Ace's World of Pool
|Music | Edu Sitemap | Music Posters | Music T-Shirts | Pool & Billiards | Sports | MLB Baseball | NBA Basketball | NFL Football | Poker|
|Pool Cues||Pool Table Lights||Cue Cases||Cue Wall/Floor Racks||Pool Tables||Table Repair Supplies||Accessories||Pool Books||Pool Posters||Pool Lit||Celebrity Photos||Pool Fine Art||Darts|
20% Discounts and FREE SHIPPING!
An Ongoing Saga
I grew up in Dover, NJ, a little town about 40 miles west of NYC.
I wasn't born into the atypical Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best scenario, and by the time I was 12 I had learned the best method of self-preservation was to spend less time at home and more on the streets.
How did I find my way to the pool room? Well, even though it had become a popular hangout, more so after The Hustler came out, I probably never would've started hanging out there myself were it not for the fact that my maternal uncle, Bobby, two years older than me, had taken up the game, and his older brother, my Uncle Nicky, had long been known as the best pool player in town. At the same time, another of my uncles, Uncle Franky, was an ass-kicking legend. Being related to them gave me status downtown, more than ties to my old man's family would ever provide this side of the nut house, and I liked it.
Though I had always had a knack for academics and impressed a lot of people, teachers and probation officers included, with my IQ scores, I was not particularly gifted mentally or physically. I loved baseball, but couldn't play very well. The only time I ever got on base in little league was when I was lucky enough to get beaned. What I had in abundance, however, was perseverance. A case in point: I took up the trumpet when I was in 4th grade. While my fellow students progressed at a normal rate, it took three weeks for me to make that twisted hunk of scrap metal squawk. My teacher, Mrs. Korpita, suggested more than once that I should quit. But I didn't and eventually I got the hang of it.
Pool was no different. I stunk at first. I remember a time when this guy Joe, notorious for his schemes and hustles, came into the pool room with a drunk he had latched onto somewhere. He took me into the men's room, gave me fifty dollars to play with and explained to me the fundamentals of dumping. The drunk was going to back him up and Joe would lose on purpose. What Joe didn't realize was that I wasn't carrying the pool shooting gene. I couldn't hit a freakin' rail. The game turned into a marathon. He'd miss on purpose, I'd miss an easy shot, then he'd have to miss again. Fortunately, the mark was so wasted he never caught on and somehow I eventually managed to win the game.
Anyway, I stuck with it. In exchange for helping him open up the pool room each day, Tizzie, Moulton Teasdale, the owner of Teasdale's Billiard Academy, would let me practice a half hour for free. One day he said to me, "I've got something for you," and he handed me a copy of Willie Mosconi On Pocket Billiards, the little red book. It was like magic. I read and reread every page, every section. I studied the pictures and posed in front of a mirror until I could feel that I was in the exact same position Willie was. And suddenly I started getting better. Feigning illness, I would skip school and practice at home on the dining room table using a broom stick for a cue and marbles for balls. When I did go to school, I occupied my time training my eyes to perceive angles by lining up coins on my desk. And it worked. My game came together. There wasn't a shot I couldn't make. By the time I was 16, I was regularly running 50 balls in straight pool, beating guys in their twenties out of their pay checks.
Then shit happened. I had a falling out with Tizzie and quit going to his pool room. I knocked a teacher on his ass and got kicked out of school which meant I had to go to work. I met my wife and, as young men do, became obsessed with her. And my closest friends, guys two or three years older than me, had been drafted. So, like that, I was out of the game. I can't remember exactly how long it was before I got the idea to drop by the pool room and shoot a game, but it happened one day. I guess I was expecting to play like I used to but I couldn't make a shot. My vision was all screwed up. Whereas I used to be able to see the contact point on a ball from 50 feet away, now, I couldn't zero in on a ball that was in front of the pocket.
[Note: It's very frustrating to have suffered this deterioration of pool vision. I've tried to talk about it to many pool players but have yet to run into one who really understands. "You just look at the balls and shoot," they're likely to say. There was a time when I might have said the same thing, glossing over the finer points of angles and contact points. I guess the process of looking at the object ball and seeing it in relation to the targeted pocket, then lining up the cue ball with it, is so natural it's difficult to imagine things ever being different. But, they can be. I can attest to that.]
I don't know what actually screwed up my vision. During the time that had passed since I last played well, I had begun to wear glasses and, rightfully or wrongfully, I chalked up my problems to the specs. (Getting glasses had been a mistake. I never thought I needed them even though I had failed an eye test. Once you start wearing them your eyes get progressively worse and you prescriptions get progressively stronger.) Still, there are guys who can play with glasses, so there must be something else, something unique to my eyes and situation.
Pool being the only thing I had ever been any good at, it bothered me that I couldn't play anymore. I made a couple attempts at comebacks with no success and, eventually, rather than play like a chump, I gave the game up completely.
When we moved from Montana to Florida, I thought I was going to be playing a lot of golf, but the stock market crashed and I became increasingly unwilling to throw my money away pursuing the dimpled sphere. There were a couple pool tables in the clubhouse where I lived, upon which I could play for nothing, so I decided to give pool one more go.
Forty years later, I still couldn't see the balls. I decided to consult with a guy 40 miles north, up in Crystal River, who advertised himself as a sports vision specialist. I had high hopes for my new $375 glasses; but, they didn't really help. Next, I decided to get rid of the glasses altogether. I went for LASIK at LaserVision down in Tampa. The results were so-so -- I can see pretty well without glasses, now, but I still can't draw a bead on the balls. I started thinking my problem wasn't visual acuity, but a particular kind of vision, maybe a form of peripheral vision.
The bottom line is I still couldn't see the balls in relation to the pocket and shots I could once pop in automatically remained nearly impossible. After four years of continued frustration, the only positive thing I can say is I'm still getting better. Interestingly, two surgeries in 2004 kept me away from the tables for about seven months. When I did start playing again, I was seeing the balls better, not on all shots, but on some. Go figure.
Anyway, I didn't want you to think that I just stumbled onto the idea of creating my pool-related web pages. Pool means a lot to me.
There are quite a few online billiard magazines, too many to count. My original site, Ace's Cool Pool Lit & Links is unique in its celebration of pool in literature, pool in fine art, and pool on the web. It has logged a lot of traffic over the years, close to a quarter million visits by now. Now, I've expanded my online presence with www.aceswebworld.com. On my new billiards pages, I offer cues and accessories, pool books and posters. Check it out if you get a chance.
If you want to follow my progress, visit my Pool Blog.
My Opinion on Lasik and Laser Surgery for Pool and Billiards
I've received several emails from people contemplating Lasik or similar procedures who are seeking advice. All I can say is that in my case I wish I hadn't gone through with it. That's mostly because it appears now (see above) that clarity of vision was not my particular problem. Still, like you, I know pool players who have gone through the procedure and can shoot the eyes out of the balls. Similarly, we all know people who can shoot well with glasses. In my case, though I see pretty well, now - 20-20 in my right eye, less sharp in my left - I know I saw the balls a lot sharper with glasses, especially on long shots. There are other kinds of laser procedures that don't require peeling back the surface of the eye. One, for instance, involves reshaping the eye with a series of small holes. Some think that method's better. So, do your homework and consider your options carefully.
Copyright © 2003- by Ace Toscano. All rights reserved.
Other pool and billiards stories by Ace Toscano: THE FRIENDLY GAME OF POOL - As Played In Pikkahuassa County, Florida, Ace's World of Pool: My Game, The Truth About Van Gogh's The Night Cafe, The Kid Who Beat Mosconi, What Happened At The R & R?.
Jump To Top