Seven Steps To A Tournament Victory


I still remember my first big tournament, the 1992 9-Ball championship in Lancaster, KY. There were over 100 players. Back then I didn’t play a lot of pool and I certainly didn’t understand the game like I do now, but I wanted to see how good the players were. After paying my entry fee, I went two and out. When I got done, I decided to follow the best players to see how my game compared. After watching them for about 6 hours, my evaluation was this: They shot straighter than I did, they played better position and they broke better than me. But I left there believing that if those guys could win, so could I. I worked on my game, and over time I got better. One summer, I watched numerous instructional videos, read books, and worked on ball running drills. Twelve years after I first competed, I made a long straight in shot to win that same tournament (with several pro caliber players competing).


How can Mike Sigel get to the finals and not know where he stands? It’s called playing in the present moment, and it’s a philosophy all players should embrace. It means not allowing yourself to think about the score or winning until you run out of shots. Instead, you become engrossed in the process of executing each shot and you completely accept the results no matter what they are.


The worst thing you can do for your prospects of winning a tournament is to get down on yourself after a bad shot. If you start feeling sorry for yourself, you’re not focused on the next shot and this will become very problematic. In fact, it’s almost like a rolling snowball, your problems will just keep getting bigger and bigger.


You must make quality high-percentage decisions. Every time you have the urge to make an aggressive shot, go with the more conservative one. The moment you get impatient, is when bad things happen. It’s the patient hunter that gets the pray.


Not too long ago, I was working with a young player who was struggling. But a couple of strong finishes later he was feeling much better. At the next tournament he won his first four rounds. Now he’s feeling really good. In between matches a player he knows walks up to him and says: “I don’t know what you’re doing with your stroke, but that’s not the way you used to do it.” A few minutes later another player comes over: “I noticed that you aren’t coming straight through with your stroke.” Now the poor fella goes from making everything he shot at to being a total mess.

You’ll have lots of well-meaning friends who want to give you advice. Stop them before they can say a word. Their comments will creep into your mind when you’re at the table.


I tell my students to follow the same pre-shot routine before every shot. It keeps you focused on what you have to do, and when the pressure is on, it helps you manage your nerves. A good pre-shot routine helped a top pro win the U.S. Open. Afterward he discussed the final match with some of the other players. He told me they kept commenting on how “cool” he was. “They can’t be talking about me,” he said.  My heart was jumping out of my chest.” He said he just hit one shot at a time and tried not to think about what it would mean to win the U.S. Open.


I’ve seen beginners not used to competing arrive an hour before their match and start make changes with their pool stroke. They become panicked and try to change their mechanics. Pro players do this, too. I’ve seen guys come to the Derby City Classic, invite all of their family and friends. Eventually they start worrying: What if I don’t finish in the money and disappoint everyone?  Just embrace the present moment. You can’t be afraid of messing up.