IS THERE a finer gift to be given to a promising pool student than "A Pool Lesson With Jerry Briesath"? I think not, and the quotation marks are in place because that's the title of the master teacher's latest set of three DVDs. The set goes from fundamentals to advanced techniques, covering over 60 topics.
Jerry is no longer active as a player; for this effort, he's appointed BD columnist Mark Wilson as demonstrator, and he could hardly do better. Wilson and Jeanette Lee are clearly Briesath's most famous students, but he's taught thousands and has headed every top-10 list of America's best pool instructors ever compiled. Not only is he one of the best pool teachers in history, but nobody has ever been more successful as an instructor in communicating just how much fun pool is to play when you do things right. When Jerry Briesath is in teaching mode, the grin seldom leaves his face and the enthusiasm never leaves his body.
Also up this month are teaching efforts from two of the biggest names in their respective forms of pool, straight pool's Hall of Famer Ray Martin and bank-pool master John Brumback, widely considered to be the best bank-pool player in the world today. Martin's "Pool Secrets," a two-DVD set spanning just over two hours of instruction, does not isolate his preferred 14.1, and is in fact better suited to beginners and early intermediates. It covers fundamentals, 10 types of shots and seven types of safety, breaking, banking, kicking and practice drills, plus some special features. Ray does sport a nice relaxed presentation style, and watching his set is not at all unlike taking a lesson from him in person.
Isn't it refreshing to come across a qualified instructor whose basic premise is, "This is not rocket science; it's shooting balls into holes with a stick"? John Brumback's DVD "Bank Pool - Secrets of a World Champion" takes that practical approach. John demonstrates one-, two- and three-rail bank shots with the aid of four cameras to better display the correct angles. And some shots have been slo-moed, as an added visual reference. It's as least as good as the teaching efforts from my buddy Freddy Bentivegna; along with his "Banking With The Beard" and "Banks That Shouldn't Go But Do," this is quite easily one of the best bank-pool video recordings ever made.
A charming surprise indeed is "The Barefoot Cue Ball," by Paul "Doc" Rutter, a former billiard-supplies dealer in Minnesota's Twin Cities and one of the nicer guys in the business. Doc has miraculously come up with a new way to teach the basics and introduction to intermediate play: from the point-of-view of the cue ball. Pocketing balls, practice drills, banks, kiss shots, pattern play, they're all in here, all oriented to Whitey. And why not? Just about any intermediate-plus player understands that's where the whole game is, in the only ball over which you have even partial control.
Finally, there has been a spate of self-published, first-person accounts of players' hustling days. Included in the field are Robert "Cotton" LeBlanc's "Confessions of a Pool Hustler" and Calvin Maxwell Jr.'s "American Poolplayer." The tome I enjoyed most, however, was Alf Taylor's "The Other Side of the Road: A Pool Hustler's Tale." Mr. Taylor may not be the most accomplished player in the group; indeed, his reputation seems to reside solely in his native Southwest. But he is the best writer, an erudite man with a skilled voice and dry sense of humor. The highlights of his book are his touching tribute to his friend Eddie Taylor (no relation), and a hilarious adventure with the legendary Utley "U. J." Puckett. There may be a vignette or two too many that come out to the same "I got out with the cash and avoided the violence" conclusion, but you're going to enjoy this.
Since 1978, Billiards Digest magazine has been the pool world’s best source for news, tournament coverage, player profiles, bold editorials, and advice on how to play pool. Our instructors include superstars Nick Varner and Jeanette Lee. Every issue features the pool accessories and equipment you love — pool cues, pool tables, instruction aids and more. Columnists Mike Shamos and R.A. Dyer examine legends like Willie Mosconi and Minnesota Fats, and dig deep into the histories of pool games like 8-ball, 9-ball and straight pool.