View Full Version : a REALLY bad match, why did this happen?

12-11-2003, 01:45 PM
Tudsday night I made it to the finals of the 8-ball tournament at my dads poolroom. I hadn't been playing well at all, but I was playing smart enough and against weak enough players that I slipped by all my opponents.

In the final match, I was giving the guy a game in a race to 4. I started playing better than I had all tournament. I wasn't running racks, but I was choosing smart shots and getting out when I needed to. When I was up 3-1 he ran out to the 8-ball and missed. After a long safety battle where I slowly pocketed my balls, I finally reached the 8-ball. It was a fairly simple (but missable) shot, and I made every effort to pocket it. I checked my stance, my stroke, and had complete focus (or what felt like it) on the ball. After a few added practice strokes I pulled the trigger, and missed it by half a diamond. I was really mad, but I knew that I was better than my opponent and as long as I didn't let my emotions show I could still win the match.

The next game I ran out to my last ball and missed. I figured he was out but he too made a stupid mistake and missed, leaving me a shot. With the 8-ball almost hanging in the other pocket, all I really had to do was pocket the ball. Again I took caution, making sure everything was in-line and ready. I took my time and gave it a nice stroke, and missed it just as bad. I was very flustered, but gave my best effort (although you could probably tell I was a little irratated) to keep myself quiet and relaxed.

In the final game he broke and did not pocket a ball, and I ran a tough rack out to the 8-ball.I left myself a little tougher than I had to, but it was still a shot I make 80% of the time. This time I figured I would just play my game and not be overly precise like the last time. I took my normal routine of two strokes in the air, then came down, took about three practice strokes, and rattled the ball in the jaws of the pocket. He ran out to win the set.

The good news was that I was in the hotseat and he had to beat me one more set to win the match. The bad news was that my confidence was shattered. I gave him a game in a race to 4 again. This set was different. Unlike last set in which I was making some nice runs and tough shots to get down to the last balls, this time I couldn't do anything right. I won a sloppy first game where both of us probably missed 4 or 5 shots. The second game was even worse. I miscued, scratched, and missed about 3 shots, needless to say he won. At 2-1, I finally capitalized on a scratch by him and ran down to the 8-ball. I left it straight in the corner, a shot I normally would have to miscue on to miss, but MISSED IT AGAIN! I couldn't hold it in any longer. I didn't throw a fit, but I was no longer keeping my mouth shut. I sat down and told myself I sucked, then realized what I was doing and tried to calm down. He ran the rack out to go up 3 games to 1.

At 3-1 I was tired of all the crap. When he missed a shot with 2 or 3 balls on the table, I started shooting real fast, basically rushing. I made a few balls, then missed, but luckily I got another chance. In a matter of probably 25 seconds I made my last four balls and the 8-ball. I was happy, but I had lost my focus and concentration. I tried the same tactic again, playing fast, loose, and carefree, as that won me the only game I had won in a while. This time it didn't work. I missed a few shots, and he played well enough and smart enough to get out. He won the match, and the $75 prize. I won $40, but for those that know the pain of losing a close match, it felt more like losing $35 because thats what I should have had. I didn't care about the money though, I just wanted to win the match.

There are a few lessons from this match that I'm sure I need to learn, but I can't quite figure out what they are. The fact that the only game I rightfully won towards the end was the one where I put almost 0 effort into it really confuses me. Basically, what it all boils down to is what caused me to missed those simple shots? Also, when under pressure and aware that I'm not playing that great, what should I be doing? (Taking more time, focusing on my stroke, etc.) I would really appreciate any responses because I only hope that I NEVER again have to play a match similar to that one.

12-11-2003, 02:12 PM
Here's what I see in your story...

You were playing well and intelligent, most probably with a lot of confidence and managed to set yourself up into a very comfortable lead. Here came the winning 8-ball and you choked it.

The first question after missing that shot (if I were you) would be was I ready to shoot that shot. Was my mind at ease or was I thinking about the win and all that crap.

My guess is, you weren't quite ready to shoot the shot. After that you started realising that you could miss shots and kept that in your mind all tru the rest of your match again not having your brain at ease.

When you decided to start playing faster, you basicaly manage to clear your mind for a few minutes and got back into the game, until you shot again a winning shot and missed again.

Bottom line for me is, you should never shoot until you're ready to do so. You are only ready to shoot when your brain has done all the work (finding angles, locating position for patern and selecting spins). Very often the simplest distraction will bring you to do something stupid like having your eyes on the CB instead of the OB at the time of contact, etc...

