Tim Boggan

January 27, 2014

Tip of the Week

Practicing Serves the Productive Way. (This is an article I did for USATT Magazine a few years ago. I'd like to get a few of these old ones up as Tips.)

Coaching Happenings

It's been an eventful weekend of coaching, as always. Here are highlights.

  • An 11-year-old Islamic girl came to my junior table tennis class for the first time on Saturday morning. She was dressed in full Islamic garb, with nothing showing except her face and hands. I've coached Islamic kids before, including girls, so it was no big deal - I thought. Since she was new, I worked with her right at the start, and guided her through a correct forehand. Then her father came over, and politely asked if he could talk to me. We went to the sidelines, and he explained, "We are Muslim. No touching." I apologized, and from there on I only coached her by demonstrating and explaining.
  • I watched one of our junior players play matches in the Friday night league, and saw some problems to work on. One is that he doesn't cover the wide backhand well in rallies, and when he does move that way, he often rotates his body to the left (and so faces left) rather than stepping there. (He's right-handed.) I've been doing multiball random drills with him where he does cover this, but realized we hadn't been doing many live random drills. So from now on (starting with a session on Sunday) we're going to be doing a lot of that. He also has a tendency to drop his non-playing arm during rallies, which costs him balance and stability, as well as making it easier to spin the body to the left to cover his backhand rather than step there as he should. (It's like an ice skater spinning - when the skater pulls her arms in, she rotates faster; puts the arms out, she rotates slower.) He also tends to stand too much to his right in rallies, leaving the backhand open. It's generally better to crowd the backhand corner, where you generally take the ball quicker and in front of the body and so are more rushed. You have a bigger forehand hitting zone, and can generally take it later and still be effective, so you can leave the forehand side more open and still have to move to cover it.
  • In the Sunday afternoon junior session I had five girls in my group. All started in the last two months. Amazingly, all have pretty nice and consistent forehand and backhand strokes now. (Well, one has some problems with the backhand, but we're working on that.) I introduced them all to the 2-1 drill, which is a three-shot sequence: a backhand from the backhand side; a forehand from the backhand side; a forehand from the forehand side; then repeat. It's one of the best drills, as you do the three most common moves in table tennis: cover the wide backhand, step around forehand from backhand side, and cover the wide forehand. They all found this drill to be rather exciting. (Who knew?)
  • I watched one of our top juniors in a big league match, and gave him some analysis afterwards. He's playing really well, but his placement isn't so good, going to the wide corners way too often. At nearly all levels the default place to attack is the middle, which is almost always the hardest place to defend. (The middle is the roughly the playing elbow, the transition point between forehand and backhand. For backhand oriented players, it's a bit more toward the forehand side, and vice versa.) By going to the middle, you get free points, weak returns, and/or draw the opponent out of position, thereby opening up those corners.
  • Two 12-year-old students of mine made the switch to Tenergy 05 FX on the forehand this weekend, which is what I use. Both are reaching the state where they can essentially loop everything on the forehand. Both tried out regular Tenergy 05 as well as Tenergy 64, but preferred the 05 FX. (They're both pushing 1500 level.)
  • Recently I've run a number of table tennis birthday parties at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, including two this weekend, one on Saturday, one on Sunday. Each was from 2-4 PM, with 14-21 kids in the 6-10 age group. The format I've adopted is pretty simple. The first half hour they are on their own as the kids hit around. Then I call them together and do a demo, usually with a top player or junior I recruit. Then the kids line up, and I have them shadow-stroke forehands. Then I take them two at a time and teach the forehand, spending about one minute with each pair. (Nothing extensive here.) Then we do the same with the backhand. Then we do it one more time with serves. Then we go to games, usually starting with the cup game, where the kids build pyramids of paper cups on one side of the table, and then take turns trying to knock them down as I feed multiball (3 shots per turn). After that we play the bottle game, where I convince them that the bottle of Gatorade on the table is full of squeezed worm juice, and the bottle of water on the table is dog saliva. I put the next to each other, and they again line up, 3 shots per turn, and try to hit it - and if they do, I have to drink it. I mock them as they hit each shot, so when one of them does hit one of the bottles they erupt in cheers, and I do mock protests before I finally drink it.
  • We've had freezing cold weather here in Maryland for the last two weeks. On Thursday the heating at MDTTC went down, and for three days we played with temperatures in the high fifties. You got used to it once you started playing, but I there were times where I complained I was in the final stages of hypothermia.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 14

We should finish it today. I'm crossing my fingers. We've actually finished all the pages but one, but that page has complications. The main job today is inputting corrections, and Tim has a lot, ranging from fixing or changing captions to fixing up photos to anything else he finds. The book is 465 pages with 962 photos, a new record for him. Here's info on all of these books, which will soon be updated when Volume 14 becomes available in a couple weeks. It's been an exhausting two weeks - we started on Monday, Jan. 13, and have been putting in looooong hours. This past weekend I kept driving back and forth between home and the club as I alternated coaching and working with Tim.

USA's Ariel Hsing Featured at ITTF Page

Here's the article.

Review of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World" by Nicholas Griffin

Here's the review in the Washington Post on Sunday. Here's a video (51:40) of the author talking about the book.

Guo Yue Dismissed from Chinese National Team

Here's the article. Guo, 25, was the 2007 World Women's Singles Champion and was ranked #1 in the world in 2008. She's also two-time World Mixed Doubles Champion with Wang Liqin. Her current ranking is #11 in the world.

Will Shortz on Table Tennis and How the US Can Become a Power

Here's the video (2:04) from Business Insider.

Coach Willy - an ITTF Documentary

Here's the video (3:42).

Cape Fear Open XI Highlights

Here's the video (7:33).

Angle Table Tennis

Here's the video (7:42) - this is what happens when you slant one side of the table sideways! A little over two minutes in they angle the other side as well for some really crazy ping-pong.

Panda Pong

Here's a picture of little Asian kids dressed as pandas playing table tennis with a picture of a penholder panda bear. I don't know what's going on, and perhaps it's best we just don't. (While we're on the subject of pandas, here's a panda ping-pong shirt!)

