the anticipated 10-ball match between oscar dominguez and john morra is under way.  the first day saw oscar in the lead, with the score of 35-29.  now, after two grueling days of battle, oscar is up 70-48, amassing a 22-game lead.

the match is played on a brunswick gold crown with 4-inch, straight-cut pockets.  (not sure if it’s gold crown I or II, but it’s an older crown, not those brand-new ones.)  lemme just say that the pockets are BRUTAL.  if you don’t bring your aim, you will not run out.  period.

this is an old argument, but i’m a bit torn about the tight-pocket issue.  while i can see why people would want to shoot with tight pockets, i also understand the argument that super tight pockets take certain aspects of pool away.  in short, super-tight pockets become too restrictive for pool, because you’re limited in the number of things you can do on the table.  you can’t cheat the pocket on tight equipments.  you can’t cheat the rail.  it’s much tougher to get into a run-out rhythm.  you pocket much less balls on the break, thus decreasing the chances of break-and-runs.  shotmaking becomes a premium asset, and that takes certain aspects of position play away.  like everything, i believe there should be a balance somewhere.  for me, i think the tightest pocket should be 4 1/4 inches.  any tighter than 4 1/4″ is not conducive to good pool, since the pockets then become excessively punitive.  that’s just me though.

i think that as a result of the tight pockets, neither players can open up their strokes and fire shots in.  each shot becomes an exercise of concentration, since there is no margin of aiming error on this equipment.  consequently, there are few runouts during match play.  aggression on this table is definitely NOT rewarded; prudence and carefulness become necessary ingredients during the match.

the first day’s action lasted 9.5 hours; i watched about 6.5 hours of it.  i did some quick math and found that on average, each game lasted 8.9 minutes, or roughly 9 minutes if we round it up.  that’s not super slow, but darn it, it was slow enough.  plus, since the pockets don’t reward the shooter for taking the shot, safeties became more or less the norm.  for this match, oscar definitely played safeties more frequently than morra; oscar didn’t give up scrap.  if the shot was remotely risky, oscar played safe.  and safe.  and more safe.

well, oscar shot very carefully, but darn it, it was not a whole lotta fun for the audience.  can’t blame oscar though; there’s money on the line.  who can honestly try to dictate play when two pool players are shooting for $25,000?  i’d do exactly the same thing, truth be told.  and to be fair, the spectators have the right to get up and leave.  if you stay & watch then you can’t complain how the match progresses.  that said, i did wish the games were played faster.

i talked to one of the Hard Times regulars (and a championship-caliber player) and he said that there should be a shot clock.  he said that with the shot clock, you’ll see who can really handle the pressure.  also, you won’t have to worry about people sharking by slowing down the tempo.  additionally, the gentleman stated that the shot clock has been adopted in most televised tournaments, so we might as well use it in all the matches.  while i don’t think oscar or morra would shark each other, i do see the argument.  however, with $25k on the line, i’m not 100% certain that a shot clock should be used.  (then again, after watching 6.5 hours, i was quite darn convinced.  :P)

i only watch the last 3 hours of the second-day action, but oscar continued his prudent play.  he also started to pocket balls a lot better, while morra continued to struggle.  not sure if it was the tight pockets or oscar’s safeties, but morra just couldn’t seem to find a gear to consistently run out.  the situation almost felt like being grounded down inside a mortar; bit by bit the ingredient became rubbed away until it turned to mush.  an agonizing & frustrating way to go, if you ask me.

oscar’s jump shots served him well the two days he played.  the jump shot almost became oscar’s first option when he got hooked!  i think oscar hit just about all the jump shots he attempted.  pretty impressive.  morra jumped great in his own right, but oscar’s safeties were more of the ball-kissing-ball variety, taking the jump shot away from morra on many occasions.

the match looks grim for morra after two days.  he’d need to mount a huge 52-game comeback if he wants to win, while oscar needs only 30 more.  anything can happen, though things don’t bode well for morra on this super-tight table.

as an aside, i was comparing the mechanics of both players.  oscar has the more compact, punchy stroke, a style that may favor tighter equipments with its very minimal movement.  morra’s mechanics are almost textbook perfect.  he utilizes the backswing pause very effectively, almost like buddy hall’s pause.  morra’s swing is also very efficient with minimal movement, but the swing is slightly larger than oscar’s.  demeanor-wise, morra seemed very mellow and laid-back, the more poker-faced player of the two.  however, morra also seemed like he would hold things in, & not give his emotions a release.  oscar, while he also seemed to hold things inside, was the more visibly emotional player.  in general, oscar displayed his emotions more obviously through his body and facial gestures.  overall, i think oscar & morra are about as even as you can get, meaning other factors will play a bigger role in determining the winner of their match, e.g., equipment, fitness level, mental toughness, etc.  we’ll have to wait & see who wins on the final day.

i took some pictures of the first-day action & i’ll post them as soon as i get them organized.  sorry, no videos; i asked justin c of TAR if i could take some pics/videos, and he said that he preferred no video.  well, gotta respect the host.  so pictures only this time.