How Much Should You Care?

Throughout the past 35 years, I’m confident that I have either made or witnessed every mistake possible in pool. When it comes to attitude on the pool table, it is critical to have a balanced view.

While this might sound simple, I can guarantee that maintaining a positive attitude will be a very difficult thing to do under given circumstances. Every pool player in the world could use help in this area.

Finding the balance between caring too much and not enough might look different for everyone. We each bring our own personalities to the table. However, I know that leaning too far in either direction does not usually work out in the long run.

All of you know this by now, a tournament takes a long time to play. Each round usually has its own unique challenges. If I had to pinpoint one of my biggest flaws as a player, I reacted too heavily based on the result of each game.

Losing a game or two might send me into a panic – suddenly, I’m walking faster and worrying about what my next mistake might be. Conversely, an early runout or two might have me feeling a bit too good, wondering just how well I was going to play.

Be mindful that there is no such thing as perfection. We are humans, and it’s impossible to control our emotions completely. There are still matches where I am a little more erratic than others, but I know I’m doing far better than I used to. Additionally, after being around top-level players, I can tell you that they very rarely show emotion.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a desire to go on “tilt” when the going gets tough. I used to play a very unproductive game against myself. Let’s say my first match was a disaster; I might say to myself, “Oh, just forget about this tournament.” And then, all the sudden, after 4 good matches, I might say, “You know, I’ve got a shot to win this thing.”

There are always opportunities to bail out or say to yourself, “I don’t care what happens.” Often, I find pool players do this as a defense mechanism. We’re scared to find out just how badly we might play if we keep trying. 

This extreme doesn’t work either. If you are going back and forth between caring and not caring, you lack the consistency to win. 

Somewhere between not caring and caring too much is the right balance. It generally can be achieved by committing to the following process:

  • Use the PASS formula before every single shot.  Look for POTENTIAL PROBLEMS, then determine the ANGLE of the shot, the SPEED the shot needs to be struck with, and the necessary SPIN that must be applied to attain desired position on your next shot.  Be sure to think at least 3 shots ahead.  Professional players usually think through their entire turn.  If you don’t think far enough ahead then you won’t be successful.
  • Commit to your shot.
  • Have a pre-shot routine. 
  • Execute the shot subconsciously.
  • Evaluate the results. If it is a good result, internalize the success. If it’s not what you had hoped for, determine what went wrong and why.
  • If you can commit to going through a similar process before every single shot, you will become a better pool player.

Each shot you stroke is an independent event. All shots cumulatively influence your overall success, but I find it’s best to approach each shot as a new, different circumstance. It will help you make better strategic decisions, and more importantly, help you departmentalize your emotions. Again, this is all much easier said than done! Nobody does this correctly 100 percent of the time.