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January 17, 2014

Flu and Coaching

I'm mostly recovered from the flu, but still pretty exhausted by it. What have I learned from this experience? 1) Flu bad; 2) Get Flu shot; 3) Flu very bad; 4) Flu very very bad; 5) Flu VERY very very bad.

On Wednesday I could barely eat anything. I managed to eat a blueberry muffin for breakfast, but almost threw it up. For lunch I tried a bowl of chicken rice soup, but gave up after two spoonfuls. I then realized there were only two things I could imagine eating at that time - fruit and vanilla pudding. I'm not kidding. So I sent Tim Boggan to the supermarket. And so for dinner I had a bowl of fruit and two cups of vanilla pudding.

After a height of 103 on Tuesday night, my fever hovered around 102 all day on Wednesday, dropping to about 101 a few times. I have an electronic thermometer, and having nothing better to do, I compulsively took my temperature about every two minutes or so. (Well, it seemed that often.) Late on Wednesday night the temperature dropped to about 100. Thursday morning it was down to 99, compared to my norm of about 97, which is where it's at now.

Besides nonstop agony, there was the extreme boredom. My head was on fire, and reading or watching TV made it worse. I tried a crossword puzzle, and my head almost exploded. I couldn't get out of bed without nearly collapsing in exhaustion after five steps. When I did get out of bed, I'd need ten minutes in bed to catch my breath. When I heard I'd won one of the Coach of the Year awards, did I go, "YAY!"? No, I went, 'yay,' and crawled back into bed, groaning.

Did I mention anywhere that the flu isn't fun?

So here's my public service announcement to all humankind: Get Your Flu Shots!!!

And to John Olsen and Kevin Walton, who were surprised several months ago that I hadn't had a flu shot, and who I told I hadn't bothered because I hadn't had the flu in decades, well, let's keep that a secret between us, okay?

I do have to make a decision this morning on my coaching tonight. I'd already cancelled all my Wed and Thur sessions; I've got 1.5 hours scheduled Friday night, but can I do it? The flu is basically gone, but I don't know yet how much energy I'll have, plus I could still be infectious; I don't know. The same goes for the weekend. There is the argument that when coaching, you spend much of your time ten feet from your player, but not always. Maybe I should wear one of these paper masks you sometimes see people wearing on the streets; I think it's more common in China than the U.S. (Who is that masked man? It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's just Coach Larry; move along, nothing to see.)

Now that I'm getting over the flu, hopefully my blog can go back to featuring coaching again, instead of adventures in fluland. It's the daily coaching that gives the fuel for the blog. I was planning on blogging this morning about "Do as I say, not as I do," but I'll do that one in a later blog, when I have more energy and my mind is clearer. (This is regarding coaching, i.e. a good coach knows what to say, but can't always do it himself the way he wants you do so. I'm jealous of many top coaches who were former top players with near perfect technique; they can usually teach it as "Do as I do." For example, my forehand loop may get the job done at a 2200 level, but is rather ragged because of muscle stiffness, and I'd never want a student to copy that.)

Tim Boggan

Now the bad news. Tim (83) began coughing yesterday afternoon, and it got worse during the night. I'm taking him to see a doctor this morning. He had his flu shots.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 14

We missed all of Wednesday since I was sick in bed (did I mention flu is bad?), so we're way behind. However, I got up on my own at 5AM Thursday, and we somehow did four chapters yesterday. So we've done the covers, the preliminary stuff (foreword, acknowledgements, etc.), and the first nine chapters out of the 30. The bad news is we were scheduled to at least twelve done by now. So we're almost a day behind. (Because of my coaching hours, we don't expect to get much done on weekends.) We were planning on finishing by next Friday, but that's doubtful, since we need at least a day or two to input corrections and do pre-press work.

The latest chapter is fascinating as it covers some of the behind-the-scenes squabbling that took place at the 1985 World Championships, which culminated in the USA team leader taking two players and two officials to the USTTA disciplinary committee, and that official getting taken there as well by one of the officials he'd taken there. Lots of "he said, she said" stuff, but the disciplinary committee dismissed everything, and everyone lived happily ever after. Well, not really; some of these people have great animosity toward each other to this day. (For the record, I wasn't involved in any of this, but I knew all the people involved rather well.) The Team Leader accused players of not trying, of bad language, and other unsportsmanlike conduct; he in turn was accused of various transgressions, the most interesting was opening rooting for an opposing player (a friend of the USA team leader) against a U.S. team member who the team leader didn't get along with.

Sound interesting? Volume 14 should be available in a few weeks! (No, I don't get any commission.) Here's where you can find more info on Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books. (I maintain the page for him.)

Ping-Pong Diplomacy Video

Here's a video (6 min) on Five Things You Should Know about Ping-Pong Diplomacy." I watched it with Tim Boggan, who said there was only one inaccuracy. According to the video, Zhuang Zedong waved Glenn Cowan onto the bus. However, Tim said that Glenn didn't recognize the one who waved him on (a seminal moment in table tennis history, added Tim), and he would have recognized Zhuang, and that whoever actually did so is an historical mystery.

2014 Aurora Open

Here are two more of Barbara Wei's article featuring the Aurora Open this weekend. Here's one on the powerhouse Lindenwood team, and here's one that features 3-time U.S. Men's Champion Jim Butler, who hopes to cause a few upsets. Wish I could be there! (There should be another going up later this morning, but too late for the blog, alas - though I might add it later. And here it is: 2014 Aurora Cup a Family Affair for Top Seeded Junior Nathan Hsu. Nathan's from my club! I sometimes coach him at tournaments.)

RIP Warren Wetzler

Here's the article. Many know him from tournaments, or via his son, John.

David's Story - an ITTF Documentary

Here's the video (4 min) of a Papua New Guinean table tennis player and his quest for gold.

Swing Ping?

Here's the picture!

