10-Ball Tournament Review

Saturday there was a bar table 10-ball tournament.  Most of the same players as last week's 9-ball tournament.  I did most of the same pre-tournament stuff, just did things that make me happy, played some games, had some good food.  Ate a steak late in the evening (tournament started at midnight) and headed out there around 11pm.  My only goal was to not go 2 and out.  Was hoping to not go 3 and out like last time, but my *goal* was not 2.  

Tournament starts and I'm really disconnected from the match.  A few friends were nearby and we were chatting before the match and a bit during my match.  I thought maybe it'd help keep me lighthearted and take some of the pressure off.  It took the pressure off, but too much of it. I clearly was not really caring about the game.  My opponent wasn't a very strong player, but it's a bar table and anything can happen.  Like when he hooked himself on the 2 behind the 6 ball, removing the 2-10 combo. I was really happy.  Then he kicked at the 2 and the cue ball glanced off the 2 and right into the 10 to slice it in the side pocket.  That was the best shot he shot all night I'm guessing. So, I end up losing my first match 5-3.  

I go outside, put in my earbuds and just sit out there for a while listening to my music, sipping on my soda slowly until my next match.  I didn't know this opponent and honestly, I don't remember too much of the match, except that I won pretty handily. Something like 5-2.  My next match was against a guy I played in the last tournament - incidentally I knocked him out last time.  I was kinda worried about that fact, since it's hard not to get a grudge going on with that type of history. Still, I played pretty well, was running balls, playing good position. Never broke'n'ran, or ran out from the 1, but I did run a few from the 3-ball out.  I won that match 5-2 as well.  

Next match was the kid who knocked me out of the last tournament, Colby.  I really don't like playing this guy.  He shoots pretty well, very well on a barbox. Small stroke, slow-rolls a lot of balls, and always fires at the cheese.  Problem is, he gets lucky a lot.  Has a reputation for it, and now I've been victim to it a few times.  The match starts and he dogs the 6 ball or something, leaving me a pretty easy out to take the 1st game.  He gets the 2nd game thanks to a 4-10 combo.  I think he snaps the 10 on the break the next game.  But then I get the next game. So it's tied up 2-2 at this point.  My break. I break, make a ball and start running the table.  Once I realize I'm on the 7, I let myself get excited about the possibility, only so it doesn't become a distraction, get it under control and navigate this tricky layout.  I get a little too straight on the 9, which leaves me with a pretty tough, but makeable back-cut on the 10.  I know it's tough, but I'm in a good rhythm so I get down, 2 practice strokes and let it goes.  I catch the points on the the pocket and it bobbles out, resting about a ball's width up on the long rail.  The CB is directly parallel with the 10.  I know this ball does not bank straight back, and I know he can't cut it in, so I feel pretty good about it.  He fires at it 100 miles an hour, the 10 goes 3 rails dead into the side pocket.  I couldn't believe it.  Oh well.  The match goes hill-hill and he hangs a 6 ball, leaving me about the same position as the one I just described, but I try to spin it in.  Doesn't go, and he runs out. Knocks me out of the tournament, 1 match out of the money. If I had won, I'd in the very least get 4th place.  

I decided to stick around to see him lose out of some sort of spite.  He plays Rhea next, and he really does not like her (another regular).  Problem is, he's a better player than she is, but she doesn't think so.  He beats her pretty easily 5-1. Then he double-dips the hotseat guy and  goes on to win the tournament with the same amount of slopped in balls he always has.  Oh well.

My own performance was considerably better than last week's.  I was more mentally focused and more easily able to regain control of any emotions I might have been having at the table.  So, even though I only made it one more round further, I feel like it was a decent performance.  Of course, I will always remember that missed 10-ball - and the 6 ball.  But, that's fine. More information to learn from.

