This is Volume 25 of PoolSynergy, a monthly collection of the best writing on pool. Make sure to check out all the other articles in this month’s issue over at Melinda’s great blog, Pool is a Journey.

PoolSynergy logo

What I’m thankful for in the world of pool is but a small portion of the things I’m thankful for in my life, but to stay on topic I’m keeping this to pool related only.

My family, who have tolerated my pool obsession for 6 years.

When I first caught the pool bug I went to the pool hall several days and one evening a week to practice and play in a league. Within a couple years I’d increased this to 4-5 days a week (I was retired). Two years ago I bought a 9 ft table and took over 2/3 of my garage. Though it cut down my away from home time, I was still essentially unavailable for a lot of time.

Through all of this the complaints from my family have been minimal to non-existent. None of my relatives have any interest in the game, but they still take some interest in my league match performances and root for me each week as I head out for my match.

The friendly and accessible players in all the pool halls I’ve visited.

I’ve spent lots of time at 4 different local pool halls and have found each of them to be mostly frequented by friendly players who are happy to talk pool and play a friendly game. There have also been a relative few players who only want to play for money, but since I don’t gamble, we don’t play each other. Sure there are jerks who show up on occasion, but that’s true with everything, and they’ve been infrequent enough to not be relevant.

It’s very rare for me to go to a hall and not be able to get a game within a short period of time. It surely helps that I’ll play any game, but even without that flexibility it wasn’t difficult. For a couple years I only played 8 Ball and could always get a game, and now that Straight Pool and One Pocket are the games I play, I still have no trouble. Two of those 4 halls have now closed, a pretty ominous sign, but the other 2 seem to be doing well. I’m rooting for them.

I also enjoy learning from these players, who are almost all freely willing to answer questions or show me a shot, if I ask after their time at the table is complete and don’t do it so often as to be a pest. I’ve learned so much from watching all the different perspectives on and approaches to the game; you really can learn from almost everyone if you’re open to it. Among the innumerable things I attribute to learning this way, two that stand out most are incorporating defense aggressively and using stun effectively.

The writers of the wonderful books I’ve read that have helped me begin to get a handle on this game.

I’ve tried to approach the game seriously, working to improve since the very start, and have read many excellent books and watched a number of instructional videos. I’m guessing that the people who’ve produced these haven’t made a great deal of money (I hope they have but I doubt it) but I know they’ve put in an immense amount of work that has helped not just me but many others, and I am very grateful.

It used to be that great players kept the bulk of information they had learned to themselves, but not anymore. Beginning with Ray Martin’s 1977 classic “99 Critical Shots in Pool” and 1978’s “Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool and Billiards” by Robert Byrne, the secrets of pool are available to one and all for the price of a book. These books were so good and so effective, the floodgates opened and more and more wonderful books have been written covering every aspect of the game.

The game itself. It’s complexity and the variety of ways to play it.

The more I play and the more I learn about the game of pool, the more fascinated I become with it. More than even great literature and great art, pool has so many levels on which to appreciate and enjoy it that I feel confident I’ll never tire of the game. Good play requires a balance of the mental and the physical that makes it truly unique.

Also unique to pool are all the different games one can play. Cards are the only thing I can think of with this type of flexibility, but card games lack the physicality of pool. The different skills and strategies each game demands appeal to me and push me to learn things faster and more thoroughly. Something required frequently in one game still comes up in another but not as often. Pool truly stands out as a sport that rewards imagination and thinking out of the box as well as study and practice.

The wonderful player/writer bloggers who have contributed so selflessly to PoolSynergy

PoolSynergy has been a lot of fun and both intellectually and emotionally rewarding for me. I’ve continued to be amazed at the number and quality of the participants, especially since none of them knew me or had ever heard of me when we started. The willingness of so many to take a chance on something new and untried, with no prospect of financial reward was very gratifying. It speaks well for the kind of people our game attracts. The fun we’ve had experimenting and the willingness to push boundaries with topics and the interpretations of them has pleased me greatly. I’ve met only a couple of the contributors in person, but having shared this blogging experience with them, I consider all of them personal friends whose work I look forward to reading each month, and who someday I might get to buy a beer and play a few games of pool with.