Thursday, December 27, 2007

Better luck next time

The final tallies for the sessions are in and due to last minute slumps, neither of my teams made it into play-offs. I thought one or both would be able to pull it out, but it was not meant to be. On the bright side, this means I have 2 weeks off from league, so no excuses for not getting my practice routine into shape.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Black is the new white....

OMGWTF has released a black version of her bitchy bunny shirt. Hallelujah.

And just because its Xmas.....lets take another look at the relevant Monty Python footage:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Einstein did not invent the APA handicap system

I've changed the subtitle of this blog, which used to reference my APA Skill Level (Which is 3). Perhaps I had it in there as a warning to prospective readers that my blog is from a beginner's perspective. But, I had an epiphany the other night that I really don't care about my skill level, and other than it being a mostly reasonable way to create some kind of competition between players of disparate skill levels, its pretty much BS.

I lost this week. (I may post more about that later). Afterward my opponent tried to console me (although I wasn't actually very upset, I was just feeling ill, before, during and after the match). He said he didn't understand why I was still a 3 and that my game, especially my strategy seemed to be more 4-like. Perhaps if I had been feeling better, I would have taken this as the compliment it was intended to be, but in my state of grumpiness, I had very little tolerance for BS, and I couldn't muster the energy to care....and here is the moment of clarity.... because the Skill Levels are empty, hollow and meaningless (or at least people make them mean so much more than they are).

From what I've observed, the people who tend to move up quickly from 2 to 3, or 3 to 4, move up because they are consistent shotmakers. To move up to a 4, you have to be able to execute some kind of pattern play, and not simply bang em in. (Although I've seen that happen, too). To become a 5, usually means that you're talking about a different kind of player. But at best, all the levels have a plus or minus one error range. But, for the lower levels, the rankings don't tell you about their ability to strategerize, play 2 way shots or defense, or even their win-loss record. In fact, in the discussion why I should be a four, there was an implication that I must be in some kind of losing streak, and that's why I'm still a three (which isn't true). See, if Einstein had invented the system he would have noted its limitations.

Anyway, if part of his point is that I'm not playing up to my potential in league, that's probably true (and previously discussed), but suddenly the compliment of being a 4 seemed kind of hollow. Which I guess is good. To be concerned about your skill level means to be concerned about some external consideration, and not on one's stroke, making the ball, hitting the position. One shot at a time.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The New Way

Last Thursday saw my new philosophy put into play. As I talked about it that night, I realized that, in fact, this was not anything new for me. I think it was after reading the Pleasures of Small Motions, that I had decided to try not to focus on winning, but the process of playing the game. In fact, when I look back at when I played my best and had the most fun, that's where my focus was.

So, back to last Thursday...I'm feeling positive. Relaxed. Looking forward to playing pool. Focusing on the game, my stroke, the ball going in the pocket. Letting go of the win. Secure that if I do this, I will win. But not thinking about the win.

My teammate, who is often my coach during a match, comes up to me and starts talking to me about how we need to win big tonight. He says the word "win" ten times in the conversation. Everytime he says the word I feel a little mental twitch inside my brain. And I'm about to open my mouth to just explain to him I'm putting my focus somewhere else...and the overwhelming deja vu stops me, just before I'm about to step into an argument...that I've had before. (The pressure of trying to win helps him focus...and I believe he thinks this will help me as well.)

When I say that I'm not focusing on winning, it doesn't mean that I don't want to win, its just that I think my best mental strategy is to try to focus on playing instead of winning. That's how I'm going to win. It doesn' t mean that I will take the "what the hell its only league shots" or the "lets see what happens shots" in a match.

Anyway, I didn't play perfect pool, but I won. Most importantly, I enjoyed my game much more than in the last couple weeks. At a couple of points, I was distracted by either the banterings of the other team (and my own team's), but I was able to shake it off....that's progress.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mission to annihilate: Failed and aborted

You knew this would happen. Didn't you? I realized after setting this goal, that I was probably sharking myself. And, while my match wasn't a complete disaster, I played reasonably well, I made some silly errors at critical times. A move that makes annihilation difficult. My opponent had dropped a skill level, and I won the first two games, so a week ago, my mission would have been accomplished, but last night I lost.

Oddly, I'm glad for the failure. Because I lost, I had one of the most rewarding league nights in a long time. As I've mentioned before, I would like more feedback from my more experienced teammates. After my loss we got into a good discussion about why I enjoy playing higher level players and what was holding my game back. My captain told me, "If you can forget about winning, you'll go far in this game."

I then realized the annihilation mission was the wrong course (but hell, I needed to do something to shake things up). What I need to do is let go. Play my game. Win or lose, I know that I played my game. Whether I'm playing a 2 or a 7, doesn't matter. I just need to play my game. If I play my game, I will win. Or maybe I won't, and on that day, the other guy is the better player. I think I can do that....

So, I go back to my question that I asked a few months ago when I was in the middle o my losing streak. If I knew I would never win again, would I still play? Today, the answer is "yes."

On the otherhand, I would have liked to have beaten this guy. This guy will never, ever hit the lag first or at the same time as his opponent. He always waits for the other guy to go first. I can't be sure if its intentional. But if it is it will eventually ruin his karma, I'm sure. But it won't matter to me...cuz I will just be playing my game.

Edging up my game

So, tonight I have my first opportunity to put into action my new approach to annihilating my opponent, so I just wanted to record a little something about my preparation so far. Not very interesting, but sometimes I just want to track of what I've been doing...

I had a free weekend which allowed me to have good practice sessions both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday I got to play on a 9-footer with tight pockets with one of my favorite sparring partners. He's a level above me and both an instinctive and methodical player, which is nice because I have a chance of holding my own, but it challenges me. And because he's methodical, he can actually discuss his choices and we can talk through options for different situations. Plus like me, he wants to improve and not just pocket balls.

Most of the people I know who are 4s have been 4s forever. They grew up playing pool. They have a good aiming eye and a feel for shape and patterns, but they struggle with coaching because its all automatic.

Anyway, this guy's great to play with. Plus he has a car and can give me a ride.

At first I really struggled with the tight pockets. Got my ass kicked in 8-ball, but we switched to 9-ball, I adjusted to the table and started being more precise in my aiming and voila, I was giving as good as I got.

In solo practice I've been better about incorporating more drills, although I probably won't implement the boot camp regimen until after the first of the year. But, I've been much better about not just banging the balls around when I practice shooting. If I am just "piling rocks," I'm being careful to do my pre-shot routine, know exactly where I'm going to hit my object ball and then not pulling the trigger until it feels right. It feels good and I can feel my game coming back into focus......

We shall see how tonight goes....

Saturday, December 8, 2007


This is how I feel about league play right now. Something's been funky for awhile. I started off the fall session reinspired. Playing 9-Ball on the 9 footers was starting to reshape my 8-ball game, but now I've had to drop 9-ball and the effect is wearing off. I still try to win my matches, but underneath my apparent competitiveness, I'm kinda bored.

I play mostly 2's & 3's. I win more than I lose. I know going into any match that my chances to win are pretty good. I struggle to remember anything from the match. When I think back to last year, things were different. I had just gone up from a 2 to a 3. I was on a team that had gone from the basement to the top of the pack and was seriously competitive. I came away from each match with one shot to celebrate and one to practice. I was loving pool.

Now, I play just good enough to win. Which actually means sometimes I lose. I can think of only two matches this season that really challenged me. The rest were forgettable.

One problem is the division I'm playing in. Its really overcrowded with 2's and 3's, so even the higher level players on my team aren't getting very challenging matches. This makes the problem even worse because not only am I playing crummy pool, I'm having to watch a lot of it too.

