“Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others experience”— Otton Von Bismarck
This guy never played a game of pool in his life. But that quote of his is a beauty that I apply every day in the pool hall. Watching amateurs and pros means I see mistakes that I would make. And then I do my best to learn to avoid them.
A bit like playing a video game. Except that there is no save option to full back on.
I will give you the 11 most common mistakes from over 10 years of watching pool in less than 5 minutes.
1. Wanting to play a perfect game every time.
It is the wet dream of every player. Winning 15 tournaments in a row like Willie Mosconi. Or having the pin-point accuracy of Buddy Hall.
You are setting yourself up for failure.
Failing is natural.
Instead of forcing yourself to play perfect, find your average level. In each game you need to improve on that average. That should be your goal. And if you exceed it more times than not, all the better.
Every legend started with failure. Why shouldn’t you?
2. Don’t analyze the games to much
Whether they have lost or won, most pros reflect on their game for a short period of time
They do not spend endless time thinking why they have failed. Why they have played so well or bad. Or focusing on the past possibilities.
This would leave them feeling anxious for the next game. Keeping a calm mind is the key to the game.
I invite you to do it from now on, even with pen and paper. Write down where you did well and bad. Then focus on improving your weaknesses and repeating the things you did well.
Do not dwell on the past.
3. Focusing on the cue ball and forgetting the object ball.
A classic failure of beginners.
Put all the attention on where we want the cue ball to go and zero focus on the object ball.
The Result: the ball is not sunk.
What is more important, to sink the ball or to set up for the next one?
Obviously to get the ball sunk. Because without that first premise the second one doesn’t make any sense.
So try to pay equal attention to both parts of the shot so that the result is positive.
Bascially follow Order 69-shoot to kill.
4. Taking too many risks
Many are under the impression that shots are done in rapid succession. To play without stopping to think about the level of difficulty of each shot. Or consider the options available on the table
With this approach failure is high.
Billiard pros cultivate the art of playing at a slow pace and taking minimal risks.
It is time to do the same. Playing after considering carefully all options. Not taking risk with moves that are unlikely to go in. Focus on shots that have a high chance of success.
Playing at a slow speed means moving the cue ball as little as possible. Hitting it in the center. Sweeping the table and playing soft.
Related reading: Do I risk the shot now or risk it later?
5. Creating false expectations
Ernesto Díaz explained it well in an interview: “Expectations do not allow us to perform at our best and slow us down, they put walls around us”.
The expectation to win. To reach such and such a round. To expect to play perfect or to present a top game.
None of these do you any favours does.
It blocks you.
Instead, focus your attention on the work you have to do to achieve all of the above. When you work well, the results come without waiting for them.
6. Giving up when we are down 3-0
We give up to soon.
If things start badly, we think that it is beyond recovery. And we throw in the towel at 3-0.
Managing a high score is hard. But you have to aim to do it. You think that until the 8-ball is sunk.
I’ve seen a lot of comebacks from 5-0 to 5-6 and the like.
If Fran Sanchez had thrown in the towel when he was losing 5-1 in the 9-Ball semifinals, he wouldn’t be a European champion now.
He kept fighting and in the end won 6-9.
7. Fooling ourselves by making excuses
If you make excuses whenever you lose, no one will believe you. You will only be fooling yourself.
We lose because the rival played better or deserved the victory more than we did. That’s all there is to it.
It is time to be honest with others and with yourself by accepting defeats and praising the opponent.
8. Envying the great players.
It hurts a lot of amateur and intermediate players to see how others are successful. They win a lot of tournaments, make a living from billiards, etc.
It’s sad, but that’s how it is. I invite you to transform that envy into admiration.
Instead of thinking: f$@k, he/she has won again. Think: good for him/her, a new victory.
If you rejoice in the success of others, others will rejoice when you achieve it.
Related reading: “If you don’t have your feet on the ground… you’ll be whistled for a foul”.
9. Underestimating the opponent
In every tournament players lose many matches for this reason.
Player A (five-time tournament winner) loses against Player B (a known, weaker player).
How the hell did that happen?
Because the former thought from the beginning that the match was already won, unlike the latter, who gave everything.
If you want to be a top player, do not underestimate anyone. Even if you are at top and your opponent in further down in the ranking ladder.
Play as you would play against the strongest in the championship.
10. Train the arm but not what controls it.
This is one of the most important because it is the basis for the whole game.
We say success in pool is all in the head, but how many train the mind?
We spend hours and hours pounding out drills, serves, jumps and other shots. BUT we don’t pay enough attention to learning how to manage emotions, thoughts and mistakes.
Less training the arm and more who is directing it. Here are a few interesting books for that.
11. Excessive strength
And finally, mistake number 11, very frequent: you have too much strength in most of your shots.
When you start, you still have in your head the idea of “I’ll shoot hard so I’m sure I’ll hit one“.
Once you get used to shooting softer, you will see how everything becomes simpler and the game becomes easier for three reasons:
- Less risk of the shot being deflected
- More possibilities of pocketing the ball
- Better control of the cue ball.