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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Normally, I wouldn't take the time to write a review, however, I owe a lot to Ray Martin and his book --- it dramatically changed my pool game and fostered my love for the game.
The other night I was playing eight-ball and was in a virtually impossible position to make a shot. Using a little imagination and three principles I learned a long time ago from the 99 Critical Shots, I was able to make a really slick shot, instead of playing a safety.
However, this is NOT a book of trick shots. It is a book of fundamental principles, many of which I doubt you can learn on your own (at least, I couldn't have). In fact, the book does an excellent job of emphasizing that pool is not about trick shots, but about controlling your position.
As a side note, about ten years ago I was playing straight pool in Elizabeth, NJ. I had discovered the 99 Critical Shots three or four years earlier. There was a guy who was watching me play pool for a half-hour, until his table was called. Then, he picked up his case and left. Spray-painted across the case was "Ray Martin".
Hilarious.
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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2002
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
If you are looking for a good book for beginners, this isn't it. This book is all about making a good pool player better. It assumes a basic knowledge of pool has already been established. If you're a beginner, check out Ewa Mataya Laurance's "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pool & Billiards." It's a great straight-forward book to get you started right. But if you're already a pretty good pool player and want to add some great shots to your game, I highly recommend "The 99 Critical Shots in Pool."
The book is not without it's drawbacks. This is a 220 page book. Of that, 50 pages are devoted to The Official Rules and Glossary of Terms. An additional 25 pages skim the basics of shooting form, etc. That leaves only 145 pages for the meat of the book, the 99 critical shots. Of the 99 shots, 22 are devoted to break shots for straight pool. If, like me, you play only 8-ball and 9-ball, then this book should be called "The 77 Critical Shots in Pool" because you'll never use the other 22. So, for me, this 220 page book has only 107 useful pages.
The format of the shots section is great. Each shot includes a diagram of the whole table layout, a diagram of the cue ball showing exactly where to strike it to impart the draw, follow or English, and a text description of the shot. As others have pointed out, the text refers to a black ball (the object ball) and gray balls (all other balls), yet they are indistinguishable in the diagrams; they both look black. This is an annoyance, but does not keep you from understanding the author's intentions. Between the text description and the lines indicating the ball paths, I was always able to determine which ball was the object ball.
If I still had my own pool table, I would have this book sitting right next to it. I'd study a single shot in this book and then practice it until I had mastered it. Then, when I'd mastered that shot, I'd proceed to the next shot and so forth. That would be the most effective way to use the book. Unfortunately, I have to go to a pool hall to practice. I don't know about you, but I don't really want to be seen reading a book about pool at the pool hall. So I have to study several shots and then practice them there from memory. Obviously, there's no substitute for practice. This book shows you WHAT to practice.

Having told you that I only found 107 pages (77 shots) useful, you might get the impression that this book's not worth buying. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of those 77 shots, probably at least half were shots that I had either never even considered or had never fully mastered. You only have to add a few new shots to your game to make this book well worth the price. Buy it!
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
I got this book as a rookie. I started practicing about 5 days a week and thought I should get a book. This was a good book for practicing a few shots. And the things that the author explained were true, but if you really want to improve your game, you should seriously consider "Byrne's New Standard Book of POOL and BILLIARDS". Now that's a book that deserves the title of "everything you need to know to learn and master the game"! A guy at the local pool hall recommended it to me. I ended up buying both books. I don't even use the 99 Critical Shots book anymore. I mean, it's still a good book, and if I had a table in the basement and just wanted to practice a few shots on some Saturday afternoon, I would totally refer to this book. Otherwise, Byrne's book has been my guide and has helped improve my game far more than these 99 Critical Shots.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
I just started playing pool and this book has been very helpful. The points the author makes are clear and useful. By studying this book pool becomes a much more familiar game because you recognize the shots in your games from shots in the book. Also, I've found that except for really advanced players, most other players don't know about a vast majority of the shots detailed in the book
I don't understand the reviewer who commented that the book contradicts physics. While the ball behavior may not be obvious to a pool novice, every shot I have tried from the book "works". The bottom line is that I bought the book, studied it and improved my game. What more do you want from a pool book?
