Earl Strickland won the Riviera Hotel Pro 8-Ball Open in Las Vegas Nevada Interview

Monday, March 6, 2006

earl_strickland_01 AZB: First off, I would like to congratulate you on your winning the Riviera Hotel Pro 8-Ball Open. You were playing some outstanding pool and, after beating Kim Davenport, you seemed unbeatable for the rest of the event.

You made a comment to the fans after your win that this showed you were more than just a 9-Ball player. Is this really the first 8-Ball title you have won?

Earl:Well, it's the first title I have won other than 9-ball. I've won 95 or 100 9-Ball titles. I'm approaching the century mark but I don't know exactly how many I have , I haven't counted them up but to win an 8-Ball event after winning so many 9-Ball events felt really special.

AZB: I would imagine that any time you start a tourney, you have to think that you can win it. However, was there any one time in Vegas where it really hit you that you could win the event?

Earl:Well, to start with I got an easy draw and I believe that even when one the top players wins a tournament, a lot of times it starts out with getting the right kind of draw. Playing the kind of players you like to play. And I got a good draw and around the 4th round I finally had to play somebody that was a brand name player. I squeaked thru Davenport and I think he was the first match I had against one of the top players. I squeaked thru him 7-6. After that I felt a little more comfortable but you can never feel real comfortable. I got a lot of help along the way. Things went my way but I played well too.

AZB: Last season, the best you did were a couple 9th place finishes. This year you have won 2 events already. What are you doing differently this year as compared to last year.

Earl:Well, I've been working on a few things. I've been practicing more for one thing. This game takes a great deal of practice, kind of like golf. I've tweaked my sticks a little bit too. I've changed the size of my shafts, changed tips, and did a few things here and there with the sticks. A few subtle changes in my bridges, stances and grips. Just trying anything to try to get back to where I used to be.

AZB: I wouldn't think that the size of the shaft would make that much of a difference.

Earl: Well, it's just like Golf or anything else. Maybe a lot of these guys aren't as picky or technical as I am with the shaft and the tip and the weight but it's a lot like other sports. You look at Sampras with a tennis racket, I mean he has got that thing tweaked just the way he likes it and that's the same way I like to have a cue. And a golfer is the same way. They are gonna tweak a golf club to get it as close to what they want as far as weight and the flexibility of the shaft and the length of the club and the way the club is set. There are so many different little things that I have got to have just right now. Years ago when I was younger, I don't think those things came into play as much. You get a little older, you need the stick to be pretty much right on cue.

AZB:There is a great difference between a professional player of your caliber and an amateur player. What originally gave you the drive to be a professional pool player?

Earl:Well, to start with, I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, a little tobacco town where they would harvest tobacco, cotton, soybeans and corn. I grew up on a farm. I had a real wholesome life growing up, but my dad took me to the poolroom in 1969. I was just 9 years old and he introduced me to pool. The guy that owned the place is really the guy that gave me the chance to play and really learn the game. His name was Carson Naylor. He owned the pool room in Roseboro North Carolina. It was just a friendly little farm town where everybody knew each other and I grew up playing pool there. I had a good life growing up and I've had a good life so far playing pool. I'm glad I learned the game. A lot of people couldn't be introduced to the game the way I was. It was a different life then. The 70s was a loftier era. That's when I was growing up. But I have to say the guy that owned the pool room is the one that game me my real chance. Growing up, he helped me in a lot of ways, he taught me a lot of things. I had a real bad temper as a kid, and still do in a lot of ways. (Chuckles) Just ask my wife. Ask a lot of the fans too. But I've gotten better about that. My behavior is much better than it ever was playing the game. I'm becoming more professional every day.

AZB: If there was one piece of advice you could give to the amateur players out there, what would it be?

Earl: Well, I would recommend that if an amateur ever wants to become a professional player, they are going to have to learn to play on a 4 1/2 by 9. I see a lot of people playing on 3 1/2 by 7; no disrespect to 3 1/2 by 7, they can play on those too; but they will have to learn how to play the 4 1/2 by 9 and they have to learn all the bridges and all the stances. I think that's the most important part of learning all the shots. If you don't know how to make the bridge, or stand properly, or even grip the cue properly then you're gonna learn bad technique as you grow and learn to play. At a young age you really need to learn good technique.