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?