Saturday, January 26, 2008

I would never think to moon the giant, but is it okay to shark a friend?

I've been thinking a little about sharking lately. Looking back about a recent match, I realized that I unintentionally sharked a friend during a tournament. He had just won two games and then I joked with him that the third one was absolutely, beyond a doubt, MINE. I wasn't going to go down without winning at least one. He made short order of running down to the eight. But then, he could not sink it. No matter how easy the shot, and I gave him plenty of chances, he just could not get that eight-ball down. Eventually, I got the rest of my balls off the table and won the third game. Just like I said, the third game was MINE.

I thought I was trying to psych myself up and engage in friendly banter, but it certainly didn't improve the way I shot. And I'm very suspicious that I didn't get to him with my comment. Either just planting the seed in his mind, or maybe making him feel just a little sorry for me (ick!!). I definitely don't like the pity angle, but not sure whether the psych out thing, if done in a friendly way, is kosher or not. Frankly, I wouldn't have thought it would actually work. Ultimately, shame on him for letting it affect his play (if that's what happened), but is this just part of the game, or really uncool. Doesn't the banter make the game a little more interesting? What are your thoughts?

Let me just end this post with my favorite sharking line of all time: "You better hurry up and shoot. I just put a whole bunch of ABBA on the juke box." (It worked, too. I guess the guy didn't realize that there was no ABBA in the juke box.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Antihistamine is the new adrendaline

So, league is back in full swing, and just in time, I came down with the nasty cold bug that has been going around. Why is it that miserable, coughy, hacking, phlegmy, virus-spreading people insist on going to work? 90% of the work in my business can be done by telecommuting and surely the healthy ones would be willing to help out with the other 10% to avoid being infected with nasty cold virus (especially those who have important things to do, like play pool). As a public service, I'd like to do what I can to encourage people to STAY HOME. And don't quote me that old wive's tale about your only contagious before you have symptoms. STFW! If you have symptoms, especially if you are coughing, you are contagious. You are most contagious the first 2-4 days when you feel your crappiest, so please, stay in bed, for god's sake and everyone else's. Thank you.

Fortunately, I followed my own advice, and I recovered enough, that I was able to go to league. Although, I did bring a thermos of hot honey & lemon (which at some moments made me feel quite cool, and at other moments like a complete dork, but it felt great on my throat).

Tonight continued the observation of the dynamics of lower level APA playing. Following on the idea that this is a competition to see who sucks less, and that games are decided by mistakes rather than by successful shotmaking, I continued to pursue the "Don't scratch, miss easy shots, or open up the 8" strategy. Tonight, my opponent was a 3 who was a good shot, but again, he didn't plan ahead. Both games were determined by a scratch. My opponent gave me ball-in-hand when I was on the 8 in the first game, and scratched on the 8 in the second...Wow, could winning be this simple? How discouraging.

While I feel that my defensive play did have something to do with the outcome, its not the most thrilling of wins. But is interesting that the theory does seem to be playing out...Let's see who will be the first 2 or 3 to actually win a match.

For the next time, in addition to my 3-part strategy, I need to add being really relaxed & focused on each and every shot. Its quite common for me to let up a bit after winning the first game. Partially because I'm relieved that I'm not the biggest loser on the planet, at least I won a game, and partially because alcohol consumption during the first game tips me over the point of optimum inebriation. And then there's no turning back.

I don't think there is much mental preparation I can do to help me focus while under the influence....that would be like self-hypnosis tapes for improving your drunk driving or something....just got to cut back on the drinking while shooting. (Maybe)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Adrenaline is the new antihistamine

League finally started back up this week - at last. Unfortunately, one team had a BYE and the other didn't need me to play. So, I was still matchless.

Luckily, I was recruited to fill-in for an old team of mine for a couple of play-off games when one of their players came down with the flu. No handicap. 2 Games. One game, one point. Lots of pressure. Yeah!

What a difference a year makes. Last year around this time, I lost my first two matches in the playoffs. And while I was excited for my team, and excited for the experience, I'm not sure I actually enjoyed the pressure.

This week, I loved it. I can't really say that it brought out my best game. But, some of the excitement that I have been missing in league was back. It meant something.

My opponents were only average players. They could shoot balls, but neither really bothered to plan ahead to the 8 or think about how to fix problems. So I had three goals: do NOT miss easy shots, do NOT scratch, keep the 8-ball in jail. Both opponents made some great shots, to the approval and cheers of their teammates. Me? I just made my easy shots, didn't scratch, and never left my opponent get an easy shot on the 8. And I won. Both times. (Okay I don't earn much in bragging rights over two games or even much of a scientific sample, but its all I got this week).