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January 14, 2014

Tip of the Week

Maximum Power and Control.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis and Other Stuff

Once again we're at it, for the 14th year in a row. (Disclosure, I only helped a little on the first volume.) Yesterday morning USATT Historian Tim Boggan (now an experienced 83 years young) moved into my house so he could direct as I do layouts and photo work (with great help from photographer and USATT Hall of Famer Mal Anderson) on his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 14. Yes, you read that right; we're into the 14th volume, which covers the years 1985-86. Here's TimBogganTableTennis.com, where you can learn about and order the books.

It's not going to be a fun two weeks. Basically it means being at my desk at 7AM every day and working most of the day, until it's time for my coaching hours. If I get back early enough, we work on it again that night. Then he goes to sleep, and I sit down and stare at my computer, completely exhausted, and debate whether to do the next morning's blog then (as well as the weekly Tip of the Week), or get up extra early and do it in the morning. (I'm typing this a little after 11PM at night, and still have the Tip to write. I already put together all the short segments below, though I'll likely add more in the morning.)

As I noted in my last blog, I was away at my nephew's wedding and a family gathering in New Orleans Wed-Sun, returning around midnight on Sunday night. I had three hours of work that night that I had to take care of, and then I got a good four hours of sleep before starting work. Technically Tim didn't come in until 9:30 AM (driving down from New York), but I had a lot of stuff to do to prepare for him, from cleaning the house a bit to preparing the documents we'd be working on.

On an exhaustion scale of 1 to 10, I'm at 17 right now. And we've only done one day. And my coaching gets busier as the week goes on.

I actually had little coaching yesterday or today. Instead, I'm picking up kids at schools, taking them to the club, and watching over them as they do homework for our new Afterschool Program. Starting Wednesday my coaching picks up, with three hours that night. I don't even want to talk about the weekend!

While in New Orleans I mostly was busy with family and wedding stuff. (It's been something like 20 years since I was last at a wedding, and eight years since I last wore a suit and tie.) I did get one afternoon off where I spent four hours at the World War II Museum. I also put together (with help from other family members) a 550-piece The Hobbit jigsaw puzzle.

USA Grand Tour Finals

The USA Grand Tour Finals were this past weekend. Here's where you can find results, photos, video, etc. On a side note, ten copies of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques were given out as raffle prizes!

SafeSport

USATT Coaches, listen closely: ALL USATT certified coaches need to go online and complete the background check process now required by the USOC. Here's the USATT info page on this.

USATT Athletes of the Month - Dec. 2013

Here's the article on Ariel Hsing (female), Kanak Jha (male), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic).

USATT and Leagues

At the about.com table tennis forum there's a discussion of the Atlanta Tennis Leagues (tennis, not table tennis), and how they are ten times bigger than USATT. Jay wrote about this; here's my short response. And here's USATT National and ITTF Coach Donn Olsen's response to me.

Morrisville, NC Might Get Full-time Training Center

Here's the article in yesterday's The Cary News.

Introduction to Multiball

Here's a new video (2:46) from PingSkills that teaches how to do multiball training.

Using Pivot Forehand to Your Advantage

Here's the article from TableTennisMaster - and the two common errors.

"Speed Gluing was Harmless" (Waldner didn't say this)

That's the headline and quote in this article that came out yesterday. However, what Jan-Ove Waldner really said in the article is, "Speedgluing should have been allowed to continue providing it was harmless." That's a very different statement than the headline. But the article does have some interesting stuff about Waldner's views on various rules topics.

How Wealthy is World's Men's Singles Champion Zhang Jike?

Here's an article on it!

Tahl Leibovitz Highlights Video

Here's the video (4:31)! Due to disabilities, he uses a somewhat unique grip, holding the racket very low so the handle is almost in his palm. And he's a shot-maker!

Star Rally Shot of the Year

Here's the video (23 sec) of the shot at the 2013 World Championships by Timo Boll, who just won the TMS International contest.

2013 Ping Pong Dubai Male and Female Table Tennis Stars

Here's their videos of winners Zhang Jike (male, 23sec) and Li Xiaoxia (female, 24 sec). And here's video of the male nominees (1:09) and female nominees (1:09).

Triples

Here's a video (2:38) from the BBC on the newest TT fad - triples!

Ghostly Table Tennis

Or is this Death playing table tennis? You decide; it's the latest table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan.

Non-Table Tennis - After Death Anthology

The After Death fantasy horror anthology came out last year, with my story "The Devil's Backbone." Here's a review of the anthology that came out yesterday - and read what they wrote about my story!

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October 22, 2013

My Upcoming Novel and Ping-Pong

Yes, the two are connected. Table tennis or ping-pong is mentioned 19 times in 11 different scenes in the novel. Why? Because the 13-year-old protagonist (Neil, alias Armstrong though his last name is never mentioned in the novel) is a sorcerer's apprentice and wannabe ping-pong star who has to leave behind this childhood ambition to save the world in this humorous parody of the 1960s space race. Included in the scenes are mentions of several real players, the Florida State Finals between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher, and two flying carpets that Neil names after Marty Reisman and Tim Boggan.

I'm going to list all the table tennis mentions below, but first, two news items. First, it's been retitled "Sorcerers in Space." (Previous title was the boring "The Giant Face in the Sky.") And second, the really horrible cover that I linked to a week ago has been replaced by a very nice cover. (I really like this one!!!) The novel comes out Nov. 15.

Here's the blurb on the back of the book - no table tennis mention, sorry. The novel is described as Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race.

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world." Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face will have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

President Kennedy puts together a motley crew that includes Neil, Gus, Buzz, a dragon, the god Apollo, a 2-D sorcerer, and the sorceress Jackie Kennedy. Can they make it to the Face before the Soviets, and before Buzz kills Neil?

And now we get to the table tennis!!! Here are the eleven ping-pong scenes with 19 mentions.

Ping-Pong Scene 1:

I still dreamed of being a rock star or ping-pong champion, but those dreams had taken a bad turn after I'd been sold into slavery, I mean, become a sorcerer's apprentice. Somehow my parents had thought it was a good idea.

