I was able to get to the pool hall just once this week.  As luck (sorta) would have it, there was no one there which meant I could finally give the 9-ball skills self-assessment test a try.  What this entails is playing 10 racks of 9-ball.  For each rack, you have 2 innings to run out.  For each ball made in the first inning you get 2 points, for each in the 2nd, 1 point.  After the break and at the beginning of the 2nd inning, you get ball in hand.  The idea is to do this ten times (for a total of 100 racks) over some period of time.

So, I started warming up, tossing out the 9 balls and running out.  Generally, I was getting out in 2, sometimes 3 innings.  After a while I felt in-stroke enough to start this test.  I quickly found a huge problem in my game: My break is terrible.  I have clusters on the table. My cue ball is flying around, usually ending up behind the footstring.  I used to have a decent break, but it’s gone now.  I don’t know what happened to it.  I’ve been taking a bit off of my break to help add some control, but I think it’s making it worse.  I spent about 45 minutes breaking after I noticed this.  I broke from each side rail, left, center and right from the box as well.  I racked the balls the same way each time (order), broke and examined the table.  Where did the balls go, where did the CB go?  I tried a few different stances, I tried staying down, I tried coming up, I tried soft breaks, cut breaks and power breaks.  On the racks where I got the CB in a decent spot, the rack was a tough layout.  On the racks where the layout was wide open, the cue ball was in a rough spot.  Hardly ever did I get whitey near the center with an open table.

Well, I knew this was going to be an issue, but surely with BIH and 2 chances, I can still get through the racks.  I started the test again.  Taking ball in hand and trying to run out.  It was another disaster.  I was so worried about getting out, getting position, that I often forgot to make the ball.  Hardly running more than 2 or 3 in an inning, I was quickly getting frustrated.  After just 5 racks, I had to quit so my own sanity’s sake.  It was not a good night for pool.

I hit some balls around with the gf of one of the owners for a while, then sat to grab to a snack and have a smoke.  The guy playing solo on the next table asked if I was still shooting.  I said “Sure, I’ll play some”, he responded with “cool, just hitting balls though.”  It took me a minute to realize that in pool hall lingo I had just asked to gamble – I’m glad he said no, as I was in no shape to play for real.  I totally spaced on that phrase. *shrug*

We played 9-ball for a while, talking about getting in stroke, different mechanics and whatnot.  Seemed like a really nice guy.  He was getting more in stroke as I slowly got out of stroke. It’s how the game goes sometimes.  After a while, we decided to switch over to the ‘good’ table and play some one-pocket, since he loves that game and I was feeling more confident with that game than 9-ball. I’m glad I did.  I played a lot better. Not leaving him with anything and getting out some pretty decent traps.  I shot at a few flyers, but since they went in, they were dead.  The most notable was this 3-railer:

I thought for sure the 13 was in my way, but IIRC, he needed all but one, and I needed 2. I stood there with a grin on my face watching the 7 pass the 13, hitting on the long rail and heading towards the pocket. I expected it to hit the short cushion first, but it held it’s track and trickled in. I sent the 13 down to my pocket and blocked it with the 4/5 wall. Ending the night on a good note. 🙂

I just can’t help but wonder if maybe 1p isn’t supposed to be my game? Or is it just that I play better because I have more chances in general? Although, when I play someone who’s really good at 1p, I don’t get too many chances. However, when I’m matched up with someone that generally beats me at 9-ball, I generally win at 1p. So, maybe it’s just an entirely different ranking system? Only time will tell, I suppose.