You’d probably never know this, as scarcely as I update my blog, but I love to write. One of the reasons for my lack of blog entries is that I am stretched very thin, and it’s difficult to find the time and the peace and quiet that are required to write something meaningful. Thankfully, my new BFF’s at Pooldawg have commissioned me to write articles every 3 weeks. If there is one thing that motivates me, it’s big brother breathing down my neck, so every 3 weeks I will be delivering a short manifesto that you will hopefully learn something from, or at least enjoy reading. The following is a link to my first article. Enjoy!
It’s been a very long time since I’ve written, so luckily, Samm Diep recruited me to post a top 10 list along with many other pool industry bloggers. Strangely enough I had already planned to write this post, but just needed a little push, well ok, maybe a big shove, to get it done.
My top ten things are mostly tongue in cheek, but there is at least a grain of truth in each one. Of course these are all generalizations, and there will be exceptions to every rule, so please refrain from telling me about your mom’s second cousin’s ex husband who is a world champion even though he regularly snaps cues in half when he misses.
10 Signs You Are A Great Player…Or Not
1. A great player doesn’t whine. Do people run from you when your matches conclude, especially if you lose? Do you go trolling for the first sympathetic ear that wants to listen to every layout, every roll, every game you gave away? News flash: Nobody wants to listen to that. Great players know it, and when they are asked about matches they usually respond in 3 word answers. I played bad. He played great. I got lucky. Any more than that is TMI.
2. A great player always takes responsibility for losses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people cry about losing to their opponents rolls. Hell, when I was a younger player I used to do the same thing (sorry to everyone who had to listen to that). Let’s face it, yes, people get rolls in pool, and yes, sometimes they seem to cost you the match, but it’s very rare that you have no opportunities or make no mistakes. It’s just part of the game, especially when you’re opponent is playing well and you’re not.
3. A great player sees the match clearly, and gives credit where credit is due. If your opponent is running racks and you miss a 2 ball in one of your three opportunities at the table, you should recognize that you were outplayed and you didn’t lose because you played like crap. Which leads me to the next point…
4. A great player either speaks kind words to their opponent at the end of a match, or shakes hands and says nothing at all. They don’t say “I played like shit” or “you got so lucky” or the cringeworthy “wow, I played so bad I can’t believe I won.”
5. A great player never throws temper tantrums at the table. Unless they’re Earl Strickland.
6. A great player has contempt for their opponent on the table and respect for them off the table. It is ok to want to bludgeon your opponent with the dull side of an axe while you’re playing, but great players never engage in fights, name calling, or the silent treatment simply because they lost the match.
7. A great player usually plays with a fairly simple cue. Top players are usually sponsored by cue companies that make cues for the masses. Occasionally a great cue maker will sponsor a player, but usually they really don’t make enough money to do so. People with large collections of expensive cues, or people who switch cues like Imelda Marcos switched shoes are probably not great players because great players know that it ain’t the arrow, it’s the injun.
8. A great player is a great sportsman. Everyone has their own line to draw here, but truly great players will call fouls on themselves. Most will tell their opponent if they are shooting the wrong ball or breaking out of turn. Many will give advice on shots that came up during the match when they are playing weaker players. All of them will look their opponent in the eyes and give a firm handshake at the conclusion of the match, win or lose.
9. Great players don’t disparage other people’s games. Most great players know how difficult pool really is, and know that there is a slow progression to greatness. Most of them remember being at the lowest levels of the game, and remember what it took to get to the highest level. Players who cut other players games down are just projecting their own insecurities.
10. Great players have fans, but more importantly, haters. Yes, that’s right, you haven’t really made it into the upper echelon of pool until someone you’ve never met is disparaging you on the Internet. So the next time you’re on the pool forums and you read about how someone’s grandma could give you the orange crush and your girlfriend looks like Jocelyn Wildenstein, just sit back and revel in the fact that you’ve finally made it.
“I want to let you know if you don’t already, you are a Champion!”
I don’t know what possessed him to write this letter, but it is dated 2/28/05. It was a time in my career when I was just starting to achieve success, and it seemed like everyone around me was breaking me down. We were on a 9 ball team together, and we ended up winning that season. At some point, he brought this letter to me. I think he saw the pain that all of the adversity was causing me, or maybe he saw my self-doubt (something I never, ever saw in him), but whatever it was, it meant the world to me. I carried it in my case for years until I became afraid of losing it. Very recently I told him how much it meant to me and he told me that a great player once wrote the same kind of letter to him.
“Don’t ever quit. Maybe you lose, but don’t ever just give up.”
