APA National Singles Championships

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.

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17 responses to “APA National Singles Championships

  1. Congrats! Although I don’t think that the boards at regionals are ever more than 36, and I think they are usually smaller than that. Do you ever play on a bar box?

    • I’ve never been to the Regionals, so I guessed there’d be around 40-50. Good to hear there are less than that! Regarding bar boxes: NO, never play on them. I just got a book from Bob Jewett that talks exclusively about bar box strategy. I’ll have 3 months to read up and practice. I’m guessing that game is more about cluster management and only using the corner pockets?

      • When I first joined our local 8-ball league, it was on BB’s as well, and I hated them. I still don’t really “like” them, but you do have to play the game a bit differently. I want to recommend The 8-Ball Bible – but honestly, a lot of that info, while useful for knowledge-sake, has never come up in a game situation for me.

        When I switch to BB, I just remember the balls are filthy, don’t use a lot of english, the CB is dead and doesn’t like to move too much. I don’t get the kind of shapes I’d get on a 9ft with a red-circle, but the table is quite small and the need for 2 and 3 rail position isn’t necessary. It’s nice when it works though, but you can’t always force it. Too many unknown variables usually.

        I’m glad to hear you won your matches – and being smart about it! Although it’s unfortunate you had to had to pull those tricks out of the bag. Do you think you lost mental focus after the first few good games? Took the match for granted? Something had to have changed mentally for those mistakes to creep in so out-of-the-blue.

      • It’s funny you mention the 8 Ball Bible…that’s the book that I got from Bob Jewett. I haven’t looked through it yet, but I’ll scan it to see what’s there and see what I can apply.

        Regarding my unpredictable performance, I’m pretty sure it’s all mental. I have a (bad) tendency to get lackadaisical and not take my opponents seriously until I get my back against the wall and am forced to produce results. I don’t like that about myself and I need to change it or I will not do well at Regionals, not to mention get better in general. I also have a tendency to get upset with myself if I blow position during a run and miss a shot. Again, mostly mental. Mosconi often said that he hated every opponent he met on the table…he just wanted to demolish and demoralize everyone he played. I guess I just don’t have that killer instinct yet.

        Thanks for the tips on the BB. I’ll keep those in mind.

  2. Congrats. How did you find out your regionals was going to be in Bako already? I’m also qualified for regionals in March for 8-ball, but I don’t know where it’s going to be yet and don’t expect the paperwork package until probably February. Our last regional (October) was in Phoenix… the previous one (last March) was in Huntington Beach, CA. Each time, Bako was mentioned as one of the possibilities before we found out where we were actually going to be. I’m not sure how it works, really… maybe the Las Vegas folks have been used as a ‘filler’ to round out the boards of a regional near us that needs some help or something, I really don’t know. I’ve got a perfect record in regionals so far – I won last March to qualify for Nationals (8-ball) and I won in Phoenix to qualify for next year’s nationals (9-ball). If it turns out we go to Bako, I’ll see you there! Otherwise, I’ll see you at Nationals! Don’t worry, we won’t be on the same board 😉

    • Gary, thanks for the info! Everyone I’ve spoken with has talked about Bako, so that’s where I assume it will be. I hope to meet you there. Thank God were not in the same bracket…I don’t think I’d be able to withstand the barrage of trash talking you would send my way if you beat me! 😉

  3. Me? Trash talk? LOL

    Minnow’s comments match my experiences as well, by the way. I don’t think I’ve even seen a full 32 board. You’ll be up against some good players though… in Bako, you may run into Brian Parks, for example. You’ll get all the names with the package you receive in Feb.

    Re: bar boxes… more traffic and congestion, shorter shots, I personally don’t see any reason to change strategy about side pockets. I use them without hesitation if it’s the right shot. You shouldn’t see the tighter pocket Diamonds at Nationals… but I suppose you might see them at Regionals, depending on the venue.

  4. You know I think its more of a comfort thing than anything else. The books all talk about the congestion and side v corner pockets, but when I’ve been to regionals where there were players from big table leagues, I don’t remember anyone complaining about the table being crowded or the damn side pockets being too small. But I have heard a lot of complaints about speed control and scratching more than usual.

    • Since we will be playing on bar boxes, does that mean we will be playing with an oversized cue ball or a cue ball that’s heavier or lighter than normal? I want to make sure I understand any variables that will change. Thanks!

  5. Regulation cue balls: of various types at regionals; usually the magnetic valley cougar cue ball (or another Valley magnet ball) at Nationals.

  6. Would it be a stupid idea to buy a magnetic/valley cue ball and use it when I practice on a 9 footer? Is that going to make any difference?

  7. I would like to get some feedback from some folks who have been to Vegas but never play on BB before they get there. Is the congestion the biggest problem? Not too worried about speed but I am as it relates to my partner. We are headed out there to play in the Jack/Jill Nationals. She is a 3 and hits everything with top English. My concern is that it will be difficult for her to leave me position on such a small and fast table.
    Any recommended adjustments or experiences would help.

    • Hi Don. I always play on 9 foot Gold Crowns, never Bar Box (BB). I recently played in the APA Singles Regionals in Bakersfield, CA, and all of the tables were BB. Here’s my assessment of the differences between BB and 9foot. (1) The cue ball was the same size as the object balls, so there was no difference in aiming. (2) The tables were MUCH smaller, which meant there were no long distance shots. That’s good if you can’t hit a long straight shot…bad if that’s your strength. (3) It’s hard to play a distance safety since there is no distance to speak of on a 7 foot table. (4) You may want to play lots of direct short distance position routes. I played some of my ‘normal’ 9 foot position routes (2 or 3 rails) and on several shots overran position because I didn’t stop to think and make adjustments to my speed. I just went into ‘autopilot’ mode and overran position. (5) The layouts will be more clustered because the table is so much smaller. Again, practice your short distance maneuvering and practice breaking up clusters. 14.1 would be a good practice game on a 9 foot table to prepare for the BB. Just my thoughts.

  8. Thanks for the information Michael.

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