Saturday, December 31, 2016

Explaining Why We Lose

After I lost my very first match during the Season Finale of the OB Cues Ladies Tour in early December, I happened to run into a top player who hangs out at this particular pool room. 

He asked me how I did and I told him I lost.  But as most pool players do, I didn't just say, "I lost."  Yep, I gave him the final score, then explained that I was tied 4-4 but then scratched on an 8 ball, missed a tough 9, and I got accidentally hooked bad when my opponent was on the hill. 

You get the picture.

As I'm going on with my reasoning and explanations for losing he stops me and says, "Come on, Melinda, you're a seasoned player.  You know there's no reason to think about why you lost or worry about it or let it bother you. Just let it go."

It was very interesting because he was right.  I have played enough all these years to no go into details about why I lost.  I just needed to focus on what I can control in my next match.  

While I wanted to share with him why I really lost (those 3 mistakes and a bad roll), in reality I am at that point in my pool career that all I have to do is say the score and I don't need to give a play by play of every single reason for each game that I could have won. Lol

I think this might be because I haven't been playing a lot?  And so I just wanted to explain to him all the details of why I lost, lol.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Affects of People Watching Our Matches

While I was playing on Sunday at the OB Cues Ladies Tour stop a few weeks ago, one of the top players from the area who hangs out at this particular pool room had walked in.  He walked into the nonsmoking side where we were playing and said hello, and then he went to other side of the pool room and I didn't see him again.

Because I was drinking a lot of water, I had to go to the bathroom a lot and one time I walked by the bar area and I saw him there.  He asked me how I was doing and I said I had won my morning match and was in another match, up 5-2 or something like that.  I asked him why he wasn't watching and he said, "well I just want you to focus on your game."

What's interesting about this is is he recognizes that his presence can influence others.  

I want to say that he wouldn't have bothered me negatively at all.  And he wouldn't.  However, I WOULD be thinking about shots that maybe I could ask him about that he saw if he was watching - which is a distraction in itself.  I should be focusing on the current game, not trying to remember a layout to ask him about later.  I need to focus all my energy on the current situation.

I have talked many times in my blog how certain people watching can have a good influence or a bad influence. Some people don't understand that when they say things about a shot or a match after you have just finished playing that it actually affects us  deeply.  Not only at that moment, but we actually get anxiety when we see them at other tournaments because of their past "practice" of saying things that bother us.  I am afraid to walk by certain people for fear of what might come out of their mouth this time.

That's why I've written about how I don't look around at the crowd during a match.  Which is still one of my favorite tips I have received.

Then there are other people who watch that have a very calming affect on you or I because they don't say anything afterwards.  They don't say anything negative after a match or they don't make any opinionated, stupid comments lol.  

Then there are others that we yearn for them to watch us.  Helps calm our nerves, or makes us feel "loved" so to speak.  And those positive feelings help us when we play.

Coming full circle about this top player....  So, I appreciated that he recognized that he wanted me to focus on the match.  He's not a negative influence at all and he's never said anything to make me second guess myself.  But just having him in the room is a slight distraction that he recognized.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Mathematics of Improving

It always find it interesting what people focus on and think of when trying to improve their game.

Someone told me last month, "I want to be your first Most Improved Player on the Omega Billiards Tour."

I smiled as I read that, knowing this player was working on hard on his game.

Then the other day a different Omega Tour Player was asking me about how the Fargo Ratings work, since we are using them for handicapping starting in 2017.  

I received the answer from Mike Page:
The system doesn't care about tournament results per se.   It also doesn't care about handicaps or anything like that.   So for example if you Melinda (529) played a match against Sky Woodward (778), and Sky won 10 games, the system would say based on your ratings you are expected to get to 2.    So if he beat you 10 to 2, your ratings would stay the same.   If he won 10-0 or 10-1, you'd go down a smidge (and he'd go up).   If he beat you 10-3 or 10-4, you would go up and he would go down.    
If you played Monica Anderson, you'd be expected to win 6 to her 4.    It doesn't care that you are a 6 handicap and Monica is a 5 handicap.  If Monica won a match against you in a Omega event with a score of 5-5, she would go up a bit and you would go down a bit.  This is not because she won the handicapped match; it is because she would have been playing even with you for 10 games when due to her lower rating she is not expected to... 