I have so many memories with him: A road trip to Turning Stone, scotch doubles death matches, him watching me demolish a very good player and rooting me on the whole way, playing on nine ball teams together, listening to his crazy jokes, commentating the final rack of a tournament over the phone to him, practicing for hours, then going to eat, then back to practice…I really can’t believe my friend is gone. I’m just happy that he left me this little piece of himself.
“I want you to reread this letter. Words you might forget, but you’ll always have this letter to look back on.”
And I will Ginky. Thank you.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to focus on making pool a career again, and practice is probably only half of that equation. I have been so busy with life that I really haven’t put much effort into the business side of pool. I’ve been practicing more than ever, and that is starting to show in my higher finishes, but looking for sponsors, booking exhibitions and, as you may have noticed, updating my blog, have all fallen off my radar in the last 6 months or so. I’ve been practicing a lot, and competing more than ever so I really have no excuse. I will do my best to change that.
Anyway, I just got back from the WPBA Masters in Michigan where I had my highest finish since I took a year off. All that practice must be paying off, right? Well, if it is, it certainly didn’t show in my play. I mean, I played downright awful. I struggled with controlling my cueball, I struggled with pocketing, I struggled with staying composed. All in all it was a disaster, but I was lucky enough to draw opponents who were in the same throes of inconsistency. The funny thing is, in the past few events, I’ve been playing great and losing. Maybe this was payback for that? Whatever it is, I’ll take it.
In the meantime, I’m going to do a serious self evaluation to try to figure out why I self destruct from time to time and how to rescue myself when I’m drowning in poor play. I’m going to work on the flaws in my physical game and try to make them strengths. I’m going to start working out again because a strong body equals a strong mind for me. I’m going to compete as much as possible and watch Accu-stats matches. And yes, I’m going to update my blog regularly, and be as brutally honest as I possibly can because there is something cathartic about putting all of your fears and insecurities into a post and sending them out into the blogosphere.
Ah, the Valley Forge Expo! Thousands of pool players converge for a long weekend of pool, pool merchandise, pool players, and to display what is, quite possibly, the greatest array of funny tee shirts ever to be housed in one building. These were my top 3. (Photo props to Erin Mc Manus for hunting down the guy in the middle.)
I mostly did the usual stuff while I was there…ran into old friends
Signed some autographs
Stopped by my friends’ booths
Took some abuse from a gleeful New Yorker
Unleashed some abuse on an innocent bystander
Signed a cue ball
Tried out some cute clothes
Attempted my first big masse in front of a crowd
And did I mention that I played in a tournament? I finished 7/8. I ended up losing to that annoying chick sitting in the upper left corner.
Thanks to Henry Balincongan for the last 8 photos!
As I sit here in my room slowly coming out of my funk about playing so poorly in this tournament, I feel like I’m ready to put some thoughts down on virtual paper.
For whatever reason I never really got started in this tournament. I felt completely uncomfortable at the table and not aligned properly over some shots. This was a bit surprising to me because, in general, I’ve been playing great pool back home. I was more physically prepared for this tournament than any other since I started playing again, so that only leaves one thing to work on, the mental aspect of my game.
On the bright side, I’m not quitting, giving up, or getting down on myself. I just feel frazzled and unfocused out there. I fight myself tooth and nail to stick to my preshot routine, but I don’t always win. The answer I’ve come up with is this…I need to compete more. I need to compete until I fight back that giant hive of bees buzzing in my head while I’m trying to shoot. This is a tall order for me because weekends are Mommy time, but in another way this is the best time for me to do it because Max is not in school yet and we have all week together. The other positive is that I’ll have more stuff to blog about.
I’m not a funny person, but there’s nothing that brightens my day more than people who make me laugh. My closest friends are the one’s who give me a steady stream of things to cackle about, and in return I give them a great audience, and if they’re really hilarious an occasional snort. I can’t even believe I’m about to do this, but I love to laugh. Even if it’s at myself.
1. Hocus Focus
I’m known as a player with extreme focus. One time during a pretty big APA match I was lining up a fairly easy triple combo. I checked the spot on the first ball, backed up, checked the spot on the second ball, backed up, and fired it in! Only problem was I needed to go back one more ball. I shot an object ball as the cue ball.
2. How To Cool Off During a Match, JBar Style.
One time I was playing a WPBA match in which I was really struggling. I was losing 7-2 in a race to 9 and I just couldn’t seem to get it together. As I was in the chair I told myself that the next opportunity I got I was going to get it right. I poured myself a big glass of ice water and took a swig. This was my chance. I got up, strutted confidently over to the table,lined up the shot, and drilled it right into the rail. Disgusted, I sat down hard. My shoulder bumped the table and that huge glass of ice water tipped over right into my lap. In the arena. At a WPBA event. The best part of this story is what I did next. I didn’t take a break. I toweled off as much as I could and raged back to 8-8. I ended up losing the match, but next time I need to cool off I may just dump some water on myself.