Another problem is the teams I'm on. Team A barely needs me. And the captains of both teams A & B tend to play people fairly even and rarely go for the high-low match up. With all the 2's & 3's in the league, its kind of unavoidable, but I still think the strategy would be the same regardless. The captain of my first ever team liked to put me up against stronger players and take advantage of the handicap. Because I'm a fairly strategic player, I often pulled out a win, but even when I didn't it was a memorable match. It also gave me a sense that he believed in my abilities. My second captain was me, and I continued to use this strategy effectively, whenever I felt like it.

So, what to do?.....I have some feelers out to move to either a different division or another league entirely, just for a little challenge. If I move up to a 4, that would help. I think I'm making some progress, but I'm sure its not going to happen next week. And if i'm playing only good enough to win, I might in fact be backsliding.

So for now, I'm stuck. All I can do is make an internal adjustment.

From now on, I must annihiliate my opponents. Even if they are 2's and 3's. Beginners. Players I empathize with. Nice people. Cute boys. Drunk players. Sober players. Players who are just playing for fun. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we don't have very many assholes in our league, which means gunning for annihilation could be challenging (see yesterday's post). But it is necessary for progress.

A win is just not good enough anymore.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Killer Bunnies and Warm, Fuzzy Sharks

I have yet to contemplate this week's events. I lost one league match and won the other, but neither match was remarkable....but more to come on the unremarkable nature of this week's league matches, and most league matches of late.

But, I just wanted to comment on OMGWTF's post this week about being sharked by friendly opponent (scroll down to December 5 for the encounter with "Rachel Ray"). OMGWTF was being lured into trying a combination shot suggested by her opponent amid friendly banter, but at the last minute, did not give into the "what-the hell-this-is-only-a-league-match" non-chalance. She refused to abandon her killer instinct, and went for the lock-down safety.

This inspires me. And gives me much food for thought. "What-the-hell" shots are fine for people who play once or twice a week. For people who don't have blogs dedicated to pool. Even if I am just a 3, let's face it, I am serious about this game. How often do I go for the silly combo because in that moment I decide I just don't care enough to give it everything to win?

Friday, November 30, 2007

A minnow never sleeps

You know that sharks never stop moving even when they sleep? They have to keep a constant flow of water through their gills to stay alive. But they do sleep. I feel like I know people who must know how to do this. In the meantime, just a little minnow, I feel like I'm doing the opposite. I stop moving, but never actually get any rest. This, apparently, makes me tired.

I won my league match this week. I played okay. But, I never got in the groove. Again. I was a little disappointed. I know that its normal for competition performance to lag behind practice, but some days, it just feels like its an unreasonable difference. Plus, I know that I can play better in competition.

I know I shouldn't be so hard on myself. The winning ball was a bank, that looked impressive, elicited several compliments, but I couldn't own it. It just felt like luck. The 8 was frozen to one of my opponent's balls. It had only one pocket. A table-length bank. Fortunately, it was a dead bank. When I hit it, the angle looked wrong, and I was sure I had missed, but it went in dead center pocket. Maybe its because I hit it with a little draw to stop the cue ball frozen (because I didn't think it was a high percentage shot and was worried about the leave). Maybe my "inner pool player" took over, and instinctively knew the right way to hit it, but left my analytical brain in the dark. I tried the same shot in practice tonight, and came very, very close to making it, so maybe it wasn't just luck. Dunno.

It makes me sad that I can't really enjoy that success. So, I'm going to just chalk it up to being tired, for now. And go to bed.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Week 1: Pre-shot and shot routine

Today is monday, the beginning of my implementation of the Best Laid and Laughable Plan. I have yet to map out my full schedule, but I know that for this week and probably next week I'm going to be working on my Pre-Shot routine and separating my thinking from my actual shooting.

My first attempt to implement my new practice regimen was on Thursday, after Thanksgiving dinner. Apparently, lonely pool players need to seek company on holidays and so my attempt to practice solo was less than successful. First I was approached by a college student/beginner who said "They say the best way to get better is to play other people." Yes, "they" say a lot of things, but I'm not sure anyone said that the best way for me to get better is to play you. So, I said that I really wanted to do some drills, but we could play 2 out 3. I won all three games (yes, I played the third one) and then he took off.

Then I was getting down to working on the safety drill I had selected and I was approached by an older guy who said that he could tell from across the room, that I had "played some pool." He proceeded to kick my butt. After a few games, I said, "You're kicking my butt, and unfortunately, that's not very good practice for me unless I enter a racking tournament." He convinced me to play two more games and then I insisted on doing some drills. And while he was a nice guy, he talked a lot in between shots, which meant neither of us was getting in a lot of pool.

I probably spent (and paid for) 3 hours playing pool, but only got in maybe 20-30 minutes of actual practice time. I'm wondering if I should incorporate being less friendly into my pre-shot routine, at least for the next few months.

Today I managed to squeeze in some Pre-shot routine practice at lunch. Its kind of embarrassing, but I think I may have to start talking to myself as I go through the steps. I successfully go through the routine, ususally with good results on the shot and position, and then I start missing and I realize that I've jettisoned the very things that were working for me.
Being human is probably more interesting than being a robot, but it is not better for certain aspects of pool. But since, robot isn't an option, I'll have to imitate a crazy person. Or maybe I should get a blue tooth head set, so people will think I'm just on the phone. Nah, I think appearing to be insane is better....

Friday, November 23, 2007

Plans: Best laid or otherwise laughable, but mine nonetheless

So, the regional tournament is in March. That gives me about 3 months to bring out the best in my game. While it would be exciting to do well in the actual tournament, the real goal is to use the event as a motivator to bring my game to a new level.

So, there from what I can tell, I have two major weaknesses to my basic game I can work on:
-My pre-shot routine is not consistent, and I don't make a firm shot decision that I stick to when I go down for the shot.
-I've gotten lazy about my stroke fundamentals. This time last year, my stroke was smooth and had a consistent rhythm. Now, I've started pulling up and poking at the ball as I focus more on other shot elements.
-Of course, my patterns have a lot of room for improvement, but that will just take time, so I'm not going to focus on that in practice in the short-term.

Besides fundamentals, there are a host of specialty shots that would really give me an edge: Safeties, Kick shots, Bank shots, Jacked up shots, Rail-bridge shots...and then maybe Carom and Combinations.

I'm looking at Mark Wilson's Billiard Bootcamp (thanks to Liz Ford's recommendation in her WPBA profile) as inspiration for putting together a routine. I'd like to put together a mix of my ususal fundamental exercises from my instructor (from the SPF school), with a series of week by week rotation working on the specialty shots, but adding Safety drills (from Steve Capelle's Practicing Pool) & Jacked up shots (after reading Samm Diep's blog) which aren't included in the Bootcamp.

And then the last piece, I need to add some kind of mental preparation that I haven't decided on.

Anyway, stay tuned....I will keep you posted on my progress.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Better to be lucky than good

I'm almost ashamed of the title of this post. It is such a cliche, and used a little too often around the pool table. But, I figure I am allowed to use it once and once only, so here it is.

As luck would have it, I am now qualified for the APA regional singles tournament. In an attempt to turn around the low number of qualifiers from our area, the league operator ran 4-person boards all Saturday. Win two matches and you had a slot in the Regional tournament. Assuming I stay a SL 3, I will be playing on the "Blue Tier" for levels 2-3. Last year there were only 30 players in the finals in Vegas, so if I can win in the regional, placing is not quite the outrageous proposition it might be. Although, I won't be placing any side bets.

