Last weekend I took another plunge and drove out to Olathe, KS for the Midwest 9 Ball Tour stop at Shooter’s.  It’s just over a 4 hour drive to get there and like last time, I felt like I was rushing to get across the state.  I show up around 6pm, sign up for the 9-ball tournament, then try to settle down into a comfortable mode. In joking around with cuemaker, Josh Treadway, he decides to sign up to play as well. So we jump on one of the open tournament barboxes to start warming up.  The cloth was replaced only a day or 2 earlier it seemed; which makes for some fun cue ball action. The balls were so clean I felt like Roy Macavoy when he goes to the US Open and is amazed by the practice balls being brand new Titleists. Anyway, after a quick adjustment, we both started playing a little better – but I don’t think Josh’s heart was in it. After about 30 mins we quit. I run out to get some food and good coffee while we wait for the calcultta to happen and the brackets to be drawn up. After having a double-chicken burrito bowl from Chipotle, we head back and I learn my first match is against a guy named Jon Brown sometime around midnight. I grab a table – specifically the 9 foot diamond I enjoyed so much last time.  Man that’s a tight table, heh. I play for about an hour then call it quits.  Grab another soda and relax until sometime around 11 at which point I jump on one of the Diamond barboxes.  I play pretty well on that table, not exactly running out with consistency, but still making good runs; but again having position control issues.  I practice there until my match is called.

I win the flip and break dry, and Jon runs out. Then he breaks and runs out. Oof. I’ve hit one ball and am down 0-2 already. Well, he makes a mistake in the 3rd rack and I get that rack.  The rest of the match was me making mistakes and him running out.  I lose the match 1-9. I knew I should’ve slept on the drive over. After only getting 5.5 hours sleep Thursday night, having to work Friday morning, then driving out there; I can’t say I was necessarily surprised by my weak performance. I just was hoping for a more positive outcome.  It sucks losing so badly, but I didn’t get a lot chances at the table and when I did, I wasn’t always gifted with easy spreads.  The one really good thing I took away from the match was that at no point did I get upset or angry about how things were going.  Sure, I was disappointed, but I didn’t slam the chalk down nor did I have any poor mental discussions.  I just accepted that the mistake happened or the table was how it was and went about trying to do my best to solve it.  If I missed a shot, I knew immediately why I missed – and of course that is frustrating – but I was able to accept those much more easily than normal.  I think it was because I was still trying to adjust to the tables.  I started playing them like the barboxes in my area, but they aren’t.  The bed was quite quick, but the rails were surprisingly slow.  A ball rolling down table will go much further than expected – but if you add shape off rails, the CB won’t get there. There’s just no spring in the rails.  It was a strange combination of too fast and very slow.  So, when I missed a shot – especially with spin – I knew exactly why and I couldn’t really get mad at myself for learning the table. Anyway, I was done for the night, I went back to my hotel around 3am and slept a decent amount to prepare for the next day.


Saturday my match was scheduled for 6pm, so when I got to the pool room around 1:30 I had plenty of time to adjust to the room, soak in the atmosphere, get comfortable, etc. For some reason though, it just didn’t seem to matter what I did or what I watched, I just couldn’t pick up the “vibe” and get into the spirit of the tournament.  I spent a lot of time taking pictures of various matches and players, maybe it was that abstraction that kept me out of the mindset. I was playing the role of observer instead of participant.  I will have to be mindful of this in the future.  Around 5pm I decided I was tired of just sitting around waiting, so I broke one of my rules and had a nice shot of whiskey then jumped on a table to get my back arm loosened up. 

My match was called and I went to the table to meet Eddie Robinson (who won a good-sized 10-ball tournament in Nashville earlier this fall). I didn’t know that until after the match so I had no intimidation going on. The match started off a little slow, with each of us winning on the other’s break the first 3 racks.  Then he got one of his own, then the next one. I managed to capitalize one of his mistakes to get my second game but still I found myself down 2-4 (race to 9). It’s not that he was running out from everywhere, just that when he missed, he left me with nothing.  I did make a few early mistakes (break, make a couple calls, then miss the 3 or something silly like that).  But during the 7th rack something strange happened.  I got a little upset once and whined to the air that it would be nice if I could get a offensive roll for a change.  As if the pool gods were listening, Eddie’s game starting falling apart. Now when he missed, he left a good spread and I ran out. 3-4, then he broke dry and I ran out, tied at 4. I broke, played a safe, he kicked and left an open table, again I ran out. 5-4 – the first time I’ve led in any match this weekend. He gets the next game, tied at 5. There I start thinking about how this match should be over and I should’ve won – as I had botched 2 early 9-ball combinations, a 1-9 carom and I did miss a 9 ball due to a skid. As frustrating as it was to think I should’ve won by now, I don’t let it go to my head. I just force myself to put it in the past and focus on the rack on the table. I put a little bounce in my step, focus my eyes on the table explicitly and patiently wait for my turn. The next rack, he makes a mistake on the 4 ball and I get that game. 6-5. Here I start to feel like I could actually win this. I let myself think it while I’m racking, but then put it aside and get back to the balls on the table. Only this rack, only these balls, only this spread. The next three racks would be his doom.  He scratches 5 times and each time I either run out, or play a pretty good safety on him, giving me another chance.  7-5, then 8-5 and the final rack he breaks, makes a couple of balls but botches the 3 ball a shot later. I keep my breathing in check and just play simple position to run out the rack, taking an extra breath on the 9 to make sure I’m rid of all anxiety – after all, I’m about to win my first midwest 9ball match.  The 9 kerplunks into the corner pocket and Eddie congratulates me.  We chit-chat a little while afterwards where he tells me he doesn’t really like 9-ball, prefers 8-ball or call-shot 10-ball to this wing-ding luck of 9-ball.  I can certainly agree that from a pure-skill point of view any call-shot game is a “better” game for the purity factor, but 9-ball is the format for tournaments almost everywhere.

