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

Monday, June 02, 2008

Expect the Unexpected

This past Saturday, at the weekly Pacific Q Billiards tournament, it seemed that many circumstances conspired to put me into a mental state that could best be described as unsettled.

El Maestro has many times advised me that I should expect the unexpected, to be ready for it when it happens, and to not let it have any effect on my game, or, rather, to deal with it when it happens, and then get right back into my game. I didn't fare too well with this on Saturday.

I made plans to play the tournament the night before, and got plenty of sleep to be well rested. My plan was to do some light exercise, breakfast early, then a light lunch before leaving for the 1pm tournament at noon. What I forgot completely was that I had scheduled an appointment for Saturday morning with an electrician to check out the Fun House for the upgrade to a Brunswick pool table light to match my Gold Crown IV. I almost never make appointments before noon, but in this case I made an exception to accommodate the electrician's schedule.

His visit threw off my pre-tournament preparation plans, and everything was much too rushed to be effective. I got to the site with what I thought was only 10 minutes to prepare and hit a few balls. Again, Fate had other plans. The tournament was scheduled for 2pm, not 1pm, but I didn't know that and just kept hitting balls, alone, wondering more and more as time passed why there were only 5 players on site for the tournament. At 2pm, Tony Sorto (El Maestro) shows up for the tournament, but still not enough players are there, so he and I hit a few racks of 9-ball. This goes on for another hour, while we wait for the tournament director to get another player.

By now, I'm hungry (no lunch before I left) and start in on some French fries, which was absolutely the wrong thing to do, but it was the best of the bad fried food available. After the fries, I'm tired, and fully expecting that there will be no tournament, and if I had any competitive edge before, it was fast disappearing.

Finally, when I least expected it, the tournament is on, and my first match is against El Maestro himself, everyone's worst nightmare for a draw. He does not lose! In my case, since he has been my teacher for the last 4 years, and I have seen his game close-up and know probably better than anyone what he is capable of, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put myself in a positive attitude of expecting to win. Of course, I lose.

The next match was against James, who beat me in the last tournament 3-0, so I was looking forward to a chance to get even. Now the most unexpected thing happens: they announce that James has to spot me the 8! WTF? The tournament director thinks I am a "B" player? When did I get demoted? I didn't get that notice? In fact, I have NEVER been a "B" player... I went from a C directly to an A, more than two years ago. (Check out this great story on that topic.)

This B player status was so unexpected that I lost it completely. Even James was thrown off by it, as he was expecting to play me even A to A, just the way we played last time. What I should have done was to just inform the tournament director that I wanted to play as an A, to refuse the spot, and carry on without any undue emotion. That's what I should have done. I won't go into detail about what I did do, only to mention that it was not what I should have done.

I did win the match against James, and up next was Mark, who I beat in straight pool last week 60-26, but straight is not his game. Nine ball is his game, so I needed to be on guard. The match went hill - hill, and he broke and ran the final rack for the win. I didn't play exceptionally well, and missed one shot because I was trying a shot I shouldn't have been trying during a match. Practice, yes. Match, no.

That put me in my seat for good, with the opportunity to video Tony's remaining matches. This was the first time I've done any videos of him in competition. I'll be studying them closely for clues to his extraordinary skill, and hopefully be able to adapt them to my game. Look for a video clip or two to appear here soon.

Unexpected start time delays, unexpected rating, unexpected format, unexpected weak pre-match preparation, unexpected initial draw, unexpected reactions...

So, the lesson of the day is to expect the unexpected. It WILL happen. And, as we know all too well, "It's not what happens to you, it's what you do about it
that matters."


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