Ping-Pong Scene 2:

"Not Russia," Gus said. "The Soviet Union. Russia's just the main part of it. Don't you pay attention in school? Or do you just play ping-pong and listen to Beetles music?"

"It's not ping-pong, it's table tennis! And it's better than practicing magic I'm not allowed to do."

"Maybe, but according to Chef Wang, someday you're going to have to battle the Soviets, so I suggest more studying and less ponging.

Ping-Pong Scene 3:

"Can I go home now?" I asked. "I want to practice my serves." There was a school tournament coming up next week, and my reverse pendulum serve needed work. Maybe ping-pong was where I'd someday be someone, do something.

"Will you forget your ping-pong!" Gus cried. "A Russian agent just tried to kill you, you're supposed to defeat the Soviets, there's a Giant Face in the Sky that that compels us to say its name as if capitalized, and a murderous meteor is following you around, and that's what you're worried about?"

"I'm not murderous!" Buzz exclaimed. "I'm a pacifist." More quietly he added, "Except when someone makes me apprehensive."

"How am I supposed to defeat the Soviets?" I asked. "I'm just an apprentice. Maybe I can beat them at ping-pong."

Ping-Pong Scene 4:

I decided to change channels and said, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, find a station with a ping-pong ball."

The mirror showed me the latest lottery, with numbered ping-pong balls in a container. With gritted teeth, I tried again.

"Mirror, mirror, about to get whacked, find me some table tennis unless you want to get cracked." The mirror found the Final of the recent Florida Table Tennis Championships while the Beetles played "Strawberry Feasts Forever." I pulled up a chair to watch the final between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher.

"Aren't you packed yet?" Gus said. "Tonight, we're going to Washington D.C. to see the president, and you're watching ping-pong on the mirror?" He aimed his staff at the mirror, and the table tennis and Beetles action was replaced by my reflection.

Ping-Pong Scene 5:

I named it the Red Reisman, after a famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 6:

So, Gus and I left that afternoon to buy supplies at the Black Market, using the new flying carpet Gus had bought to replace the recently-destroyed Red Reisman. It was identical to the Red Reisman, except this one was blue and even more worn out. I'd named it the Blue Boggan, after another famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 7:

Why was I here? What was my purpose, and why was I put on this world? It couldn't have been just to serve Gus his mid-day tea. I'd always wanted to be a ping-pong champ or a rock star, but there had to be more. Was I here to defeat the Soviets, as prophesied by Chef Wang? Or did I have a higher purpose, one which I would only discover in time? I just knew that someday I was going to be somebody, do something. I just didn't know what.

Ping-Pong Scene 8:

Gus looked disgusted. "Don't remember the formula for force, my apprentice with ping-pong balls for brains?"

"Isn't that F equals MA?" I said.

"Correct, Force equals Magic times Acceleration," Gus said.

Ping-Pong Scene 9:

Kennedy was watching the two go back and forth like a ping-pong match.

Ping-Pong Scene 10:

Ten more evils occurred before I finally pronounced it to the booming voice's satisfaction, leading to traffic tickets, an edge ball in a ping-pong game, dandruff, and other calamities.

Ping-Pong Scene 11:

She'd also brought a number of baby hooting owls, parahoots, that, in an emergency, could carry us safely back to Earth. They were cute little creatures, with big, almond-shaped eyes—like all cute creatures—and soft, wavy, brown feathers. Their eyes were the size of quarters, far too large for their ping-pong-ball-sized heads.

Epic Retrieving! Turning Defense into Attack!

Here's a great point (42 sec) showing some great lobbing and counterattacking. Not sure who the players are, though I'm sure I'll recognize them once someone comments below telling us who they are.

How Ping-Pong Saved My Life

No, it's not about me, it's someone else at Uberpong (Eric Jensen).

Kramer (from Seinfeld), Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve McQueen Playing Ping Pong

Here are gifs showing this from Uberpong.

Pizza Hut Table Tennis Commercial

Here's a video of a recent Pizza Hut commercial (31 sec) that includes about one second of table tennis 23 seconds in. Why does it include table tennis? I have no idea. The rest of the commercial they show pizza and people eating pizza, then out of the blue there's table tennis for no apparent reason other than perhaps to show that if you eat pizza, you'll win at ping-pong. Of course, the greatest pizza place on the planet, Comet Ping-Pong, learned this long ago.

Tumba Ping-Pong Show

Here's a video (65 sec, on a page in Chinese but the video doesn't need language) that was first shown to me by Chinese players at my club. I've posted videos by the Tumba Ping-Pong Show before, but this is a compilation of their best ping-pong tricks that's apparently going viral in China. 

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August 8, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was forehand looping. It's always my favorite day as this is when players really begin the route to becoming top players. As I explain in my lecture, starting at the intermediate level looping dominates the game, and everyone's game is based either on looping or stopping the other guy's loop.

I had a player who was having trouble positioning his feet when he stepped around his backhand to play his forehand. I showed him how to solve this problem with what I call the "Hop" method of foot positioning. I demonstrated by first showing him how I positioned my feet when playing a forehand crosscourt from the forehand side. He had no trouble doing this on his side. Then, while standing in the forehand ready position on the forehand side, I pointed my non-playing hand crosscourt. (We're both righties.) Then, while holding my body, arms, and legs as rigid as possible, I literally hopped over to the backhand side and rotated my body until my non-playing hand was pointing crosscourt toward his backhand side. This put me in exactly the same positioning for hitting a forehand from the backhand side crosscourt as hitting a forehand from the forehand side crosscourt. But the hopping part looks pretty comical!

I mentioned last week how the younger kids all loved Froggy, the large latex frog (actually a toad) I bring out for various target practice games where I feed multiball. In previous weeks they went crazy for various cup games, where we'd stack paper cups in pyramids and then knock them down. This week the craze is for the Gatorade game, where I put a Gatorade bottle on the table, tell them it's something disgusting (worm juice, beetle juice, snake blood, dog saliva, etc.), and if they hit it, I have to drink it. We play all these games at the end of sessions in all the camps, but it's interesting how certain ones become the favorite one week and others in other weeks. This week I'm getting absolutely sick of Gatorade - the kids are getting too good at hitting the bottle. (Plus I have to act shocked and disgusted when they do - I'm running out of different ways to do this comically.)

