Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pool and Co Workers

A coworker of mine texted me the other day and said he got a table for his house and wanted to know what type of cues he should buy.

Some good ones, but at a decent price.

First, why am I just now hearing about this?? lol.

He said he was searching on Amazon and wanted some advice. 

Wait, Amazon?

So I recommend McDermott and Lucasi, and then suggested a billiards retailer website instead.

He replies with, "I'm looking at this brand, comes with 4 cues, called Valley House.  Are they good?  I don't want professional but a step up from Walmart."

I admit, I was confused and then a tad disappointed.

I looked them up real quick on Amazon - 4 cues for $83.  Not bad for recreational home use.

I told him, "I never heard of them, but just looked them up and they seemed fine to me." 


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Get That Confidence, Honey

A local female player and friend of mine has been posting on Facebook things like, "need to work on my mental game," or "I played good, but still need to figure out my mental game." 

One time she even told me she wouldn't play scotch doubles because she needs more practice with her mental game.

I tried to explain that she needs to get out and play more tournaments to get that, but she didn't play in that tourney.

I do give her LOTS of credit for playing in big tourneys with tough players, though.  While she may not play in doubles events (which I'm still trying to understand), she has played in some tough-ass tourneys against guys.

I saw her in one big tourney back in December and I made it a point to talk to her.  I also shared this info with her husband, hoping he would share this information as well with her.

Basically, I told her that we need to get together and talk.  And that all the things she thinking of, I bet I think of, too. 

And then I couldn't contain my thoughts (LOL) and blurted all this out:

While I'm no expert, I have played many more years than her, so I wanted to share with her how normal her uneasiness thoughts were, or her uncomfortableness was - how normal it really is, even for a player who is as seasoned as moi.

I shared:
  • first of all - look around - how hardly any other females - that shows you care and have guts to play against these guys
  • I am nervous (she looked at me funny).  Yep, I am, too.  It's normal, really.
  • I also shared that it's tough to play in front of large groups because for whatever reason, we think everyone is looking at us (or, are they?)
  • I expressed that it's tough to play when we are thinking about all these people around us
  • I also shared that when I play her, that *I* am nervous.
I was trying to give her some more confidence (which leads to mental toughness).  She has one hell of an 8-ball game and if she got some more confidence, she would do even better in her matches and in league (and maybe play in even more tourneys!).

I wanted to pump her up - make her see how good of a player that she prolly has no idea that she is!  All the while expressing that her internal concerns I have as well, and that she isn't alone.

I think that is a huge sense of relief to know you aren't the only one on the "stage" with "everyone" watching you, and that it's normal to have thoughts of doubt.  Or, at the least, thoughts that distract us from the game at hand.

She isn't alone. 

And once she realizes this, I hope it gives her more confidence (which I don't see why she doesn't already have!), then she will be an even TOUGHER force on the table (yikes, maybe I should stop giving her advice - JUST KIDDING!).  I love her game and her poise at the table.  One of the few good female players out there who also has great character.

I am honestly blessed to know her.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Preparing For a Tourney

I decided to play in an 8 ball bar table tournament last December. 

It really is a tourney way out of my league, but I wanted to get out of the house, be around friends, and also buy some players in the calcutta if I had a chance.

Oh, and I decided to play.

I have played at this location a 1,000 times (leagues, weekly tourneys, big tourneys, playoffs, etc).  And in big tournaments, I usually falter pretty easily.  I get too distracted by my thoughts.

So, the week of the tourney and especially the 30-minute drive to the tourney on that Saturday morning, I prepared myself.  I thought about the things that cost me before, and tried to think about what I could do to prevent it this time to give me a better chance from going 2-and-out like usual, lol.

I told myself to learn from the past and to try and not worry about people around me.  Who is watching, what they are thinking, who I am playing, are people even watching me, people judging my decisions, etc.

This place has a rail around the entire room so it's easy for so many eyes to be on you.  Not that anyone is really watching little 'ole me play, but for some reason at this place it REALLY gets in my head.  And it doesn't help I'm suppose to be a top player in 8 ball, and also one of the few females playing.  So, I do over-think things and let my surroundings get to me there.

So, this time I prepared and thought about it a lot on the drive there that crisp morning, and reminded myself to REALLY REALLY focus on just the game in front of me; just the balls I'm shooting at, not who is watching. 

It is tough after a match when you don't even realize people are watching and someone says, "you should have beat that guy" or something like that. 

So, this tourney, I dressed comfy, had a small breakfast, was prepared mentally to just focus on pool.

