On Meltdowns

This past Monday was my in-house league night.  I'll spare the details of the match and sum it up saying that I lost, not terribly, I got to 7 (going to 9) and I made some great shots, but the real point of this post is ask the internet a question:

Everyone knows a variety of ways to keep yourself calm during a match.  What do you do if you find yourself in the middle of meltdown, fully recognize it, and all the usual tricks just don't seem to work.  Not breathing, not taking a break, not laughing; none of the usual methods to keep yourself in line are working. How do you recover from that?

The "give-up stroke" sometimes works, but when you're not playing well, the rolls don't go your way, so as soon as you start to reign in the mental game, something else, sets it off.  Opponent misses, gets safe, pockets spitting a ball out, or rolling a 1/4 inch too far, etc.

Tuesday morning I realized what the biggest problem of all was... I was tired. I didn't feel tired at all Monday, but Tuesday morning came and I couldn't barely remember anything from the previous day; which is a sure sign that I hadn't slept as well as I thought Sunday night.  Combined with my rush to get to league after having to work late, leaving me no time to warm up, and really hating the table I had to play on, it's really no surprise I lost my head.  But, hindsight is always 20-20. 

Probably the best shot of the match for me was this one: my opponent missed the 5 in the bottom corner and it snuggled up next to the 8.  I could actually see an edge of the 5 relatively easily, but not enough to pocket it easily.  I recognize that the carom off the 8 was dead in the side, if I could just get there. I looked at doubling the long-rail, but my angle was a little too much fo rme to feel confident to hold it on the rail.  I looked at kicking in front of the 9, but then I'd have to open it a little, and again didn't feel confident.  Finally, I saw that I had enough room to squeeze behind the 9 and straighten it out and it should head right towards the 5.  I lined it up, sent it and everything went as expected.  My opponent gave me a "great shot" compliment even.

However, I over-cut the next shot on the 8 and gave that rack away. And that's how the bulk of my match went. :/

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Filed Under: General

Practice Updates

I've been doing decently at getting some alone practice time over the last week or so. I've been working on speed control and position routes mostly.  I did do about 30 minutes playing with "The Gates" over the weekend. Man that's a tough one. (below - just shoot through the gates 1.5 lag speed and dont touch the balls.  I was able to do it 4 times in a row, but never more than that.  Not sure if that's my stroke or just a weird part of the cushion. heh, never really saw any spin on the object ball, I even used a stripe to help identify that.)

After that, I worked my draw speed for a while. Setting up a shot, 1 diamond apart and drawing it consistently back 1 diamond, then 2 diamonds, then 3, etc until I was hitting the end rail.  I then increased the shot distance from 1 diamond to 3 diamonds and did it all over again. Next, I had a friend throw out a random number and I had to draw it that many diamonds. I was surprised at how well I did, considering I've never really done well at this drill (though it's been at least 2 years since I tried it). So, in comparison, there is definite improvement, but always room for more. 

On Monday, I finally got some time to work on that Kid Delicious clock system.  I had some trouble with the 5 and 6 lines, but the 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, and 4 were all spot on and quit helpful.  I shot each shot 10 times and I was able to find an accurate cueing spot to reproduce each position.  I experimented with various speeds which really shortened the angles, also great to witness. Even though I know it should, actually doing it and finding ways to control it is so much more important than just reading about it.

The 7-10 lines were totally random for me.  I'm assuming that he's suggesting the cueball is stunning into the rail and then the inside spin in carrying the cuebal down to the end-rail.  So, that's what I shot, even though it's anything but a "medium" stroke, for me.  Even still, all of those lines were hitting between the 1st and 2nd diamond (opposite the pocket), with no real consistency.  I wonder if my setup was incorrect (not exactly a half-ball hit, I mean).  I worked on this drill for probably an hour though, and it was informative, so even though I couldn't get the results he indicated, it was still a good a experience.

For my next practice routine, I really want to work on elevating my cue. Shooting over an object ball or jacked up on the rail.  Also, I need to set up an actual banking drill.

