APA US Amateur Prelim Tournament Review

This past weekend I played in a local qualifier for the APA US Amateur tournament.  While I don't have a lot of interest in going to the regional qualifier or the national event, I did want to play in this event because I liked the format and it's another chance to get some seasoning.  I had decided before I entered that if I found myself in a position where I was in danger of winning a qualification I'd work it out with my opponent who actually does want to go.  Knowing the field of players, I didn't expect to have to worry about that; and it turns out I was right.

The format is an APA Masters "style" - no handicaps, race to 7, potentially playing both 8-ball and 9-ball.  Winner of the lag determines the format to be played first and gives up the 1st break in the match.  If 8-ball is chosen, then 5 racks of 8-ball is played, then 9-Ball is played until someone gets a total of 7 wins.  If 9-ball is chosen first, then up to 8 games of 9-ball is played, then 8-ball until someone gets to 7 total wins.

Tournament started at 10am and I was the first match called. I lost the lag and my opponent choose 8-ball first.  Which, considering I don't feel anything close to awake yet is fine with me.  Plus, it means that I get to "warm up" both mentally and physically with a game that generally don't require a lot of stroke shots.  (Barbox 8-ball rarely requires a lot of CB movement.)  Nothing terribly exciting happening during this match, other than I let some racks slip away, but it goes hill-hill and I snap the 9 on the break. Win my first round!

I only had to wait about 30 minutes for my 2nd match against another unknown player.  But, this guy beat a known favorite in the first round so I knew not to mess around.  I win the lag and choose 9-ball, to try and get some quick games in, maybe to help get me in stroke, maybe to put a little fear into my opponent as I generally play 9-ball fairly aggressively, with good success.  It has certainly happened before.  I don't think I put any fear into him, but I could tell he was off his game a little.  Not sure if he was rattled being down 5-3 going into 8-ball, or if he just don't play good 9-ball.

I tried to keep up with my aggressive style of play, but I quickly discovered (realized) that was a mistake.  He played much better 8-ball, so for each aggressive shot that didn't work, he won that rack and I soon found myself hill-hill again.  The rack before this was where I also realized that I can outsmart him.  I was able to adopt a more strategic style of play - something more like one pocket than 8-ball.  I looked a lot longer at the table and found the best way to break out my problem balls and play a great safe, forcing him to play off a specific ball (or leaving just 2 options, both of which were beneficial to me).  The rack was a mess with clusters all over the place.  After several walks around the table, I saw it.  I could shoot a stop-shot on my solid, which would break up that cluster and both balls would bank away and open up - while also freezing him to his own ball, and anywhere his pushed to would leave me a shot to get out.  He kicked at one of his balls on the foot rail, made a good hit, but left me several choices.  I run out to get to the hill.

On the hill, I break and make some balls, but the table is not a run-out table.  I start playing smart safes and he's now shooting aggressively trying to get the win.  Towards the end of the rack, he tried a difficult combo on the 13 into the side while also playing shape for his key ball.  He missed and left his 13 frozen to my 7 ball.  My first thought was to bank my 7 long-rail and play shape on the 8.  But I wasn't sure if I could hold the cue ball. I also knew that if I missed the bank, I'd lose the game and the match.  Instead I re-evaluated the layout and finally saw it.  Make his 13 with my 7 and hide the cueball behind the 8 - blocking him from seeing his last ball.


It worked out better than I expected! I actually got the cueball FROZEN to the 8-ball and in such a way that any 1-rail kick would be very difficult.  He missed the kick, giving me ball in hand on an easy 2 ball layout.  I win my 2nd match!

From this point on in the tournament, it's now single-elimination (the format is known as "Single-Modified", meaning that players have 2 chances to lose within the 1st two rounds before being knocked out.  As I had won both of my first 2 matches, I was now in the 3rd round, and have no 2nd-chance opportunities.)

