This past weekend I tried my hand at the Midwest 9-Ball tour again.  I’d love to say that I avenged my embarassing performance, but I’d be lying.  I went 2 and out and this time my matches were nearly exactly reversed from the last time.  I’m really tempted to blame my first match performance on the extreme amount of time between when I arrived and when I played – but it was my decision to stay there the whole time.  So I have to take the blame for not doing what I should’ve done in order to best prepare for the tournament.

I get there at 10:30, sign up and wait … and wait … and wait.  About an hour after the calcutta and first few match accounments (now around 1:30) I find out I wont play my first match until 6:30.  Instead of going back home (10 mins away) and resting or eating good food or finding a place to play/get in stroke, I sat there. I watched some matches, and sat there on those hard chairs/stools.  Around 4 I went with a friend to get some food and ate stupid fast food, even though I had brought “tournament dinner” with me (aka: Cliff Bars and a protein shake). I figured I’d have enough time for my body to digest whatever I ate before my match and I was wanting to get outside for a bit; though it was cold, windy and on the verge of raining all day.

At about 6:45 I get called to play my match against some unknown name.  I get to the table and immediately start to notice just how COLD it was in that corner.  Shortly, I was shivering cold for some reason.  I played mostly okay during this time, but wasn’t really owning/controlling the table.  I went to get a coffee to warm up, but that particular brew must’ve been the high-octane brew as 10 mins later I get the caffeine shakes.  I try some breathing techniques to keep my heart rate down and it helped, but overall I just felt distracted by the environment.  It didn’t help that 5 of my friends were sitting at the table watching the match.  I don’t think I would’ve minded if I had been playing well, but I hate performing poorly for an audience. 

My break was working pretty well, getting a great spread of the balls.  However, I was hooked on the 1 or had to play safe off the 1 70% of the time … so my speed is a little too high.  The problem with that is now I’ve just opened the rack for my opponent.  And while he wasn’t a monster player, he was competent and could get out from the 4 regularly.  We traded a lot of games and handed each other some easy outs.  But, in the end, he wins the match.

If I had won, I’d face Chuck Raulston in the next round – which was the gateway to the money round as it turned out.  I needed to win 2 in a row from the start to hit the bottom of the payout brackets.  I didn’t figure to get past Chuck though, and my opponent didn’t get past him either.

I play my next round at 9:45… against Jimmy Eberheart.  A regional top player.  It was either him, or a friend of mine with whom I had practiced the night before where he destroyed me 9-5 and 9-1 in the same format.  I didn’t like my chances in this bracket – but I suppose I have to pay my tournament dues as cannon fodder for a while.

After I ran out the first rack against Jimmy I thought “maybe, juuuuust maybe, I can squeek by.”  It was alternate break and as it happened, I played on the same table so I already had a good feel for how it was playing.  He gets his rack, I get my next one and he ties at 2 apiece.  I miss the 1 on the next rack (trying to get too perfect), which led directly to a WIRED 2-9 (as in frozen balls pointing straight into the pocket).  So he pulls ahead, and then he gets the next one of his breaks. 2-4 now.  He rattles a ball and I get out, then he misses an easy 7 and gives me the rack (it was a cookie-cutter out from there).  Tied at 4. 

And here’s where the plot twists. I think I get too comfortable playing him – we’ve been chit-chatting back and forth, talking about the table, the cue-balls, even tournament strategies.  Once he remarked that he shouldn’t tell me something – then proceeded to tell me anyway.  I knew he wasn’t “afraid” of me and I knew he expected to win the match from there.  I knew going in that he was a massive favorite – but I sometimes like that – it raises my game generally.  Like I’m the little kid trying to play with the big boys, taking my hard knocks in stride; and doing well in that regard.  (I guess I should only play known killers, cuz anytime I feel like I have decent chance of winning, I dog it off something fierce.)  Anyway, he pulls ahead again and gets to 7.  Either he scratched on the 2 or made the 1/2  and scratched or something – he gives me ball in hand on the 3 with a tricky 4-ball.  Overrun my position to play the 4-9 combo (or at least I no longer like it so much so that I abandon the idea) and am faced with the layout below.  After some analysis, I get down and shoot the 4, draw into the side rail, under the 9, then have the inside spin take the cueball forward around the 9 for shape on the 5.

When the CB stops rolling, Jimmy and his friends all compliment me on a great shot. Jimmy specifically said it was “really, really pretty shot”.  That felt particularly great.  He paid me another compliment earlier when my neither of our soft-breaks were working and we had both switched to the hard breaks, I heard him say to his friend “He’s got that sledgehammer break down.”  I was controlling the cueball 85% of the time (as in it’s in the center of the table without going around the rails) and making balls much better this match.  I still found ways to get out of line though, because it’s .. well, me.

I did get to 6 games though – better than I expected – and I had a lot of fun playing against Jimmy.  He’s a really friendly guy (until you piss him off, I’m told).

I spent the rest of the evening (till 4am) watching matches.  Saw some great pool being played and supported my friends who were still in it.  A couple of guys, both of them teammates of mine (former/present) actually, made it to the cash on the one-loss side Sunday.  I made some new friends courtesy of AZB and I got to watch “the youngin’s” play a scotch-doubles bank game with Skyler, Drake & Seth Neipetter, Nick Evans and a few other locals that would rotate in/out.

I got into some friendly 9-ball action Sunday with a friend on the big table and after about 3 hours we were dead even.  I guess I got tired cuz then I started missing balls, hanging balls and losing my cool something fierce.  I quit down 6 games, went home and played Fable for a while.

It was a good weekend of pool and I can’t wait to hit another tournament with the lessons I learned from this one. Next scheduled tournament I know of is the APA Amateur National Qualifier in 2 weeks.