Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Lesson From The Pool Hall

I have often commented on my Dad’s exploits at the pool table and use it as a reference point of my poker play. I don’t know, maybe I’m trying to find the root of my enjoyment of playing cards or something of the sorts. If that was the case, I guess I could just write about my Dad putting a couple of hundred on a boxing match and the excitement that use to come over his face during the fight. Or I can just talk about how my friend, Bobby and I use to spend night after night in the pool hall in hopes of reaching my father’s level of play. Yet, to me, there is something very interesting about poker and pool – many correlations, yet many differences.

I think both poker and pool as a game of skill and the only way to improve one’s game is through tons and tons of reps. And the only way to test one’s skill is through countless attempts to move up in stakes and skill levels.

Often times I hear poker players saying that they are just going to grind it out in hopes of one day moving up to the 4/8 level or 5/10 level. I think it’s smart to work on one’s bankroll before moving up in limits because as we all know, you are going to hit the wall sooner or later and take a beating.

This brings me the meat and potatoes of this story. I remember about after a year or so of playing pool with Bobby night after night we invited my father to come and play pool with us. Bobby had pretty much surpassed my playing at that time was playing for small stakes with the local sharks. I, on the other hand, was playing for beers still. I could hold my own with most of them, but there is this small level of change between a person who plays for beers and a person who plays for small stakes, yet it’s a world of difference in what you can play with money wise. I suppose no diff. than poker between that someone playing in the ½ game and 2/4 game. In any case, I had grown up watching my father play pool in the seedy parts of town all my life. Even when I was young he would sit me in the corner while he took several guys for money. These were the days when one was allowed to smoke indoors in California. How I wish I could have an old black and white of me sitting in the corner drinking my coke and having a candy bar.

So when my Father finally agreed to take us up on coming to Fast Eddie’s Billiards it was kind of a big thing for us. My Dad had long since deserted the pool scene but was still fairly known in the pool circles. I was surprised how many people still knew him when he walked in. So when we started the games he just tore into us. Sure we knew he was a superior player than us, but he had been off the felt in sometime…but he took no time in running two racks on us back to back. Thinking back on this there is a lesson to be learned…never sandbag. For the rest of the night, even when Bobby and I were warmed up we couldn’t get it going. We had those first two games entrenched on our minds. Sure as the night wore on we won one from my old man, but he still controlled the table for the night…if not physically at least mentally.

I’m really not sure how this ties in, but I guess the lesson here is that even if you are trying to change your table image, always try and beat them down first. The hurt and fear will reside for a while after.

Oh, I recently played pool with my father and he was really off. I couldn’t figure it out. I attributed it to age and maybe rust. But everyone there was telling him how well he played the prior week to win the tournament. I didn’t really understand the sudden dip in his play since some of the guys playing were really good. I took the time to ask him and he told me, “nothing was on the line.” I suppose he is a better player when something is on the line. Then I got to thinking, then why did he kill Bobby and me when we were just playing…no money on the line and we got his A game right off the bat…that was for pride I figure. We had been poking at him to come and play with us and he probably was just fed up with us. Plus, sometimes an old rooster has to show the young fowl that he needs to grow still. So although moving up in limit is good practice from time to time, take note that there is probably a rooster there ready to set you straight.


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