…continued from previous post.
23 | Monday
Previously, on Why Pool Sucks For Women, the misogynistic and self-righteous Scott Medeiros put me in a position where I realized even when you offer a solution (or several solutions) to a disagreement, there are people who are not interested in doing anything but emphasizing their sound and fury (which signifies nothing).
To say I was disgusted with pool and its people would be a massive understatement.
My team won its first match and we were to play again this morning.
“A good night’s sleep,
or a ten-minute brawl,
or a pint of chocolate ice cream,
or all three together,
is good medicine.”
I got a good night’s sleep, I had the verbal equivalent of a 20 minute brawl yesterday, but it wasn’t until I had ice cream for breakfast that I began to feel remotely better about humanity.
Off to the match.
Background information about my team.
On this team, EVERYONE has a very, very strong personality and opinion. As such, the the roles of captain and coach(es) were solidly filled LONG before I ever joined this team. I was the last hired (and would probably be the first fired). No one challenges the incumbents on this team and they are incredibly set in their own way of doing things.
One of our teammates (an SL5) wasn’t able to stay for the rest of this event and because of this, I couldn’t play because of the maximum cap (23) for points. In APA team 8-ball the Skill Level of the five players you choose for the match must add up to 23 or less. As a 7, I took up 30.4% of the allotted points, meaning lower-rated players would have to play in order for me to play as well. This was a huge risk as our lower-rated players (2s and 3s) had less tournament experience. The team decided to go a different route, fielding more mid-level (4s and 5s) players to make a lineup with more depth.
I was now a non-essential part of the team. As such, I was reduced to being waterboy. I was fine with this role and rather happy about it as I thought I would now have time to try more mini-tournaments.
By the way, we did not play the team pictured about, the “Russell Sprouts”. I just found their shirts to be chuckle-worthy. On the right is the view of a match from the vantage point of the waterboy.
Team wins 3-0, advances to next round.
4:21 PM Aug 23rd
The team played well and advanced. We went to the Peppermill where apparently, a “grilled chicken salad” is an entire grilled chicken — and a salad.
In these big national tournaments, it’s well-known that you want to stay on the winner’s side because in addition to winning (yay!), the schedule for the winner’s side is MUCH more friendly. As a reward for winning, we got all of the next day off. Had we lost, we would have looked at back-to-back matches every three or four hours for the next day.
24 | Tuesday
More sleep, less fights, more ice cream for breakfast.
My first mini-tournament started at 1:00 p.m. This was a Ladies Only 4-5-6 9-Ball event which HAD to be better than the last one I played in (featuring Scott Medeiros) — if only because it was highly unlikely that a chick would be mad at me for not being a 250-pound man.
I went to the desk to meet my first-round opponent but she was already playing in the finals of another mini-tournament. She decided to forfeit and I moved forward in the brackets without dogging a shot. Pretty much the only way I could do it. I sat down to wait for my next match and pondered the meaning of life, pool, and tea with honey and cream.
Since being raised to SL7, I’ve played once for my 8B team.
I spend the time online window shopping.
I hope we’ve won $57+$6.95 S&H so far.
1:25 PM Aug 24th
|I saw this sign by the registration desk and wondered, which was the greater sin — flash photography or gambling? 🙂After about an hour of lolling unproductively about, my match was called. The girl I had to play was a SL4. She would go to 27 points and I would go to 40 points.One of the first things I said was, “How do you prefer to keep score?” I explained that in my last mini-tournament, I had run into two extremely mild disagreements as to who was to keep score.
In the first match of my last mini-tournament, I had kept score for both my opponent and myself until after the first rack when he told me (very politely) we were responsible for our own scores. That made sense. The next match featured Scott Medeiros who was, uh, ever-so-slightly vehemently opposed to the “keep your own score” concept.
My opponent said we could both keep score and we’d just check after every rack to make sure the points added up.
Dude, WTF? That was incredibly simple.