After I shared the answer with the player, and told him I hope it was helpful, his response took me aback!  

He replied, "Yep, helps a lot.  Tells me what I need to focus on, i.e. wins against higher ranked players…not just wins in general.  The other stuff will ‘happen’ because of that focus.  

He added later when I told him he had an interesting perspective, "You see, I need 26 points to move to the next level i.e. a 7.  (If I read everything right). 

If I focus on ‘getting’ that 26, then the other items just come naturally, i.e. finishing better in the tournament(s), getting ‘better’ overall, etc.

Goal oriented."

I was very impressed with how much he thought about what he needed to do now in regards to improving on the Tour now that we are using the Fargo Ratings.

He's right, it's no longer just simply wins versus losses or how one finishes in the tournaments. But he was clever to ask just how the process of the Fargo Ratings work so he could focus on the numerics of it all.

I love smart people!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017 Goal Time

Ahhh, that time of year where people contemplate resolutions. 

If you have been reading this blog for a while you know already that I do not do resolutions and instead if I "set" anything at all, they are goal-orientated. 

I have written about this a lot.

Back in  2011 I wrote about specific goals I had for that year.

In 2014 I discussed realistic goals.  I liked this blog topic a lot because I share good examples of realistic goals and unrealistic goals.  Sometimes we can't see the forest through the trees, and this particular blog entry was quite helpful to others about why certain goals aren't helpful (or attainable).

Also in 2011 I wrote about how sometimes I set goals to improve my game.  That was a fun blog topic to write about, too.  (and my game DID improve, btw)

If you have more time, see where I was in my pool journey with the goals I set for 2010.

Or maybe this blog topic where I wrote down my goals for a specific tournament.  You will see each of the goals were things I could control, not based on luck or the draw or how high to finish in the tourney.

Back in 2008 I wrote about goals for that year as well.  It was my first chat about goals in my blog.  It's a treat still to this day!

The key that I preach ALL the time is to set attainable goals.  Make them realistic.  Further, if you set goals, make them within your control!  

Good luck!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Less Sleep Is Good, too

"Which is it??"

You are asking yourself:

"Melinda you profess all the time how when you get a lot of rest/sleep before tournaments that you play your best and it's a big, key ingredient for you.  So, now why are you about to talk about less sleep??"

This is why:

I learned almost 15 years ago that I need my body and mind to be awake at least 2 hours before my first match in order for me to perform well.

I was in Vegas and I had a 9am match.  I was exhausted and wanted to sleep in as long as I absolutely could!  I can get ready in about 15 minutes, takes 15 minutes from my room to the playing area in the Riveria, and so I set my cute little alarm for 8:30am.  I thought I was a genesis.  Instead, I was STUPID.

I wasn't awake enough to play well.  I made mistakes.  I didn't have breakfast.  I was still out of it from just waking up.  I was missing balls.  And, I lost.

I was so very disappointed in myself.  I HAD that girl!

But, I hadn't had enough time to wake my brain and body up, so it cost me the match.

On Sunday morning of the OB Cues Ladies Tour a couple of weeks ago, I had set my alarm for 9:15am.  Boy, was I excited to get to sleep in a little more than usual.  Especially since I was also very exhausted from the whole day before playing pool all day (both physical and mental exhaustion).

I happened to wake up around 7:30am to go pee-pee.  As I'm trying to fall back asleep it hits me:  I need to get up by 8:30am!  Not 9:15am.

What was I thinking??

Recalling vividly that slow morning back in 2,000 in Vegas when I wasn't awake enough to play well, I made sure to get up that crisp Sunday morning and get my body moving through the house, even though I was still tired.

