So there was a midnight tournament Saturday night. 9-ball on the bar tables. Small little tourny with like 16 players, $10 entry.  I haven’t played on a barbox in what feels like forever. And definitely not seriously.  However, after laying on the couch all day Saturday (recovering from an unexpected late and intoxicated night Friday) I decided that I wanted to go play anyway.

I got up, took a hot shower, cooked a fantastic steak, loaded up the pool case with Cliff bars and headed out to the pool room.  I got there around 11 for the sign-ups and started practicing immediately.  The weirdest thing happened. During practice, I just tossed the balls out and ran them out.  Then I racked ’em, broke ’em, made 3 and ran out!  That was my first break’n’run since the 2nd or 3rd week of the 9-ball league on the big tables way back in like April.  I was feeling pretty good. I mean, just running out feels good, but to do it right out of the gate was amazing!  Definitely a confidence booster, considering the table, the balls and everything else.

My first match in the tourny was against the young guy who knocked me out of the last tournament I played in – the one where I finished 3rd.  I admit, I was a little scared to start the night off against him.  But, I was feeling great, confident in my own shots anyway.  It helped, I think, that we were to play on the same table I had just been practicing on.  The match starts and we get off to a rocky start.  We fought a little bit for the first rack, but after he missed the 8 somehow, I took the first one.  Then the 2nd rack became mine.  The 3rd rack, I broke and ran out!!  I couldn’t believe it!  The 4th rack got a little hairy, and he got that one.  But then he made a few more mistakes in the next 2 racks and I won the match 5-1.  I couldn’t believe it. I was really ecstatic!   Triple bonus match: 1) I won. 2) I broke and ran. 3) I had a bit of a grudge against him and I took it down.

If only the night could’ve stayed that way.  I waited nearly an hour for my next match and everything that could’ve gone wrong did.  I lost the flip. I lost my stroke, I lost my feel.  I lost the match 5-2.  Immediately after that I had to play again. This other kid that I’ve seen around the hall a lot.  He makes balls, has some idea what he’s doing, but mostly he fires at the cheese as often as possible. I didn’t take a break between matches. I didn’t go outside. I didn’t eat a Cliff bar. I was just angry I lost so poorly after playing so great the first match.

And that would be my downfall.  I was far too upset about the last match to be ready for this one.  I lost the match 5-3 and was out of the tournament.  That kid went on to win his next 2 matches.  I think he placed 5/6th?  The first guy I lost to ended up in the finals, but it was nearly 5am and I didn’t stay.

It took me a while to figure out what the difference was.  I know how I lost, but I didn’t know then how I let myself come so apart.  One of the things I did consistently during practice and the first match was have a solid preshot routine.  I picked a spot – A SPOT – on the table for the cueball when playing position. I picked it before I even got down on the shot.  I did this for every shot, even if it was a stop shot. It didn’t matter if I got the CB there or not, it was always close – and much closer than if I hadn’t picked a spot at all. I took my time, I did focused breathing if I felt myself get tense or worked up.  I stood up if the shot didn’t feel right.

I didn’t do any of those things in the next 2 matches.  I made balls when I could see them, but I didn’t play position and was always getting hooked.  The table was not breaking well so the spreads were rarely open, always with clusters to deal with.  But regardless, I didn’t stick to my game. I didn’t stay IN the game – mentally.  All during the last match I’d play, all I wanted to do was go outside, have a smoke, calm down.  But this is such a short race, we already started, it’d be rude… blah blah blah – but I talked myself out of taking a break.  When that’s what I really needed. I knew I needed it, but didn’t do it. *sigh*  Sometimes I can push through the slump, but it always costs me. This was no different.

Lessons learned.

There’s a 10-ball tournament same time, same place next weekend.  I’ll be there.  And I WILL be mentally focused and strong.  10-ball is awesome, but I’ve never played it on a barbox before, so this should be interesting.  My only hope is that my knowlege of the 10-ball break will really help me, whereas I expect everyone to break from the side rail that night.