Pool can be such a quirkily odd game…especially the way I play it. I’ve always wanted to compete for the national singles title in 8 Ball. If you are not familiar with the process, here’s how it works: You must first enter what is called a local qualifier board. Basically, it’s a single tournament or series of mini-tournaments that you enter locally and the winner advances to one of the Regional Championships that are held in various locations around the country. There are usually several qualifier boards in any given area, so you have multiple chances to qualify. When you get to the Regional Championships, you will face 30-50 other players who have also won local qualifier boards. The winners of the Regional Championships will advance to the National Singles Championships held in Las Vegas around April 28-30, 2011. The winner of this event will be crowned National Champion and will receive $15,000 in cash and prizes. The total purse for the event is $250,000.
Last weekend I entered a local qualifier board at Shoreline Billiards in Mountain View, CA. I waited for almost two hours for the other players to show up. Finally, we had the minimum number of players required to start the tournament…four players. There was me (SL7), an SL5, an SL4, and another SL5. A cakewalk for me! Yipee! My first opponent was an SL5. I broke and ran the first rack. “Whoohoo! He must be scared now!” And then…the old Me showed up. Twanng…miscue! Shank…another miscue! Kerplunk…a scratch! And on and on and on it went. It didn’t take many miscues, scratches, and position overruns for me to quickly find myself in a hole that was too deep to get out of. Beaten by an SL5.
Tonight I played on another qualifier board. This time, the player ratings were SL7, SL6, SL5, SL5. I drew the SL6 for my first match. I was shooting pretty good…during warm-ups at least. Then the match started. I quickly found myself threatening to do a repeat from last weekend. I had to win 5 games before my opponent won 4. That’s the nature of the APA handicapping system. Even though I was shooting ok, in the first two games I somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. So now I needed to win 5 games before my opponent won 2. My break wasn’t working at all today – I don’t think I ever made a single ball on a break. Oh well, time to go into safety mode. I endeavored to turn each game into a nearly unbearable quagmire of defensive moves and cluster creations. I played hide and seek with the cue ball with the objective of eventually securing an easy run out for myself, putting my opponent to sleep from boredom, or forcing him to run screaming from the building like a crazed banshee warrior. It was like pulling fingernails with a set of pliers, but I somehow managed to win 5 of the next 6 games.
In my second match, I was playing an SL5. This meant I had to win 5 games before my opponent won 3. It started out in a similar fashion – I lost 2 of the first 3 games, putting myself in the unenviable position of having to win 4 straight games to qualify for the Regional Championships. Hit the replay button…out comes the safety game. My opponent was a decent shot maker, but made some bad decisions trying to shoot out of the safeties I put him in. Another excruciating series of games, but I finally won. Yes, it was ugly.
Oh well, I’m not proud of my performance…very shaky…but a win is a win. I’ll be headed to Bakersfield, CA in March of 2011 to compete in the Regional Championships. At least that gives me a little time to regroup, figure out what my current performance problem is, and fix it. I’m guessing I’ll be playing a lot of 14.1 between now and then.