I need 2 full hours to be awake to play good pool.  Match at 10:30am, body out of that bed at 8:30am.

And sure enough, it took me a while to "get going" and wake my brain and body up.  I was glad I added time so I would be more prepared to play.

While getting rest and sleep IS key, what is also key is I need to be awake for at least 2 hours to give myself the best chance possible to play well.  Again, something we can control.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Eating and Tournament Preparations

I was reminded about a lot of things when I played earlier this month in a big 2-day tournament, that I hadn't thought of in some time.  So forgive me for writing about random things all of a sudden, lol.

But I think these are great reminders, and here is one of them:

Saturday morning on the way to the pool room, I picked up some breakfast tacos from Taco Cabana for my friend Tina and I.  Didn't really think too much about it, honestly.  Well, except I knew I would have a better chance of playing well with eating breakfast than playing on an empty stomach.  I bought myself 3 tacos - had no concerns about eating that many.  We arrived to the pool room around 9am, and the players meeting didn't even start til 11am, so I had plenty of time for my food to process in my tummy.

On Sunday morning, I found myself still in the main event.  Yay me!

Check out the difference come Sunday morning regarding breakfast:

While I'm getting ready that morning figuring out what to wear and how to fix my hair (lol), I'm thinking about those delicious tacos from Taco Cabana.  I'm also thinking about how I need food for energy (again, don't want to play on an empty stomach and food is energy).  However, I'm also thinking about how too much breakfast will affect my thinking.

I know from experience that if you eat too much, your body is busy sending it's energy and blood flow to work on processing the food in your stomach. This means less blood flow to your brain, and I really need those cells to think clearly in a match, lol.

So, I'm seriously considering all my options.

This particular morning I'm leaving the house 45 minutes from when I will be playing my first match, which means I cannot eat too much in the next 45 minutes.  As I'm walking out the door, I literally stop - "should I just grab a shake?"  Trying to decide what is best with my time constraint.  Not only am I thinking about the amount of food in my stomach, I'm also trying to figure out my practice time before my match.  This means I must figure out how best to fit in eating breakfast.


I decide to still stop at Taco Cabana, order only two (not three) tacos, and eat them on the way to the pool room.

This solves several things:

  • I have food in my tummy for energy, 
  • But not too much food so I don't feel full and tired from my body processing extra food, 
  • I eat on the way to save time (but I drive very carefully), and
  • I'm able to warm up hitting balls 10-15 minutes before my match at 10:30am because I ate on the way.

There's a lot to tournament matches and being properly prepared.

And food consumption is an important one.

Think about how much you are eating, what you are eating, and the time from when you eat to when you play.  All of that factors into your decisions to help give yourself the best opportunity to play well.  

Remember, these are things in our control that we must be cognizant of.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Breaking Memories

I wrote just back in November that a friend shared with me that his ego overcame his rationale thinking when he broke hill-hill, and it cost him the match.

Instead of using a solid, firm, controlled break, he instead broke too hard because he wanted to be the "hero."  Even though he is very much aware how crucial the break is, his adrenaline took over unfortunately.

I had four (4) hill-hill matches during the OB Cues Ladies Tour Season Finale earlier this month.  I won the flip and had the luck to be able to break hill-hill 3 out of 4 of those matches.

And each of those 3 matches, at hill-hill, I reminded myself of my friend.  I remembered that a controlled break is better than me slamming the balls, even though my adrenaline was racing and I felt pressure, I, too, wanted to be the "hero."  Slamming the balls can result in a miscue, cueball off the table, non-controlled break, etc.

While his experience was painful, I tried to remember it for my benefit lol.  But, I know of course that HE will also remember his hill-hill bad experience as well in the years to come when he finds himself in similar situations.  And, I also know that anyone who may be reading this blog will also benefit from his pain.

So, while it cost him that crucial match, his pain (okay, okay, his "learning experience") is paying it forward to many others.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Scratch Offs for 9 on the Breaks

On the OB Cues Ladies Tour, they give lottery scratch off tickets if you break and run or make a 9-ball on the break.