Having not played pool in all of 48 hours and grumpy about the game, I started off shaky and missed key shots. My opponent played confidently, hitting the balls with a firm, crisp hit. Although she didn’t play for position much, she didn’t have to the way she made balls. I scratched on the two-ball in one of the racks and she began to run out.
Back in my home league, our bar tables were very different from the ones in this event. My league’s tables were covered in fast cloth with springy rails and fairly tight pockets. Because of all this, I was used to playing a finesse game where you could slow roll balls for position. At this event, the tables were covered in slow cloth and the rails were slow to dead. However, the pockets, especially the corner pockets were like buckets.
As I watched my opponent finish the rack , the dormant light bulb (fluorescent, energy-saving type) above my head went off like a rocket. On these tables, there was no finesse game. The cloth and some of the table lean wouldn’t allow for that. In addition, the deadness of the rails required good power on the cue ball to get any reaction.
My opponent broke and made nothing. Now, I started playing her style of pool. I hit the shots with authority and played approximate position. In bar table eight-ball, due to all the balls on the table, one has to be precise with position. In bar table nine-ball, there is more room and less choice as you always know which ball is next. I threw the idea of surgical position play out the window and concentrated on making the shots. I ran out that rack and the next.
In surprise (and with just the merest hint of annoyance), my opponent said, “Two racks? How bad did you beat the first girl?!”
“Oh, she got no points at all–“ I could see the beginnings of an accusation forming on her lips. “–because she forfeited. She had another tournament to play in.”
“Oh. Well, then.”
I won that match and with the new style of play I learned from my opponent. I won more matches after that. All the way to the end.
Finally won a mini tournament.
It’s a crappy living.
7:15 PM Aug 24th
First place was $160, but taking into account expenses, paying $1 per game, entry fees, and my previous failed mini-tournament attempts, I was not ahead. I was not even, even. Blargh.
Still, it’s nice to win after having done nothing but lose.
My next tournament was SL6-Only 9-Ball, meaning everyone in this tournament would be playing even. I made it past the first round with my newfound style of play. In the second round, I started off with a lead, but soon lost it. The guy I played stopped missing after the second rack. Afterwards he said he thought he knew me from somewhere but could place where. Then, in an attempt to make me feel better, I guess, he said with a smile, “Well, you know, this is the only match where I actually had to try. You play pretty good.”
Guy tells me after I lose: ”This is the only match where I actually had to try.”
I know it’s supposed 2 B a compliment, but…GRR y’know?!
10:54 PM Aug 24th
This was annoying because it sounded incredibly patronizing.
The hard-boiled egg quote crept into my mind: “Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold—but so does a hard-boiled egg.” I decided that, although this guy’s word choice and timing SUCKED ABSOLUTE ASS, he meant what he said as a compliment even if that compliment was to tell me that I although I was better than the people he’d already run into, I was clearly not as good as him.
I gave the hard-boiled egg a silent nod and left.
My next mini tournament was at…
25 | Wednesday
I had taken a nap and was now well-rested and somewhat less grumpy about pool. Food, sleep, and a happiness does wonders for one’s game, you know?
In this tournament, EVERYONE I played was extremely nice, even when the scores got extremely close. In third match, my opponent and I went neck-and-neck the whole way until we both needed just one point each — and it was his turn to break. That meant if he sank just one ball on the break, he would win. As I was racking, he told us (the few spectators and I) of a situation earlier in the day when he and his opponent had both been one point away from winning and his opponent had the break. His opponent had broken, and scratched, and he had got the win. Insanity!
My opponent broke — and scratched. The one-ball was right in front of a pocket. Holy crap! What were the chances? He laughed and said, “Well, I guess it’s all even now.”