I beat a good player my first match who went for about $100 in the calcutta (someone would tell me after I beat him), but I didn't know who he was.  He wasn't very happy with me.  I went hill-hill next match and should have lost but I won after a bad shot by my opponent late in the last game.  Next match I'm up 3-1 and then I lose focus and so it goes hill-hill but I manage to win that match as well.  WOW!

Then I play again and win AGAIN!

I'm 4 matches deep on the winner's side!?  REALLY?  I lose my next two matches but at that point I don't care b/c I'm guaranteed 5th (out of 43 tough players) and wanted to have fun with my friends instead (ooops).   I got an extra $100 for Last Lady... AND a trophy!!  (nice touch by the TD!).

Those pep talks really helped me out before I even got to the tournament.  I'm not saying that's why I placed so high (because I admit I didn't run into a heavy hitter until my 5th match), but I know it for sure helped my frame of mind and my focus!

Here I am below with my cute trophy, and my scotch doubles partner, Greg's (he won the tourney and got one, too):

Friday, January 29, 2016

People Mature and Change

The pool world is actually a very small universe in the universe.  We all know each other and if we stay in the same town, we see each other grow up into mature adults.  Well, most of us, lol.

So it's sad to me that they way we acted when we were immature (young), that "stigma" still carries over into adulthood.

I am even victim sometimes of judging people by their past.

But, I wish none of us did.

Most of the people we know, I mean like 98% of them, grow up and mature and outgrow their (our) stupid immature ways of either throwing temper tantrums, or being rude, or not thinking before speaking (as some examples).

I played scotch doubles with a guy in Vegas for BCAPL Nationals back in the mid 90s.  I didn't play that good back then (hell, neither did he), but he needed us to do well because he needed money.

Well, I didn't play good because I wasn't a good player.  I heard he told a few of my friends (because he was upset) that I "stepped on my dick."

Boy was I mad he was talking about me!  (even tho I didn't know what that meant at the time, lol!  Now I know it means I basically caused us to lose).

But, I was also immature back then so I didn't handle his criticism well or talking about me behind my back very well.

Fast forward 20 years and he played with a friend of mine in Vegas BCAPL Nationals last year.  They got in the money and were a great team together.  I overheard her say, "He's the best partner I've ever had!"


It shows how much he has matured!  He is now loved as a partner.  And he wouldn't dare talk bad about her because he now knows better as he has gotten older.

Yet, I still see people judged for how they used to act.  Although we think we know them still because we've known them for so long, people DO change.  People DO mature (well, most of them).  So, when you see someone from your past, because as we know the pool world is very small and you will run into people you played pool with years and years ago, give them a chance to show they aren't immature anymore.

Maturing is actually a very beautiful thing.  It also FEELS good.  Not only seeing it in others, but ourselves as well.

So, don't badmouth someone you hadn't see in a long time because they acted a fool or mean or rude 10-20 years ago.  Of course, as we mature we already know not to do that badmouthing anymore, too, huh?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Showing Emotion

You know how when we get upset at something or someone that we don't necessarily show our good side?

It's funny how when this happens, when we show we are upset, that it comes across as being a bitch or mean and we are kinda tainted with that image for a very long time.

I pride myself on my character as a pool player; as a representative of the sport.  A good, honest, even-keeled, level-headed player that people look up to (I've been told this, I'm not just making this up, lol).

So, imagine one night when an opponents' b/f is sharking me during league.  (granted - this is MY elevated interpretation of the night)

This particular night, I was playing my little heart out because I was vying for Top Shooter.  Even though it's just a little 'ole league, it is still very important for points, prestige, honors, wins for the team, etc.

This guy was very distracting to me because he came and sat down next to his g/f, where she was seated to play her match against me, and he was also talking to her.  Normally friends or sig others just watch from the team table.  So, it was crowded in our little space and the extra talking was just that more bothersome to me.  I actually spoke up that he should not talk to her during the match; it was bothering me that much.

I over heard him ask her, "did something happen at work?  Because you aren't shooting like you normally do.  You normally stay down better."  (something like that)  Although not technically coaching, it could have helped her figure out what was going on and to adjust.

He said something again and I got super upset.  I didn't throw things or throw a temper tantrum, lol, but my facial expression wasn't one of "oh hey, what a great night this is!"   It was more of a pissed off look I'm sure.  I wasn't smiling or having a good time.

My opponent was gracious and moved to the other end of the table so the boyfriend couldn't speak to her.  She recognized it was bothering me, and she did something about it.  I was impressed.

However, I was still upset.

Mind you - he didn't even realize this isn't proper or that he was bothering anyone.  You could see he just loves her with all his might, and was super sweet to her and wanted to help her and be by her side. 

