In November of 2007, the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Louisville, Kentucky, played host to the $20,000 added CSI Qlympics.
A star studded field gathered to compete in the BCA, U.S. Open Bank Pool Championship, U.S. Open One-Pocket Championship, U.S. Open 14.1 Championship, and the ever prestigious U.S. Open 10-Ball Championship. Early on Saturday morning I decided to drive north to Louisville and watch some of the world’s greatest players. My intention was to watch the featured Action Report match pitting Earl Strickland against Shane Van Boening. However, when I arrived on the scene, my good friend Samantha Patton and convinced me to enter both the 8-Ball and 9-Ball mini-tournaments. She said it would be a great way to test my skills against some of the world’s greatest players.
The 9-Ball mini was single elimination, race to 5. I started out strong, winning several matches by significant margins. After winning the final match of the 9-Ball tournament against “Detroit Tom” by a score of 5-2, I found myself in the semi-finals of the 8-Ball event pitted against top ranked touring professional, Louis Ulrich. Louis had just won the BCAPL Men’s Master Big Table Singles Division and had just finished 2nd in the U.S. Open 10-Ball Championship.
The match was close and it was only a race to 3. I was on the hill by a score of 2-1 and Louis had just missed an opportunity at a difficult run out. I came to the table with a crucial decision to make. As you can see below, I had the solids and Louis had only the 8-ball left. It was clear that I had to play safe. The problem was: How do you defend against the firepower of a world-class player?
As I studied the layout, my first instinct was to do something simple.
I wanted to graze the 6-Ball rolling up behind it and the five, leaving the cue ball at position “A.”
However, as I continued to study the layout of the balls, I came to a realization that it was the incorrect shot. I kept telling myself: You can’t have a clear kick shot to pocket the 8. So I surveyed the table for other options.
After carefully surveying the table, I noticed that my two and three ball were positioned near the 8 and could be potentially used as blockers for executing a different type of safety. My new plan was to shoot thinly into the left side of the 6-ball and position the cue-ball two rails onto the other side of the table, leaving it at position “B.” This plan cuts off the upper cushion, which takes the easier to pocket 1-rail kick out of the equation. I would rather have my opponent kick to the short side of the ball with a lower percentage of making it, rather than letting him kick it to the long side, which has a higher probability of the ball being pocketed.
After I executed the safety, Louis came to the table and kicked to the short side. The 8-ball rebounded off the cushion and broke loose my 2 and 3. This was the only opportunity that I needed to
Looking back, I now realize how important that it is to look for various safety options and to weigh the probabilities of each shot.
If I had elected to go with my first instinct and had attempted to play the simpler safety, I very well may have watched Louis kick in the 8-Ball and win the game.
The movie MoneyBall talks about how the Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane uses percentages over the long haul to win at baseball. Pool is no different.It’s important to weigh all of your options and to always play the percentage. Any time you can gain even a one or two percent advantage it is important to exercise that option. Even a small percentage adds up over the course of time.
Photo: Andrew Magill/Flickr
Editor: Dana Gornall