Both my matches were against SL-5's, which means they had to spot me two games. Or more importantly, I had to win only two games, which really puts luck into play. One accidental loss by my opponent, and I'm on the hill. In most cases, though, the SL 5 will still prevail.

My first match I won 2-1 and the second 2-2. Each match included an 8-ball-foul loss (an eight sunk in the wrong pocket and an early 8) by my opponent. So, that means I sunk the 8 only twice, and out of those 2 games, there's only one game that I feel really good about.

But, after the cloud of shame clears, I am quite excited to have the opportunity, and it inspires me to go back to a more clean practice routine to keep my fundamentals sharp, which I've been wanting to do, but just haven't had the motivation. I want to be focused, but not TOO serious about this. I usually play better, but I definitely seem to be luckier when I'm having fun. (Repeat refrain from title of post)
Post script:
Since this is my blog, I do have to celebrate the one game. It's probably one of my best outs ever in a match. I had 3 balls left, none too challenging, but the 8 was burried close to the end rail surround by my opponents balls, near corner pockets blocked. I had to find a way to get through the maze and squeeze in between the 8 and the end rail, to cut it into the side or the far corner. I managed to get just the right angle and find a way through and bump into the eight. I didn't have a great shot, but there was a tight cut into the side. Usually at this point, my heart starts to race, my brain gets fuzzy, and I start doubting myself. This time, I just made sure the ball could make it past the point, visualized the shot going in, and didn't second guess myself once I got into position. It felt easy, and it rolled right in. Several people came up and complimented me on the cut. I was happy with the cut shot, but it was the shot before that was the winner for me. I'm sure that most people thought I just got lucky....but that one was actually properly planned and executed. Sometimes it helps to be a little good, too!)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Playing tired...

Note to self. Too much pool is not good for my game. Too little sleep is not good for my game.

Yes. I lost tonight.

First game, played okay, but missed a critical safety, and sold out. Then a drunken teammate came by and told me that if I needed a timeout that I should call one. And I said, yes, when I think I need a timeout I call one. Its not that I didn't know what to do. Its that I missed the shot. And thank you for coming up to me in the middle of my match and implying that my skill was lacking. If you want to call a time out, please call one. I don't mind. Oh, but you want the player to call the time out. Okay, right. Because you don't want to offer unsolicited advice....Got it.

I recovered from my inner "aaargh" after teammate consultation to win the second game, with some good strategy, and some damn good positions for me (if I do say so myself.). I really find it very satisfying that I can now use the full table to move the cue ball around to get on the right side of a ball. Especially because it freaks people out.....(Although I have to confess the reason I had to move the cue ball so much, is I screwed up my leaves in the first place!)

Third game, I was "pants" as my British friends would say. I won't drag either of us through a recap. Actually, I had my chances, but it was not meant to be...

I left right after my match, which I never do. But as I walked out into the street I realized how tired I was. And how I was not sad to be leaving my team, or to not be playing anymore pool. I actually could have skipped it tonight. In fact, I could skip pool all weekend (What's wrong with me). Too much practice is not a good thing. If I want my best game on Thursdays, I have to remember that I need to be hungry for it.....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Its not all in my head

Last week was a big pool week. Its ashame I didn't blog, but I will have to catch up later. With the time change and the short, suddenly cold, winter days setting in, I'm getting sluggish and sleepy. Soon as the sun goes down, I pretty much want to curl up in bed. I am dog tired this week. I guess there's a reason this sleep thing is so popular...I will have to give it another chance....

Anyway, I've had lots of things keeping me up at night, and I find that a good hour or two of pool after work sometimes helps clear my head. Earlier this week I stopped by my local pool hall, only to find all the tables full. I recognized a guy at one of the tables as someone who I'd played with before. I had been practicing by myself and he asked me to play a few games. He later gave me a couple of pointers (but managed to be not too obnoxious about it). Anyway, I don't normally do this, but I was itching to play, so I went up to him and asked if he wanted to play a couple games. We ended up splitting four games, 2 and 2. I mentioned that he had given me some good advice about my bridge hand the last time we played. He actually remembered and had been watching for that this time. He said that my bridge hand was better and that I looked much more stable over the table in general...and that I had improved A LOT in a short amount of time. (Yay, me!)

I know that it should be enough that I notice my own improvement. Alas, most pool players that I've encountered are just not that generous with praise. Its funny, when I sucked beyond imagination, people were much more liberal with the compliments. Of course, I still get the "Nice Shot" comments and tap, tap, taps, but it is especially gratifying for someone to notice that my overall level of play has improved (even though my handicap has not changed).

The table does feel different to me now. I'm amazed at how much my position play has improved. Sometimes I get it completely, and I mean completely, wrong, (as in the cue ball heads completely the opposite direction), but more and more of the time I am able to move the cue ball to the zone I want, am making good decisions about English and speed, avoiding a scratch or obstacles and just seeing the angles as they are, instead of how I want them to be.

About a month ago, I pulled out Steve Capelle's "Play Your Best Pool" and re-read the section on position play. I spent only one practice session working on picking a rail target for both 1 & 2 rail position shots--and it seems to have really changed my ability to accurately predict the cue ball path.

League is tonight. I hope all this self-congratulatory pep talk doesn't go to my head.....

Monday, October 29, 2007

Crossed Wires

I was on the phone with a friend this week, discussing somewhat personal, best-friend details of a recent date, when I saw that I had a call coming in from the captain of one of my old teams. I decided to let it go to voicemail and kept babblng on. I soon felt a change in the energy on the other line, looked at my phone realized that I was now talking to the captain and that my friend was trying to call back on the other line. Oops. Not sure it happened, but poor guy got a little bit more about what's on my mind than either of us wanted. I laughed so hard, I almost said yes to playing on halloween. I still might.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Still focusing on focus

Well, I was able to recoup my double loss Monday with wins in 8-ball on both Wednesday and Thursday.

Wait a minute....doesn't that mean that I played three times this week? After I whined about how I need to play less pool? Yes. An exception to the rule. And I bring this up, in part, because I want to stay committed to not over-committing. The plan is to alternate weeks between Wednesday and Thursday teams. In fact, I showed up Thursday night for the captain's birthday, intending not to play. But as it turned out I was needed. So I played. And then I was having such a good time I stayed and kept score until the end. There may have been some Patron involved as well.

Anyway, Wednesday's match was against a new league player. A decent shot but not familiar with the various ways you can foul or defensive strategy. I won in straight games. In my warm up game against our captain, I had a nice clean 3-ball out which I executed it exactly as I planned it. That felt good and I came to the table with a lot of confidence, and almost ran out after the break. ( In fact, two people I don't know referred to me as being confident). My focus did wane eventually, but I was able to get it back. I really like the way this captain coaches. I feel calmed having her in my corner. I wish I could generate this on my own. But lets face it team dynamics make a difference.

Thursday, I played another even race against a league veteran. Last time I played her, she beat me 0-2. I was not happy. Although, I was not set on revenge, it felt great to win. The layouts I got meant I played a lot of defense. Which means some people get irritatied. I think it was trying for my opponent. But, look, if my last two balls are clustered around one of your balls towards the end of the rack, and you keep leaving me up table so I can't try a bank. What do expect me to do? Break your ball out so you can run out? If you don't want me to play safe, then break your own damn ball out, okay? But until I figure out a way for me to win, I'm going to play defense. I am not going to smack and hope I slop something in and not scratch. I don't care how many balls you have run, I have as much right to win this game as you do. Okay, the end. (Actually this is a more general rant, than truly directed at Thursday night's opponent).

