This past week I talked to one of my teammates from Thursday night pool and convinced him to come with me to a 9 ball qualifier match in Tacoma. Qualifiers are level one tournaments that “qualify” you for Higher Level Tournaments that could win you money. There are local qualifiers, regional qualifiers and then the end goal is National Level Singles Tournament. One on one play with people in your skill level in the American Poolplayers Association. That National level tournament can net you $10,000 in cash and prizes if you succeed.
I’ve played before, but never really did well. It’s a bracket of 8 players. Lose once and you’re done, so there’s no room for mistakes because one mistake can mean the end of it all. After a while, I stopped competing for a chance because I played so poorly that it wasn’t worth the time and effort in my opinion. Lately, I’ve been improving enough that I felt I had a chance. So I took that chance and went down for the tournament.
Normally, even at this level you’d only play within your skill level bracket. Skill Level 1-3 (the lowest), 4-5, and 6-9. But when there aren’t enough players at each level, the tournment director sometimes gives the players who show up the opportunity to play a mixed bracket. This means you COULD play within your regular bracket or you could be a SL 2 playing a SL8. In Pierce County, where we played, they typically don’t have enough people to throw a full regular board. At least that’s been MY experience.
At any rate, we went down and settled in for some practice time. The two guys I carpooled with had never been to City Lights (or Malarkey’s as it’s now known)so they definitely needed the chance to learn the tables since they are smaller than what we normally play on. Noon came around and as I expected there wasn’t enough for a regular board. Actually we only had six of the eight so we waited to see if any more players would show. By 1pm we had 7 and couldn’t wait much longer. Everyone agreed to a mixed board and payed their entry fee. As I signed my entry in, I noticed that everyone else was pretty evenly matched. Lots of SL5′s, an SL4 and a SL6. I was the lone SL2. I momentarily felt bad, but nervously ponied up to play my match. I honestly didn’t think I had much chances on winning, but would give it my best shot. After all… I DID wear this shirt to play in…
I settled into my first match. It was against Cal, one of the guys I carpooled with and he was an SL4. Luckily, one of the players waiting to play was John H who was a great encouragment at the qualifier I played a few weeks ago. He reminded me to relax and play my game. To slow down and take my time. To say I was nervous didn’t even COVER IT! LOL But apparently, I was doing better that I realized. John called Match end and I was done! When I looked at the scoresheet, I had one straight out by 5 balls! If you’re not familiar with APA pool, each skill level in 9 ball has a set number of balls to make. It’s a weird math formula that takes in account your last few matches and how you did. Each of the 9 balls is worth 1 point except for the 9 ball which is worth 2. At an SL 2, I only need to make 19 points. But as an SL 4, Cal needs to make 31 points. To say I won straight out means that when I scored my 19th point, Cal only had 14… Can we say wow?!?!
My next match was against a SL5 who did well in his first match. I was impressed and even more nervous, but luckily he wasn’t on top of his game and got frustrated easily which affected how he played. He unfortunately didn’t buckle down soon enough to win and I moved on to the final match! And THAT was the most challenging…it was against my friend and teammate Ryan. A great easy going guy, I knew it would be a challenge because he was good AND I knew I had a tendency to lose focus and forget that this was a tournament and not just everyday shoot around. I persevered and in the end I beat him!
Next step is the Regional Level Shootout in Salem. When I get there, I’ll be playing within my own skill level, so I need to be more on top my game! Wish me Luck!