Despite staying out too late Friday night (5am), I decided to go ahead and enter the 1st annual Thanksgiving tournament held at Kenny’s Bar & Grill (got up at 10 for coffee and arrived at the venue around 11:30am).  This tournament used to be held at Ride the Rail before it closed; and it pulled in a lot of good regional players.  This tournament wasn’t that different.  Although no real HUGE regional names showed there were some really good players there.

The handicap scale went from 4 to 13, with players like Gary Lutman being a 13. Steve Allison was a 12, “Kirkwood Mike” was an 11. Brian Daniels was a 10. Joe Evola and Mike Renick were 9’s. I was playing as a 7.  Which was about right.

My first match was against one of the employees, JoAnn, she had to be a 4 as she couldn’t be any lower than that – though I’d have made her a 3 if it were possible.  I’m glad she wasn’t a 3 though, I botched a couple breaks and left a 1-9 combo for her, and she did get to three 3 games, but I managed to get to 7.  The match was a typical barbox 9 ball match. I won the first 4 games handily, getting some nice rolls and I was playing pretty smart, playing safe on her, etc.  Then the tide turned and I started to struggle a little bit. I think I started feeling like there was no way I could lose; and I nearly did. Then, just like that *snaps fingers*, the tide change again. I broke dry and she missed the 1 and scratched, then I ran out. And from there I managed to keep her at bay.

The thing I hate(d) about that match was that even when I was struggling, I knew I was waiting for her to mess up so I could win.  Now, her playing as a 4, that’s going to happen – but it’s only beneficial to me if I can finish the layout. It’s been a very prominant theme in my game this year. I’ve won probably 60% of my matches in league because the other person screwed up and I was able to take advantage. Now, the good thing about this is that I actually was able to take advantage of their mistake(s); which is a good sign I suppose. I can remember the time when I would get excited when my opponent missed the 4 ball cuz I should be out from there (depending on the table, of course) – but cursing myself just a few shots later.  It really does seem like I’m much more able to finish off a table these days than I could earlier this year.  I still can’t beat the ghost with the 8 though. :/

My next match was against another woman, Andrea, another 4 as well.  She posed a much more serious threat.  She was a strong 4. I would not like to play her too many times.  She made balls very well, but would frequently get really far out of line late in the rack.  We both made some uncharacteristic errors (missing an 8, for example) and so those games were essentially traded.  Of course, if I she hadn’t missed, she would’ve won the set.  But, luck again favored me and I again won the match 7-3 (that’s two hill-hill matches for you guys keeping track).

Now I was really hungry, so I ordered a burger, really only ate the meat as I didn’t want the extra carbs to give me carb coma.  But, I was called to my match earlier than expected and only had about 10 mins after I finished eating before I had to play.  This time I would play Mike Julius, rated as a 5.  And here is where the end began for me. I was completely out of the game, mentally. I kept trying to pull myself in it, but from the word go I was fighting to even get a shot, much less win a rack.  Here’s a great example of how this match went:

I lose the flip, he breaks, makes the 1 then misses the 2 and ends up with this safe on me.  There was too much traffic on the table to go 1 or 3 rails at the 2 ball, but thankfully, I have been practicing this shot a little bit lately (it really is a fun shot) so I went for it.

But, the cueball hit the 2 ball in the only spot that wouldn’t just knock it in.  Some of the railbirds were totally astonished, as was I.  One guy even gasped how I even got the cueball to hit the 2, let alone how did it not drop into the pocket.  I had no answers.  Nor was I able to really get going in this match at all. The 2nd rack I jawed the 9 somehow, the 3rd rack he played a 3-9 combo that was difficult at best. I did finally get a point after that, but then he got another 1. While on the hill, he missed a 9 ball, giving me a 2nd point, and I did get a decent break in the next rack to get a 3rd point. But then I did something dumb late in the next rack and he got out, although I’ve never seen anyone take so long to decide what to do with a 3 ball spread.  Still, I lost 3-5.

A couple hours later I play my first loser’s side match.  Against this guy Buddy Evans; who had THREE young sons in the tournament – and they ALL cashed incidentally).  He was also a 7; but played like no one I had ever seen.  He moved around during/after his shot more than anyone, it was more like an awkward dance he was doing. But, he rarely missed – and he thankfully for me, he wasn’t that good at combos, as he shot at every single possible one out there.  However, it was now after 10pm and I think the day had finally taken it’s toll on me. I played well, but not that well, which gave him an early lead on me.  I was able to fight back and take advantage of his wild shots and did make it to 5, I think before he drilled the final 9 into the hole.  So, there I went. 

In remembering the events of the tournament, I’m still annoyed with how I played, but I miss the big picture here.  1) I went 4 and out, which is one better than last week – and while this was handicapped, I essentially gave weight to 3 of my 4 opponents and was able to handle 2 of them. 2) I played very well, considering the miniscule amount of sleep I had. 3) My break was really working well. I was hitting them hard (somewhere around 20-22mph it felt like) and at least 70% of the time the CB would pop’n’stop (until it got kicked around). 4) I felt my anxiety kick in and the nerves start to tingle when the score was close to hill-hill. It didn’t affect my shot-making as much as it has in the past and I was able to at least remember to use my breathing techniques to try and calm down.

Sure, after each loss, especially the first one, I did blow a gasket off in the corner where my stuff was.  After my 2nd loss, I was more able to recognize I was just tired, but it didnt’ stop me from being very upset with myself about the match. 

I’ve learned not to dwell on those matches, and try to learn from them; but in the heat of the moment there’s just no way not to live through those emotions.  Even when I’m riled up like that I don’t dwell on past missed shots, which is good.  But if I miss the same shot again, it just adds more fuel to the fire for after the match emotional blow out.

The next tournament isn’t until the 8th, and it’s another barbox 9-ball tournament; but this is the APA Top Gun tournament I qualified for over the summer by being 2nd in the TG list.  So, while it’s not a “traditional” tournament in the sense that it’s a rack-based game, this will force the winning player to make all required points. And that is nice to know that I can’t exactly get slopped-out of the race by early money balls.

I’ll report back later. 😉