5 months ago
They’re practically a sports documentary cliché these days: The grainy home movies of toddler or pre-teens before they were famous, sinking putts or three-pointers with ease long before they could read or write. And before they became famous athletes.
That’s not at all how it worked out for Florian “Venom” Kohler, the virtuoso pool trick-shot artist. The 28-year-old Frenchman, who now calls Las Vegas home, has only been at it for about a decade—but in that short period of time, he’s taken the sport and turned it on its cue-balled head.
Where did he pick up his cue? It’s a fairly unlikely story, which Kohler tells in a rather matter-of-fact sort of manner.
Growing up in France, Kohler graduated from high school in 2006, and started studying to become an optometrist. As he describes it to RealClearLife, working as an optometrist in France might as well be the supermarket bagger of the optical world.
“An optometrist in France is not really recognized,” he tells us. Plus, the pay’s terrible, too. He got the degree and his license, but his sights were set on something far more interesting.
His game plan was to move to America and conquer the world of trick-shot pool. Like the self-made-man that he is, Kohler first studied and became fluent in English, while obsessively polishing his dark arts at late-night pool halls, spending hours upon hours perfecting his craft. (He tells us his daily regimen would often run from about 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.)
His entry point to the sport of trick-shot pool had been twofold: After acquiring an English-style pool table, which has smaller balls and pockets than the standard, Color of Money one, he began obsessing over the various jumps and caroms and angles that a pool ball would take with the right cue stick manipulation. He would bolster these skills by watching YouTube videos and teaching himself how to do the tricks that other artists spent their entire careers perfecting.
We are live at Steinway Cafe-Billiards in New York City with Florian “Venom” Kohler, a professional pool trick shot artist and six-time Guinness Book of World Record holder. Check out his incredible skill here and keep an eye out for an upcoming profile on RealClearLife.com.
Posted by Real Clear Life on Thursday, April 6, 2017
He got good really fast. He recorded his first YouTube how-to in 2007, then competed for the first time internationally a year later. And from there, his legend grew and he started adding wins to his C.V.
Readers have already gotten to see Venom in action via the Facebook Live interview and demonstration RealClearLife did with him back in April. (His wife, Iana, is not so bad herself—she’s ranked No. 2 in the women’s artistic pool division).
So RCL has dug a little deeper into his trade. Not everyone can be a trick-shot artist, but we’ll give you a shot to try it. Here are six of Kohler’s trade secrets, courtesy of the man himself:
(1) Break the Mold
Could you quit your job and become a pool trick-shot artist tomorrow? Possibly. When Kohler was 20, he was going to school, learning English, showing his face at home, then practicing for about eight hours a night (doing the graveyard shift when there weren’t any distractions). And while practice makes perfect, what Kohler really advises upstarts to do is think outside the box. “Instead of doing the same thing as everybody else, I just invented new (shots),” he explains. How many? He ventures a guess of more than 2,000.
(2) Shape Up
“We all think about the pool player that’s old, drinks, and gets fat,” explains Kohler. “It’s honestly true; most (pool players) really don’t behave like athletes: They’re gamblers, hustlers, they live their life in bars.” For Kohler, though, being at the top of his game means staying healthy and working out as much as possible. He tends more towards organic foods, runs twice a week, and well, he’s got a black-belt in judo, so that doesn’t hurt either. But he admits that it’s very difficult with all the travel involved. Last year, Kohler clocked 100 different flights, noting that most of the time, it was a battle against jet lag, loneliness, and getting sick.
(3) Inspire Yourself
Kohler scoured YouTube for videos of trick shooters to help teach himself the trade, but he didn’t want to just mimic the others. That’s why he says he really has no idols in the sport. “After a year or two, I knew all the shots they were doing in the last six years. Basically, it was one guy, Mike Massey, who reinvented (trick shooting,) so everybody was doing his shots,” says Kohler. (See Massey in action above.) “I didn’t like that, so I tried to get inspiration from a little bit of everything.” That included no-pocket billiards, a type of carom-based sport that’s popular in Asia—and just about any other sport that had some connection to the game of pool.
(4) Go Viral
It’s entirely possible that you’ve seen Kohler’s videos making the viral rounds on YouTube; the video he shot with Dude Perfect has been viewed nearly 50 million times in just two years. His own page, which has well over 350,000 subscribers and several of his own videos have gone über-viral (one grossing over 20 million views alone). “I’m not (trying to be) condescending, but I’m pretty sure I changed the whole sport,” says Kohler. He tells us when he first started, there were tons of haters, because he was seen as this random outsider guy, who hadn’t “paid his dues.” “I just came out of nowhere,” remembers Kholer. “I was pissing people off.”
(5) Be Prepared to Work
If you thought that being a world-renowned pool trick-shot artist—and viral YouTube sensation—made you a shoe-in for a future reboot of Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, you’d be sadly mistaken. “I don’t think any pool player lives like a rock star,” Kohler said, after asking him what his last frivolous purchase had been. Putting that into perspective, a televised championship he won back in 2015, which was televised on ESPN, netted him just $7,000—which he says, 20 years ago, would’ve been more like $40,000 or $50,000. Not bad, but not amazing. (Though, better than a French optometrist, we suppose.)
(6) Become the Antivenom
So you want to quit that job, chalk up that cue, and go pro? You’ll have to get through Venom Kohler first. His awards résumé includes a pair of world cups, countless other prizes, made scads of televised appearances, and circled the globe, all in the name of the sport. Plus, he recently broke a pair of Guinness World Records (see above). “Where do you go from here?” we asked him. “I don’t really know; I’ve won basically everything (there is) to win right now,” he says. What he admits he really needs is a formidable competitor—someone he can trade shots with on the world stage.
Maybe, that could be one of RCL‘s readers.