Poolosophy is part of Volume 7 of PoolSynergy, a monthly collection of the best writing on pool. After you read it, be sure to check out the rest of the May 2010 edition of PoolSynergy for other great articles over at P00lriah. The April theme is Poolosophy – Your Philosophy about Pool.

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Poolsynergy Logo

When it comes to pool, basically I’m schizophrenic. One the one hand I’m a very laid back, easy going guy. I see pool as a game not a way of life; a way to have fun, not a career. On the other hand, I find pool to be profoundly satisfying and I’m deeply interested in getting better at the game. I believe in both my gut and my intellect that only through regular, directed practice will my game and my skills progress at any significant rate. Most overnight sensations happen after ten years of intense, disciplined effort.

My Approach to the Game

I try to live up to the highest standards of integrity. I would never lie about my skill level or purposely play below it to get an advantage in handicapping or in a wager. If I commit a foul I will tell my opponent rather than hope she didn’t see it, whether in a friendly game or in the finals of a tournament or league. I wish more people played this way, but there are so many ethical players out there that I’ll never go without an honorable opponent. Gambling is OK if done honorably and with discretionary funds, but hustling, sandbagging and sharking are completely disreputable. To me, success in this goal isn’t to be honored, but should be expected as a minimum standard.

I try not to be one of those guys in the pool room. It would bother me if my behavior was irritating enough to bother others. I work at learning to ignore these bad habits in others, but with only limited success.

If you can’t respect your opponent, you shouldn’t be playing him. It’s just that easy to fix. And if you meet them in a league or tournament match, watch them like a hawk and don’t take any crap. But for everyone else, it’s important to be a good sport, win or lose. I try to remember that nothing happened on the table that wasn’t directly caused by my opponent or me. Luck in pool, good or bad, is all in your imagination. The balls go where they’re hit. Pretending otherwise just keeps you from seeing things as they really are.

Don’t offer unsolicited advice. No matter how much you know, no matter how much your opponent could benefit from your wisdom; keep it to yourself unless asked. Otherwise, it often puts the two of you in an awkward situation, where you’ve moved the conversation into a training situation and the opponent just wants to play. Since they didn’t ask for assistance they may be much less receptive than you anticipate, maybe even hostile. And if they’re polite it may just be because they have better manners than you do.

Maximizing Improvement

Keep it Fun. My goal to get better is tied to my long term enjoyment of the game. I don’t push myself to practice harder, longer, and more aggressively than I find enjoyable. This limits the extent of improvement I’ll achieve, but I’m OK with that. Becoming even better at the cost of losing my love for the game would be a bad trade indeed.

Keeping a positive outlook helps me weather the slumps and poor play that inevitably happens. Practice only improves my chances for making a given shot, it guarantees nothing. Improving the error bars around my trend line is desirable, but they’ll never be zero.

Play, Compete & Practice. Play to have fun, to try new things, play new games, etc. Compete, in tournaments, leagues or gambling to play under pressure. It’s hard to simulate this pressure, so just participate directly in the stressful activity until you get used to it. You’ll often find it intensely enjoyable as you learn to overcome your initial butterflies. Also, in both of these, work on your strategy. Practice to improve your physical skills.

Photo of Yogi Berra
You can observe a lot by watching – Yogi Berra

I do my best to be honest with myself. I didn’t miss because I was unlucky, I missed because I moved my body while stroking, or I took my eye off the object ball, etc. The pool gods weren’t against me today, causing me to overrun my position zone, I just hit the ball too hard. It’s amazing what you can see if you just open your eyes and take the blinders off.

Know Your Weaknesses, requires the just mentioned honesty as well as willingness to methodically examine your game and rate everything. Getting assistance from someone with a much stronger game can help a lot, but only if they’re willing to be honest with you. Most people aren’t, for fear of hurting your feelings.

Practice Productively, Effectively & Efficiently. Productively means working on the right things, i.e., the things that will help your game the most. Effectively means practice that will actually help you make the difference you’re after. Efficiently means getting the most benefit from each hour of effort.

Don’t practice banks if you bank rarely when you play. It’s practice mostly wasted. Working on a drill to improve your position play that doesn’t result in improved position play means you’re working on the wrong drill. And practicing inefficiently can mean learning something after 20 hours of hard work when you could have done it in 5.

Don’t Do it by Yourself. The earlier it is in your pool education, the more important it is to get excellent in-person feedback from someone you trust. This person can see things you can’t, not only because they know much more, but because they’re watching you objectively, something you cannot do. You view yourself through the lens of your own kinesthetic sense of what you are doing, whereas they actually see you do it. Video equipment can help, but it’s not as good as an instructor.

Pay attention to the details. It will help you get to the bottom of issues, instead of stopping at the first thing you notice. The more fundamental the problem you discover, the more valuable the result of your effort to improve it will be.

Keep your standards high but your expectations reasonable. Every time you get better you must raise the bar or your performance level will stagnate. Enjoy the improvement, reward yourself for a job well done, and then start a new effort to improve something else. Be cognizant, though, of how hard it is to improve and how long it takes to get better. It is realistic to improve every month, but not realistic to jump a few skill levels in a short time. Be patient, you’ll get there with steady improvement.

Past Editions of PoolSynergy

Nov 2009 – Volume 1
Dec 2009 – Volume 2
Jan 2010 – Volume 3
Feb 2010 – Volume 4
Mar 2010 – Volume 5
Apr 2010 – Volume 6

My PoolSynergy Posts

Nov 2009 – Thinking Your Way to More Pool Victories
Dec 2009 – My First Big ‘Aha!’ Moment in Pool
Jan 2010 – Three Outside Influences on my Pool Education
Feb 2010 – Some of My Favorite Pool Players
Mar 2010 – 10 Reasons Why Gambling is Bad for Pool
Apr 2010 – Attitude is Everything

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