Afterwards, there's some barking amongst the railbirds etc.  One guy in particular, Cody, is a bit intoxicated, and medicated due to a back injury, offers to play me 1-handed 1-pocket.  I decline. Then he offers Rhea the 7-out and the breaks.  They get it going. Race to 9 with $120 in the middle.  This is on the "gambling" table - the nicest playing 9-foot gold crown in the house.  Cody is drunk and can't always even speak correctly, so I have to stay and watch this. It's nearly 5am at this point.  Rhea gets out to an early 2 game lead, then Cody picks it up a bit.  She breaks dry 5 racks in a row... and Cody RUNS OUT each of those racks.  All the while sipping on his can of beer and complaining about being hungry.  Someone goes and gets some late-night food to bring back, but it doesn't really affect Cody.  He's up something like 8-4 at this point, and each time he gets to the table, he counts the score, then does/tries something ridiculous to make her money balls instead of running out a pretty simple layout.  Basically giving her games until she gets to 7, then he goes ahead and just runs out to win the match.  I'm pretty sure that was a baiting move, as if to say "See - you almost won. We should be play again, maybe you will."  And she bites, but the room owner is tired as it's now 6:30am and says they aren't betting high enough to make it worth his while to say there any later. (They officially closed 4 hours ago at this point)

I had never seen Cody play, not seriously, but always heard he played good.  Now I've seen a glimpse.  Next week is a one pocket tournament, and he's allowed to play in it. That's a little scary.  I'm going to play in it anyway, but I'm not sure what I should even set for my goals.  Not 2-out, always, but more specifically - what? Don't lose any match 3-0? Race to 3, 16 player max, 9 foot tables.  I don't have any time this week to even get some good table time in until Friday.  Although I hadn't played at all between last week's tournament and this one, so... maybe I'll be alright.  Gonna spend as much time as I can sneak in watching/listening to 1 pocket videos during the week.

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Filed Under: 10-Ball · Tournaments

Weekend Tournament Review

So there was a midnight tournament Saturday night. 9-ball on the bar tables. Small little tourny with like 16 players, $10 entry.  I haven't played on a barbox in what feels like forever. And definitely not seriously.  However, after laying on the couch all day Saturday (recovering from an unexpected late and intoxicated night Friday) I decided that I wanted to go play anyway.

I got up, took a hot shower, cooked a fantastic steak, loaded up the pool case with Cliff bars and headed out to the pool room.  I got there around 11 for the sign-ups and started practicing immediately.  The weirdest thing happened. During practice, I just tossed the balls out and ran them out.  Then I racked 'em, broke 'em, made 3 and ran out!  That was my first break'n'run since the 2nd or 3rd week of the 9-ball league on the big tables way back in like April.  I was feeling pretty good. I mean, just running out feels good, but to do it right out of the gate was amazing!  Definitely a confidence booster, considering the table, the balls and everything else.

My first match in the tourny was against the young guy who knocked me out of the last tournament I played in - the one where I finished 3rd.  I admit, I was a little scared to start the night off against him.  But, I was feeling great, confident in my own shots anyway.  It helped, I think, that we were to play on the same table I had just been practicing on.  The match starts and we get off to a rocky start.  We fought a little bit for the first rack, but after he missed the 8 somehow, I took the first one.  Then the 2nd rack became mine.  The 3rd rack, I broke and ran out!!  I couldn't believe it!  The 4th rack got a little hairy, and he got that one.  But then he made a few more mistakes in the next 2 racks and I won the match 5-1.  I couldn't believe it. I was really ecstatic!   Triple bonus match: 1) I won. 2) I broke and ran. 3) I had a bit of a grudge against him and I took it down.

If only the night could've stayed that way.  I waited nearly an hour for my next match and everything that could've gone wrong did.  I lost the flip. I lost my stroke, I lost my feel.  I lost the match 5-2.  Immediately after that I had to play again. This other kid that I've seen around the hall a lot.  He makes balls, has some idea what he's doing, but mostly he fires at the cheese as often as possible. I didn't take a break between matches. I didn't go outside. I didn't eat a Cliff bar. I was just angry I lost so poorly after playing so great the first match.

