The Return of Dead Stroke

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.

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · Tournaments

I Got A Write-Up!

I can't remember right now if I posted the video with a strange and hilarious one-pocket shot that happened to me a few weeks back.  Anyway, long story short: I submitted it over to PoolStudents.net and they accepted it!  Not only that, but apparently the editor was so moved by this gesture, he wrote almost an entire article about it the exchange!

I'd post the video here too - but I really want people to visit their site and help get them off the ground.  They're just starting out and need more visitors (like me) to read their site, and contribute their thoughts, videos, pictures, etc.

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Filed Under: General

To League Or Not To League

... that is the question.

Last week, after my horrible league performance, I had a talk with my team captain and the decision was made to let me go.  I'm too inconsistent and unreliable in my game, and that's not something the team can afford to foster in this tougher division.  They just let our top ranked player go because his attitude is less than ... helpful; at times.  He's our "Earl Stricland" - great player, tons of knowledge, but if the stars aren't aligned just right, he's a real bear to talk to.  Takes some getting used to and I guess the rest of the team finally got tired of the complaining.  So, I knew that my position on the team wasn't forged in iron or anything, but it's always a shock to actually be fired, opposed to thinking it might happen.

The captain and I haven't always seen eye to eye about my game.  Maybe it's the words he uses, or the tone I pick up, or who knows; but whatever the case, I don't often respond to his instructions or suggestions.  I think it's because there's a certain way I want to learn to play the game and he doesn't think I need to worry about that sort of stuff.  Which may or may not be true.  We all learn differently and for some reason when the critique he's giving hits my ears, all my brain hears is criticism.  I know how weird my game is, I know what my weak points are; what I need is better discipline to focus on practice, routine, and consistency.  At least, that's what *I* believe I need.  Anything other than that, from my grip to my stroke to my aim isn't getting through.  I can only focus on one thing at a time.  It's not good, as a player, to change a bunch of things at once, because if something breaks, you don't know what to change or revert back to in order to fix things.  That's my opinion anyway.  It's how I've tried to build my game for the last year and a half.

Oh well, no hard feelings. I'm still friends with everyone, I'm just not shooting with them on Tuesdays any more.

Now, the question is... do I look for another team in the same league? And if so, where? Which night? And how do I get on there?  I don't know anyone on any other teams, aside from our "rival" team; which has also switched divisions (and who picked up our top player).  So, that's a no.  There's another team out of this bar called "The Wedge" that I could probably get on.  Those people seem nice enough, and their division is a little easier than the one I was let out of. It's the same division I played in last session, where I finished just barely over .500.

Now, add on to that, I have a friend, Dustin, who is sorta interested in getting on a league as well.  We play about the same; although he has a table at home (an excellent Diamond barbox) so has more time to practice and is more consistent, I think.  Now we gotta find a bar that is open to new players, and has 2 spots.  That could be really tough to do.  I'm tempted to go Fandango's, since they (at one point) had 4 teams on Tuesdays so if there's a place with potential, I think I'd start there, or maybe Hot Shots West County (not on Tuesdays).

However, yesterday, I spent some time up at Cue & Cushion playing some One Pocket with Dustin.  It was good getting back to that place; seeing some old faces, etc.  Afterwards, I talked with the owner, Craig, about their in-house 9-ball league they hold on Mondays.  There's a waiting list for it, since it's restricted to about 16 players.  It's weighted A-D, races to 9 on the big tables!! It pays all spots, so even the last place player gets a little something.

It's looking like Mondays, no matter what or where, will be my 9-ball evenings.  It could be in-house at C&C on real tables, or if not, I'll be over at The Break for their weekly 9-ball tournament.  

It's Monday, so where will I be tonight you ask? Tonight, I have to do more video editing from the Legends and Champions tour, file my taxes, select photography prints for a local showing and perhaps, play a little Call of Duty: Black Ops.

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Filed Under: General

One Pocket Tournament March 13th!

Last night I found out there's going to be a local One Pocket tournament!!  It's for C players only, and I qualify. :)  March 13th, 2011 Ride the Rail billiards. Must have application approved by Larry or Scotty.  Double elimination, race to 3 on winner's side, 2 on the loser's side. Limited to 16 players. Pays top 4 spots.

The only bad thing about this? That is the exact date of my 4-year anniversary with my girl.  The possible silver lining? It's on a Sunday, so I'm planning on taking advantage of the weekend for the anniversary. :)

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Filed Under: One Pocket · Tournaments

Just A Video

It looks like I never posted this video.  This shot came up a while back and I had some fun trying to figure it out with consistency.  There was a discussion about it over at OnePocket.Org briefly even.  I finally remembered to set it up and shoot it a bunch, and here's the video.  I try a few different ways of getting around, but mostly I stick with the 4-rail position because that's what most often giving me the next shot.

Here's a few practice shots of a 4-rail position shot highly useful for a one-pocket game.

