Just when I thought I’d seen it all… a couple weeks ago I played in an 8-ball tournament at Cuetopia using a format that was completely new to me. The format is called a “Line Tournament.” I thought it was a very interesting format as there was no handicapping involved, yet, it provided a reasonable opportunity for lesser players to finish in the money. Here’s how the format works….
Suppose 8 players show up for the tournament. The tournament director ranks the players 1-8 based on his/her knowledge or best guess of each player’s skill. To start the tournament, the 1st and 2nd ranked players match up on table 1, the 3rd and 4th ranked players start on table 2, etc. The players lag (or flip) for the break, and each match is really just a race to one. Yes… one game. After each match (or game), the winner moves up one table (closer to table 1), and the loser moves down one table (closer to table 4). If you win at table 1 you stay at table 1, and if you lose at table 4, you stay at table 4. That’s it. You run the tournament for a set amount of time (for instance, two hours), and the tournament winner is the person with the best win/loss record when time runs out.
There are many benefits to this format, two of which are of key interest to me: (1) the tournament has a set time limit….no staying up until 2:00 in the morning, and (2) I get some practice playing against a few higher skilled players in a series of sudden death matches…. PRESSURE! I really like this format. It is fun, provides good match pressure, and still gets you home at a reasonable time.
This weekend I competed in the BCAPL Southwest Regional Championships in Scottsdale, AZ. I played okay, certainly not my best, but pulled a two and out. Before I left the tournament area for the long hot drive across the desert, I scribbled a few notes that should help me improve prior to entering my next big tournament. Here are some of my lessons learned:
- I normally practice and compete on tight pocket nine foot Brunswick Gold Crowns. If I plan to enter in a highly competitive bar box tournament that will be using seven foot Diamond tables, it’s probably a good idea for me to practice a little on bar boxes. (Duhh!)
- I don’t have to play close shape on bar box tables because there are no long shots on a bar box. I should keep the cue ball away from the object balls so that I don’t kiss safe myself. (Three times I ended a 6 ball run with a kiss on my 7th ball.)
- I should play stop shot routes as much as possible to eliminate the need to figure out table speed. The speed of the cloth and the action of the rails become irrelevant if I can plan and execute a series of stop shots. (On several occasions I overran my landing zones while still adjusting to the table speed.)
- I must pull up and chalk if I have any mind chatter. I must not shoot unless I have a very specific landing spot identified for the cue ball. (Twice I messed up on the key ball shot because of mind chatter: one voice in my head was telling me to hurry up and shoot the shot because the subsequent position was so easy there was no need to think about it, while another voice in my head was screaming, “NO! NO! Stand up!”
Maybe the most important lesson learned: No player that I watched did anything extraordinary. These guys were playing right at my skill level. I gave up games (and matches) on silly mental mistakes. I believe the biggest things I need to work on are my mental focus and pre-shot routines, both of which should easily be within my control. Next time, I will be ready.