And that would be my downfall.  I was far too upset about the last match to be ready for this one.  I lost the match 5-3 and was out of the tournament.  That kid went on to win his next 2 matches.  I think he placed 5/6th?  The first guy I lost to ended up in the finals, but it was nearly 5am and I didn't stay.

It took me a while to figure out what the difference was.  I know how I lost, but I didn't know then how I let myself come so apart.  One of the things I did consistently during practice and the first match was have a solid preshot routine.  I picked a spot - A SPOT - on the table for the cueball when playing position. I picked it before I even got down on the shot.  I did this for every shot, even if it was a stop shot. It didn't matter if I got the CB there or not, it was always close - and much closer than if I hadn't picked a spot at all. I took my time, I did focused breathing if I felt myself get tense or worked up.  I stood up if the shot didn't feel right.

I didn't do any of those things in the next 2 matches.  I made balls when I could see them, but I didn't play position and was always getting hooked.  The table was not breaking well so the spreads were rarely open, always with clusters to deal with.  But regardless, I didn't stick to my game. I didn't stay IN the game - mentally.  All during the last match I'd play, all I wanted to do was go outside, have a smoke, calm down.  But this is such a short race, we already started, it'd be rude... blah blah blah - but I talked myself out of taking a break.  When that's what I really needed. I knew I needed it, but didn't do it. *sigh*  Sometimes I can push through the slump, but it always costs me. This was no different.

Lessons learned.

There's a 10-ball tournament same time, same place next weekend.  I'll be there.  And I WILL be mentally focused and strong.  10-ball is awesome, but I've never played it on a barbox before, so this should be interesting.  My only hope is that my knowlege of the 10-ball break will really help me, whereas I expect everyone to break from the side rail that night.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

[Pool Synergy] Practice: What Works For You


Pool Synergy

This month's Pool Synergy is about practice methods that each of our authors have tried. As any serious pool player/student can attest, we have all tried a large variety of methods when practicing and not everything has worked for every person the same way.  Some of us keep detailed records, like an overzealous accountant with a pool cue.  Others are more relaxed with their practice, basing their activities on how they feel at any certain time.  For me, I'm kind of a fast and loose accountant - practicing what I feel like whenever it comes to mind, but tracking each and every shot in a logbook for reporting summaries later that month.  How I came to this practice style is an interesting story.  Each author this month will describe their own personal practice experiences, what worked and more importantly what did not.  Be sure to click through all of the blog entries this month, which you can get to by clicking the logo at the top of this page, or clicking this link.

I have tried a number of different practice regimens over the years.  When I first started playing pool, just for fun on my lunch break, I would toss out the 15 balls and see how many shots it'd take to clear the table.  I dont think I ever got it lower than 18 strokes back then.  My only way to tell if I was improving was by that number. It bounced around all over the place.  Shots I'd miss most commonly I just gave up on trying and decided to bank most "standard" cut shots because I banked better than I cut balls.

A few years later, I decided to redefine my approach to pool. I wanted to become an actual student of the game.  And students have homework. They get grades and a scorecard.  So, I designed a tracking spreadsheet that I'd use to track what games I play, how many balls I made and missed and why.  I played the ghost pretty often, though never kept a real score - just kept racking and trying to run as many balls as possible.  Eventually I realized that, like with any other things I've ever practiced, I will need to practice each individual aspect of the game on its own.  And with that came the repeating shots.  Those shots I kept missing over and over and over again through the years were the shots I'd set up on the table and shoot JUST that shot until I could make 10 in a row.  I burned tracks in the tables trying to perfect those shots.  Unfortunately, all those hours were sort of wasted because during that time, I wasn't learning the principles of the shot - just one particular shot.  So when another shot came up that was sorta similar, I still had no idea how to aim it, or shoot, because I had learned just ONE shot with that type of practice.

