Jim Rydell

       MY LIFE ON THE GREEN FELT

Although I was born in Greenfield, MA, I grew up in Lake Worth, Florida. My first contact with the world of POOL was in 1961. My friend, Bill Silvernail, introduced me to this fascinating game in his garage. It was on a very cheap table that I first learned about this game. When I say “cheap”, I mean CHEAP. It was a 4 x 8 table with a plywood bed and I’d swear it had 6-inch pockets. The garage wasn’t air-conditioned so as the humidity changed, the incredible drifts in the table also changed. We played on this table for about six-months and then my life changed forever. Bill took me to an actual POOL HALL. I’ll never forget my first impression as I entered the world I would live in for the rest of my life, nor will I ever forget my first shot on a regulation table.

The pool hall was JIM & IRENE’S; it was located at 1stAve.So. and “J” Street in Lake Worth, Florida. It was on the second floor and the stairs were worn from countless years and the hundreds upon hundreds of players that had climbed them before me. When we reached the top of the stairs, we turned right. In front of us was a single door, it was open and beckoned me forward. My heart raced as I entered the room. The room seemed dark as I stepped through the door, the only illumination was from the two tables that were being used and the small amount of daylight that was allowed to enter through the shaded windows. The light fixtures above the tables, spilled light onto the GREEN FELT; the rest of the room was murky. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim-light, I could make-out shadowy figures around the tables. This was a place for SERIOUS POOL, nothing outside the boundaries of the GREEN FELT was important enough to illuminate. The décor didn’t matter; it was the GAME that drew men here. There was NO jukebox, NO pinball machines, NO brightly-colored carpets, NO pictures on the walls; there was ONLY the tables and the men who shared a PASSION. Strangely enough, I felt RIGHT-AT-HOME. To this day, whenever I enter a pool hall, I get that same feeling. I never feel like a stranger or an outsider, I feel RIGHT-AT-HOME. JIM & IRENE’S had 10 pool tables, 3 snooker tables and 2 billiard tables, however at the time, I didn’t know the difference. Although this first impression was over-whelming, it’s what happened next that ignited the fire that has burned within me ever since.

My friend, Bill, handed me a cue-ball and said,”Take a few shots.” I picked a house stick from a wall rack; it was straighter than the sticks we’d been using at his house. I walked to the table and set-up a fairly simply half-table shot, about a 30-degree cut to the far corner pocket. The object ball was just above the side-pocket and the cue-ball was about two-feet from the object ball. There in the silence of an actual pool hall, the rest of the world faded away. My world was now limited by the rails of the table I was on. I entered a world that was 50-inches wide by 100-inches long and I was alone. The cue stick felt natural in my hands and the felt under my bridge hand seemed to touch me as much as I was touching it, I was ONE-WITH-THE-TABLE. The cue felt like silk sliding through my bridge. When everything felt RIGHT, I struck the cue ball. There was a whirring sound as the cue ball rolled across the felt, followed by the CLICK of the cue-ball hitting the object ball. I could hear the object ball as it rolled down the table and finally the gentle thud as it hit the bottom of the pocket. I WAS HOOKED!!!

In the 44 years since that day, I have never tired of playing and learning this most fascinating game. In the beginning, ALL my spare time and money was spent at JIM & IRENE’S. When I didn’t have any money, I’d sit and watch the old men play for hours-on-end. Over time I became a fixture there and they would answer my questions and show me things. It was there that I met “Clyde”. Clyde was a legendary player in the Palm Beach area, very seldom did anyone beat him. Clyde took me through the BASICS (stance, bridge, grip, alignment, etc.) He also taught me my first drills. After a year with Clyde, I was making enough money, so I could spend ALL my spare time, actually on the TABLE. That next summer I was at the pool hall every day from NOON to MID-NIGHT (OPENING to CLOSING).

An IMPORTANT point needs to be brought up here. The time period was 1961 and 1962. The average age of the men in the pool hall was around 55 and probably closer to 65. These men lived and played through the heyday of pool. The heyday of pool was during the 40’s. The 40’s saw the GREAT DEPRESSION and the DEPRESSION sent the greatest players in the country, out on the road trying to make a buck. Some of the MOST legendary players in pool worked their magic during that era. Some of these men I played with had seen the best, played with the best and learned from the best. Lucky me, I got to spend time with them and learn from them.

