9-Ball Top Gun (SP2013) Tournament Review

This past weekend was the 9-Ball Top Gun tournament for the spring session. I was excited to play, but after staying out late Friday night, playing horribly, and having to get up early Saturday to help set up for my sister's baby shower, I had low expectations for this tournament.

Apparently the unseasonably awesome weather kept a lot of people from attending the tournament, so we had to combine the 5's, 6's and 7's into a single bracket and still only had ELEVEN players. :/  As luck would have it, I drew a BYE the first round.  My first match was against the guy I lost to in my first 9-Ball TG tournament about a year ago, but this time I won - pretty solidly too. The score was something like 55-25; but it was more that he kept making silly mistakes and leaving me simple outs (regardless if it was from the break or halfway through, I was moving through the grid with ease).  I did get a little scared when I needed 2 and just couldn't seem to keep my head in it long enough to make a shot; he got like 7 points during this time, until he scratched on the 1 and left me with BIH on the 2, with the 3 sitting right next to it.

My next match was against a guy I've only played one other time, in that same TG tournament from above, and I barely beat him then.  Luck, it seemed was on his side this match and he won this one 55-43.  I had my chances, but just couldn't quite there.  Oh well, I'm still in it; and I'll get to play a few more matches to stay loose.

I spent a few minutes outside in the lovely weather and recharged while I waited for some food to arrive.  Of course, it shows up literally 30 seconds before they call my next match.  I just ignore it and go play.  I've never played this particular guy before but I mostly didn't care.  We were both 7's so I knew it'd be a long race (and I like those).  However, I could NOT get my break to work.  I scratched on the break FOUR times, three of them IN A ROW, in a different pocket each time.  It's like I'd adjust a little and the table would take it somewhere else.  Still, the guy, again, kept making mistakes and I would fight my way through the rack to stay at the table.  I can't tell you how many 9-balls he missed those times he would actually run out.  As infuriating as it was to continue to scratch and have problems with the break, I still never lost my temper.  Sure, I'd complain or whine about it, but it wasn't an angry gesture or tantrum of any sort. I knew I was ahead the whole match and that really helps with the staying calm and positive.

I managed to win that match 55-38 or something like that.  Which put my next match against the "killer 5" that put a giant ass-whooping on another 7-friend of mine.  The guy had ran 18 in a single inning, so the story goes, and I was eager to outmove him.

But, the 5 that played earlier and the 5 that I played were totally different people. I just played smart and shot everything with confidence. It wasn't until he got annoyed that I locked him up in a great 3-rail safety half-way through the rack and complained "You're up something like 31-7 and you play safe?".  I told him: "5's are too dangerous to give a window to, so I'm not gonna give ya one; nothing personal."  I went on to win that match 55-22 or something.  It was during this match that I had overhit the 8 ball and landed so awkardly on the 9 that I was litterally clueless on what to do for a good couple of minutes. Patience is a virtue because then I saw it:

I knew it could go, but I never expected it would go, so when it dropped, I had the biggest grin on my face, the score keeper's jaw was on the table and my opponent said "Well, shit! I got no chance with that."

This win put me into the finals and where I would face the guy that had beat me earlier.

I knew we were both happy to be there and that it would be a good and friendly match, but I couldn't really expect what happened next.  He won the lag, broke dry and I had to kick at the 1, he ran out. 0-10 him.  He broke dry again and left the 1 on a thin cut, with the 2 hanging in the side pocket next to the 3 on the long rail.  The tangent from the 1 to the 2 was nearly automatic, so I thought "Make the 1, carom the 2 and be perfect on the 3."  But I missed the 1, which caused me to miss the carom on the 2.  He ran out from there. 0-20.  Then the most amazing thing I've seen in that bar happened: he broke and ran - TWICE.  0-40.  At this point, it's over and I'm just gonna have fun with it.  So I tell him, to keep going, see how many you can get!  He broke dry the next rack and I cleaned up that table. 10-40. I broke, made a couple, but the table was a complete mess.  I jokingly said "This cool? Wanna just rack 'em?" - which everyone laughed at.  The 2 was near the 3rd diamond on the long rail, then the 9 on the middle, and the 3 on the 1st diamond, with the cueball kinda near the center of the table.  I played a GREAT cross-bank on the 2, but on the way back up I got bumped to behind the 9 ball and had to kick at the 3 ball.  We traded a few balls, but I eventually took the rack.  It was something like 15-45 now.

