A Spot-Shot Drill

Here's a drill I discovered last week and finally tried this weekend.  

The balls are actually reversed here, but the idea of the drill is this: Shoot the ball on the spot from each diamond position all the way around the table.  When you get to the headspot line, shoot it twice, once into each corner pocket (which is why there's the 7 and 8 on that spot).

The drill was not terribly difficult, but I did not enforce the rules of "missing means starting over"; which should be followed. I really just wanted to get a feel for the drill first before enforcing all the rules.  However, after I ran through it a few times, I decided to try a variation of it.  For this I did actually set up the balls on the table

From each position, the goal was to scratch the cue ball into the lower corner pocket.  This took far more attempts to work all the way around the table than just making the object ball took.  

Give it a try and see what you think.  It's important to know the scratch angles as well as how not to scratch. :)

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Filed Under: Training

Staying Ahead

Friday was league, as usual, and while I won the match pretty heavily (9-2), I still haven't ran out since the 2nd week.  Even when I should.  It's really starting to bother me.  It's not that I'm letting up on the rack when I see that I should be out. I'm left with some fairly simple outs after fighting through the tough parts, and I know that my "big risks" are over.  Then I always jar up the next ball, or the one after that.  My best guess as to why is that I focus too much on staying in line.  Trying too hard to not blow this easy out.  Nevermind that I (probably) haven't been "in line" the entire rack and have realied on some risky shot making to continue through the rack.  *sigh*  I'm going to have to really work on this mental speedbump that's keeping me from getting out when I should.  

This past week, I played another B player, we played even obviously.  He really was not hitting them well though, if I missed the 9- he'd miss the 9 and leave it hanging.  If I missed the 7, he'd miss the 8.  It was... hard to watch because I know he's a decent shot.  However, this was something of a good test for me.  Even though I wasn't running out when I should, I still tried to "keep the screws on him". I played more safeties than I usually do, when I actually stopped to do some risk assessment.  About halfway through the match, when I was up 4-0, I felt myself getting lose, starting to shoot at anything and he got a game because of it.  I knew I had "some padding" in the score so if he got one or 2, that would be fine, I was still up.  But, that kind of thinking is what loses matches.  I needed to protect my lead, not back off because I was ahead.  I was able to get my head back in the game after that game and I gave him no easy games.  I still "miss good" though so even when I blew a shot, he wasn't always rewarded with an easy follow-up shot.  By the end of the match, I still playing hard and even though he had all but resigned the game, that didn't stop me from holding onto that "protect the lead, win the game" mentality.  Kiss of Death member Gail Glazebrook would call this "Killing the Bunny"; and I've never quite been able to recognize it in my own play - while playing - before.  

My "Super Shot of the Match" had to be this shot late in the game when he missed the 1 ball and I came up short on the 2 ball.  I figured this was something of a free shot at the 2 - with a built-in safety if I missed it.  After I shot it, I said "Don't ask me to do it again. {laughed out loud}"

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

Tied For First!

So, the fates were again on my side Friday night.  I played pretty well, and after the spot of 2 games on the wire I gave to my opponent, I won the match 9-5.  Afterwards, we stayed and talked for a long while, and I explained to him some of the things that I do when I'm practicing. I showed him a number of practice drills and my practice notebook.  He's about where I was 2 years ago, so it's time for him either start being a student.  Then as we watched a few guys playing one pocket, he said he'd like to learn it, I offered to teach him.  I didn't even make him pay for his lesson either, which he found shocking.  I didn't let him pay for my time either.  I told him if we were gonna play for something, I would not make him play me even.  That's just rude. heh.

But, the real fate part of the night was the the player currently in 1st place, Nikki, lost a match.  So, now she and I are both at 4-1, and tied for first.  Ironically, if we each win the rest of the session (4 weeks), we will have the *exact* same number of wins and actual wins (games won outside of the spot).  In which case, I have no idea what the league will do.  We don't track any other stats, so my break'n'run won't be counted.  Right now it would be my only saving grace, but since they're not tracked... But, that's getting quite a ways ahead of myself.  I can't possibly "plan" on winning the next 4 matches.  Not when I have to give up weight 3 out of 4 those matches.  And *especially* since one of those matches, I'm giving 4 games on the wire!  That is going to be a tough, tough match for me.  It's also the last match of the session - extra pressure. haha  I'm gonna eat it up though. Chew it up and spit it out.  It's my new mental agenda for pressure.  So far, it's been working pretty well.

In other news, I think I'm settled on a cuemaker for my first custom cue.  Mostly because I have been able to hit with one of his cues, and I've been talking with him for over a year.  Although he's newer in the cue-making business, I know his history and with whom he studied.  He's got more knowledge and experience than shows in his years.  Now, I just have to finalize the wood combos and start saving up.

In other - other news, I'm gonna try a Kamui BROWN tip on my OB-Classic Pro shaft.  The Black Super Soft currently on there is just too soft.  I'm playing really well with my black soft and like the medium-hardness tips.  I'll be dropping the shaft off Friday and the Friday after I'll get it back, since I'm in no hurry for it.