How to Play a Backhand Table Tennis Drive

Here's a four-part series on the backhand by English Level 4 Coach Jim Clegg.

Part 1 - Control (5:05)
Part 2 - Speed (5:11)
Part 3 - Wrist (4:18)
Part 4 - Posture (2:54)

Shot Selection Mentality

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master. The primary points: avoid a safe game; placement over power; reading the spin; and don't rush.

World Class American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age, Volume I

From the USATT article:

World Class American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age, Volume I, authored by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan, is the first of a new series to be published by United States Table Tennis Hall of Fame. The Series covers the players, officials and contributors of the period 1931-1966.

Volume I contains 182 pages of profiles, 170 Photos and Articles of two of the earliest players from the period – Ruth Aarons and Jimmy McClure, two of our greatest Legends. Many of the photos are from the private collection of renowned photographer Mal Anderson who retains the largest collection of U.S. table tennis photographs in the world taken over almost half a century, some of which were never-before published. Many photos are in full color.

Much of the material in Chapter 1 is from Ruth Aarons’ personal album. The book features detailed Profiles by Tim Boggan author of the multi-volume Treatise on the “History of U.S. Table Tennis” -- the single most comprehensive work published to date on the sport.

In addition to the Profiles are career highlights and complete records of Ruth Aarons and Jimmy McClure. Ruth Aarons is the only American player to win world singles titles (1936/1937); Jimmy McClure is holder of 3 World doubles titles – 1936, 1937 and 1938 – and U.S. National Championships in 1934 and 1939.

Foreword is by Mike Babuin, current Chairman of the Board for USA Table Tennis and President of the Cary Table Tennis Association and the Curator and Founder of the Cary Table Tennis Museum – one of the largest private collections of table tennis artifacts, memorabilia, and publications in the USA.

Available at Amazon Bookstore. Proceeds from sales of all books in the Series will benefit the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame Museum.

Never Give Up the Point!

Here's a video (44sec) that shows a top player literally falling to the floor and crawling about as he gets back into the point - which he wins!

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February 12, 2013

Tactical Match

This weekend I played a practice match with a fast up-and-coming junior who had never challenged me before. In the past he'd had trouble with my serves, usually too passive, so I was able to attack at will. This time he came at me very aggressively, attacking most of my short serves with his newly developing backhand banana flip. When I served side-top, he jumped all over them aggressively. When I served backspin, he spun them off the bounce aggressively, a bit softer but spinnier. When I served short to his forehand, he reached over and flipped with his backhand. What to do?

This is actually a textbook case, and the answers were obvious. Here are three ways I dealt with this.

First, I went for more extremes. Instead of side-top serves, I went with pure topspin, and instead of side-backspin serves, I went with pure heavy backspin. Having to deal with the extremes meant that he began to put the topspins off the end and the backspins into the net.

Second, I began throwing low no-spin serves at him. He'd often read them usually as backspin and lift off the end. Or because they were dead, he sometimes put them into the net. It's amazing how players put no-spin serves both off the end and into the net, but that's what happens.

Third, I drilled him with short serves to the forehand, deep serves to the backhand. The key is to use the same motion. If he's going to reach over and use his backhand to return my short serves to his forehand, then he's going to have great difficulty covering a deep spinny breaking serve to the backhand. When he guards against that, then I go back short to the forehand. This combo was especially effective when I gave him short reverse pendulum serves to the forehand, which break away from him, making him reach even more.

The kid played a great match, and I'll have to keep my eye on him as he gets better and better. As it was, I came from behind 4-8 to win the first 11-9, and then won the next two more comfortably. As I explained to him afterwards, he's now at that stage where because he's challenging me, he'll lose worse at first because now I'm playing him a lot more seriously. We'll see where he is a year from now.

Update - Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

I only publicly announced Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers was available yesterday, and already 26 copies have sold. Of course, the real sales surge (hopefully) will come after I advertise in USATT Magazine (1-page color ad) and possibly their web page, and possibly other places. I'll look into that next week after I'm done doing the page layouts for Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13.

I'd like to post about the book in online forums as well, but not right now. If I post on an online forum, people will have questions, and if I try to answer those questions, Tim (who's sitting right next to me impatiently waiting to get to work) will no-look forehand smack me back to work. Sometime next week I'll post on the various forums and look into other areas to advertise, such as England and Australia, and other online websites.

I'm also getting a few blurbs from prominent TT people I can use. Here are some others I've come up with that I probably won't use.

Blurbs for My Book I've Decided NOT to Use
Feel free to comment with your own!

  1. "One of the best table tennis books I've read today."
  2. "I loved the book and will give a copy to all of my opponents."
  3. "Best book I've ever tasted." -Rover
  4. "After reading this book, my level of play only dropped a little."
  5. "But what if I don't like to think?"
  6. "Some of the words in this book are really good."
  7. "My parakeet is set for the next 240 days as he goes through this cover to cover."
  8. "Hey Larry, there's a typo at the start!"

Dealing with PTSD Through Ping-Pong

Here's an article and video (2:29) on how one Vietnam Vet dealt with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with table tennis, specifically featuring a clinic run at the Zing Table Tennis Club in Denver by Richard McAfee, assisted by Duane Gall, Peter Christofolo, and Mike Mui. (Here's an ITTF article on the clinic.)

Zhuang Zedong Obit

Here's the CNN Zhuang obit, including five pictures. Here's the ITTF obit.

The Ping-Pong Queen

Here's an article about Susan Sarandon and ping-pong.

Waldner - Persson Exhibition

Here's a video (1:29) of some points from an exhibition by Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson.

Anime Women Playing Table Tennis

The next action figure?

SPECIAL TIM BOGGAN SECTION!

