Go to see a professional event in person. If you can, compete in it too.
I think the first professional event I ever played in was the 2000 US Open 9-Ball Championships. Barry Behrman’s annual event is one of the holy grails of the pro circuit. That event was memorable for me because I played the great Ralf Souquet. I was even ahead 2-1 before I folded up like the cheap suit I was wearing. Final score was 11-2. It was early in the event and there weren’t many other big names playing in that round. Souquet and I weren’t on the TV table, but we were on table 2 which offered a decent amount of bleacher seating. It was a corner table with plenty of spectators flanking our battleground on two sides. I had never played against a world class player in such a high profile event in front of such a large crowd. The lessons I learned during that match and from watching the rest of the event were priceless.
- How a professional should behave
- What it feels like to play under the spotlight and pressures I’d never felt before
- How to quell the burning embarrassment of making a silly mistake in a crucial situation
- How to play in uncomfortable clothing and shoes
- Grasping the idea of intensity and focus pros exhibit every single shot
- Seeing firsthand how high these players skills rise to meet the occasion
Playing and watching pro events put smaller weekly or regional events in perspective. Getting used to tournament pressure is about becoming comfortable and confident in your game when it really matters. Butting heads with the best in the world can make a player not feel so overwhelmed in a smaller venue for smaller stakes against a regular player.
The entertainment and education one can get at an event like The Derby City Classic can be valuable. This year, I missed the 2011 DCC and am sick about it. It’s the first one I’ve missed in many years. I would have loved to see Alex Pagulayan win the Banks, Dennis Orcollo win the 9-Ball, and Shane Van Boening win the One-Pocket and All-Around title. I’ve told many friends and students that seeing this event in person is completely different than watching the Accu-Stats DVD’s and streams by TAR and Accu-Stats. They only capture a fraction of the pool played. Looking back, some of my favorite matches were not on the TV table. Matlock vs. Reyes, Deuel vs. Daulton, Reyes vs. Putnum, and Parica vs. Frost were all amazing 1-Pocket matches that weren’t caught by any cameras. Seeing these types of clashes in person, I can hardly explain the stratospheric heights the execution and drama reach.
Please do yourself a favor, get to a pro event and play if you can.
Note: In the ’90′s, I attended many of the of the WPBA, Camel Pro Billiards Tour, MPBA, PBT and PCA events around the Midwest to watch the pros play. The first really high profile event I went to was the WPA 9-Ball World Championships in Arlington Heights, IL in 1997 where Johnny Archer and Allison Fisher won.