What are some ways in which you prepare for a big tournament (both training and rituals the day of the match)?
Well, back in the early 80‘s somebody asked me the same question after he saw me practicing a lot… I wondered about the question. I said: “I’m preparing for the one big tournament, the one big final I’ll play in the unknown future. I don’t know when and where it will be, but I want to be sure to be prepared the best I can and I’m doing so every day!“
Today I don’t even know if I already played that tournament or final or if it’s still ahead of me but the mission stays the same forever! Even if your game will go down the hill with age. You still have to try…
So for me it’s the journey itself that counts! I prepare for life, not just for some tournament…
At least that’s for me. On behalf of some students with the desire to win something big it might be a different case. Then I have to take it from a sports point of view and balance with Midterm, short-term and long-term goals. With Activity goals, with quality goals and achievement goals. With nutrition and physical balance. With mental aspects I’ve studied at university. Then it’s sometimes pretty complex but sometimes it goes easy with the flow. Depends on the client. It’s easier if some client just want to stop losing to his wife. But whatever goal they have, it will be my goal as well for the day they hired me.
But anyway, one basic preparation is, to take practice games as serious as you can. Then only you’ll be able to take a serious match as easy as it would be just a training game… This is something I learned from my mentor Mr. Kim, who taught me things like that.
Can you recall a particularly impactful moment from a match that changed how you approach pool?
It was a team match in Munich in the mid 80’s as a qualification to the first national league. I don’t remember who I was playing, but the match went downhill for me and my game was kind of sloppy. Mr. Kim was watching and when I saw him, I remembered one saying from him. He once said to me: “You can get used to anything. Even losing!” Suddenly I became aware of the danger. The danger of not playing with a hundred percent effort and even worse, to get used to it. The game changed! I was high awake and aware and determined to put everything I got into the match. I won finally. The great moment came after the match when the whole team including Mr. Kim went to dinner afterwards. He mentioned to me that there was a moment in the match, were he really could see, that there was a decision to be made and that I made this decision. The decision to follow my dream and to be determined to do everything what’s in need to become a pro.
This was one key scene in Germany on national level. Later on in the mid 90’s I had a similar scene at a tournament in Spain on European level and in 1999 in Turkey as well in 2000 in Cardiff to be ready to enter the worlds level. And the saying from Mr. Kim ended with another 25 sayings of his in my book “The Final Freedom”.
Can you recall the moment you are most proud of? And the least proud of?
Maybe the handling of some TV appearances? For example, during the 2008 World Cup of Trickshots, which was televised by ESPN worldwide back then. A new trickshot of mine was included in the program and I had just two attempts to make it. Then I would have one of my creations on worldwide TV, while I personally make it successfully. A pretty hard shot, you could also use in a regular 8-ball game if the situation comes up. I did it on the first try even I was pretty nervous and shooting it also a little harder then I intended to. It felt great! It made me even more proud when the famous commentators (Allan Hopkins / Mitch Laurance) elected this shot as the “Super-shot of the Match”! It’s still on YouTube. Search for it…;)
Another time it was in a very popular German TV show called “TVtotal”. I was totally nervous just seconds before the show. But as soon as I entered the stage I was acting so cool, I still can’t believe it when I see the pictures. Unfortunately, I really don’t know how I did it. But before I worry like every human. But when it’s on, I just focus on the job, knowing that I can do that…
Not so proud? Well there might be a longer list…;) As a Pool Player you can’t be a winner without tasting your share of losing… One time in 1988 we played a national team challenge Germany vs Austria. Germany was pretty dominant back then in whole Europe. The score at the end was 11-1 for Germany. But the “1” was me. My team mates called the result always “11 to Eckert”! But even here I’m kind of proud that I took it and can even laugh about it when thinking back… But it happens to all my appearances on official European Championships, that I wasn’t able to show what I’m capable of. I played them 94’ and 95’ only and never again. Also (almost) never again German Championships! I always wanted to be kind of free and not wanted to depend on Federations. That’s what I always liked about the US until today!
Can you tell us about your writing process and in what ways it’s similar to billiards?
