With a click and a blur of colors and motion, the table suddenly clears, like a magic trick, and the crowd cheers. The magician’s name is Timothy E. Chin G. In addition to being a graduate student at MIT, he is renowned as one of the top pool trick shot artists in the world after recently winning third place at a prestigious tournament in New Jersey. This winter, Chin will compete for the world championship in artistic pool in Atlanta, Georgia.
Chin’s trick shot career began with a simple fascination for the fundamentals of geometry and physics as applied to the game of pool. In 2003, after watching a competition on ESPN, Chin was hooked. He practiced regularly and purchased books on trick shots, eventually coaching himself to become the magician he is today. Now, he practices up to ten hours a week, keeping his skills sharp in anticipation of the world championships.
All trick shot competitions are based on performing certain pre-determined shots. There are two main types of shots. “Setup shots” involve an extremely complicated configuration of pool balls and other objects, but with a little coaching, an artist like Tim can have a spectator perform the actual shot after it is set up.
The second category of shots, “skill shots,” consist of much more complex shots that involve hitting the cue ball perfectly in order to give it spin or make it jump. These shots take lots of practice but are much more impressive and crowd-pleasing. With enough spin and deflections, an artist like Tim can make the cue ball dodge obstacles on its way to the pocket or to a target ball in awe-inspiring fashion.
Most artistic pool competitions, with the exception of the world championships, consist of two rounds. In the first round, performers are given forty sets of three shots each and must execute one of the three shots. In the world championships, players are not given a choice of three shots. Based on the difficulty of the shot, the players receive anywhere from six to ten points. If a player misses a shot, he or she may try up to two more times but incurs a point penalty for every extra attempt. If, after the third try, the player failed to complete the shot, he or she receives no points and must continue to the next set of shots.
At the end of the first round, scores are tallied, and, depending upon the tournament, a small number of the highest scoring players are invited to a single-elimination playoff round. The winner of the playoff round is crowned the winner of the tournament.
After competing in multiple tournaments, players are given rankings based on their performance. Currently, Chin is ranked 20th in the world among professional trick shot pool artists, and he hopes to keep moving up following the championships this December.
Chin also likes to perform outside of competition. He loves to perform shows, consisting of his own trick routine, for corporate and private events. In the past, he has also consulted with a company in Japan to produce a commercial, viewable on his website: www.trickshottim.com.
When he’s not practicing pool shots, Tim is usually hard at work on his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering, or perhaps playing a game of soccer. He looks forward to receiving his degree from MIT and continuing trick shot competition.