A similar thing happened when I started practicing predetermined 9-ball layouts.  I'd eventually get through the layout, but I learned just that one layout, instead of learning how to read the table and pick the layout.

So, after reading a few other books and watching a few other videos (and reading a LOT of forums) I decided instead to not focus on ONE shot with marked spots for the object and cue balls, but instead work on the principle of the shot.  Meaning, instead of shooting the same shot at the same place from the same distance over and over... I'd keep the angle about the same, and reposition the shot all around the table.  Each shot was about the same angle, but sometimes it was cutting to the left or the right - or into the side pocket instead of a corner.  Then I started adding a cue ball position target on the table.  It was then when my pocketing percentage started going up.  Simply making a shot doesn't really do a lot of good if you can't get a good position on the next ball.  I had found multi-ball position drills... Drills like the "Frozen Rail Drill" (and variations from Joe Tucker's Rail Workout).  Those kinds of drills were invaluable to me because not only do they work on shot making, but also - and most importantly - cue ball position.  I started doing these types of drills, like "The L Drill" - and this great 2-rail position drill as often as possible.

Finally, here was a way that I could improve the underlying principles of the game (dynamic adjustment to a a shot) alongside speed control and position play.  Of course, there is no benefit to them if you don't practice them, dilligently and purposefully.  Which meant that I went back to my spreadsheet idea and modified it to track which drill I was doing and how far I got on each attempt, or how many attempts it took to complete it.  Now, each time I went to the pool hall, I'd start with an hour of practicing whatever drills I felt like; but that each hour was dedicated practice.  No matter the frustration or now matter the mood of the day.  I stayed focused and tracked every shot. On top of getting game practice this is now also training my mental game by finding ways to stay focused, to keep my head in the game.  Relaxation techniques, learning to "let go" of missed shots; all manners of remaining calm and in control of myself at the table; which is a crucial aspect of the game if one is to improve.

So, in the end, what works best for me, is short durations of highly focused practice sessions, separated by playing in leagues or friendly matches on different days.  

I hope you're able to recognize some aspects of your own practice methods in this post, but if not, don't worry - there's a whole slew of other practice methods described by our wonderful collection of other Pool Synergy authors! Click the logo at the top and read what everyone has to say on the subject of how to practice!

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Filed Under: Pool Synergy

What I Learned From Turning Stone

Saturday afternoon, I was watching the Turning Stone stream, courtesy of Accu-Stats, and as I often do while watching a stream, I try to anticipate what each shot is going to be and compare what I think the pattern is with what the pro on the screen does.  There were a lot of little things I picked up here and there, but the most amazing shot this one:

Here's the layout: 

Now, initially, I saw this as a pretty simple deal.  The cut on the 7 into the upper left corner is very thin, so in order to hold the cb for the 8 in the upper right corner, you have to kill the CB's speed, drag it, or slow-roll it. However you like to do that.  That was my first thought.  

But, what Alex Pagulayan did made me literally sit up in my chair and exclaim: BRILLIANT!  He instead, used a confident stroke speed, no english required and just let the table and natural angles play the shot for him.  Instead of trying to hold the CB with a 2-rail position, he played a 4-rail position shot that is 100% natural for a great shot on the 8 in the lower side pocket:

This allowed him to hit the CB naturally, with no additional concerns, focusing purely on making the 7.  The real brilliance of this route is that there really isn't anything that can go wrong here.  If the CB stops anywhere along that path, there's a shot on the 8 ball.  So, speed control doesn't even have to factor as much.  You are free to hit this ball as hard or soft as you feel the most confident to make the ball - and you are guaranteed to get a shot on the 8.  There is one caveat: NO ENGLISH.  If you try and spin this shot in, you are most likely going to scratch in the corner pocket under the 8 ball, but if you keep the cue ball in line with a center or high cue ball, you should miss the corner by at least a diamond on the short rail.  It all depends on how you come off the first rail, where you hit the 2nd rail, etc.