I shot about a year and a half at JIM & IRENE’S, before I found out there was another pool hall about three miles away. That pool hall was in the back of the CAREFREE THEATER and there was a lot more money to be made there. The CAREFREE was located in West Palm Beach, Florida. Thus my adventure began. In essence, I was a ROADMAN. I traveled around looking for a GAME and trying to make a buck. At that time I played mostly 8-ball, 9-ball and straight pool or 14:1. My next stop was DANNY’S NEWS STAND; it was the smallest actual pool hall I’ve ever played in. There were only five tables, but you wouldn’t believe the talent that played there. It was at DANNY’S that I learned to play ONE-POCKET. The skills and strategies I learned in that game have lasted a lifetime; no matter what game I end up playing, it’s the skills and strategies I learned in ONE-POCKET, that gives me the edge. For those that don’t know, West Palm Beach is the next town north of Lake Worth. My next move was to venture farther north.

Next stop was THE SHIP AHOY in Riveria Beach, FL. The SHIP AHOY wasn’t listed as a pool hall; it was a diner with pool tables for the customers. Because of that, it was allowed to stay open 24-hours a day. We would spend two and three days in a row there, without going home.

I spend the next few years traveling locally from pool hall to pool hall, looking for a game and trying to keep some money in my pocket. The next major change for me was when I turned 21. All of a sudden, the bar scene was opened to me. Here I found an unlimited source of players. Actually players is the wrong word, they were really small time gamblers. It was time to make a decision, did I want to work for a living or play pool. I chose to play pool, at least for a while. For the next nine years, I traveled around the area between pool halls and bar doing what I did best. It’s very seldom you get to LOVE your JOB, but without a doubt, I LOVED what I was doing. Playing pool for a living allowed me to travel. No matter where I went, I could find a game. Don’t get me wrong, I was never the BEST, but I knew how to pick my opponents and it was that ability that kept me in the money. Plus, on a local level, I can stay with just about anyone. I figured, if I can stay with the best in an area; then there’s a lot of people I can beat. I only need to stay away from the best and I can walk away a winner. It’s not a matter of HUSTLING; it’s about picking your game. However, in some places I was THE BEST.

During the sixties and early seventies, the Palm Beach area was a stopping point for some of the BEST money-players in the country. I was lucky enough to not only be there, but to actually meet these players and learn from them. I didn’t hoard that knowledge; instead, I gave it freely to anyone that would listen. I’m proud to say, that I’ve been able to teach something to every player I’ve had a chance to work with.

During my 50+ years of playing pool, I have always been driven to learn more. It seems that the more you learn about this game, the more you want to know. Fortunately, there seems to be NO end to the amount of knowledge to be learned. I don’t think that anyone will ever learn everything about this game, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying.

Time moves on and I’ve settled down. I work a 40-hour a week job, but I still play pool. It’s about the PASSION; either you have it or you don’t. It’s not something that can be learned or acquired, it’s either there from the beginning or it’s not. For the last fifteen or so years, I’ve been playing in AMATURE LEAGUES, the money’s not much, but with it’s handicapping, the competition will force you to play your best. If you LOVE to play pool, playing your BEST is what it’s all about.

Over the years I’ve collected and studied around three dozen books on HOW TO PLAY POOL. I also have dozens of videos. Although they are loaded with information, none of them actually teach you how to win. It’s because of that I wrote this MANUAL. I guarantee, if you use the information in this manual; you’ll play BETTER pool than you thought you could.

 

TAKE DEAD AIM
STROKE SMOOTH
& STAY DOWN

Jim Rydell

P.S.

In 2011 I retired after working 30 years as a factory supervisor for Daedalon Corp. Now all my spare time is devoted to learning and studying this incredible game. I decided to commit what I’ve learned to video. I started by doing a video version of my manual, then added things that weren’t covered plus things I’ve learned since. I truly believe this video is the OWNER’S MANUAL for the COMPLETE POOL PLAYER.