As I reflect back it was really a miscommunication type of thing of the rules going on, was what it really was.  He meant no harm.  He meant no disrespect at all.  But unfortunately it hit me wrong because it was so difficult to focus with the distractions I'm not used to at league, and I had a lot on the line.

At the end of the night, he came over with her and apologized.  I was still upset and said, "that's coaching and it's not right" (or something like that).  Dammit; I didn't handle that well.  :(

I meant to write about this about 6-9 months ago when this happened but I'm glad I didn't.

Because there is a follow up to that night.

Pretty much, I was put in my place.

Fast forward a few months later and I run into the couple at playoffs.  I went right up to her (not even remembering it was her b/f that upset me that night at league) and told her how much I appreciate her humor on FB.  She is SUPER funny - like over the top hysterical - and I LOVE her funny comments on fb!  So, I wanted to be sure to tell her.

She then proceeds to tell me basically that I was rude that night.  Her b/f tried to apologize and yet I was still rude.

I thanked her for putting me in my place, as that is honestly the last thing I want people to think of me - as rude or a bitch or whatever.  I tried to give my side of the story, too, but I DID hear what she explained to me how I came across.

I think it's ironic I can't show emotion, though, without looking like a bitch.  I was upset that night.  I was mad, actually.  It's already difficult enough to play pool and with people talking and "coaching" going on also, made it a much tougher time for me to really focus and concentrate on the game.  So, I showed emotion.  And now I'm forever tainted as a mean person to them (not forever, lol, but it definitely made them see me in a not so bright light).

I felt bad he got upset that I was rude when he tried to apologize.  I should have been more open and receptive to his apology.  Unfortunately, I was still upset and it's difficult to switch from beng mad to happy so quickly.  But, I wish I would have.

For her to call me on it - kudos to her!  Not many women (well, men or women) would have done that.  They would have just maybe talked behind my back and kept that crappy opinion of me, but she took me aside to talk about the instance to share their side of things.  And also how I came across.

And, we are now friends after that talk (I didn't know her before), which I am very grateful as she a great woman.
It's funny how we try so hard NOT to be that way, but when we have a lot going on in our lives, and trying to play pool being distracted, we don't always remain calm, cool, collected and smiling.  I usually am 96% of the time.  This time I wasn't.  For that, I apologize. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Interesting Gambling Story from 1961

I wrote a couple of days ago about someone who saw her first pool room at 4 years old, and how enamored she was by the event.

I Google the owner of the pool room, Matranga, to see what I could find about the family, and this little gem popped up:


I am going to paste the long story here in case it disappears some day from the URL above, because it's quite a story to read about gambling in 1961:

2-13-12 - Breaking a Fifty Year Old Vow

On the next to last day of my recent stay in Fort Worth, I broke a vow fifty years old, a vow never again to gamble. Since that time five decades ago until the fifth of February this year, I have not wagered any money on a bet, on a flip of a coin, on a card game, on one of many brief stays at Reno, Tahoe, or Las Vegas, not bought a lottery ticket. I can remember one member of the poker game at David Cohen's getting angry at me when I wouldn't join in one night I'd dropped by to say hello. I have never taken advantage of sure thing bets or those I know of that are easy ways to make money because they're counter-intuitive. It's not just because of the vow. I've broken many vows. It's also because I don't have the urge to bet. I don't like competitive games. I don't like to lose but I also don't like that much to win, don't like to get the better of others, would rather not get into that whole thing. But there's also an experience behind the vow that lead me not to gamble since back then, not a penny ever - till Super Bowl Sunday this year.

I made that vow in Henry Matranga's pool hall on a hot day in the summer of 1961. I was sixteen and on the way to my grandmother's house mid afternoon. Since I was going there or by there my mother had given me five dollars to give to her mother - don't remember why - a donation, dues, debt to a yardman. On the way, rather out of the way, I dropped by the pool hall. It was a smoky old place, maybe eight tables all standard, no snooker or billiards, cold drinks and cigarettes available from machines, bad coffee, a couple of pin ball machines, bare walls, hanging florescent lights, a few chairs.

Henry sat on a stool when he wasn't up and around, was bespectacled, looked to be in his seventies, short, welterweight, strict, quiet, but not unfriendly. I remember his son Frank knew my aunt Eleanor in high school, maybe even dated. Henry knew my grandfather to say hello. Maybe that's why he let me and my friends play there even though we were under eighteen. The other customers were always older.