I was breaking unsuccessfully all weekend (by that I mean having many dry breaks).

However, I did manage three times to make the 9 ball on the break!  That meant 3 scratch off tickets!

This is how much money I made:


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Walking Around the Table

After I placed 2nd in the OB Cues Ladies Tour last weekend, I was standing near the tournament table and finally pulled out my phone.

I have learned not to look at my phone at all during tournaments.  I like to stay focused and don't want to be distracted.  You don't want to read anything that might upset you:  a work email, bad news from a relative, something stupid someone may have posted to social media that may bother you, etc.  You want no distractions (and this is something you can control - looking at your phone).

So as I pulled out my phone, I saw a notification.  I say out loud kinda laughing to one of the players standing there, "Hey, my phone says I reached my walking goal."  I was laughing because I didn't know what goal it set for me and also laughing because I think it's cool it figures these things out miraculously.

And the player (who I just met that weekend) tells me, "You /really/ do walk around a lot.  Like, A LOT."

I chuckled a little and then shared with her, "Well, in order for me to see where I need to be on the next 2 balls, I walk around a lot.  I don't like to presume anything about shape or guess where I need to be.  I am more successful when I walk around."

She replies, "Well, it definitely helps you.  Congrat's on 2nd!  And also congrat's for meeting your walking goal," she joked :)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Effects of Not Playing Regularly

One of the things that's been on my mind lately, especially after I dabbled trying to play pool a few times in the past 12 months, was something a friend of mine said.  He said that once you quit playing, your game just isn't the same anymore.

And he regrets he took a few years off.  His game just isn't what it used to be.

I also know that playing regularly is good for your game as well.  And since I don't play in leagues at all anymore and hardly play in any tournaments, I am a little nervous about this.

I'm not nervous to the point I want to play more, lol, but nervous in the sense that my game will falter when I do play.

And I have already noticed that.

In early November I played a little 8ball tourney and noticed my game is definitely off.  I missed some key shots, I messed up my patterns, and my mental game wasn't strong like it used to be.  Even a friend watching who I haven't seen in over a year asked me what was going on.  I was disturbed as he didn't know I haven't played often in a year, but I just tried to blow it off.  Point being though it's noticeable lol.

I truly feel that having solid fundamentals is crucial for me to be able to play well still.  Am I kidding myself that I can keep playing "okay" the longer I go without playing pool regularly?  No, of course not.  But, I feel okay for the moment for the position I'm putting myself in.  And that is, just playing for fun when I might have the urge.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Like Riding a Bike...?

Imagine my surprise when I'm warming up the morning of the OB Cues Ladies Tour.  I say hello to a fellow player and she asked where I had been.  I told her I hadn't been playing pool hardly any more.

Her response was, "It's not like riding a bike, is it?"

I was defiant, "Hmmm...well, I think it is."

And she replies, "Really?  Well, my game gets thrown off when I don't play regularly."

Of course, this is from a person who is known to go practice at another pool room between matches if there aren't tables open for her to practice on.

The interesting thing about this exchange was that I did NOT want it to bother me.  I didn't want her words to get to me mentally and to affect me negatively.  To me it was negative words, negative thoughts, negativeness in general... and I wanted to be positive to give myself the best chance possible this weekend.

I tried to so hard to get the thoughts out of my head.  Last thing I wanted to be thinking about or reminded of was that I haven't been playing regularly, lol.

So, as I warmed up, I just focused on what was going on with my game on the table.  Why was I missing?  Oh, I'm not staying down. Why did I not get shape?  Oh, I didn't walk around.  Why did I miss again?  Oh, I need to stroke more.

I wanted to focus on what I could control - resolving and thinking about some things with my game before the matches start.

Like I said before, I missed a lot of shots this past weekend, but I also made some great outs and played some good safes.  Whew.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Getting Warmed Up DURING A Tourney

My friend, Dave Faver, offered me some advice before I played this past weekend in the OB Ladies Tour stop.  He told me since I haven't been playing to use the first few matches to try and get in stroke.

