My opponent was a good player and I would have to spot him a game on the wire going to five.

Such is league.

Throughout the match, I detected something was “off” – and it was not just my game (which had gone AWOL). I struggled in the match and could not figure out why my opponent wasn’t winning more. He was completely capable of running out but did not. Rather, he chose not to run out. He played many safes that demonstrated far more than a passing knowledge of three-cushion. In fact, he preferred playing safe to running out – even when the table was open and there were only three balls left. The score stayed close throughout the match, but I know, with his ability, he should have won long ago.

It was unsettling.

At hill-hill, I scratched when he had four balls left. He tried an unnecessary combination shot with ball-in-hand. I knew he knew that was not the right shot. He missed and left me safe. I shot at the eight, missed, and left him a wide open table to run out. He tried another unnecessary safety even though running out would be very easy for him. Bizarre. What was he doing? Didn’t he want to win? His team was in second place while my team was in seventh place. He needed to win this match to maintain his team’s standing. I missed the eight again. He tried another three-cushion style safe and that’s when it began to makes sense.

He’s screwing his team over for himself.

This player qualified for the National Singles Championships coming up in Las Vegas. It’s handicapped eight-ball worth $15,000 for first in his division. He’s a good player. He doesn’t want to move up to the next skill level because then he wouldn’t receive a one-game spot from the top players at that event. He’d have to play them even. That’s what all his safeties and non-running out was about. He was stalling. The increased number of innings and the artificial closeness of this match ensured he would not go up in skill rating before the big tournament (which is this week).

I play my best at all times. Even when I miss with ball-in-hand, there is no time I don’t want to win, and win convincingly.

Figuring out why this player decided to stall was saddening. I’d always regarded him as a nice guy and a good player. I understood his actions. I was initially irked about being toyed with in this match, but I returned now to being calm. Even though the score was hill-hill and this last game was definitely in his favor, I was fine with it all. I felt a little sorry for his team which he was blatantly sacrificing although they did not know it.

He played a safe that was not completely airtight and I chopped in the eight-ball to win for myself and my team. My win here, false as it was, still guaranteed my team’s victory over his team. He might not have intended for me to win hill-hill. He might only have intended for me to lose hill-hill. Either way, it did not matter to him. What was most important to him was that his skill level remain the same for another week.

We nodded silently at each other.

We did not shake hands.

I spent the rest of the evening pondering about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few and other uncomfortable questions found so often in pool and life.


18 Replies to “6”

  1. is it possible he’s content with his game? playing his best would only make him a better player in the end. sandbagging won’t improve anything.

    of course, some people will do lots of things for money.

    1. I’ve learned that not everyone wants to be all they can be in pool — some just want to be good enough. If he wins the $15,000 then he was good enough and I’m sure he’ll be proud of gaming the system.

      1. even if he does win, i don’t see how he can be proud of the victory. i’d say it’s pure greed, plain & simple.

    1. I try to look at it as, I’m fortunate enough to NOT play as if it IS all about the cash — and those that have to, have my pity.

  2. Any pool player on a league will tell you that sandbagging is a major epidemic. Wherever there is a system, a pool player will try to figure a way around it.

    living in a big pool league state and shooting in them I have seen my fair share of people bagging. It sucks… bad.

    I took the other route and tried my best everytime I shot in league so that it would benefit my game for all the other times it really counted (aka non league matches). By doing this I have justly earned myself the top skill levels in both disciplines (7 in 8ball and 9 in 9ball). I have friends on league that are these high levels as well and they still play way better then me. They play to the point where they would be a skill level 11 if it went past 9. That is what I would like to achieve with league. I want to get to the point where the skill level 9 would seem underrated for me.

    Also another thing to ponder. When you opponent throws a match or drives up innings. Not only does it increase his chances of keeping his skill level low, but it also increases your chances of going up. You stated you did nkt play well to your standards. Well according to the paperwork no, it shows you shooting better then your opponent therefore unjustly increasing your chances of your skill level being raised. (Im fairly certain your skill level is maxed out anyway as I have seen you play and you play well, I’m just using the situation as an example.

    Anyway. Its the nature of pool players and league for some jackasses to want to beat the system. I have never done it. I have been on teams with people who have done it and I have quit teams that asked me to do it.

    Just my insight into it all.


    1. My skill level is maxed out in 8-ball, which may also be why he felt it was all right to do what he did. It’s not like I could go up any further, meanwhile, as a 6, that one-game spot from a 7 at the national event could make a very big difference.

      In any case, I will believe that he has no aspirations for pool beyond where he is now because, to win that thing, he IS going to have to pull out a hell of a game against the likes of Jeff Sergeant, etc. And who knows? He might do it.

  3. The guy may get some cash in the end but he was cheating, pure and simple. He was cheating you, he was cheating his team and, in the end, he was cheating himself. Somewhere down the line he will learn that losing becomes a habit and when he really needs to win, he won’t be able to bring it.

    I’m not a great player but I try my best everytime I step up to the table.

  4. If you mark all the safeties that he played, that type of sandbagging will not get you anywhere. Of course if you don’t mark safeties in your league then there is something wrong with your league.

    1. They were all marked. My teammates noticed the excessive amount of safeties as well.

  5. Oh, this is an easy one. He wanted to give you more time at the table so he could look at your butt. 🙂

  6. OMG! You mean, if he’d beaten you, he might have had to play someone EVEN??? Oh, the horrors!!!

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