I have found what will be my next “white whale”.  The 8-Ball run-out.  I’ve ran out in 9-ball, I’ve ran out in 10-ball, I’ve ran a full rack in 14.1 but I have yet to run-out in 8-ball.  It’s driving me insane, to be quite honest.  There are, however, two major differences here: 1) I only play 8-ball once a week. 2) And that is on a bar-table.

I play in a local 8-ball bar league and last week we were not doing too well.  No one was shooting well, and our usual ‘guaranteed win’ players weren’t even getting out.  During my first match, I lost the lag and my opponent (who for his last match broke and ran out) broke and started his run.  I honestly don’t remember what he did to get out of position, but he did and as such he let me to come to the table.  He had 2 balls left, and I had all 7, which included a small cluster.  So, I survey the table, I analyze the cluster and I decide which ball I have to use to break it out and where I have to be on that ball to break it out. 

I begin my run. I make the first, then the second.  Now I’m on my cluster break-out ball and I’m very happy with where I’m at.  However, I had a creeping thought: “Every time I break out a cluster, I miss the shot… Make the shot first!”  I took my time, some deep breaths, and pulled the trigger.  I made the shot AND I broke the cluster.  I was very, very happy (and a bit fortunate that the cluster broke in a good way, leaving me a good next shot). I shoot it and come over a little further than I had wanted, but as it turns out, it was even better.

Here’s the layout of the table at this point:

Now, at this point, I see it. I see the out – it’s about as easy a layout as ever.  Stop-shot, stop-shot, forward-roll, stop-shot.  Done.  Our top player comes over at this point and asks if I want to talk, knowing he always has good ideas, I said sure.  He looks over the table, and says the same thing I was already thinking.  I was happy with that too.  So, I shoot the 11, stop.  Good.  I buckle down for the 14, because I have to jack up to stop the CB.  I take a few pauses, stand up, breathe, and get back down. Shoot it, stop it! YES!  I’m just where I want/need to be.  Now I’m really getting nervous, way too nervous in fact.  I can feel my heart racing, the adrenaline is pumping as I am getting closer and closer to running this rack – any rack of 8-ball – for the first time – and in a league match – and during a time when we really need a win!  I stand up on the 9 THREE times to try and calm myself.  I take deep, slow breaths, inhale through the nose, out through the mouth.  Everytime I get down on the ball, my grip hand starts to shake a little.  I finally decide I have to shoot this ball, I just have to.  I get down and focus on the contact point, I try and steady my hand and during the backswing/pause I say to myself “straight” and stroke through.  I watch the 9 roll up the table… it’s short… it’s gonna hit the rail… maybe it’ll bobble in… bounce… bounce… sit.  The 9 was jarred.  The CB sat nearly dead straight in on the 8, but it wasn’t my shot anymore. 

And then my opponent cleared his last two balls and won the game.

I took the loss pretty hard actually, we, as a team, NEEDED that game, and personally, I NEEDED to run-out. I’ve been thinking about it since it happened Tuesday night.  I know the reason I missed it, I know how it happened, and I know what I have to do… but this isn’t new.  I’ve known for some time what I have to do to play better in those situations.  I posted about it just a week or so ago (More Tournaments), but obviously that hasn’t happened yet.

Although, it’s not an entirely negative situation… I did notice that I am doing a few things better.  For one: when it’s not my turn, I don’t focus on the opponent’s actions.  I tried to really study the table from my chair and look for patterns I could play.  I figured out what ball I HAD to use to break out the cluster before I even came to the table.  I had a few ball options for my last ball to get position on the 8 figured out.  Each time my opponent shot, I tried to quickly form a plan from where he’d leave the CB if he missed and I came to the table there.  I was able to maintain my calm a little longer than the last time I came to the table needing a run-out.  It’s not much, but it’s there. The biggest ‘positive’ I think is that after sitting for nearly an hour and a half when it was my turn to come to the table, I was able to “switch on”.  While I was racking the balls, I put on my game face, serious, stern almost pissed-off looking.  I’ve noticed I get that face when I really serious about the game. (think Jeanette Lee in full force) I think it really helped me get as far into the rack as I did.  I just plain a simply dogged the last shot.  I hit my contact point, but I didn’t account for the contact-induced throw, which drove it into the rail.

There are improvements to be seen, but it took me almost a week to see them.

The bottom line is that I have to start putting more pressure on my games – and that means I’m going to have to start playing people for more than just fun.  Short races to 3 or 5 for 5 or 10 bucks should be enough.  Maybe even a few bucks a rack would be enough to force me into that mindset.