Matranga is an Italian name and there was a small Mafia presence in Fort Worth which at one time I'd heard had earned the nickname Little Chicago - for gambling and prostitution. Even when I was a teenager I'd hear about such things going on in town. The only thing I remember organized crime being involved with in Fort Worth was pinball and vending machines. I didn't understand why. It was hinted that some people in this pool hall were involved with the Mafia. Maybe that was all imagined ambiance but I know I never had to worry about being hassled by toughs there or even near there. I loved going to Henry's to play eight ball, rotation, and smoke.

"One quick game of rotation," I told him. "Just got a dime."

Henry racked the balls himself, quickly and tightly. A man at the next table asked if I wanted to play. I said sure.

"How about eight ball?" he said.


Henry heard and re-racked for eight ball.

"Play for a dollar?" the man asked.

I'd seen him play there before. He was a salesman from the neighboring Montgomery Wards headquarters building. He was better than me. I've never been very good at pool.  "Loser pays," I said.

We played a game of eight ball. He won. I reached into my pocket for the dime, handed it to Henry.

"Eight ball's fifteen," he reminded me.

"Oh yeah." I reached in some more. Nothing. "Play you for a nickel," I said to the man who'd just beat me and handed Henry the five dollar bill. He gave me $4.95 in change.

It was very important that I give this five dollar bill to my grandmother. I had to win this game. My mother would not approve of me giving Granny four ones and ninety-five cents in change. Granny wouldn't like it either. This guy wasn't that much better than me. I'd almost won the game before. I lost that next game badly though. I gave Henry another fifteen cents.

I calculated. "Play you for a quarter," I said. Loser pays was understood. Needed that fiver back.
He won again. Darn. Gave Henry another fifteen cents. That left me with $4.65 and a 30 cent debt. "Play you for 65," I said. He nodded.

I almost won that game. "That's ninety-five," he said. "Wanna quit?"


Gave Henry another fifteen cents. Counted my change while he racked. Darn. If I don't get that five back Mother will kill me I thought. Granny will scold but mother might get irrational, out of hand. She's really very nice but, little things like this sometimes can ignite her (back then). Hmm. Got $4.50 and so that's 50 plus 95 equals 145. "Play you for a dollar forty-five."

He laughed. "OK."

I choked bad on that game. Was ahead and missed a super easy shot. My hand was shaking. "That's two hundred and forty pennies my friend," said the salesman. He was enjoying it. Gave Henry another fifteen cents. I had $4.35 left and owed $2.40. Sixty-five and 240 is... is 305. "How about three bucks and a nickel?" We were on.

"Rotation?" I said. Maybe another game would change my luck. Henry looked up. The salesman nodded.

He broke. He'd broken every game except the first. Winner breaks. I was sweating. I still had enough to pay up if I lost this game, But then I'd have to face the consequences at Granny's and then at home. Sounds like no big deal now. But remember inflation. According to the Inflation Calculator on DollarTimes.com, five dollars in 1961 was worth $36.77 in 2011. So it's like you gave your kid or friend or whatever forty bucks to pay a debt and they gambled it away en route. Add that to the uh... importance of attending to details and the value placed on property and money in my family, and that sweat on my brow is more understandable. Don't get me wrong. My mother was generous and not a penny pincher. She just wasn't cool with wanton waste and household misdemeanors.
Only the fifteen ball remained. I had a shot. Missed. He missed. I had a better shot. Missed. He had a difficult shot. Banked it in.

Moment of decision.

"I gotta get back to work," he said as I gave Henry a dime. The salesman was waiting for his money.

"Three o five," I said.

"No," he said. "Three o five plus the 240 from before." That's five and... forty-five."

Uh oh. Forgot to add that. I counted my change. Owed $5.45. Only had a quarter and the four bills. No. Damnit. No. Let's see. Wow. No. I don't have it. What to do. Mind blank then spinning, grasping at mental straws. Pretend I think it's in the car then come back in and apologize and bring it to him tomorrow. Embarrassing. He'll be okay. Dread to do that. And then there's still no five dollar bill for Granny. I paused looking down. Looking for excuses to bring instead of the five dollar bill, finding none.

"One more game."

"OK. One more. Then I really gotta go."


"Rack 'em Henry," he said.

Henry was already taking the balls from the wall  and placing them in the triangular rack.

"Play you for six twenty."

"Six twenty," he laughed and nodded. "You've sure got some system."

Henry looked at me and shook his head a little. I think he knew what was up.

These old tables of course weren't the type that swallow balls. In eight ball we'd leave the balls in the leather netted pockets, moving one to another pocket if it got too full. With rotation we'd line them up on the wall on narrow shelves scooped to match the form of the balls so they wouldn't roll off. His balls were on the top shelf and mine on the next. Henry had  been looking at these rows of balls for decades and could tell you the sum of your row in a glance. Naturally in rotation the player whose balls add up to the highest number wins.

