This weekend was the 8-Ball Top Gun tournament from the Fall session of my local APA league. Now if you’ve been paying sort of attention here, you might have picked up that barbox 8-ball is a) my weakest game and b) my least favorite game. I’ll skip the reasons why and get to the tournament itself.

The tournament started at 11am Saturday, so of course I stay up way too late Friday. Still, I was there at 11, with coffee in hand. After warming up a bit and feeling pretty good, I await the draw for my bracket (which were all 6’s and 7’s). Around 1pm the brackets are drawn and I draw my old team captain, Les. Here’s where I make my biggest mistake of the day: I know she’s not playing well lately and I don’t give her the respect she deserves. I essentially try to run out every rack and in doing so cause more problems for me than for her. She played well, as she should, and wins the match 5-2. So, I lost my first round match.

I sit at the bar for a while and nurse my gatorade, have a cliff bar snack and just listen to my music for a while. About an hour or so later, I’m called to play my next match against someone named Matt – a player I’m not familiar with. I lose the lag and he breaks – and break’s them very well but doesn’t get out. I come to the table with a pretty open rack and fairly easy pattern. As such, I do run out without an issue. I break, make a couple balls and am well on my way to run out, until I overrun position on my key ball just slightly. I rush the shot and catch the point of the side pocket. My opponent runs a few balls then makes an error and lets me back at the table. I clean up. 2-0 now. I break dry and my opponent runs out. 2-1. He breaks dry and I try to run out, but hook myself trying a break out. He gets out 2-2. He breaks and make a ball, runs a few, misses a shot, I get out. 3-2. The same story the next 2 racks, I win 5-2!

As I wait for my next match I have another snack and another coffee/energy drink (those Starbucks energy drinks have been a staple in my pool game lately). I discover that I play Bill S. He’s the player I lost to horribly in the 9-ball Top Gun tournament a few months ago. Although, I played him in Masters league just a few weeks ago and won handily so… who knows what could happen. I realize that he’s a better barbox player than me, he has decades of experience on this equipment so my only hope to play simple and strategic.

I don’t recall who won the lag, but I can tell you that I played some of my best barbox 8-ball ever. I played very very smart, I ensured that no matter what, I made the ball I was aiming at. And I never really tried to get out on a rack that didn’t lay for an easy out. I played safe when necessary and I was rewarded. In addition to that, I was getting some good rolls as he was missing a few more shots than I would ever expect. As such, I won the match 5-1!!!

Winning that match put me into the final 4 bracket and into the money! Our score-keeper happened to the person the winner would play next. He was one of the only 7’s in the tournament. So, I was faced with one of the strongest players in the league and only had a few minutes to mentally reset. I lost the lag and Jeremy nearly made the 8 on the break – but lucky for me, nothing else went. I ran out a tricky rack and took the early lead 1-0. From there, I only needed 3 games, and he needed 5. Long story short, he got them all. He played really well and I dogged a few shots; which is all he needed to clean up. So, I lost 1-5, which was tough, but still it was a lot better finish than I had expected.

So, even though I played exactly 50% pool (rack total for the day was 13 wins and 13 losses), I feel like I played decently. I’m happy enough with my results – but I know I can do better. I know that my mistakes were purely mental; rushing or taking too great a risk on a shot. Sometimes those risks paid off – but when there’s no good safe, or if the safe was as delicate/hard as the shot itself, I wanted to go down swinging. It paid off wonderfully in the match with Bill, but the few times I tried it against Jeremy, it didn’t work. So, I should learn from those experiences.

I will say this though, my nerves have become much less of an issue when I get into pressure situations. I keep my mind focused a little better and I think clearer than I did 4 months ago. I also tried to really change some of my internal dialogue. Mostly changing from things like “I can NOT lose this match” to “I really want to WIN this match!”. It’s the same message, but one focuses on the negative while the other focuses on the positive. I wasn’t able to hold that mantra all day at all times, but overall, I feel like I had a decent mental game. I played in a mini 9-ball tournament after this and I’ll write all about that in another post.