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Filed Under: Stroke · Training

TAR 37: Shane vs Corey - REMATCH

I just found out about TAR 37, happening November 1st-3rd.  It's a rematch of the first TAR match ever (which is available On Demand, btw, and you should go watch it).  This is an all-around match up, 8-Ball, 9-Ball and One Pocket.

From the announcement:

All games are rack your own with a traditional rack played on the TAR Diamond 4.5 x 9 table. The schedule is as follows:

November 1: 8 Ball Race to 30
November 2: 9 Ball Race to 30
November 3: 1 Pocket Race to 8
---

I'm planning on being out of town that weekend for a tournament, but I'm still gonna but the PPV because hopefully either the tournament room or the hotel will 4G and/or wifi!

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · 9-Ball · One Pocket

The Clock System by Kid Delicious

In an effort to further memorize this positional guideline, I've drawn it up (based on the video example I watched over the weekend).

Each of these shots is a half-ball hit and shot at a medium speed, "Around a 5 on a 1-10 scale." according to "Kid Delicious" aka Danny Basavich. Each ball number relates to the "hour on the clock" if you places a clock on the aiming part of the cue ball.

 

During his demonstration the end-rail positions were all very close between 7 and 11.  The forward roll sends the cueball towards the upper right pocket, but the inside spin shortens the angle (or vice versa, however you like to understand it). So, my memory could be a little fuzzy there.  He had a LOT of "hours" that went between the 1st and 2nd diamond.  I'm more interested in the 12-6 range myself.  It all makes perfect sence when it's drawn up like this. 

I'm looking forward to trying these routes because it a) forces accurate cueing and b) will help me better find/execute positions downtable from this shot.

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Filed Under: Training

An Honest Reflection

I played some of the worst pool I've played in a while on Thursday and Friday last week. Thursday I lost an APA Masters match on the hill to a guy that I should've easily beaten.  Friday I played my teammate whom I haven't beaten in 5 weeks, and continued to lose to again.  Though I won one of the 3 sets, and played decently, it was only because he made more mistakes than I did. A problem he corrected quickly in the 3rd set. 

I've been writing here about being frustrated with my game and saying that I'm going to work on things - but I haven't really done much.  At this point, I'm sick and tired of writing that I'm frustrated with my game.  So I hope this post will finally be the kick in the ass I need to actually do something about it.  Sort of a pool intervention.

I realized a couple of things that I haven't been doing for as long as I've been upset with myself:

1) I haven't been watching any professional pool: so I'm not inspired.

2) I haven't been analyzing my own game (watching the videos I take while playing): I'm not looking for flaws or improvements.

3) I haven't been paying attention to my fundamentals at the table: they are falling apart - alignment and follow-through, namely.

4) I haven't been adhering to my pre-shot routine: not picking a position route, not visualizing the shot and not executing.

5) I haven't been excited or really cared about the game in general: I'm not giving the game it respect it deserves.

6) I haven't been working out (physical fitness, not pool drills, though I haven't been doing those either).

7) I haven't been playing any other games than 8, 9 or 10 ball: I'm bored generally, even when I'm competing.

8) I haven't been watching instructional materials: I'm not cementing existing information or learning new options.

All of which leads to the biggest reason I'm playing so poorly lately: I have no mental focus or stamina at the table.

Just a few months ago, I wrote about how my mental game had improved and I was both letting go of my mistakes and keeping emotion out of the equation. Somehow during all of the above, I've lost the ability to let things go, to just accept the table as it is, to not get upset when something goes wrong and am becoming a consant boiling pot of frustration and emotion which keep puts me on fult tilt.

So, Saturday I decided to watch a number of different instructional videos. All older ones, like Earl Strickland's Pool My Way and Kid Delicious' Clock System, Freddy The Beard's Banks That Don't Go But Do and Byrne's trick shots Vol 3.  Shorter videos I knew I could finish without getting that blank stare. I enjoyed Earl's video a lot; it was informative and also broken up with some fun stuff in between the learning (trick shots mostly). And while it's hard to listen Danny Basavitch (Kid Delicious) talk, I really like his clock system example and will be working on that system tonight for sure.