Here's his Hall of Fame bio.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

We've now finished 16 chapters, 267 pages, with 540 graphics placed. We're on pace for 29 chapters, 482 pages, and 956 graphics. This would be the most graphics by far - the last volume had the most at 837. (But he's actually been pretty consistent as the last seven volumes all ranged from 800 to 837.) We will probably finish the "first draft" on Friday. I'll be busy coaching all weekend while Tim proofs everything. On Monday (Feb. 18) we'll input changes, and by Tuesday it'll be ready to go to the printer. Copies should be available soon afterwards. We hope. (Here's where you can find more info on Tim's books - Volumes 1-12 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. And no, I don't get any commission from his sales!)

Tim Boggan and the BBC

On Sunday and Monday Tim was interviewed live on the BBC and will be again on Wednesday, via phone, about Zhuang Zedong's death and Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Each time he most wanted to include how Zhuang had asked, when he heard that Glenn Cowan had died, if Glenn had been well remembered at his funeral. He was told, well, not as you might think a historic celebrity should be remembered. Zhuang was sorry to hear this, and said, "When I die, everyone in China will know." According to Tim, the relationship between Glenn and Zhuang was largely historic and symbolic rather than any close show of friendship itself. (Note - Ping-Pong Diplomacy was seminally started when Cowen was invited onto the private Chinese bus, and then later he and Zhuang exchanged gifts. You can read more about it in Tim's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. V.)

Tim Boggan Resigns

After many years of service, Tim Boggan has resigned from the ITTF Media Committee. Here is his resignation letter.

After much thought, and more regret, I've decided, as of now, to resign from the ITTF Media Committee.

I'm not going to the World Championships in Paris, or any other. Perhaps my age is showing (I’ll be 83 this year), but traveling abroad and playing conscientious reporter for a week is just becoming WORK—and I’ve already got enough of that.

I want to focus the more on my History of U.S. Table Tennis –intend to keep writing, as I have since 2000, a new book a year (my Vol. XIII will be in hand by April Fools' Day). I'll also keep researching and making Banquet presentations on behalf of our U.S. Hall of Fame candidates—that's generally a month’s effort. (The new inductees make it a total of 138 Profiles I've done on those enshrined.) And also I'll continue writing (though not as much as before) obits and articles for our USTTA magazine—as in my "Reisman Rembrance" for the current issue, and my coverage of Mike Babuin's Cary Open in an upcoming one.

It's been more than 40 years since I became affiliated with the ITTF (as a U.S. Delegate to the 1971 Nagoya World's). And in those four decades I must have been to, and reported on, 25 or more World or International Championships. I've had the unusual opportunity to meet many interesting people and to see many interesting sights/sites that I certainly wouldn’t have otherwise. For this I'm very grateful.

I thank all those who've helped me to have this rich experience, and will fondly remember my long involvement with the ITTF for the rest of my life.

***
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February 8, 2013

Recent and Future Technical Changes in High-Level Table Tennis

Here are what I consider the five biggest technical changes in table tennis over the last ten years, in no particular order. The last four were all being done ten years ago, but they've gone from a few players doing it to being commonplace at the higher levels.

  • The rise of super-looping sponges that practically loop by themselves.
  • Backhand banana flip, even against short serves to the forehand, turning the receive against short serves into a dangerous weapon.
  • Off-bounce backhand loops as regular backhands.
  • Reverse penhold backhand, making the conventional penhold backhand almost obsolete.
  • Shovel serve, which is a forehand pendulum serve where at the last second before contact you can serve either serve regular or reverse pendulum serve, i.e. sidespin either way, or backspin or no-spin.

Here are three possible ones to come.

  • Super-fast "hyperbolic serves" as a regular serve. These are serves where you hit the ball as hard as you possibly can, with the power going into both topspin and speed, just like a loop, allowing one to serve faster than was previously believed possible.
  • Strawberry flips. This is the opposite of a banana flip, where your racket goes from left to right instead of right to left as with a banana flip (for righties). Many players have learned to sidespin this way, but more as a change-of-pace sidespin. A few players, such as Stefan Feth, can do a serious drive this way, so that the ball literally jumps away from you if he backhand flips it to your forehand (assuming both are righties).
  • More off-the-bounce sidespin counterloops. Sidespin loops from off the table are about as good as they'll ever get, unless we get even better sponges. Players are already looping off the bounce with heavy topspin as a matter of routine. So the logical next step is to do this with sidespin, hooking and fading the ball at extreme angles. Lots of players do this occasionally, but imagine the player who perfects this as a routine shot.

Status: Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13

This volume covers 1984, and brother (or should I say Big Brother), it covers it all! We've been working on the page layouts for three days now. Besides the covers (4 pages, including inside covers), we're through page 162 and chapter 9 out of 29. I've now fixed up and placed on the page (including captions and attributions) 343 graphics - just over two per page. I'm sort of featured in chapter 9, where he talks about the many coaching articles I wrote that year and the year before, and so I got a head shot. Then he treated me to dinner at the Outback.

USA Team Trials

Chinese Team Trials

China is also having their National Team Trials. Here's where you can see articles, results, and video.

The Serve and Backhand Attack of Seiya Kishikawa

Here's a video (4:00) where Seiya Kishikawa (world #28, recently as high as #16) demonstrates his serve and backhand attack. With English subtitles and lots of slow motion.

The Proper Way to Finish a Match

Here's video (16 seconds, including slow motion) the last point in the Chinese Team Trials between Ma Long and Fan Zhendong. Ma shows how to end a match.

You Can't Take the China Out of Coaching

Don't see it? Look at the word "coaching." After the "coa" you get "ching." Drop the tail off the "g" and what do you have left? (Of course we all know what "COA" stands for.) No, I didn't hear this somewhere - I just noticed it.

***
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February 6, 2013

Feb. 4 USATT Board Minutes and Tournament Sanction Changes

Late last night the minutes of the Feb. 4, 2013 board meeting went up. Part of it was the election of Mike Babuin as the new chairman of the USATT Board of Directors, and the Advisory Committee Chair Appointments (see segment below). However, the bigger news is the new sanctioning standards for USATT tournaments, from zero to 5-star. Here are the new rules. When I get a chance I'll go over them and give my own thoughts. I'll be glad to hear your own - feel free to comment.

