by Lou Figueroa
I played pool for a long time looking for "The Secret." I knew that if I could just discover The Secret I would play great pool. For the longest time, I thought The Secret might be a certain grip, a certain bridge, a particular approach to the table, maybe just the right head height or position over the cue. But The Secret always eluded me.
Now I've come to understand that The Secret, as a single entity, doesn't really exist. Instead I've learned that success at pool is contingent on at least three general principles.
Lou's First Principle of Pool:
Playing great pool is the result of reliably reproducing the same mechanical setup every time you approach the table. In turn, the same mechanics will produce the same stroke each time you shoot. You can't learn to play great pool if your mechanics are different each time you setup. It's not a certain grip or head height, it's a process that starts with how you hold your pool cue and ends with your final shooting position. The problem with concentrating on and changing one particular element in the process is that, if you're not paying attention, you can easily alter something else, and change your results. Or, if you're not setting up in a consistent manner, there's no way to directly attribute any improvement to a particular modification, like a higher or lower head position.
We've all had those sessions when, for a brief moment in time, we thought to ourselves "I'm ready for the tour." Balls go in from everywhere and we effortlessly move the cue ball around the table with astounding position. It's because, I believe, we all have a great stroke inside us. But, we don't do things the same every day, or even from shot to shot. The Secret, such as it applies to a great stroke, is to find the process that creates those great results and repeat them consistently.
Lou's Second Principle of Pool:
Great pool is a result of setting up and executing your stroke with great precision. Perhaps many of you have seen the poster "View of a Cue" which is basically a foot and a half cue ball overlaid with graph lines that breaks the cue ball down to something like a 120 spots. The Secret is not about hitting the cue ball low or high or to the side -- it's about consciously choosing one of those 120 spots and shooting at it with the right speed and elevation to produce exactly the results you want.
Lou's Third Principle of pool:
Great pool players have great memories. Each and every shot, you've got to guess what's going to happen with the object ball and cue ball. Then, you must pay attention and see if your results matched your hypothesis. And, if they didn't, how they differed. The Secret is to then remember for the next time...