I know exactly the feeling, I finnished 3rd in the last 2 tournements I played in. Both time I gave away at least 3 games in a race to 7 to my opponents to end up loosing 7-6. After each tournement when I 'pondered' my mistakes I realised that the only differences in the shots I made and the one I missed was my state of mind at the time I shot.

I believe I started to get tired and started also to see the potential of making finals. One more thing I did was to fail to recognize pivotal shots. Often I just came out of a tough 5-6 patern to leave myself on a easy 7-8-9 runout. At that point I should have realised that playing the 7 for perfect position on the 8 was a pivotal shot instead of thinking the hard work was done and the run out was easy.

I've been working lately at recognizing those moments so that I don't let my focus drift at the sight of success...

Better luck in your next tourney and when you feel you are facing one of those pivotal shot, double the effort and hold your shot until your mind is at ease.

12-11-2003, 02:13 PM
The fact that the only game I rightfully won towards the end was the one where I put almost 0 effort into it really confuses me. Basically, what it all boils down to is what caused me to missed those simple shots? Also, when under pressure and aware that I'm not playing that great, what should I be doing? <hr /></blockquote>


You answered your own question. When you played with ZERO effort (or zero emotional distractions) you won... why would that confuse you?

When you acknowledge all your distractions, (bad rolls, opponents luck, your missed shots) the only thing left is your next shot.

Learn the definition of the word 'Accept' and 'Trust'.

"Trust" what you do (have confidence in your skill)
and "Accept" the results (no matter what they are, when it's over you can't do anything to change it)

Your focus starts with your table evaluation, then pre-shot routine, then execution.

12-11-2003, 02:17 PM
I think you just stressed yourself a little too much about winning. You were probably running out really well or shooting the right shots, but notice you only remember taking more practice strokes and noticing your bridge and stance when you were shooting the tournament winning shot. It happens all the time to everyone. You just have to learn to keep the same mindset throughout the match and treat every shot the same, game-winning, match-winning or first shot of the game, there are all just as important as the others.

It is natural that you didn't play well in the second set. You were thinking that you should have won the tournament however many games ago in the first set and you were probably pretty upset that you were even having to play the second set. I tend to do the same thing in long sets. If I am winning 7-1 and then miss two 8 or 9 balls that I should have made I start thinking about how the set should be over. The thing to learn is that things happen and you have to learn to deal with them, even if it means playing a couple extra games.

You will be alright, look at the bright side...there is always next week to try again.


12-11-2003, 03:07 PM
There are no easy fixes for this, and there WILL be many, many more bruisings down the road for you to wonder about. What got you was winning jitters, everyone has them, you even see gimme shots missed by world champions when the finish line is "right there." All I can say is, "I feel your pain." Any advice you get for fixing this for the next time you compete will likely be fairly worthless when you find yourself dropping down on the next ball for game-set-match. That little deamon in your head will likely taunt you instead, "Don't miss this like the last time, he-he."

Believe it or not I am NOT trying to discourage you. Thing I'm trying to say is that a lot of experience will lessen the occurance of this choking routine, but I'll wager that you will have it basically forever, at some level and at some degree. If you indeed find an answer that holds up under pressure, market it and sell the fire out of it. Btw, I, like you try to bare down and make sure all of my fundamentals is perfect, you know, assure that I am ready to make the shot, and I too miss after that attempt of extended and purposefull adjustments. It ain't as easy as being told "Don't do this, don't worry, don't shoot till you know you are ready..." nothing removes all of this from your game. A lot of experience helps, and like I said, you're in for some more bruising down the road...sid

Keith Talent
12-11-2003, 04:53 PM
Sorry to hear it, Dragon.

Sounds like you got a little too self-conscious on those big shots. All of that checking up on technique should probably be done on a subconscious level. You obviously are a good player and must have pretty fair fundamentals, and you certainly aren't going to change anything for the sake of one shot ... so, I'd try to just line the shot up to the best of my ability, get as comfortable and confident as I can, maybe remind myself to stay down ... and then pull the trigger knowing you've done all you can for that particular shot.

I think if you've got any creeping doubts in your mind during your stroke, you're likely to pinch it some, maybe make some tiny last-second adjustment and screw it up. Just give it your best and say that's good enough for today.

