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.....When I was learning how to play pool there were no books, no videos, no instructors and no leagues to play in. The best way to learn was to watch. I was privileged to see some of the greatest and some of the not so great. My purpose for publishing my pointers insrtuctional column is not only to inpart pool knowledge to my viewers but to share with the public what these great players from the 1980s and 1990s looked like. Through my trusty Canon, for a moment in time they are immortalized. Some are still here and some are gone and I still remember the joy of watching them play.

When two heads are better than one

…..RUBY ALABAMA faced a difficult dilemma during a straight pool tournament at the Billiard Club in New York City in which she needed just five balls to close out her match. (Read more about Ruby Alabama on my Billie-isms page.) Her opponent had played safe, leaving the cue ball and an object ball behind a full rack of balls. Ruby had to either make a difficult shot or play a difficult safety. Both of these options were complicated because Alabama had to shoot over the entire stack to reach the cue ball. Initially, she attempted to stretch over the balls with just an over-the-ball hand bridge. (Photo A). But then she realized she would have to execute either move with the mechanical bridge.

…..The dreaded mechanical bridge! My students invariably moan whenever I broach the topic. Over the years, I've been surprised at how few pros use the "rake" correctly. The truth is if you learn to use the mechanical bridge properly - and to its fullest - you'll learn to love it.

…..Few players realize the bridge's full potential. Using one bridge to shoot over an object ball, and two "interlocking" bridge heads to reach over two or three balls, are the more conventional methods. But what do you do when you need to shoot over five or six (or more!) balls?

…..In this situation, (Photo B) Ruby tried to place one bridge on top of the other without the use of two Russo interlocking bridges. She held the two bridge handles securely with her left hand. (Photo C) A good choice in other circumstances, the Russo Bridge is a great idea for stabilizing the mechanical bridge while elevating the cue stick to greater than normal heights. The Russo Bridge has a billiard bridge head fix mounted to a stick and includes an interlocking tab and notch assembly which can conveniently interlink with the head of another Russo bridge. The two joined bridges are then capable of supporting a cue stick at selectively variable heights which can be greater than the height of any single bridge. Pictured on the left, Nick Varner uses two Russo bridges to shoot over one ball that is out of his normal reach. In this case, he successfully shoots the 9 ball in the upper corner pocket to continue his run.

…..However, Ruby was in an unusual position. She eyed the shot and lined up the notch of the bridge head with the center of the cue ball. (Photo D) Then she tried to shoot over the stack and realized that not only was the shot tricky, but she had low visibility. (Photo E)

The two bridge head method was not working for Ruby as she was still reaching too far to feel confident of her shot.

.....And then she remembered a lesson from my "1001 Uses For The Mechanical Bridge" class which she had taken before becoming a tournament player.


…..What Ruby opted for was the "crane" technique, which allows the shooter a longer reach, more height and better sighting on the cueball and object ball. She simply placed one bridge on the table in front of the object balls. Then she placed the shaft of the second bridge on the head of the first bridge (as you would your cue on a normal shot), and slid the second bridge head out above the cluster of balls. (Photo F)


.…..Originally, Alabama had the bottom bridge about 8” from the rack. (Photo G)
She could see that she was barely getting over all the balls. By adjusting the bottom bridge to 4” (albeit moving closer) she was able to get even more height and a better cueing position. (Photo H)


.....The bottom mechanical bridge handle was resting on the table while Ruby held onto the second handle with her bridge hand. (Photo I)
Finally, she glided the shaft of her cue well in front of the second bridge head and took aim at the cue ball.

             Through the use of the "crane" or “suspension” technique (being a New Yorker, I call it the Verrazano Bridge), Ruby pocketed the otherwise unreachable shot, broke open the stack, and ran the five balls needed to win the game.
….........Knowing all the options available with the mechanical bridge will help lift you through some tough situations.

.....Pool Pointer Archives

.....1. Closed Half-Bridge
.....2. Look Before You Leap
.....3. Mechanically Inclined
.....4. Keep a Level Cue
.....5. Double or Nothing


.....Tune in for more Pointer articles coming your way each month.