I can't wait to get to a table and try this, to see how I like the end results - to find my "most confident speed".

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments · Training

Softly Back in the Saddle

Last Friday, I went up to the pool hall and decided to see how things would go playing on the big tables, after nearly 2 months away.  And for some reason, I also decided to use my OB Classic Pro shaft again.  I played relatively well, considering.  It seems my pocketing ability hasn't really changed - I still made and missed the same shots (to which is there no real reason for either, as I will miss the same shot I just made equally as often).  However, I don't have the powerstroke back.  No full-table draw shots, and if I break, it's a pretty slow speed - maybe around 12-15 miles per hour.  I actually didn't even try to break because swinging the cue that hard is still a bit uncomfortable due to the follow-through putting a weird pressure on that side of my hand.  I expected to notice some sort of difference in shooting switching back to the LD shaft ... but there wasn't really anything considerable different about it.  I did miss a few shots with inside because I was compensating for my regular shaft's deflection, but that was easy to spot.  I still want to change the tip on that thing though - which I'll have done in the next couple of weeks.

After a while, I got into a game with Jacob.  I went up there to practice, but wasn't really feeling it.  I also didn't feel like getting any action, but at the same time, it was something to do. I should know better by now.

So history of playing Jacob is 11-6, then 11-7, then 10-7, then 9-7 - and each time I came out in the negative.  One time, I think, we came out even.  This time, considering my broken hand, he offered to play even, 8-8.  I had to try it, if only to see how things would go.  After 10 racks, we were dead even.  Neither of us winning more than 2 in a row ever.  I was up 1 game on him, once, but that lasted just one rack.  The rest of the time, I had to play catch-up.  

Then I must have gotten tired or something, because suddenly I found myself down 4 games.  I was getting angry over missed shots and getting annoyed at the seemingly endless amount of bad rolls.  Rolls like, an 1/8th of an inch too far or not far enough, leaving me with no shot on his mistake.  I can only take that for so long before it starts to get under my skin.  A player makes a bad shot should not get away with it - not as often as was happening.  Sure, I got some of those myself, but more often than not, if I made a mistake, it cost me 3-5 balls.  If he made a mistake, I might get 1.  Now, granted, he left plenty of good shots that I just dogged to get started - not saying I didn't have my chances - I absolutely did.  

Anyway, I was missing more shots, getting frustrated and it obviously affected my game. I should've quit when I got it back to being only 2 down, but I was hoping I could get even at least.  Nope, I ended up going back and forth between 2 and 3 down for a while, then dropped back to 4.  I called it off then.  I knew I was done. Plus, I have this thing about losing money ... I don't have the money to lose very often, and when I risk it, it seems I always lose it.  So far, I'm down like $100-$120 to this kid.  That's f'n ridiculous.  But, when I think about it... I'm down on every person I've ever gambled.  Maybe Asmir and I are even, but he might be the only one.  I don't believe it has anything to do with nerves, but rather everything to do with keeping my head in the game.  Staying in the routine.  Somewhere - *always* - I let up, take something for granted - and that will cost me a game.  That starts the frustration; which costs another game.  Here we apply the recursion ad infinitum: Now I've lost the match and am down some number of bucks.

I think I'm going back to playing sets instead of games - period.  No more of this by game shit.  I've always hated by game for this reason.  Definitely going back to sets. Of course, more money is initially at stake to make up for it, but at the same time, I usually do better at sets. It's at least a closer score anyway.

Before I do any of that, I have to seriously get back to practicing.  I lost at least 3 games because I couldn't make a simple short-rail bank.  I don't know why or what I'm doing with those shots, but I miss short-rail banks more than any other banks.  I can long-rail bank pretty decently, but short-rail...forget about it.

Practice, practice, practice ... no matter the barking going on.  Must stick to that.

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Filed Under: General · One Pocket

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