rumored that he asked for additional time in prison to complete his work!  Mingaud is also credited with the discovery that by raising the cue vertically, to the position adopted by the mace, he could perform what is now known as a masse’ shot. (my hero!)

So you got a leather tip, now what? Well there are two men that can be credited with one of the best inventions in pool, they are John Carr and John Bartley. In the early 1800’s they began to notice how spin can be used to the players advantage and John Carr started selling chalk in boxes, he called it his “Twisting Powder”. (because chalk in boxes doesn’t sound as good!) The new magical substance took hold and now is considered required equipment in today’s game. Isn’t it amazing that in 200 years we have yet to find a substance that is proven to be better than leather and chalk! And it’s not for lack of trying. I have seen all manner of tips and chalk like substances, none of which has stood the test of time like the originals.

Pool balls however have came a long way for their beginnings. The earliest balls were made of wood and then later clay (the latter remaining in use well into the 20th century). Although affordable ox bone balls were in common use in Europe,ivory was favored since at least 1627 until the early 20th century the earliest known written reference to ivory billiard balls is in the 1588 inventory of the Duke of Norfolk.

By the mid-19th century, elephants were being slaughtered for their ivory at an alarming rate, just to keep up with the demand for high-end billiard balls – no more than eight balls could be made from a single elephant’s tusks.The billiard industry realized that the supply of elephants (their primary source of ivory) was endangered,as well as dangerous to obtain (the latter an issue of notable public concern at the turn of the 19th century). Inventors were challenged to come up with an alternative material that could be manufactured, with a US $10,000 prize being offered by a New York supplier,(This would be worth $174,600 today).

[contrary to popular belief, the hole in the center of the cue ball was not created when it was turned on a lathe. It is in fact the hole in which the elephants nerve was in, in the center of the tusk]

Clay Pool Balls



John Wesley Hyatt invented a composition material in 1869 called nitrocellulose for billiard balls (US patent 50359, the first American patent for billiard balls). It is unclear if the cash prize was ever awarded, and there is no evidence suggesting he did in fact win it.  By 1870 it was commercially branded Celluloid, the first industrial plastic. Unfortunately, the nature of celluloid made it volatile in production, occasionally exploding, which ultimately made this early plastic impractical. Legend has it that celluloid billiard balls themselves would occasionally explode during rough play, but no reliable sources have been found that can substantiate this.


Celluloid Pool Balls


Subsequently, to avoid the problem of celluloid instability, the industry experimented with various other synthetic materials for billiards balls such as Bakelite, Crystalite,  and other plastic compounds. Today most pool balls are made of Phenolic Resin, an extremely strong resin that is chip resistant.


So I’m going to leave you with a few pictures and text from one of my favorite authors Mark Twain, pool enthusiast.


The game of billiards has destroyed my naturally sweet disposition.
- Speech, April 24, 1906


"A pool table is better than a doctor."


Below is an excerpt from The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain by Albert Bigelow Paine


With the return to New York I began a period of closer association with Mark Twain. Up to that time our relations had been chiefly of a literary nature. They now became personal as well.

It happened in this way: Mark Twain had never outgrown his love for the game of billiards, though he had not owned a table since the closing of the Hartford house, fifteen years before. Mrs. Henry Rogers had proposed to present him with a table for Christmas, but when he heard of the plan, boylike, he could not wait, and hinted that if he had the table “right now” he could begin to use it sooner. So the table came–a handsome combination affair, suitable to all games–and was set in place. That morning when the dictation ended he said:

“Have you any special place to lunch, to-day?”

I replied that I had not.

“Lunch here,” he said, “and we’ll try the new billiard-table.”

I acknowledged that I had never played more than a few games of pool, and those very long ago.

“No matter,” he said “the poorer you play the better I shall like it.”

So I remained for luncheon, and when it was over we began the first game ever played on the “Christmas” table. He taught me a game in which caroms and pockets both counted, and he gave me heavy odds. He beat me, but it was a riotous, rollicking game, the beginning of a closer relation between us. We played most of the afternoon, and he suggested that I “come back in the evening and play some more.” I did so, and the game lasted till after midnight. I had beginner’s luck–”nigger luck,” as he called it–and it kept him working feverishly to win. Once when I had made a great fluke–a carom followed by most of the balls falling into the pockets, he said:

“When you pick up that cue this table drips at every pore.”

The morning dictations became a secondary interest. Like a boy, he was looking forward to the afternoon of play, and it seemed never to come quickly enough to suit him. I remained regularly for luncheon, and he was inclined to cut the courses short that we might the sooner get up- stairs for billiards. He did not eat the midday meal himself, but he would come down and walk about the dining-room, talking steadily that marvelous, marvelous talk which little by little I trained myself to remember, though never with complete success. He was only killing time, and I remember once, when he had been earnestly discussing some deep question, he suddenly noticed that the luncheon was ending.

“Now,” he said, “we will proceed to more serious matters–it’s your– shot.”

My game improved with practice, and he reduced my odds. He was willing to be beaten, but not too often. We kept a record of the games, and he went to bed happier if the tally-sheet showed a balance in his favor.

He was not an even-tempered player. When the game went steadily against him he was likely to become critical, even fault-finding, in his remarks. Then presently he would be seized with remorse and become over-gentle and attentive, placing the balls as I knocked them into the pockets, hurrying to render this service. I wished he would not do it. It distressed me that he should humble himself. I was willing that he should lose his temper, that he should be even harsh if he felt so inclined–his age, his position, his genius gave him special privileges. Yet I am glad, as I remember it now, that the other side revealed itself, for it completes the sum of his humanity. Once in a burst of exasperation he made such an onslaught on the balls that he landed a couple of them on the floor. I gathered them up and we went on playing as if nothing had happened, only he was very gentle and sweet, like a summer meadow when the storm has passed by. Presently he said:

“This is a most amusing game. When you play badly it amuses me, and when I play badly and lose my temper it certainly must amuse you.”

It was but natural that friendship should grow under such conditions. The disparity of our ages and gifts no longer mattered. The pleasant land of play is a democracy where such things do not count.

We celebrated his seventy-first birthday by playing billiards all day. He invented a new game for the occasion, and added a new rule for it with almost every shot. It happened that no other member of the family was at home–ill-health had banished every one, even the secretary. Flowers, telegrams, and congratulations came, and a string of callers. He saw no one but a few intimate friends.

We were entirely alone for dinner, and I felt the great honor of being his only guest on such an occasion. On that night, a year before, the flower of his profession had assembled to do him honor. Once between the courses, when he rose, as was his habit, to walk about, he wandered into the drawing-room, and, seating himself at the orchestrelle, began to play the beautiful “Flower Song” from Faust. It was a thing I had not seen him do before, and I never saw him do it again. He was in his loveliest humor all that day and evening, and at night when we stopped playing he said:

“I have never had a pleasanter day at this game.”

I answered: “I hope ten years from to-night we shall be playing it.”

“Yes,” he said, “still playing the best game on earth.”


Mark Twain died 4 years later.


Ref. Wikipedia