D I A R Y
of a

P O O L    S H O O T E R

The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.




Friday, February 23, 2007

Mini-Table Blues




Played APA league 8-ball last night,
on tiny (6') tables in tight quarters.
Although we play with a red-dot cue ball
which a team member brings with him,
we were stuck using the house object balls.

The three ball had some gnarly schmutz on it.
Caked-on, yet thick enough to cause zany rolls.
The others weren't much better.
The table was recently recovered,
but it sure wasn't Simonis!

The cloth was slow,
but the rails were quite lively.
That made an interesting combination.

You would think that they would re-level
the table when they re-clothed it,
but this table showed no evidence of level.
Ball behavior was bizarre.

I might be missing some subtle differences
between 6 and 9 foot tables
and how strategy is played.
I am definitely feeling that
position play must be more precise.

Since we are using a smaller table,
but the balls are the same size as used on larger tables,
then isn't a snooker-safety
more effective because
more of the table area is covered
when stuck behind a ball?

Does this mean that
safety play has greater rewards on tiny tables?
Or is this possible benefit discounted
by the requirement for more precise position?

Including last night,
I have played on mini-tables
only twice in the past couple of years
and I came in second both times.

I like the 9' tables
because you can let your stroke out,
and that makes for more beautiful shots.

(blog top)


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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Plan For Excellence in Pool - 2007




Time to get serious...

So I updated my


Plan For Excellence in Pool


(what am I missing?)

(blog top)


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Current APA Standings



This link:
http://www.sdapa.com/div/043.html
shows my current APA league standings.
Our team is "101 Excuses".
Personal (MVP) standings are
at the bottom of that page.
Notice El Maestro (Tony Sorto) at the top, undefeated.

This link will be kept under
"Goals and Results" heading
on the right side column of this blog.

(blog top)


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Match Strategy




Yesterday was a match
(with MR)
which gave me an opportunity
to experiment with strategy.

El Maestro has warned many times
that a match against a lesser-skilled opponent
is very dangerous.
Do not be over confident.
Stay in your game, fully.

He gave me choice of game,
so I chose straight pool (14.1 continuous)
knowing that he had less experience.
I expected to win easily,
and then, when his spirit would be down,
we would play a game of choice.

Straight pool went according to plan (50-18).
Then we went to 9-ball.
Anything can happen in 9-ball,
and it can happen FAST. (no pun)
The other guy can get lucky,
I can get a bad roll.
Very short game,
no time to recover
if he can run a couple of balls,
he gets the point.
For this segment I played very tight.
Choosing safety when it was possible,
until I had an easy out.

The strategy worked.
The score was 4-0
until he announced "last game"
because his time was up.
My focus failed on that last game,
as I realized I had achieved my goal,
so the final score was 4-1.

(blog top)


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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Another slow start




Good day on the Fun House table:
Straight pool win 100-80.
Eight ball win 7-4.
Nine ball win 7-3.
Zero matches lost.

That is the good news.
The bad news is that,
in the the first match (straight pool),
I lost the lag and broke,
and he ran the table,
and went on to get 35 balls ahead
of my measley 5 points.
It could have been a disaster
if I hadn't turned it around to win by 20.
The key is that I got off to a slow start,
and this has characterized other matches
where I lost.

So I really need to focus on a solution.
I need to find a way
to be fully concentrated from the first shot.

El Maestro and I will be working on this.

Other than that,
I felt good and played good pool,
and I know I'm getting better all the time.

(blog top)


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Friday, February 16, 2007

Excuses




APA team 8-ball night again...

All day long, I'm thinking I'm going to lose,
because all day long I'm thinking of excuses.
I'm actually thinking of writing a list
of all the excuses that apply to me, personally.
I almost convince myself that it would be good therapy.
Just once.

As game time approaches,
I realise that I absolutely MUST pull out
of this negative thinking downward spiral.
The only way to do that is to
force myself to think positive thoughts.

Before I start with the positive,
I visualize all the excuses,
written on a list,
and I burn the list,
and watch the smoke disappear
with all my excuses...

