Thursday, July 16, 2020

From The Cueist - His Thoughts on Pool and the Pandemic

I told The Cueist and Katniss just last week that if they wanted material in their sections of the blog, they would need to write about it. I have been teleworking since mid March and my workload has increased substantially due to COVID and therefore I haven’t had time to mentally add creative writing into my repertoire. 

I wasn’t sure how they would respond.

But, luckily, they each said they had things they wanted to write about!  WHEW!

The Cueist was first:

I definitely don't mind giving a short dissertation at times. [LOL]

I do want to talk about the current pandemic closings and pool. Moreso, the ability to play or even the urge to play while keeping safe....let me ‘splain. 
 
Personally, I haven't hit a ball since March 16th, when I was still at the BCA in Vegas. That's exactly 4 months to the day today. I don't think I've gone this long without hitting a ball, ever! Sure, there's some chances to go out and play here or there, at some of the pool rooms that have been open for action, or sporadic tourneys. But it's such a tough decision for me not to go play right now. I don't worry about myself contracting Covid-19, but I worry about my parents contracting it all because I was being selfish and wanting to go play pool.
 
Not sure if you heard, but there was a small breakout of Covid within the pool community here in my state within the last few weeks. And prior to that, there was another breakout in a city close by. The first breakout seemed to center around a small, private poolroom that was open for action during the pandemic. It was being frequented every day by at least 30 different people in a small space. One person got symptoms, and then another, and then another. Next thing you know, six people that I personally know tested positive. I kept being invited to go play and get into action. But, I said no every time. Of course, my friends have ribbed me the whole time, but I'm having to set my pride aside for my family. In fact, one of the guys I know well was in direct contact with all six people and never showed symptoms. But, all of a sudden, his wife had symptoms and tested positive. Then their daughter showed symptoms too. But yet, he never once thought about staying home. Clearly he was in contact with the virus at some point, so he was obviously an asymptomatic carrier, or already had it. 
 
In that other city, one of the pool rooms finally was able to open, but then only for about a week or two. On the one Sat night it was open, though, there were a few big matches going on (about four matches, so eight players). Of course, there was also about 15-20 spectators that were in/out of the place that night. Shortly after that, about seven people tested positive, and another four showed symptoms but didn't get tested. They simply treated the symptoms. Again, I was invited to go due to me betting, but I turned down the invite and stayed home. One of the guys literally told me that the symptoms that he experienced can give the flu symptoms the 6-out (gotta love the pool talk). And he wished that he had never gone to the pool room. And as a result of him being sick, his brothers had to cancel plans to go to their family out of state for a week for fear of possibly getting them sick. 
 
So, I'm in limbo as far as pool is concerned. Of course, I miss the friends, the camaraderie, the banter, the competition. And I'm dying to go out and play when friends invite me. And I want to get in action myself, as much as everyone else. And quite frankly, it's killing me not going! Last year, I put in a lot of work on my game. And it showed (finally) by consistently doing well on the local tour and big tourneys, and action. And my Fargo improved by almost 50 points in a span of 8 months. I feel like all of that work is down the drain now. And I'm not sure if I want to go back to trying to improve again after all of this. Only time will tell I guess.
 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

How Will You Fair After the Pandemic?

I've been thinking about how pool players' games will be after the pandemic. Specifically, after the pool rooms open, will your game go down because you didn't get to hit balls or play in tournaments?  Or will it go up because you worked on some things?  Or, will it be the same?

Here's my take:  

It is about the person; not the environment.

Are you surprised by my opinion?

It really does depends on YOU.  Let's look at some examples:

  • Are you the type that NEEDS to hit balls to stay in stroke?  
    • If so, then if you got to hit balls during the pandemic (have your own table at home or visited a friend often who had one), then your game is probably going to be the same. Lucky you!  As many will not fair as well.
    • If you did not get to hit balls, then don't be frustrated if your game goes down a little when things open back up. Just know that it's normal and begin to hit balls again to get in stroke.
  • Maybe you are new to the game and didn't really practice before?
    • Therefore, no practice during the pandemic means your game will most likely be about the same. Pretty cool. huh?
  • What if you didn't have access to a pool table? 
  • Are you the type that has great fundamentals and a solid pre-shot routine?
    • If you are, then even if you didn't hit one ball, you will still be playing well when the pool rooms open. I promise!
  • And what if you didn't do a damn thing (lol), and you notice your game went up? 
    • This is actually normal as well. Sometimes taking a break can be a really great thing for your pool game. But, it's hard to take breaks when you have leagues to play in or tournaments to attend. The pandemic kinda forced us into the "break" many could have used to improve.
So you see - it's not your environment, but what you did and/or what type of player you were before the pandemic.

Let me give a really drastic example, to help my point:

I do not know if you know any pool players that went to prison or not, but if you have, then this will make sense. Pool players that are strong on the table and top of our game, if they happen to find themselves in jail/prison for a long time, they will come out a strong player still, even without ever hitting a ball or learning more about pool while they were there. If they were a mediocre player going in, and they loved the game so much that they worked on their stroke by trying to shoot into an invisible coke bottle (or maybe something illegal, lol). then their game will be UP when they get back to society.  