I reported my score of 9-5 to Evelyn and found out I was to play Danny Smith at 11pm.  Danny Smith – the guy who had just won the One Pocket tournament the day prior! I jokingly asked if I could buy out.  Tongue out

As I waited for my match, I took some pictures and tried not to think about it.  About an hour before the match I again jumped on a table to loosen up.  Then I heard it, my match was called – and it was on table 1… the streaming table! OH GOD! Not only do I have to play this killer, I have to do it ON THE INTERNET! Well, I did say when I signed up that I didn’t care if I was on the stream.  Nothing like being thrown into the deep end, I suppose.  Well, I tried to calm myself as much as I could and just forget about the people on the rail, people in the bleachers and the camera and the stream.  I did a decent job, I think.  I lost the flip, he broke and ran out like it was nothing. I just smiled and said nice out. I broke poorly, he ran out. He broke and started his run, but the table reached out with mystical arms and literally pulled the cueball 3 inches into the side pocket after making the 4. I very calmly, but nervously, ran out the easy 5 ball layout to get my first game.  Right there, I was happy to not have a goose-egg.  It was one of my goals going in – just get a rack. I broke the next rack and started my run, but over-compensated for the spin and hung the 3 ball on my through an easy layout. He get another one. 3-1. He breaks and pushes out, I take it and play a decent safety – I heard someone on the rail give me a “good shot man” as I walk away. (I think, at least I hope that’s what I heard. :p) He executes a great jump shot to make the one, but the cue ball trickles behind another ball – and he props up and jumps another ball in.  Then he runs out from there.  Another rack. He breaks and there’s a 1-9 along on the long rail. He misses it barely, but leaves me with a 1-9 carom which I make. Now I have 2!  A few racks later, he again makes a mistake on the 5 ball and I run out from there to get my 3rd game!  I thought “Hey, this might be okay” – then he runs out the set after a couple of my dry breaks. I lose 3-9 – and I’m not even a little bit upset by it.  I played well, I mean, he made 3 mistakes, I got 3 games.  I only made 4 mistakes (by category: 1 hung ball, 1 missed kick, 1 bad safety – and a couple dry breaks).  Afterwards, I congratulated him on his 1P win and wished him luck in the next round.

Unfortunately, the match was not recorded in the UStream archives, but maybe that’s for the best? I was rather looking forward to rewatching it to see if I played how I remember playing.

The rest of the evening I spent watching various matches and taking pictures. It was a good time. Some other friends from St. Louis came up and we played a ring 10-ball game for a few hours, then we switched to widow-one pocket until around 5am. 

Sunday I headed back to meet up with a guy I met on AZBilliards for some friendly one pocket.  It was a little early for me, but still a good time. I think I was just overly tired, regardless of the amount of sleep I had, I really didn’t play all that well.  I didn’t play terribly, but it was not even my “B” game, more like my C+ game. I lost a couple of races, but it was good getting to meet someone new though. And what I really liked about it was that neither of us asked for weight from the onset.  It was “Hi, I’m John. Nice to meet you.  Races to 3 for {something}? – Sure.”  I’ll be sure to call that guy up again next time I’m in KC – and I told him to call me if he comes to STL of course.  He’s a better 1P than me, for sure, but not so much better than if I needed weight, it would be more than a ball.  But, I like the challenge – it’s a reasonable challenge, one that’s manageable.  Sure some games he got me 8-1, but that’s more because I missed an easy shot and left him a pretty good table.  The risk was well worth the reward, I just dogged it badly. heh  Still, it was a good time and I look forward to playing him again.

As for the tournament finals, I got to see Liz Lovely double-dip Nicole Keeney to win the ladies division. I watched a 19yo Skylar Woodward make it to the final 8, while in action every other waking moment. I watched Gabe Owen, Joey Gray, Shane McMinn, Nick Varner, Chip Compton, John Gabriel, Glen Atwell and several others play some wonderful 9-ball all weekend.  You can see the brackets from the open 9-ball here. You can frind the one-pocket brackets here and the ladies division brackets here.