It’s a little early to make any solid judgements, but the last two times I went to play, I played barbox 9-ball in preparation for the weekly tournament (which is tonight) and I played really well.  Much better than I have played in the last few months.  Last Thursday, I ran out from my opponent’s scratch on the break; the first time I’ve ran out in a while (since late November).  Then last night, I played even better, I think.  Including my first break ‘n’ run on a barbox in 9-ball. (strange, I know – I’ve done it on the big tables, playing 8-ball on the BB but not in 9ball) I have to think it was a light form of dead stroke because I was had conversations while not at the table, including dealing with another local who never shuts up and started barking at us to get the next set.  If it had not been for the tornado that came through town forcing me to go home, I would’ve totally taken his money.  Next time I see him though… Aside from that, it just felt great to be making balls, getting position and running out.  

Thinking back to the few (should be given to make) shots I missed last night, all of them were because I was trying to do something aggressive with the cue ball. Using too much spin, slow-rolling out of line or trying to hold the cueball was usually the case.  I only hooked myself a couple of times, but overall, I had pretty good speed control.  I made a couple of nice combos and a nice carom shot when I got out of line.  Thursday, I made 3 carom shots on the 9 that I don’t think I would’ve even tried last month.  I don’t think I let him back to the table but just 3 times (see the dogged shots below) all night when I got to start at the 4 ball or later.

Overall, I felt comfortable and most importantly confident at the table. I didn’t try and power the ball around the table; instead I played a lot of natural shape, with some helping english at times.  

Still out for debate is *why* I suddently started playing better? I played a guy who shoots fairly close to my ability.  He’s got a lot of natural talent and playing 8-ball I think it’s a toss-up, depending on the length of the race.  I told him I wanted to play races to 7, as if we were in a tournament.  That means shooting for the money ball instead of going for the runout, if it presents itself. Playing strong safeties and whatever else  that can be done to keep control of the table.  This wasn’t for any cash, so there wasn’t too much pressure, but still, I felt like we played serious.  I know he’s competitive and hates losing – just like me.  If there’s one area where I feel I have a marked advantage its in position routes.  Too often, with ball in hand, he’d set up a shot that would require working the CB quite a bit, instead of using more natural routes by repositioning the cue ball.  The funny thing is, only a few months ago, I’m pretty sure I would’ve chose the same starting points as well; because I thought I was more consistent with drawing into position, opposed to going forward off a rail.

We played 3 sets Thursday, with the scores of (me-him) 7-4, 6-7 and 7-5.  Last night, again, we played 3 sets, scored 7-4, 7-4, 7-1.  At one point, I had won 6 racks in a row.  I dont think any rack had more than 2 or 3 innings though, so it was really uncommon for either of us to get more than  1 turn at the table.  

I know I dogged 2 9’s (one with too much inside to hold off the scratch and another because I was thinking about something else while down), an 8-ball (took my eye off the ball to watch the CB to make sure I don’t collide with the 9) and a thin cut 6; the other shots I missed were usually banks or jumps.

I felt really in stroke; and didn’t let it get to my head too much.  I tried to acknowledge those little thoughts that creep up “i should be out!”, by standing up, refocusing on the shot at hand, instead of the rest of the rack, and then executed.  When position was tricky, I tried to ensure which side of the ball I needed to be on and only focus on that. (which was something my old team captain preached and it took me a while to learn how to control speed in order to use that method)

I’m really very curious to see how tonight goes.  It’s in a not-so-familiar pool room (although I like the place, just don’t visit it too often), with (likely) total strangers, and it’s all “official” (tournament, not just for fun).  On the other hand, I have no expectations for tonight.  My only goal is to play and try to make as few stupid mistakes as possible.  I’m told they recently made the event a handicapped event because some road players were stealing the thing; but I’ve no idea *how* they’ve handicapped it.  I guess I’ll figure it all out tonight.

Still, I’m excited to see how this goes, and maybe make it a usual Monday thing.