Same goes for the players who practice their stroke while in jail/prison. HOw do you do that without a pool table? You now how sometimes we get down in our stance to see if maybe our shirt rides up too high in the back, or if the shirt is too tight in the shoulders?  We get in our stance and stroke several times on an imaginary pool table to figure it out. Those who practice those strokes a lot in their environment, esp when they have no other way to improve, will fair well. As a matter of fact, pre-shot routines have improved after jail (or a pandemic, you'll see), if they practiced their stroke a lot over a chair or bed, or whatever.  

Here is something to really think about: when you practice your stroke on an invisible, imagery pool table, have you ever jumped up on your shots?  Shot too fast?  Exactly!  No you didn't.  Now you can understand how it would actually improve your game.

Again - it's about the PERSON, not the environment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Damn You, Poker

Let's be honest. Most pool players are jealous of poker.

Not jealous of poker players, but jealous of the sport of poker.

We (us pool players) have yearned and begged and pleaded and tried so hard, literally for decades, for pool to have some mainstream attention.

Back in the 60s, pool was on tv. Regular tv!  But that went by the wayside. The WPBA put pool back on the airwaves and we saw pro players (female, even!) play pool on cable - ESPN - no way!

There wasn't a ton of those hours of pool on ESPN, but we didn't care - it was still on tv for several years!

Then here comes poker.

We all like poker, some of us even love poker... but it took off on tv. It was welcomed and loved and cherished and showcased, even though poker still has the same image as pool. You know, 'bad men in smokey rooms playing for money.'  Yet, poker excelled while pool is still left behind.

We all know that the lure of poker on tv is because a "nobody" can all of a sudden win millions. MILLIONS. Now, I wont understand why pool didn't have the same backing or investments, but it is what it is.

Let's face it, skill on the pool table is different on the poker table.  While both have mental and physical exhaustion and both have skills, it's simply plain easier for recreational players to play poker.  100 guys would rather play poker than pool, right?  Plus, there aren't pool rooms in casinos, but there are poker rooms. We can't compete with that.

But, I'm even more pissed at poker right now!

(I know, you are glad I'm finally getting to my point, lol).

Here we are in the middle of a pandemic. I never in a million years thought those words would come out of my mouth, but here we are. We can't leave our homes safely, we can't shop, some of us can't go to work, schools are closed (what?), and of course pool rooms are closed.

And what about poker?  Yep, the poker rooms are closed as well.

But guess what?

Peckers, I mean poker players, are doing just fine during the pandemic!

WTF?!

While us pool players may be able to play at home IF we have a home table, we still cannot play in leagues, all the State tournaments have been cancelled, even national tournaments have been cancelled. We can't play in tours or weekly tournaments.  Are hands are tied due to the pandemic.

But poker?

Oh, nooooo.

Poker continues to be special.

Why do I say that?

Just look at the recent headlines and see for yourself:
  • "Online poker tourney sets records amid pandemic"
  • "Poker Sites See Surge in Activity During Lockdown"
  • "Online Poker at All Time High"
  • "Online Poker Surging Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic"
  • "Poker Reaches Record Traffic During Coronavirus"

Poker has upped us again because it can be played online.  Damn you, Poker.  Surge in Activity they are writing. Record traffic during pandemic they are headlining.

/puke/


Monday, April 6, 2020

Work on Your Pool Game During Pandemic

First off, I hope all of you are doing well. I bet you feel like I do, like the pandemic has hijacked our lives.

Besides the upheaval of our normal lives, what about my pool game??

Because it's important to do activities that lower stress and anxiety, it goes right along with some ideas I wanted to share to keep your game up while you might be required to "Stay-At-Home" due to the pandemic.

If you don't have a table at home:
  • Work on your stroke by trying to get your cue tip consistently into a coke bottle. This can be done at home without a pool table.
  • Run a rack in your head. Imagine yourself breaking, then staying down for each shot and try to run out. Use English and get good shape, all in your mind, all as you try to run the entire rack in your head. Warning, this isn't easy! And don't just run the rack fast in your head, but run it with dedication to each shot. Give each shot the attention it deserves (just like on a pool table). This is a great technique to imagine your pre-shot routine on every shot, stay down, and helps train your brain to focus.
  • Speaking on running racks. One the most helpful things I like to do (and my most favorite) is to think about is that one particular game of a match that I stayed down so well on every shot, in front of a crowd, making all shots with a smooth stroke, feeling calm and confident. Maybe that time you were 'in the zone." You can picture your own certain match/game right now, right? Really focus on it and remember the feelings, the sounds, how your shoulders were not tight because you didn't feel pressure, you stayed down really well, smooth stroke, you felt good, etc. Thinking about your own great game or match you played well, helps solidify your pre-shot routine (I promise!).
  • Use dumbbells regularly to build your arm muscles.  This helps your stroke be more solid.
  • Watch matches on YouTube. Search billiards. Or maybe check out the CSI YouTube Channel which will keep you busy for DAYS.
  • Oh, hey - read part of those pool books you haven't ever opened. Or, if you don't have one, finally order one online!
  • I would also reach out to pool friends. We may not talk about pool, but with league paused and tournaments delayed, it's important to connect with our pool friends.
  • If you have an extra billiards towel or fabric, make your face mask out of it! Show your love of our sport.

