I had NAPA league last night. If you’ve been paying attention at all you’ll know that I really do not like bartable pool. However, I realize that in my area, to be any kind of pool player, one simply must be able to play well on the barbox. All the tournaments around here are on barboxes and since I want to be a good tournament player, I figure forcing myself to play on them at least once a week is a good idea.
You might also know that I’ve been in something of a slump lately. I haven’t really felt good, truly good about my game for the several weeks (about 2 months overall, with some exceptions). I had already told my teammates last week that I would likely not return for next session as am not happy with leagues, the tables or the time required. Spending 5 hours in a bar to play pool on questionable equipment for only an hour is not my idea of a good time. I don’t really drink, so there’s no backup plan.
There’s only 2 weeks left of this session (going into last night) and I honestly just kinda gave up on the seriousness of it all. I went home after work, stole a quick catnap unexpectedly, had dinner and headed out. I didn’t even hit a ball before it was my time to play.
I lagged directly at the 1st diamond, the ball swerved and curved into the corner pocket. I laughed it off, but knew it was a sign of things to come. I was put up against a guy I’ve had trouble with the whole session. For no real reason other than I try to alter my game too much to fit the table and it costs me. It cost me a rack this night too. No more of that I said to myself.
It was a 5-5 race in 8-ball. He got the first rack, I got the 2nd, he got the 3rd and I took the next FOUR to win the set!!! I even had a break and run to win my 3rd game, and was well on my way to get another when I had to force a tough position and overcut the shot a bit. I still got the rack, but how awesome would it have been to get two BnR’s in a row, on a barbox, in 8-ball?! Also, this breaks my break-n-run dry spell! It’s been a month now since I broke and ran a rack of anything, in any game, in any format (practice or league or match).
Tonight would I would get to use every single trick in my bag. Literally. I used every piece of my equipment – the extention (which I’ve never used on the barbox),the jump cue (which I despise using on a barbox – heavy cueball and thin slate) and even did a half-ball jump with my playing cue.
To get my 1st 8-ball rack, he played a safe off his 2 ball and left me hidden behind the 8, so that I couldn’t see even an edge of my last stripe. I got out the jumper, lined it up and just hoped to get over the 8. I fired it, and saw the 15 ball fly into the corner!!! I was worried I’d scratch, but whitey decided to dance around the table and roll up for a standard shot on the 8! As I went back to put the jump cue away, I gave my teammates that look of “OMG DID YOU SEE THAT!!”, took a few deep breaths as I walked back to the table and sank it. Diagram here:
A few racks, after the break, I found myself looking at this table. I really wanted stripes (it’s open after the break, regardless of what you make) but didn’t have a clear shot at any of them – save for the 12 up by the corner, blocked by the 3ball. I thought about masseeing the ball, but that’s a lot of distance to cover. I thought about using my jump cue, but if I hit it just a hair off-center, it’ll swerve out. I decided to just use my playing cue and do a half-ball jump over the edge of the 3. I lined up, elevated, adjusted my stance accordingly and sent it! 0.02 milliseconds after I pulled the trigger I knew it was good as there was NOT a big *THUD* of the cue into the ball, into the blocker. I raised my head and saw the 12 ball drop and the cueball come around the angles. I was super excited, but kept super calm about it until later.
I ended up winning the set 5-2, and it felt amazing. It felt like justice, honestly.
Then playing 10-ball [more] I had another set of great shots come up and I was fortunate enough (or ballsy enough) to come out smelling like roses.
This set would be all about masse shots. I was playing the guy a race to 6, but giving him 2 games on the wire. I dogged something early and he got the first one, meaning I’d have to beat him better than 2-1 from there. In the 2nd rack, he miss-hooked me and left me partially hidden from the 3 ball. I thought about jumping it, since I’ve obviously been jumping well tonight, but I didn’t like the short distance, and felt I could better make contact and have a good chance of pocketing the ball using a masse. So that’s exactly what I did:
(Ignore that I used the wrong balls to diagram this, I was still in 8-ball mindset, but the 3 and 4 are where they were)
A few racks later he attempted a bank on the 1, but got pretty safe. Especially considering the natural kick was blocked by the 7 ball. I knew I’d have to bend the cueball off the rail, so I aimed for a diamond long, put a tip of draw and a tip of kill english on the cueball and pulled the trigger. I watched in almost slow-motion as the cueball bent off the rail and go right into the 1 ball, cutting it into the corner I had called, then watched whitey trickle out of the corner give me a good view at the 2:
Two racks later I found myself stuck behind the 9 ball with the 6 hanging. I thought about kicking behind (using the same bending I previously done), but finally decided that I could once again, masse this ball. I elevated more than my usual amount and double-checked my line of expected curve (slightly educated guess is more like it), reeled back and stroked into the table. My opponent congratulated me on a fine shot as the 6 dropped into the corner after the cueball had taken about a 50 degree right turn:
The next rack, my opponent would try to steal a rack by shooting a 1-10 combo. It nearly went – and left me a small chance at the 1-10 carom, which reluctantly fell:
I made another mistake somewhere in the set and my opponent got to the hill first, but I had met him there the next rack. It was now hill-hill and I hadn’t come this far to get shut down. We traded safeties back and forth but when I got overly excited about winning, I dogged the 4 ball. However my opponent repaid the favor by dogging the 8, but he left this layout, which I was not about to give back. Before I shot it, knowing this table rolls off and is anything but well put together, I checked the points on the side pockets. The rail sticks out a good half-centimeter from one side to the other. Thankfully, for me, I was shooting from the outer edge, meaning that I could not, in any way, catch the point going up the rail. I got down, took my time, and sliced in the 8 all the way up the rail. Easily made the 9 and was straight in on the 10 when my opponent conceded the match.
I had won both formats, played well, held my shit together, didn’t hold back, played smart when necessary, played aggressive when I thought it necessary. I played MY game and used all of my tricks to get there (kicks, jumps, banks, caroms, combos, and massees). I sat at the table afterwards and thought “I feel like a pool player right now.” I thought of Tom Cruise: “I’m a Fucking Pool Player, Eddie!”
It felt good. No, it felt amazing.
Did I play perfect? Nope, not even a little. Did I play well – yes. Did I play far beyond my ability? No. Do I feel like I should be able to play that way all the time? Yes. Will I? Who knows. What I do know for sure is that I needed that night desperately. I was on the verge of quitting all pool for a while. All of it. Last night, I loved pool more than I have in a very long time.
I would love to think this is the sign of something bigger happening, but one good night doesn’t form a pattern and I’m not going to try and project the future. I’m just going to try and hold on to that great feeling and use it however I can.