Anyway, we went hill-hill. My oponent made a fantastic long, ultra-thin cut on the eight in the second game - kudos to her. Last game the 8-ball was pinned by one of her balls along the side rail. I thought I was done for, but then she scratched. I used my last ball to get a perfectly straight shot on the 8 along the rail. I had to look at it for awhile, to make sure that the cue ball, which is only slightly smaller than the planet Jupiter, would actually slip through the obstacle ball. It did. And I put it away.

Okay, but the real significance of that last shot, was how focused I felt. I felt confident. I was aware of the perils of the shot. Hitting the obstacle. Not stopping the ball. Accidentally adding spin. But I was focused on the result. I figured out what the shot had to be. Saw it. Felt it, RELAXED and executed it.

I wanted to write more about how I'm seeing that focus has more to do with relaxing and that I'm beginning to be able to connect to confidence rather than just either feeling it or not. And how all of this and being focused on results also has to do with how I'm improving my situation at work. But, I need to go and do something non-pool related. Its Saturday after all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What's your hurry?

Okay, so today was a lesson in humiitiy. My team was short a player so I had to play the last two matches. One to a skill level Two (who is under-ranked) and the other to a Six, who also maybe under-ranked. And then there's me. Based on the way I played, I am severly over-ranked. Not one of my better performances. I made some good shots, but I never got comfortable.

I played a few more games with the 6 after we were done and got to talking. He said that he had seen me sometimes shoot like a 4, but that today I wasn't consistently staying down and following through. This is how I play when things are stressful at work--I just get a little jumpy, don't settle in. I'm not convinced that is what is screwing up my shot, or if its that I've screwed up my shot, and the minute I see that I pull out. Anyway, a litte sad that no one from my own team could have given me the same feedback during my match. I even asked for it, but got no feedback at all.

Sigh. Still hoping to put together a dream team. But in the meantime, I'll just have to scribble little reminders in a notebook that I consult between innings, or maybe start having the seven habits of highly successful pool players tattooed on my wrist.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mentally Tough? or Mentally Mushy?

Hmm....well the thought for the day was interesting. I played last and was tired, and for my first two games I stayed connected to empowering emotions. Even though my oponent was far ahead of me on the table. I was just patient. Took my time. Played smart and waited for a good opportunity. And then I was on the hill before I knew it.

And that's what did me in. I continued to play pretty good pool (for me). I'm really happy with how much my position play is improving. I can actually plan and execute patterns and that's a lot of fun. But, I think that, and being on the hill, I got a little complacent. Feeling a little too empowered....and a little mentally mushy I guess. I see this all the time and it drives me nuts in other people--good players, playing well, start taking shots for granted. When I'm competing, I have to remember, every shot can count. I don't always take the time to line up and truly aim an easy shot. I should. I should stay focused. Especially if Im on the hill. Put the nail in the coffin. Be done with it. No MERCY!

But I had fun. I will take my little lesson and be ready the next time.

Thought for the Day: What is Mental Toughness?

I have league tonight - 8-ball. So, my thought for the day comes from James Loehr in "The New Toughness Training for Sports" as recommended by Liz Ford.

Toughness is the ability to consistently access empowering emotions during competition.


(Actually, he gives several definitions, but that was the my favorite. More to follow.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Beware the Bunny

I'm both honored and uneasy that OMGWTF has listed this blog in her sidebar of pool blogs. I write this blog as my own pool-etc. journal. I'm a little worried that anyone who ends up here from that link will be disappointed. I'm lame. I'm only a 3... I can't offer any real pool wisdom.... I don't blog naked...(sorry, no). How could this be interesting to anyone but me???

But, if by chance, you have landed here from some other random route, you should check out OMGWTF , a truly entertaining pool blog. It is addictive. And I truly appreciate her scathing wit and ruthless parody of the various ways in which some men in the pool world have no idea how to deal with members of the opposite sex among them. I find strength from her humor...well, or at least I laugh my ass off.

Case in point, this "bitchy bunny" t-shirt I bought from OMGWTF's store....And while some people don't really understand what this has to do with pool, I have yet to find a woman in the league who didn't find it hilarious and spot on.

its perfect for league nights, except that the print is so small that no one can really get the joke without staring very close to my chest. The price I pay for my sense of humor.

Anyway, if I am wearing this shirt, don't be fooled into thinking I'm just a harmless, little bunny:

Monday, September 3, 2007

New Month, New Attitude, New Focus

So, enough of being a sad and lonely minnow. After a lot of reflection, I've cut back on my pool team commitments. Its just too much for me right now, and the late nights have been causing some unnecessary stress at work the day after. I'm a little sad, but confident that's the right thing for now.

I haven't been shooting great or really enjoying it lately, and I was starting to wonder if my interest in pool was truly waning. I just gave it a couple of days and tried to go into my practice session relaxed and focused.

My goal was to work on my slight elbow drop....its caused by an unnecessarily long follow through. My elbow drops after I hit the ball, so its usually not a problem, but I suspect that it contributes to an occasional side-to-side wobble. Its hard to change, because it means really changing the whole feeling of my stroke.

So, I returned to a series of fundamental drills and it felt great. Changing the feel of your stroke is really hard. But I was really pleased that a few times I felt a new stroke that was spot on.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When the student is ready.....

Fast Mikie, a San Diego based pool-blogger (and Level 7 APA Player) recently quoted the Buddhist saying "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

I think its been apparent from some of my other posts that I've been longing for a teacher. As I've mentioned before, one of my mentors on my team moved away, and I have really felt the void. I do have a couple of instructors that I can go to periodically for lessons, but that's not quite what I'm looking for. Information is only a part of what I'm craving. Really, its the relationship that you have with a coach/teacher or master (as used in the original Buddhist saying).

Its having someone else who cares about your success and failures and is willing to care about the whys and why nots and what to do about it. Someone else who will take satisfaction and will appreciate your hard work (win or lose). Basically, someone else to witness the journey with a little more invovlement and compassion than say the Greek Chorus commentary of some pool teams.

I think having the witness and being able to have an ongoing dialogue and the relationship with a mentor helps you learn faster. I'm sure of it.

Maybe that's a lot to ask. Maybe that's more than what I need. I'm no great shakes as a pool player. But I 'm a good student and I work hard. When it comes right down to it, I'd just love to have someone who is better than me to shoot pool with on a regular basis who can give me pointers without being obnoxious and would enjoy talking over what went right and what went wrong in my game.

So, I'm throwing this out there, into cyberspace. Is this unreasonable to ask for? Am I looking for the wrong thing? Or am I just not ready and when I am the teacher will appear?

The Lonliest, Least-Appreciated Pool Player in the World (Sniff, sniff)

Monday, August 20, 2007


Wow, its been a month almost since I posted. I have a few drafts that never made it out of the gate, but I guess my blog is a reflection of where I'm at with pool and the trouble I've had defining and articulating where I'm at. After months of navel staring, sleepless nights and unnecessary picking of fights with friends and family, I have finally pinned it down. I am.....bored.

My losing streak had a brief reprieve for one league night, and in fact, I think I shot some of my best pool ever in a league situation. But then shortly thereafter, I went back into the slump, losing several more league matches and then a tournament match this weekend.

I'm not sure what's at the root here-- am I losing because I'm bored or bored because I am losing? Well, sometimes, I'm losing because I just get beat even if I'm playing well. What disturbs me more, is despite my post about redefining my "losing streak" as "learning streak" (which by the way for one shining week seemed to be true), I have walked away from my losses without any new knowledge or anything to say about my match).

