After playing for 4 straight days on the most wonderful tables (9-foot Diamond Pro-Am), I realized something.  There’s a real problem with them.  The problem? Nothing else plays like they do!  I mean that as a compliment.  Lemme ‘esplain. No, there is too much. Lemme summup. [/Inigo]

Diamonds play just different enough from other tables that you can easily get used to the little-bit shorter multi-rail position routes. So after playing 20+ hours in just 4 days on them, returning to your local barbox league can be a little off-putting.

This was the case with me when I returned from the DCC this week.  The day after I got back, I had to play NAPA league; which is played on 7′ Valleys, with deep cloth and the red dot “mudball”.  I showed up extra early to try and re-align myself with these conditions, and for a while it seemed to be working alright.  I broke n’ ran in 10-ball then banked the last 5 remaining balls in about 7 shots.  Drop quarters, did it again.  “Okay, I’m ready.” I thought to myself.  I still continued to hit balls, and sometimes I’d just soft-stroke the cueball around the rails to keep my arm loose (I also love kicking 1-rail with a ton of reverse to 3-rail it around the table).

I play 10-Ball first, and come out shooting pretty well, despite my opponent, par for the bar-league course, not being able to give a great rack. But then it happened.  That one trigger that throws a giant wrench into the machine.  While down on the 10-ball, which was only a slight back-cut up the rail to the corner, I was bumped into by a patron on the next table.  I stood up, walked around the table, took a drink of my Mr Pibb and went back to the shot.  I was happy with my “reset”, but during my walk around the table, I noticed that if I “normal speed” stroke this shot, I could scratch in the side pocket.  Then I made the well known mistake of trying to make a decision while down on the shot.  I tried to adjust so that the CB would float forward on a natural tangent line, drifting above the side pocket.  Then I decided to take the pocket out of the question and let up on the speed.  “While I’m ensuring that I don’t stratch, why use draw at all? Just a center-ball hit will do just fine.” runs through my head.  I might have well just closed my eyes and swung through; probably would’ve turned out better.  I hit the 10 full, it clung/skid and floated defiantly to the rail and back out, sitting a mere 2 inches from the pocket.  The cueball, as I had told it, more or less, floated up for a perfect straight-in shot for my opponent.

Now, as much as I like to say that I can blame the equipment for this failure, I just can’t.  Afterall, I had made plenty of balls on the table already.  I know it was my own mental ramblings that caused me to miss; but I always go immediately to blaming the table/balls whenever I play barbox pool.  I find myself wanting to challenge whatever opponent happens to be across from me on a 9-footer, specifically a Diamond 9-footer. More on this later.


Back to the league night – I went on to lose my 10-ball match from there.  In restrospect, I was playing extra careful; trying to not use english at all and not using my normal position routes – for fear of the table/balls not reacting they way I have come to call my own.  In a nutshell, I didn’t play MY game – I played a barbox player’s game.  That is a game/style that I just can’t do.  It has been my downfall in every bar league I’ve played in.  I didn’t learn to play on a barbox, I don’t train or practice on a barbox. I don’t do stroke drills or position drills or … much of anything on a barbox other than play a league match.  I could, as I have plenty of access to barboxes, but I don’t.  Why don’t I? Because I just don’t like it.  It’s not the game I want to play.

However, I have come to accept that my barbox game will not be as good as my big table game.  That doesn’t mean I still don’t get frustrated, nor does it mean that I’m simply free-stroking through the matches without a care (though maybe I should try that in a match, since whenever I do that during warm up, I play a lot better. haha).

I’ve long said I don’t mind getting outplayed but I hate beating myself by making silly mistakes.  One, not often talked about here, stipulation is that I hate more than anything else is getting beat by the equipment.  Case and point: My 8-ball NAPA match. The score tied, he was on the hill, I still needed 2 (it was a 5-4 race). He laid down a poor break and the whole table was a cluster.  This was going to be a “moving” rack; and since I had just come off playing a lot of one pocket at DCC, I felt I had the best end of it.  And I did.  The guy had 2 balls left, I still had 4.  We played a safety battle that lasted EIGHT innings, until I finally left him such that he HAD to shoot his one open ball in; forcing him to shoot at his last ball, which was tied up on mine, in front of the corner pocket.  He played a good combo and sunk my ball, leaving his in the jaws, and the CB right on top of it.  I have a hanger dangling in the corner directly up the rail. I elevate and soft stroke it up the table. About a foot before it reaches my ball it begins to curve… then curve more… then finally it curves enough so that it completely misses my ball entirely.  I could say it was because I hit the cue-ball off-center, causing a masse effect. I could say it, but it’d be a lie. I didn’t hit it hard enough for that to happen, and there was no side-spin on the cueball (as evident by the reaction off the head rail).  I gave him ball in hand, and he won the match because of it.

I mostly held my cool, but was noticeably upset about it.  Thankfully, I was forced to pull it together as I was called to give a coach for another player just a few minutes afterwards.  I ordered my consolation drink (Captain and Coke, no lime) and just waited for the night to end, replaying the matches in my head.

Getting back to the previous point about playing on Diamonds, or more directly, wanting to challenge my barbox opponents on them as a bit of an ego-fueled anger response.  Watching a guy beat me on a barbox with a 2 inch poke-stroke is tough to watch.  Especially whenever he needs to move the cueball around and just can’t get there.  My personal reason is because I know I’m the favorite on a big table. So maybe it’s a little “mean” of me to want to play a guy with no stroke on a big table, knowing he has no chance of competing with my ability to play shape.  (Editor’s note: If you have watching any of the videos of me, you’ll know that I’m not a top player, so while I know without a doubt I can beat most other barbox players in my area, I also know that I have no shot against real A-players.)

But, there’s a second reason to want to get these guys on the big tables.  To show them how the game should be played.  To show the equipment, to show them (or attempt to anyway) the grace and beauty of playing a 3 or 4 rail position route through traffic, with true-rebounds off the rails, english that grabs when it’s supposed to, a soft draw stroke to pull whitey back 2 feet, etc.

I’m always surprised when a good barbox player says they’re scared of the 9-footers.  I don’t understand how someone can put that much effort into bad equipment, then be scared of good setup.  It’s like, being a virtuoso with a $10 warped acoustic guitar and not wanting to play with a high end Takamine when offered.

I guess, it’s no different than so many of the complains I see in the forums about league players – how they’re bangers that don’t play pool.  And to some extent, they’re right.  When I tell people about whatever TAR match I just watched, or that I’m going to the DCC, or mention pretty much anything about professional pool, 95% of them have no clue what or who I’m talking about.  I just don’t understand that.  How can someone participate in a sport and not even know who the professionals are?

But, back to Diamonds once again.  The other problem with Diamonds, at least in my area, there are none.  That’s not entirely accurate, there are 3 that I know of.  1 at Cue & Cushion and 2 at Hillsboro Billiards.  The worst part is, the one at C&C is rarely used.  It sits under the table cover and more frequently is a cue-holder for the extra-right one pocket GC next to it.  Breaks my heart.  I haven’t been to Hillsboro, so I can’t say what condition they’re in, but I hear they at least get a good amount of play on them.

I think I was just meant to play on Diamonds, I’ve loved them ever since I first played on one and I feel like game is better on them. *shrug*  And don’t get me started on the 10-footers, I’ll save that for another post. 😉