I had a bit of milestone with this tournament.  I cashed!! Barely. I finished in 8th, out of 43 players.  It’s the bottom rung of the payout, but I at least got my quarters back from the day!

The tournament started Saturday afternoon, and despite my best intentions, I had attended an 8-ball tournament the night before to support a friend.  As such, I overslept a bit and woke up around 10:30.  I had originally planned on being at the room by then, since I understood that signups ended at 11.  But, I forgot to factor in one thing: this is pool, and tournaments almost never start on time.  Which was a good thing, as it turned out.  I got there a little after 11, registered and ordered a giant coffee and breakfast.

I got “lucky” and drew the BYE the first round, which meant I had to sit around an extra hour or so waiting for my first match.  Finally, around 2:30 I was called to play.  I was rated a 7 in this tournament and I was playing an 11, though he was kid about 17 years old. Drake N.  I won the flip, broke, made a ball – then proceeded to RUN OUT! Nice!!  Drake broke, got bad on the 2, missed a safe, and RAN OUT again! Super nice!  Then I broke and left a mess of a table, but Drake worked it out and gets his first point.  Then he broke and ran.  From here, we basically traded games until I got to the hill, where he pulled three games ahead of me, making 6 to 9, but he missed a tough 9 to get to his hill, which I sank to take the first match!

I waited another couple of hours, then had to play Jessie – a guy I know from way back in the MO8 Days.  He’s a 6, I got off to an early lead, not making a single mistake, not missing balls and playing great shape.  But, Jessie fought back, I lost some magic and quickly found myself hill-hill with him before too long.  But, my saving grace was the shot he had missed the entire match on the 6 (near the 3rd diamond on the long rail); which he again missed, leaving a pretty easy 4 ball out for me.

Next I had to play the only woman in the tournament.  She, too, was a 6.  I snapped the 9 on the first rack, but then everything fell apart. I was having a hard time concentrating/focusing on the table.  Her husband was near and really cheering her on, kinda got under my skin for some reason.  She was a very slow player, taking a lot of time between shots.  But, like any seasoned bar table player, she made the shots, but rarely played any position that was more than stop/stun or slow-roll.  I kept trying to force the tide to turn, but it just couldn’t happen. I lost 6-4.

That match would’ve put me in the final 4 on the winner’s side, but as it was, I ended up in the final 8 on the 1-loss side (final 12 overall).  I needed to win one more to get into the top 8.  I drew an old “nemesis” of sorts.  He’s a 9 and we’ve had a bit of history around the tournaments, as well just playing locally.  It started off pretty dead even, trading racks exactly until it was 4-5 him, then 4-6, but then I pulled one out and then another tying it at 6, me on the hill.  But, he gets two more and now it’s hill-hill again! Then two of the best/worst things happened: I played the best lock-up safety I’ve ever played, on the 7 ball no less.  With ball in hand, and 3 balls on the table, it should’ve been over in 3 strokes.  I make the 7, but come 4 inches too far on the 8 and have to back-cut down the long rail and let the cue-ball float foward to get to the 9 on the bottom rail.  I over-cut it, but also loose the cue-ball, hooking him entirely on the 8!  He kicks and almost makes it, but instead leaves an 8-9 combo, which I make to knock him out of the tournament (and the money). 

I was ecstatic! I hadn’t beaten him in a long time, and while we started playing around the same time, he had progressed more than I had.  I still don’t like his game, his stance or stroke – but the fact is, he makes balls pretty darn well. *shrug*

Next match, for 6th place, which was a GIANT gap in payouts, since I bought myself in the calcutta, which started paying at 6th place. I would quadruple my winnings, if I could get there.  I anxiously watched the match that would determine my opponent.  As it turned out, I had to play Drake again!

At this point, it’s near midnight, and I can feel that I just don’t have any energy left.  My mind is wandering, and I have zero focus.  Drake seemed to be in much better form than when we had played 10 hours ago.  He made far fewer mistakes and I made far more.  I missed a couple 9 balls, and some other ridiculously easy shots.  I was done.  Plain and simple.  My previous match had drained me entirely.  Not coffee nor mountain dew nor water was helping.  I went down 11-4.

I did notice some things that I hadn’t had to deal with all day: there was an audience.  Since there were only two matches going on at this time, there were a lot of people sitting/standing around and watching my match.  Including the guy I knocked out, and some others I had defeated earlier.  I felt so much more “on the spot” – actually I felt more nervous than when I play on the stream table during the midwest 9-ball tournaments.  It was strange.

I then noticed another part of me thinking about how much it would suck to get knocked out by the same guy who sent ya to the left side the first round.  In other words, I wasn’t focusing on ME and MY match.  Instead, I was thinking about everything else:  “What will these railbirds think? What will Drake think? That’s gotta suck to play the guy you lost to in the first round. Man, I really want that calcutta money.” 

I assumed he’d want revenge, and knowing I had gotten the better of the rolls previously, I hadn’t expected to win anyway.  It’s no wonder why my game fell apart.  I was mentally everywhere except the table.  I know better than this – but sometimes you just can’t pull yourself out of a whirlwind.  This was evident by my game and behavior.  I was back to the negative self-talk, though I cut it off early every time, it still was my go-to response to the table.  I tried breathing and my trigger “that’s just silly” phrase.  And all of that helped – for exactly one inning, until I made the next mistake.

Afterwards, I hung around, to watch him lose in the next round to the youngest player there, Ricky Evans, 12. He was an 8 this year (a 5 last year).  Then Ricky lost to a 5, Brett, who would go on to get destroyed 12-2 or something by Gary Lutman in the finals. 

Overall, I am pretty happy with my results.  I mean, this was the first time I played in a big event and made it passed the 4th round, plus I cashed! To top it off, I hadn’t done any of my pre-tournament preparation, so I effectively broke that self-made superstition. 

I’m already looking forward to next year’s event, as I have new plans for how to prepare and anticipate being a stronger player by then.  Even if I’m an 8 or maybe a 9 (depending on how the word of mouth spreads with my [hopeful] improvement throughout the year), I fully expect to do at least as well as I did this year.