English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : August, 1912

The Billiard Monthly : August, 1912

The Amateur and His Game

(By An Amateur.)

As an enthusiastic amateur I have been greatly interested
in the articles from time to time published in The
Billiard Monthly dealing with the great gulf that exists
between the amateur and even the second and third-rate
professionals. Comparisons have been made with the amateur
cricketer, who seems to be quite as good as his brother
professional. In fact, some of the finest cricketers that
have ever existed have been amateurs and some of the best
records in cricket are held by amateurs. How is this?

One reason is not far to seek. The amateur cricketer
devotes himself during the cricket season entirely to cricket.
When not playing for his county you will find him playing in
club and ground matches where professionals are engaged.

He is playing day after day in the best class of play, which
keeps his play up to a very high standard. The good billiard
amateur, as a rule, is compelled by circumstances to
confine his play to the best amateurs he can find to play
with, and perhaps to an occasional game with a professional.

This enables him to attain a certain stage of efficiency
and there he stops. If he plays for twenty years he is
no better. He has gained his high water mark and there
he remains.

Give him the same opportunity as the amateur cricketer
of playing a good proportion of games with professionals,
and let him devote himself to the game in the same manner
as the amateur cricketer and I think you would find
that the difference would be greatly reduced and in some
instances perhaps we might even get an amateur here and
there who would be able to play the best professional on
level terms.

The foregoing I give as the first reason why the amateur
billiard player is so greatly inferior to the professional. The
second reason is that 99 out of 110 amateurs never learn
their game. They simply pick it up. The manner in
which most amateurs start is that they join a club, at about
the age of 18, take a cue in their hand, and, with the
instruction of their club friend, start to play a game, receiving
some kind of instruction as to how to make the different
shots. The correct holding of the cue is never thought of,
neither is the position of the body. One object only is in
view, and that is to score. By playing two or three times
a week, the novice, if he possesses any aptitude for the
game, progresses largely by observation, but his one object
remains the same. No matter what the position of the balls
may be, he must score or try to do so, fluke or otherwise.

Thus time goes on and eventually he is able occasionally to
make a break of 30. He possesses now a knowledge of
the use of side and screw and in his own way can get quite
a number of useful shots.

By this time he thinks he would like to witness a professional
match and goes to see two first-class professionals.

He is astounded, first of all, at the distance they make the
balls travel with so gentle a stroke. His eyes are opened
to strength and touch, and he comes away saying to himself
that a few lessons from a professional would double his
breaks and improve his game right away. He has a lesson
and at once finds that he has to unlearn all that he knows.

He knows now that for years he has played much too hard,
but it is almost impossible to get out of the old groove of
play. His observation and natural aptitude have been
allowed to run and grow wild and it seems useless for him
to try and improve. So he goes on in the old way, and
perhaps plays no better now than he did 20 years ago.

Learning to play billiards is like learning to play the
violin or piano—that is, if it is to be done well. The pupil
must thoroughly master the rudiments of the game, and
then gradually progress according to his ability. The amateur
as a rule is too eager to learn all about screw backs
and all-round cannons, instead of thoroughly mastering
half, quarter, and three-quarter ball shots with correct
strength. He seems to forget that quite useful breaks can
be made with sequences of simple shots played correctly. A
player need not have a large repertoire of shots at his command
in order to make a good break. The correct playing;
of a few shots ought to enable a player to make, say, an
average of about 4 or 5.

If a professional were engaged in a club for a few evenings
a week to give instruction to members possessing a natural
aptitude for the game, the standard of play amongst the
average amateurs would be greatly increased. Professional
billiard players are occasionally engaged to give an exhibition
game at clubs. Why not engage a professional one
or two evenings a week, not to play an exhibition game,
but to give instruction to those who wish to improve their
game This is done in swimming, cricket, and gymnastic
clubs. Why not at billiards? The great thing in achieving
success in any game is starting in the right manner, as it
is after a time much more difficult to unlearn than to learn.

Professionals may be engaged to give instruction in some of
the West End clubs, but I do not know of any being so
engaged in the clubs of North and North-east London.

Large pockets to tables at hotels and clubs are against
the amateur’s play being so correct as it should be. A man
who is used to playing on an easy table is frequently all at
sea on a correct standard table. All pockets should, therefore,
be made to an official template whatever the make of
table. The wickets and balls at cricket are of the same
size and weight and the bats are of a certain width. Why
not uniform pockets at billiards? The conditions at billiards
must be made more uniform than at present, and the
restrictions between professional and amateur games broken
down. Then we shall see the great gulf which now exists
between the performances of these two classes of players
greatly reduced.

Fred. Lindrum, Junr., the champion billiard player of Australia,
who has returned last week from his visit to England,
says that he was not able to reach true form in England
owing to the climatic conditions. Even in the matches
which he won he did not exhibit his best form.

A hotel guest took kindly interest in a bright-faced page boy,
who had answered his calls very promptly.” What is
your name, my boy? “he inquired.” They call me ‘Billiard
Cue,'” replied the youth. “Billiard-cue! and why is
is that'” Because I work so much better with a good tip”


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