Lastly, there's an 8-ball tournament on the 9' tables Memorial Day weekend.  I don't really play a lot of 8-ball, but I am excited to play in this.  It's another midnight tournament, but now I know what to expect and I think I have a good idea on how to prepare for it.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

I Placed In A Tournament!!

Now for the good news! Saturday night (at midnight), Ride the Rail held a small 9-ball tournament.  $10 entry, $0.50 a game/split quarters double elimination tournament.  I sat on the couch most of Saturday, and was quite content watching Cobra again when I noticed it was getting close to 10pm.  I was txting with my girl to see what her thoughts were.  I had planned on playing in this for weeks, but now that I was comfy at home - going to play now seemed less than interesting.  But, I decided I really wanted the experience and the challenge.  So, I got ready and headed out there.

I got there around 11pm, grabbed an open bar table and hit a few racks just trying to get familiar with the barbox again.  I hadn't played on one since I quit the 8ball league a few months ago.  Things were... not that great. Corner pockets can't be cheated down the rail, banking angles were very short, etc - the usual list of complaints.  I decided to sit for a while and just relax.  I talked with some friends until it was time for sign-ups.

My first match was on the same table I warmed up on, against a girl who had never played in a tournament before.  We've all been there.  I explained some of the general rules, close hits, counting games on the diamonds, who racks, etc. On one hand, I felt kind of bad for her since she was clearly not prepared to play in this, and was only doing so because it was free and her boyfriend was playing in it.  On the other hand, I have to say it was kind of nice getting to essentially warm up on an easy opponent.  I won the match 5-1 because I missed an 8ball trying to let my stroke out a bit instead playing easy position. I know I shouldn't have, because it meant I was letting up on match-focus, but I did and it cost me a game.

The next match was against a guy I sort of know from the now closed SportsCenter.  He has a checkered past there and has air-barreled a number of my friends over the last several months.  He's a pretty good shot-maker, but doesn't control the cue ball very well. But, because he can make shots really well, he doesn't really need to worry about position as much.  I got to the hill first, while he was still at 2, so the score was at 4-2. I was feeling pretty confident because he was missing some shots I didn't expect him to miss and he was getting frustrated.  However, I let my emotion get into the game when he would continually rest his cues against mine in the slots.  There are 4 slots, we have 4 cues between us.  No reason to rest his cues against mine when there are open rests.  It's such a small thing, but still I felt disrespected by this.  Combined with my desire to send him to the loser's side, I found myself getting more and more determined and frustrated at the same time.  When I got to the table, I was so intent on running out, I forgot to keep my head in the game - to make the shot first.  So, he got another game.  Then I missed a kick on the 2 ball in the next rack, and he ran out. Now it's hill-hill.  And then he breaks and runs out!  With the help of some lucky bounces and bumps.  I was furious. I stormed out of the hall and paced the smoking area trying to just let it go.  I got outplayed, fair and simple.  Doesn't matter that I don't like him, that doesn't make me win games.  I think there was some extra pressure there because my step-daughter and her boyfriend, who is a guy I shoot with regularly, and another friend was all there watching - hoping I'd knock this guy to the west side.  I wasn't really aware of the extra pressue until after the match when I was so completely angry and disappointed.  I had to think about why I was so angry.  Aside from losing, which is frustrating enough, there was a sense of pride that was damaged - I felt like I had let down my "team".  When I recognized that "team" feeling, I realized I wasn't playing for me as much as I was playing for my supporters.  Which is the exact opposite of what I should be doing.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

The Undefeated No More

Before I get to the good news, I must dispense with the bad news.  Friday, was league of course.  I played the only other undefeated player in the league.  We were both 3-0, and we're both B players in the league.  Several people said our match would be a good one.  Nikki is smart player, but isn't going to run out all the time.  So, I'd like to think we're pretty similar, since I don't run out and I try to make smart decisions when it comes to risk vs reward.  

I got there at 5:30, like usual, but I knew she was going to be late thanks to her courtesy earlier that day.  Still, I practiced a bit, slower than normal, so as not to wear myself out.  I even ran out once during practice.  I was feeling pretty good - but not quite as focused as usual; although I didn't pay much attention to it.  I think it was because I was trying to postpone everything so it would all come together at the right time. (what time I eat relative to my match start, how much I try to get "in the zone" etc.)

Anyway, we get started around 7:45 and she quickly jumps out to the an early 2-0 lead.  I felt really awkward for some reason. Something wasn't clicking, I wasn't focused.  She missed a 7 and left me with a pretty simple out, but I miscued trying to soft-draw to hold for position instead of letting the natural force/angle work for me. *sigh* That puts her up to a 3-0 lead.  Then I finally get one, but then she gets 2 more. It was 5-1 and I feeling something between defeat and determination.  I had seen plenty of people comeback from a 5-1, so I decided that would be me this time.

Like one-pocket, when you're down in the count, it's not always the best option to fire at risky shots.  I found myself shooting at the 9 and thought "I hate it when other people do that, I'm not gonna be that desperate."  From there, I started gaining focus. I took my time. I blocked out negative thoughts as best I could.  I tried to play as smart as the table layouts would allow.  

