View Full Version : Coughing the Last 3

02-16-2005, 08:02 AM
Hello everyone. I've been lurking on this board for a while and finally decided to start posting. As you can see from my username, I spend most of my time racking. I like all pool games, but my favorite game is nine-ball. I've spent years running the first 6 like a champion and the last 3 like a clown. Is there some sort of psychological boundary that I'm not getting over? What do you guys/girls think about when you get to this point of the rack? This may be a tough question to answer, but any help would be appreciated. I choked three 8-balls in a tournament last night either by missing or getting out of position. Maybe winning is tougher than losing? /ccboard/images/graemlins/confused.gif

02-16-2005, 08:16 AM
I may not have all the experience on a table that a lot of the others here have, but I understand the "psychological" question that you are presenting. I know that I have come upon the same situation that you describe, many times. I begin well and run a few balls in without a problem, then I start thinking about the end, and I can intimidate myself right out of what could be a great game for me. The thing that I have found from the advice here is to develop a good preshot routine that takes my mind off of anything other than the shot in front of me. I know that I can only do one thing at a time, so I remind myself to just focus on the one thing, and let the rest happen when it is going to happen. This has improved my consistancy and made me more competitive with my game.

Good Luck,

02-16-2005, 08:34 AM
SplinterHands wrote:

Maybe winning is tougher than losing?

Precisely. The pressure that becomes greater as you get closer to the nine becomes so great that it's a great relief to dog a ball and sit down.

I haven't found the solution yet, although I suspect it lies in simply learning to endure the pressure: face the tiger and stare it down.

In application, that would mean playing matches and competition. Another approach for a player who practices alone a lot might be to play bowliards, honestly (no mulligans). I've found intense pressure after the first several frames, just like in a tournament.

Best wishes, Isshi
~~hasn't stared the tiger down yet

02-16-2005, 08:40 AM
For me the answer is in taking one ball at a time. What I mean is decide what you need to do with the shot at hand to pocket that ball and position the cueball and then just concentrate on executing just that shot without worrying about where you are in the rack.

02-16-2005, 08:54 AM
There is a drill where you rack 3 balls, break and take BIH, spotting any balls made on the break. The theory is that you run these numeric balls off with BIH until you have at least a 70% finish ratio, say for 30-50 racks, then add a fourth ball and start over. You can imagine that the three ball run would get simple, the pressures of only three during competition diminished...sid

02-16-2005, 09:03 AM
Bert Kinnister suggests three 3 - ball patterns. Shoot the 7-8-9 just as you would the 1-2-3 0r 4-5-6.

Bert suggestes practicing with 3 balls, then 6, then 9.

Welcome to the Forum and good luck.

02-16-2005, 09:06 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Isshi:</font><hr>

The pressure that becomes greater as you get closer to the nine becomes so great that it's a great relief to dog a ball and sit down. <hr /></blockquote>

You're right Isshi. It's like the killer instinct needs to come out when you get to the end of the rack. I find this problem especially pronounced when I play a better caliber player (at least in my mind). I'll run out against Joe Blow, but freeze up against the local champ, even though I know I'm capable of winning. What has helped me recently is not celebrating a victory over a better player, but rather thinking to myself "That's going to be a common occurence, so get used to it." Thanks for all of your input.

02-16-2005, 09:38 AM
Using the 3 ball theory, use the 7, 8, and 9 during your practice. That way you are used to seeing those colors for the finishing pattern.

At one point in time, I had to work on cutting a ball along the foot rail using just the 9ball. Seemed like that miss was a reoccuring shot for me. After I practiced using just the 9ball for that shot over and over, I now make it Every time I see it.

02-16-2005, 09:56 AM
This may sound hair-brained, but it might just work?

I had problems at first with the cue ball following the object ball into the pocket.

So then I intentionally *tried* [during practice] to get the cue ball to follow in the object ball.

That fixed the problem.

Same thing with scratching. I intentionally *try* to scratch during practice.

I rarely scratch any more.

Maybe the same type of thing will work for you?

I am doing the opposite of what I am trying to do. So I learn how to get the cue ball to follow in the object ball and I learn how to scratch. So if I learn how to do these things, I also learn how *not* to do these things.

