The story you are about to read reflects the dedication and drive of a self-made billiard professional by the name of Joe Tucker. He has a fascinating account of the events that led up to him becoming a billiard professional and renowned billiard instructor. He has written several books, produced DVD’s and has two web sites; however, he is most famous for his knowledge revealed in his books and DVD’s called Racking Secrets. I hope you enjoy his story based on our interview.
“I said NO!” “You are not allowed in the club to amuse yourself on the billiard table!” Joe Tucker’s dad, who was a member of the club, proclaimed in a stern voice. That scolding made a young boy determined to amuse himself on a billiard table. That was Joe Tucker’s first hint that playing pool was going to be a big part of his future.
Growing up in the 70’s, Joe didn’t play much pool - his time was occupied with the usual football, baseball and friends. One friend had a “bumper” pool table and later an actual pool table turned up in another friend’s house and he played whenever he was invited. He was always intrigued with the game.
Around the age of 17, just before going into the Army, in Fall River, MA, he finally walked into his first real pool hall. You know the kind of establishment…you walk in the door and the first thing that hits you is a cloud of cigarette smoke and the loud crack of a rack of balls being broken and pocketed. The kind of room where you can barely see the players through the haze until your eyes adjust and you blend in with the overall atmosphere.
You notice a sign above an entryway to the back that says “Poker.” Ah, yes, poker and pool; what a great combination, guaranteed to provide any young man a grand time for the evening.
In the 70’s there was nothing resembling advanced technology. A half-used pencil that was sharpened by a pocketknife and a rumpled-up pad of paper was all that was used to tally up your bill. “Andy” the owner of the room made a lot of money with that little pad and pencil.
The well-known characters of the time who frequented this pool room were; Duke, Billy-the-King, Nicky Fagiola, Tommy Bramwell and John Mendes; all hustlers and gamblers. They hung out there almost every day waiting for their next unsuspecting victim to walk in the door. I can just imagine the twinkle in a young man’s eyes, and the yearning to become as legendary as these players!
In the Army at Fort Benning Georgia, during the day, Joe practiced with a friend who had a “Real” cue – then, off they went downtown Columbus, Georgia to the bars…$5 on the 9 and $5 on the 6 after the 9 ball was pocketed.
Joe remembers a time when he talked his pool “hero” army friend into losing all of their money to a player who showed up at a Saturday afternoon $10 tournament. Little did he know that the player was “Little David” who ended up in Joe’s very first AccuStats video just 3 years later (David Howard vs. Allen Hopkins). Joe exclaimed “Hey, that’s the guy, the guy from Columbus GA. No wonder they lost all of their money! They were gambling with the big boys!
After the Army, Joe returned to Massachusetts, started working during the day and going to college at night. He read up on playing poker while going to house games and Vegas nights. Back then it was easy to make an easy buck doing this… there were very few “smart” poker players. That doesn’t apply in today’s poker world.
One weekend he and his friend went to a pool room in New Bedford, MA called Country Club Billiards to play a little pool. On his way out the door, there happened to be an open pool tournament with some of the best players in the Northeast. Joe was amazed at their skill. They were able to run out several 9-ball racks in a row, controlling their cue ball perfectly. After watching them, he was convinced that his knowledge about playing pool was nowhere near the advanced player he thought he was.
The owner of that pool hall, Mike Xiarhos, a top NE player himself, started giving Joe lessons. Joe bought his first personal cue; then, a used table from Mike.
Mike’s most valuable contribution to Joe’s success was his collection of early AccuStat videos. Most of them were without commentary.
Watching videos of the great players of the era, Billy Incardona, Grady Matthews, Buddy Hall, Nick Varner and many more were even more valuable when they added their commentary. It makes much more of an impact when you’re given the thought process behind the shots, what shot a player was going to shoot, why they were shooting it, how they were shooting it and what they were worrying about while shooting it. The dedicated use of AccuStats videos gave Joe a solid foundation for his game and was instrumental in making him a top-notch instructor.
Joe is probably most famous for his Book/DVDs Racking Secrets 1 & II. While he didn’t pick up this knowledge via AccuStat videos, they inspired him to produce courses using his own training techniques.
With the break being such a big, and often deciding, factor in most matches he did hear a lot of comments, questions and, as he says, “Crazy theories,” as to why one player would make the wing ball and another wouldn’t. Nothing he heard made sense to him and from there he became determined to get the answers. What Joe found was almost like opening Pandora’s Box.
After years of studying thousands of racks over and over Joe submitted a seven-page article to a billiard magazine in New England explaining all of his findings. The magazine was more than impressed and went back to Joe asking if he was sure he wanted to give all of this information up for free and maybe he should consider writing a book on the topic? Joe’s main objective at the time was to show the pool world how important and broken the diamond shaped 9 Ball rack was, and to heavily suggest we move on to 10 Ball where the “rack” wouldn’t be such a deciding factor in our matches.
