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Go ahead! Buy books. Do drills and play for hours, but remember: Physical practice can't make up for a weak mind. Call it mental toughness; it is a soundness of the pool player’s psyche that's as vital to tournament wins as sound mechanics. There are four keys that a pool player must master in order to attain a sound mental game.

1. Become a Pressure Player: Varner and Sigel are famous for it. Mental toughness: “running out” when it matters most. "It's having the strength to stand up to pressure," It’s all about being comfortable on the big stage.

In order to get use to pressure, you must learn to embrace it. Put yourself under it. For starters, I recommend shooting every shot like it is for $25,000. If you act like every shot matters you'll be ready to pocket one when it really does."

2. Make Adjustments Quickly: Your mind needs to be as limber as your body. The most successful players are quick to adapt to varying table conditions. They think creatively and accept things as they are. When Minnesota Fats was asked if an un-level table bothered him, he replied, "Only if it's just lop sided for me."

Mental flexibility means keeping your mind open. Just because you're snookered doesn't mean the game is over. To avoid mental mistakes, it is important to play every game one ball at a time. Obviously you have to think ahead. But if you don’t pocket the first shot then you can’t continue your run.

3. Manage Your Game: Take your time. Play in the moment. They're popular cliché’s for a reason: They work! Not getting too excited, not getting upset with yourself. That's what mental management is about.

During your next match, count how many times you find yourself dwelling on the past or pondering the future. Are you still smoldering over that shot you missed in the first game? Are you dreading a long distance cut shot? Keep track of the number of times your mind drifts out of the present. Your goal should be to totally eliminate thoughts of the past or future.

4. Go the Distance: Pool tournaments are often marked by stressful moments and emotional swings. The key is to minimize them as much as possible so that you can conserve your mental energy.

Everybody usually reaches a point during a tournament, when you are far enough along to know how you are playing but too far from the finals to slip into autopilot. That's your TURNING POINT, a perilous stretch where you might feel inspired to make big changes if you're off your game slightly. The key is for you to stick to your game plan. If you are playing poorly don't fire at balls in a mad rush. If you're playing well, it is also important to be aware of playing overly cautious or conservative. Either type of adjustment can lead to trouble. Trouble raises stress levels, and stress burns both physical and mental energy — energy you will need to win the tournament.

Be aware that you can over-train and you can overthink — the mental equivalent of a muscle strain. You see it all the time, players fall so in love with their pre-shot routine that they forget to execute the shot." So where's the middle ground? Be yourself! If you're conservative, play conservative on the table. If you're an up-tempo person, shoot quickly. If you're not, then don't. In the words of Marjane Satrapi, “Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself.”


Anthony Beeler is the 2018 Pool Instructor of the Year and is a former BCAPL National 9-Ball Champion. He has numerous top 25 national finishes and is one of only 8 ACS Master Instructors in the world. He is the primary author of the National Billiards Instructors Manual and has also authored the book Unstoppable! Positive Thinking for Pool Players. Anthony currently has the highest established Fargo Rating of any Master Instructor. He has won over 300 tournaments and has defeated numerous professional players in tournament competition.

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