Mounting a Comeback

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Back in 1990, I watched Nick Varner’s hot seat match with Mike Sigel at the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships. Varner was down 9-2 and corner hooked against arguably the best player in the world. Instead of giving up or throwing in the towel, Varner staged one of the greatest come-from-behind tournament victories ever witnessed.

By now, I am sure that you are aware that there are two games going on inside of every match. There’s the more obvious physical game, which consists of mechanics, shooting, and safety play. Then there’s also the less visible, mental game, which is comprised of handling pressure, dealing with misfortune, and being able to mount an unbelievable comeback.


Professional pool players know that winning the mental side of a match also a key part of winning the physical one. In fact, a mentally tough competitor who thinks positively will almost certainly outlast a more talented less mentally prepared opponent. Nowhere is this more visible than when a player makes a come-from-behind victory.

When you are behind by a significant margin and your opponent is only a few balls away from victory, you should do everything within your power to stay focused and make one final charge. Remember to concentrate on all of the steps of your pre-shot routine. Do not waste unnecessary energy dwelling on the deficit you are facing. Usually, at this stage of the match, most players are so discouraged that they just give up. You cannot afford to let that happen!


Your may not know it, but your opponent can sense your level of frustration. Most players view negativity as a sign of weakness. In fact, the split second you start to think negative thoughts, you have already become defeated. Your defeat may actually be well before the final ball drops into the pocket.

So how do you remain focused when you are “down and out?” When you are way behind, you should never give up on the mental side of the game. As long as you maintain focus and exhibit a positive, no-quit attitude, then the only way that you can lose is by running out of games.


Several years ago I was playing in a 9-Ball tournament and was down 4-0 against arguably the best player in the state. I scratched, clawed, and fought my way back and finally tied the match at 4. In the final game I was lucky enough to make the 9-ball on the break and win the match.

You may think that being down 4-0 is no reason to give up and that many players have pulled off far greater comebacks. This is true. However, the point I am trying to convey is that a comeback cannot happen if you allow yourself to be defeated mentally. Real mental toughness is when you mentally enable yourself and actually believe you can win even when the odds are stacked against you.


When your opponent is on the hill, don’t give up—give yourself a fighting chance to win! Don’t focus on the score and how badly you are being beaten; focus on shooting one shot at a time. Comebacks happen when you refuse to lose and when you focus all of your concentration into the present moment.

Many years ago, author Bill Hogan wrote a children’s book that asks the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The book’s answer to that question is “one bite at a time.” Mounting a comeback in pool is no different. Good players figure out a way to win even in the face of adversity, and they do it one ball at a time.


Article by Anthony Beeler

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