I don't think, though, it's really a question of fast or slow ... it's just making sure you're ready to put your best stroke on a given shot.

I can think of a half-dozen times playing against better players, when I got up and down on a 9 ball several times ... usually involving an awkward bridge, a tough cut, etc. ... and I mean took enough time I was starting to feel embarrassed. But I finally got down, felt right, and made the shot. Didn't always win the match, but that kind of thing can give you confidence.

Ralph S.
12-11-2003, 07:02 PM
This may sound crazy to you and eveyone else, but humor me and try it just once. When you play in your next tourney, dont conentrate on this and that and think hard about everything. Just cut loose and try freewheeling it for a while and see if it helps. If you play like you have nothing to lose odds are you will find a groove by just letting it all air out.

12-11-2003, 08:16 PM
Fear was governing your play. You saw that you were not playing "your best" and you had fears that even your best was not good enough to win. You believed you werent' supposed to win.

Argue for your limitations and sure enough...you have them! You believed you weren't good enough to win, especially that day, and sure enough...you didn't.

Any advice you've been given about just relaxing and playing your game is on the $$$$$$$$. You're supposed to win because you are a winner and the sooner you accept that the sooner you'll win. It ain't all about playing your best or even having a good day or EVEN playing good enough to win. Luck plays a part in pool, sometimes a BIG part. You know that. Hell....some days a guy can't play GOOD enough to overcome the bad luck/rolls and some days he can't play bad enough to ruin the good rolls he's gettin...even though he don't deserve'm. Just relax and let your skills and knowledge do the job and let it fall where it falls.

Easy huh?!!! Your practice has prepared you for the tournament and the championship match. You just let it happen but you gotta be grateful, TRULY GRATEFUL when you do get enough rolls to win. No big ego when you win or you'll suffer the busted ego when you lose and neither is the truth. /ccboard/images/graemlins/laugh.gif

12-12-2003, 12:48 AM
Dragon,it would help if you showed the shots with the wei table.

Anyway,could be anything but when consiously trying to do everything right sometimes you can consentrate too much on the Qball and not line up properly.


12-12-2003, 07:12 AM
Hey Dragon, good to see ya. Here's what I think.

2 much crap going on in your mind.

That's it.


12-12-2003, 07:54 AM

One of the hardest things for any athlete to do is to STOP thinking. For instance, do you suppose Schilling, Pedro, Clemens, or Johnson actually think about technique when they're throwing a blazing fastball or a nasty cutter? Does Tiger think about technique when he's uncorking a 300 yard drive? Does Vince Carter think about technique when throwing down an amazing dunk? I'd venture to say probably not in all of these cases. They've reached a point through practice (repetition) where they allow their bodies to do what they've been trained to do. You've got to get your mind out of the way to accomplish this. I think that's what we all strive for as pool players instinctively, but nobody ever tells us we're not supposed to think when we get down on the shot.

I believe that conscious thought should only be applied during practice or between shots in a match. Consciously think about english, tangent lines, rail targets, position zones, etc., during practice. Practice until the shots become second nature. Lock that information away in your mental computer. When it comes time for match play, whether gambling or tournament mode, simply pull the proper shot out of your mental computer and REACT. Thinking consciously can cause muscles to tense up, which can lead to something called "purpose tremor." Max Eberle has written a great article on purpose tremor here (http://www.azbilliards.com/maxeberle/max8.cfm). I believe you should think during practice so you don't have to think during match play. In match play, between shots, think all you want - when you're sitting in your chair, or if you've messed up your position play, etc. But once a decision has been reached, react to the table. Great defensive plays in baseball, great catches by wide receivers in football, they're all reactionary responses with no conscious thought.

Good practice is the first step in learning not to think at the table. The second is a consistent pre-shot routine. The third is training. It's easy to say these things, it's another to put it into practice. By training, I mean play as many matches as possible which mean something. Play in tournaments. Gamble (if you like to gamble) with something on the line. Train yourself to get used to the pressure, and to remain calm. We as players have to practice that, too, because you have to know how to deal with that nervousness. Everybody gets nervous at one time or another, you have to learn to deal with it.

I've written a short article about the mental aspect of the game called Preparation of the Mind (http://www.easypooltutor.com/article17-pg-0.html). Hope it helps.


12-12-2003, 01:26 PM
All I can say is two things:

1. If I see the winning ball as anything but just another shot,no more or no less than the other shots on the table, I will overanalyze everything, my stance, aim, take extra warm up strokes etc, and miss the shot because of that.

