12 Best Tips for Pool Tournament Preparation
Anybody that loves playing pool enjoys a little bit of competition, and there’s no better way to see what you’re made of than playing against others.
Whether playing for a cash prize, or nothing at all, tournament competition keeps us entertained, but also helps us sharpen our skills on the pool table.
Here are some of the best tips for anyone that wants to learn a few tricks to prepare for a pool tournament, regardless of it being your first tournament, or your 15th.
1. Show Up Early
This is especially important if playing at a venue for the first time. Familiarize yourself with the space and the tables you’ll be playing on so you’re as comfortable as possible from the start.
Order a drink and/or some food and meet the workers and maybe a couple other tournament participants if you’re more of an extrovert.
Personally, when I played my first pool tournament, I walked straight to the open group of tables to take a look at the felt and the table brands, just to make sure I wouldn’t be playing on junk equipment.
2. Avoid an Empty Stomach
Let’s be honest, playing pool doesn’t require optimal nutrition. But, having a full meal before playing, or planning on having a meal during the tournament, will keep your mind and body nourished.
Having an unhappy stomach while starving over a pool shot is not a fun thing to experience.
Save some money, and bring along some snacks just in case. Avoid the fried bar food you can get pretty much anywhere. Apples, bananas, or mixed nuts are great on-the-go options.
3. Stay Hydrated
Drink water, and if you know you’ll enjoy a beer or two while playing, drink more water before leaving the house.
Dehydration will lead to dry mouth and headaches if you don’t address it – two things that can hinder your game.
4. Enter with a Positive Attitude
Leave your problems at the door and take a deep breath. Pool is a fun game, and you shouldn’t ruin that for yourself.
Everything’s better with a positive mindset. Visualize shots going down and having a good time.
This is an opportunity to get better at pool, make new friends and playing partners, and maybe even win some money. All will be good!
5. Come with No Expectations
Don’t expect too much of yourself. All the pressure we feel over shots is internal and we do it to ourselves as a result of too many expectations.
This is part of being human, but if you just play your game and accept whatever happens over the course of the tournament, you’ll be better off.
Remember, all the other players are human and will make mistakes too. The playing field is likely more equal than you think.
6. Get Familiar with the Pool Tables
When you arrive, check out the tables and assess the condition to make sure you even want to play on them. Not all tables are perfect, but playing on tables that are in bad shape regularly can take your game to a place you won’t like.
Rent a table if you have time, or just ask the employees at the pool hall/bar if you can practice for the tournament you’ll be playing in.
Play by yourself so you can simulate an entire game from both perspectives (stripes and solids if playing 8-ball). Get used to the roll of the table, the speed, the rails, the pocket tightness, and hit some cut shots to get used to the angles you’ll be seeing.
During this practice, making every ball shouldn’t be your goal. That leads to disappointment from the get-go. Just focus on seeing different shots and getting your touch down.
7. Start Fresh
Forget about previous performances or matches. This is a new tournament and completely separate from any others.
Think of the tournament as an opportunity to improve your pool resume. Welcome the challenge. The only shot that matters is the next one!
8. Practice Your Routine
While preparing on the table pre-tournament, find a routine. Determine if you’re more comfortable hanging onto your cue or setting it on the cue holder after every shot.
Get used to how your brain wants to assess the table and where the balls are. Walk around the table after the break and get a view from all angles. Make this a regular part of your routine so you can start seeing where you need to leave the cue ball for the next shot.
Keeping a routine will help keep nerves in check. Once your routine becomes repeatable and you don’t even have to think about it, you can worry more about execution.
9. Stick to a Plan (know your pool playbook)
Know what kind of player you are. Are you more comfortable hitting them hard or hitting them soft with more touch? Your game is your game.
Everyone plays differently. Some players are riskier while some are more risk-averse and play defensively.
Be comfortable with your own game and show the other players who’s boss!
10. Be Patient
Remember to play one shot at a time. Your opponents will also make mistakes, so don’t get too distraught after a bad shot. We all hit them.
If you’re racing to 3 or 4, and lose the first game or two, you know exactly what you have to do. So control what you can control.
If you find yourself in a spot where you’re stuck and aren’t sure what to do, let your mind clear so you can play the smartest shot possible.
If you are playing an opponent that is slower than average, take the extra time to look at the table and plan your attack.
11. Be Gracious in Defeat
We all lose. It’s not fun, but it’s part of the game! Keep excuses to yourself, because it’s no fun dealing with a jerk of an opponent. You don’t want a bad reputation in your pool hall.
Wish your opponent the best of luck and congratulate them on their win. Being a good sport will have other players wanting to play with you, so be on your best behavior.
12. Reflect on Your Matches
After the tournament, take a mental note of some mistakes you made, and some great shots you made.
What do you remember about the great shots? Did you trust your eye on the first look? Did you back off and re-assess the table? What about the bad shots? Could you have put the cue ball in a more difficult position for the opponent? What if you scratched more than normal? Were you hitting the ball a little too hard with less control?
All of these experiences make us better pool players, and give us the tools we need to make adjustments in the future.
Eventually, you’ll get a large inventory of past experiences you know exactly what to do with. Pair this with an improving eye and cue stroke, and you could definitely do some damage!
I hope you find these 12 pool tournament preparation tips valuable. These are all things I tried to take into account when I played and won my first ever handicapped 8-ball tournament. I wish you luck!