The rest of the story doesn't matter - I made it to 27 when he finally got his 55th point to win the tournament.  I was happy with getting 27 to his 15, and if we had started match from when I was down 0-40, I might have had him; but I can't spot ANYONE 40 points going to 55. haha

If a tournament can have a theme, then this shot was my theme of the day.  It came up THREE times during the day.  It's a stroke shot - but this shot is NOT hit with force.  It's called "doubling the rail" in some books and videos.  Here are my three examples of usage:



Everyone should know this shot.  It's tough to do if you're not used to it.  It's <b>essential</b> that the ball have a LOT of spin, but with almost no speed.  Give it a try sometime.  I promise, it's a shot that will get you out of a tough spot more than once.

And lastly, I want to comment on just how well my new attitude is working.  Now, granted, I spent the day on the winning side of almost everything so it's easy to stay positive and chipper.  But, it's such remarkable difference that other people have commented on my new "good behavior".  I never dropped my cue, or tossed it, or slammed balls into the rack, or hammered my chalk down. Not once, all day.  With all the mistakes I made, I held myself together nearly perfectly.  Once my first loss match was over I was noticeably upset, but I went outside and just relaxed and let it go.  I came back in with a singular goal in mind: "Run over everyone and get to the finals."  Of course, that was not the thing I focused on before or during a match.  Before I started a match, I washed my hands and told myself to "play smart, be sure, don't guess and don't be a hero fighting a losing battle."  It worked like a charm. I took whatever the table gave me and didn't try to force a bad position. Sure, sometimes I'd let my stroke out more than necessary, but always only when it was totally safe to do so.  And that's really only to keep my back arm loose.  I didn't care who I was playing, or what their skill level was, I was just going to continue to make balls until someone said "That's it!". I would play safe 90% of the time when I was supposed to (I took a few flyers, and each time I did, I gave up the rest of that rack; so I quickly stopped that).

Overall, I'm quite happy with my performance.  Sure, I'd like to win one, but finishing 2nd twice out of three tries... I'm really happy with that. :)

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

8-Ball Invitational Tournament Review

I was never very excited about this tournament, other than the fact the organizer thought I should be included.  That's something at least.  In truth, I think the general skill level of the players invited played above me; still in retrospect, I should've held my own among them without too much trouble.  But what happened was something far worse.

I get to the pool room a little after noon start hitting balls.  I'm casually shooting, not really practicing, just trying to get loose; which might have been my first mistake.  Shortly after, someone asks to warm up with me, I say sure (as it saves me some quarters). We play 5 games, he wins all 5 in typically 1 inning.  I quit and tell him I'm gonna practice some more; which I sorta do.  I sit down for a moment and notice the other players, likely my 3rd mistake in less than an hour.  Suddenly, I wanted to withdraw from the tournament; felt like cannon fodder for the field.  I couldn't do that, so I just decided to play without expectation, don't take anything too serious and just have fun with it.  It's a long day of a lot of pool.

The format was 3 flights of 7 players in a round-robin.  Everyone would play 6 matchs, races to 3, alternating break and 8-on-the-break doesn't count.  The best rule: Open table after the break, regardless of what suite is made.  This is a great setup.

I don't play the first round (not enough tables) and patiently wait for my name to be called; which it finally was just when I was thinking about getting into some sort of game on the lone 9-foot gold crown.  I don't recall exactly everything that happened, but I know that I missed the 8 in the first rack, and missed a 95% favorite to make shot so terribly I was embarassed in the 2nd rack. This puts my opponent up 0-2, race to 3.  He makes a mistake of his own in the 3rd rack and I definitely make it an interesting out, but I get my first game.  He eventually gets his 3rd and I've lost my first match.

