Cooling your jets when you feel like exploding
Recently, I had the good fortune to play in the Mezz West State Tour on their third stop in Fresno, California. It was a 9-ball match, double elimination, and there were over 80 participants. Oscar Dominguez and Desiree Rivera, the owners and founders of the Tour, and Sheri Dadian, owner of Diamond Billiards, did an amazing job putting it all together.
Congratulations to Vilmos Foldes for taking the win!
I did not know what to expect, to be honest. I have played in tournaments before, and have done fairly well, even against semipro players. I have even managed to get into the money a few times. Alas, it was not in the cards this time.
As I have mentioned in past articles, I don’t like to lose. I am my own worst critic, and while I would never berate a fellow player, I have been known to give a little “love tap” to the table with my cue when I make a mistake. Unfortunately, this has given me a bit of a reputation as a hothead, and I truly believe that many players have used this to their advantage when playing me; to their credit, of course. Who wouldn’t?
This time, I strongly vowed to myself that I would not succumb to such juvenile displays of temper, but would conduct myself in a very professional manner. I am an amateur player, but there were a few pros there, and I strive to be like many of them (especially Oscar – he has the mannerisms of a saint!).
Little did I know, I would be severely tested!
My first match was against Yoli Hakanado, in a race to 7. After losing the lag and the first game, I took the next three. That third win would be the last game I’d win for the rest of the day.
If you are a competition player, you’ve been here before. You’re shooting well, when something happens to make you miss a fairly routine shot. It might have been a miscue, or just a badly judged cut shot. Maybe the cue ball skidded because there was chalk on the ball at just the wrong place. Doesn’t matter; you missed, and you had to sit down.
This usually isn’t a terrible thing. Everyone misses. But then your opponent runs the rack out. Shake it off; it’s just one game out of seven.
He breaks, and doesn’t make a ball. You’re back! See? No big deal. Only now, you have a shot similar to the one you missed in the last game. Better not miss this time! You take more time, thinking about the miss last time, and at the last moment, you over-compensate on your stroke, and you miss again!
This happened to me, and I was seething at this point. I paused for a moment, staring at the ball that missed as if to admonish it for not doing what I told it to do. I remembered my vow, however, and walked calmly to my seat. I looked at my girlfriend and shrugged, and she gave me a sign of encouragement.
This went on for several more games—six, to be exact—until Yoli potted the final 9-ball and sent me to the one-loss side of the bracket.
I broke my cue down and returned to my corner to lick my wounds. At least I wasn’t out, right? Thank goodness for double elimination. Now I’d get to face a fellow “loser.”
For my next match, I was paired up with an 8-handicapped player, Attila Csorba. As he is ranked as a semi-pro, he had to win 8 games to my 7.
I won’t go into much detail here, but one highlight of this match was when I had just two balls left to pocket. The 8-ball was in front of the side pocket, and the 9-ball was in front of the other side. You know the shot: pot the 8, swinging around three rails to put the 9 in. Easy, right? I’ve done this a hundred times.
Only this time, the cue ball went two rails, dropping squarely into the side pocket where the 9-ball was. It seemed that this was the final nail in the coffin.
This time, I went absolutely bananas. I broke my stick over my knee, flipped the table over, and punched a 3-foot diameter hole in the wall. Fortunately, this was all in my mind—at the end of the match, my girlfriend told me she was proud of me for handling my 8-0 loss with grace and dignity.
It was the worst drubbing of my pool career, and I left there feeling like a winner.
Incidentally, when I played in my regular BCA league match the following week, I shot like a champ. It was good to know that that weekend was just a fluke. I’ll get ‘em next time! Nowhere to go but up… right?