i think that in pool, brutal honesty can become a great friend if it is harnessed correctly.
taking stock of your skills is an exhausting, and often unpleasant, aspect of the game. and i’m talking about getting down to the very specifics. for example, i can draw a ball, great. but then, i have to ask, can i draw when the object ball is 3 feet away from the cue ball? four feet? seven feet? seven feet 5 inches? how far can i pull it back from seven feet away? 2 feet? 3? 0? what about follow shots?
what is my percentage of hitting a two-rail kick when the object ball is close to a cushion? when it’s in the center of the table? with or without blocking balls? the chance of hitting a massé shot? my success rate when i shoot with opposite hands? my performance on different tables?
the process is as fun as pulling teeth. and it is very humbling, to say the least, when i discover the percentage is much lower than what i think it is. face it, no one likes to look at his/her ugly side. the pretty side looks so much more appealing. and ice cream tastes better than bitter herbs.
of course, i don’t think a player can engage in percentage play effectively if the person doesn’t even know what the percentage he/she will hit a particular shot. although it is pure, unadulterated work, any player should, at one point, sit down and thoroughly assess his/her game. this is where harnessing the brutal honesty comes in. when sitting down and assessing our game, we have to remember that being honest with ourselves is NOT an opportunity to beat up on ourselves. for those who easily self-blame, this is especially important. being honest with ourselves is basically realizing our strengths and weaknesses, then accepting this realization without rancor. emotion is irrelevant in this process, since we’re not going on a feel-good mind trip. reason and logic are the most important ingredients for honest self reflection.
think of this process as troubleshooting. after careful observation, we simply note the areas that do and don’t work. we leave the working areas alone, and fix the areas that don’t. think of correcting a rough draft of your essay or debugging a computer program. feeling bad about those non-working areas is absolutely pointless, as well as distracting.
the same process can be applied to other parts of the game. got a player propositioning you? get brutally honest and figure out your actual chance of winning the game. i think that part of the reason people get hustled is because the person being hustled is not honest with him/herself. sure, that seven-out + 2 games on the wire sounds good, but what is your REAL chance of winning? do you actually know how the other person plays? do you know how you’re playing that day? now i’m not saying you should always be calculating, but we should know if we’re outgunned when we play. (tournaments, of course, don’t matter. you play whoever you draw.)
if you doubt these words, consider what ronnie alcano did a while back. he strode into LA and gave away the 6-out, playing 9-ball. it was a basic slaughterfest. 6-out is a big spot. but for alcano, it was very manageable. had his opponents assessed the situation calmly and logically, they probably would’ve asked for a much different game. but when faced with such a tempting handicap, alcano’s opponents all salivated, played, and lost. no one thought alcano could give the 6-out and win. alcano knew himself and goaded his opponents with a big spot, then cashed in on his opportunity.
alcano knew precisely his percentages, while his opponents did not exactly know theirs. we should all get better acquainted with our game.
i consider this process a pool tune-up. it should be conducted regularly, just like getting your oil changed or your teeth cleaned. it’s a chore, but a necessary one.
for those brave enough, honest self-reflection works well in your life also.