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Most unlikely pool shot


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I want to share the most unlikely 9-ball shot of my lifetime.

I and two close friends shoot cutthroat nine-ball on Monday nights. We have done this for more than twenty-five years. When asked if we play for money, we smile and say that we play for something much more important. We have great fun, and the competition rarely overshadows our friendship. I should say that cutthroat (3-way) 9-ball would never work at all for professional caliber players. The third player would rarely get a shot. We customarily make only a few balls each turn. So for us it works. Rarely will one of us break and run the table.

The play in question was a kick-combination-carom-combination shot that went the length of the table twice and ended with barely enough energy for the nine ball to drop. My opponent had broken without pocketing a ball. I could have called a "push" because I did not have a clear shot; the one ball was partially blocked by both the two and three balls. But something about the lay of the table caught my eye.

I show only four balls, but in the actual case five other balls provided the usual visual clutter and obstructions; the shot was not so clear as the graphic makes it seem. The only path to the object ball came by driving the cue ball hard into the opposite rail with a huge amount of left English. The one and two balls seemed fortuitously aligned to send the two ball back down the table toward the three, sitting on the spot; the nine then lay between it and the corner pocket. With luck, the two would carom off the three at just the right angle to strike the nine into the pocket. It was a long shot among long shots, but as I took a close look at the one and two balls, I concluded it just might work. After a final look, I announced the shot.

We play by a rule that the nine ball must always be called; and every rail, combination and carom, not just the pocket, must be precisely described. I assumed a completely unjustified air of confidence as I carefully traced the shot with my cue stick, as a maestro might use his baton to direct an orchestra through a difficult passage of music. My opponents obliged by rolling their eyes, and the stage was set. I stroked the cue as hard as I could, hoping the extreme left English would not cause a miscue. And it happened. The two ball came back up table as I hoped, and it was off-center from the three on just the right side. It took an eternity, but the angle stayed true as it drew closer. It struck the three spot on, and retained just enough speed to strike the nine into the center of the pocket.

Without comment, I sat down and quietly chalked my cue for the next rack. As these things go, and given the chaos guaranteed by the second law of thermodynamics, good fortune will never smile so sweetly again.


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