I haven’t been feeling overly confident with my game these last few months (one of the reasons I haven’t been recording matches), but I decided to head out to Olathe, KS for the Midwest 9-Ball Tour anyway. It’s always a good time and it’s close enough to home so it isn’t too inconvenient.
I got out there Friday a little late, just at the tail end of the Calcutta, but I had a friend buy my entry into the 9-ball tournament in case I was late. After walking around a bit, I spotted the usual heavy hitters, but also a couple of names I hadn’t expected: Raphael Martinez and Warren Kiamco! I grabbed the barbox in the back and started warming up with Tonya (an STL player I play with frequently, she was there to play as well). She gets called to play Liz Lovely in the first round. It’s an unfortunate draw to start off with, but someone had to do it I guess. After her match, we grab a big table and play 10-ball for a while. I’m playing decently, but not overly great. I finally go check the bracket since I hadn’t heard my name in either of the first 2 round of announcements. There were a 140 players this time! I discover that I play Saturday at 1:15 for the first time. I also read that my opponenent is Chuck Ralston! He’s a well known regional player and has every chance to win any of these events.
I stay at Shooters until around 4am unfortunately, so I don’t get nearly enough rest, although I think I had subconsciously already lost the match the next day. I get to Shooters just after noon and jump on a table trying to warm up. I feel sluggish, though I’m pocketing balls well. My match gets called and it was for the streaming table! Ugh. oh well. I don’t mind really, I just hope that I don’t dog anything too easy.
I can’t say that I did anything wrong, necessarily – I missed a thin cut early in the set, I missed a safe somewhere. Chuck made a couple mistakes, I won a couple games – but he did win 9-2 with three break and runs of his own and 3 run outs from my dry break (or failed safety on the 1). We chatted a few minutes after the match and each wished each other well in the next round(s). It was nice to finally meet him in person, after hearing his name for so long. (Another nice benefit to attending these regional events.)
My next match wasn’t until 9:30, so I took off to get some real food, take a nap and try and get ready for the next match. It was exactly what I needed. I returned to the pool hall around 8 and grabbed a big table. I felt 300% better. The cue felt light and sharp and the cueball was behaving wonderfully. I felt really confident going into my next match. Then I discovered that my opponent was Steve Hassel – the best player in KC about 15 years ago – with several MW9 titles under his belt. I still wasn’t exactly “scared”, but I did lose a little bit of my confidence that I’d get to the next round.
After blowing a couple of easy outs early I started with the negative self-talk; which I know is a bad thing. So once I got that under control, I just had to wait for my next turn at the table. The problem was, there just wasn’t a next turn. He broke and ran, I broke dry, he ran out – he broke and ran, I broke and was hooked on the 1, he ran out. Rinse, repeat. When it was 7-0 him, I had mentally quit. I was so out of it that when he missed an 8-ball and left me with a 2-ball out, I couldn’t even make the 8 ball as I was too busy worrying about how bad it’d look if I missed this ball; which I of course did. It was utterly embarassing and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But, I congratulated Steve on a match well played and asked how he was on this side of the bracket already, to which he gave a stunned and almost offended look. Still, I offered him good luck and I packed up and went straight to the bar for a good old-fashioned shot of wound-healer: Whiskey.
After sulking for a little while, I got over it and decided to go play some, so I got a table and more 10-ball was in my future. And just like that, I was back to playing really well, running out decently and having a good time. After an hour or two I finally got into a game with another hometown local I’ve been talking with for quite some time. We decided to play even since we’re the same SL in the league systems. Plus, it was just a friendly game. Although we played by the rack, which is my least favorite way to play, it still didn’t really matter. After the first 4 games we were dead even. Then we decided to play a race to 3 for the table time. I won the first, then I got overly confident and starting taking higher and higher risk shots. I eventually gave the set away, but it was nearly 4am at this point and I was pretty tired.
Shane McMinn came over for a while to joke around with some of the railbirds and he played some of us a goofy rack for a drink; which included giving the break and the 5-out to Reza; but once she made the 5 he encouraged her to finish the rack, which she couldn’t do and so he proclaimed himself the victor. It was all in good fun anyway. I finally let around 6am.
