Saturday, February 23, 2008

Killeen, Texas Tourney - My Birthday Weekend

How would I describe my tournament this weekend? I finally did it! (okay, so I should use one word descriptions... hmmm... victorious?)

To get ready for this triple elimination 8-ball tournament on Diamond 7-foot Smart Tables, I reviewed the 8-ball section of Play Your Best Pool by Phil Capelle. The 8-ball section has always helped me play smart in 8ball tournaments. I was also going to read my notes I scribbled on certain pages of Play Your Best Eightball, but can't find that book right now (I just moved and it may still be in a box somewhere). I also worked on some of the steps to reach my 2008 pool goal - I walked the stairs at work, worked on my arms for strength and also did some yoga, as well as practiced on Monday nights.

My Mom and I went to "the river" (the Texas Hill Country) on the Monday before this Southwest Amateur Tournament (SWAT) to hopefully see some deer and take some pictures, and to check out the Frio River. Luckily we saw a lot of deer and we were able to watch them enjoying the early evening weather as they munched on grass or laid on the cool soil behind green bushes or tall trees. I mentioned to my Mom that because we saw all of these deer, I would probably play well at the tournament the following weekend. For some reason, nature makes my inner soul calm and I have played so well at tournaments after I have watched wildlife in nature. Here are all the photos of deer - it's probably boring to look through these photos, but seeing them in person is very awe-inspiring and calming.

I didn't get to practice that week, but was able to accomplish a lot with my Mom. On Thursday night I rushed out of my Mom's house (realizing at the last minute Killeen was three hours away, not two hours from her home in San Antonio) and found the hotel and was very surprised - it seemed like a brand new hotel and I was happy because usually this chain is pretty crappy. I normally stay at other hotels, but because this was a three night tournament, I needed to save money and found this hotel with cheaper rates. As we all know, cheaper rates can sometimes reflect the condition of the hotel (but not this time - yay!).

I didn't wake up the next morning with too much thought of my mental readiness of the tournament, though. However, I did eat some waffles from the free breakfast (which I love!) and felt I would be fine that Friday. Got up at a decent hour, got to the E-Center at Harker Heights, Texas at 8am and hit some balls. My scotch doubles partner and I practiced a little bit too and then we found out we got a bye and so we hit balls some more.

Monica Anderson!

We lost our first doubles match, but should have won. Ugh. My partner was pretty ticked about it, but I tried not to think about it (maybe the Ginko pill I took in the morning helped with that, lol). I have tried so hard lately to not think of the past in my matches/tournaments or the future, and I was successful as we played three more matches and we won every one of them decisively.

I then played my first singles match after a bye. I played my friend Michelle Yim. I played pretty damned sporty the first two games and was up 2-0... but got overly confident and was thinking about how well I was playing. I started to miss and she started to play better and then she won 2-5. She played better than me later in the match and although I was disappointed and embarrassed I didn't play well the last 5 games, she played very good and I was happy for her. Ricki Lee Casper was waiting for the winner of our match and Michelle proceeded to beat Ricki next also - so Michelle was having a great tournament beating some good 8ball players the first night! I then got one of the few byes in the first round of the one-loss side and was at the hotel room at a decent hour to get some sleep Friday night. As I fell asleep, I told myself that tomorrow I was going to play better and be in a better frame of mind; was going to be more mentally 'in-tune' the next day.

We have to play three scotch doubles matches Saturday morning (my Birthday!) and we win each of them, starting at 9am.

I decided to change into some non-heeled shoes because the concrete was rough on my back/feet. I felt comfortable in my new black pants and kept a sweater on because it was cool in there. I had eaten a blueberry bar for breakfast earlier.

I play my first singles match against my friend Ashley Nandrasy at noon and won 5-1. I played pretty good and a few fluke errors on her part made for a bad match for her (a missed 8 ball and another 8 ball in a wrong pocket). I then played my friend Natalie Mans next.

Natalie was playing well but she would miss a few balls that would allow me back at the table and I won 5-3. She asked me after the match if I deliberately played slow to throw off my opponent. Uh, what?! "I wasn't playing slow," I thought to myself, reflecting back that I have played slow in the past and this was NOTHING like that. I played deliberate so I would make smart decisions and was trying to stay down more after I shot so I wouldn't lift my head (bad habit), but didn't think I was playing so slow someone would make a comment to me. She then said maybe she just wasn't used to tournament play (she hadn't played in a while) and that she was getting easily distracted in slow-paced matches now for some reason. It still concerned me and I actually felt quite bad... and asked my friend Rebecca Redumis if I was playing slow to where it was bothering other players and she told me no, so she helped me feel better.