Joe started getting introduced at Pro events as the guy that wanted to get rid of 9 Ball. While, at the same time, he found himself giving “rack reading” lessons to some of the best players in the world and many of his idols who were all scratching their heads with this new found information. Twenty years later, and we’re playing 10 times more 10 Ball and 9 Ball racking rules have improved; so, mission somewhat accomplished.
From 1988 to 1991 Joe worked as a driver for RPS (similar to UPS) and started his training as a pool player. He worked the 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift and would practice every other minute he had available. Even during his shift, he would visualize certain shots and even learned self-hypnosis to give him the mental edge to be a great player.
When he wasn’t on the job, he would practice or play a tournament. Then there were late-night matches with better players. Sometimes he would play all night, drive to work, park in front of the gate and go to sleep so he’d be at work when he woke up. No time wasted!
In 1991 Joe won the first of his 8 Rhode Island State Championships and was playing very well. In 1992/93 he quit his “good job” to go “on the road.” He admits that decision was both good and bad. Bad because the guy he went with was not a seasoned road agent. They travelled blindly from place-to-place trying to cover expenses. There was a lot of stalling and cheap hustling. He admits this was not fun, or the reason why he got into pool; however, at the time, the common advice was to go on the road to be a stronger player. Get “seasoned” like a piece of steak! Being 2000 miles away from home on your last barrel can have a psychological effect on your pool game.
In his words, “I got trapped towards the end of a trip giving a guy, who turned out to be better than me, the 8 for a minimum two sets at $300 a set and I had $642 in my pocket. He drilled me 9-3 the first set, then was up 8-5 in the second set when he missed the 8 ball for the win. I won that game and then broke and ran 3 racks in a row while scared as shit to break even and get out of there. I had no car, no partner, no place to sleep and didn’t know what I would do with $42! That one match, where everything was on the line, helped me going forward.”
Back then, there weren’t a lot of instructors. In 1994, Joe got a job as a house pro and started giving lessons. He believes the fact that he had to teach himself the game step-by-step a little later in life than most pros, helped him become a better instructor. He had empathy for players trying to improve their game and he understood that sometimes the wrong thought process, if caught promptly, can be corrected easily. Even though he excelling at being an instructor, he still considered himself a “pool bum” – looking at the door to see if the next person walking in was a potential game.
After seriously evaluating his situation Joe decided to train like an athlete for the next 90 days…no distractions, clean living and a rented room near a pool room. He placed himself on a strict schedule that got him playing better than ever!
8 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Practice while the pool room was closed
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: At the gym or running followed by lunch and mental training
1 p.m. to 5 p.m.: More practice or a match
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Dinner and more mental practice
7 p.m. to Midnight: A tournament, a match or hard practice
1 a.m. – bedtime until the alarm sounds the next day at 7 a.m.
An unintended result from Joe’s rigorous training, meant he was “locked and loaded” for the 1995/96 Camel Pro Billiards Series and there happened to be a stop in Providence, RI, at the new convention center. After sending in his application and being turned down because he was unknown to the tour he was informed he had to win a “qualifier,” he quickly entered the State Championship that doubled as a Camel qualifier and he won his way into his first Pro event. Naturally, the qualifier player had to play the #1 seeded player who was none-other than the “player of the decade,” (and one of Joe’s idol’s), Johnny Archer. Joe said he played a good match right up to the point of 8-8, where he missed the 8 ball (Damn, I hate it when that happens!). This would have been a nice start to his pro career, but at least Camel started accepting his entries after this event.
Around 1999, when his first son was born, Joe realized that he didn’t want to have the regrets that many great players have when looking back at their career…that would be time spent with their families. As Geoffrey Chaucer said, “Time and tide wait for no man.” This is when he decided to concentrate more on being an instructor and coach.
With both of his sons now in college and a wonderful wife of 25 years, he has never had any regrets. He’s still playing the game he loves and even took up golf as a sport alternative with billiard similarities for mechanics and focus; plus, he admits he likes the added benefit of getting a great tan while playing golf.
Joe’s instruction includes instructional books, eBooks, videos, DVDs and two web sites (www.joetucker.net and www.joetucker.info). The instructional formats and the latest products are updated on his sites on a regular basis, giving players, who really want to learn the game and strategies behind each rack of balls, the tools they need to learn and advance their skills. On Joe’s web sites, there is thousands of dollars’ worth of information at your fingertips…and it can all be carried with you on your phone 24/7.
In Joe’s mind, and many players who are brave enough to advance their game feel that THE MORE YOU LEARN…THE MORE THERE IS TO LEARN! It’s never ending! His motto is, “I’ve never met a bad player that had a great cue ball!” ~ Joe Tucker
(Photo by Diana Hoppe)