If you have a table at home:
  • Practice "Carom Nine" (see rules at bottom of this page). Helps you learn carom shots in a fun yet frustrating way, lol. (basically, the object ball must make first contact with the cue ball to count as a legal shot, the goal being to carom the object ball into a pocket or into another ball.)
  • This is a good time to work on your break. Practice it. Get it down pat. It's the opening shot - it's an important part of the game a lot of us don't give enough attention to.
  • Speaking of breaks, practice your break using different racks if you have them - magic rack, accu-rack, and also regular wooden/plastic racks from the pool room.  
  • Play opposite handed. That's fun!
  • Play one-handed. Even tougher!

I know there are a ton other things, but hopefully this gets you started to ease stress AND work your game.

Stay safe my friends! We will get through this together.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Saturday Night Out Lessons

I was conversing with a friend of mine at the end of last year, who is also a frequent contributor to billiard magazines. We chat every so often comparing notes and sharing ideas.
 
After we discussed our most recent interactions with certain players for our respective magazines, he shared he had recently played pool (I thought he hadn't played in quite some time, so I leaned in towards the little chat window, anxious to see what he would type next.
 
"On a side note, " he started out, "I'm starting to get the Jones to play again. I actually got out on Saturday and played in a tourney. "
 
He then shared a photo of him and another player. They were holding up 20 dollar bills like a fan, lol. Then as I looked closer, I realized my colleague had more 20s than other player next to him - he placed first! My colleague is an introvert and shy (especially with photos), but I could see happiness and accomplishment on his face.
 
"Not bad for someone who has played in maybe two tourneys in the last 12 months, " he quipped.
 
"WOW! Look at you!" I gasped. I was so happy for him! Then added, "Sometimes breaks are really good for our game," not knowing I was foreshadowing his next comment.
 
He asks me, "Tell me if this makes any sense. I am a Fargo 560 and my buddy is right around 590-600, depending on the day. When I decided to go play, I didn't tell him because I knew he would come out to watch. I wanted a chance to play without feeling that I had to play up to his rating. "
 
We have all been through this right?
 
We sometimes play better in front of certain people, or sometimes play worse in front of others. Are we showing off, trying to prove something, being over confident, or on the contrary, are we afraid to be play bad in front of our friends, or feel embarrassed if we lose, etc.
 
The "clear" atmosphere allowed him to finally JUST PLAY POOL. I talk about this a lot, but that's what he did this Saturday night. He played pool! No distractions. No considering how he plays because his friend was there. Just played pool.
 
Again, mental distractions (whether we are aware or not) can keep us from just playing pool, and giving our best on every shot.
 
But wait!
 
He had more to share about his Saturday night escapade:
 
He continued, "I also told myself that contributing to a billiard magazine doesn't mean that every table is a Cosmo for me, and it's okay to have to stop and study, work out a plan, and bear down trying to make it happen. "
 
Uh, what?
 
He lost me.
 
I asked him to explain.
 
"I sometimes get the idea that since I watch a ton of top level pool to get ready to contribute to the mag, that it should be easy for me to run out on a bar box and that I shouldn't have to ever stop and study a table or shot for more than a few seconds."
 
Oh wow, what a great reminder! Sometimes we get too cocky or maybe lazy about our game. Don't get too comfortable or think you know the game enough to not study the table or take your time. Every match give it your all and don't presume you can slack off on planning or looking at options.
 
Congrat's to my colleague! (leave your buddy home more often and take your time, haha!)
 
Stay safe out there, fellow players; social distance.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Not Afraid to Fail or Succeed - Tips

One of my friends mentioned he tried to leave a comment on my blog.  I asked him for which post, and he said the one about not seeing results.  I didn't see the comment through Blogger, but luckily he gave me the Cliff Notes version:
"It is harder to get tournament results now than it’s ever been... Players are just flat out better now than they were 25 years ago and there are so many more of them. No result is guaranteed. The guys that do consistently well are the ones who put in the work."

Good point!

However, I then keyed in on his final sentence:  “The guys that do consistently well are the ones who put in the work.”  

The reason why, is because he himself has been finishing higher than I’m used to seeing on the tour he plays on. You all know my curiosity, so of course I asked him about it (smile).

I asked him, “Does this mean you are putting in work? You are placing higher than before, and more consistently – not just lucky or random high finishes.”

I was expecting his normal witty repartee, but instead he was serious.  And the info was really eye-opening.  I'm excited to share this conversation with you all!
“I practice at the house before big tournaments. But, what has happened to me is my whole outlook has changed. I just play... Very aggressive and confident. And I don’t quit. LOL.”

“That's really awesome,” I told him. Then asked, him why he starting doing that.

He replies,
“Life... LOL. I’m not a wound-up person, so I can just concentrate on playing. I’m not afraid to shoot anything anymore because the result of any given shot means very little to my life. I know that sounds fatalistic and yet weird, but it works for me. I like playing and I like competing, but the truth is: the results mean nothing to me or my life. I used to be afraid both to fail and to succeed. Now I’m neither.”

Interesting, right?

I then asked him what made him decide to start playing that way.