Play safes more in the first few matches.  My stroke wont be what it was so I shouldn't go for tough shots I maybe could have made before.

As I move further along in the tourney (if I am lucky enough to stay in the tourney), I will get warmed up, feel more comfy, and shoot better.

I noticed this so evidently!

I struggled early on, but by the end of Saturday evening, I could see great outs and saw patterns and runs REALLY well.  Even with taking time off from playing pool, I was able to play well still.... eventually.

Again, I did make a lot of mistakes this past weekend, but I also was able to run out well and make some tough shots as the tourney went on.  I definitely felt more comfortable as I played each match.

I was very pleasantly surprised.  :)

Monday, December 5, 2016

I'll be Darned.... Played Well, Finished Well

I played in the OB Cues Ladies Season Finale just this last weekend at Rusty's Billiards in Arlington, Texas.

I didn't know how I would do.  How could I do well since I have not been playing pool hardly any at all this year?  I had no expectations at all (and that prolly helped).  While my internal "wish" (goal? hope?) was to last until Sunday, I would be pleasantly surprised.

I posted this on facebook the morning of the tourney, so if I didn't do well, peeps would know why lol:  True statement btw:

There were 33 ladies and I didn't get a bye while 31 others did, lol.  I lost that first match to the 3x-time Tour Champion 3-7 and there I was on the one-loss side right away....  Facing death.  No, no, not death, lol.  Facing a long road indeed, tho.

I suggested to a friend that in order to gain more experience she should play in this in-town ladies tournament, too.  It would be her first time playing and so we went together.  You know what that means, right?  Yep, we had to play each other.

Tina and I

After I won my first match on the one-loss side I had to play my friend, Tina.  It was a great match and we went hill-hill!  I won and although I was very happy how she played, I wish she would have got to play more matches.  While I'm not suppose to feel sad I won, I did indeed feel bad.

I then found myself down in my next 1-4 as the girl shot REALLY well.  I had to dig deep and I won 7-5.

I won my next two matches 7-0, 7-0 and found myself in til Sunday!

I had for some reason slept well ALL week and I know that sleep is KEY for me to do well.  I never got too tired and of course I also drank water like it was going out of style lol.  I kept hydrated all day long both days and I loved the feeling of not being tired, hungover, or mentally drained.

The other thing I noticed about both days was I felt no pressure at all.  That is a very great non-feeling to have, honestly.  No worries or concerns, just playing pool.  I've stated 1,000 times (maybe I'm exaggerating) that not thinking ahead or worrying about things you can't control is the epitome of being able to play well and focus completely on the game.  This past weekend was a clear example of that.

I didn't have to compare my last finish or wonder who my next opponent would be or wonder how I would explain my bad finish to others, etc.  The sense of no pressure was amazing.  Every win was just a bonus and every round I moved closer to the finish line was peer joy and surprise.  If I lost, I lost.  If I won, I won.  No pressure.  I hadn't played a two day tourney that I lasted into Sunday since April, so I was very raw with my expectations.

Again, prolly a good thing.

I won a 2 1/2 hour-long marathon match Sunday morning hill-hill.  Guranteed 5th.  Then I won 7-4.

Next up was another long and nail-biter hill-hill match.  This time I had to cut a long tough 8-ball and then bank the 9 ball which I was lucky enough to make both.  Guaranteed 3rd now.  I then played a tired opponent and won 7-4 I think.  Now I'm in the finals!    NO WAY!   I met up against the Tour Champion again and she played really well and won 7-3.  But I placed 2nd!

I still can't believe how well I did.  The very few times I played this year I saw roughness in my game and so I wasn't sure how I would do this event.  But I was pleasantly surprised how well I saw the runs and patterns and how well I made balls.  Don't get me wrong - I made plenty of mistakes.  Just also made a lot of outs that were needed at the right time.  And I am positive that recording this video review helped - because I saw angles a lot more this weekend than usual.