This is a technique of
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

Now back to the positive thoughts,
I focused on the reasons why I should win.
I think of a few things like experience and knowledge
and skill and intelligence, and the I wonder if
the first letters of those words spell anything,
so I arrange them in different orders
until I come up with a good one:
Skill
Knowledge
Intelligence
Experience
Sorto

S - K - I - E - S

That's easy enough to remember.
(for an open cockpit biplane pilot like me)
So, over and over in my head
I'm thinking SKIES,
and saying the words each letter represents
and filling my head with the thoughts of a winner.
Soon, I'm thinking of other reasons why I should win.
Creativity.
Track Record.
Life Experience.
Wisdom.
Touch.
Karma.
But enough about me...
And I need to keep it simple and focused.
SKIES is good enough for now.
It's the best I can do on short notice.

Tonight, Seth was out to get me.
Same skill level.
Quiet, methodical, good shooter.
He will be a tough opponent.

Or would he?
Does the competitor really matter?
I have been coming to the conclusion
that the opponent is irrelevant
and therefore not to be feared.
Do not look in their eyes.
Give them no power.
It's nothing personal.
Their role is simply to re-arrange the balls,
when/if I miss or need to play safe.

My focus has zero to do with the opponent,
and 100% to do with the table surface, rails, and balls.
Period.

The game of pool is all about green and gray.
The table's green cloth & the brain's gray matter.
Eliminate all other elements
and you have the recipe for success.

These are my thoughts,
over and over.
I'm breathing deeply to relax.

At the lag for break,
I lay the ball within a half-inch of the rail.
But I lose the first game.

I hate when that happens!
;o)

I win the second game. We're even.
He wins again, and now leads 2-1.

I'm thinking I need to bear down...
I win the next 4 games and the match, 5-2.
There was a break and run in there somewhere.
That felt good.

I feel good that
my techniques for dealing with excuses
and for positive thinking
seem to have worked tonight.

After one of the last games in the match,
I felt that I was ahead, but was unsure of the score.
I wanted to check with the scorekeeper,
but El Maestro's teaching came back to me:

Ignore the score.
It is irrelevant.
If I win, someone will tell me.
If I lose, someone will tell me.
There is no need to know the score.
How can it contribute to my game?
Will I play better because I know the score?
Focus only on the table.

El Maestro was right.
(What else is new?)




A note about skill levels:
I'm currently listed as a 6 in 8-ball (7 is highest).
The APA uses some secret formula
which takes into consideration all sorts of stats
like matches played and won,
number of innings, runs, safeties, and
the skill levels of your opponents
and who knows, maybe the phase of the moon.

My goal is to achieve the highest skill level.

(blog top)


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Back online after robot error




For the second time in a week,
Blogger's robots tagged this blog as spam
and knocked it offline.

After many emails,
they put me back online,
and promised it will never happen again.

Would you trust a robot?

(blog top)


Saturday, February 10, 2007

From One Thing Know All Things...

This past Thursday night was another APA match.
The ball re-arranger was Joel,
who I have played before, and won,
but it was close.
He shoots fast and true,
so El Maestro's advice was to slow down,
and the strategy was working,
but the best of strategy will fail
if I miss, and I did.
He didn't.
He won.

It was the tiniest of tables, a toy.
Lots of clusters in 8-ball.

As soon as I entered the place,
I wanted to get outta there.
(It's the hermit in me!)

The night before I played straight pool
and had some good runs
and overall I played well,
winning both matches by wide margins.
So I should have been strong for Thursday.

I was jittery and apprehensive on the drive north,
but with controlled breathing exercises
I was able to calm my body/spirit
in time for the match with Joel.

I haven't seen him for at least a year,
and as he walks up to me to say hello,
he's coughing and gravelly-voiced,
explaining he's been sick as a dog for weeks,
and me being a germophobe,
the last thing I want to be doing is
breathing his exhalations and getting his bug.

What's with all the head trips?
Why do I allow myself to think other people's thoughts?
El Maestro's advice has always been
to not look them in the eye,
not communicate with them,
ignore them.
It's not about them,
it's only about me, the table, the balls.
He has told me more than once
that I have some need to be seen as a nice person,
and that this is a weakness
which will lead to defeat.