Housekeeping started knocking on our hotel room door at 11, then the front desk called at noon to ask if we were staying another day; which if they had any sort of note-keeping system they’d know we called and requested a late-checkout. Still, I we got up and go out of there and went back to Shooters by 2ish. We watched some action matches – including Warren Kiamco playing a local 12yo some 9-ball… he didn’t really hold back, but he wasn’t really overly fierce either; still it was great to watch him up close.
Around 4:30 we headed out, deciding to not stay for the finals – mostly because we had a friend in Columbia we wanted to stop by and hang out with, Luci Cook (we met her last November in Olathe, when she took 3rd). After taking forever to get on the road and several pit-stops, we finally pull into Billiards on Broadway in Columbia around 7:45. We find Luci in the back playing on one of the 9-footers (thankfully). Shortly thereafter we started a lighthearted ring game… and I, again, was shooting really well: running out 90% of the time I got to the table. I just felt really dialed in, despite still not having slept more than 5 hours any of the last 3 days. We then switched to an alternating bank 9-ball game (bank the odd number balls). After that Luci and I talked about various other games and decided to try our hand at “15”… a game where you must make balls in pairs such that the numbers add up to 15. If you make the 3, you HAVE to shoot the 12 next. If you miss the 12, the 3 spots up. The 15 ball is last, at the end of the rack whoever made the most pairs wins. About halfway through we realized that this game could a) take forever spotting balls on the spot and so starting tossing them out randomly and b) might be a little above the head of our 3rd player who absolutely loves the game, but has only been playing a few months. A few rounds of drinks later, the rack was over and it was closing time (I had won, making 4 pairs, with Luci making 2 and Reza 1). It was just after midnight and we still had to drive back to STL so we called the night a success and thanked Luci for letting us play through. We have a standing invitation now, which I fully intend to exercise in the coming months as there are several tournaments down there.
I slept for about 12 hours until Monday afternoon and I couldn’t have been happier to do so. The bulk of the day was spent on the couch just relaxing. But, by evening I was alreayd missing the pool hall, so we went out to Cue & Cushion. I played some 10-ball and was still shooting quite well. Then I got tapped for a one-pocket game with a local. He offered me 9-7 and I jumped on it. Not because I have the proverbial “nuts” but because it was the most fair game I could think of. I might out-shoot this guy a little, but he moves so much better than I do. All he does is play 1p these days, whereas I hardly ever get to play it. The game was absolutely in-line as after 3 hours and 9 racks, there was only a single rack difference in our score – in his favor. It was now midnight and I had to work the next day, so I called an end to the match.
Tuesday, I debated as to whether or not I should go play. I’ve been playing for almost a week straight and it seems that it’s keeping me in pretty good stroke, but I also dont want to burn myself out. But, just as I was ready to settle in with Call of Duty, I got a text asking to play. So, after dinner, we went back up to C&C and I met up with my teammate from APA Masters. After warming up a bit, we played a race to 7, where in a combination of him handing me 2 and 3-ball outs and my continuing to play well, I wont the set 7-0! We switched to 8-ball, but we were both distracted with all the barking that had gone on… some unknown(s) barking at some of the house’s top sticks for ridiculous amounts of money; then when told to “post it” they shut up and “had to go”. Mike quit the 8-ball race tied at 2, after having dogged another sequence of balls. I took a break for a while and watched some of the other 1p action going on around the room. Then I played Reza a short race to 3, giving her the wild 7-out; which is what she asked for. I’m supposed to give her more than that, but she asked for the 7, I’m not gonna offer more. LOL. It was a fun match and went hill-hill as I was firing at things I shouldn’t. Still, I got down to the last 9-ball, straight in, and in an effort to give her another chance, I cross-banked it, not really expecting it go, but it did, and the other 1p players happened to be walking by at the time. “[I’m] not getting 9-7 after that shot.” was the most common comment. haha
League is tonight, tomorrow and Friday – and by then I will have played 11 of the last 12 days; including a 10-day streak in 5 different pool rooms in 3 different cities. It’s like my little late-winter tour! But, it’s been good for me, I think – and I hope it continues to stick around. I knew that if I just put in the time at table I’d get back to where I wanna be and right now, I can see the edge of that horizon. Of course, I still haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in over a week, so who knows what’ll happen if/when I get 8 hours rest; but I think I finally figured out how to play with low-sleep.