My suggestion....

Practice intentionally giving yourself a bad leave on the 8 when playing 8-ball, and practice giving yourself a bad leave on the 9 when playing 9-ball.

Then just practice shooting in the 8 ball, but miss on purpose each time. Just shoot the 8 again and again. Make it hit the edge of the pocket. Shoot it too hard so it bounces out of the pocket. Shoot it too softly so it does not quite make it.

Then do the same with the 9 ball.

Practice intentionally missing these balls daily. Then play a game of 8-ball with a friend and miss the 8-ball on purpose. Then play a game of 8-ball and make the 8-ball this time. Then do same thing playing 9-ball.

Then play a few tournaments [something which does not matter] and miss the 8/9 on purpose. Then do the opposite and make the 8/9 in another tournament.

02-16-2005, 10:17 AM
SplinterHands, your last comment reminds me of another source of pressure.

'If I win this match, I'm gonna have to keep my new higher standing. If I lose, there's no higher expectations to live up to.' I hear that a lot from deep inside.

Who was it said: 'amateurs are afraid of winning. Champions are afraid of losing.'

Oh, well. I can't take the pressure yet, that's why I've preferred practicing alone over the years (until recently). Five months ago, I started taking lessons from a local 'pro', and we play matches of race to three, with time out for questions when sticky situations arise. If my game doesn't fall apart from the pressure, I win sometimes.

Regards, Isshi.

02-16-2005, 10:44 AM
That's too bad because it is a lot easier running the last three than the first three. All the blockers and obstructions are out of the way by then, and you should be in line and in control of an open table.

My suggestion is that you really pay attention to your pattern play, your cue ball speed control, take your time and focus on making the last three shots easy.


02-16-2005, 10:58 AM
I am kind of the same, not that I don't get out, but I become more conscious as I get to the end of a rack. What you may be doing is trying to play too perfect as far as getting on the last balls and over thinking, (second guessing) what you are doing. Try not to play such exact position, I know that may sound completely idiotic, but try to see the actual margins you can play within and still get out easily. It may take some of the pressure off. Also, at the end of a rack even though there are just a few balls left, they can be difficult to get on at times. There are a lot of difficult three and four ball run outs. If you watch Efrin enough you will begin to notice an interesting thing. Even though he can play as good as anyone, he plays kind of minimum position. What I mean is, you find yourself saying things like, " I would have liked to have gotten a little closer then that". He opts more to be sure he makes the balls and stays on the correct sides of the balls within the available margins. This really takes the pressure off once you realize there are wider margins then you may be seeing. You may just see the exact place to get and nothing else and over do it. You see players mess up all the time trying to get on a ball that they could have maybe just stopped the cue ball and made a little cut shot on, if they had walked around and taken a better look at the shot. I don't know if this is making any sense, I just woke up.

Chris Cass
02-16-2005, 11:36 AM
Hi SplinterHands,

I have been a professional racker for 30 yrs or so. I don't like to do it anymore.

It's in my opinion only that the problem isn't in your mind my friend but, it's in your mechanics. You can troubleshoot this on your own and keep doing it for a few yrs or just give up the little mount of money for a lesson troubleshooting your mechanics and pre-shot routine via Qualified BCA instructor.

I highly recommend you seek one in your area for a 2 hr evailuation. You could also visit the Cue-Tech School College of Cueing Arts &amp; Sciences in TX. If you want to take the 3 day course. This all depends on what you want out of the game. You must put in to get something out of it.

Scott Lee also from the board is a Qualified instructor and travels all throughout the country and will visit you, when in your area. He's also highly recommended.

This instruction will come with a personal video taping of your mechanics and evevything needed to troubleshoot anything down the road without the second time cost. This will save you yrs of brain banging and will set you in the right path to success.

Now, before I sound like a commercial.lol Let me say, the ball before the 8 is the most important shot. When, you on the 8. The game should be all over, my friend.



02-16-2005, 11:38 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote tateuts:</font><hr> That's too bad because it is a lot easier running the last three than the first three. All the blockers and obstructions are out of the way by then, and you should be in line and in control of an open table.

