This week I entered my first weekly tournament (at last, actually following through on the plans I've set out on this blog). There were some other big tournaments in the area, so turnout was a little light, which was fine by me. It was a small, fairly laid back, $10 buy-in handicapped 9-ball tournament. It was great to be doing something different, and to see some new faces, as well as on average a much higher caliber of player than in my APA league.
To set my handicap, they used my APA Skill Level. I was give a "C" rating, the lowest in the system. This made sense to me because I have a hard time imagining that I'm more than a D player, but they didn't have D's. I guess some people don't like the letter "D" so they cut it out and a la Spinal Tap added "11" to the dial.
My first match I went down to a 5-1 defeat to a "AA" player, picking up one rack after he left an easy 2-ball out. I played some decent safeties, but mostly didn't have much of a chance to shoot. I was happy though, because I had come here to get my ass kicked by people who should kick my ass, and that's exactly what happened.
My match on the losers side was also against a "AA" player. He made some mistakes, and I shot quite well, for me, and took the first rack. The next rack, I was getting ridiculously lucky, double banking shots in, slopping a ball in on a carom when I was going for a combo. I started to feel a little guilty, missed an easy shot, and he ran out. Third rack, he seemed to be in control, but it was a tricky pattern. I got to the table a couple of times and I left him a tough bank on the eight, which he went for and barely missed, leaving me an easy shot in the side with effortless shape on the nine on the end-rail. I win, 2-1.
I overheard a "wow" on the sidelines, as in, "I can't believe he just lost." Yes, its a little twisted, this crazy game of 9-ball. I got some lucky rolls, and he sold out. He was the better player. I won the match. But, if these things didn't happen every now and then, what's the point of even having a handicapped tournament?
As it turns out, one of the spectators was my next opponent. An "A" player. He didn't seem happy about my rating, although he wasn't making a fuss. When I asked him if he thought I should be a "B" player, he said, "You just beat so&so 2-1. That's amazing." "Well, you saw that match. If I got those rolls all the time, I can beat just about anyone." Which was meant as a humble observation on our fickle sport, although I sensed that it may not have been taken that way. Anyway, my luck continued, and I won 2-2 (in a 2-4 race) when he rattled the 9.
Next match, I was treated to a 0-7 slaughter by one of the best players there. I had a couple of chances to get out, but it was late, and I was more in observe mode, than attack mode. I hadn't really set out to win this match (not that any effort on my part was likely to change the outcome). I was happy to watch this talented kid work his way through his run-outs and learn sitting from a front row seat. Hooray, order was restored to the universe. The C player was knocked out.
All in all, I was very happy with the tournament. But it did leave me wondering "How good am I?", and realizing that's a question that I'm constantly trying to answer, but better off leaving alone as much as I can. There are some instances where that question is important, but most of the time trying to answer that just holds me back. Its just a tiny step away from "Will they like me?" or "Do I deserve to win?" or "Who am I?". These questions have no place in pool. Actually, when I'm playing, any questions beyond the scope of the table are just out of order.
So, I hereby swear to stop contemplating the meaning of life when I play and to never, ever again feel guilty for:
* Lucky rolls. We all get them from time to time. It only angers the Pool Gods to squander these gifts.
* Winning when a better player sells out. If they give it away, I'll make them pay. I'm the opponent, and that's my job.
* My handicap and whether people think its fair. I'm new here. If someone has a problem with my rating, they can tell the tournament director and I will happily abide by their decision. That's his/her job.