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Carom Billiard - 3-Cushion - Bert's column (NED)

The long road from 0.6 to 1.6

Posted by on October 16, 2015

The long road from 0.6 to 1.6

© Kozoom

If you and I devoted some time to it, we could easily come up with a list of two dozen things the top players do better than mere mortals. But which are crucial? Where is that difference between 0.6 and 1.6 really made? Is it a matter of improving details across the board, gaining 0.01 here and 0.01 there? Or are there a few big chunks, responsible for tenths at a time? I will make an effort to give you the four major categories in which the 1.6-ers are far ahead of the 0.6-ers. I am pretty sure this isn't fiction, which is why I want to call it F.A.C.T.  


So many things come together under that umbrella. It's not just forgetting about the room, ignoring the waitress and the kid with the bag of chips, your opponent moving in his chair and making noise as he's "working on his tip". Focus is about making the whole point, not "part of the point". If you approach a shot, thinking: "I need to hit this really thin... really thin", you've lost focus already. There is a good chance you will neglect a kiss, make it TOO long or find another way of screwing up. Focus is not always zooming in on the detail. It's also zooming out to see the big picture.  

Focus is about playing billiards on THIS particular table, with characteristics you may love or hate, but have to live with. True focus will allow you to accept what a table does, and not fight it, disagree with it, curse it. We all know this, but need to be reminded once in a while: you can argue with a table till the cows come home, but it will never concede that it was wrong and adapt to you. You are going to have to adapt to it


This game of ours is an absolute joy to play at times, and everybody has a great attitude when the sun shines. Going from one natural carom to another, with three balls out in the open or a third ball in the corner, as big as a melon. Who does not love that? It never lasts long though, it's the Friday afternoon office cocktail at 16.00, not the work week.  Attitude is about balls frozen to rails, unavoidable kisses, fantastic hits that miss by a hair and opponents that present you with shitty position after shitty position. It's about the flukes they make, and the way your deliberate defensive shot leaves them with a ticky.

Life is unfair, on some days you are the pigeon but on most days you are the statue. How you handle that, is a major factor in your chances of becoming a good 3C-player. With a winner's attitude, you are "in the moment" at all times. You are not trying to change things you have no power over. You are not still beating yourself up over that bad miss from a few minutes ago. You are not neglecting your defense just because you are way ahead. You are playing one point at a time, and you treat the easy ones and the tough ones the same: they get your full attention.     

Choice (of shot).

This is as much about character as it is about talent. Yes, the naturally gifted billiard brain will make the right choice more often, and quicker. But the work horses (which is: most of us) can catch up with the show horses if they want, with study and lessons, with trial, error and stubbornness. The knowledge is out there, it's available online for everybody who is hungry and determined. Many talented players hit their ceiling early, several guys who are now world class needed two decades to get their game plan balanced and complete. 

Picking the right shot is a "conditio sine qua non". You can't do without. If you have perfect focus and flawless technique, you're still shooting blanks if you keep playing the wrong shot.  So educate yourself, in a billiard room, on Kozoom or on YouTube.  And here's a tip: when the position is difficult: experiment! Trying a 4 % solution over and over again will get you nowhere. 

Choice of shot has everything to do with position play, and it is as important to top 3-cushion as sequels are to Hollywood. Today's phenomenal averages don't come from solutions to difficult problems, they come from avoiding them. 


Have you ever watched yourself play? In a mirror, or better still, on video? If, like me, you are not Jae Ho Cho, Murat Coklu or Pedro Piedrabuena, it will be a shocking experience. We don't stand still, we jerk, we pull, we lunge, we have more moving parts than a Rolex, especially in a tense match situation. All of us are in denial about it, but believe me, when we miscue it's not the chalk's fault. Look at any player in the world's top 20: you'll find he stands still and strokes straight. Some have more discipline, some have more elegance. But all have learned that a cue goes forwards and backwards. Never up and down. Never side to side. Ignore those laws, and you will limit your potential average, it's as simple as that.   

