Preparing for Competition

Written by David Sapolis

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Article Index
Preparing for Competition (page 1)
Physical Preparation (page 2)
Having a Game Plan (page 3)

Physical Preparation

So how do we prepare? Do we perform endless drills and patterns until we are bored stiff? I believe that this is where the problem arises. Don’t get me wrong, drills and patterns have their place in practice. Your practice sessions should be challenging, yet they must have variety. Boring yourself into oblivion develops the wrong attitude towards practice. Practice should be fun and challenging. You should want to practice. Short term goals are achieved in practice. I don’t care if you are practicing banks shots or your break shot. The physical practice should be conducted with short term goals in mind. We also need to scout our opponents and prospective competition. This is the key to preparing for pool competition. Want to mess with someone’s head? Carry a notebook around at leagues and tournaments. Every time the guy you are scouting misses a shot, scribble something down in the book. You could be drawing cartoons in the book, but he doesn’t know that. Make sure you do it to where he notices it. I have a hundred dollar bill for the first person that tells me that this doesn’t work. It works whether you are playing him or not. He’ll wonder what you are up to, and believe me, this will carry over into the next match you have with him as well. This works well at tournaments as well as every day at the local room AND - it works with everybody, trust me. It serves a dual purpose:

A) You learn his weaknesses

B) You do this at the expense of his curiosity

When preparing for certain opponents, it is extremely important to know their strengths and weaknesses. Know what shots they make consistently, know what shots they miss consistently. This will change from week to week. Keep a notebook. Most of us go to the tournaments and BS between matches. Find out who is in the flight of your bracket and scout their matches. Take note of their expressions and mood swings, especially when they are in trouble or if they have missed a shot. Watch their eyes when they miss. Watch their eyes when they are planning their routes around the table. Try to understand how and why they make their choices at the table. Pool is a game where you must think against your opponent. Especially during a safety battle. Knowing how and why your opponent makes certain choices is extremely advantageous. Don;t be shy. I wish I had a dime for every time I innocently complimented someone on a good match only to have them explain what they were thinking and why they made the choices that they made. On the other hand, you now know not to do that. A quiet player is usually the best player. It’s like huntin’ wabbits. Be vewwy vewwy quiet. Don’t let anybody in on your strategy, and don’t pass along what you are learning to anybody. Identify strengths and weakness and learn what you can capitalize on.

Play the table and make the layout your friend. Though this might seem like basic, generic advice, it is rarely adhered to. The layout of the table can either be your enemy or your friend. If you are playing 8 ball and your opponent is running his balls down to the 8, understand and realize that the balls that are still on the table are to his disadvantage. Do not let him forget that. Don’t clear the table for him unless you have a good chance to run out. Use the traffic on the table to your advantage. If you are playing 9 ball, and you are shooting the 3 ball, noticing that the 7,8,4,& 9 are tied up, and a run out is not probable, no law says that you MUST make the 3. If you do, you are then committed to making contact with the 4, and possibly opening up the table for him. I’ve been playing pool for over 30 years, and in that time I have not seen one medal awarded for heroic run outs. Not one. Let him deal with the clusters. Keep yourself in control of the table, not him. Make the shots you should make and when faced with no shot, leave him no daylight. These are the situations you should concentrate on during your practices.

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About The Author: Blackjack David Sapolis played professional pool for 20 years in The United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

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