Well, the reason for me to start writing was the fact, that in Germany in the 80’s and early 90’s there wasn’t any good book you can find about Pool in German language. I had quite a good theoretical background from Mr. Kim (he was a genius in math and physics as well as in Asian philosophy) on one side and due to the fact, that in Mr. Kim’s Billiard hall (probably the first of it’s kind in Germany!), we already had access to American Pool & Billiard books and the “Billiards Digest” on the other side. With this background it didn’t took very long for me to see the chance of making some extra money by writing an instructional book about Pool, but I couldn’t do it right away. First there was a high demand of lessons in Germany. Created by the desire to get better in that game, which was getting popular after the “Color of Money” movie. Because I already was a good player back then in my region, some clubs asked for lessons (mostly after I’ve beaten their best player for money) and so I started to give lessons. First just out of my mind, but after some sessions, I really needed to think about what’s best to teach next? Therefore, I started to make little notes by sketching tables on a blank paper with some of my training drills and shots. This turned after giving lessons a lot into a quite big program. At some point when I’ve looked at my table diagrams, I thought: “If I just write down on every table diagram, what I usually say in my lessons, then it will be a book!” Fascinated by the thought of writing my first book I started doing so by hand! It took me almost 2 years to finish that and later on another year to put every hand writing into the computers who already came up back then and from there another year before it could be published finally in 1995 as “Modern Pool”!
And there you see already the similarities to Billiards. The wish alone is not enough! It has to come along with persistence and discipline. With knowledge and experience. With the ability to turn a wish into a goal you can reach, by cutting it into little steps you can do day by day…
“Modern Pool” was translated into English in 2003 but before followed by “Progressive Pool” (1999) in German only. In 2003 I started this big “Playing Ability Test” (PAT) Series with three large workbooks followed by accompanied books in 2006 and another one in 2007.
Later on, when Billiards Business seemed to shrink a little and with social media, it became more advisable to publish things on your own rather than working with publishers. Especially when maneuvering in exotic areas as Billiard unfortunately became (compare to it’s heydays in the beginning of the 20th century). For this reason I published on my own my latest three books. Such as “The Final Freedom – Reflections of a Master Student” (2011. Engl. 2017) which was in honour of Mr. Kim, then my first novel in 2017 “The Player from Singapore” (English translation still in progress) and finally so far another more modern instructional book called “Structure” (2018. English finished but not published yet). It includes quite a few QR codes which lead you to related videos…
What advice would you give to a 21-year-old Ralph?
Go to the US way earlier than I actually did and stay quite longer than I used to on my different journeys. I wasted too much time fighting legendary players in Germany in tournaments were, you could win trophies only, before I discovered that I wasn’t as bad as I thought. Also, too much time wasted by fighting German Billiard Federations and officials as they really enjoyed it to ban or disqualify me here and there for obscure reasons…
Is there a particular shot you remember making for any reason?
Well, when in some rare scenes of serious matches suddenly a situation came up, I knew from artistic pool. I remember at least two times when I couldn’t resist to go for that artistic shot. One time in a national team match, when I let the cueball jumping out of the side-pocket, while potting another ball. And another time back in my gambling days, when I played a guy for a lot of money in 8-ball and we played “last pocket”, which meant that I had to play it in this particular situation in the right side pocket, but I was straight in to the left side pocket. Then it was almost standard to me from artistic pool, to play it successfully over three rails into my pocket. Since then I haven’t seen anybody to pay, unscrew his cue and leave the place as fast as this guy did…;)
What drew you to artistic pool?
In 1985 (I was 20 years old), I supposed to give a Trickshow exhibition at an officers casino of some German Army station. I was regular soldier only and they asked me to show something, in order to be allowed to use their tables for practice. I had to spent 15 months at military. Normally without any possibility of practice, except if I get permission to enter this officers club as regular soldier. I really wanted it! So I agreed to show something. Even I haven’t done any Trickshow before! I prepared on the previous weekend, I was nervous but everything went well and from then onward I was allowed to enter the officers casino as a soldier. I practiced on their tables and were giving ridiculous handy-caps to the military-doctors in order to win some days off at the hospital, rather than playing war on some dirty fields…;)
My second show came in 1987 at a club in my hometown and drew attention to our local newspaper. From then onwards I gave much more shows as the word was going around. Mr. Kim was a billiards retailer back then. And whenever he sold tables to a new club and the owners still try to negotiate on the price, he offered a free trickshow from me, which he got on a much better flat rate. Therefore I “opened” quite a few billiard halls in Germany and Europe and got a lot “live” experience.