The people who play pool regularly represent a broad spectrum of styles, personality types & strong opinions on the game. The diversity of people in the sport is one of the things I love most about it. Through 20 years of competitive experience I am grateful to have accumulated knowledge on the game, yet I am always humbled by how much more there is to learn. Here is a list of my top 10 tips for pool competition Part 1 (1-5). This will be the first in a series of Top 10 articles with future topics including: Fundamentals, Practice, & Gambling. In this series you’ll find my two cents on the different topics & you can take them or leave. I hope you can apply one or more to improve your pool life. Enjoy!
1.) Prepare Physically & Mentally Before
The time before the event is perhaps more important than during the competition. Although I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle year round, I usually start taking better care of myself more right before an event. The amount of time before depends on the energy needed for the competition. For example if it’s a local 1-2 day event I would start 2-3 days before, whereas a WPBA 4 day event I would prepare 1-2 weeks before. I focus on regular exercise (3-4 days a week), eating a whole food & clean diet, practicing yoga/meditation & working on stress relief. When it comes to competition, every small choice can translate into a winning advantage.
2.) Practice with Purpose
The first thing I do prior to a competitive event is find out what equipment we are playing on & practice on it if possible. For example the WPBA events are played on Diamond Tables as they sponsor the tour, but my home room Amsterdam Billiard Club and my home table are Brunswick Gold Crowns. The different brands of tables play differently, so I seek out Diamonds to practice on 1-2 weeks before the event. In the NYC area I usually have to travel up to an hour, but it’s worth it. I usually feel more prepared & play more consistently. For local league matches or local tournaments, I will try to play on the actual tables of the event if possible.
On top of this I learn the format & rules of the event & apply them to my practice routine. I will play other people of a certain skill level in the designated race. For example for an open/pro tournament I will practice with people close to my skill level or higher, playing even races to 7 or 9 & either winner or alternate break. If it’s a handicapped league or tournament match coming up I will practice with people a skill level lower or higher then myself & play with the appropriate handicap.
3.) Choose Food & Beverages Wisely
Honestly what you consume before & during events can really affect your level of play. When I was a younger competitor (19-21), I learned the hard way that playing with a hangover is not as effective lol. This seems obvious, but even a few drinks the night before can decrease performance. I try to save my partying for after the event.
During the event, what & when you eat can also affect you. I enjoyed teaching a nutrition program for several years during college & learned how different foods can change your energy level. When in competition you should avoid larger and/or carbohydrate heavy meals which can make you sluggish. Instead, eat healthy snacks throughout the event. For meals if possible eat 1-2 hours before a match with a meal of lean protein, veggies & maybe a little healthy carbs. My go-to snacks are peanut butter, banana, nuts, seafood, eggs, lean turkey jerk, & veggies. My go to meal would be salmon, veggies & a little brown rice. Lastly if you can avoid drinking too much caffeine & sugary drinks while increasing water intake, you can prevent energy crashes & promote hydration. Here is a great article & chart on energy boosting foods: LIST OF ENERGY BOOSTING FOODS
4.) Conserving Energy
The fact that playing competitive pool takes so much physical & mental energy is often taken for granted. During an event trying to be solitary or relaxed in between matches can help performance. Socializing with friends or fans, running errands, playing cards & more routine activities can exhaust your energy reserve needed to perform. Try to isolate the
best you can & keep it simple. If you’re in a casino or venue, chill in your room with a movie. If you’re at a pool room or bar, watch better players to study their fundamentals. Not to be rude, but that in depth conversation can wait until after the tournament. Save that extra energy for winning! Also refrain from too much time on social media or on the phone as this can slowly drain you, affect you emotionally or distract you. Too much screen time can also affect your eyesight by exhausting it or blurring it. Players often don’t pay attention to protecting their eyes, but it’s one of the most important assets to your pool game. A great man once asked me why I don’t close & rest my eyes more during matches, now I close/rest my eyes whenever possible while in my chair.
5.) When & How to “Take Your Break”
During most competitive pool matches each player is entitled to a 5ish minute break. Many players casually use the break for the restroom or to smoke a cigarette, but using your break can also be strategic. Do you need a mental rest? Are you behind & need to shift momentum? Is something just off & you need to hit reset? I have won many matches by choosing the perfect moment to take my break, but I have also lost many by not taking it when I should have. If you’re paying attention often you can feel this moment. The most common time players fail to take a break is when they are down in a race by multiple games & try to push through frustration. Instead clear your head with a breath of fresh air!
At the same token, let’s say you are really in the zone & ahead in the match when your opponent takes their break to slow you down. Try to keep it simple & routine so you don’t lose your focus. Refrain from talking to others about the match. Get some air, use the restroom & maybe grab some water or a snack. Thanks for reading & happy New Year!
Article by Emily Duddy