Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs), mostly from the AZB discussion forum
physics of pool
What books are available concerning the physics of pool?
See pool and billiards physics resources. It lists and provides links to many general interest and technical articles and books dealing with the physics and understanding of pool principles.
mental side of the game
What are some good books dealing with the mental side or mental game of pool?
"The Pleasures of Small Motions" by Bob Fancher
"The Inner Game of Tennis" by W. Timothy Gallwey, Zach Kleiman, and Pete Carroll
"Mental Toughness Training for Sports: Achieving Athletic Excellence" by James Loehr
" The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How." by Daniel Coyle
Also, Volume II of Tom Ross' Complete Instructional Works CD-ROM series dealing with the mental aspects of pool is excellent.
Also, there are many useful online resources dealing with this mental side or mental game of pool, including Joe Waldron's excellent collection of articles on this topic.
What are the best pool instructional books available?
from PoolMaster (on Amazon.com):
I would add the following to this list:
- "Play Great Pool" by Mark Wilson
best coverage of mechanics and fundamentals, also with good coverage of mental aspects of the game
- "Pool & Billiards for Dummies" by N. Leider
excellent all-around introductory book
- "PKF" by Zero-X Billiards (Tor Lowry)
excellent all-around book in nice sprial-bound format
- "The Great Break Shot" by Charley Bond
excellent coverage of break technique and strategy (with good info from Joe Tucker)
- "The Eight Ball Bible" by R. Givens
best book dealing with 8-ball strategy, especially bar-box 8-ball
- "Banking with the Beard" by Freddy Bentivegna
best book dealing with kick and bank shot aiming systems
reviews of Dr. Dave's book
Information dealing with Dr. Dave's book can be found here: The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards
Reviews for Dr. Dave's DVDs can be found here: http://billiards.colostate.edu/threads/videos.html#reviews
from George Fels' Billiards Digest May '08 article:
[The article starts with a review of Freddy "The Beard" Bentivegna's stuff.]
The other instructional opus highly deserving of "props" this month is "The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards," by BD's own David "Dr. Dave" Alciatore, a mechanical engineering professor. Dr. Dave is one of our most popular instructional columnists and one of the leading posters on the "Cue Chalk Board" forum on BD's Web site, no doubt due to his incredible generosity when it comes to sharing his knowledge. (How many cue-game publications do you suppose there are whose writing staffs include a physicist, a lawyer, and two graduate engineers?) Except for their apparent mutual Italian heritage and love of pool, he has nothing in common with Bentivegna. The latter's instruction comes from decades of high-stakes play, instincts, observations, and the teachings of older players. Alciatore's work, by contrast, largely depends on good old-fashioned science. The nuances of spin, cling, squirt, swerve, and "squerve" (the dreaded combination of squirt and swerve) have never been analyzed and explained as masterfully.
Because my father hounded me about taking physics all the way through high school, I avoided the subject as though it were snake venom, and am thus probably not the ideal subject for teaching on this plane. Dr. Dave writes well on pool's basics, but it's not until Chapter 4, "Spin and English," that his instruction really begins to sing. And he's equally masterful at integrating his scientific knowledge with on-the-table playing instruction. "Illustrated Principles" introduces over 80 playing principles, plus more than 250 illustrations and photographs. There's also a companion CD, with the same title, containing over 150 video clips and 20 technical proofs of his teachings.
I've lost track of all the stories I've heard of players who got angry with other players for sharing the game's secrets. The late Charlie Cacciapaglia of Rockford, Ill., one-time mentor to Hall-of-Famer Dallas West, was furious with his charge for becoming a successful pool teacher. And the immortal Willie Mosconi, who spent his entire adolescence in the Great Depression and needed the suckers to stay ignorant so he could help keep his family afloat, was notoriously closed-mouthed about dispensing advice; indeed, "always play with better players" and "practice the circle drill" are his only known instructions after all those years in the limelight. Those were two Italians who clearly didn't want to share the joy. Be glad that today we have two who do.
If you think the best pool players are leather-jacketed badasses who quit school at 12 to shark sailors out of their paychecks, think again. Pool involves complex physical principles that aren't taught until long after the delinquents have departed the academy. "Dr. Dave," both a professor of mechanical engineering and a Billiards Digest columnist, has written a textbook-style how-to that focuses on the game's fundamental principles. It's loaded with excellent color diagrams, decent photographs, and useful sidebars. He's a Web geek, too--there are dozens of cross-references to his site, where free videos demonstrate the lessons on the page. (The site even offers technical proofs!) There's so much information packed in here that learners who prefer a prosy approach may be put off. It's written clearly, though, and for the nuts-and-bolts crowd--make that the graphing-calculator and circuit-board set--it's hard to imagine a better primer. Reminiscent of Jack Koehler's excellent The Science of Pocket Billiards (1989). Pool is for nerds--and that's cool.
See also: Amazon.com customer reviews.
from David "Blackjack" Sapolis:
Great book with a lot of hard work and research behind it. It is a must have for your collection.
Dr. Dave's Book is THE BEST POOL BOOK I have ever read. It is one of the few that combined with Dr. Dave's website can claim the right to say it is the RIGHT way to view many of the concepts in pool physics. I don't know if Dr. Dave was the 1st to recognize the 30 degree rule but his book was the 1st time I had ever heard it and like Billy Bob I had to try it a few times to really understand it but once I did get it through my thick head ....WOW!...what a difference it has made. I too recommend that book and the web site to others when I see them actively pursuing the improvement that we all strive for.