He explains,
“It’s that fear thing. I used to be so afraid to fail. Now I’m not. And, truth be told, I’m a more talented and polished player now at age 51 than I have ever been.” (he has great fundamentals he’s worked on for years and they are very solid now.)

I prodded more, “Did you wake up and realize that? Or just figure that out one day?”

He said,
“It just kinda happened. No figuring. It just seemed silly to be afraid to lose a pool game. Or afraid to win one for that matter. Funny thing is I still have little moments of crisis of confidence. But they don’t last long and the balls keep going in whether I have them or not. No explanation for that. 
Observation about confidence: Am I playing well because I’m confident or am I confident because I’ve reached a predictable level of playing well??

Hmm, good internal questions.

I then asked him one final thing about this really intriguing discussion, “How long ago did this change in thinking start?”
“Let’s see. I guess I really first felt it about a year ago. Maybe around the time I realized I was at a terrible job with not much hope for better.  I just know that when I turned my life over to a certain feeling of resignation it carried over to my pool playing and all fear was gone. No fear of losing, no fear of embarrassment, and no fear of winning even. It somehow freed me to just play. And to play a style that I enjoy. Because I was resigned to the fact that none of it really mattered.”

He added, “I doubt that makes sense.”

Actually, it does.  And SO wanted to share this with you all.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Drinking and Pool, Lessons from Katniss and the Cueist

I thought I’d do something a little fun and different. I asked the same questions to The Cueist (the pool player of The Cueist Project section of my blog) and Katniss (the pool player of the Project Hunger Games section of my blog) about a certain theme to get their thoughts.  You know, to compare notes and all.

Being sober for almost 3 ½ years now, I realize it probably doesn't make sense that the first theme would be about drinking and playing pool, lol, but here we go!

All three of us used to drink while playing pool (the Cueist and I more than most, haha). But, drinking (while playing pool) had lessened for me towards the end of my pool journey as I became more successful, and so I wanted to know if it had for them as well, along with the any positive (or negative) impacts.

The first question was, “Do you ever take a drink to calm nerves? If so, do you still do that? Do you think it's effective?”

Katniss:
When I cannot calm my nerves, yes, I will take a shot. I actually did this in the first tournament of the year. I was playing a young lady that was just bouncing around the table making all her balls. For some odd reason, my breathing exercises were not helping me. I took a break (you are allowed one per match) and as I passed the bartender, I ordered a ‘Jose Cuervo dressed and chilled’ as I walked by.  I went to pee, came back out, and my shot was ready. I downed it right then and there and then went to continue the match. I was calm within 10 minutes. I ended up winning that match. And, that was the only alcohol I had during that 14-hour marathon that day.

And what about you, Cueist?  Do you ever take a drink to calm nerves? If so, do you still do that? Do you think it's effective?

The Cueist:
When I joined a new league team awhile back, we would always drink throughout the day during events. I'd get nervous, and thought I needed a drink to calm down. That was the captain’s way of coping with the nerves, and I thought the same thing. But that was more of a crutch, a habit, that I had developed over the years. Instead, I tried focusing on my breathing, PSR (pre-shout routine), and just having fun in order to get rid of the nerves.  
At an end of a season tournament recently, I heard from some of my teammates that they believed that since our team drank every league night, that we'd all drink that weekend, too.  Some of the players didn’t want to do that (I know, it doesn't make sense!).  But, a few of us made a pact to stay sober the entire time while we played. Once the matches were over for the day, we'd have a drink if we wanted to (okay, most of us wanted to, lol). We kept up the 'not drinking' during pool playing - with the exception of when we made it the finals - some of them needed a drink to calm down apparently. But personally, I didn't feel any more nerves without having a drink of alcohol. So, it justified that it was simply a crutch.

And then I asked them, “Do you feel you drink less, now that you are more successful in your pool game?”

Katniss:
I take my game more serious now, so yeah, I don’t drink as much. 
“Go on,” I nudged:

Katniss:
When I first started playing pool, I was excited to get out and get to hang out with other players and drinkers. Eventually I joined a league. The whole atmosphere was very new to me, but I loved it.  At one point early on, I won a few games over a couple of weeks (even though I was a true beginner), and I liked that feeling! So, I took my game more seriously.  
At some point, they made me the “anchor” for that same league team. One night I was buzzed and I missed the winning ball! (a shot that I make more often than not). I lost the match for our team. That feeling I did NOT like. Ever since then, I don’t drink as MUCH. Maybe 2 beers only.
I prodded some more:

“So, do you think you became MORE cognizant about not combing drinking and playing pool in the last few years because your game has improved so much?  Or, did that first anchor experience start you on that journey?”

Katniss:
Both, actually. I want my mind and concentration to be clear and strong for the amount of energy it takes to compete. I think many players forget that...that alcohol interferes with energy. 
Additionally, I feel like I should maintain a certain level of professionalism because I have some women tell me sometimes that they want to play like me. Or, “Wow, I want to be like you when I grow up.”  While that makes me blush, it is a positive culprit for me to drink less. Besides, I don’t want to become a cocky drunk that thinks they are unbeatable. Alcohol makes us fearless, right?

I asked the same question to The Cueist:

Do you feel you drink less, now that you are more successful in your pool game?

