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One Pocket Ghost

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May 25, 2004
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To start with I would like to say that I think that One Pocket is one of the greatest games/sports in the world, and all of us pool players who understand, appreciate, and play One Pocket are blessed - and it’s a shame that outside of our small One Pocket subculture, no one in the world even knows that there is a game called One Pocket and how significant as a challenging/complex/fascinating sporting endeavor it is.

Starting out about 45 years ago, I watched and studied some of the great One Pocket players of that time: Jersey Red, Johnny Ervolino, Boston Shorty, Harold Worst, etc - and also, living and growing up in Chicago, I intently watched Artie Bodendorfer (one of the best One Pocket players of all time, and a master of defensive One Pocket play) play many, many times back in the day, when I was 19-25 yrs.old - and this was at the time when Artie was playing his very best......and Chicago was also a bank pool mecca back then, enabling me to play with, and learn from, great bank pool players like Bugs, Youngblood, Tough Tony, Freddie the Beard, etc…..then, in the 40-45 years since, I’ve both watched and played One Pocket against: Grady, Jack Cooney, Cliff Joiner (many times), Efren, Jose Parica, Alex Pagulayan, Rodolfo Luat, Bugs (many times), Steve Cook, Alan Hopkins, Cornbread Red, Miami, Buddy Hall, Nick Varner, Shannon D. Jeremy Jones, Rafael Martinez, Billy Palmer, and many more top players both past and present.

So, with the knowledge gained from 45 years of both intensely studying the game and having countless gambling sessions/tournament matches against shortstop to top speed players (and having won my share of them), combined with my own strategy analysis, shot formulating, and overall visualizing of the game, I feel very strongly that I know the optimum way to play the game of One Pocket…..and I have, and currently do, teach/give One Pocket lessons according to my personal concept of the game, including having taught/given lessons to two of the current top-speed One Pocket players…..also, for the record, my One Pocket teaching and One Pocket philosophy/visualizing were highly spoken of by George Fels in one of his Billiards Digest columns several years ago.

Okay, first off I want to say that I’ve been annoyed for years by all of this debating about which is right, or better, the Chicago/Philly/East coast, strong defense, low risk, squeeze style of one pocket, or the so-called modern/left coast, aggressive, fire at your hole style of one pocket….Well, the reasons it bugs me are, first of all I don't think the geographic distinction that this debate likes to is true, and secondly - because this ongoing debate speaks as if these are the only two philosophies of One Pocket play to subscribe to - when in fact neither style is playing optimum One Pocket – why would you want to limit yourself to just one of those styles, rather than employing the full spectrum of One Pocket play - i.e. The correct way to play One Pocket is a perfect melding of both of those styles...

When playing/thinking at the very highest level of one pocket, you will have both of those two styles in your head to choose from, or combine, every time that you step to the table – and deciding which of these style choices to employ, will be correctly analyzed and determined in every different inning or shot of yours at the table...
Know, that to play top speed one pocket, you need to have a very high level of creativity/imagination/vision…and you must be an excellent banker…and you need to have extensive knowledge of kick shots, combination shots, carom shots, and multi-rail billiard angles.

Your shot choice should always be predicated on your correct analysis of several factors, the primary ones being: Table layout, ball score, match score, pocket size - and also the One Pocket style, skill set, heart, and ego tendencies of your opponent….and of course, all shot choices must factor in your own skill set/ability…

The first thing that I tell a new One Pocket student of mine is that I can sum up my conception of how I believe correct One Pocket should be played, and what your dual-objective should be at all times, in one sentence:

Unrelenting smart, well-calculated, aggressive attacking, combined with suffocating, lock-down safety play.

In other words, every time that you step to the table (unless you have an obvious ball to make, or you're in a death trap) you should be determinedly, unrelentingly, looking to attack...but if you can’t find a viable offensive shot, then you don’t force the issue – that’s where the smart part comes in…..Instead, play a suffocating safety/put your opponent in a trap, and if that’s not possible, then at least re-position the ball layout in some way that helps your cause…i.e. move balls from near his pocket or on his side of the table to your side - tie up balls on his side, or open up balls or banking/shooting lanes on your side of the table - and/or leave him facing balls from a snookered position, jacked up, or with an awkward angle...and while doing any of this, always endeavor to leave the cueball frozen on the rail - don‘t undervalue this, it severely limits your opponents options and execution when he can only address the top of the cueball.....and also, One Pocket is not always about having the opportunity to run balls, or shoot appealing, gratifying power shots...you must also give total-focus attention to small details - and have the limitless patience and work ethic required to do this...meaning that if you have nothing else available to you for twenty straight innings other then to bunt balls, or to glance the cueball off of balls to only travel a few inches - then you should patiently shoot these simple little shots as perfectly as you possibly can every time, striving to gain a strategic edge on your opponent in these intense miniature battles.

Now I’m a big pro football fan, and as such, I’ve always drawn a parallel in my mind between One Pocket players and pro football quarterbacks...quarterbacks have to read the field like we read the table and then make a decision to act…and their ‘opponent’ is the cornerbacks, safeties, and linebackers, so, like we one pocket players analyze our opponents skill set and tendencies, a quarterback needs to know the tendencies/abilities of different defensive backs and the defensive schemes being used against him….Now a young quarterback who throws 25-30 picks in a season from forcing passes into double coverage, or not correctly reading the defense, is just like the overly aggressive young One Pocket player going for a risky, very low percentage shot, missing it and selling out…..To keep my football analogy going, if you want to play One Pocket at the highest level and as it should be played, just play it the way Joe Montana played quarterback back in the day - or like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers play nowadays - very, very smart...

Back to shot choices…..Your first desired shot choice is of course to make a ball in your pocket… now if you have this opportunity to pocket a ball, and the shot is not a ‘hanger’ - then whether you should choose to shoot this shot in a given situation depends partially, on all of the factors that I mentioned a few paragraphs earlier - but primarily, on two factors: ‘makeability’ percentage and the risk/reward equation - of which there‘s countless variations…..There’s no time here to go into this completely, covering all of the countless percentages and risk/reward probabilities - but for an example, here are a few interesting risk/reward comparisons combined with the makeability factor, that use mathematical/strategic One Pocket-thought-processing in considering the situations:

Hypothetically, we’ll say the game and match score is 0-0.…..Now, in one scenario, you have a shot that you are 90% likely to make in your pocket – and after making it, there are only two more available balls for you to run (easy to run) - and, you will leave three sure balls for your opponent to pocket if you miss - but no more than three…...In the second scenario, you have a shot that you are 65% likely to make in your pocket, but you will be able to easily run four more balls if you make it and leave just one ball for your opponent to pocket if you miss…..In each of these two situations I would say going for the shot is a good risk/reward choice....and also, I think the two very different ball-count situations are fairly equal choices when compared to each other viability-wise.......For our third and final situation, let's say the shot you have to pocket the ball has an 85% makeability rating for you, there are no other balls for you to make afterwards - you can only get one, and you will leave your opponent a sure two balls if you miss - should you shoot the shot in this situation?

Anyway, this is an overview of some of my concepts of playing One Pocket play correctly and at the highest level. To go further, we would have to be on a table and analyze dozens of very specific game situations. Anyone who would like to pm me about any of this, or about lessons, feel free to.



- Ghost
 
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