About 10 minutes later I have to play again. This time I play a name I've heard in the local arena. Don't recall anything specific, but if I've heard the name, it generally means that name is a threat of some sort.  He's an older guy, and plays super slow. Hyper-examines the table after each and every shot and takes like 45 seconds for his pre-shot routine and 92 pre-strokes.  Still... he doesn't miss and he never takes a chance. Ever.  I never had a clear shot at the table, other than the break; which was always iffy.  So, as draining as it was to play him, I can't fault him for his ability.  He won 3-0.

I next play a guy I'm quite sure I've played or seen around some of the places I used to hang out, but I don't make anything of it.  We played pretty similarly and each of us struggled a bit.  I again, would make some really great outs, but get an extra 1/2 inch roll on either the ball I just broke out, or the cue ball and hide myself somehow.  Or, I'd just dog the target ball terribly.  I should have had at least 2 racks in this match, but I just gave him that one extra chance he needed to finish it up.  Lost that match 3-0.


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Filed Under: 8-Ball · Tournaments

Shot of the Match [Masters 9-Ball]

Last night was APA Masters league and I got to play one of my teammates with whom I'm going to Vegas next month.  We've only ever practiced before, never actually played a match (that I recall).  He's a 7/9 in regular league, whereas I'm a 6/7, for reference.  I'll skip the details and just to get to the shot that put me on the hill (where he was patiently waiting for me).

It's 6-5 in a race to 7, he had just gotten to the hill and broke dry.  As I walk past my teammate, I whisper "Should I go for it?" lol, he doesn't respond for anti-coaching reasons.  I survey the table a bit longer and realize, this is an ugly table and here's an essentially free shot.  I know these tables play fast so I don't have to super-power the ball down there, but I still have to hit it good.

I line up to tangent line I want, jack up, and fire the cueball at the 1. I see that I didn't draw it enough and it's going to float into the rail. I give up on my hopes, until I notice where it hit the rail - and realize it has a chance to essentially kick the 9 in.  It has the speed, and it looks like it has the angle and spin.... waiting ... watching ... it clips the 9 a little thin, but sends it toward the pocket, where it hits the long-rail, then the inside of the pocket point; pauses... then finally it drips in and disappears! I couldn't believe it! My teammates cheer and even my opponent congratulates me on a good shot.  That shot puts me on the hill and a few safety battles later, I end up taking the final rack to win the match! :)

Here's the shot that essentially won it for me:


1-9 Full-Table Carom/Kick

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · League

Mental Game - Post Mistake Routine

I'm sure I'm not the first one to coin this phrase, but I haven't seen it anywhere before.  I've become aware of something that has really helped me maintain my mental focus - specifically when things are not going my way.  I call it The Post-Mistake Routine. It's similar to the pre-shot routine and I'm hoping to engrain this behavior into my game as solidly as I have worked on my pre-shot routine.

I am a redhead, so that means I sometimes lose my cool (but I do have a soul, I promise, heh).  This is terrible for playing pool, as most of you know already.  Over the last year I've always kept the idea of staying calm in the back of my mind whenever I'm at the table. While it hasn't been the most successful venture, it hasn't gone unused or without benefit.

A year ago, I would get annoyed at the other player's rolls, or slopping in a ball.  Of course I'm still annoyed today, but for the most part it just doesn't bother me much (unless it's like a series of slop shots in a row).  I attribute this acceptance to the variety of articles from Samm Diep, Liz Ford and Jennifer Baretta found in the weekly PoolDawg emails.  But it wasn't until I started in the APA that I really had to manage this kind of acceptance.  I've always played tough players who would a roll maybe once or twice a rack, and since we would play even (or close to it) the rolls would balance out by the end.  However, while playing lower skill levels in the APA, it's immediately apparent just how much more slop they get away with.  It's always entertaining at first, until it gets close to the end of the match; then it's annoying.  That's when I need to focus the most and have the sharpest mental game. Unfortunately, that's getting close to the time when I would start to come undone after the barrage of slop I've withstood.