Sunday I made myself watch some professional pool.  The Action Report uploaded a number of US Open One Pocket matches from earlier this year that I didn't get to see at the time.  So I watched SVB vs Scott Frost and Justin Hall vs Earl Strickland. I've really been chomping at the bit to play some one pocket lately. I just love the creative strategy aspect of the game and I miss the learning experience of seeing shots and getting to try them out right then and there, instead of watching the pros do it.  I will find a one pocket game this week if it kills me.

In general, I am holding myself responsible for getting to the practice room at least twice a week for starters. I hope to spend at least 2 hours working on specific aspects of my game, whether it's fundamentals or shot-making or position or speed drills. Then I want to spend at least an hour of challenging myself by playing the ghost.  I'm going to do it the proper way this time, and work my way up the ghost ladder, so to speak. Start with the 3-ball ghost, race to 9 and go from there. I need to actually do this instead of trying the 9ball ghost with a two-inning option.  I need to put in my "ghost dues" so to speak.

The drills and the ghost should help me "train" my mental game and focus.  And the nature of having to fade mistakes should help train my emotional responses.  I've also started working out again and while I have missed that sore feeling I need to prepare myself for any adverse affects working/defining new muscles might have on my fundamentals (this was an issue 2 years ago).

The US Open 9Ball Championship begins this weekend and I aim to buy the whole PPV event and watch as much of it as I can (though my cell reception at work terrible, I might have to figure something out for during the day).  Beyond that TAR has also released a number of older matches available for On Demand viewing (and for super cheap), so I hope to grab a few of those as well.

I'm already getting excited about the payoffs from this work I have planned and if I keep those goals in mind, I should be able to stick to my regimen.  I have the will power, I've done this before, physically when I was frustrated with being an overweight guy, now I need to harness my will and drive again and do it for my game. 

This blog should, I hope, return to being more of a practice and informational blog rather than a whine-o blog.

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Filed Under: General

Practice - Reference Lines

After my league match last night (which I won, after being down 0-4, I came back to win 9-6), I hung around and did some practicing.  I wasn't doing very well with some of my usual drills, so instead I decided to focus on a single shot and experiment with position routes.  For whatever reason, there are two nearly identical shots which sometimes give me more trouble than they probably should. 

I set the shot up and swung away using all different kinds of english.  After a while, I noticed a pretty repeatable pattern.  Below is what I've discovered works for me and my stroke.

The majority of these were shot at around the same speed: Approximately 1.5 lag speed (3 table-lengths).  The shots with orange and green lines (sometimes purple) do require a stronger throw, 2 or even 2.5 lag speeds.

 

Here's the position routes of the same shot with draw:

 

 

The other shot is nearly identical, but don't freeze the object ball and move the cueball to the 1st diamond:

 

 

And here are the routes for draw:

 

 

As you can see, there are a lot of lines that are dangerously close to both the side and corner pocket; which makes this, in my opinion, a very important shot to understand.

I didn't diagram the 1st show with the ball not frozen, but the routes are mostly just widened going forward and shortened going backward.  Similarly, the 2nd shot with the ball frozen, sent the cueball through the top-right quadrant for nearly all forward shots, regardless of english.  For draw, it was nearly impossible to do anything to keep the cueball above the side pocket on the left half with even half-lag speed.

This drill really helped me realized why I so often scratch on these shots; it turns out what I think the cueball will do is nothing at all like what it actually does.  Seems odd that I'm just now realizing this, since I'm usually pretty good at predicting the cueball path, but everyone has their own "demon shots". 

I would love to hear your thoughts on these routes/results.  I hope to actually catch a video of these routes sometime to further help me visualize and memorize these.  If/when I do, I'll be sure to share it here.

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Filed Under: Training

Just Some Inspiration

While scrolling through the forums over on AZB, someone posted a couple inspirational images.  Considering what happened at league last night, I found these right up my alley.

This one is my favorite though:

 Here's an example of a shot that I both love and am scared of.  This came up in my league match last night.  I couldn't see any way of making the 2 and not hitting the 3 without drawing out of the shot.  But, given the angle, draw would likely drift down to the end rail, forcing me to shoot the 3 up table, with traffic in the way to the 4.  So, instead of fighting the natural result of the shot, I decided to help it out and add some running draw-english. heh It worked out better than I had expected!