 

This is much cooler than posting about what happened to me yesterday anyway, so... enjoy!

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Filed Under: One Pocket

League Update - The Ups and Downs

Last night we got back into league action my pro clinic last week and the snow week prior to that, it feels like I haven't played in forever.  This time we were visiting a bar that has 8 foot tables; which is awesome for me. I tend to not overhit as many shots with that extra space.

My first match, I played pretty well, I did miss a thin cut trying to hold the ball for the rest of the out, but as it happened, I got back to the table with BIH and ran my last 4 to get out.  It felt great.  Then, I sat for a while while the other team started running out, and our usual "get out" players couldn't seem to get out.  So, in the 4th round I was put back in, since two of our guys left already.  I was surprised and excited to be put in.  And after the draw, it was *possible* that I would get to play the game that would win us the match.  And it happened that way.  The first two guys up got out quite nicely, which left me playing for the W. I had just finished playing with my teammates on another table, winning a game of short-rack banks, and prior to that running completely out after my opponent missed.  I was feeling good. Feeling confident ... until I got to the league table.  I started worrying about the lag - and how I would break them, if I did win the break.  If I break them good and don't make anything, it's a good layout for them. If I take a little off so as not to spread the table well, and make something - then I've just screwed myself.  Well, I lost the lag, so at least I didn't have to worry about that.  But, now I had to worry about the guy breaking and running out.

The guy did make a ball on the break, a stripe, and he started picking off balls here and there until he missed one and I got to the table with BIH actually.  I wasn't left with the easiest of layouts, but considering the times I've gotten out recently, I expected to at least show up for the match. I suddently couldn't see any pattern. I knew my trouble ball, so I focused on getting that out... but initially I was looking at it in such a way I *had* to go through his balls until one of his teammates went to look at the table and it dawned on me that I might be able to shoot this ball a different way.  *sigh*  So, I adjusted, sank my trouble ball, then decided to cut another less-than-optimal ball; which ended in a situation sorta like this:

I can't remember the exact layouts for some reason. My brain just went completely dead. After that 5 ball.  I got really nervous, got the slight shakes even.  He had more balls on the table than what I've placed here.  A few shots later, he tries to super-thin cut a ball and misses, letting back to the table.  I make another ball and get the layout below.  After a talk with my coach, we decided to shoot the 7 first and go over for either the 5 or 3, depending on how far I punch it off the rail.  Turns out, I hit it too hard, and apparently, with some draw, because that cue ball trickled all the way across table and just dropped in the side.

I was devistated.  I tried and tried to get it out of my mind, but it took some venting to another teammate before I could get over it.  Luck favored me again when he missed the 8 ball in the side and left me something like this.  I was determined to *not* go all the way across table and miss position on the 4... and I didn't. However, I also forgot to make the 3.

I literally dropped my head onto the table when I saw it hit the rail. I couldn't believe it. The last shot I over hit and now this one I under hit (and I missed the ball).  I honestly don't remember how the missed the 8 this time, but he left near the foot rail, and I was able to put the 4 in the side and avoid the corner pocket with the CB, leaving me this shot on the 5.  It was a tough shot, I was close to the rail, I had to punch it off and get by the 8 to shoot the 3, but instead, I did this:

My opponent tried a very tricky "ticky" shot with the through both the 5 and 3, but didn't make it.  I honestly can't remember what I did next, but I left  him above the 8, so he couldn't cut it in and played a safe, but the 8 rolled *just* out enough so I could see the 3.  I got down and shot this.

He, of course, made the 8 from there and I lost the hill game.  Our team went on to lose the next 3 games to lose the match, but I feel like it was me who lost the match.  I was given SO MANY opportunities to win that game and I just couldn't do it.

I was so angry, so frustrated, so ... just out of my mind I couldn't even begin to figure out what the problem was.  Was I aligned wrong? Was I stroking crooked?  What was it?!  I thought about it the rest of the night and all the way home and as I laid in bed trying to go sleep.  

Finally, I realized what I had done.  I had done nothing.  I didn't stick to my pre-shot routine. I didn't visualize the shot. I didn't have a slow-backswing, pause and clean delivery. I didn't turn off my brain when down on the shot. I didn't ignore the past mistakes, nor the score, nor the people watching, nor the pressure of winning a tough hill game.  I folded like an abused blow-up doll when the pressure got heavy.  The only thing I did do was worry about losing.  And of course, I did... and horribly.

How do I fix this?  Everyone is going to say "gamble more", but I honestly don't think that's the answer.  I've tried gambling, and while I still get nervous, when I lose it's doesn't have that same "I need to just run away and hide" feeling like I had last night (and today still).  It's the pressure of being on a team that makes it that much more intense. Also, when gambling there's no waiting for your turn. You either get in stroke or you don't - either way you'll have a chance at the table pretty frequently.  There are no team-based weekly tournaments, but there are some weekly tournaments I should be taking advantage of; if for no other reason than a) it's competition with strangers, not gambling with a friend. b) it's on bar-boxes. c) it should make me wait in between matches, forcing me to deal with the hot'n'cold issues I've had before.