A few minutes later I play again, and again I win the lag and choose 9-ball.  I manage to get a quick 2-0 lead, but then I missed a safe and gave up a rack, and later I again got too aggressive, which left him with a chance to fire at the 9- which he did and made.  At the end of the 9-ball section it was tied at 4 apiece; much to my dismay.  8-ball was a series of tough layouts and basically we each tried to wait for our chance to get out - then we did.  Most racks were 1 or 2 innings.  But, I made 2 mistakes, missed a crossbank, which lost me that rack and rolled an inch too far on a tight-position shot on the 8, which also cost me the rack.  He's now on the hill and he came a very tough (and/or dirty) break and run to win the match.  I lost 5-7 and I was out of the tournament.

The "highlight" of the match, for me, was my only rack of 8-ball win where my opponent had jarred his keyball and scratched somehow.  I was left a full table of balls to run.  The layout of the balls were pretty wide open, but the ball only had 1 pocket, so I had to be sure to end the pattern correctly.  I took a long time looking over the table.  I knew what my key ball options were easy enough, but getting there with the least amount of risk too a few extra minutes of analysis.  I walked around the table several times.

Then it hit me, literally.  It was like a switch flipped and the pattern was glowing my brain. 6 in the side, 4 in the corner, get an angle on the 3 in the corner to get back to center table, for the 5, then 7 in the same corner, 2 then 1 then 8.  Once I saw it, I quickly went to work. 6, then 4, but got a little straighter on the 3.  I drew it back, but not quite enough.  I ended up straight on the 5.  Normally I'd be upset by this since my plan was now forced to change.  But, As soon as I realized I was straight, I also realized that I could float forward 4 inches and use the 2 to get back on the 7, then the 1 then 8.  And I executed that plan flawlessly.  I "stunned-through" the 5, leaving me with a simple small-draw on the 2 for the 7 in the side, which got me naturally to the 1 in the corner, which left me straight in on the 8 ball.

This was the first time I have ever, without setting the cue-ball down, formulated a plan for the entire rack.  It was exactly as how the books suggest: Run the rack backwards.  I chose the 1 as my key ball. I knew I needed to be straight in on the 2 to get good on the 1 and I worked it backwards.  Even though I had to change my plan, I feel like my initial plan was good enough to allow for slight variation as I had also done exactly what 8-ball players suggest: Work one area of the table at a time.

Typically in a situation like this, I'd look for my "problem ball" and just start running balls, focusing on the next group of 3, but this time I didn't.  I waited until I had a plan every ball. A target position for every ball.  I saw the rack play out in my mind before I set the CB down.  This is a milestone for me, personally.  I've always relied on my gut and shotmaking to get out on racks like these.  After all, there's only 8 balls on the table, they're open and it's a barbox.  Should be an easy out, no matter how I go about it - right?  WRONG.  I have dogged a number of these "open table" layouts (as any pool player has) and I was not about dog this one.

Here's the final runout diagram:

Even though I lost that match and was out of the tournament, I wasn't upset about it as I had already played decently throughout the day.  I was also, despite being a little tired, in great control of myself.  During every match there was a point where I'd normally start to get negative, frustrated and harbor feelings of defeat - but each time that happened I was able to push them aside and get back into the match.  After each rack, no matter the outcome, I told myself it does no good to get upset about [whatever happened].  Actually saying it - out loud (under my breath mostly) did wonders for my mental state.  Thinking it is one thing, but hearing it seemed to actually have an affect.  Not just hearing it - but also LISTENING to it.  

Overall, I feel like it was a good day for me, personally and I hope to continue down this path of strengthening my mental game.  My arm will pick up glitches and they'll go away and I'm starting to just accept those days; though it's not always easy when I'm losing more matches than I should (especially lately).  But, these are all the normal growing pains of being a pool player.  I've been fighting that acceptance for a long time, but I think (hope) that maybe this acceptance is exactly what I need to get over this little slump I've been in the last month or so.