Then there is "quality of stroke", which is directly related to cue ball memory. Do you just let your ball roll and bounce between cushions, or do you send it out with marching orders? Watch Merckx, Dong Koong Kang, Sanchez. Their cue ball has defined spin even when they hardly use speed. If they do, that cue ball will still remember its assignment after the 5th and 6th cushion.   

Raymond Ceulemans in 1987

Technique could well be the prime legacy of the legend, Raymond Ceulemans. In terms of problem-solving and position play, he has been overtaken. But he demonstrated for four decades that shooting  straight as a laser, leaving your bridge hand on the table and standing like a statue paid off. And you know what? It still does.      

F.A.C.T. This is where you find the full point, the one between 0.6 and 1.6. How to get to 2 average, you ask? Be born a bloody genius, then work your ass off. 


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My Comments

WOW!!! Great article, Thank you so much, you are already making a difference in Kozoom, thanks again
Juan Uribe

Message 1/9 - Publish at October 16, 2015 4:53 PM

Spot on, Bert!
Loved F.A.C.T.
Keep this good stuff comin'!

Message 2/9 - Publish at October 16, 2015 5:04 PM

Thanks, Bert. I'll let you know after I get to 1.6 how easy it was. Don't wait up for me. But keep writing.

Message 3/9 - Publish at October 16, 2015 9:29 PM

Love it very much . Thank You

Message 4/9 - Publish at October 16, 2015 10:57 PM

Jack Litewka
Jack Litewka
How about .6 to .9? or .8 to 1.1 ?
Very few players (if any) will move from .6 to 1.6 after they are 30 years old and have played for, say 10 years. Most of us do not have realistic expectations of improving a full point if we've been hacking away at it for 10 years. We're happy with improving 1/10th or 2/10ths point. Does F.A.C.T. still apply evenly? Or, for players below, say, 1.0, is there a different way of viewing the factors? Might it be easier for those of us without professional 3-c aspirations, to focus on one factor rather than on multiple factors? (E.g., cue-ball control seems to me to be a good thing to focus on.)

Message 5/9 - Publish at October 17, 2015 9:35 PM

Bert van Manen
Bert van Manen
How about 0.6 to 0.9?
Jack, that column was never intended as a road map "from 0.6 to 1.6" (you are right, very few people go the distance). I merely tried to categorize things the top players do better. But I love your question: "does F.A.C.T. still apply?" if you are trying to gain a tenth, from whatever your level is. The T should be your first concern, then the F, then the C and finally the A.

Message 6/9 - Publish at October 18, 2015 1:56 AM

Wonderful style. I loved the book, couldn't stop reading. I love the column. Best analysis
of the game I've ever come across.

Please keep on writing....You make this game ALIVE!

Thank you.

Message 7/9 - Publish at October 18, 2015 7:17 AM

John Adair
John Adair
Good Stuff Bert
Read your wonderfully cerebral article in the morning and played wonderfully later that day. The part about the Rolex especially hit home with me. Of course, I will probably be "the statue" the next time I'm playing. Thanks for a great article!

Message 8/9 - Publish at November 2, 2015 2:37 PM

Watch the slow games, too!
Very good article, Bert. It really puts our game development into perspective.

After reading your more recent article RE "Math vs. Playing" I went back and re-read ".6 to 1.6" and had an insight to share. We all love watching the "fast" games here on Kozoom, the ones in which the great world-class players reach 2.0+ averages, make strong runs of points, and dazzle us with their F.A.C.T.s (nod to your .6 to 1.6 article!). But I've also started watching the slower games they play in which ALL of them during some of these great tournaments struggle at times. We amateurs could learn much from watching them at these less-than-stellar 3C moments.

The poise and winning attitude they show as they fight back to stunning play and victories is the bigger lesson than any systems or technique lesson!

Thank you, Bert, for sharing your wisdom of this great game with us - I look forward to each of your columns!

Message 9/9 - Publish at November 2, 2015 6:00 PM

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