The Cueist:
You know that saying "dress for the job you want?" Well, it kinda goes along with that. While I don't necessarily have the want to be a full-time pro player, I started noticing something last year. There is a guy from Texas (Justin Espinoza) who was the one that made me notice it, actually. He used to drink at all the tourneys, etc. While he's such a great player nowadays, he made it a point to quit drinking while playing pool. And his performances in tourneys immediately jumped up a bit during that time. He kept hashtagging "soberpool," and it was one of those things that I just kinda kept in the back of my mind. 
That was it?

The Cueist:
Well, no, lol. In Vegas one year, I noticed that most, if not all, of the top pros don't even touch alcohol while playing. Why? Because it's their job to play pool. And you don't want to be impaired while doing your job. Sure, they were all hanging out at the bars at the end of the day, but while they were playing they did not drink.
Bottom line is that drinking and pool is one of those things that goes together like peanut butter and jelly. But if you want to progress and play at a high level, you really need to have your full focus on the match at hand. And any bit of alcohol will impair that focus. While I don't plan on trying to be a top pro or anything like that, I do have a goal to be move up in my league standings this year. And that means focusing as much as possible, to give myself the best chance to win. Drinking can wait till I'm done playing matches for the day.

Thank you to the Cueist and Katniss for your insight and experiences! You will help others with your honesty, and for that I am thankful.



Monday, March 9, 2020

When You WERE a Better Player

Last week I wrote about how sometimes players who don't cash a lot throughout the years might quit playing pool due to their disappointment and frustration. Today I would like to talk about players that used to cash (that no longer do) who feel similar.

It has to be very frustrating for players of any sport who used to play well, who no longer do. At what point do they decide to throw in the towel? Or, do they just continue to play anyway? Struggling and limping along.

I’d like to share part of a convo I had with someone about this, that puts this into perspective (imho).  I will let his words speak for themselves, instead of me interpreting them. 

I’m taking break, and stop going to tournaments. I am going to hit balls at the house and kinda find myself with regards to my pool game. I need to relearn how to focus and also just hit enough balls that making them becomes automatic again. My lack of confidence and struggling is just making me not have fun. Same thing happened with golf - in high school I was a champion…now I don’t play, yet I still expect to play the same. Same with a couple of other sports I used to dominate. 
I guess I should just accept this fate that I suck because I don’t practice. But, I’d rather just quit than accept being “less than.” But, then I go back to thinking “well, those good players play for a living or at least hang out in a bar every day. I can’t do that, but I have a good life otherwise….so, so what if I suck?”

I suggested one of my blog topics (learn to refocus), and some other tips. I was trying to get him off of the “I’m going to quit pool ledge.” But any attempt at advice was not heard by him. And it made sense, actually.

He is a seasoned sports player. He has played enough different types of sports throughout the years to understand what he should probably do. And no advice for me was going to keep him from quitting pool, solving his frustrations, or giving him an any 'aha' moment.

After my feeble attempt with advice, he replies:

Ahhh…here’s the problem. I’ll admit I’m ambitious and that you are logical in your advice and statements. My problem is that I can’t settle for what may be this moments reality. You see, I honestly believe that I have the potential to play top speed. Call me crazy (I’m totally ok with that). I do however know first hand that to perform at a world class level, then you must put in the work. So, that’s my logic and excuse. Basically, I believe I’m a top player, but without the time to practice or perform as they do. Hopefully this doesn’t sound too “prickish or egotistical” That’s why I often speak of humility, as I have to make a conscious effort to keep my ego in check.
Not prickish at all, right? Just ownership of his thoughts and feelings.


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

When You Don't Improve...

I've been playing pool in Texas for close to 30 years. And I always wondered what happened to those female players that I used to see playing on the Texas tours. The ones that really loved the game, but didn't cash a lot or make it to Sunday.  Where did they go?

Players either eventually improve, or they don't. Right? 

My heart tells me I think they sadly realized they weren't advancing enough and they got frustrated spending money and traveling with no success to show for it.  They may have got discouraged and didn't think they played good enough anymore to continue spending the money to attend all the out of town tournaments.

A lot of players, no matter if they improve or not, love the camaraderie of our amazing sport!  They will continue to travel and play in tournaments, even if they aren't a good player and hardly ever cash. But.... not everyone will continue to do that.

Obviously, there could be many other very life-changing reasons why players stop attending tournaments, which have nothing to do with skill-level.  Family life, moved, health reasons, new career, etc. 

But I'm not talking about those players. 

I'm talking about the ones who didn't finish well most of the time. There were too many players throughout the years that stop playing that makes me think they didn't have the passion for the sport anymore because they just weren't successful. That hurts my heart to say it out loud!

Now, you all know I like to be very honest and transparent in my blog, so let me tell you that I am one of those ladies. 

I really am.

However, my sport wasn't pool, my sport was poker.  I was myopic for sure.

(Because I wrote about poker yesterday, thought I'd share some more about my experience with that sport.)

I used to play poker a lot at Winstar (a casino on the border of Texas/Ok). I really loved the camaraderie and the socialization! I loved that I got to know all the dealers, waitresses, and many of the 'regular' poker players who played at Winstar often.  I just loved the whole entire atmosphere, really. The clanking of chips, the bad beats, talking to the players at the table, etc. My extrovert personality really came out in that atmosphere for some reason; I was very comfortable.

