Personally I can not count how many times I’ve been called a “pool shark” and honestly it’s a term I find endearing 😏 . I think it describes a confident or aggressive competitive player, not necessarily “a hustler”; however, when you type in “Pool Shark” into Google, the following definition pops up -
Pool shark: In the billiards sub-culture, a pool shark is usually someone who suckers someone into playing them for money knowing full well, that they are a significantly better and more skilled player, thus making the match very unfair.
Regardless of your definition of a pool shark, there is another kind of player that is far more treacherous in the billiard community...the player who uses “sharking” tactics. My definition of a "shark move" is an action that is made to deliberately throw off an opponent while being subtle enough that they can't be called out for it. These moves can include sounds, motions, words, attitude, and more. Some examples include:
making a noise on purpose when someone is down on a shot (laugh, cough, sneeze, fart lol) of course sometimes humans can't hold the sound in & that shouldn't count.
making a movement in the shooter's line of sight (wipe down the cue, rub your face, dry your hands, pick up your glass, etc.)
take a break when it's not your turn at the table
take a longer break or trying to take multiple break during a match
giving unsolicited & perhaps condescending advice
the good old "take it easy on me" line or attitude
(in my opinion the worst offense) being on the phone in any way shape or form
One of the best & entertaining pieces I’ve read on this topic is The History of Sharking written by the great pool author, R.A. Dyer. He writes about famous pool players & their favorite shark moves, including The Lauri Searchlight Shark (so unique!), The Willie Mosconi Shark & The Minnesota Fats Shark. Definitely worth the read!
When it comes to serious leagues or tournaments of any kind, I have a powerful dislike for sharking. I go out of my way as a player to not do anything to distract my opponent & be respectful. I want a fair fight & I believe in karma! Unfortunately I have let the sharks get to me on occasion & so I have worked on creating a psychological resistance, as it is my responsibility to maintain focus. Of course if the sharking is blatant or repeated an official should be told & that player should be held accountable. If not let's talk about the ways we can get our head back in the game:
Focus on what you can control: Since you can't control other people, you need to focus on yourself. Instead of letting the distracting behavior get to you, try to calm yourself down by paying attention to your fundamentals, grabbing a drink of water, or immersing yourself in the strategy of the rack.
Believe that karma will get them: In pool & in life I believe that being a good person wins in the end. Although it might not balance out in the moment, it helps me feel less distracted to think that a shark move will backfire in the end.
Take the high road: No matter what happens you should not sink to the sharker's level. This is bound to distract you even more & could escalate into an argument or a fight.
Channel the emotion into winning: Instead of getting angry or irritated, make an effort to channel that emotion into focus & determination. Let your game & winning put your opponent back in their place.
Laugh it off & have fun playing pool! When someone is being ruthless or disrespectful in order to create a competitive edge, one of the best things you can do is not react & just have fun. Just because they are taking things too seriously, doesn't mean you have to. Ignore them, focus on the game you love & smile.
Thank you for reading & good luck with all those sharks! If you're the sharking type, I encourage you to improve your pool game & be more respectful. Cheers!