My suggestion is that you really pay attention to your pattern play, your cue ball speed control, take your time and focus on making the last three shots easy.

Chris <hr /></blockquote>

Good points Chris. I'd add that when the pressure is on, it's no time to be cute. Pic your 3 ball pattern with the minimum of cue ball travel or at least with shape to the broad end of the Perfect leave zone. Then it's just shooting.....lose yourself in your routine and shoot'em out. The idea (for me anyway) is not to get tighter the closer to the finish line, but rather get looser, more relaxed, more efficient, more comfident with each ball in the run. It's like you feed off each ball making you stronger and stronger......by the time you get to the 9 ball your in full form.

Also, for me, the longer you hang around looking at a shot the more opportunity for tension and nerves to creep in. Don't rush, but keep a steady pace in the runnout, even on the nine. Play it as a song. St. ~~shooting is an act of faith~~

02-16-2005, 12:30 PM
Chris...I respect your wisdom but I need to point out something I find distracting. I have seen many posts in the past on this subject, "I run beautifully to the winning ball(s) and then choke", and you are not the first one that has suggested fundamentals. Tell me, isn't the fundamentals what got these players through the pack, and then the bust occurs, hinting at not a fundamental flaw but instead a mental downfall? Those other balls had to be made by the same guy shooting at the busted end of the run. I can't see how pool school fundamentels is appropriate in this case, otherwise the beginning run would have fallen short as well....sid

02-16-2005, 12:42 PM
I think if you watch players that tend to miss on the "money" ball, you will notice that they do tend to mess up on their fundamentals. They jump up, they don't follow through, etc. I think it's your own mental shark. In league, we have taken to reminding each other to stay down and watch the 8 drop just before the shot, which does seem to be working.

02-16-2005, 12:49 PM
All these answers seem very good. Some of this may be simple nerves. It takes putting yourself under the pressure to become at ease with it. Everyone can dog it, some for a dollar, might take a million with some folks. Sometimes it's just the pressure you put on yourself.

As well, mathmatics is at play. Running six or seven is statistically much easier than running nine. IN addition, while the table becomes much clearer with a couple of balls left, the "key" ball must be paid attention to more closely (I think Chris mentioned this). Many people think this is the eight, most often it's the one before the eight or the next to the next to last ball. I think breaking the rack into three parts does help as well.

The key is to analyse why you didn't get out, rather than fume over it. If it's nerves, play in more pressure situations, if it's position do the three, four, five ball drills as stated.

Another nice tip I have always heard but not always practiced /ccboard/images/graemlins/crazy.gif is to "stay in the moment". Executing each shot as an independent event. If you do this, for real, I think, if you have the basic game, you'll start running out without noticing so much and just do it.

take everything Deeman says with two grains of salt...

02-16-2005, 01:00 PM
I agree with the point that the nervous tendancy is to overplay position (and therefore get out of line, or get too straight) as you get closer to the finish line.

What I've experienced myself and see a lot of those last couple of balls, players start thinking about the fact that they're getting out, but stop thinking about how they're going to do it. Nerves and anticipation interfere with the thinking process.

It helps to calm down and have a plan on every shot at the table. Working the plan keeps the mind occupied, which is a good thing.


02-16-2005, 01:28 PM
As far as running out goes, I tend to perform much better when I take the time to do the following:

1. Read the rack backwards and find the key ball(s).
2. Visualize each shot before I shoot it.
3. Constantly walk around the table checking my angles.

If I don't get lazy and take these steps, I run out more often. I've been told my mechanics are good, so I think my problems are mental which may lead to bad mechanics in the end. There comes a point in your pool career that you become better than the top dogs in your area. I think this is a tough hill to climb for me because I'm afraid of being challenged to a gambling match. Since I'm not much of a gambler it's tough to get through this. There has to be a point where I can say "OK, I'm better than you now, so you start choking the last 3". For me, this has to happen through tournament play. Make any sense?

02-16-2005, 01:36 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Chris Cass:</font><hr> Let me say, the ball before the 8 is the most important shot. When, you on the 8. The game should be all over, my friend.
<hr /></blockquote>

You're exaclty right, CC. I never thought of it like that. That's a great positive thought to have when I get to this point. Thanks.

