It's been a while since the GamingTrend pool playing community chatted. Or I continued my personal GamingTrend pool blog.
While playing Modern Warfare 2 a bunch of online friends asked if I'd be writing up what took place at this weekend's tournament, and while I hadn't intended to, there was enough interest to motivate me to "summarize", in PeteRock fashion of course, how my team fared at this weekend's Titleholders tournament. So those of you who said you were looking forward to my writeup? Be careful what you wish for.
Team Kay-Oss (our pool team) finished first in our division for the second session in a row. And by a hefty margin of 12 matches. I also finished strong by winning my last two matches to go 13-1 and lock up MVP for 4 and 5 handicaps. This qualified us for our second straight Titleholders tournament (the gateway to Masters where a trip to nationals and an overall prize purse of over $20,000 are on the line). Titleholders was held this past weekend.
To start off the weekend and get some practice in I played my weekly match with Moliere on Friday afternoon. I was shooting some of the best pool I've played in a long time. Moliere always shoots a strong game, and our matchups have gotten to a point where if you miss just one shot you may not get another chance at the table. Run-outs are pretty common, especially if someone goes for a break-and-run but misses a shot and leaves the table fairly open. Then the other person steps up and finishes it out. 8-ball-runs following a missed shot either on the break or a few shots in are pretty common and almost status-quo for our rivalry.
What also helped was my bank shots were dead-on. I may have shot 10 to 15 banks over the course of the day, and I think I missed one, maybe two at most.
Moliere had said, "It's tough to beat you when you never miss a bank and run the table out every time you step up to the felt." I managed to finish with 17 wins to Moliere's 11. And with us, if you win by more than one or two games it's a big victory, so winning by 6 was huge
for me. It definitely prepared me for the tournament.
In our first match on Saturday morning we faced a strong team comprised of one of the best 7's in the league (highest handicap level you can reach), a solid 6, one 5, a few 4's, and a tough 3. During a regular league matchup your team plays five matches. In tournament play you have the potential to play the usual five matches, but it is a race to three and if you win all three right off the bat then you don't have to play the other two. You determine who "throws up" first by flipping a coin (which team has to announce who will play in their first match), and then you alternate "throwing up" for the rest of the match.
Our opponents put up a decent 4 and so we put up our strong 4 (he used to be a 5 but had a pretty rough losing streak over the past five or six weeks). Next we had to put up a player and so our captain put up his dad, another 4, and the match began (your team usually plays on two tables simultaneously). Both of our 4's were victorious and our opponents then put up their strong 6 for fear of being shut out, and we put up our captain, a strong 6 who has bounced back and forth between a 6 and 7 handicap lately.
He shut out the 6 and in the match only missed 1 shot out of over 40. One
So we moved on to the next round and I didn't even have to put together my cues. In our next round we threw up first and our captain's dad got smoked by a 5. Then I was put up against another 4. He looked like a decent shot, and he had a good stroke, but he rushed his shots, didn't take much time to plan his attack, and his ball placement was poor. In the first match I broke but didn't get anything on the break. He missed his first shot and I ran out the table.
In the next match I broke, ran five, he missed, and I finished up the table.
I was on the hill and only needed one more win. In the next game I made a bad decision and played placement poorly so he snuck out a win. But in the final match he broke, ran a couple, left the table pretty open, and I ran out the rest. 3-1 victory for me, and we were tied 1-1 in the match. Our next two players won easily and we were on to the next round.
We then faced a team with a number of 6's and one 7.
I was put up against the 6 as it would be a 3-5 race (I only had to win three games to his 5) and I was shooting lights-out pool earlier. But, it was about 5:30pm, I had been playing pool since 9am, and I was tired, a bit hungover, and late for a BBQ for a friend leaving for Guam for 18 months. And my fatigue got the best of me. I was missing easy shots, my frustration was hurting my game, and I just wanted to be done. Unfortunately I got smoked
These marathon tournaments are tough for me, and I just succumbed to my exhaustion and frustration. We lost our team matchup 3-1. Pool is very psychological, and my head just wasn't in it. And as you start to play worse and worse it's just tough to snap out of it. If we won we would have placed 1st, been the first team to qualify for Masters, and we wouldn't have had to come back on Sunday. But, with the double-elimination format we had to come back on Sunday as the top seed in the losers bracket and would have to play the winner of another matchup.
We all arrived when the doors opened at 10am and played each other on the practice tables while the first round of matchups were played. It is amazing what a good night's rest and a competitive desire to "avenge" a prior loss can do for one's confidence and psyche. I came in ready to not only win, but to crush whatever team we'd play. And that focus and determination showed during our practice sessions. I'm one of the stronger shooters on our team, but our captain is one of the best players I know. And as we practiced I beat him over and over again. I beat every teammate that stepped up to the table. If they missed just one shot I ran out the table. People were just shaking their heads because I couldn't miss. And since we joke around a lot with each other, I'd walk away from the table and say, "Don't miss," and we'd laugh. But if they did, they lost. I was ready
for whoever we'd play.
