This weekend presented me with a goal I’ve long sought after: The “Package”.

Friday night I met up with my practice partner and he utterly destroyed me in 2 races to 7. After being up 3-0, he proceeds to win the first set 4-7, then the next 2-7.  I made a few errors, sure, but the balls just weren’t going my way that night.  Oh well.  It happens.  (On a sidenote, I didn’t really let it phase me; kept a nice level mental state through all of it.  Another good point for me.)

After he left, I hit balls for a little while, then decided that I needed to really practice.  There wasn’t any one particular shot I felt like I should practice, just my overall approach to the rack – and I always want to practice my break, so the obvious choice was to play the ghost.

Playing the ghost, if you aren’t familiar, is a great game that punishes all mistakes.  Rack the balls, break em best you can and take ball in hand (if you need it) and run out.  If you miss a shot, the ghost the wins the game.  If you run out, you win it.  There are variations available, like the ghost could be giving you the last 4, or the 7-ball or maybe you get 2 innings to get out; if you aren’t at the level of running racks yet.  Generally you play a race to 9 or something of a decent but not extruciating length.

I, apparently, am a masochist and typically play the ghost even, though I have never even gotten halfway to the hill for some reason.

I quickly go down 0-3, missing a 3-ball, a 7-ball and 6-ball in the first racks.  Then I get a rack. 1-3. Ghost gets 2 more before the amazing happens.  At 1-5, I break and run out – without ball in hand.  2-5.  Then I break and run out AGAIN, making this my first pair of back-to-back break and runs; and consitituing my first “package” ever!  It’s now 3-5.  I break the next rack and it’s a pretty good looking table, but I get the wrong angle on the 2, causing me to have to force the 3-ball to get shape on the 4, and I miss the 3-ball.  SO ANNOYING!  Thus ends my “package” at just a “2-pack”.  But, it’s still my first 2-pack ever!.  So, here we are 3-6 in favor to the ghost, and he gets 2 more games, making it 3-8, and I come with another B’n’R (no bih) to get to 4-8.  The next rack, I don’t take ball in hand (going for another package) when I probably should have and miss the 1-ball, giving the ghost the set.

Final score: 4-9 in favor of the ghost.  While this score would make me want to hide my head in shame if I were playing in a league match, I’m actually quite happy with the result.  It is the best I’ve done against the ghost, playing even.

As luck would have it, I was videoing that night and caught all my run-outs on film! 🙂

After watching the raw footage, I realized that even if the ghost were giving me the last 3, I still would not have won the set; though it would’ve been much closer. I made it to 6 before he got to 9 with that spot (getting the last 4, I think I get to the hill and 5-out I win; gotta watch it again to be sure).  So, it seems that I really must focus on the end of the rack when I come to the table.  I need to remember that when I get passed the “hard work” of the rack and find myself with a good spread of the last 4 balls, I need to make these last 4.  I earned those last 4, I deserve those last 4.  Why would I give them up now, after “doing all the heavy lifting”? It is the worst time to relax and assume that I’m out. I have a nasty habit of doing that, unfortunately.  And I do it by both over and under thinking the rack.  Sometimes I focus too much on getting the out, trying to really ensure I’m dead perfect on the last 4; which adds extra pressure, which pulls me out of my rhythm and I end up jarring a ball.  Other times, I purposefully try not to over-think it and just make the ball, because I can make all the shots from just about anywhere; so I stop playing any kind of small-zone position and just focus on making the ball.  This, of course, leads me to a series of the 4 hardest shots imaginable, usually at great distance and thin angles, which leads to a missed ball.

In summary, this little ghost session has given me a great To-Do list:

  • Work on my cueball control on the break (although this was with my back-up break shaft, as my Samsara came off my OB-Break AGAIN last week).
  • I need to maintain the same level of focus and concentration through the entire rack. Do not try to hyper-focus or relax when I get to the “easy part of the rack”
  • Work on my speed control – let my subconcious brain do what it’s supposed to do; don’t try to out-think my instincts.
  • Trust my instincts – when the first position route I see is a simple 1-rail position, don’t try to “help” by adding a 2nd rail or a bunch of english to get perfect on the next ball.
  • Play the ghost more often.

The “wins” from this session are just 2 – but very important notes: 1) I stayed calm the entire time, never getting upset about missing a ball and just accepted the result, then analyzed why I missed the shot. 2) I RAN MY FIRST TWO-PACK!!!

Here’s to many more in the coming months!