I've got a lot of things that aren't going quite right, not just pool. My job sucks and takes way too much energy to feel that I have much of a life, and I feel like I'm not doing it very well. I just moved to a new apartment and its filled with problems that were not identified at the time of rental (just waiting for the day when I have both a toilet and an stove functioning at the same time.) I feel tired, run down, and a little hopeless that despite all my efforts, I've been spinning my wheels without moving my life in the direction I want to go. I have a pretty significant birthday coming up (30 minus one), so I guess its not too surprising that I'm taking stock and maybe its time to jettison things that aren't giving me what I need to free up time for things that will.

The thing that puzzles (and saddens me) is that a year ago, pool was the very thing that was consistently bringing joy into my life. It was my oasis. The world is always changing, and its not reasonable to expect that something will be fun forever, but still I'd like to know what's going on so maybe I could salvage something. I suspect that it has something to do with the lack of a team bond or a real mentor (which I had but he moved away).

I will have to write more later. But in the meantime, I have to shake things up. I've decided to quit all teams for now. I'd be tempted to keep Thursday night as a back up. But unfortunately, Friday is one of my heaviest days in terms of workload, and playing on Thursday's is causing a real problem. So, in a moment of true adult what's-really-best-for-me decision making, I've got to let it go.

On the horizon as new adventures....sailing, dancing, exercise, yoga, writing & job hunt.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Losing streaks

So, from a mental toughness perspective, its probably wrong to even utter those two words. But, I can't deny that those words have floated around in my head. My record in 8-ball is 0-4. I have yet to win a match for my new team. I'm sure that my performance has been affected by what's going on inside my head....pressure to perform and then just general anxiety that I've been facing at work, apartment hunting and you know, life.

So, I should probably redub my losing streak, as a "learning streak." Afterall, when you come right down to it, I'm not a pro, I'm not a pro in training. Really, I'm a hack. But I love pool, and I love learning. I have to get back into it. Into the process. Into the moment of what I'm doing and not really worry about the winning and losing so much.

But winning is fun and to lose too often can be discouraging. (Although, not shooting well and making stupid mistakes is actually much, much worse.)

So here is my question for the day, can I still be completely in love with the art of pool if I were to never win again?

Over so fast

So, there was no official ending to my fast. I definitely felt that I successfully broke my pool habit, and came to a point where I wanted to play again. But, it is a slippery slope and I need to make sure that I am spending quality time at the pool table and not simply killing time. Killing time sucks life out of my game, and game out of my life...uh or something like that. You know what I mean.

Stats this week:
Squeaker in 9-ball. Lost to a 5 by 2 points
8-ball heartbreaker. Went hill-hill with a five. I played some good strategy but was disappointed in my shotmaking.
Practice: 3 Lunch time sessions. Mostly just hitting balls. Intermittently trying to focus on my pre-shot routine.

Stats last week:
Won a squeker in 9-ball. Won by 2 points against a 5.
8-ball: didn't play. went to a movie instead.
Practice: Didn't keep track.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Breaking up is hard to cue

Okay, okay. Yes, I did it. I cheated on my pool fast. On day 5, I snuck in a few racks at lunch. I had some time to kill....What can it hurt? Just a few balls....I think it was because the other day I read something about muscle memory lasting only 3 days before eroding. Not that casually shooting at lunch is going to help maintain muscle memory of a quality stroke....

What's probably worse is I've been cruising eBay for a new cue. I cancelled my snipe bid on a Coker that went for a great price. I've always wanted to try a coker, but at the last minute, it somehow didn't seem right, since my gut is telling me that both my game and my life will benefit from cutting back on the pool obsession. So, like a new cue is going to help me play less. Yeah, right. But it might be fun.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Vinho Verde

So, I forgot to mention that in addition to my desire to take a break from pool, I am trying to drink less. Playing pool has definitely increased my alchohol consumption. I drop into my local bar for one game and one beer....and then I lose and want to play just one more....someone buys me a drink and before I know it 700 calories and half a liver later, my intended moderation is a laughable and distant non-memory.

But, one of my many non-pool activities that I will be resuming is cooking. And, well, cooking drives my wine I guess there's a devil around every corner.

I have to say that I don't often visit my ultra-gourmet neighborhood mart. Mostly I'm a Trader Joe's kind of gal. But everytime I buy a wine from this place--especially if I buy it from the promotional area close to the register--its pretty damn superb. I had a Malbec last week that was so rich, velvety and fruity, my companion and I could not stop drinking it, in spite of the fact that we both had early mornings the next day and should have known better.

So, I stopped in for another bottle, but I was really in the mood for a white, and I was drawn in by the Encostas Do Lima "Vinho Verde" from Portugal. The sign warned that this was "eminently drinkable." And they were right. Yum.I've been drinking it at room temperature, and its still delightful. Light effervescence, medium dry. Lots of green apple. Reminds me of Dry Reisling and Gewurtz. Its the wine version of Magner's Cider (which I prefer to beer).

Enough writing, I need to return to the kitchen because my glass is empty.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Dearest cue.....

So while OMGWTF continues her 100 Days of Pool, I am ready for yet another pool fast. And I mean it this time!

Dearest Cue,

Forgive me. I know we've been spending lots of time together. Been through a lot. Our first, less than stellar, appearance in a Sudden Death match at the regional team tournament. Our first in the money finish in a singles tournament....and then a whole lot of one-on-one practice time, and the ocassional bar game, when you happen to be with me when I go for a beer.

Its been great....but I just feel that things are getting a little stale. I'm not willing to say the passion is gone. I know its not. But for awhile I think its time for you to be a buddha in the corner of my room and for me to spend some time with other interests. So, I'm taking a break. When I come back, I will have a new apartment, a new schedule, and a new attitude. So be ready. It will be time to dance.

Your one and only,
Pool Minnow

Dearest Blog,

Now that cue and I are taking some time off....I think its time we mix things up as well. Please be ready to hear about my other obsessions without being jealous for my dear, lonely cue. Stay tuned.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sudden Death and No Va Vegas

I did not survive Sudden Death, but I certainly learned something from it.

Two weeks ago, my beloved pool team made a valiant effort to win the Citywide Tournament but got knocked out in the first round. It was close, we should have won....but a combination of failure to execute and not choosing the best strategy let us watch a 2-0 lead slip away....and left us with no more matches and the dream of the Nationals in Vegas faded into obscurity.

The big difference between the Citywide tournament and our regular session playoffs, is that becasue its a Higher Level Tournament, there is actually a time limit. Normally, we play five matches, and it takes as long as it takes. At the Citywide, after 3 hours and 45 minutes, the format switches to Sudden Death. Any match starting after 3:45 minutes, is a race to one game. Handicaps disappear. Luck plays a greater role. The pressure is on.

We won our first two matches, which meant we needed only one more. I still had two good players. They still had two good players. I decided to play first a four and then a six against their two 5's. I was sure that we would win one of those. Our 4 is usually a pretty speedy player, so I put him up first--whether he won or lost-- it would be a fairly quick outcome. Then our SL6 could put it away in the next match. Of course it wasn't meant to be, and we lost the next two matches, and that left me to play the Sudden Death game against another SL3. (And by now I'm really kicking myself for not playing myself in that 3rd match, possibly sacrificing the match. If we lost the next one, we would have been at the advantage with a 4-3 match up.)