In the finals, my opponent was a nice younger guy who I think he killed his own chances. Apparently, he had watched one of the girls in my league playing in an earlier SL2 & 3 8-Ball mini-tournament and commented to her that she played very well. She had pointed to me playing on another table and told him, “No, she plays very well.” The idea that I was a good player got in his head and he was tentative early in the match. He began to catch up towards the end, but I still managed to beat him to the finish line.
“Dammit! I’m going to have to tell people at home I got beat by a girl!”
I thought to myself, hard-boiled egg… I smiled and said, “Actually, no. Just tell them you beat every — guy — you played, that’s all.”
Once again, in this tournament, before EVERY match, I asked each opponent how they preferred to keep score. In my second match, my opponent interrupted my explanation as to why I was asking by saying, “Oh, you must be that girl that whole thing happened around a little bit ago.”
“Uh, if you mean by the whole score thing — yes.”
“As long as the balls you make, the balls I make, and the dead balls [balls made on a scratch which don’t count towards either player’s score] add up to ten, it’ll all be fine.”
After I won, this gentleman was nice enough to keep score for my next two matches so that neither I, nor my opponent, had to worry about keeping score. Warm fuzzies. 🙂
The sun was rising when I finally left the tournament room to get some sleep.
My team wasn’t scheduled to play until 7:00 in the evening so I squeezed in one more mini-tournament before go-time.
The new style of who-the-hell-cares nine-ball I had been playing served once again to win me some matches. In the final match, before I could begin my Scorekeepers Anonymous monologue of “Hello, how would you like to keep score?” (which I had faithfully done before EVERY match since The Scott Medeiros Incident) my opponent said he recognized me from The Scott Medeiros Incident. He had watched the whole thing go down. Like most of my previous opponents, he said as long as the points and dead balls added up to ten in each rack, there would be no problem.
Kind of makes The Scott Medeiros Incident seem stupid and overblown as all hell now, doesn’t it.
My opponent was going to 33 points and I was going to 40. This was a close match also and in the final game, there came a point when he needed one point and I needed three. He was on the three-ball, but was hooked. As a defensive maneuver, he intentionally fouled by tying the three up with the four and six. The entire cluster sat right next to the rail. He said, “You can have the three — but you’ll have to break it out!”
It was a good shot as even with ball-in-hand, the three was a low-percentage shot and even if I made it, I was unlikely to break out the four and six and I needed both those points as well. I looked at the three from every angle trying to figure out a way to make it and break out the other two. The pool gods then conked me on the head and the light bulb fizzled on again. I played safe. I shot the three into the rail behind the four and it bumped out the six on its way out of the cluster while the cue ball froze itself to the four.
“Dammit, I didn’t think of that.”
“I almost didn’t, either.”
My opponent missed the kick and I got the last three balls. Whew. Hill-hill wins take away a year of life, I swear, and breaking even is almost as good as winning in pool.
More people impressed with my ability to play in high heels rather than my actual playing ability…
5:08 PM Aug 25th
Off to the team match.
Our match tables was one of the tables at the end of a row. This meant we would have a lot of spectators since we had the equivalent of a “corner lot”. As usual, our team captain sat at the head of the table, the head coach sat behind her, the assistant coach sat behind the head coach, the rest of the active players sat behind the assistant coach, and I sat at the back where I planned to look for an upcoming mini-tournament I could play in. Now that I had almost broken even for the whole trip, I was eager to play in more to get on the plus side. Friends and family of my team had come to visit and they were sitting in the spectator risers behind the area barriers.
More background information about my team.
My team is composed of six (now five, since one of them had gone) Asians and two Mexicans. Out of all the Asians, I am the only one who speaks English as a first language. This sometimes gets us into trouble due to miscommunication.
In the first match, our player started off very well. In fact, he was, literally, playing the best pool of his life. He had arrived extra early and spent all his free time in mini tournaments and in practice. Now, his practice was paying off. This greatly displeased the other team who were very vocal about their allegations of sandbagging.
