Old Dogs and New Tricks

Posted by : Tom Simpson

ASK THE MASTER: "I’m pretty new to the game (only been playing a year and a half) and also got a fairly late start at the age of 50.  I’m working hard both on and off the table, and although I’ve made measurable improvement, I’ve really got to wonder just how much further it is possible for me to go.
For what its worth, I’m just barely breaking into C- territory using Dr. Dave's ranking system.
And I’ve been stuck there for awhile now. So I’ve got to ask, does ANYONE who starts this game at a late age, go on to become a strong player?"

Depending upon what you mean by "strong player," the answer could be different. If you mean, start at 50 and become a pro player, mostly likely no. I've never heard of anyone doing that. The general consensus about becoming a pro is you have to hit at least a million balls. That takes a lot of time, effort, and passion, and as such is mostly taken on by young guys with lots of time and little responsibility in life.

On the other hand, if by "strong player," you mean stronger, better, smarter player, most definitely YES. At 63, my game is still getting better. Many of my students are in their 60's, and they too are playing the best of their lives. You never run out of things to learn or improve.

I also feel you are under-valuing your gains. In a mere year and a half, you rose from zero to C- on a pretty tough scale. C- is better than you think it is. Pool is the most precise game on the planet. Watching pros and advanced players, it looks much much easier than it actually is. Typically, by the time you reach that C- level, you're a decent ball pocketer, and you're beginning to get a sense of position play. In my experience, this is where the majority of players get stuck. To push beyond this level takes better knowledge, better skills, better focus, better will.

I'm biased on this, but I say it's time to consider pool school. Now that you have a base of pool experience, it's time to develop solid fundamentals and fill the gaps in your understanding of ball behavior and pool strategy. Our job is to identify what's holding you back, get you over that hump, and shave many years off your learning curve.

So, yes, you really can become a stronger player. You can get a long way on your own, but when you hit the wall and aren't improving any longer, it may be smart to seek a little help from those of us who teach this game for a living.

For information about National Billiard Academy, send me an email at I'll also tell you what I feel are some of the best training products for players.