Winstar had 46 tables (now they have more) so it was a HUGE poker room!  My ex and I would go all the time. It was definitely an addiction.

But, just like pool players get the pool bug, I definitely got the poker bug. However, I didn't know what I was doing, mostly socializing, and especially drinking too much.

After those two to three dedicated years of (mostly having fun and) playing poker, I slowed down substantially after we broke up. I have played maybe only twice a year since then.

Every once in awhile I played pretty good, but I still didn't really know the game. I left 90% of the time without money in my pocket, and therefore only 10% of the time with money.

I didn't put any effort in to improve my knowledge. I only read part of one book.  I only occasionally watched poker on TV.  I didn't study the game at all.  My recent ex-boyfriend (MM) gave me some tips and also friends throughout the last ten years gave me some tips, but because I haven't worked to put in any effort to improve, and I hardly play anymore, I am not a good poker player at all. 

I don't love the game anymore. Instead, all it's done is made me realize that I wasted A LOT of money the last 10 years (trying) to play poker and I really, truly didn't know what I was doing.

I don't play poker anymore just like those ladies don't play pool anymore. It's disheartening to not cash most of the time, so I understand. 

So, I understand in a very direct way, why maybe some of those women stepped away from pool.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Poker Tell-Tale Signs and Pool

When I am playing poker, it's very natural for me to start flipping the chips in front of me.  I can flip them over each other between my fingers (called the "Thumb Flip"), either one handed or both hands at the same time. I can also merge two stacks of poker chips together with one hand (called "The Shuffle"). 

Here is the "Thumb Flip":



And here is the "Shuffle":



I know how to do this because around 2011 I played poker about twice a month for two years straight at Winstar (a very large casino on the border of Texas and Oklahoma). I saw players flip chips and stack chips with one hand all the time. So, as I would sit there waiting in-between rounds, I practiced those moves.  I got better at flipping chips than playing poker, lol!  But, it's still something that's pretty cool I can do.

I went to Vegas in February for my 50th birthday (yes I turned 50!), and every time I played the carnival-type table table games (like deuces wild, crazy 4 poker, ultimate Texas hold'em, high card flush, etc), I would flip the chips or stack my chips in front of me with one hand, strictly out of habit.

However, when I played live poker in the poker room on the last night I was in Vegas, I stopped myself from flipping or stacking chips, like I would normally do.  Instead, I just left them all alone (poor things!). A few times throughout the three hours I would catch myself about to flip the chips, then stop and set them back down casually in front of me.

The reason I did this is because I did not want my table mates (i.e. opponents/enemy) to know I knew how to play poker. I know, flipping chips isn't a sign I'm good at poker, lol, but it IS an indication I've been around poker a lot.

While this isn't something us pool players would normally do (hide our talent as we play pool), it IS something a hustler would do in the pool room who is trying to get action. 

"Melinda, what could possibly be similar in pool to flipping chips that gives you away?"

Good question!

If you are going to a bar or pool room trying to hustle, you don't want to give away that you can play good pool, right?  What's the point of hustling then?  lol. 

So little things like, you don't keep your hand flat when you're on the rail (tell-tale sign you aren't a top player), or maybe you don't stay down on your shots, or maybe you ask stupid questions to make you look naive:  "Hey, what is that thing?" (when they are using a magic rack). 

While I'm not trying to hustle poker players, I also don't want to give away immediately that I actually know how to play poker.  Give yourself a small advantage - legally and within the rules. Albeit I don't play poker very well, but I still do know the game and can play smart, and I don't want to give that away just by the way I flip or stack the chips one handed.

(My chip stack last year at Winstar Casino for my berday)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Not Looking at the Bracket - Project Hunger Games

I have written many times how I have test anxiety, and that's one of the reasons why it took me so long to finally win that title tournament I yearned for for years!

But even after I got mentally strong and became more successful, I still never wanted to look at the bracket; I just didn't want to see who I was playing next.

I would psych myself out before even getting to the table with them, lol. If they were a top player, I could get timid and scared. If I thought they didn't play well, I could get too cocky.  Either persona doesn't look pretty, right?

Recently I had a convo related to this with Katniss.

She was explaining a tournament experience and in that recap, she said she had asked a friend to go over to the bracket and tell her when she would be up next, as she didn't want to see the bracket.

I immediately felt giddy of course, because I could relate! I told her, " I don't like to see who I am playing next either. "

But, she shot me down.

She wasn't saying that at all!

She told me, "I don't mind who I'm playing next, I don't mind knowing that at all, but I don't want to see how much money I could potentially make if I won a few more matches."

Oh!

So, this goes to show that we each have different things we don't want to see or know about because because it might affect our thoughts and emotions. 


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Just Have Fun - The Cueist Project

I have written a TON of times in my blog that it's important to have fun in your matches.  A TON.

And truthfully, it's the most used sentence when I send texts to friends who are playing in tournaments, "Don't forget to have fun."

(going with my theme to shorten my blog posts, I will not go into all the fine details I could share about this and try and make this short and sweet.)