So, now I'm playing a Sudden Death game. I'm actually kind of excited. As a captain, I wouldn't have wanted this to happen, but as a player, I'm grateful for the experience. One game. If I lose, my team does not go to Vegas. I can win this. The other match has finished, so now the bar is filled with interested parties, all watching. I won't go through the blow by blow. So, obviously I lost. I certainly had my chances to put it away. Mostly, though, I'm pround that mentally I played strong throughout. Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of the large crowd at the bar, all staring at me, and I just pushed it out of my mind. While my focus wasn't exactly laser sharp, nerves surely played some role, my thoughts were not filled with letting my team down, not going to Vegas or the fact that everyone was watching in the critical moment. So, that's a good thing.

As I'm writing this, I realize though, that my mind wasn't filled with lots of positive images. I've sometimes been able to pull my game together by thinking about how pleased my coach is when I make a great shot. I also didn't get the same positive support in between innings from my other teammates that I've had in the past.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Back in the Blog

Well, clearly my pool blogging efforts fell by the wayside. I have been focusing on trying to have balance in my life, and sometimes pool gets just a little too much attention. I have also wondered whether the blog helps or hurts. If it is a reflective practice that enhances my learning and enjoyment, or whether its just one more thing to do and causes me to over analyze.

After having taken this long break, I've decided that its helpful. Over the last few weeks, I've developed some bad habits. I felt like I was doing too many drills and shooting enough balls, and now I've gone the other direction. When I practice, I mostly just throw some balls on the table and shoot at them. That may have been good once or twice, but I've definitely noticed my fundamentals slipping. And the running balls hasn't had the effect of helping me be more consistent in the pre-shot routine. Anyway, I think coming back and reflecting on my practice sessions or games helps me really focus on my goals, rather than just killing time.

So here I am again.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mind games

Thanks to some recommendations in Liz Ford's blog, I've been working my way through a couple of books on mental training for sports. Mental Toughness Training for Sports and The Achievement Zone.

Most of the mental skills described in the books are nothing new, but I thought I would try to take their advice seriously and see what happens. I've always been skeptical of the whole idea of visualizing, including the oh so trendy "Rules of Attraction" and "The Secret." I do believe that unconscious attitudes affect outcomes and that visualizing is probably a more effective was of influencing the unconscious thoughts than anything involving explicit language.....but still, can I influence muscle memory without actually moving my muscles?

If so, it would be very convenient. I often find myself with time in the mornings when I would like to practice, but alas in this town there aren't any pool halls that open before 11:30. If I could get up at six and get in an hour of practice before work, I would be a very happy girl.

With my new mental training program, I get up in the mornings and I run through my practice routine and also visualize overcoming challenges that are likely to crop up in the Tournament.

For example, I often have trouble focusing from the first shot. Sometimes I need to warm up, and other times I just don't feel the need to bear down until things get a little more interesting. So, I've been visualizing walking up to the table and being focused, doing my pre-shot routine and in the zone from the start.

I'm rather shocked to report, it works! I'm not sure one session is a "slam dunk" as far as evidence is concerned, but tonight I was "on" from the first shot. Yay me! I was shooting great, and then I started shooting faster. I wasn't being very careful about my pre-shot routine (including my aiming rituals), I was going on feel. And then I missed, but got back in. And then missed, and got back in. And then missed, and missed and missed...oops I fell out of the zone.

What I noticed at this point, was that my analytical side had popped back into gear. Why was I missing? I think it was a double whammy of losing my confidence and that image of the ball dropping in the pocket, and then my brain kicking in to think about why all this was happening. The other thing I realize is I probably need to work on my pre-shot routine and either shorten it, or just keep working it until it becomes unconcious--it shouldn't go away just because I'm shooting particularly well.

So, in my morning practice session I can work on that......its great...anytime I want and the per hour rate is a bargain!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Room for improvement

Its been an interesting week or so. Lost a few, won a few, including a nice five or six bar game run on Tuesday night. (And I think it could have gone on longer if I hadn't been ready to leave).

But, in practice, I've been looking for a direction. I've started doing the "Billiards Bootcamp" that Liz Ford recommends in her WPBA bio and that's been a fun change. Drills are broken down into time increments, which I think is really useful. Usually, I will keep working a drill until I get the results I want, but this is sometimes frustrating, and I worry, even counter-productive because somedays you just don't get there.

I've also been practicing the shots I tend to miss, and am missing them a little less frequently. I've been disgusted by my misses on long shots in games. I think this partially a center ball problem (not properly aligning my cue to the dead center), but I also realize that I need to work on my medium speed and high speed stroke. I prefer a softer touch game, and its generally a good idea not to bang the balls around, but in my fundamentals drills, I still tend to start soft and work up the tempo, which means I spend more time on the soft strokes, and kind of short change the more forceful ones. Even sitting here, remembering what if feels like to hit a shot on the harder side, it feels forced. Its not a smooth acceleration to execution.

So, I'm excited....I have a goal!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


This is my resolution to edit my blogly ramblings. I'm sure that I'm the only one that will ever read my nonsense here....but, just in case, I am resolving to use fewer words and to trim my future posts to haiku poignancy.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Strong finishes

So, I have come to the conclusion that there really no patterns to my game. For awhile, I was starting strong, and then seemed to slide down a slippery slope of sloppiness. Now, I am definitely taking some time to find my rhythm and focus. Is it just a matter of warming up? Or is something else going on?

Last night, I was not playing great and lost 3 games in a row. With my opponent on the hill, I was able to finally dial-in and started shooting dramatically better. For some reason, banks, which are one of the weaker parts of my game, were almost effortless. The speed, english, angle...I was just feeling them.

I'm wondering if I need to be a little nervous, to be on my best game. The pressure of the hill-hill match actually helped. And when I think back to when I first started playing at my local bar, I was nervouse, and I probably played some of my best pool ever. All the boys were scared to play me. But the other night, one of them was asking me what happened to my game...the one he knows I can play. Maybe I've just gotten a little too relaxed there?

But that's comforting to know....that nerves can be a good thing.

And I had some great shots...I remember the feeling. And, when the pressure was on I came through....its good to know I have it in me.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

El Stinko - the skunk

Boy was I off this week. Wednesday I went 1-2, but never really felt I was "in" my games. I started to focus a little on the last game against the best player of the bunch, but then I made a truly obvious scratch on the 8. I looked at the potential scratch and thought I was okay. But in playing the tape back, I should have known better. I mean, really, I think that a month ago, I would have looked at the shot and said, "Oh, I just need to put some follow on that to be sure I'm okay." On Wednesday, it didn't even occur to me.

And Thursday, I managed to eke out one game but I mostly just stunk. My Thursday night team, for some reason, does not play well against lower ranked teams. I know people say its because we must let our guard down, but I don't think that's it. Its true that I don't like the tables at the 3 bars I'm thinking of. They are smaller, and and there's just not a good atmosphere around them.

Mostly, though I'm burnt out. Work has been emotionally taxing this week. Doing two nights of back to back pool is just too much. The Thursday night team is losing momentum, I'm sorry to admit. I've been playing a lot of pool on the side as well and I think I'm starting to get sloppy and casual about it.

I've also felt the absence of my two favorite coaches on both my teams. I get good advice from all my teammates (much of it contradictory, which is to be expected). But sometimes you just get too many tips rattling around in your brain, when what you really need to hear is "I really like the way you play." "You're really improving." "True, you missed that shot, but I really liked the speed on it." I get positive feedback as well, but I think people forget that its important that advice is best served with a spoonful of sugar (although its got to be real), and that I don't really want to analyze my mistakes until my game is over.

Anyway, so what's the plan of actions:

Love the table I'm playing on, no matter what. I think I sometimes don't realize this is bothering I need to acknowledge it, and then let it go, and decide to love the Jeanette Lee suggested in her Sept 2006 Billards Digest Columnn

Take a break: I'm going to play less this week. No more than every other day, and I'm going to focus on drilling fundamentals, and talking myself through my pre-shot routine.