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · 9-Ball · Tournaments

[Mike] Feeling The Stroke

Today we have our first guest-blogger: Mike S.  Anyone who's followed me for the last 6 months or so would remember him as my teammate and practice partner.  He's typically the other guy in the videos I post and as of late has been beating me into the ground.  We usually end up talking about all kinds of pool related stuff and I thought it'd be neat to have him share some of his thoughts on things.  Today it's all about the stroke - and what isn't a stroke.

Strokin’ IT!!!

What’s in a stroke? What makes for a good stroke? How does it feel? 

"Fluid", "Comfortable", "Precise", "Effortless", and "Magical" are a few words that come to my mind when thinking about delivering a great stroke. Since before I understood what great pool was and the attention to detail that it takes to move the cue around the table effortlessly, one phrase stands out: Don’t poke it, STROKE it. It still sounds so corny but God is it so true. 

Last night I was in great stroke, I was feeling the ball contacting the cue tip and knew exactly where it was going and why. Many things contributed to my great performance in Master’s League, but mostly I was warmed up and relaxed. No worries at all yesterday, just me and the table. The balls were laying out great after the break and there were a few defensive positions that worked out in my favor, all in all a great night at league. (7-0 victory didn’t hurt)

Back to the Stroke talk, after league sparring with John and Julia on the extra practice table was a great display of some awesome runs and a few cheesed in 9 balls. But the strokes where flying. It feels nice to let it out and play the 3-4 rail position and it never hurts being on the right side of the ball to make position easy and unforced. John commented “I’d be in perfect shape on the 10 footer, this 9 foot business is screwing me” something like that. It couldn’t have been more true on a few over-ran positions, but without a stroke he would have never gotten there or even have a chance of moving the rock around a 10 foot beast.

When it comes down to it, you don’t wake up one morning and magically you can spin and maneuver the cue ball around the table with ease. It takes work and practice and getting out of your comfort zone. Hitting the cue ball outside of the miscue zone is risky but in the heat of battle and that is your only option at the table, the confidence to deliver a great hit can be the difference between a match win and match loss. What I mean is, typically you do not need to use extreme outside/inside or extreme top/bottom but a halfway delivered shaky poke is no way to make something out of nothing. Before most matches or killing time while at the bar and wanting to hit some balls, you might catch me at a random table with a house cue or my playing cue just hitting one ball around the table. I’m checking to see how the rails feel and I’m feeling the cue ball react off of the tip and more times than not hitting the ball 3-6 rails. Being loose and relaxed and just figuring out the table, does one rail play bad or not react as expected or is the cloth picking up speed across the middle unexpectedly, seeing how it feels. Give it a try, hit the ball outside, inside, mega top spin and crazy backspin see how it reacts off the rails and be confident moving the ball around the table, it’s FREE after all, you don’t have to drop the balls to practice stoke drills. Because the proof is in the pudding, a horizontal cue traveling at a consistent pace with intent and follow through can create an amazing reaction. I personally struggle with soft drawing the cue ball off the long rail and to the middle of the table with finesse without scratching in the side, I do I’ll admit it but my stroke has allowed to use reverse English or inside topspin to maneuver around the table to get good position if not better position than trying to land the cue ball in a extremely precise location with touch.

The bottom line is, if your cueball jumps in the air after the tip hits it (unintentionally) or after it contacts the object ball, or has no spin after the object ball contact and you thought it was going to take off like a rocket but instead dies right there or after the rail contact; you just poked the cueball. This leads to a lack of confidence to go 3-4 position with any type of spin not just outside running English. In this case, stroke development and practice should be in your plans for a better pool game. 

Remember Stroke it, don’t Poke it.