 

 

I even got a compliment from my opponent on that one. 

The point here is that a long time ago I was terrified of that shot, and when I first started trying it, I would miss the shot and position entirely.  Later I would make the ball, but the cue ball would be miles away from what I wanted.  It's only been in the last few months that I've started to get a handle on this shot.  Which leads to the next inspirational image:

 

This one is a wonderful reminder that no matter how much you want to succeed, you absolutely, and completely, must fail first. I need to remember this.

And lastly, a huge thanks go out to my first APA team captain for reminding me that I didn't start playing this game to compete, I started because I enjoyed the game.  Here's a little something akin to a reality check:

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Filed Under: General

League Hiatus

I've grown both incredibly frustrated and apathetic about league play lately.  That trip to Vegas wasn't the inspiration I might have hoped it'd be.  Instead, it's only shown me that I need a lot of practice.  I'm not where I want to be. Even among my skill levels I'm not the threat I should be (at least not in my own mind).  It's not that I want to never miss a ball again (it'd be nice of course), but more that I'm so incredibly sick and tired of not getting out when I should.  Any commentator watching any of my matches would assume I would get out with 4 open balls in good shape, especially after breaking and solving the problems of the early parts of the rack.  But I somehow manage to mess it up. I can't count the number of blown break and runs this session, all of my leagues or match-ups.  I'm just sick of it.

So, with that, I'm going to quit at least two of the 4 leagues I'm on and spend that time/money at the practice table instead.

First on the chopping block is the APA bar league.  It's been fun and I do feel like my bar table game has improved as compared to how I played on it before I started, I also feel it's become quite stagnant in the last 5 months. There are plenty of other players both of equal and lesser skill level with a stack of BnRs in their column, and I barely have a couple. My consolation is that the BB is not my preferred table and I keep telling myself that on a big table, I'd be the favorite.  That might be true, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm either incapable of adjusting or just simply not as good as I think I am.  The latter is most likely the case.

The APA league is actually a double-jeopardy league, 8 and 9 ball.  I'm quitting them both.  I'm on the fence about the APA Masters team.  I told them I'd stay if no one else wants on, but if someone else wants to give it a whirl I'd step aside.

I'll never quit the in-house league at C&C though.  It's great competition (and it pays pretty well).  I'm so close to reaching my goal there.  I wanted to be an A-rated player starting this year, but it didn't happen. The summer session didn't work out either and my scores weren't strong enough to put me over the top. It's about to start again in 2 weeks, and by god, I want to finish strong this time around.  This had better be my last session as a B.

As I'm writing this, I'm going back through old entries here and it is very interesting to see the same things pop up time and time again: Frustration due to lack of consistency, be it pocketing, position or mental game. So, I guess I'll just add this post to the top of the stack.

I'm excited, though, to get back to actually running drills. Spending that alone time at the table and just losing a few hours in the blink of an eye. I might need to hire someone to reset balls for me though, that's a lot of extra wasted effort walking around and setting up balls when I miss halfway through things. lol

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Filed Under: League

APA NTC Vegas Review

I'm not really sure how to wrap up a week in Vegas in a single post.  So, I'll just mention a few of the highlights (and lowlights).

Our team won our first 9ball match, I didn't play, as we played our 9 instead. It was an amazing match to watch, terrible to score though as there's just not enough room for all the racks when boths 9 are playing safes or running out.

Afterwards, our team celebrated the win and being in Vegas a little too much and we ended up losing the next 2 matches.  I got to play once, and during that match I played very well and won over their 5 with a great comeback.  He needed 2, I needed 13.  He gave me a chance, I took it.  I didn't like the table, I'd play safe and he'd sell out. I won the match with him still needing 2.

I played a mixed scotch doubles mini with my old team captain and we played very well in the first round. But the 2nd round I kinda lost the focus and we lost.