Mike Babuin New Chairman of the USATT Board of Directors

The USATT Board chose Mike as the new Chair. I've had many discussions with Mike, and I think they've made a good choice. Here's the article, and here's the actual board minutes, both of which also discuss advisory committee chairs. Here is the list of all newly appointed or re-appointed USATT Advisory Committees chairs.

High Performance Committee   -   Carl Danner
Nominating and Governance Committee   -   Bob Fox
Ethics and Grievance Committee   -   Jim Coombe
Compensation Committee   -   Mike Babuin
Audit Committee   -   Peter Scudner
Athletes Advisory Council   –   Han Xiao
Officials and Rules Advisory Committee   -   Roman Tinyszin
Seniors Advisory Committee   -   Gregg Robertshaw
Tournaments Advisory Committee   -   Larry Rose
Editorial Advisory Committee   -   Jim McQueen
Clubs Advisory Committee   -   Attila Malek
Hardbat Advisory Committee   -   Alberto Prieto
Juniors Advisory Committee   -   Dennis Davis
Coaching Advisory Committee   -   Federico Bassetti
Marketing and Fund Raising Advisory Committee   -   Jim Kahler

Book Blatherings

  • Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13. It's pretty comprehensive, covering the year 1984. We got started on it late Tuesday morning. On Day One, we completed the front and back covers, the inside front cover, and the first 40 pages (through the first two chapters). Tim's on a photo binge - I've already put in 85 photos! At this rate every member of USA Table Tennis, circa 1984, will be in it. I'm doing the page layouts and much of the photo work. The majority of the photos come from Mal Anderson, who scanned all his photos, saving us a huge amount of time.  We'll be working on this for the next 10-14 days. It will be on sale in a few weeks, along with the previous twelve already on sale, at TimBogganTableTennis.com.
  • Homestretch on Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. Yesterday I received the review copy. All looked well. I did make a few changes that I'd already planned, replacing two photos with two new ones, and tweaking a few pages. I've submitted the final version. If all goes well, print copies will be on sale this Friday. It's absolutely amazing how the printing industry has changed - they'll get the final version on Wednesday, and have copies on sale two days later!
  • TableTennisBooks.com? I recently bought the rights to the page, along with LarryHodgesBooks.com. I plan on selling my books on the latter, but am toying with someday becoming a table tennis book dealer on the former. After all, there's nothing we like to do better at a table tennis club than to curl up under a table and read table tennis books!
  • Want more books? Here's a list of all 213 books I have on table tennis. I just added Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.

Ma Long vs. Zhang Jike

Here's video (4:40) of their match at the 2013 Chinese Team Trials.

Pool-Pong

This is what happens when you combine pool and ping-pong (39 sec).

Underwater Table Tennis

With a shark!!! But of course sharks can play table tennis. Sometimes they even infest the table.

***
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February 5, 2013

Tim Boggan Arrives

This morning at 9:30 AM Tim Boggan will arrive for a 10-14 day stay. I'll be doing the page layouts (500+) and photo work (800+) for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13 (as I've done for the past ones). Here's Tim's page (which I created and maintain for him), where you can buy the previous volumes.

Since we'll be working all day, Mon-Fri, until it's done, and since I'll be mostly coaching nights and weekends, I won't have much free time the next two weeks. (I'll be doing most of the blog late at night instead of early in the morning, since Tim will be up and waiting to get started early each morning.) If anyone is dreaming of asking me to do a time-wasting favor for them, well, here's what I have to say about that.

Tactical Matches

Here are more examples of tactics used this past weekend in practice matches.

In one I played a player with a really nice forehand smash. Just about anything that went there he'd smash (even my pushes if I weren't careful), and if I put the ball slow to his backhand, he'd step around and smash that as well. What to do? I took most short serves right off the bounce to his wide backhand with banana flips, which kept his forehand out of play. If the serve went long, I looped, again always wide to the backhand. I varied my serve, following them up with attack - you guessed it - into his wide backhand. His backhand blocking wasn't nearly as strong, and he almost never got a chance to smash. This was a case where he was literally waiting for me to go to this forehand so he could smash, so I almost never did, not unless he wandered toward his backhand side.

In another match I played an extremely fast junior who could pound the ball from both sides to all parts of the table, and was much quicker than me. There's no way I could really cover the whole table in a rally against him. Since he was using standard placement tactics - every ball to the wide corners or at my elbow - I employed a tactic I've blogged about before. I stood in a slight forehand stance, but toward my backhand side. I covered the wide backhand and middle with my backhand, using his own pace to rebound the ball back, countering the balls back wide to his backhand to keep his forehand out of play. I could barely keep up the pace he was setting, but eventually he'd change directions and go to my forehand. The instant I saw the change, I would step to the wide forehand and counter-attack. The two keys to that forehand counter-attack were 1) I was already standing with my feet in a forehand position so I'd be ready, and 2) I didn't look to see where the ball would go on my forehand side - I anticipated it would go wide. Essentially this moves my middle toward my forehand side. If his shot went a foot inside the forehand corner, I'd have been stuck (like a player caught with a ball hit at their elbow), but that's not how players are trained - and so I won.

Other tactics used in this match - lots of receive variation to throw him off, with flips, loops, and short and long pushes. When I attacked (mostly by looping except in fast rallies), I went after his forehand, which took his angle into my backhand away so I was able to follow with another forehand.

In another match against a big-looping junior with a passive receive I served lots of varied short serves. He'd push them, even chopping down on the side-top serves so he could push them low. But the key was that he was predictable, as well as vulnerable to varied amounts of backspin, sidespin, and topspin, since he was trying to push or chop-block them all back. So I could anticipate slow backspin returns every time, and since I didn't have to guard against a flip, I could go for a forehand loop every time. (Whenever it got close, I'd throw a fast, deep serve at him for a free point - he was rarely ready for it.) On his serve (almost all short) I mostly flipped to his wide backhand or dropped it short. Sometimes he'd wind up and rip a backhand loop; when he did that, I knew he was anticipating it, and on the next receive I'd aim to his backhand, and at the last second flip to his wide forehand. It got him every time.

