Last night I had APA Masters league, and it was the best night of pool I’ve had in … well, almost ever. I wish, I WISH I would’ve recorded it. I had two milestones happen: I broke and ran out in 8-ball – first time in APA. Then when on the hill I broke and ran in 9-ball – also my first in the APA!! In addition to all of that, I just never gave the other guy a chance. I think with 2 exceptions, each rack was about 1 or 2 innings. If the guy missed, I ran out. And unfortunately, he did miss 4 balls (though a few of them were kicks or jumps because of my safeties. Here’s the 8-ball break I found myself with to get my first BnR of the night:
After I broke, I looked at the table and knew I *should* be out here. But, as with so many racks before this, I just looked for where I’d mess it up. I started with the 14, then the 10 and spun it above the 6. I was dead straight on 13, but took the 9 instead as I could cue easier around the 6 ball. From there I got on the other side of the 6 which gave me a hair of an angle to draw off the 13 towards the 8 a little, leaving the window for the 12. I hit the 12 smoothly and the CB floated to to around the side pocket, leaving me the entire 8 ball. I called it, took a deep breath, calmed my brain, and shot it. When it dropped, I was ecstatic inside, but didn’t do anything noticeable. I walked back to my table and marked the game on the scoresheet (with a big smile of course).
Then we started playing 9-ball (as that was the last 8ball match and I was up 4-1 at that point). I continue my smart playing, easy positions, taking the table gives me and just focusing on making the ball. Just two racks later, after some late misses by opponent, I’m on the hill and breaking!
I don’t really like my starting place, but I don’t see a good safe, and I don’t like trying to cut the 1 into the corner or play the combo. I figure if I hit the bank at the speed I might be able to leave it on the short rail and move the CB a little. The bank goes and now I’m looking at a spot shot on the 3, essentially.
I know position is guaranteed, so I concentrate on making the 3. What I didn’t expect was to end up in the only 2-inch line on the entire table where I couldn’t see the 4. :/
I looked at this one for a while. Thought about masseing around the 7, but those have been iffy for me on this table in recent weeks. I have been jumping pretty well lately, but this is a short jump and I’m on the rail. I decide to go ahead and try it. I line up my shot a few times, adjust, get down, adjust get down, … finally I’m ready. Follow through, quick stroke… the ball hops over the 7 and I hear it make contact… then I see the cue ball just slide out on the tangent line a few inches and the 4 is in the pocket! I couldn’t believe I had hit the shot so well.
Now I’m a little off-angle on the 5 and I know this pockets (particularly this corner) do not like taking forced balls, so I need to float down, now power across the table. So, I decide to hit the 5 dearly dead straight on with right-hand english to throw it towards the pocket and try to stay mostly forward after contact. The throw took more than I expected and thankfully I hit the speed right so the 5 bobbled right off the facing and into the pocket, and CB sat there just past the 9 with a good angle to get back up-table for the 7.
I couldn’t just hit the 6 to go one rail because I’d hit the 9 on the way out, or so I believed. I didn’t like trying to draw around the 9 with enough force to get back up table. So, I employed a little trick I like to when I need a lot of spin but not a lot of speed. I hit a drag shot on the cue ball, but with a bunch of spin as well… the speed dies because of the reverse, but I get a lot of juice on the ball because I’m able to hit a little firmer. It’s tricky because it’s also a masse-type shot. With the 6 being a little off the rail, I took my time lining up this one. When I was ready, I glanced at my target zone up table one last time and got down on the shot. Stroked through the ball and *kerplunk* went the 6 and I watched as the CB spun its way across the table to take its place for the 7.
Unfortunately, I had come a little too far and was fairly straight on the 7. Without thinking about it, I knew I had the same shot again. Focused on getting a clean stroke from so close to the rail, and followed through plenty. Once again the ball dropped and I watched the CB drift across table, missing the side pocket. I came a little short, but I’m not scared of this angle in the least.
It’s here I realize that I’m about to a) win my match. b) break and run and c) win the night for my team. I take several deep breaths here. Get down once, doesn’t feel 100% right, so I stand up, and start my entire pre-shot routine over again. Another deep breath, get down, calm the brain and stroke through…
I’VE DONE IT!! I have *finally* broke and ran in 9-ball in this league! And on the big tables, in Masters, and on the hill! It was an amazing feeling. I won my match 7-1 and I informed my opponent that I had just played my best in a very long time.
I’m really hoping that I can take something away from this. I needed a good night. Especially after Wednesday’s league night where I wasn’t the favorite to run out with BIH from the 6. Did not play well Wednesday – didn’t expect to play well Thursday; still grumpy from the day before, not enough sleep and it hosted at my least favorite pool hall. But, apparently all that reversed itself somehow. I wonder too if it wasn’t a number of things all coming together. Earlier in the day I heard an announcer for the US Open say that one of the keys to success in this game is to “play like it means nothing, when it means everything.” I’ve always struggled with managing the pressure, but that particular phrasing struck a chord. I’m really going to try and adopt that.
I felt the pressure last night, but it wasn’t anxiety, it just knowing that this is a match, so no flyers – but I wasn’t all shaky and nervous. I was focused, but without being tense.
Another great example, during the 8-ball match, my opponent had just missed his 8ball and left me here. I decided to play a safe, but where… how… I looked and looked; then I saw it. I focused on just grazing the 10 ball, but I really, really focused on where I wanted the cue ball. I put my tip down where I wanted, I stared at the spot on the table. I shot it and the CB gently floated into position, as if I had placed it there by hand.
I got a nod of acknowledgement from my opponent who then tried to jump-bank the 8, missed and I got out from there.
Overall, I felt like I couldn’t do anything wrong – and it wasn’t a matter of getting the roles either. I suppose I did, because he did miss a few 8-balls he’s supposed to make, but neither of us were getting lucky-safes really. I know he wasn’t exactly on his game, but at the same time, I don’t feel like “he lost” … i feel like “I won”. There’s a difference there, and I expect most of you know that.