I managed to get it tied up at 5-5, thanks to some fortunate bumps and rolls and some missed opportunities on her part.  From there, we both played conservative and cautious - and I think it hurt both of us.  Neither of us ran more than 3 or 4 balls all night.  It just wasn't working, but still, we stayed neck and neck until it was hill-hill.  That final rack wasn't pretty, lots of safety plays, but then I missed a fairly routine slice on the 5 balls.  She took full advantage of it and closed the rack to win the set.

I'm sad to have lost my first match, but glad it was a good battle. It took 2.5 hours and very grueling.  Solid 2.5 hours, no breaks.  I look forward to our next match (in a few weeks).  So, she moves into first and I drop to 2nd. After the match ended, I reflected on some the shots I missed and I've gained some evidence to trust my instincts more.  On one shot in particular - on the 9 - I found myself with the CB on the rail and a cut on the 9 into the side so that the natural rolling angle was really close to a scratch in the corner. My first thought was "there's a scratch here, jack up a little to stun out of it".  But, I have a poor history with jacking up, and I let that history scare me out of it.  I thought if I could just slow roll it - hit it fuller with some spin to throw it in, I'd be fine.  I tried to outsmart geometry.  I should know better - I have a degree in Mathematics; that can't be done.  I scratched in the corner.  If I had won that game, I'd have won the match (given all the other racks went as they did, I mean).

After the match I set the shot up again, and hit it several times with variations of speed and spin, all with a level cue - each and every time no matter the shot parameters, I scratched.  Then I jacked up and hit it - made the ball and didn't scratch.  Well, if that's not evidence to go with your gut, you'll never learn. I need to learn to trust my instincts more - trust that my eyes are correct and trust that my stoke is straight.

I stayed the rest of the night there and talked shop with Josh (Treadway Cues), while watching/being entertained by Jacob and Quint gambling with the most ridiculous equipment.  For a small sample of this go watch this video.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

The League, Jim Buss and a New Tournament

Friday was league, obviously, and my opponent this week was none other than JIM BUSS!  I knew he hung out at C&C, but wasn't quite sure if he ever played up there. I had never seen him shoot anything other than the breeze with other locals. I admit, I was a little extra nervous going into this match.  

Normally, matches start at 7, but since there were only 2 matches, and everyone was there, it was decided to go ahead and start at 6:30.  That's awesome, but that's also the time I eat dinner (aka, drink my protein shake).  So, I guzzled down my shake and we started up.  I was worried how this might affect my play, and I think it did have something of an affect the first 30-45 mins of the match.

Jim's rated an "A" player, while they have me as a "B" player (which is a little surprising, since I was a 4 (on a scalre to 2-7) in the tournament I played in there), but perhaps it's relative the other players skills.  Anyway, this means that Jim gives me 2 games on the wire in a race to 9.

I win the flip, he racks (rather quickly), I break and send the wing ball into the corner... followed by the 9. He said "Whoa, I don't like the way this has started!" So now I'm up 3-0.  He breaks the next rack (alternating break, remember) and notes that the 9 didn't really move.  Well yeah, cuz I rack 'em good. We trade innings back and forth, but he gets that rack.  Then he gets the next 2 as well, since I keep missing good shape on the 7 ball.  So, now it's an even race to 6.

One thing I noticed right off the bat was that he likes to talk a bit. Not terribly a lot, but when he misses, he tends to explain what he was trying to do.  I find that extremely odd - since that's something I generally only see from younger/beginning players.  Hell, I still do that once in a while.  But, I try to block it out, without being rude, since he doesn't talk while I'm actually shooting, just during the transition from his table to mine.

Neither of us is shooting particularly well and no one ran an entire rack, but still we literally trade games back and forth the next 10 racks.  That means it's now hill-hill - and I'm breaking.  I smash 'em pretty good, but come up a little dry.  Jim commented several times through the match "[he] doesn't like how much [I] get the 9 moving".  He runs a few balls and there's a 5-9 combo laying there. It's not a hanger, the 5 is above 18 inches from the 9 - which is about 8 inches from the pocket.  There's not much cut to put on the 5, but he's still gotta hit is clean.  He doesn't.  The rattles and hangs just out the pocket.  The 5 comes across table to rest about 1 diamond below the side pocket, about 1/2 diamond off the rail.  The cue ball bounces off the bottom rail and gets a little rub off the 6 balls, which sends it directly into the side pocket.  Now, I have ball in hand, with 5 balls on the table, in a pretty easy layout.  Or I have the 5-9 combo that involves sending the 5 four feet to cut the 9 into the pocket.  It's not a hard combo, but there's distance, and anything can happen.  I thought long about the combo, long about the runout.  I decided to shoot the combo for one reason: Jim fired at the cheese nearly every chance he got - including a long-rail position carom.  So, I decided that I wasn't going to risk the runout.  The 8 wasn't in a bad but it wasn't exactly a hanger with given position either.  I put the cue ball behind the 5, lined up the cut on the 9 and sent it. *clink clink thump*

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

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