2.If I miss an easy shot, I was thinking about something rather than the shot I am on.


12-12-2003, 01:57 PM
A few techniques that have helped me on the "money ball" shot:

1. Concentrate on "releasing the cue" -- almost like throwing the cue and letting go. Release your grip as you are coming forward with your stroke.

2. Concentrate on sloooowwww accelleration on your forward stroke combined with following through. Someone on this board (Rod?) used the excellent descriptive term "an unhurried stroke."

3. Concentrate on shooting the ball into a specific part of the pocket, not just in the pocket in general.

4. And finally, as someone else said, "DO NOT shoot the shot until it feels right." If you are having nagging doubts, stand up, towel down your cue, get a sip of water, whatever. Sometimes we are embarrassed to do that on a not-that-difficult 9-ball shot. But in reality everybody watching knows from experience about dogging easy shots and they tend to actually respect you more if you stand up and get yourself completely mentally ready before shooting. And you look a lot better doing that than shooting when you aren't ready, missing the shot, then getting down on yourself.

Technique 1 keeps me from steering the ball, which my unconscious wants to do on a pressure shot. Technique 2 keeps me from rushing my stroke, which my unconscious wants to do to get it over with. Technique 3 sharpens my focus, and makes me pay attention to exactly where I'm hitting the ob. This is important because all of the clutter that goes on in my head during a pressure shot can distract me from that precise concentration. Technique 4 is self-explanatory.

These all work pretty well for me. And if I do choke a shot, no matter how costly, I try to figure out why (did I rush my stroke, did I squeeze the cue during my stroke, was I mentally ready for the stroke). If I can't figure out why, I just say to myself "Oh, well....Life goes on." /ccboard/images/graemlins/smirk.gif

PS ~ I want to give you kudos for working on controlling your negative emotions. It sounds like you made a conscious effort to work on this and even though you didn't get an immediate payoff in terms of making the pressure shots in this match, you WILL see a payoff as this becomes your normal way of playing.

12-12-2003, 02:46 PM
I did something like this the other day, but you have to learn from it and move forward. I played a guy in a tourney race to 2..after a safety battle he won the first game. Alt. break I snapped the 8 in. Then he came up empty on the break. Both were messy...I made pinpoint position to run out the balls only to dog the 8 on an easy shot. Same thing the next game...broke and ran to the 8..dogged it. He missed after a couple of balls and left me straight down the rail...I floated the ball and rattles hte pocket and he took it down.
But the next time I played him he had one shot in three games...he broke the 2nd game and didn't make a ball. So just because you mess one set up doesn't mean you'll always do it. We've all done it before.

12-12-2003, 09:04 PM
Where's CC?? Pre-shot routine!!!!!! It's ALL about pre-shot routine. No thinking, second guessing, messing around, checking your shorts! Do your preshot routine and put it to bed. End of story. Ask CC

...not making light of it. It works. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Ralph S.
12-12-2003, 09:50 PM
There is no doubt about it, C.C. KNOWS HIS STUFF! /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Mike H
12-13-2003, 11:42 AM
It sounds to me like you took yourself out of your natural rhythm/pace by checking all that stuff while you're down over the ball. Unless you ALWAYS do all that checking, don't start during a match. For me, it's part of my pre-shot routine. Look over the shot, determine what path I want the CB to take and exactly where I want it to end up, Envision the shot and storke standing up, align my feet and shoulders while standing up, then get down, practice strokes, and pull the trigger. If any of these is even a thought while I'm down on the shot, I stand up and start over. It's important to have a clear head when you're down on a ball, because thinking about your mechanics will cause you to change them slightly whether you realize it or not. I recommend you commit yourself to performing ALL your thinking standing up, stick with your preshot routine, and stand up if you need to think while you're down on a shot. Hope this helps.

12-13-2003, 12:01 PM

As others have said, you can't be thinking about your mechanics when you are playing a match. I prefer to do that in practice so it becomes second nature.

It sounds like you are handling losing better than you used to. That's good.

BTW congrats on being selected as one of the Billiard Education Foundation Academic All-Americans (3.5 GPA or higher). I saw it in P &amp; B Oct. 2003 p. 18

12-13-2003, 12:20 PM
I forgot to mention...you asked "why did it happen?" and the answer is that it happened because you needed it. Not being a smartass..it true.