I then played Ricki Lee Casper next. Man, she was playing good! She ran the first rack and the second rack. She was playing SO good - I just love her 8ball game. I also noticed she was breaking really well and hard. I break well in 9ball, but in 8ball I struggle a little bit. At this tournament, I wasn't hitting the 8ball rack good at all... but after I saw Ricki breaking well I made a conscious effort to break more solid, more confident and not be afraid to break.... and this helped me break better for the rest of the tournament.

Down 0-2, Ricki slow rolled a ball before the 8, and it didn't fall and I got on the board! She won the next two games and had me down 4-1 in a race to 5. I never got nervous or had negative thoughts that I was losing, but when Natalie came to sit next to me, I did feel better because Ricki had some friends talking to her and I didn't feel so "alone" anymore.

I had a funny feeling I would still win, for whatever reason, but maybe it was just calmness I was feeling. I never felt rushed; never felt the uneasiness about being behind or under pressure to win games because I had had to catch up; I just 'played pool,' which is an amazing, wonderful feeling. After a few mistakes on her part and few good shots from me, I was able to win some more games and actually pulled out the win 5-4. Wow!

Then it was back to scotch doubles mode and my partner and I won the next match 5-0! We then played a top team next and lost only hill-hill. In the first game of that match, the ref called a foul on me, but I thought I hit the 8ball pretty sporty (many others thought it was a good hit, but he told me later he was looking at the reaction of the cueball). So, the loss hill-hill was pretty brutal. We placed 4th, though - not too shabby for losing our first match.

I then had one more singles match to play that Saturday and defeated Kelly Stanley 5-3 and went home again at a decent hour, told myself I will concentrate and play well on Sunday, and got some sleep (even though everyone else was staying out late, having fun, and partying, I wanted to get rest for my tournament - I played at 9am the next day).

I got up early and got to the E-Center at 8am again. No one else showed up until 840 or so, but I put on my ipod and hit some balls to warm up. I then ate a blueberry bar and had some water while I waited to play my first match against Kim Pierce. I played really, really well and won 5-1. I tried to not think ahead or think about how well I was playing - that can SO hurt during my matches. Then I had to play Michelle Yim again. The triple elimination tournament is an interesting tournament... you know you have three times to lose so it kind of gives you a little hope if you lose a second time. LOL.

I was playing good at the beginning of the match with Michelle and was up 2-0, but that was also the same score when we played two days before and I lost 2-5, so I tried to remain in the moment and not think negative, but I was feeling a little pressure.

She won a few more games and I found myself down 4-2 again... ugh! Two of the games, I ran out beautifully to the 8 ball and hooked myself one time and got bad shape another time. To her credit, she ran out the whole table beautifully those two games! I was able to win two more games and tied it 4-4 in a race to five. I broke and could see the run but I admit my thoughts were about the two failed runouts I had had before that cost me two games. I still, though, began my run but of course found myself with bad shape - this time on the third ball before the 8. Instead of hitting it like I should, the shape I left myself forced me to hit it soft for shape for the next ball and I missed it! She then shot her first shot but slow rolled it and missed. I wasn't expecting that - I thought she was going to run out. I then made my two balls and got kind of tough on the 8 but was able to see the pocket and made it. I won hill-hill. Wow!

I then got some nachos to snack on.... not too many, but enough to tantalize my tummy. I didn't eat but two blue berry bars the day before but knew I needed more to eat today because food does give you fuel and I think yesterday I got lucky playing well on an empty stomach. Michelle then beat Kim Pierce hill hill and I met Michelle again. This would be called the semi-final match, I suppose.

Michelle would have to beat me two matches, both a race to five - she had two losses, I had one. I don't know if she knew that or not, though.

She won the first game because I made a mistake and she got out. Then I had a chance to win the second game and missed an 8 ball. I then became extremely embarrassed for missing such an easy shot - and the mistakes started piling up on me which made for an increased heart rate and I couldn't shoot well. My adrenaline was pumping, I was trying to breathe to calm myself down, but I wasn't playing well at all.

I actually talked to Paul Pottier about this very thing - embarrassment in matches - while sitting next to him at a poker table at the Riviera in Vegas last year. As a well-known instructor, I took the opportunity to ask him about my latest obstacle (I had been going through embarrassment in matches for a few months - right after I worked successfully on another part of my mental game, ironically). He said, basically, embarrassment is the same as fear. If we look at fear and confidence on a percentage level, we have 100% of them combined into a flask (my terminology). The key is to make the two "feelings" lopsided in the flask so there is more confidence than fear. He didn't tell me how to do that (someone else told me their own personal tricks after he left the table for dinner), but in the match with Michelle I didn't have enough time to work on the tricks - it was a very quick match and I had probably 85% worth of embarrassment in that internal flask. That leaves only 15% confidence, LOL.