Later that night I played a 7's only mini and lost in the first round to the guy who ended up winning the mini, so I don't feel bad about it.  Annoyed a little, because I don't feel he played that much better than me. I only lost by a couple balls.

I played another mixed scotch doubles event with my team's 3, who was sick and couldn't quite get it going. I would leave her tough and with the no-coaching rule, she was left to figure it out on her own.  We lost the first round.

I lost money at the casinos. I drank a yard of captain'n'coke.

I ate at Tacos del Gordo but didn't try the brain, tongue or intestine tacos.

I picked up a cold the 4th day and am still fighting it 5 days later.

I got to see Freemont street both completely empty and closed down (around 3am Sunday night/Monday morning) and in all its splendor Monday afternoon/early evening.  I had drinks at the top of the Stratosphere and some of the best omelets ever at The Peppermill.  I saw the shark tank in the swimming pool at the Golden Nugget.

I watched a regional proam (Skyler Woodard) play a 3 and break and run a few double-packs, winning the match something like 75 - 8.

I cheered for the other local teams out there and saw some amazing play in the Master's tournament.

I was propositioned for some nighttime company on the way back to my room.

I saw two Elvises, Jack Nickelson, James Brown, Michael Jackson, transformers, hello kitty, the Predator, street performers, good and evil spiderman, a stormtrooper a Gru minion and Zack Galafanakis' character from The Hangover, complete with "Carlos" while walking around.

But the number one top highlight was getting to hang out with Mike Fieldhammer and Jesse Engel at Best Billiards!

I received the best compliment ever: Playing ring-10B on the 10-footer at Best Billiards, after one of my breaks where I got the SVB-hop to work, Jesse Engel says "Perfect break".

And that about wraps it up. 

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Filed Under: 10-Ball · 9-Ball · General · League

9-Ball Top Gun (SP2013) Tournament Review

This past weekend was the 9-Ball Top Gun tournament for the spring session. I was excited to play, but after staying out late Friday night, playing horribly, and having to get up early Saturday to help set up for my sister's baby shower, I had low expectations for this tournament.

Apparently the unseasonably awesome weather kept a lot of people from attending the tournament, so we had to combine the 5's, 6's and 7's into a single bracket and still only had ELEVEN players. :/  As luck would have it, I drew a BYE the first round.  My first match was against the guy I lost to in my first 9-Ball TG tournament about a year ago, but this time I won - pretty solidly too. The score was something like 55-25; but it was more that he kept making silly mistakes and leaving me simple outs (regardless if it was from the break or halfway through, I was moving through the grid with ease).  I did get a little scared when I needed 2 and just couldn't seem to keep my head in it long enough to make a shot; he got like 7 points during this time, until he scratched on the 1 and left me with BIH on the 2, with the 3 sitting right next to it.

My next match was against a guy I've only played one other time, in that same TG tournament from above, and I barely beat him then.  Luck, it seemed was on his side this match and he won this one 55-43.  I had my chances, but just couldn't quite there.  Oh well, I'm still in it; and I'll get to play a few more matches to stay loose.

I spent a few minutes outside in the lovely weather and recharged while I waited for some food to arrive.  Of course, it shows up literally 30 seconds before they call my next match.  I just ignore it and go play.  I've never played this particular guy before but I mostly didn't care.  We were both 7's so I knew it'd be a long race (and I like those).  However, I could NOT get my break to work.  I scratched on the break FOUR times, three of them IN A ROW, in a different pocket each time.  It's like I'd adjust a little and the table would take it somewhere else.  Still, the guy, again, kept making mistakes and I would fight my way through the rack to stay at the table.  I can't tell you how many 9-balls he missed those times he would actually run out.  As infuriating as it was to continue to scratch and have problems with the break, I still never lost my temper.  Sure, I'd complain or whine about it, but it wasn't an angry gesture or tantrum of any sort. I knew I was ahead the whole match and that really helps with the staying calm and positive.

I managed to win that match 55-38 or something like that.  Which put my next match against the "killer 5" that put a giant ass-whooping on another 7-friend of mine.  The guy had ran 18 in a single inning, so the story goes, and I was eager to outmove him.