Filed Under: Stroke · Training

Midwest 9-Ball Tour (March 2014) Review

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.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

Sparring With Focus

In an effort to get prepared to avenge my poor performance at the midwest 9-ball tournament last week, I matched up with a friend who has won or placed in the top 3 several times in that tournament.  Julia Gabriel is a local gal who always does well at the midwest tournament.  We matched up playing mw9-style races to 7 this past Friday.  We played 4 sets.  The first set, I played well, and she seemed a bit off.  After a break for dinner, everything changed.

Saturday, I read some of Phil Capell's book A Mind for Pool and it had a section on the mental game (well, more than one) wherein he says "Don't make excuses. People that hear players making excuses know that player is passing the buck on their own mistakes." (paraphrased)  And it's true.  I've known that to be true for quite some time, but it's still incredibly difficult not to blame something that seemed, at the time, out of my control (like a bad table roll, or dirty balls clinging together).  This is particularly relevent here because I blamed my stopping to eat dinner as my reason for losing the next 3 sets (terribly). 

I normally don't eat while I play, or if I do, I snack so as not to give my body too much to do while I'm still trying to maintain focus at the table.  But, after I ate, I lost all focus.  To be fair, it wasn't all because of the eating.  The first half of my focus loss was that I had won the first set, pretty heavily.  I felt like I had the home-field advantage, playing on new cloth, and with the red circle cue ball.  Even though my speed wasn't as good as it could be, I was making great shots and getting tight shapes when I needed them.  In a word, I was confident.

Which should be a good thing.  It's that small step from being confident to being overly confident that kills people.  It killed me, for sure.  I thought I had found some of my opponent's weaknesses, but what I had thought was a weakness, was nothing more than a couple of flukes. My mistake.  And that mistake would mentally grant me the permission needed to shoot at flyers, to take lower percentage shots, to go for the runout when I should've played safe instead. 

We played alternate break, and I lost the 2nd set 0-7. I lost the 3rd set 1-7 and I lost the 4th set 4-7.  Once that focus is gone... it's gone.  I tried all of my tricks to get it back. I quit talking to bystanders, I quit fidgeting with my phone, playing the jukebox, looking around.  The problem with getting focus back, I've just realized, is that I become focused ... on getting focus and instead am too distracted to play the game.  In effect, I try too hard. Which is just as bad as being overly confident. 

Now, after watching the videos, I can say that yes, the rolls were going more towards her than for me in the later sets. That's not an excuse, just an observation - to which she agreed. However, when she'd make a mistake and leave me a chance to get out ... I simply did not take advantage of the opportunity.  I was trying too hard to make sure I capitolized on her error, tried too hard to ensure I made the ball; which raised doubts in my instinctive shot alignment, which caused indecision, which caused missed shots.

I did, however, capture one rack of decent shooting in the 4th set, where I broke and ran out.  It wasn't pefect, as I had bumpbed into 3 balls throughout the run, but it worked and I got there.

There was a rack earlier that I broke and ran out - but it was an early 9, so I don't count that, exactly, as a break and run. I had to bump the 6 to keep shape on the 4, but I put the 6 in a spot where I wasn't sure if it passed the 9 into the hole, so I played the 6-9 carom instead, which I made.

In summary - I'm really glad Julia came out to run over me.  It was almost like playing the ghost, except that I had more chances to screw up than when I play the ghost.  I look forward to our next sparring.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

Midwest 9 - Feb 2014 Review

I don't have a lot of good things to say about my weekend in Olathe, KS for the Midwest 9Ball Tour, other than to say (and proud that I can say it) I literally did not miss a ball in my first round (not counting breaking dry or the one mis-cue).  If I shot at it, I made it.  Now, having said that. I did lose 5-9.  I had a good break and run, and was about to do it again, but I babied the 6 ball and hooked myself on the 7.  There was a small score debacle where I would've bet my truck that it was tied at 5, but apparently I was wrong and it was 5-6 to him, so when he marked up game #7 on the wire I was totally confused and thought he was trying to steal a game; which took me completely out of the match, mentally.  He broke and scratched and left a mess of a table, but I found a brilliant way to win. I had to shoot a 1-7 combo which would leave a 1-9 combo, but I overran position on the combo and hooked myself again! I kicked, missed the ball and left him the 1-9 I had just manufactured for myself.  He's on the hill, breaks, makes a ball and what's there? The 9 hanging in the corner, and a clean shot for another 1-9.  That was that.