Michelle scratched on two 8 balls, made an 8 ball in the wrong pocket, and a failed safety allowed me to see my 8 ball in another game. I only won one game on my own... but won 5-4. I felt very bad for her - she really did have a GREAT tournament. As I reflect back, that match was probably, kind of in the cards for me to win. Sometimes things happen that are just meant to be - weird, flukey matches like that - and I felt like it was a sign it was my turn to play in the finals. It's difficult to describe... but I've seen it so many times (but I'm usually on the other end).

After the win, I saw my good friend Rebecca Redumis in the bathroom and she said, "I sent you and Michelle texts -you both weren't staying down." "Really?" I replied surprised - but if I would have reflected on my match, I definitely wasn't staying down. Rebecca also said I was hitting the ball timid. This reminded me of the last time she watched me play in the finals - I was playing timid then too. I needed to hit the ball, stroke the ball, stroke with authority. I am VERY grateful she mentioned to me I was playing timid.

Here is Rebecca Redumis, playing in the tournament!

Going into the finals, it was surreal. I felt a little bad - the men's matches were over so the table guy only had two tables to remove (the ones in the center of the room we were playing on) and so he couldn't leave; two of my friends, Kim and Diana, needed to stay to help pick up things when we were done; Rebecca, Rebecca and Michelle had a long drive home; and the tournament director's (Robert Tabor's) Dad just got in the hospital that morning. I tried so hard not to think of these factors.

I didn't know what would happen in the finals - could I beat her THREE sets, each a race to five? Could I meet my goal to win a tournament in my 30s? Finally? Could I even actually almost win a tournament on my birthday weekend?

By now, my adrenaline had calmed through my body. I could literally feel my heart rate slowing down and a calmness was passing through my veins. As I started to play, I thought very consciously about stroking the ball like Rebecca mentioned to me. I made some mistakes in the first set but pulled it off 5-3. In the second set, I played better - I was playing more safes, not taking chances, and playing smart (at least I thought so). I won 5-1. OMG... down to one set. Rebecca Goodnight, my opponent in the finals, was taking score the first two sets, but all of a sudden stopped taking score the third set. I could see she wasn't happy but she didn't show a lot of emotion, really. She handled herself very professionally, I thought.

This is me in the Finals!

I won the first four games in the last set and was up 4-0, by playing, IMO, pretty solidly. Stroking the ball, not being timid, taking my time, etc. I started to tear up when I was on the hill, sitting in my chair - but told myself NOT to think ahead - it's not over. I felt this same way in the finals of that Nov tournament and knew it wasn't over yet and said to myself not to get ahead of myself.

I was on the hill, it was the third set, and I was at the table, focused, but still hanging in the back of my mind was the possibility I could win. I played safe a couple of times and after a few innings, I found myself looking down on a runable table. I don't know how I was able to play, knowing what could be on the horizon just minutes away, but I stayed down after my shots, stroked the ball, and moved around the table like it wasn't the final game of a tournament I was about to win. As I got down to shoot the 8ball, she walked up to me and said I didn't need to shoot it and she shook my hand. There were some claps from the small crowd and I was smiling and probably in shock. We took a few photos right away and I don't know how I stopped the tears up until this point.

I was kind of at a loss what to do next and my body walked itself to my cue, so I could put it in its case. But as I grabbed my cue, I somehow, for some reason, walked up to the table... and shot that 8ball into its pocket... to seal in my mind I actually, really did win the tournament. Kim Pierce came up to me to congratulate me and as she hugged me, I started to cry. I was so happy, shocked, amazed, relieved, overwhelmed. I finally won a tournament!! OMG!

Michelle, Me and Rebecca

I went to the bathroom and called my Mom and cried more as I told her I won and dedicated the win to her. I went back to the table to get my things and said my goodbyes as the girls left to go back to Houston. I didn't know that Diana was texting my captain Monica Anderson with updates about the finals and she was forwarding those updates to friends in Dallas. By the time I got to my car, I had texts from so many friends about my win! WOW!!! My Birthday weekend, too! WOW!

I chatted on the phone non stop all the way home to my friends Monica, Amanda, Ray and Sherry. I ate dinner by myself in Waco at Texas Roadhouse, but luckily Sherry was on the phone with me and I felt we had a celebratory dinner together. :)

WOW! I reached my goal of winning a tournament in my 30s! I had to triple dip someone to do it. WOW! It was my Birthday weekend. WOW!

I am still ELATED I won! I can't believe it!

Until Next Time.

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