But, the 5 that played earlier and the 5 that I played were totally different people. I just played smart and shot everything with confidence. It wasn't until he got annoyed that I locked him up in a great 3-rail safety half-way through the rack and complained "You're up something like 31-7 and you play safe?".  I told him: "5's are too dangerous to give a window to, so I'm not gonna give ya one; nothing personal."  I went on to win that match 55-22 or something.  It was during this match that I had overhit the 8 ball and landed so awkardly on the 9 that I was litterally clueless on what to do for a good couple of minutes. Patience is a virtue because then I saw it:

I knew it could go, but I never expected it would go, so when it dropped, I had the biggest grin on my face, the score keeper's jaw was on the table and my opponent said "Well, shit! I got no chance with that."

This win put me into the finals and where I would face the guy that had beat me earlier.

I knew we were both happy to be there and that it would be a good and friendly match, but I couldn't really expect what happened next.  He won the lag, broke dry and I had to kick at the 1, he ran out. 0-10 him.  He broke dry again and left the 1 on a thin cut, with the 2 hanging in the side pocket next to the 3 on the long rail.  The tangent from the 1 to the 2 was nearly automatic, so I thought "Make the 1, carom the 2 and be perfect on the 3."  But I missed the 1, which caused me to miss the carom on the 2.  He ran out from there. 0-20.  Then the most amazing thing I've seen in that bar happened: he broke and ran - TWICE.  0-40.  At this point, it's over and I'm just gonna have fun with it.  So I tell him, to keep going, see how many you can get!  He broke dry the next rack and I cleaned up that table. 10-40. I broke, made a couple, but the table was a complete mess.  I jokingly said "This cool? Wanna just rack 'em?" - which everyone laughed at.  The 2 was near the 3rd diamond on the long rail, then the 9 on the middle, and the 3 on the 1st diamond, with the cueball kinda near the center of the table.  I played a GREAT cross-bank on the 2, but on the way back up I got bumped to behind the 9 ball and had to kick at the 3 ball.  We traded a few balls, but I eventually took the rack.  It was something like 15-45 now.

The rest of the story doesn't matter - I made it to 27 when he finally got his 55th point to win the tournament.  I was happy with getting 27 to his 15, and if we had started match from when I was down 0-40, I might have had him; but I can't spot ANYONE 40 points going to 55. haha

If a tournament can have a theme, then this shot was my theme of the day.  It came up THREE times during the day.  It's a stroke shot - but this shot is NOT hit with force.  It's called "doubling the rail" in some books and videos.  Here are my three examples of usage:

 

 

Everyone should know this shot.  It's tough to do if you're not used to it.  It's <b>essential</b> that the ball have a LOT of spin, but with almost no speed.  Give it a try sometime.  I promise, it's a shot that will get you out of a tough spot more than once.

And lastly, I want to comment on just how well my new attitude is working.  Now, granted, I spent the day on the winning side of almost everything so it's easy to stay positive and chipper.  But, it's such remarkable difference that other people have commented on my new "good behavior".  I never dropped my cue, or tossed it, or slammed balls into the rack, or hammered my chalk down. Not once, all day.  With all the mistakes I made, I held myself together nearly perfectly.  Once my first loss match was over I was noticeably upset, but I went outside and just relaxed and let it go.  I came back in with a singular goal in mind: "Run over everyone and get to the finals."  Of course, that was not the thing I focused on before or during a match.  Before I started a match, I washed my hands and told myself to "play smart, be sure, don't guess and don't be a hero fighting a losing battle."  It worked like a charm. I took whatever the table gave me and didn't try to force a bad position. Sure, sometimes I'd let my stroke out more than necessary, but always only when it was totally safe to do so.  And that's really only to keep my back arm loose.  I didn't care who I was playing, or what their skill level was, I was just going to continue to make balls until someone said "That's it!". I would play safe 90% of the time when I was supposed to (I took a few flyers, and each time I did, I gave up the rest of that rack; so I quickly stopped that).

Overall, I'm quite happy with my performance.  Sure, I'd like to win one, but finishing 2nd twice out of three tries... I'm really happy with that. :)

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Tournaments

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