I must learn to completely ignore my opponent,
my surroundings, my past, my future,
everything that is not
Here
(on the table)
and
Now
(preshot routine to follow-through and stay down).

As Miyamoto Musashi said, so wisely:
"From one thing know all things,
From all things know one thing."


(Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest of the samurai)

and one of my favorite philosophers

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Be Prepared


Fast Mikie, as a Boy Scout!



Another Saturday at the pool hall...

I hardly had a chance to warm up
when El Maestro matches me up with Ken J.
who I have faced before
most recently in my Big Win
of almost exactly one year ago.
I won both matches at that meeting,
on the way to winning the tournament.
(click here for that story)

This time Ken J. evened the score
with a 7-3 victory (9-ball).
Ken J. is a very strong player.
I did not play well.

I have noticed in the last several weeks
that my performance curve seems
to start out low and then improve
as the games wear on.
This means I need a way to get into
total focus mode right from Jump Street.
Gotta work on that...

We took a break for some severe gluttony
at the Mexican restaurant nearby,
and upon returning to the pool hall
there was PJ (last Saturday's match)
waiting for a chance to even the score.

I was not expecting this.
I figured I had competition done for the day.
And here I am fat and sluggish again
after an enormous meal.

In the Wild West
a victorious gunfighter
never had to face the same opponent twice.
Not so in pool.
Opponents keep coming back.
There is no peace.
Eternal preparedness is mandatory.

So, again I am caught unaware.
I'm thinking this is El Maestro's plan
to teach me some lesson
in the psychology of the game.

PJ wins, 7-6.
Again, I did not play well.
This pretty much gets PJ even
after my win last week at 7-5,
so El Maestro calls for a "rubber match"
to settle it once and for all.

At this point, I'm almost dead on my feet,
but I can see that there is no escape,
and I will just need to find the strength.
I was hot, dehydrated, low blood sugar,
and very tired.

One of my favorite general-purpose solutions
to unexpected circumstances is to
"Do what you can, and fake the rest"
so I took some water,
a bit of hard candy to re-energise,
and tried to imitate a focused pool shooter.

It must have worked
because I won 7-2.

My day of pool lasted 10 hours
and my back was killing me.
Thirty eight years ago I had spinal surgery
in a failed attempt to fix a herniated disc.
Since then, just standing for any length of time
is a painful challenge.
So pool tournaments are a love/hate thing with me.
It's just another excuse for losing, if I let it.
I gotta get over it, don't I?


As a Boy Scout,
I learned to "Be Prepared"
and I need to bring that into my game.

(blog top)


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Friday, February 02, 2007

Winning Ugly




Last night was the APA team 8 ball match.
It was a struggle.

My mojo was late at the gate, again.
It was a full moon, and cold outside.
Our table was by the door,
so I got lots of chilly drafts
while I was waiting for my match.
When I get cold, it's tough to shoot.
I'm tense, nervous, shaking.
And it's tough to warm up again.

Finally, I'm playing #3 match,
with Ripley,
who has tested me before, maybe twice.
Although I have won, it was a struggle,
so I was expecting more of the same.
And I got it.

He won the first game. I got the second.
He won the third game. I got the fourth.

My break was ineffective
yielding multi-cluster racks, no runouts,
and l
ots of safeties.

The tables had brand new Simonis 860 cloth,
so they were extra fast,
and the balls tend to skid.

I was having trouble with my right eye.
Burning and itching,
possibly from the cigarette smoke
of the addicts just outside the door,
who seem to need to blow out
the last lungfull of smoke
as they re-enter the bar
right by our table.

I didn't say anything about it,
because I have learned to only speak positive,
to never give voice to a possible excuse.

I did make a couple of nice shots,
but on the whole I was working hard.
There was no flow.

El Maestro's advice:
Trust your stroke.
Shoot soft.
Let the other guy make the mistakes.

My thinking was clouded, it seems,
because El Maestro used a few timeouts
to coach me on strategy.

It helped a lot.
I won, 5-3.

Gracias, El Maestro.

(blog top)


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