I play in a handicapped straight pool league on Tuesday nights at Lucky Shot Billiards in Sunnyvale, CA. Last night I played a match that was by far the most exciting match I’ve ever played. I was playing a quickly improving but lower ranked player in a 100-50 race. I had to score 100 points before he scored 50. The match started out really slow for me with my opponent scoring 15 points to my -1 on the first rack! He wasn’t leaving me any shots and he wasn’t missing very much. The next several racks weren’t much better, and I quickly found myself trailing by a score of 30-30. He needed only 20 points to win and I needed 70. Yikes!
My opponent was making every available cut shot, some of which were absolutely incredible table length cut shots. In a desperate attempt to keep myself in the game, I started turning the table into my version of a World War I era battle of attrition. I’d pocket a few loose balls, leave the pack tight, play the tightest safety I could find, wait for his kick or feather shot, then pocket a few more. Fast forward an hour. The score was now 57-42. My opponent needed only 8 points and I needed 43. I just couldn’t seem to catch a gear and get any runs going, but finally my opponent missed a shot… and there was an object ball near the pack… and the cue ball rolled out to the middle of the table and stopped. It was in perfect position. WHACK!!! Balls started raining in. WHACK, WHACK!! The balls finally started running into the holes where they belonged.
Ten minutes later, the score was 86-42. My opponent needed only 8 points and I needed 14. On my next shot I was forced to play a safe…and it was a damn good safe I might add. “Take THAT!” I thought. My opponent didn’t give up. He just focused intensely on the only object ball he could see, then made an unbelievable 8 foot 80 degree cut shot to the corner pocket. “WOW!!!!” He ran a total of 6 balls and then missed another tough cut.
Score: 86-48. He needed 2 points for the win. I needed 14.
I ran two balls then decided to play another damn good safe. The only shot I left him was another very difficult table length cut. He seemed unfazed. He blasted the ball into the far corner AND got position on his last ball. Note to self: Never leave this guy ANY cut shots!
Score: 88-49. He needed 1 point for the win and had position. I needed 12.
There were only three object balls left on the table. The best shot he could take was a 4 foot shot with about a 45 degree cut angle. He got into his stance. Pressure! He got up and looked at the shot again. It was the game winning shot – had to make sure it went in! Satisfied, he got into his stance. Stroke, stroke, stroke… and then he fired his last ball into the pocket for the victory! Wahoo! 50 POINTS FOR THE WIN!!!!
But…wait a minute! WHERE’S THAT CUE BALL GOING??!!!! Whitey had ricocheted off his last ball and was headed directly toward the opposite corner pocket. It inched closer and closer and closer… “No… No… Noooooooooo!” A scratch in the corner! Unbelievable!
Score: 88-48. He now needed 2 points for the win. I needed 12.
I got ball in hand behind the head string. There are only three object balls on the table and two of them are tied up. I tried to sink the ball on the foot spot and it rattled in the corner pocket! “Arrgggghhhh!” My opponent scored the hanging point and managed to break open the 2 ball cluster but didn’t have a makeable shot. I was able to sink the next to the last ball and run the cue ball two rails to get perfect position for a break shot. WHACK!! A solid hit! The balls spread nicely and all I needed was 10 balls for the win!
Score: 90-49. He needed just 1 point for the win. I needed 10. PRESSURE!
Although the rack spread nicely I had only one shot available to me and it was not an easy one. I put all my concentration into it and made it. Whew!!! I paused to study the lay of the table. It seemed the universe was playing some sort of trick on me as I could only see a 6 ball pattern. I knew at some point I’d need to take a high risk shot to open up some balls. I made 3 more loose balls and accidently left myself with a bad angle on my next shot.
Score: 94-49. He needed just 1 point. I needed 6. PRESSURE!
This was it. If I made this shot, I’d open up the remaining balls for an easy win. If I missed it, my opponent needed only 1 ball and I would certainly lose. It was a tough cut, but I wanted to make sure I got position on the next shot. I took the shot and got perfect position on the next ball, but the cut shot didn’t drop. Boo Hoo! My opponent made the last shot for the win: 94-50. Yeah, I lost, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had playing 14.1!