Imagine yourself having fun, smiling, enjoying the game we love to play, while you are competing in a match.  Can you add pressure and then still be smiling and having fun?  Nope. The two don't go together like milk and cookies.

It's really difficult to have fun when you feel pressure. But if your goal is to have fun, the pressure is not as strong.  And, having fun helps lower tension, and feelings of negativity, which can get in the way of playing our best.

This resonated when The Cueist described to me a key match on a Sunday morning of a big tournament he was playing in.  His description explains VERY WELL the concept and my motto of "having fun."

"Next morning, my first match is against a guy that is always tough to beat, and I know he loves the bar tables as much as I do. But, I figured that if I had fun in the match, I'd still be tough to beat. There was a lot of people watching, but I was feeling comfortable. It ended up being a close match, but I won 7/5. "


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Low Confidence Leads to Improvement - Project Hunger Games

Katniss (the pool player of the Project Hunger Games section of my blog) shared with me she is having some confidence issues.

"I sucked at a tournament last weekend and then at league the very next week, I sucked worse. I am feeling some frustration and low confidence. I'm playing really badly!"

I took in her words and could tell she was hurting.

I shared with her, "Everyone goes through these confidence things, just remember it's all part of the process. And very normal :)."

I added, "Funny thing: we actually improve during times of these little baby steps backwards. If that makes sense. It makes us not get too comfortable, which leads to us working on our game, which leads to improvement. :)"

She replied back that I made her cry. 

Oopps!  

Don't worry - she was crying in a good way, lol.

Maybe it's because my words eased her feelings remembering that being frustrated and lacking confidence from playing badly is very normal and we all go through it.  Plus, the good news is it's a catalysts to work on our game, which in turns helps us improve.

Because I have been in her situation almost 1,000 times (I might be exaggerating) of feeling down after a tough loss or a bad tournament run because I'm playing so badly, I can relate. Ugh. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

New City, New Pool - with a Caveat

One of my friends, who I met about 20 years ago when we joined the same team, has not been playing pool lately.  She might occasionally play at a local jaunt on a Friday night to show the big ego guys a chick can play, lol, but she hasn't played league in a few years.  Mostly because of the drama associated with the leagues she was on - either between players or how the leagues were run.

My friend is moving to a new city, and I mentioned to her that maybe because she was moving to a new location, did she happen to have interest to join a league in the new area?  She is very talented and really enjoys playing.  I told her there are some good pool rooms around her, and she wouldn't really know everyone, and it would be a change of scenery, change-of-pace, new league operators, and away from the previous drama that she had been around in her home town.
I honestly thought she was going to say no.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when she said she had actually thought of this also! However, with a caveat - she made it a point to say she wouldn't join any leagues at pool rooms.  

I was intrigued!  

So, even though I'm super shy and never one to press or ask prodding questions (yeah, right Melinda, lol!), I asked her what she meant.  And of course you all know what that means next - I want to write about it!  

My friend had played in some leagues that didn't care about the players. She was burned by them, and it has stuck with her. Also, she has had some bad luck dating career pool players. Hmm, I can attest to that, also, so you can throw me into that club, too, lol.

So, therefore, she doesn't want to play in big leagues or be around career players. Being a single, pretty, female who can play pool, the career pool players hit on her a lot, but they aren't the type of guys she is interested in. She explained that it's less stressful, less drama, and honestly a lot more fun to play pool out of bars instead of leagues in pool rooms. She expanded, "I would rather meet real people who happen to enjoy pool...and that happens in the bars that don't cater to [certain leagues]."

It was a different and interesting perspective, one I hadn't thought of.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Whiny Pool Players - The Cueist Project

The Cueist shared with me once that he really doesn't like to compete against whiny pool players.  He shared an instance when he was playing a match against a guy named Oscar.  I don't live in the same town as him, but I immediately asked him, "Does he have a regular day job?"

He replies, laughing, "LOL, no. How did you know?"

The one thing I can say that I don't miss about playing pool anymore is the pool players who play pool for a living, who look to place in tournaments as their sole income.  I'm not talking about pros, I'm talking about the guys who have been only pool players their entire life, with no other source of income.  

Those players are THE TOUGHEST to play.  Not because they are good, everyone can play good, it's because when they start to lose, they cause a fuss, vent openly during a game, and/or bitch and whine, which of course can sharks us.

Most players look at tournaments as simply extra income. One friend of mine, every time she got an envelope, she would put it into a jar and at the end of the year she added how much she had and then went and bought herself something sweet!

Some players, when they finally maybe place in the top three and for the first time dip into a few hundred dollars, they might buy themselves something special with that extra cash.  When I won the Women's 9-Ball Singles at ACS Nationals, I took that $800 first-place-prize-money and went out and bought myself a tablet!

A majority of people use their winnings as extra money. Yes, we may use it to pay some bills, but we're not solely dependent on how we finish to pay the bills.

While I understand the frustration to need to pay your bills if pool playing is your sole income, but they take it out on us day-job-peeps if we start to beat them in a match or defeat them in a match.