Talk to my teammates. I may ask my teammates to give me positive feedback during my matches. But I also have to learn to be gentle to myself, ESPECIALLY when I 'm tired and don't want to be there.

Take a moment before my match to "check-in." Rather than just charging into my match and trying to stay focused and positive. I think I need to take a moment to just acknowledge what's floating through my mind. Am I excited to play? How do I feel about the opponent? the table? my nerves? Look at it, and let it go. Remember all the other times I felt that way, and still managed to play well despite the odds.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Continuing to "zone in" and listening to the "little voice"

Not much to say this week, so allow me to ramble and see if I can find anything insightful about this weeks pool play. I will say that I have always intended to go back and edit my posts--trim them down to the little nuggets of insight that they should be for a blog. BUT, considering I don't think anyone is reading, and I mostly blog as a way to reflect on my experience learning pool, I'm not going to stress.

I played pretty well this week. Better on Wednesday than on Thursday, but that seems to be the pattern. I'm not sure if I'm tired by the time Thursday rolls around, if Wednesday gets the better part of my focus and competition or whether there is something about the format of Wednesday that brings out the best in my game. No handicap. One game=one point. Overall better competition.

Wednesday I won 2 out of 3 and Thursday I beat a level 5 player 2 to 2 (although he really wasn't playing to his level and missed opportunities he shouldn't have). I have continued to implement the "spot meditations" where I call up the physical sensation of being in the zone, or a memory of a successful shot when I feel nervous or go into a pressure situation. Well, or basically any shot when I'm in competition. I have to say it works pretty well. Not a magic bullet, but I'm sure I'll get better at it.

My misses this week:
An 8-ball spot shot, that I didn't take the time to feel, or to "zone-in" on.
Ball-in-hand run out where I missed my position to get on the better side of the key ball, but convinced myself I could sneak in enough follow to get it to the other side. I knew better. The angle just wasn't right and I ended up right on top of the ball, having to play a saftey. (Probably won me the game, but once I ended up on the wrong side, I should not have been surprised)
A tricky, back cut. At the last moment something inside of me said, "hmm wonder if you'll scratch" to start listening to that little voice.
A straight shot down the rail, object ball slightly forward of the side pocket. Anything less than perfect, was a scratch. Trying to get the position wasn't worth the risk.

My shot of the week:
After missing the 8-ball spot shot, next turn, I had to avoid a blocked pocket and cut the eight into the other side. At one point I practiced a lot of back-cuts. I remembered those. I took my time aiming. I felt the shot. I zoned in. I saw it in my mind. And it happened just as I saw it. A hell of a shot.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

8 and out!

It happened, last night at the local bar--my first table run. A straight 8 ball run for the win, with all the other opponents balls on the table. That was fun.....and satisfying after all my hard work.

I've come close before. Been on a roll and could see the shots that would take me out, but usually the moment I think "I could be out" I miss, and usually create some kind of cluster in the process that ruins the rack for my next turn. But this time, the just kept going in, and when I got down the my last couple of balls, and I could see the out, I thought, don't get too excited. Its probably not going to happen. So I just focused on shooting and enjoying myself. And then I missed my position on the 8 and left myself with a really tough cut. I didn't have any expectation that it would go in, or that it would miss. I took my time, communed with the shot, and added a bit on inside English, and it went straight in the heart of the pocket like I was a pro.

My roommate, who has listened patiently to endless recaps of league matches, but has never seen me shoot, was with me to witness the historic occasion. That made it all the more special.

So, why last night:
1) After my first shot, all my balls had pockets, so this wasnt' a tricky layout. A fair amount of congestion. So, the external conditions were right. I have the skill at this point to run a rack like that.
2) Optimum inebriation. Miller Hi-Life is my new favorite drink! I was just relaxed enough and energized enough to focus. (I don't really plan to make this a planned part of my training, but I hope I can recreate that feeling without alcohol).
3) Action focus. I didn't focus on the fact that I was "running the rack." I just focused on the action of shooting and planning my shots.
4) Mental preparation and increased confidence. In "I was THIS close", my entry about a week ago, I wrote about a nice run out that I was pretty close to happening and that I felt a shift had ocurred that made running out a possibility. I could see it happening, and it was only a matter of time. (i'm so thrilled that turned out to be true!).

And I've been working on my mental game. Being sure that I'm using "productive analysis" when looking at my weaknesses. Trying to recreate the zone. And paying attention to capturing those moments when I shoot really well.

YAY! I ran a rack. Of course, I did. I should have. I can do this.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What happened to my post

So, sadly. Last weeks post seems to be lost. I thought I saved it as a draft, but it has gone missing. It was mostly about choking on the eight ball and working on recalling what it feels like to be in the zone. My Wednesday night record was 0-3, although I played really well, was in each game and really should have one that last one. Thursday I won 2-1, got a little lucky but was able to use my coaching for the eight ball shots, which is what this post will be about when I have a chance to go back to create it.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

I was THIS close.....

I lost 2 games and won only 1 last night. My worst score, in the Wednesday night league. But I am so proud of myself. That last game, even though I lost was a breakthrough for me.

I was a little nervous going up against the other team's best shooter. I had watched him execute a fine table run on a difficult table in the previous round. I had been shooting kind of average--the way I have been shooting, lately. I'm ususally strategic enough, I can still pull out a win, but I just haven't felt that I was shooting up to my potential. But this time I tried to prepare myself mentally a little differently. I didn't think about winning, but I tried to think about what it FEELS like when I'm in the zone.

I lost the coin toss and watched him break and begin to run the table. I stayed focused on the feeling of being in the zone and knowing that I had no influence on the outcome, but being ready to perform if I got a chance. And then I got lucky. He missed a position and then rattled in the pocket. One of my teammates said "you've got him now. A clean run out. You can do it."

And I had a moment of fear, felt the pressure. And then I looked at the table and I thought. Yes, I can do this. One shot at a time.

I took care of a cluster with an easy combo, and then missed, but left him safe. I was disappointed my table run had ended so early. But I stayed focused. I was lucky enough to get ball in hand. The choice of where to start was a little intimidating, but I took one shot at a time, staying in the snooker zone until I had cleaned up one end of the table and then got the position to move to the other end. Before I knew it, I was on the key ball. Not a super easy shot, but it gave me position on the 8. I had good form, good speed, and got perfect position on the eight, but I missed the pocket by a hair's breath.

I had another one more shot, but it was not meant to be, and he sunk the eight.

I keep seeing the one I missed. The nine just hitting the corner of the pocket. But I think that was probably the best run in a competitive game. I guess it was five--and it was almost seven. So, I try now to visualize the shot going in. Next time it will.

Now I know I can clear the table, and that opens a world of possibilities.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Last night, I had a pretty good practice session. I had been thinking that I was actually pretty happy with my level of play and that I would back off a little on practicing and just focus on maintaining fundamentals. I had become really bored with certain drills and had in practice mostly been "piling rocks" and practicing shots I had missed in matches. I had been thinking that I had gotten to a point where I had just enough skill and knowledge where I could learn from playing actual games and experimenting less on the practice table.

Running through my drills went pretty well. Not surprisingly I had lost some of my sharpness on the drills I haven't been doing as much. I had lost some precision on the speed drill, but not too much. My stop, follow, draw drill went pretty well (although I know I have a siting problem on long straight shots). But then when I went to piling rocks, I was missing a lot. I was able to get back in the grove a little. I was tired and probably not setting the shot up correctly, but this wasn't always the case. This is actually pretty common in my experience. I do really well on my drills and I think I'm hot stuff, but then when I start trying to sink balls, I suck.

