On the second day of the tournament, I played Max Eberle. As I’ve already shared with you, I ended up losing my match to Max 7-8, but I wanted to tell you about the last rack that we played. With the score tied 7-7, Max broke the rack and began running the table. After he made three balls, he did something that really surprised me…he scratched. So there I sat, looking at the table, and realizing that I was only six balls away from beating Max, a
professional player. The layout of the balls did not appear to be that difficult. I thought to myself, all I have to do is remain cool, carefully plan each shot, and I could win this! I stood with cue ball in hand and surveyed the table. I put the cue ball down behind the 4 ball as shown in Picture 1. In Pictures 2 – 4, I capture the result of each shot and my plan for each subsequent shot. I executed the first four shots nearly perfectly. On the eight ball shot as indicated in Picture 5, I had three options: (1) hit the cue ball very softly with extreme left spin and place it on the upper side rail so I could make the nine in the bottom left
corner; (2) hit the cue ball with slight left spin and place it on the lower side rail so I could make the nine in the upper left corner; (3) hit the cue ball a little harder with a tiny bit of left spin and bounce the cue ball off the bottom rail and come back up for the nine in the upper left corner. My analysis on these options: (shot 1) too risky because I might fail to pocket the eight ball and also might not be able to get back to the upper left rail; (shot 2) risky, because I could scratch in the side pocket; (shot 3) too much distance to travel, and if I misjudge the spin, I might scratch in the lower left corner pocket.
After careful consideration, I decided that shot 2 was the least risky off all the options, but I was still a little worried about the possible scratch in the side pocket. In retrospect, I believe this fear was the primary factor contributing to my poor execution of the shot. When I hit the eight ball I played the spin perfectly, but I didn’t hit the shot hard enough, and the cue ball stopped about 1.5 feet short of my planned landing zone, resulting in the position shown in Picture 6.
The view of my last shot from the shooter’s perspective is shown in Picture 7. My options were to play a safe or try for the bank. I decided that a safe was too risky because if I did not execute perfectly, Max would most likely be able to make any shot that I left him. I decided that attempting the bank shot was the best bet, given that I’ve made this shot many times before in practice. My plan was to bank the ball into the side pocket as indicated by the black line. I looked at the shot for a couple of minutes, then executed the shot. Instead of
following the black line, the nine ball followed the blue line, hit the edge of the rail next to the side pocket, and bounced out. (Awwww!) Max let out a sigh of relief, then walked up and pocketed the sitting duck. We shook hands and went our separate ways. Sure, I would have loved to have made the shot and beaten him, but on the other hand, I think I played him pretty tough and learned a great deal from the match. The biggest lesson learned was that professional players are not superheros; they make mistakes. Regardless of a player’s skill level you will eventually get a chance at the table, and when you do, approach the shot with a clear objective in mind.
Getting frustrated with the shot that you are given will only hurt your chances of successfully executing the shot. I also learned that Max didn’t do anything extraordinary. Every shot he attempted and every route he selected to move around the table was logical. I anticipated every single move that he made; there were no surprises to me. The only difference between me (the amateur) and him (the professional) was solid consistent execution. That’s encouraging because I now realize that playing at that level is possible, not that it will be easy to get there, but achievable with the necessary application of hard work. In my next post, I’ll review my overall analysis of where I’m at today, what is working, what is not, and what my next plans are.