It's the only answer I can think of right now.  I need competitive seasoning and playing in tournaments is where I think I can get it.  What are your thoughts? How do you get that seasoning?

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · Tournaments

Legends and Champions Tour - Review

Last Tuesday the Legends and Champions Tour came through my little town and I took this opportunity to spend some time with 2 of the greatest players the game has known: Johnny Archer and Nick Varner.

I signed up for the private clinic which started at 11am.  First up we spent a few hours with Johnny, and he likes to talk. However, he was so very humble and friendly that you forget you're talking to a multiple world champion after just a few minutes.  He's understanding of everyone's abilities and is willing to answer every question with honest knowledge.  Some questions he received were about the technical side of pool and while he admits it's neat to know the precise physics of the game, none of it exactly relevant to making the ball.  He stresses alignment and cue delivery - everything else is just practice.  No aiming systems, no pivoting, just pure and simple "see it - do it" mentality.  It was refreshing to hear someone of his stature get away from all the hi-tech hoopla that pool jargon has picked up over the recent years.  The game, while being immensely difficult is not really hard to understand.  Make this ball hit that ball such that the 2nd ball goes in the hole.  That's about it.

After a few hours with him, we took a break and each played him a rack of 9 ball.  I have to admit, it was awkward enough to play him - but even more so after standing around for several hours then having to play.  As such, I did my usual... make some nice shots to get on the 9, then dog it. lol I was lucky enough to record the event.

Once everyone had their turn, Nick came over and started his session.  He didn't talk quite as much, and was more about showing us shots and position routes.  I'll have some video about that up in a few days.  Nick, like Johnny, was very accessible and eager to answer questions.  How many other pros start off a session by asking "Who wants to learn what?"  It was a really good experience.  At the end of his session, we each played him a rack of 8 ball.

Then we had a break for a few hours before the public exhibition started.  The pool hall filled up quite nicely and after the introductions, Johnny Archer played a few racks of 9-ball, explaining his shot choices with positions; then a rack of 8 ball.  After that, Nick took the table and did some trickshots.  One in particular was, in my opinion, the highlight of the evening.  Good thing I caught it on video. :)

Finally, to end the evening, Johnny played a top local player, Andy Quinn a race to 7 in 9 ball.  It was a very exciting match with some of the best shot making I've ever seen - in person.  It was cool getting to watch Andy play for real. I've only heard of his game and only seen him play once before; bar table 8-ball.

After that was over, Johnny and Nick were available for autographs, pictures, etc (see previous post).  All in all, it was an amazing day, and I had a wonderful time.  I certainly hope that if any of you get the opportunity to attend one of these events you jump on it.  It's worth the day off just to hear the stories that get told along the way!

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Filed Under: Training

Yesterday Was Awesome!

Yesterday was an amazing day.  I got to spend nearly 12 hours with Johnny Archer and Nick Varner out at Side Pockets during their stop on the Legends and Champions tour.  I also got to spend some private time with both of these amazing guys and talk about various aspects of the game.  I need to clip together all the video I shot, so nothing to share now, but here's a little gem I shot with my Kodak Zi8 in picture mode: 

 

I gott say, Johnny is quite a character, and the stories he's got... oh man. Just priceless!  I'll write up more later.

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Filed Under: Training

Videos From The Weekend

Friday night, I decided to go play a bit, since I hadn't actually played since Monday.  It was an alright evening, and the pool hall was pretty dead, so I was able to do a lot of things I don't normally get to do. Like the play the 10-ball ghost, 9-ball ghost, work on the L drill and spot-shot practice. :)

I didn't play the ghosts too terribly well, and my score for the Behind The Rock Tour (if I were participating) would've been terrible.  However, one thing really was working for me: The Break.

I've put together two clips of all my 9ball breaks and 10 ball breaks from the evening.  While only a few are "textbook" breaks, most of them are breaks that much better than my usual break.  That means I'm reasonably controlling the cue ball, getting a good spread and making a ball. In my 9-ball session, I actually started making the 1 in the side and the wing ball - which is not something I ever did with any sort of consistency before; and certainly not with having any sort of CB position.  I know this due exclusively to the new break cue with the Samsara tip.  I can't express how much better I feel about my break with this cue.  It might all be mental - and that's fine - it's working. haha Whatever it is... I'm averaging around 20mph (slowest I measured was 19.2 and fasted was 21.3 across both 9 and 10 ball sets).

I'll leave with you this entertaining moment from one of my 9-ball games.  I dog the 4 pretty badly, and having now lost that rack to the ghost, on a whim I shoot the 5 one-handed... perfectly.

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Filed Under: 10-Ball · 9-Ball

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