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 1997
Format: Paperback
"Cool Cat" Martin teams up with master courseware author Rosser Reeves to bring every pool player below the masters level a beautfully written, organized, and illustrated book on pocket billiards. We learn about the table, about cuesticks and their care, about postures, stances, and strokes, all illustrated by photographs, some reworked to emphasize the point. Here we can study the rules for more pool games than you have heard of and review new terms in the glossary. The heart of the book, however, are the title's 99 critical shots. The first of these is the bugbear of every once-a-fortnight player who stakes a beer on her game--the cut shot. No help Martin says but just to set up the table with easy shots and keep making them until your body takes over from your mind and makes it happen right! The other 98 shots are fascinating excursions, each one illustrated by one or more diagrams, into the psychology of billiard balls and why they roll where they do. We learn about English and throw, nip shots, shots with frozen balls and how easy they are to make even in combination. Martin speaks in tongues: what are "Cheat the Pocket" "Semi-Masse' shots? For me, the dessert was having unlocked secrets even my Dad couldn't explain: the diamond system and how to use it to make bank shots. Practice the shots in an empty hall away from your usual haunts and I guarantee you'll need to swear off free beer on Saturday nights. Hustler
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
I just started with the game and was looking for a book that can be used as reference. I didn't even realize that there are a lot of books on the game. 99 Critical Shots definitely gave me the confidence to make those shots. It really makes my day when I see a situation that is discussed in the book and have a go at it. I usually go over the book from time to time and check what I missed or what I did wrong and look forward to correcting the shot the next time around.
Can't explain the feeling when you see the cue ball going to where you planned it to be.
Thanks Ray......
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
I would consider myself an intermediate level 9-ball player that consistently has 3 to 4 ball runs with the occasional run-out from the break. I attribute that to this book. Excellent explanations of english and position play that can be used in all games of billiards-- 7-ball, 8-ball, 9-ball, and straight pool including snooker and carom billiards.
Anytime I feel myself falling into a slump, I crack this book and review the shot fundamentals-- stance, pace, grip, english, and position play. It helps me get back on track to a consistent game.
The shots described in this book do come up every time in at least one form or another. It's a great book for any level billiard enthusiast and for any billiard game. I do agree with one reviewer; however, when he stated that the last 20 or so shots deal with the 'straight pool' game. Nevertheless, there is a good deal of information that will help you improve your game or get it back on track to run-out or crack the rack. :-)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
In addition to the 99 shots, this book also has general advice on the game that I found useful. An advanced player may not benefit from the advice on stance and cue maintenance, but I did. And the shots are clearly explained. It really opened my eyes to possibilities I'd never seen before. Some of the examples in the book seem impossible to control, but if you follow the directions, you'll be surprised how they work. As for the illustrations, yes stripes would have been a better choice than gray, but I never had trouble knowing which ball was the object ball. If you look close, you can see the differences, but even without that, the context and markings always made it clear. My game is improving and I've only had the book for a short time.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This is my third billiard book (one more to go for now) and this was by far the most informative. The illustrations and explanations were clear and understandable. I have been shooting about 60% of the 99 shots, but some i did not understand the principle. Now that i do, it opens up a whole new arena a possibilites. Some of the shots I had no idea they would pocket and best of all, they work on a real table, not just on paper. These are not trick shots but realworld situations. I realy like this book and I am sure I will refer back to it many times in the future. I am not usualy so generous in my reviews.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have always been pretty good at making difficult cut shots, but always remained average overall. I knew position play was the answer to improve, but where the cue ball would wind up after a shot was a complete mystery. Not after reading this wonderful guide. Where position was a mystery, this book has the answers. Now, instead of having to make difficult shots, I simply leave myself easy shots. Also, the book examines interplay among balls which has given me a foundation upon which I will continually grow.
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