I saw this in another way one time as well. I played scotch doubles in Vegas a long time ago with one of the local guys in San Antonio (where I lived at the time). He is a pretty even-keel guy, but he got onto me pretty badly when I made mistakes in our matches.  Of course back then I didn't even know what shape or patterns were, lol. Turns out he got mad at me because he was relying on us finishing well to pay his flight and hotel bills.  Damn that's a lot of pressure!  No wonder he got mad at me.

But, I just think it's unfair to us who play pool for fun or because we love the game, to have to play against players bitching, whining, cussing, slamming cues, whatever because they are losing. Yes, they are losing lunch money, bill money, etc. and so it is a pretty big loss when they depend on the win to pay their bills.  But, it's not our fault they decided to play pool for a living. But, they sure take it on us, huh?

Cueist said he got into it with Oscar.  "I got out of line when I lost my cool w/ him...but, I'm actually glad I stood up to him. I usually try and avoid conflict especially in the poolrooms b/c we see everyone so often. And plus, it's totally unnecessary. But at the same time, I felt like I needed to stop him and say something that a lot of guys wouldn't have said. "


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Making Me Smile - Project Hunger Games

I always love it when people surprise me and make me smile.

This happened the other day when I was conversing with Katniss (the pool player of the Project Hunger Games section of my blog). We were on FB messenger talking about many different things back and forth about pool.  At one point she described something that happened at league.  Being who I am, I put on my "I have a suggestion!" shirt, lol, and then gave her some advice.

Her immediate reply was, "Ooooh! I'm going to write that in my notebook!"
 
I chatted back and told her I was impressed she was going to do that, because it showed she didn't want to forget what we talked about (and, maybe, just maybe I gave good information lol).

Smile was in full effect!

As I sat back in my chair, blowing on my knuckles and wiping them on my shirt with pride, I waited for her reply.

Uh, nothing.

She didn't respond like she had been for the past 15-20 minutes.  I didn't take it personally, and figured maybe she just got busy with her new job or something.

About 10 minutes later she chatted me, "Okay, it's in my notebook!"

And I admit I was a little bit stunned.

I said, "What do you mean you put it in your notebook?"

She replies, "I put it in my notebook because I wanted to remember what we talked about. "

"But how did you do that from work?" I inquired.

She shared, "Oh!  I keep my little pool notebook in my purse.  I have it with me at all times."
 
Katniss really made me smile!  What a great idea!

Of course, don't forget that in our digital age you can take notes on your smart phone, too.  Just be aware that many tournaments don't allow phones during matches, so you might want the hand-written notebook or checklist as a backup.

Checklists/notebooks/notes are extremely helpful. I wont rehash what I wrote many times about this, but you can start reading here if you want to check out the benefits.

I have always said to make sure to put your checklist or notebook in your pool case, so you have it during tournaments to review.  Her idea is even better - she has it with her all the time no matter where she is or what she is doing!

Still smiling!


Friday, January 10, 2020

Focus on One Thing to Keep Emotions at Bay - The Cueist Project

I found another email from The Cueist (the pool player of The Cueist Project section of my blog) from last year and saw a gem in it to blog about.

He was upset at his opponent for pulling some sharking moves during the playoffs of one of his leagues.

He shared:
I couldn't help but think that I was about to lose the game b/c of those stupid moves that that guy pulled. And I tried everything to shake it. I could hear my heart beating, and I just wanted to win so badly after this.

So I make the 1 and I'm still upset. I make the 2, and tell myself "just make one ball at a time. You don't have to get perfect, just get out."
First, I hate for anyone to have to deal with tough opponents or raised emotions while we are trying to compete.  Sucks, doesn't it?

But his last sentence is something I wanted to touch upon today with you all.  It's really golden advice and and a great reminder.  And something I suggest you consider when you are upset, feel pressure, or are riled up during a match.

One ball at a time.

Usually, negative emotions can lead to us not performing our best, which in turn can cause us to lose the match. We try our hardest to win!  But....we still lose because the emotions overcome our muscle memory and our pre-shot routines.

One ball at a time.

The Cueist shared what he was thinking during this chaotic match, and it goes along with what I preach in my blog all the time.

What the Cueist eventually transitioned to was to was focusing his mind and thoughts on playing his best for the shot in front of him.

He eventually turned his focus, and he was no longer thinking about the score, or how badly he wanted to win, or how pissed he was.  Are any of those thoughts related to the mechanical process of playing pool?

NOPE.

His thinking was spot on. At this point, when he was so upset and wanted to win so badly, that isn't the time to be fancy and cute and also try to get perfect shape. It's actually the perfect time to re-focus solely on the ball in front of you.

One ball at a time.

Remember that, peeps!

Do you see what is so great about this?  The Cueist removed emotion from his mind, and started to focus on the shot in front of him. THAT wins you games. THAT helps your nerves, pressure, or negative emotions. THAT helps your pre-shot routine. THAT helps you win more games.

It's okay to think and feel negative things. But let them go quickly! And then get back to the task at hand:  kicking your opponents' ass....One ball at a time.


image from Goalcast.com


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year! (and Goals Reminders)

Can you believe it's 2020 already?  Where did the last 20 years go?  No, seriously!

lol

If you decide to set some goals for 2020, keep these in mind:

(click image to enlarge)

Happy New Year!



(image from https://keap.com/business-success-blog/sales/sales-process/7-sales-goals-for-2020)