02-16-2005, 01:42 PM
I think you should take a two-fold approach to your problem.

1.) Work on your fundamentals (as Chris has suggested).

Find an instructor in your area, or find a very good player whom you respect. Have him or her, analyze your fundamentals, shot selection, pattern recognition, and position skills.


2.) Work on your mental game. There are a number of good books on the subject i.e.; "The Pleasures of Small Motions" by Bob Fancher PhD, "Courage, Composure and Concentration" by The Monk (Tim Miller. "The Inner Game of Tennis" has also been recommended frequently (it's about Tennis but the concepts apply equally to pool).

I have also had great results from the "Overcoming Contenderosis" tapes and "The Dead Stroke Tapes" (Hypnosis.

Working on your fundamentals and working on your mental game are not mutually exclusive pursuits. By working on both, you will overcome your problem, and forge a much stronger all around game for yourself.

Hope this helps.

02-16-2005, 01:51 PM
"I'm afraid of being challenged to a gambling match."

If you don't like to play for money then don't do it. Enjoy the game in the way you choose to enjoy it, the rest is no ones business. Most players that tell you they like to gamble are lying, they like to win and pick their spots when to play. Guys that are woofing at other players in the room to gamble, always seem to get real quiet when someone comes in looking to play they don't know. Enjoy the game, that's why you play and forget about what others think.

02-16-2005, 01:53 PM
Some great advice as alway's. Just gotta chime in.

For me,I try to bring the same intensity I feel in a tournament into my practice. In practice I was more "oh well, its only practice" type of attitude. I didn't do well in tournaments. Mostly because I didn't get another shot in the tournaments or when I did, I would scew it up.

What has helped me has been my change in attitude in practice, and the drills I do during practice. I'm more focused on my shot making. I very seldom look up from the table during practice. I talk to no one. I'm there just to make balls in the pockets.

One of the best drills I do that helps me to see the target spot on the object ball and always get in the same stance is a straight in long shot. Object is about a foot out from a corner pocket, in the center. The cue is at the other end of the table bout 4-5 feet from the object ball, setup for a straight in shot into the corner.
There's two ways I do this drill. One is to stop the cue ball right at the object ball and of course the object ball goes in the pocket. The second is to follow the object ball into the pocket. To be able to do these, you got to be dead on in everything.

Second, is the 3 ball drill mentioned here. Mines alittle different tho. I use two stripes, 1 solid or the other way around. I try to make the two same type, then the odd one.

Third drill is what I call single shot drills. These are shots that I have trouble with, or shots where I use different types of english on the same shot to see how the cue ball reacts.

I now have started to diagram shots I missed in tournaments to set them up in practice.

I'm no great shooter, yet, but I have seem improvements in my shot making and not getting rattled during tournaments cause it seems like practice to me. Whats even better, is that others have noticed this also.

Guess, the short of it is, don't go and just practice, but have a plan, know what you need to work on. Its not how much time you practice, but the quality of the time at practice.

Good Luck

02-16-2005, 07:31 PM
Great points from everyone. The one that helps me more than any is the one that popcorn had about trying to get too perfect as you get to the end of the rack. That is easy to do. It also helps me to think their is another ball left after the 9. It kind of takes the pressure off of the last ball.

02-16-2005, 07:36 PM
That's what I do. I try to treat every shot just like every other shot. On the 9-ball, I try to play position to the center of the table.

02-17-2005, 09:29 AM
I like Perk's idea about shooting the 7,8,9 in different patterns. I would also add to that some games of ten-ball, and Jerry Brieseth's game of Equal Offense (make sure you record your scores).

People often get careless or out of control as they go deep in the rack (or get close to personal records), and when they reach critical games in a match. Choking is normal for most people, and will happen sooner or later. Treat the new situation like it's normal, then celebrate or evaluate later.

You said that you've flubbed several eight-balls. In a three-ball pattern player, the eight-ball is the first ball without a complete pattern. Just acknowledge it and complete your checklist some other way, then be sure of your commitment and shoot.

Good Luck!