I was not doing well in this game. The salesman had a bunch of balls on his shelf  I hardly had any. There were five balls left on the table, mostly the highest number balls. I was getting numb all over with fear. Fear of two women in my family and now fear of the salesman and Henry too. He didn't like any funny business in his establishment. If I lost this I'd be over eleven dollars short. A lot of money back then.

I was wishing I could walk back in the room and redo this whole scenario. If I'd just played rotation instead of eight ball the first game, I could have paid with my dime and driven off care free but no, now I'm anything but care free. I'm the polar opposite of care free. More like polar bear opposite, polar bears that can rip your face off and suck the marrow out of your bones.

"Your shot," the salesman reminded me looking at his watch.

I looked at the table. Henry walked by and looked at the balls in the rack. "Which are you?" he asked.
"I'm the lower shelf," I said.

He looked at the table. "You've got to sink every ball on the table to win," he said and walked off.
I looked at the five balls on the table. I was stuck on a cliff and they were the rocks below. I heard the winds of panic rustling. I felt the like crying, like collapsing. But I didn't. I gathered myself. I pulled in all my forces. I spoke directly then to the highest on high mind of mind, and I prayed sincerely.
When most people think of prayer, I gather they think it's something you do to some other being somewhere that has power, usually a supreme being that has all the power and one asks that supreme being for whatever one wants. Please let me live, I don't want to die, for instance. I had a comparable feeling, but I wasn't raised on that type of prayer. I was raised on prayer being rooted in one's oneness with absolute perfect mind that was the one core truth of life, life beyond the material universe. So I didn't say, please god, let me win. I just directed a most sincere request as high, as deep, as subtle, as intimate as I could, and said silently in my mind, "If I sink all five of these balls, I will never gamble again."

Without pausing to reflect on the significance of the moment, I rubbed the green chalk cube on the round leather cue tip,  put my left hand on the white chalk cone and shook off the excess, placed that hand on the table with the business tip of the cue stick slid through the ring created by index finger and thumb resting on middle finger splayed out with the other two, sighted the ball with the lowest number, and pulled back my right hand which gripped the butt of the cue. All the fear and trembling dropped away. Just about everything dropped away except for my ability to stand, hold the pool cue and shoot.

This recent Super Bowl Sunday a few friends came over to mother's house in Fort Worth. Carl brought fajitas he'd made at home. Warren brought a salad and chips. Jackie brought a raw vegetable assortment with dip. John showed up - I told him not to bring anything. Jerry dropped by. Mother sat with us. We talked. Warren was in the kitchen getting the salad tossed and tortilla chips with cheese heated. Carl got out a piece of paper and drew horizontal and vertical lines. It was a Super Bowl pool. Each square represented a meeting place of two different scores. Each square cost a dime. There were lots of empty squares. To heck with it. I didn't want to be a Super Bowl pool pooper. I went to my room and got eight dimes, threw them in the hat and marked eight squares with DC. I lost it all.
It's been a good vow. I'm still thankful for it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

First Encounter With a Pool Room

I was on a shuttle bus hitching a free ride between Bally's and The Rio for the BCAPL National Championships tourney back in July (2015).

It was a little wait and there was a lot of people needing that free ride as well between the strip and The Rio.

Got to talking to a couple who saw my pool case and we swapped where we were from, and yes they were heading to watch friends play in matches at the Rio.

When I told them I was from Fort Worth, the females' face all of a sudden lit up with excitement!  She was all smiles and excited to share this story with me:

She went to her first pool room as a child in Fort Worth at a pool room in Montgomery Plaza.  This is what it looked like back then:

 It has since been converted into a lot of restaurants, condos, and shops (that I happen to visit often):

As she told the story, I envisioned the grey Montgomery Wards building I had seen closing down 15 years ago (if you are old enough to remember those stores). 

She said the pool room was near the Montgomery Wards and it was owed by a local mafia-type family, the Matranga Family.

But it was the way she described her "encounter" with the pool room that made me appreciate the affect it had on her.

She was only 4 years old, and this over over 60 years ago she said.

She visited the pool room at such a young age, that her Dad had to lift her above the railing to see the tables, and when he did that....

"all I saw was felt.  And it was amazing!"

She paused and you could see her remembering the moment in her eyes:

"There was no music.  No food.  It was very, very quiet.  They had seven tables.  It was so beautiful, all that felt.  And it was very serious, like church."

"And I've been hooked on the game ever since by what I saw that magical day,"  she shared.

How cool is that first encounter with a pool room she had at such a young age?!