So, now to the discouraging part. I was at table #4--the worst table--small pockets, and right in front of the bar, so everyone waiting for a table has nothing to do but watch you miss! Although, I have to give myself major points for staying pretty focused, and not being upset when I didn' pocket a ball, even if they saw. But after I was finished, the guy who rang me up had been watching, and asked if we had the same instructor (he could tell from the drills). He said that the one thing he could see was I was dropping my elbow due to my long follow through. I actually really appreciate the observation. Of course, that's usually followed by a bit of lecture about how you don't need such a long follow through, etc. etc. The lecture I could do without, as I've usually heard it before. Its not lack of knowledge, but proper execution.

Anyway, so I am discouraged. I've noticed the elbow drop when I'm playing. I'm not even convinced that the actual drop is what is making me miss shots from a mechanical point of view, but it indicates that the auto-pilot form is off, so something is not working. I'm not sure if he meant that I was dropping my elbow during drills or only my later shots. What scares me is that if I am, I'm practicing bad form. All my efforts to have strong fundamentals are working against me.

I initially wanted to take regular lessons - every three or four weeks, mostly because I like the dialogue and the coach-student relationship. I think they both really help the learning process. Unfortunatley, my instructor has become very popular and has little time. I've felt that he discouraged the idea of regular lessons, and that lessons should only be when necessary. Which may work well for a more experienced player. But now, besides just the less specific benefits of having regular lessons, I can see that stopping bad habits from creeping in.

I'm going with my gut. My instructor does not have any ego attached to the idea of "his" students, and thinks that its good to get different points of view. So I think that its time to get a regular structure in place, even if it means finding someone else.

Wow, long, probably boring post. But at least I feel better.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

More work woes

It was another week where work was really getting in the way of my best pool. Sometimes you have to wonder where my priorities are!

I've joined a new league on Wednesday nights, which I really enjoy because its not handicapped, and it gives me a chance to test my skills without a player. Its also a round robin format, so you have to be able to play a game, sit out for awhile and then jump back in and get focused again.

I did okay on Wednesday, winning 2 out 3, but never really found my stroke until the very last shot. I had an easy key ball shot on a ball in the jaws, but I hit it just the right speed and english to get straight in on the 8 in the side. Just as I had imagined. But, I had asked to leave early, because I expected to have to jump back on the computer and work into the night.

Instead, the work didn't come down the pike until the next morning and unfortunately went into the wee hours of the night on Thursday. At 9:30, I actually left work to go play my match so we didn't have to forfeit, knowing that I would have to go back to the office and probably be there all night.

I never got all that comfortable in the venue. Maybe it was my late arrival, but there just wasn't that much atmosphere. The guy I was playing was as high as a kite, but a decent enough shooter. I should have been out when I scratched on a long shot. I even overheard the other team say, "she's going to scracth", but I foolishly thought I could control the speed. Almost worked. Should have gone off the rail. Luckily, my opponent scratched and I had ball in hand on the eight. But I was so chicken doing a shot into the side that I asked for a time out and even had my coach line up the cue ball. For some reason, I had trouble seeing the shot and I could just see it bouncing off the corner. Okay, so I'm a wimp, but I won.

I'm also haunted by a shot that I missed. It was a thin cut, that I didn't expect to make, but thought would block the pocket, but I hit it way too hard for that to be a possiblity. I just didn't take time to feel the shot.

So, stance and feel.

So, what's the lesson from this week.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Focus is a fickle mistress

Ugh. 0-4. Ouch.

The fact that in the middle of my match I was on my laptop and answering emergency calls from the New York office, probably did not help. After I took a call at the beginning of my match I felt guilty for not working, and my game slipped.

However, an interesting thing happened...the moment the match was over, I just started hitting balls and they were zooming in dead center pocket.

Hmmm, so, what's the lesson here?
a. I'm thinking too much. Last night,I seemed to alternate between shooting too quickly or being way too careful. Maybe working on my rhythm will help keep my head out of the shot.
b. I was actually pretty confident going into the match. Maybe too confident?
c. I play better when I play early. Maybe I need to stop playing the last match of the night?

While a,b & c are all true, I think the real lesson here is one from the Pleasures of Small Motions..."The simple rule find those goals that engage your attention and interest on that night..."

I like winning. But I really don't mind losing as long as I play well. So, if I'm playing well, I sometimes need to stay on top of myself to keep the actual "win" in mind. When I'm playing poorly, I seem to think only about the "win." Last night, all I was really thinking about was winning and getting out of there so I could focus on work. And, of course, exactly the opposite happened.

Its funny, because just last week in a practice session, I was missing everything (kind of last night). I couldn't find a rhythm. I was either careless or too careful (sound familiar). And then I decided to shift my focus and shoot ALL my shots with draw. Out of 10 shots, I missed only once. Draw shots! With my tendency to put accidental english on them! Crazy. But it was just enough of a shift to get me focused.

So when my mind was occupied at work, and I wasn't playing well, maybe I should have shifted my focus from trying to W-I-N and focused on having fun, feeling the smoothness of the stroke, remembering just how much I enjoy pool and being a student of the game.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Playing it smart or playing it too safe

I've missed a week of posting, and so I have two matches to cover since the end of my pool fast (which lasted all of 6 days). In match number one, I played a SL6. Last week, I played an SL3 who I've played before.

Match number one, I lost two games, where I really couldn't do much, or didn't. The breaks were wide open, and I wasn't left much of a shot. I couldn't get focused and thought this could be embarrassing. And then in the third game, the break was a dud, and I thought, now this could be a match after all. The remaining four games were all close, all strategic battles. I managed to win only one, but a victory was in striking distance. And I felt victorious that despite the large gap in skill level I was able to make a match out of it.

But....there were whispers from the other side...I heard the word "defense" more than once. My teammate called a time out on me and got angry that I wouldn't remove the ball that was blocking my opponents one remaining shot. If I took that shot, he thought I could run out. I had four balls left on the table. I couldn't see a pattern that I felt I could do, not even close. I just couldn't shoot that ball. It was hill-hill. I couldn't do it. (In the end, I miscued and left the cue ball in the one place on the table he could sink it, so we'll never know if it worked....)

So flash forward to match number two. Having lost the other match. I've given some consideration that I might have been wrong and gone for the run out despite my instincts otherwise. Afterall, the point is to "win", not to "not lose". Again, its hill-hill with my oponent. He's down to his last two balls. I have four or five on the table. He's only a three, but the pattern left for him is not hard. And I have an open shot, a run out I can see, although I haven't been shooting that consistently and if I miss, it pretty much hands it to him. Fortunately, our senior player was in the house and called a time out to point out a shot, makeable, but not easy, that would leave my opponent blocked. I take the shot, (genuinely try to make it) and leave the pocket blocked, my next turn at the table, I have my best run of the night and win the match.

I'm not sure what the lesson is here. I do think I sometimes play too defensively and have probably lost matches because of it. At my level, I'm not sure when I'm being realistic about my ability and when I am underestimating myself. And when to listen to my gut, and when to listen to my teammates.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Pool Fast

No sooner had I set up this blog, than I decided I had been playing too much pool. Yes, it is possible

I love pool. But I've been noticing a feeling of obligation rather than joy when I go to practice or play. If I'm being totally honest, I have to admit I have been using my commitment to practicing pool as an excuse to avoid other things that needed my attention.

That just can't be good for my game. Or my life. So, I have put my cue in the corner and starting a pool fast. See you again when its time.....