Lately, with the last 3 months, however, I've been able to maintain a sharper mental game for the most part.  Sure, there are days when I just can't hold it together; usually those days when I haven't slept enough, or eaten right, or did anything to mentally prepare.  Maybe those are the days when I'm really stressed out about work or things around the house, I can't recall; but there's always something else going on there. 

The point of this entry is more for me to note that during the 8-Ball tournament over the weekend, I played 3 of my 4 matches with perfect control, even reeling myself in when I noticed I was starting to show signs of getting upset.  If I dogged an easy shot, and immediately started talking to myself negatively, I was able to tell myself to stop.  I was reminded of Shane van Boening's interview where he said that he always thinks back to a time when he was playing really well and envisioned himself winning. 

In my 2nd match, I started off struggling a little bit and quickly began the self-talk.  I caught it early and thought of SVB, then thought back to how it felt during my first match when I was playing very well.  I remember thinking during that first match that THIS is the match I need to think about today, if I'm going to think about a good match.  In about 10 minutes, I was back to my cool, calm and calculating style of play.  Trusting my instincts but making excellent decisions in both the patterns I chose and safeties I played (move a ball, hide opponent, etc).  It pulled me into nearly dead stroke and I went from being down 1-2 to winning the match 5-2.

I, sadly, could not hold on to that much focus during my 4 hour break and was too tired to even remember to think about the good match.  I only remember thinking "This is me being afriad to lose ... which is really bad because I can't remember what I need to remember in order to win." the whole time during my slaughter.

Monday was the last match of the in-house 9-ball league at Cue & Cushion. I was set to play one of the guys in the top running for 1st place.  I have never played him, but tried to take notice over the session to see just how good he plays; and he plays pretty good.  I win the flip and he gets the first 2 racks due to my mistakes.  But here's the thing, whenever I made a mistake, I laughed.  I literally bent over the table and full faced laughed at one of my worst miscues in recent times.  It gave him ball-in-hand on the 6 and cost me the rack, and I knew it.  But, my first reaction wasn't anger, it was entertainment.  I realized how strange that was, since usually I would've at least scowled and angrily swiped up my chalk and stomped back to the chair.

That sort of thing continued the rest of the match; and each time I made a mistake, I'd say to myself/whoever was listening "That's just silly". I wonder if that phrase, being sorta silly on its own, is enough to allow me to both complain and let go of the mistake all at once? I've been using that phrase for a couple of months now and there does seem to be something to it.  I continue on with the match, with an audience for the last half and while I was playing pretty well, it wasn't spectacular play. I made mistakes, stupid ones at times, but each time, I'd tap my chalk and label the mistake "silly" on my return to the chair.  I never got angry or frustrated for more than a few seconds.  I'd take a drink of water and in a Jedi-like motion, wave my hand sideways implying I'm done with this thought and letting it go.  That's another act I've been including in my post-mistake routine which seems to have finally started to help.

I held on to this attitude and it allowed me to win the last match hill-hill after my opponent missed ball in hand on the 5, then I missed the 8 ball, but got the best roll EVER and left him corner hooked with the cueball.  Now, of course I was furious with how poorly I played the 8 ball the first time, but even before the cueball hung in the pocket and I assumed I had scratched I wasn't all the angry about it. I realized that I had made the mistake and while it was unfortunate, I couldn't do anything about it now.

This is the 4th night of league play wherein I've held myself together so much better than in previous weeks/months. Each time I've had a different amount of sleep, played at different times, anywhere between starving and nearly too full to move. Puffing on my electronic cigarette or having a real one (I'm quitting again). Having a team around with conversations or playing alone not saying a word (which I do prefer actually).  So, across all varieties of game situation, I've somehow managed to learn some sort of self-control when things get out of line.  Of course it's not perfect yet, I've only just begun to recognize my triggers and explore the methods that work best for me, but overall, I'm very happy with this obervation. 

