Last night I hit up my first weekly tournament over at The Break.  It’s a $10 entry, no handicap, double elimination, races to 7 on winner’s side/5 on one-loss side, barbox 9-ball format.  I had no idea what to expect when I got there.  I thought I might run into a few people from the area, and I was right.  It was great seeing those guys again (Gene and Gary), as it’s been what seems like forever since we’ve hung out.

Anyway, after paying my entry and finding an open table to warm up, I noticed some things immediately.  1) The tables had just recently been recovered. 2) Red circle cue balls. 3) Clean and polished balls. 4) No quarters required.  Well, on one hand, this was absolutely awesome.  Nice tables, clean balls and the good cue ball. On the other hand, this is not at all what I was expecting, as I’ve been practicing on crappy cloth, with filthy balls, unreliable rails and the heavy red-dot cue ball.

I hit a few racks, ran out once, then a guy comes over to play a bit before the event started.  He was an older gentleman and was not shooting very well, but I didn’t let that get my hopes up for the rest of the players.  Shortly after he quit to go have a beer, they called the first round.

I drew a guy named Kevin and he won the flip.  I racked, he broke and the 9 got kicked into the upper corner pocket.  Well, aint that a kick in the face! The next rack he wasn’t so lucky. We took a few innings at the table, but I got the 2nd rack.  We traded racks back and forth for the next 4 games, being tied at 3 a-piece.  Then he got rattled or something and start missing shots I’d already seem him make several times already.  I got up to a 5-4 lead, but that didn’t last long.  He snapped another 9 in to tie it at 5, now it’s a race to 2.  He broke and ran the next rack to get on the hill.  He broke dry the next rack and I started negotiating the layout.  The 3 was close to the 7 on the long rail, didn’t go in the corner, but layed great for a bank.  Unfortunately, I hit it about 1/2 inch short and the ball bounced off both corners of the side pocket and rolled  away.  He ran out from there, handing me my first loss.

I wasn’t really upset by anything during the game (other than snapping 2 9’s), I only missed a couple of shots; none that were standard or considered “gimmes” though.  Although, even a dead straight-in with the CB in the jaws of one pocket and the object ball just passed the side pocket to the opposite diagonal corner is only about a 5 foot shot, I wouldn’t call it a hanger.  I did hit that one pretty bad.  But, I made up for it when he got out of shape on the 9 and left it at the 2nd diamond by the headspot, and the CB 2 inches off the foot rail, dead straight and I drilled the 9 with a perfect stop-shot.

Anyway, my next match with a guy named Chad, whom I had recently met up at SportsCenter.  He’s a strong player, more consistent than I am and having played before I think I already expected to lose; especially in a short race to 5.  I won the flip, broke made a ball, and had shape on the 1 ball. But, and I noticed this all night, whenever I wanted to just hit a soft stop shot, I’d draw the ball back about a ball’s width.  Normally that’s not an issue, but when position is tight, it can quickly get you into trouble. Such was the case here, and moreso on a table that was recovered just a few days ago.  There wasn’t even break/burn marks on this one yet.  A little back and forth the first rack, each of us feeling the speed of the table, but I did end up winning the first one.  Then he won the next 2, then his missed a thin cut on the 9 and handed me the game, so again, tied at 2 – racing to 3 now.  

Every once in a while he’d strike up a conversation about something relating to sports center, the upcoming one-pocket tournament, the other kids there, the upcoming Midest 9-Ball tour, etc.  I opted to engage in conversation because it felt more like playing any of the other locals, which made me feel a little more comfortable, and forget about the tournament.  But in retrospect, I’m not sure I should’ve done that.  I noticed that one particularly long conversation, I just got down and shot, without executing my pre-shot routine at all.  Of course, I missed the ball and he ran out from there.  After that, I made sure to take my time any time we stopped talking and get back to the table.  It did help, as at one point he missed the 3 ball and left me with a very thin cut. I sliced it in avoided the pockets and traffic and got back up for the 4.  Unfortunately, a few balls later, I’d get a bump off another ball and end up getting myself hooked on the 7.  I kicked at it, but left it literally dead straight in with natural shape on the 8.  He, of course, ran the last 3 to win the match 5-3.

And that was it for me.  2 and out.  I really didn’t expect to do much better, but I would’ve liked to have made it past the first round on either side of the bracket.  Still, I wasn’t upset or depressed or angry. I took a seat at the bar and watched Gene play a while and talked to the bartendar about the tournament and the players, etc.  

At one point during the first match, I had several mental processes going on that I was surprised about.  If I got to the table with a decent layout my inner-voice-from-nowhere would say “ooh! I should be out!” just as I was preparing to shoot the first ball.  It was then I stood up, was reminded of the book “Pleasures of Small Motions” where it says you can’t ignore those thoughts; instead they must be dealt with.  So, I looked the table over calmly, letting my brain do the calculations, letting my inner-voice talk itself out until it’s ready to let me start shooting.  Usually, barring any really positions, the rack went as planned.  

I didn’t get nervous at the table, I didn’t get the shakes. I was surprised.  And happy.

I really can’t wait to go back next week! 🙂