Saturday, March 15, 2008

The shooter always knows best, afterall they're the one with the gun....

My opponent was on the 8. The cue was almost dead straight with my last ball facing the side rail. A bank was possible but not easy. Scratching was a possibility on the cut & missing/making the bank would most likely leave a decent shot on the 8.

A teammate called a time out and coached me to play a safety by hitting straight into my ball, and follow the cue ball to the side rail. That would have left a long, but makable cut on the eight. If I was lucky the object ball would get in the way. I didn't like this shot. To get a good safety, I would have to control both the object ball and the cue ball. If I couldn't get the snooker, the advantaged gained, seemed pretty minimal. The shot on the 8 is the kind of shot that I've seen my opponent make under pressure many times. In fact, the difficulty seems to focus him. Basically, my gut said, he's making the shot.

I tried my best, but wasn't able to follow the cue to rail and did not get the snooker. I didn't leave an easy shot for my opponent, but he nailed it, just like I predicted.

In retrospect, I should have done a stop shot to try to leave the cue on same line as the eight. I think it would have left a harder shot and I would have only been trying to control the cue ball. The real key though is what I was most comfortable with, which is something that my coach wouldn't necessarily know. Most people are more comfortable with follow and feel its more reliable. For some reason, I have trouble putting a lot of top spin on the ball (I must be angling down on my shot or not following through). I'm much more comfortable with stop and draw.

Coaching is a give and take process. Over time, ideally, teammates who coach will learn a player's strengths and weaknesses. But it works the other way, too. As the shooter, you need to learn a coaches weaknesses, too. Some teammates will always coach from their own play book. Give you shots that are too complicated. Fail to give you critical elements of the shot (more often than not, speed). With coaches I know, I'm comfortable challenging their assumptions ("So, if I take that shot, you're assuming that I'm going to be able to run the next 4? I appreciate the confidence, but the way I'm shooting tonight, that's not going to happen.") Its the players job to let the coach know what feels right and to make the final decision of what to do.

But I also wonder, if I shouldn't have just gone for the bank. Unless my option is a really good safety, isn't it better to just go for the win?
Above is a draft post that never quite made it to prime time last year. I came back to it after a conversation this week with a teammate, who was unhappy with the coaching she received to play safe instead of going for a bank. I was familiar with her frustration, but what struck me is how much happier and confident I am since I decided to shoot the shot and not the coach. At some point I stopped blaming my coaches when their advice didn't work and decided to own my shot, and my decision to take or not take the coaching. Writing this post was a bit of a turning point in that direction.

Reading it now I can see how far I've come in my shooting, too. Now, I think I could probably leave the cue on the rail, and even try to get the speed right to get the snooker, instead of just hitting it and hoping to get a good roll. But even better, now, I would know to hit the ball with spin to leave the cue on the center of the end rail...a much better safety. More evidence of sucking less at pool (aka progress).


Joe Munch (labikercowboy) said...

Interesting question, is it better to go for the win. Wrestling with that one myself at the moment, although leaning towards not going for the win. Eight ball has become a game of not letting my opponent a shot on the eight. More game are won at my level because the opponent makes a mistake. Forcing more opportunities for this to occur seems like a good strategy

Rabbit Stroke said...

I've noticed that when I play for the win... win win win... I end up losing.

When I play for control of the table... even if they're on the 8, I'm playing for control of the table. So I play safe, they miss their kick... I have ball in hand and the entire table to work with.

Controlling the table controls who wins.... at least in my experience.

poolminnow said...

Hey guys, thanks so much for commenting! I totally agree with you that given the chance to control the table vs. going for a low percentage shot to win, I'd go for the safety.

The question I had, though, is what do you do when both your safety and your offensive shot are low percentage?

Basically, you're screwed and your percentages for winning are pretty low, period. Your playing to win, when percentage wise, you've already lost.

Your chances in this case for getting ball in hand is say 10%. Your chances of making the bank is maybe 20%. You have a high percentage of leaving a long shot, but its still a fairly high percentage shot for your opponent (but that's just my own gut feeling).

I don't know. In that situation, I'm inclined to think its better to go out swinging.????