I'm putting less stock in the "lucky shoes, jeans, shirts" and more in my own mental ability. I like where this is going.  And just in time too... I can't be blowing a gasket out in Vegas next month. ;)


Filed Under: Training

8-Ball Top Gun (SU2013) Tournament Review (Bracket FAIL)

This will just be a quick summary post because a) I'm super busy with my day job and b) if I continue to dwell on this, I'll get uber-pissed off about it all over again.

Tournament starts at 1. I'm playing my first match, and playing well. It's a race to 5, I'm winning 4-1.  I had just missed a tough cut on the 8, but left it as a tough cross-corner back for the guy.  Before he gets down to shoot it, the tournament directory comes over and says "We are really, really ... really sorry, but we have to cancel this match.  The brackets were drawn up incorrectly and you guys were not supposed to play each other.  Here's your quarters back for the match so far."

We look at each other and think, WTF?!?  Now it's after 2, I've already fought through the "first match" jitters, but it didnt' count. So, yay for getting warmed up, Boo for not getting credit for a win.  I'm pretty pissed about the bracket mistake (they cancelled 4 matches btw), but it is what it is, at least I hadn't already won (as a friend of mine had). 

They get the bracket fixed and matches underway in a pretty short amount of time.  I'm still playing really well, making good choices, playing a lot of smart defenses, etc.  I win my first match 5-2, then I win my 2nd match 5-1.  It's now just after 5pm and I'm in the final 8.  But, now is the dead time.  I wait, and I wait... and I wait... ... I wait for almost FOUR HOURS before my opponent is determined from the 1-loss side.  I had no idea when I was gonna play, so I couldn't leave.  All I could do is sit there and drink water and chit-chat.  All the tables were full with either league or tournament play (there's only 10 tables in the place).

So, I start my next match ... and my opponent is the guy I beat in the cancelled match.  He's been playing non-stop all day.  I've been sitting 3+ hours.  The outcome is that he beat me as badly as I beat him to start the day.  I had no focus, no mental game.  And the 2nd chance rounds were long gone, so this was a pack-your-bags match for both of us.  And one round from getting into the money.  If I had won that match I was guaranteed 3rd/4th.

I can't really blame anyone for how I played. I have to find a way to stay in the game even when I'm not playing, but at the same time, I think it's absolutely ridiculous how the bracket mishap was handled, then combined with the absurd amount of time people had to wait.  A colleague of mine was a parallel bracket to me and he had to 45 mins longer than me to play his match!  So, it seems to me that the directors should place more emphasis on the 1-loss side.  Play a winner's side after 2 west-sides.  Or something to that affect.  There simply MUST be a better way to schedule matches.  Preferably, by times, the way most every other organized tournament is ran.  There's no reason that a race to 5 between to high skill levels should ever take more than 1.5 hours.  I realize it happens sometimes, but in general, most racks are over in 2 innings unless there's a bunch of safety.  But the time averages out with the quick break'n'run and 8-on-the-snap racks, or just a dry break and run-out rack.  From there, you can schedule the brackets at certain times and fill in the players as they come in. 

The kicker is that this was only a 22 person tournament and it took nearly 12 hours to complete. 

So, onwards.  Next weekend there's another 8-ball tournament, should be a lot toughter, with better money. I haven't decided if I'm gonna play yet. The buy-in is significant and I'm a little thin with the extra pool funds this week.  The weekend after is the Top Gun 9 Ball tournament.  Hopefully, I'll have more to say on the positive side 2 Mondays from now.

Two weeks after that is the Midwest 9Ball tour and the week after that is VEGAS!!  Holy crap this has turned into the summer of tournaments!