British Rock Band Challenges Justin Bieber

The band Lawson has challenged Justin Bieber at table tennis. Who will win?

Chico Table Tennis Club

Here's an article about the Chico TTC in Durham, CA.

Kong Linghui on the Women's Trials

Here's an article about Kong Linghui, the Chinese Women's Coach. "The Squad Trials is getting much harder!"

New World Rankings

Here's an article on the new world rankings. Zhang Jike drops to third! Here are the new rankings.

Lunar Cup Matches and an Exhibition

The 2013 Lunar New Year Cup Challenge Match was held in China, with the top six Chinese players competing: Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, and Ma Long against Chen Qi, Wang Liqin, and Wang Hao. (Actual matches are Xu vs. Chen; Zhang vs. Wang Liqin; and Ma Long vs. Wang Hao.) Also featured is an exhibition by former superstars Guo Yuehua and Chen Xinhua. Here's where you can watch the videos.

The Best of Samsonov, Schlager, Boll, Kreanga, and Primorac

Here's a highlights video (7:53) featuring many of the best European players.

1946 U.S. National Ping-Pong Championships

Here's vintage video footage (1:06) from the 1946 U.S. Open. It features several clips of Laszlo Bellak clowning around for the camera, including blowing the ball sideways (hey, that's my trick!), rallying by kicking the ball back, and other tricks.

Air Gun Fires Ping-Pong Balls at 900 MPH

See what happens when a ping-pong ball traveling Mach 1.2 strikes a ping-pong paddle!

Table Tennis Cookies

Mmmmmmm...

***
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July 18, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Two

The schedule yesterday was similar to the day before, except that the morning's focus was on the backhand, and my lecture after the break was on return of serve.

I did a lot of coaching on serves, where the focus was on creating spin. One thing I introduced was a way to practice spin with just the racket and ball. You toss the ball into the air and try to sidespin it straight into the air, catch it, and repeat. It's a simple exercise any player can learn to do, and it's a great way to practice your spin contact as well as control (since you have to hit the ball straight up).

One serve especially has gained interest - the reverse forehand pendulum serve, especially short to the forehand. I've explained that this is probably the most effective serves against junior players (because of their shorter reach, making it hard both to handle the serve or to return it anywhere except crosscourt to a righty's forehand), and this seems to have sparked interest. Here's a video (1:22) that features Men's Singles World Champion Zhang Jike doing the serve, with slow motion. Normally I'd recommend the serve to go wider to the forehand, but at the advanced levels that gives the receiver a very wide angle into the forehand, so at that level it is often done more to the middle. Learn the serve and experiment on what works best in your matches against different opponents.

Things weren't all lovey-dovey in the camp; we had our first real fight of the season. One kid wanted to share a chair with another (both about 9), for some reason didn't want to use the open chair five feet away. I had to pull them apart. Amazing how such little things can escalate at that age level. (I previously blogged about a fight over paper cups, I think about who got to stack them for knocking down with ping-pong balls.) But an hour later they were happily taking turns on the robot together, and later were teammates in Brazilian Teams, cheering for each other. I wish my memory were that short.

In the ongoing clipboard challenge matches during break, I haven't yet lost to anyone rated under 2200, and am now 5-0 against players rated between 2000 and 2200. However, I believe players are now conspiring together by studying videos late into the night, comparing notes, consulting with coaches, and doing early morning training, all for the express purpose of beating me and my clipboard.

Fundraising for Topspin the Movie

To do the documentary on Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, and Lily Zhang, they need to raise $75,000. As of this writing, 405 people have donated a total of $44,771. It's all or nothing - so they need you to donate! Here's the movie webpage, here's the fundraising site, and here's a link to the 48-hour Top Spinnathon they started Tuesday at 3:30 PM.

Ariel Hsing on CNN

Here's an article with a link to a two-minute video that ran on CNN yesterday. The person hitting with Ariel in the video is coach and practice partner Anol Kashyap.

Timothy Wang in the News

Here's an article on USA Olympian Timothy Wang.

What Vikash Learned at the U.S. Open

Vikash Sahu blogs about what he learned at the U.S. Open, in particular about attacking, playing different styles, and physical conditioning.

History of U.S. Table Tennis

Chapter 14 of Volume 12 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis was featured yesterday on the USATT web page. The heading: "1983: New USTTA Editor Tom Wintrich Replaces 50-Year-Old 'Table Tennis Topics' with 'SPIN.' 1983: Boggan's Fury at President Schiff's Public Explanation as to Why Tim was Fired as 'Topics' Editor. 1983: Boggan Immediately Begins Renegade 'Timmy’s North American World of Table Tennis.'  1983: Initial Responses to SPIN and 'Timmy's' from readers."

Why not buy a copy of this volume and/or the preceding eleven? Perhaps pick and choose the years you are most interested in. Here's Tim Boggan's table tennis page, where you can buy the books or just read about Tim. Here's his Hall of Fame profile.

Wheel of Fortune

Table tennis was on Wheel of Fortune yesterday, as related online by "jj4tt" at the about.com table tennis forum. As he narrates about "Round 2 - Same Letter" (and I presume Wheel of Fortune aficionados can make sense of this?):

Sarah instantly duds out w/ T while Karla goes BANKRUPT. Jed picks up that MDW with three N's. That's followed by $7,000 worth of L's, but he blows it with the C. Back to Sarah who finds the SL of four P's; that allows her to pick up a 1/2 KIA. She narrows the puzzle down to this...
P R O _ E S S I O N A L
P I N _ - P O N _
P L A _ E R
She solves PROFESSIONAL PING-PONG PLAYER for $2,500. Jed left a total of $8,300 on the table in this round.  ...

A Table at Spin NY

I think it's a drowning woman - the table top seems to be blocking her from surfacing. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be posting about Murder at Spin NY.

***

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