Turns out we would be facing the same team we started the tournament against. But while we beat them 3-0 in our first matchup, we knew it wouldn't be so easy the next time around. Especially since their 6 seemed to be shooting pretty well, their 7 was very
strong, and our team only has a six and then five 4's. We didn't match up very well. Someone would have to take on the 7, but we also had to worry about their 6 as well. And the last 6 I faced got into my head and I just couldn't seem to play my
game, I instead always worried about his game. And to complicate things we had to throw up first, meaning they'd have the advantage in terms of when to play their 6 and their 7. This was for 2nd place in the tournament and a spot at Masters.
Our strong 4 (TJ) was up first (the player I mentioned earlier who had been a 5 but has been in a slump for a while). He crushed his opponent 3 games to 0. The match ended with his opponent trying to play a safety to block TJ's shot on the 8, but the cue rolled out too far and left TJ with an easy shot to win the match. So we were up 1-0.
Next up was our captain's dad. He's a strong
shooter and amazing with bank shots, and they were putting up their strong 6 against him (our captain's dad is a 4). So it would be a 3-5 race like my matchup with a 6 the prior day. The 6 sank the 8 off the break in the first rack to go up 1-0.
But then he ran out six balls in his second rack and missed an easy shot, leaving it open for "The Old Man" (our captain's dad's nickname). The Old Man ran out the table and left himself a perfect shot on the 8, and it was a great opportunity to really put his opponent on the ropes. He completely botched the shot and was now down 2 games to 0. In the next game they played a few safeties and The Old Man had yet another chance to win a game with only a 3-ball run. He sank two in a row, left a reasonable shot on the 8, made the 8 but hit it too hard and the cue scratched in the corner. He was now down 3-0. And his temper got the better of him. By that point he had given up and he wound up losing 5-0. So we were tied 1-1.
Next up was Moliere's dad. He's a decent 4 with a smooth shot, but he sometimes brainfarts and makes odd decisions, plus he recently broke his foot and has been playing with a boot on his foot and fighting through the pain. He was up against a strong 3, so the race would be 2-3, with Jim needing to win 3 games to his opponent's 2. It doesn't seem like much, but one mistake and you could put your opponent "on the hill" (one game from victory). He unfortunately put his opponent "on the hill" in the very first match, so he'd have to win three straight to win the match. And if Jim lost, one more victory by our opponents and we'd be out of the tournament. But outside of that first game I wouldn't get to see how his match played out because I had a challenge of my own.
Our opponents put up their 7. They were going for the kill, putting up their big shooters to try to win the match. My captain and I were talking throughout the earlier matches trying to figure out how we'd handle their 7. He didn't want to put me or himself up earlier in the match against their 4's or their 6 because he knew the 7 would be a challenge and he wanted our shooters in reserve, especially if we were on the ropes and needed
a win (I'm pretty honored and also excited to be considered one of our team's two best shooters even though I'm only a 4
) Problem was, should we put up our captain, a strong 6, and hope he can pull out a victory with a 5-6 race (he's have to win five matches before the 7 won six)? Or, do we try something risky by putting me
up against the 7? Reason being that with our handicap system, since 7's are the cream of the crop in our league, instead of a 6-3 race like you'd expect, it's actually a 5-2 race, with me only having to win two matches to his 5. While it doesn't sound very fair, I've seen a 7 break and run five times in a row to win a match. It's tough to win two games when you never
get to take a single shot.
Based upon how I was shooting earlier against the team, and my desire to make up for my poor showing on Saturday, I decided I was ready for the challenge and my captain agreed. So he put me up against the 7. All he said was, "Play your
game. Don't play him
, just play the table. [Poolhall Junkies]And don't beat him. Kick his ass.
[/Poolhall Junkies]" As I walked away I heard my team commenting about how cool it would be if I was able to upset a 7. And our captain said "he'd fucking love
Deep breaths. But, my captain wasn't sending me to slaughter. He actually believed I could beat
the 7. I certainly hoped so.
We lagged for the beak and he practically left his ball sitting against the rail. Here we go.
On the very first rack he broke and ran the table.
Not a good start for me. So I racked them up again. On the next rack he broke, sank two off the break, and proceeded to run out the table................until he screwed up placement on the 8 and left himself behind one of my balls. He played the cue off the rail and made a legal hit, but he wasn't able to sink the 8 and I had a wide open table in front of me. Most of the time if you don't think you can run out a table, it's better to play a safety with a few of your balls still on the table to make it tougher for your opponent, otherwise you leave a wide open table for them to shoot. However, 4's aren't always able to run out 8. Sure, 5's, 6's, and 7's all typically run out a table if you give them a chance, but he was counting on getting another chance at the table. And he was more worried about running out the table and kicking my ass instead of worrying about what might happen if I get a chance to shoot.