You’ll hear a lot about sandbagging in the APA. Wikipedia defines “sandbagging” as “a player deliberately lowers [his or] her competitive rating, in order to play in a future event with a lower rating and consequently have a better chance to win.”
Basically, you pretend you suck until the money’s right. Then you play lights out to win.
Pool players in league will deliberately lose or add innings to games in order to appear less skilled than they are. Once they reach the national stage, they can play at their correct level of play and because they are underrated, they have an easier time notching wins.
The APA has Observers that can be called to watch and take notes on certain players. After the match, they assess the notes and if they deem the player should play at a higher level, they will raise the skill level of that player. If the player is deemed very close to being raised to the next level, a “W” for “Warning” is placed next to their names and the next time they play, they must call an Observer to come watch. Think of Observers as parole officers.
If any team has two or more players raised one skill level, the team is disqualified. If any single player is raised two levels, the team is disqualified. Upon disqualification, the team forfeits all prize money, is subject to a two-year ban from the association starting that day, and is escorted off the tournament premises by security.
In spite of the severe penalties, sandbagging is common. The possibility of winning $25,000 ($10,000 for nine-ball teams) is a persuasive argument that often outweighs the risks for some teams, And, as someone once told me, “It’s not illegal unless you get caught.”
While our first player was playing, an argument began to arise between my captain and the other team’s scorekeeper. There were two main issues: they could not agree on whether or not the players were playing defensive shots (which would mean you are a better player and contributes to the your ascendancy through the ranks of Skill Level) and that our players kept going outside the barrier to talk to their friends and family. I observed this all because I have no authority on this team (nor do I want it). I am a soldier ant and I just do as I’m told.
The argument got more intense and finally, my captain came to me and asked me to take score. She was a stickler for details and very tidy about scorekeeping so I wasn’t sure why she wanted me to take score. “I need you to take score because they don’t trust me.”
“They think you’re trying to cheat?”
“Not cheat. When I mark a defensive shot, they argue with me and when I say it looked like a defensive shot, they say I’m only a three [Skill Level 3].”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“They don’t think I know what I am talking about because I am not a good player.” Once again, hard-boiled egg rule applies. Although our captain had played in the league for years, this team didn’t know she understood the game as well as I did — she just didn’t play on the same level. “If you take score, you are a seven, so you would know fif it is a safety or just a miss.”
I took over scorekeeping. Hooray. Meanwhile, the match was still going on. Our player was a little rattled at the arguments going back and forth but did his best not to look at anything but the table.
I introduced myself to the other scorekeeper. She said, “Oh, so you’re the seven.”
“Uh, yeah.” Interesting. My identity had been reduced to a number.
“I don’t like how that other girl, your captain, keeps running back and forth.”
“She’s excited and her mom and sister are here. They don’t speak English so she’s trying to tell them what’s going on.”
“Well, she shouldn’t be doing that. Does anyone on your team care about this match? I mean, look at them — they’re all running around outside like they don’t care.”
“They care. It’s just their first time here.” I knew not all of my team were running around outside but I felt arguing would not solve anything.
“Hey! Hey, did you see that! Mark that! That’s a defensive shot!” This was one of the opposing team’s members telling the scorekeeper to mark a shot by our player as a defensive shot. He was outside the barrier.
“Now,” I said coolly. “Is that guy out there one of your players?”
“What’s he doing out there?”
“Well, your team is out there, too, you know! And they’re just running around!”
“Yes, they’re like a bunch of toddlers on a playground. However, I don’t think you’re allowed to coach or tell the scorekeeper what to write down from outside the barrier — are you?” There was a bit of silence. “How about this: you keep your players inside the barrier and I’ll do the same with mine.”
“All right, fine.”
I called in the rest of my teammates, she called in the rest of hers, and the entire herd sat down at the table together like a dysfunctional family at a Thanksgiving dinner with no food.
Our player won the first match and we began the second.
…to be continued in Part Three (because trilogies are fashionable)…