Saturday afternoon .. I won't even waste virtual space with it. I lost 1-9.  My head was totally missing.  I felt like I was sleepwalking, though I had "slept" for a good 7.5 hours.  It must not have been good rest, I felt dog-tired all day.

Afterwards, I hung out with some friends and finally got around to playing a bit more.  I matched up with a guy from my home area and we did some one pocket to see how we'd play.  We played even for about 6 racks, of which I won only 1, then he gave me 9-7 for another 3 racks of which I won zero, then he offered 10-6 and I said No, lets stick with this 9-7.  We played another 5 racks and I won only 1 of those.  I don't feel like we played great one pocket, neither of us were overly aggresive or overly defensive, but I just dogged safes or shots too many times.  I knew he was a better 1p player than me, but I still think 9-7 is the game I should get and be close to even.

I played some 9-ball with another friend and played better, including another break and run (this is big table still); so that's nice.  I finally went back to the hotel around 4am.

Sunday I drove home and was on FB looking for a game at my local room where they had just put on new blue Simonis cloth on the barboxes.  I found a sparring partner and we did a couple of sets in the midwest 9 style (race to 9, alt break, RYO). We used the magic rack though, since the balls were a little off-sized.  I played ... less than great the first set, and lost 4-9. Just couldn't close it out.  Then the 2nd set, I played much better, put another package together.  With alternate breaks... I broke and ran, he broke dry, I ran out, then I broke and ran out again... so it's *sorta* like a 3-pack! haha It went hill-hill, but his safety game is just better than mine, and when he froze me between the 7 and the pocket, I had zero shot at the 3 ball, and he ran out from there.

It was great practice and he's a good opponent, so I'm sure I'll match up again (and hopefully come away with more than I walked in with next time).

I'll get to try my hand at the tournament again in 2 weeks when the tour comes to my hometown. :)

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

Milestone: Putting Together a Package

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!

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Training

The Problem with Diamonds

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.


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Filed Under: Gear · General · League

TAR 39 - SVB vs Efren Reyes

This is all I have to say about this:

Shane Van Boening won the last All Around against Efren Reyes in TAR 34 . Efren offered to play again with his choice of games. Here it is. February 7-9, 2014 the greatest player ever will face Shane Van Boening in an “Efren’s Choice” All Around. 1 Pocket, Rotation, and 9 Ball. The match will take place at the TAR Studio in Las Vegas, Nevada. The match will be available to watch live via streaming Pay Per View. A very few seats in the studio will be available and up for sale soon.

Match Schedule:

Friday February 7: One Pocket Race to 11

Saturday February 8: Rotation (Set length to be determined)

Sunday February 9: 9 Ball Race to 25

Each days play will begin at 8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific

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Filed Under: General

$32,000 Barbox April 18-20 2014 at Smokin Aces

Here's a pretty big event for all you high-rollers/pack runners:

Smokin' Aces in Poplar Bluff, MO (573) 712-2900

April 18 - 20, 2014

$32,000 prize fund (with full field of just SIXTEEN players)

$2,000 entry fee.

Race to 21, Rack Your Own, Alternate Break, Double Elimination

1st: $20,000

2nd: $7,000

3rd: $5,000

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

Missouri State 9-Ball Championship 2014

I just stumbled across this info.  Which actually is upsetting, because this should've been much more publicized and it never is.


Billiards of Springfield

Springfield, MO

Feb 7-9th, 2014

$100 entry (+ $15 greens)

Round-robin format. Semi's/finals on Sunday, Feb 9th

Field limited to Missouri residents only (with valid proof)


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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

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