Oh!  And since I played in this tournament for two days I have a ton of things that came up with I will write about here in my blog.  Can't wait to share!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Learning by Watching Others

One of the coolest things I saw on a Sunday morning in October during an Omega tournament was this:

A player who is up and coming and ADORES the game, was sitting front-side of the row to watch the matches that Sunday morning.

Normally the people in the crowd on Sundays are significant others, close friends, fans of the game, or people who happen to stumble upon the tournament that day.

Why was this cool about this particular guy?

Because this player is working hard on his game.  He's taking lessons, does drills, plays in all sorts of tough events to get better.  AND now watching matches on Sunday of an Omega will also help his game.

I had never seen him there before on a Sunday.  He has never come in on a Sunday to simply stay the day and absorb all the learning.  I was tickled to see him add this to his learning plan.  Not many players are aware how valuable and effective watching great matches can be.  And if they do know this already, many don't go out of their way to do something about it like this player did.

The elite players of any tour are playing on Sundays.  If you want to improve your game and learn from the best - that's when to come watch.  Sundays the best players are fighting, competing, battling and we all get to watch their mastery.  You will see more hill-hill matches on Sunday than Saturday.  You will see emotions and mental toughness, but you will also see GREAT runt-outs and CLEVER safeties.  These guys want to WIN.  And they will give everything they have to do so.

So, the lucky ones (like me who have to be there on Sundays) and fans who come watch on Sundays get a real treat of adding ammunition to their arsenal of tools.  Watching run-outs and safeties all day long from great players automatically helps our game because we are watching and absorbing and learning so much from these players.

I seriously feel that my game was helped A LOT after I started running the Omega Tour.  In 2014 I had my best pool year as far as titles won (State and National) and it happened to be the second year I ran the Omega Tour.  Watching all these players stay down on their shots, smooth stroke, seeing awesome safeties and great patterns of runs helped my already good game become great.

And I know that that player I saw visit that Sunday morning and watch matches for hours and hours will also improve his game, too.

I love it!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Water and Exhaustion

Watching players compete intensely on the Omega Tour for the last 4 years, the most important thing I have witnessed is how exhausted the players get towards the end of the tournament.

At that point, it truly is about who is less exhausted.

Here is the situation on the Omega Tour:

On Saturday, the day is chalk full of matches and waiting around for matches.  You can be there for 8 hours and play only 2-3 matches if you stay on the winner's side.  If you get on the one-loss side, you get to stay even longer on Saturday and play even more matches - easily 12 hours some times.

That is exhausting - either playing a lot or waiting, both are tasking both physically and mentally.

Then here comes Sunday.  We start at 10:30am and usually finish around 10:30pm.  If a player stays on the winners side, it would go like this:  Play for an hour or hour and half then about an hour break; play for an hour or hour and half then about an hour break ..... and repeat all day until the finals.

If you are on the one-loss side, there are no breaks.  You play back to back to back.  If you make it to the finals, you have just played pretty much non-stop for 12 hours (a few breaks of 10 minutes between matches, but nothing more).

One stop this past season a player told me after he lost the hosteat match, "Man, I am exhausted."

I shared, "You know, at this point every single player is exhausted.   You've all been playing all day. What I witnessed and learned is the player who is the least exhausted does best."

He looked at me, taking in my words and agreeing.

Then I shared even more, "what I have seen is drinking water wakes a player up a little bit and gives them energy."

He ran immediately to get water.  And he won the tournament, too.  I'm not saying I helped him win, but I AM saying that the refreshing feel of water in his system helped him feel better and less exhausted with a clearer mind.  His opponent did not hydrate himself and was just as exhausted as he had been in the last few matches.  So, the player who was the least exhausted won.

We have all heard the benefits of water and hydration.  

And as most people know, hydration is key for thinking clear and being able to compete well.  The important thing of course is recognizing you are exhausted and then remembering water can help invigorate you and your senses.

Drench on, people!