Monday, September 30, 2013

High Desert Shoot Out

“And they say don’t forget where you come from, don’t die holding onto your words. Cuz you know that you’ve got the whole world to change, but understand who you’ve gotta change first.”

So this last weekend I spent all of my time in Rawlins Wyoming shooting pool and hanging out with friends. As you may know my time in Saratoga last year at an extremely similar tournament was a turning point for me in terms of the role that billiards plays in my life, and Rawlins was a continuation of that. Shooting in the Sportsman bracket I was able to play some good, and some very bad, pool—with poor timing for each of these moments. That is, when playing the young man (who I give props to for participating in the adult tournament as well as the youth tournament this year), I was breaking and running and shooting extremely well. I needn’t have done that, I could have just coasted through there and been fine. But then when moving on to the next match against an older woman (older than me, not old as in elderly) I was making stupid errors and missing important shots—i.e. the eight ball… but in a race to three, down 0-2 I managed to pull my head out of my proverbial ass and start shooting, winning up to hill-hill. But, alas, I lost the match due to a poorly controlled cue ball scratching when my opponent only had two balls left on the table. Saddest of days.

Or maybe not. Pool is such a mental game that it is very common for you to get trapped inside of your own head, become to cerebral and nervous, and miss out on simple shots that you can usually do in your sleep. I once heard a pro say that pool is easy, all you have to do is make your shot. There are no hard shots, there are just shots to make. When you have the mentality, and the experience to back it up, that each shot is something you’ve made in the past and is easy enough, then you will start winning games, matches, and tournaments.

I experienced a similar mentality on Sunday morning when I was entered in the “Hard Luck 9 Ball” tournament for those players that had lost out of their original tourneys. This handicapped tournament (race to 4, 6, and 8 for the sportsman, classics, and experts, respectively) was much more to my liking. Barbox 9 ball is much easier than big table 9 ball, for me personally, and it’s something that I thoroughly enjoy playing. I got a fortunate draw for this tournament, set to play an expert who decided not to show up I got a bye for my first round. The second round I shot against a classic player in a match that I am by no means proud of. I should have ran those four games easily, but instead I made stupid errors and barely scratched by with a match score of 4-4 (the classic player needed to run 6 games). I was playing on tables outside of the main tourney area in the Eagles that were much slower, less reliable as far as table roll and rail responsiveness went, and that had a bright glare from the car outside the main door reflecting the sunlight into our eyes. Needless to say, that wasn’t a great match.

Immediately after that match though I had to go up against Shane, an expert player from the Fort Collins area. I lost this match 7-1 because, quite honestly, I am awful at the 9 ball “push” shot, which I avoided to my detriment, giving up ball in hand in two games on racks that were easy run-outs. That being said, when I walked up to the table with my three cues (one breaker, one shooter, and one jump cue) some of the guys were giving me shit about having a jump cue, so I told them it was just a present and that I just carry it around for funzies. Not quite the truth. I used that jump cue successively two or three times in that match, getting myself out of predicaments that were the result of poor cue control. My break was one point, I dropped two or three balls on every break, popping the cue ball up in the air on contact with the rack and dropping it down directly in the middle of the table. This is a break that I’ve learned from watching Shane van Boening shoot countless matches on youtube, and it’s something I’m quite proud of. That being said I had so many unfortunate rolls on the break that despite stopping the cue where it needs to be in the middle, often a wing ball would roll up right next to it and block my next shot on the one. Angst. So obviously I lost that match, taking 5-8th place and leaving a mere $60 richer.

While in Rawlins I got to spend more time with my buddy Jim Calderon and all the other players I met in Saratoga last year. I was surprised at how many of them remembered me, many approached me within the first hour of being at the tournament to ask how I was doing and see what bracket I was shooting in. You meet so many awesome people in these pool tournaments and this year I had the awesome opportunity to meet Rodney “The Rocket” Morris. But, being the painfully shy person that I am, I didn’t spend too much time with him and Raj Hundal, instead I just focused on pool the whole weekend—which was, in fact, the only reason why I was there. Kimberly and Marc Griffiths from Str8 Shots were in attendance to run the youth tournament on Sunday, and they kindly treated Jim and me to a dinner on Saturday night. I love talking with these two as they are just as passionate about pool and as hopeful and dedicated to the future of the sport as I am. They are supportive of all levels, especially the youth and collegiate levels, of the game and are working hard to advance billiards into something more respectable and visible to the public eye, and I fully support all of their endeavors.

Billiards has gone from a passing fancy that I participated in at my home bar when drinking with my family and friends, to something serious that I am dedicated to on a serious level. Like music, where I spend three hours a day practicing my flute and piccolo on a variety of repertoire and technical passages, I can easily get to a table and play pool for hours on end. I lack a comprehensive knowledge of the game as far as cue control, English, and pattern play go, and in terms of this I seriously miss having a coach that I could meet consistently to work through these portions of my game. Unlike music where I have been studying with teachers for the past six years, pool is something that I just picked up on the way through my life. I have a good, long stroke and a great break (or so I am told) which means that I have a great foundation to go off of, but until I get a bit more cerebral about my cue control and position play I am afraid I will always be stuck at the level I am currently at. Which means that now is the time to start researching, reading, and studying DVD’s about the sport, and applying my intellectual rigor and fortitude to the game that I love.

Being a musician has taught me dedication, passion, and focus; being a billiards player has effected my personality, sense of humor, and physical abilities at the table; and being a bartender has transformed my self into an easy-going, talkative, and expressive individual. Combining all of these things together into who I am, Krystle Jane, means that I have the places to go, people to see, and the world to change.

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