I completely ran out the table, tied the match at 1-1, and I was already "on the hill" as I only had to win two games.
He left open a window of opportunity and I capitalized. My win also seemed to take him a bit off guard. He stood off to the side for a moment to take in what happened and waited a moment before racking.
On the next rack I got a little greedy and ran five but botched placement for my next shot and had to shoot a bank. I nicked the corner of the side pocket and missed my shot, and he then ran out the table.
Now he was up 2-1. I really wanted a break-and-run of my own but I screwed up placement and ruined the run. Plus it left the table wide open for him. Should have played a safety but just wanted a win so badly.
On the next rack the motherfucker sank the 8 on the break (he has over 25 pins on his bag, all for 8's on the break, so he's done it many
Now I was already down 3-1, and with a break-and-run he'd be on the hill. Oy.
I racked them up again and he had a fantastic break. The table had a great spread and he had yet another chance for a break-and-run. Fuck.
But then with two balls remaining before the 8 he rolled the cue a bit too far and got behind one of my balls. He was down near one end of the table and his only option would be to play the cue off the near rail to get to his ball at the other end of the table. Not only did he make a legal hit, but he sank the ball
Wow. Just, wow. One ball left and he'd be on the 8. But it wasn't an easy shot. Worrying about placement on the 8 he hit his shot a bit too hard and rattled his ball in the pocket. It didn't fall
. This would probably be my last chance to make a go at victory, so it was completely on me to win or lose the match. Pressure was on and victory was within my grasp. The table was wide
open with only one pocket blocked, and I didn't have any balls on any rails or jumbled together. Eight shots and I'd be done. Only eight shots. I could handle that. I had done it just a few games prior.
As he walked away from the table he commented under his breath, "Don't miss." Then he laughed and strutted over to his stool. In a rare moment of humility, I didnt say anything. I just chalked my cue and surveyed the table.
The big issues were that I had balls on both ends of the table, plus the 1 and 4 were set up in such a way that if I sank one the other would be bumped into a rail and might potentially stall my run. The 8 was right in front of the side pocket, but the 3 was between the 8 and the pocket so I'd be forced to take a really
slim cut shot from one of the ends of the table to get around the 8. At this point most of the other matches were done and people were grouping around our table. Not only would I have to run out the table or risk losing the match, but I'd have a complete audience watching (my team, the opposing team, and all other players sticking around to see the outcome of our matchup). Here we go.
The first few shots were relatively easy, and they helped me to get rid of the preliminary shakes and just focus on what was in front of me, tuning out everything else. After sinking three shots I had to deal with the 1/4 problem. I left the cue just a few inches from the 1 so that I could use a bit of draw to avoid bumping the 4 into a rail after I sink the 1. But, I hit it a bit too hard and the cue rolled all the way into the corner and almost scratched. Jesus. I heard my captain swearing under his breath and saw some of the team shaking their heads. I no longer had placement on the 4, which was what I wanted, And it would take some work to get out of my predicament. But that was when I decided to use the 3 sitting by the side (and blocking the
to get the cue back around the table. I was straight onto the 3 and needed to tap it really
soft with a thin cut to get it to fall in the side and allow the cue to roll down the table, come off the rail, and roll back for the 4. Too hard and the 3 would hit the corner of the bumper and come back out.
The 3 fell, and the cue came around, but it drifted too close to the side rail. I'd have a "reverse cut" on the 4, cutting the 4 on its left side to get it to fall in the right corner pocket, and speed control would be important in order to have a shot on the 8 in the side. Since it was a thin cut I'd have to use a lot of speed control and
keep the cue from scratching in the corner. I cut the 4 perfectly, the cue rolled slowly, it bumped into the 8 as it came around in such a way that the 8 was put in even better position in front of the pocket and the cue was left dead-on straight for a perfect finish to the game. Placement couldn't have been any better. It was dead-on
I sank the 8 and won the match! I ran the fucking table. Boo. Yah.
And what I am most proud of is that I didn't just win the match, in that the 7 made mistakes that cost him the match like scratching on the 8 or leaving me ball-in-hand, but I beat
him by running out the table twice
to earn my two game victories. And while our match was going on Moliere's dad managed to win his match as well, so my victory over the 7 won us the match and earned us 2nd place at Titleholders, qualifying us for Masters for the second year in a row.
You would have throught we won the Super Bowl. My teammates jumped up and high-fived each other, cheers erupted from around the room, fellow players came over to shake my hand, and then I was swarmed by my teammates to celebrate the victory. I'd be lying if I didn't say, "It was fucking awesome.
" My captain was proud of me in that I played my
game and didn't let the 7 get in my head, I rose to the occasion, and our team qualified for Masters. When I shook hands with the 7 he simply said, "Well, I guess you didn't miss." Nope. I didn't.
It was one hell of a weekend of pool.