The first thing a gamesman does is to start testing and probing his opponent’s attitudes and mental stability.
This is done by seemingly unrelated inquiries—all probing for any weakness. On each question, the player’s response is carefully observed. Was there a slight wince, a frown, or scowl? That indicates an emotional weak point.
At a key point in a run, a carefully timed verbal comment can be used to reduce or destroy the focus.
And truthfully, some players openly hand a gamesman the tools needed to beat them. Many of these are very obvious. For example, complaining about having to shoot of the cushion, is an open invitation for a gamesman to intentionally and continuously give you such setups. It is the same when a complaint is voiced about disliking the use of the mechanical bridge.
Here is an example of how a gamesman would discover a weakness:
A gamesman asks you a question about your day. You respond (for several minutes) by complaining that your day was so rough. Right off, you have told the gamesman that you will have trouble maintaining concentration. And then, the one time you start stringing a few balls together, he says something to you about how you’re doing well in spite of your exhaustion.
And, then you miss the next shot.
The key to managing players who think they are gamesman is to recognize when they are making an attempt to control your mind. If you can recognize the opening gambits, you can prevent these tricks from affecting your game. When games are important you can do a lot to help you win by following a few simple rules:
Don’t show emotions (happy, sad, or mad) before and during a match.
Avoid answering questions from opponents—especially general inquires of any kind.
No matter where you are in a match, always maintain a poker face.
Over time, you will be the target of dozens and hundreds of mind game attempts. Simple experience will help you identify the common pitfalls. When you do experience a new distractive approach, you will be effected once (maybe twice), but thereafter, it won’t work.
Eventually, we get to the point that no one will be able to play mind games with us.
*See Part 1 here.
Photo: Destroy all Cinema Editor: Dana Gornall