Robert Byrne Interview

Author of one of the best selling pool books in the world since 1978, Robert Byrne is a legendary authority figure on pool. He has written some of the best pool books in the world. If you haven't seen our Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards by Robert Byrne page make sure you check it out!

We are thankful that Robert Byrne was able to take some time to answer our questions. Enjoy...

21ace
1. You were inducted into the Billiard Congress of America's Hall of Fame in 2001, what were some of the emotions that ran through your mind when that impressive accomplishment took place?

Robert Byrne
Getting inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame was one of the highlights of my life. As a professional writer, I work in solitude and don't get much face-to-face feedback. That's why standing on the dais at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas before an applauding crowd while I donned the green jacket was such a thrill; I feel good whenever I think about it. It was a great honor to be inducted along with Belgium's Raymond Ceulemans, the greatest billiard player of all time, who has won 130 national, international, and world titles. I was a little embarrassed to be sharing the platform with him because he deserved to have spotlight to himself.

21ace
2. Having an engineering background allows you to consciously understand the importance of physics with each shot. Do you think that great players without a background in physics are able to incorporate these same ideas subconsciously because of the repetitions in practice?

Robert Byrne
No great player has ever had a background in physics. In fact, great players sometimes have theories and explanations for certain shots that fly in the face of physics. They do what they do thanks to good eyesight, hand-eye-coordination, nerves, memory and thousands of repetitions. To become great you must at some point in the learning process be obsessed with the game, thinking about as you fall asleep and when you wake up. A ferocious desire to avoid losing is another essential. An understanding of the physics that underlie the game helps, but not a great deal in practical play.

21ace
3. On page 43 of Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards, the paralyzed intermediary has 3 balls against the rail near the corner. Why is the cue ball used as the middle of the 3 rail balls? I've done this shot without the cue ball as one of the 3 rail balls and it seems to not make much of a difference for me.

Robert Byrne
The "Paralyzed Intermediary" is set up as it is to leave only the cueball on the table at the end. There is no other reason.

21ace
4. One does jump shots by elevating the butt of the cue. I think one of the reasons I have trouble with jump shots is because I'm scared of coming down too far and having the cue stick damage the felt of the table. How would you recommend someone do jump shots without worrying about hurting the table?

Robert Byrne
On jump shots, following through to the cloth risks a rip. But the cue slows down so quickly when hitting a cueball almost full that the tip rarely reaches the cloth. The riskiest jump shot is when you try to put backspin on the cueball. The reason jump cues are lighter than regular cues is that they are less likely to follow through to the cloth; and also because on shots where the cue is steeply elevated, light cues are more likely to bounce back and not interfere with the rising cueball. It's impossible to give much useful advice in print because players differ, cloth and slates differ, and so do the shots.

21ace
5. You have many products out on Amazon including the following: Byrne's Complete Book of Pool Shots Byrne's New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards Byrne's Advanced Technique in Pool and Billiards Byrne's Book of Great Pool Stories Byrne's Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards I really enjoy your Treasury of Trick Shots book although I can't do some of the shots in it. Which one of your books would you recommend I get next?

Robert Byrne
I have seven books on the game. Your list omitted Byrne's Wonderful World of Pool and Billiards and McGoorty, A Poolroom Hustler. If you are mainly interested in trick shots and you already have my book on the subject, the next book you should get is Mike Massey's trick shot book, which came out in 2003. If improving your all-around game is a goal, Byrne's New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards is hard to beat. It's been either the no.1 or no. 2 best-selling book on the game since 1978.

21ace - fattyonadiet
6. What is the difference between practicing for trick shots, and practicing for a normal game of pool?

Robert Byrne
If you are practicing for a trick shot show, you practice only the special shots in the show, some of which require odd strokes or great power that wouldn't be used in a game.

21ace - fattyonadiet
7. Is there much of a career in just performing trick shots? or is all the money solely in winning tournaments.

Robert Byrne
Only a small handful of players make a decent living giving trick shot shows. To do it, you have to be good, you have to be entertaining, and you have to spend years building a reputation. You also have to be able to market yourself and sell yourself. Stefano Pellinga of Italy told me he spends half his time on the phone calling around the world trying to line up gigs. Many top players can make all the trick shots, but they don't know how to put together a program or entertain an audience.

21ace - fattyonadiet
8. What is the Holy Grail of trick shots? the trick professionals dream about performing?

Robert Byrne
Some shots require dozens of attempts to make, and it would be nice to make one in a show, but it is dumb to test an audience's patience to that extent. On very difficult shots, coming close is good enough, in my opinion...redirecting the cueball with the side of the cue when you see it is going to miss often gets a bigger reaction from the onlookers than making the shot cleanly. Three attempts to make a tough shot is about the limit.

21ace - Chumpchange0001
9. Is there any way the game of pool has affected you in a negative way?

Robert Byrne
The game has not affected me in any negative way that I can think of.

21ace - Chumpchange0001
10. What do audiences appreciate the most - a trick's difficulty, creativity, or the effect it creates?

Robert Byrne
The key to a good trick shot show depends more on the personality of the performer than the technical aspects or the difficulty of the shots. It's show business, so things like dress, patter, and engaging the audience are essential. Shots that require a lot of time to set up are boring. What excites the audience most are masses...and power follow and draw shots that make the cueball curve or hug the rail. I think cluster shots that almost anybody can make if they are set up right and which simply feature balls flying into pockets are only mildly interesting. Trick shots on a pocketless billiard table are the best if the player is world class because the table is bigger, the cloth is better, and there aren't any pockets to get in the way of the cueball. Get the first Semih Sayginer trick shot exhibition from Accu-Stats and you'll see why I feel that way.

21ace - Chumpchange0001
11. Is it hard to write a trick shot book while keeping in mind that pool tables vary in length?

Robert Byrne
To write a salable trick shot book you have to have a tremendous amount of knowledge and you have to be a good writer (or have a writer to help you). That tables differ in size and quality is the least of your problems.

21ace - Chumpchange0001
12. You say that belief in "bad luck" should be abandoned and focus should be put on the physics behind the game - do you typically see these mislead frames of minds from younger players?

Robert Byrne
Did I say somewhere that young players should focus on the physics of the game? I don't think so. Young players need to work on improving their technique, they need disciplined practice, and they need competition. The role that friction plays in the game is interesting to know and occasionally helpful, but it is not as important as concentrated practice.

21ace
13. Favorite pool hall? favorite restaurant, favorite song, anything else you want to share with us?

Robert Byrne
My favorite game is three-cushion, my favorite pool game is straight pool. My main hobbies are sleight-of-hand magic and chess. In music, I stick almost entirely to the classical repertoire, especially Beethoven. In my writing career, I have several constituencies; some know me as a compiler of collections of humorous quotations (like The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, in most stores now), some know me as a writer of technological disaster novels, several of which were chosen by Reader's Digest Condensed Books and one of which was made into a movie so bad I won't mention its name, though you can find it on my website at www.byrne.org, some know me only as a writer of books and articles on pool and billiards, and some know me only as the author a monthly newspaper column. I've written 23 books, seven of which are on cue games. The best seller among all of them is Byrne's New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards, though Byrne's Complete Book of Pool Shots is catching up.

21ace can't thank Robert enough for answering our questions! I already know how good his books are because I own one. Hopefully the rest of you out there can pick up a copy of Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards or another one of his outstanding pool books.