Dealing with Downtime

Playing the Hurry-Up-and-Wait Game

Recently, we talked about what to do when you’re not at the table: you must continue to do your job while you are sitting in your chair.

Today, we’ll talk about what to do when you’re not playing, and you are waiting for your next match. Maybe that’s what you’re doing right now, while reading this article!

If you have played in any tournaments, you know what I’m talking about.  Some of them are very well-run, with plenty of tables.  Some are, well, not so well-run, or don’t have enough tables to accommodate all of the players in one round.  Either way, you often have to wait to play your first match – and if you have a first round bye, you might be waiting for a long time.  All that warm-up time before the matches started was for naught, because by the time you get to play, you’re cold again!

So, you finally get to play your game.  The match was a close one, and took an hour and a half to complete, but you won!  Congrats!  Guess what?  You have to play again!  This time, you lose, but because it’s a double elimination format, you are still in it.  You’re off to get a quick sandwich, because boy, are you hungry!  What’s that? They’re calling your name again?!

I know.  I’ve been there too, my friend.  I have also been at the opposite end of the spectrum: I am one of the first players called, and when my match is done, I don’t get called again for 4 hours. YES, 4 hours!

How well have you done during such tournaments?  Are you like my friend Jason Williams, who can jump up at a moment’s notice and run 9-ball racks in his sleep?  Do you shoot well on an empty stomach?  How about when you’ve just wolfed down a burger?  Did you lose badly, then complain to your opponent that you came in cold?

A couple of years ago, I played in the Terry Stonier Memorial at the Jointed Cue in Sacramento, CA.  I’m a middle-of-the-road player, and didn’t expect to win the whole thing, but I wanted to do well.  If you’ve been to the Jointed Cue, you know that they have a back room with stadium seating.  I took advantage of those comfy seats, and took little cat-naps in between my matches.  They announced new matches just a few feet away, so I knew I’d hear them when they called my name.

I managed to get 7th/8th in that tournament.  Each game I played, I felt prepared, and refreshed.  I didn’t rush myself, and was very focused.  Ever since then, I try to get a little cat-nap in whenever I can.  It doesn’t always help, and I don’t always actually sleep.  It’s more like I’m resting and meditating.  I truly believe it helps.

Not everyone is like me.  Jason will go outside and chat with friends, and smoke.  In fact, I rarely see him sit down.  Yet he consistently walks all over his opponents.  Shane van Boening and Rodney Morris will get on any empty table they can find and just keep hitting balls.  They like to keep the engine revving!

If you don’t know what works for you, here are a few suggestions to help you get through the (sometimes) rough tournament schedule:

  • If you know the schedule, plan accordingly. Make sure you stay nourished (food and water), and rested.  I strongly recommend you keep some snacks on hand – a candy bar or two, an energy bar, or some nuts.  Sometimes you’ll have to play three matches in a row, and you’ll need some quick energy to sustain you until you can eat a real meal.  Go to the bathroom when you can.
  • Stay warmed up. If the tournament allows practice between matches and there’s an empty table, hit some balls.  Just stay loose and limber; making a bunch of easy shots helps build your confidence.  If you are having a particular problem with a shot, practice it until you can make it fairly often.  It will help build your confidence as well.
  • Find a comfy viewing spot and watch other matches. If you know who you’re playing next, go watch that match and pay attention to their gameplay.  Study their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Catch a cat-nap. Aurora goes with me to almost every match, so it’s nice to know I can nap and have her wake me when they call me.  Bring one of those airline neck pillows – they are awesome!
  • Have fun! Play some pinball or table tennis while you’re waiting. Chat with your friends.  Play some games on your phone.
  • Clear your head. Walk outside. When you are thinking about your last match, only think of the missed shots as a learning experience. Think about what you could have done better to make it.  Think about some of the really great shots you made, too.  The key is to stay positive.
  • Between tournaments, think about getting into shape. This is a tough sport, and those who are in good shape have a distinct advantage.

There may be many other things you can do between matches to improve your chances of winning.  The key thing here is to remember why you are playing.  Most of us do this because we enjoy it – so enjoy it!  Make sure you figure out what it is that works for you, and try to do it when you can.  Pace yourself, and don’t get discouraged.

Pool is not always about who plays the best.  Sometimes, it’s about who can last the longest.


If you would like to share some of your success stories (or even the failures), or have suggestions for future articles, please feel free to drop me a line at I can also be found hanging out with fellow billiards enthusiasts at Come on by and join the discussion!

Posted in Article, Table Talk, The Break / Rackem / Stroke Magazines