3. My Eyes Are Up Here
I need to take a deep breath for this one. Back when I did the bikini shoot for FHM they had me on the pool table twisting and turning in unnatural positions for hours. I finally got a break and hopped off the table to a very sweet young male intern. He was responsible for getting me water or food or anything else I may need. I went over to him and grabbed a bottle of water. We were chit chatting, but I noticed that he was kind of looking around the room. He said, “I have to run, but do you want me to grab your robe or anything?”. I said no. After he walked away I looked down. Let’s just say that there wasn’t only one set of eyes on him. Oops.
4. The Whiff Heard ‘Round the World
Oh yes. Seen by thousands, perhaps millions of people worldwide. I whiffed the break on ESPN. To make matters worse it got picked up by a tv show called “Question of Sport” in the UK. In the same year, I was traveling all over the UK doing exhibitions in Riley’s pool rooms. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Hey aren’t you the girl who…” I could probably retire. Here’s a photo just in case you missed it.
I hope I got a few snorts out there somewhere!
I was kind of dreading the WPBA Championships because I really felt unprepared for it. Things came up, I missed a few precious practice days, and when I did play it was a big struggle. The trip was bought and paid for so I just had to suck it up and go. When I got to Florida I hit lots of balls, got a really good piece of last minute advice from a friend, and voila, the magic finally happened.
I didn’t have a great finish in Florida (though 17th isn’t terrible these days) but I played well, sometimes really well, in every match but one. Of course that one was streamed, but I still managed to grind it out and win 9-5. In another match I was faced with a tough out at double hill. I came with the shots and closed the match but the best part was, instead of being filled with fear, I was exhilarated…I KNEW I was going to get out. It’s been so long since I’ve had that feeling.
It only took me the entire season to feel like myself, just in time to go back into hibernation until next season, but the great part is I have something to grab on to. I know it’s still possible for me to feel good in the arena. I know I can face down the demons at 1 am in a double hill match. I know I can keep a positive outlook when the rolls aren’t going my way. But best of all, I can finish the year in the top 32 despite everything.
And I got to do it all with some great friends.
I had another bad finish in Oregon last month. This time it didn’t feel mental, I just didn’t feel aligned correctly over the ball which led me to miss way more shots than I should. I had one decent match on the live stream, and two horrific matches where I missed a lot in the end game. Not a winning strategy. I leave for the final event of the season in Florida on Wednesday. All I can do is stick to my preshot routine and play it one ball at a time. I hope to have better news next time I write!
I’ve had plenty of time to think about this last tournament, and I always try to look at myself in the most brutally honest way. I feel it’s impossible to improve if you constantly make excuses for yourself. I’m a big believer in accountability…owning your mistakes and working to overcome them. Well meaning people will often try to make excuses for you, but do yourself a favor and don’t buy into it. So here is my brutally honest assessment of myself after this tournament.
You already know about my first round (see below) where I served my inner demon an eviction notice. The second round I was matched up with Ga Young Kim, who played almost flawlessly. I missed one or two balls, but really didn’t have many good opportunities. I’m not surprised she went on to win the event.
Next I had to play a fellow New Yorker on the live stream. I was very focused and played well. I made a couple of mistakes at the end, but she was off her game and didn’t capitalize on them.
In my next match I played really well to get up 6-1. My opponent suddenly woke up and started playing perfect. At 6-5, she missed the 9 ball and let out not one, but two primal screams. She left a very makeable 9, and instead of taking a moment and composing myself I convinced myself that everything was fine and I shot at the 9. It was only after I missed it that I realized that I wasn’t fine at all. That scream scared the crap out of me and got my heart racing. I took my break and composed myself. I can’t remember feeling that angry in a long time, and although I was angry at my opponent for her unsportsmanlike behavior, I was more angry at myself for letting her distract me. I came back from my break, and she continued with perfect play and ended up winning the match 9-7. It was very disappointing, but I learned a big lesson. Sometimes your opponents will behave in an unprofessional way, either intentionally or unintentionally trying to gain any advantage in order to win. As a professional it is up to ME to fade any and all distractions and do the job that I’m there to do. If I’m ever in that situation again I’m going to take my break before I shoot, I’m going to take all the time I need to make the ball, then I’m going to stick the knife in and give it a good twist.