Having a bad day when playing pool (or similar): What to do about it?
July 14, 2018 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Most pool players experience this from time to time (and I'm sure it's true for other sports as well): We find themselves inexplicably playing worse than usual; then, this becomes a negative feedback loop, as we lose confidence in our playing and then do even worse. The next day we play all could be well again, but while this is happening it's very hard to shake, and very frustrating. What tips do people have for shaking it, or at least making the most of it?
posted by Mechitar to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try some trick shots. Try some different ways to hold the cue. You're gonna suck anyway, right? Experiment! You don't *need* any confidence because you're trying something you know damn well is probably going to fail.
posted by egypturnash at 12:52 PM on July 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

For me, this takes the form of "I can't fucking aim." Practicing aiming is the "the more I practice, the luckier I get" of pool for me. Just throw the balls down for a shootaround. In the moment, slowing down my shots can have some effect, but sometimes it's just an off day.
posted by rhizome at 1:02 PM on July 14, 2018

May want to Google for help with 'tilting', which is a poker term than has expanded into online gaming.
posted by noloveforned at 1:03 PM on July 14, 2018

There's a zillion discussions on Reddit and elsewhere about League of Legends players on tilt. For a game like pool or LoL where you can walk away; just walk away. Do something else until whatever emotional state you're in has passed and you no longer feel you're on a losing streak.
posted by Nelson at 1:11 PM on July 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I do something else that I suck at. That seems to reset my brain: “Okay, I know I suck at [shooting three-pointers], so I’m back to my baseline, and that means I’m good at [shooting pool] again.”
posted by Etrigan at 1:40 PM on July 14, 2018

You have to recognize that it's not something you can fix/control and that you have to take a break.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:04 PM on July 14, 2018

I do everything I can to slow down, whether it's by counting breaths, or by just consciously trying to take as long as I can to do each part of the shot (I do archery). For me it's about trying to be more present, switching off as many of the unconscious parts of the shot as I can, and breaking things into a series of small, considered steps. In archery, posture is really key, and I'm sure that things like where you place your feet, how you bend your knees and align your shoulders and back, are also relevant to pool (and other sports where accuracy and repeatability are important). But above all, find ways to disengage the autopilot.
posted by pipeski at 2:42 PM on July 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Agreed that it’s very general, including all the parlour games (table tennis, darts, shuffleboard) but also certain classes of video games, certainly golf.
Anything where excellence depends on a mind/body flow state, really.

For me, the absolute best thing is completely ignoring the game for a while. Maybe a week but maybe a half year.

Many of my all-time pinball high scores have come on the first or second play after a total break of at least a month, same with darts and many video games, ymmv.

And I suppose I should add this is assuming you’re coming from a place of at least strong competence or advanced intermediate performance, things are a bit different for beginners and true pros, I think.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:00 PM on July 14, 2018

if you aren't playing against others, or it is very casual situation, i am going to suggest reverse pool. this is a total change up from a normal game, and let's your try out all sorts of new angles and approaches. it's been really helpful for this recreational player.
posted by lescour at 6:37 PM on July 14, 2018

For any competition-performance issues, I always recommend The Hidden Game of Tennis by Timothy Galwey. It's obviously about tennis, but the tools are applicable to any similar activity. Specifically, I think the parts about positive visualization and self-criticism without judgment would be helpful to your situation.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:38 PM on July 14, 2018

Step away and submerge yourself in something else. Usually about one hour of that allows me to reset the same way that sleeping overnight would.

I think of it as turning it off and turning it back on...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:48 PM on July 14, 2018

I used to play pool very regularly and I had a pool hall anthem. Available on nearly every jukebox, I liked to put my pool song on to celebrate a great game or to just to remind me to focus and relax. I didn't play *the song* every game and I didn't use it to gloat.

Similarly, for interviews and particularly inducing presentations, I also have a pep song.

If you're using music, it's important to play the same song you play at your best. Essentially you're trying to use a musical queue to enable "confidence mode". In order to do this, you need to *strongly* associate the song with a feeling of confidence.

In a pool hall, the jukebox is also a little bit of the magic. Stepping away to flip through and find *the song*, waiting for it to play, and for the duration of one piece of music "controlling" the room all also contribute to the mojo reset.
posted by countrymod at 6:17 AM on July 15, 2018

I used to pretend I was Lee Marvin. Worked like a charm.
posted by goatdog at 6:11 PM on July 15, 2018

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