A few weeks ago, someone told me that the most important thing to understand about playing pool at my level is that most games are lost rather than won. The person who makes the least costly mistakes wins. Not a fun thing to admit. Bascially, its a competition to see who sucks less. But I'm starting to realize its true. But even with a high-low handicap match up, what usually throws a match to a lesser player, is a stronger player's overly aggressive game leading to a scratch or an early eight.

When I think back to my dilemma about my regular, less-than-competitive league, I realize maybe I've been approaching it wrong. Maybe the league isn't my opportunity to give it all I got. To show off the latest thing I've learned. To get the props from my team and opponents. Maybe its to solidify a basic game. To be sure to make the easy shots under pressure. To deliver a good stroke. To not care if I impress others.

Maybe this league isn't my masters class, but the fundamentals practice for my beginner's mind.

Ah grasshopper, you have much to learn.....

Technical Difficulties

I tried to add a new, private blog under my current Blogger account. Unfortunately, Blogger seems to have a problem with having two separate permission setting for different blogs under a single user name. So, the two people who may have tried to view this blog were locked out. Sorry! But pool minnow is back in the public eye once again.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Isn't there another way to get to Carnegie Hall?

Aaaargh. I spent the last couple months whining about how bored I was with league. Now, after a few weeks, I am itching for it to start again. Do I really miss complaining about it that much? Next week we'll be back on the hunt...and I will have something to talk about again.

This week was filled with more practice--although working full-time made it hard to practice every day. I'm not sure I'd want to continue to do that anyway. As I've noted before, my game tends to suffer when I put pool before life.

I did manage to squeeze in a few bar games. Enough to realize I've gotten very comfortable practicing on my own. Maybe too comfortable. But, I think practicing on my own too much cuts down on my competitive edge. After a week of practicing (which I enjoyed), when I go to play a game I feel the nerves of being watched, but not the drive of competition. And of course, the rhythm is completely different than playing shot after shot when I practice on my own. And I'm starting to feel that I may enjoy practicing more than actually playing. But, obviously there is something ass-backwards about this. Maybe I need to be sure to put competition before practice.

Anyway, I'm starting to see why people say gambling is the best way to improve your game

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Two-thousand and eight.....

I'm not sure what 2008 will bring for me in pool. I'm going to have to make some decisions about what I really want to get out of being in a league. On the one hand, I love my team. They are awesome people, and although I can get momentarily petty or bitchy about how I'm coached or about the lack of competitiveness, I really like each person I play with. And, I think there's enough raw talent on the team, that a good season could be just around the corner. Some nights I have more fun than I can really afford to on a week night (which is both good and bad). If I left, I'd miss them.

On the other hand, I enjoy learning and getting better and its fun to be on a team that's got a good shot at the prize....and maybe its time to meet other people. If only I could get my team to move to a more competitive division, but that's not likely to happen. We'll see...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bootcamp 2008 begins

The holidays were filled with lots of relaxation and some good pool practice. I'm so glad that pool halls ignore holidays like Christmas in New Year's as it would have been very frustrating to have all the vacation time, and no place to play pool.

Here's recap of this week:

Monday: 2 Hours of mostly piling rocks and shooting 8-ball racks. Although I was pocketing balls pretty well, I walk away and realize that I just spent over an hour practicing how NOT to play pool. Genius!!!

Tuesday: Hung over and sleep deprived. The perfect opportunity to work on focusing in spite of an overwhelming desire to return to bed. I try to earn a gold star by doing some shotmaking drills from Steve Capelle's Practicing Pool. It takes some discipline but feels good. After being a good little soldier, I decide to reward myself by shooting a few 8-ball racks. I don't like how I shoot the first one, so I do another one (because THIS one, I'll get right, which, of course, I don't!). And another. And another. When I leave, I can almost feel the tense, rushed stroke that's been built up in my muscle memory. Ugh!

Wednesday: Its the second day of 2008 and time to really turn over a new leaf. After the last two days, I am no longer willing to waste my practice time. If I pile rocks or play a rack, I decide that I can only do one, so I better make it a good one. I do more shotmaking drills and one pretty good rack of 8-ball. Good enough that I earned the right to play a second one. It feels like my stroke is starting to relax.

Thursday & Friday: More shotmaking drills, and a single rack of 8-ball. I realize that to play well, I can't use pool to unwind from work stress and that I really need to let go of work before I start playing. Or quit my job. I'm still debating....Is an income source really necessary?

So, are you bored yet? Yeah. Me, too. I feel good about this week, but I have to confess by the end of Friday, the shot making drills were starting to make my eyes bleed a bit, and they don't make for great blogging. After thinking about what's best to do to prepare for the regionals, at my level, though, working on the real basics is probably the way to go. So this may be the price I have to pay for greater fame and fortune (and better blog material) down the road...