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · League · Tournaments

Bonus Ball on Hiatus

I just read over on AZBilliards that Bonus Ball/WPBL has to put everything on hold due to financial restrictions.  This is quite upsetting.  I had planned on attending a match or two while I was in Vegas next month. I had talked some friends into going as well.  Maybe they'll get things going again, I certainly hope so, but this is the age-old story of how startup companies flutter out and die. Grand ideas, a bunch of angel investors, product gets started, investors back out, company dies.


Filed Under: General

Product Review: Perfect Aim - Revisited

Back in April, I wrote about Perfect Aim, and it was less than flattering.  The DVD on its own, I still don't think holds enough information/training to get the most out of the system.  This is why Gene Albrecht includes a free lesson with every DVD purchase.  Not being in the area, I never thought I'd get that free lesson.

Then last night, as I was getting ready to leave the pool hall after league, who walks in, but none other than Gene himself!  I heard he might be in town over on the AZB Forums, but didn't figure our schedules would cross.  Fortune was with me, it seems, last night (aside from winning my league match 9-2, including an excellent break and run).

I nearly just packed up and left, but instead decided to take this opportunity to at least meet the guy.  I walked over, introduced myself, explained that I bought the DVD a few months ago.  He asked if I had any questions and I confessed that I should probably watch it again, as I remember having several questions, but couldn't remember them at that time.  He then said "Get your cue out." and set up a few shots at the table.

He immediately noted that my dominant eye was not what every eye-test I had done indicated.  I explained how I move my eyes or cue to match the shot and that it has been working relatively well in comparison to the time before I knew about this type of alignment, but still no perfect.  He said, this is why the in-person lesson is so important, or at the bare minimum, the phone lesson. He set up some more shots cutting to my difficult side and had me get down on the shot his way, then asked me how I felt about it. I said it feels and looks wrong.  He said "shoot it"... and it went so clean it looked like SVB shot it!  We set it up again, and again it looked wrong, but again it went perfectly, without touching the rail.

After he was able to tailor his information specifically for a shot that I diagrammed and how I need to adjust, everything else made sense.

We set up some more shots that I've been having trouble with, specifically balls frozen on the 3rd diamond and cutting them down the rail passed the side pocket.  After the adjustments, the balls were hugging the rail and flying into the pocket.  Cutting both left and right side!  I was very, very happy - and as an instructor, you could tell he was happy to see me get all giddy after nailing 3 in a row!  I will have to do my own experiments when it comes to using english as we didn't have time to get into that; but that's not really something that's involved with this method, so I accept that challenge.

He was distracted by some rail birds, and I set up some more really thin cuts, at distance.  The traditional spot-shot, then I moved it back to the diamond behind the spot and sliced it in both left and right!  At this point, I was supposed to be asleep an hour ago, so I said my goodbye and took my leave.

I'm really anxious to get back to the table tonight and see if I can retain this new way of sighting.  For shots cutting to the left, I don't have to do much at all, but for cutting to the right, I do have to "re-learn" the sight-picture as I've been compensating for so long that I've grown accustomed to that picture.  But, now I have some positive reinforcement behind that site-picture, so I can recognize what it looks like.  I also have a double-check method if I'm really unsure of the angle.

So, while my initial review of the DVD by itself still pretty much stands, I need to amend my overall opinion of Gene and the method he's bringing to the pool world.  He was extremely friendly and giving mini-teaser lessons to all the railbirds who were hoping to glean some free tips.  What he gave them was about what you'd find online.  It's enough to get you interested in what he has to say, but not enough for you do much of anything with it without his personal assistance.

He travels so much, that it's only a matter of time before he comes through your area and if/when he does, MAKE SURE you get 30-60 mins with him!  It really makes the difference between his DVD being highly useful as a pool training tool or a coaster.

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Filed Under: Training

I'm On A Flyer?

I just noticed that my name is among those listed on a flyer for a local tournament. That's pretty cool; though I don't think I belong in such an elite group as a lot of those guys could spot me a game or 2 and still like it.  *shrug* Guess I have to play now. ;)


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Filed Under: 8-Ball · Tournaments

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