I remember telling Dr. Dave directly that his book put an end to a lot of searching by me for the CORRECT way to shoot many of the shots in pool. I still only get it right sometimes but thank to Dr. Dave I know when I have done it wrong. I can not say enough good things about the information Dr. Dave has made available to the world of pool and billiards players and when people disagree with his points he has always displayed the patience of a saint while respecting the views and opinions of others...regardless of how ridiculous some of those views have been at times.
Keep up the good work Dr. Dave, you are an inspiration to us all.....well most of us. There are still a few knuckleheads out there like those guys that laughed at Columbus when he sailed off into the sunset.
David (Dr Dave) G. Alciatore’s book The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards explains what happens on the pool table from a scientific or engineering perspective. By explaining the underlying forces, the cause and effect of the where balls go and why, Dr Dave will enable you to understand pool at a fundamental level.
Hopefully that didn’t scare you off, because this book is written for ordinary people in plain and clear language. I wish there were such lucid explanations for everything else in the world.
The book is jam packed with excellent photos, clear and useful illustrations and enumerated principles in the form of bullet lists. These do a fine job of supporting the text and enhancing understanding.
Starting out, the coverage of fundamentals is easy to grasp and covers the topic well. It’s difficult to make this stuff interesting but Dave’s done what he could.
Basic shot making comes in for a detailed treatment. There are 45 pages covering everything you need to learn how to aim and successfully make pool shots. Using his website at Colorado State as an additional resource, Dr Dave has included links to view videos of every point he discusses. Where appropriate he even has ultra-slow motion video of things that happen so fast you can’t ordinarily see them. Though you don’t have to buy the book to see these videos on-line, the book provides the context to get the most out of them. I encourage you to buy this book and support Dr Dave’s gifts to the pool community.
Warranting special mention here as an example of the way this book explains fundamental principles, the 90° rule (tangent rule) comes in for a lot of explanation. How it can easily be used to help you understand exactly what draw and follow do to the resulting path of the cue ball. It can turn on the lights to let you see the pool world in a totally new and extremely useful light. His addition of the 30° rule to the basic set of principles has helped many to play much better pool.
Spin and english come in for the treatment next. With clarity and precision, Dr Dave elucidates the underlying and seemingly mysterious principles that add the next level of complexity to the game. Remember when you were in school and every year you’d learn that what you learned last year was only mostly correct, and needed a little additional info to make it correct. Well, this chapter is what does that to the basics of pool. This is critical information, and without really getting it parts of the game will always be a mystery. The explanations here are as good as they get. Study this chapter, because after a good stroke knowledge of these subtleties is the most valuable thing you can do to improve your pool game.
The rest of the book is dedicated to using the fundamentals to explain how to play pool well. There’s coverage of how to get position, how to make banks and kicks, advanced techniques, etc.
This book is highly recommended and is one of my favorites.
from av84fun (Jim):
I have recently finished my long overdue reading of Dr. Dave Alciatore's book, The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards. Bottom line, it is a must have book.
I have a large library of pool instructional texts and would rank this book in the top echelon of the lot. There may be another text that is accompanied via DVD or on-line with illustrative video clips, including super slo mo video of many salient points but I am not aware of one.
Pictures are, in many cases, worth a thousand words and there are LOTS of pictures (and diagrams) in the book which, when accompanied by the archive of other videos and texts renders Dave's work to be of exceptional value. He, quite correctly, formats the book in a "building block" and very clearly describes all of the most essential ingredients required to climb the ladder of pool knowledge.
Since most rungs on the ladder are given space, this is not a work devoted entirely to advanced players which is not a criticism. Even some advanced players couldn't explain why they do certain rather fundamental things...and many wouldn't care to but we cannot impose upon the author, knowledge of what his readers know and do not know. Clearly, even quite advanced players will learn enough from this book to justify its price. On the other end of the spectrum, I think it would be an excellent idea for professional instructors to use the book as a "lesson plan" model.
Again, accompanied as the text is with excellent and in some cases, unique video, the use of the book/video entity can hardly help but accelerate the student's learning curve. One objective standard I use to rate such books is the number of Post-it-Notes stuck between their pages. I have LOTS of them in Dave's book....which, by the way...is a technique I would recommend to all. I review my noted pages in almost all my instructional texts annually or very nearly so and always have. And there has been not one single such pass in which I have not been reminded of something important. (Possibly because my memory sucks but that is another story.)
Finally, while Dave is a self-admitted physics geek (in the loving sense of that word) he never talks down or tries to dazzle his readers with technical jargon. There are a number of "technical proofs" for those who are interested in them but the basic text is quite conversational.
Well done Dr. Dave.
from caedos (Carl):
This may be hands down the best physical presentation of a pool text I've ever seen. By that I mean this: paper weight and gloss, sectioning, cross-referencing, supporting online media, graphics, and a separation of text in pieces directed to different reader needs (not unlike the 'For Dummies' where a section is for a 'rule of thumb' or 'important!' note).
from JB Cases:
I have read it and watched the DVDs. It's a lot of good solid information for the money.
One thing I like about it better than most other basic instruction books is that it's backed up by free video examples that compliment the book. So you can always go to the website and look up the videos.
... it's pretty much a must have on any pool enthusiast's shelf.
Dave's book is easy to understand and the style suites me very well. I like to know how things work and his book does a good job of explaining what is going on to make a shot work. One thing I was surprised at was the aesthetic quality of the book. Dave's book looks and feels better than most books. The paper quality is superb and the illustrations are very clear.
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