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Paying Your Dues

Posted 12-22-2010 at 06:22 AM by gunzby

I've often heard the near cliche' about the only way to get better is to constantly play for money. I for one have never agreed with this opinion and never will, but you will pay your dues one way or another.

When I quit pool in 1998 I was playing for small stakes, playing a lot of tournaments, playing in a league and winning a large majority of all of it. The reason was the amount of practice I put in, but mainly because I never got nervous. I'm not sure if that was because I was too young to get like that, or blind confidence but nerves just never got to me.

Fast forward ten years and I come back to the game again. I put in the practice time, reading, join this wonderful site and pour over the library of billiard info I have through my laptop on the internet. I can without a doubt say that I am a far better player today than I was then, but I don't have half the confidence I did. I got nervous closing in a break and run, practicing with someone else and even playing a league match.

The only way I knew I could get over this is by subjecting myself to my nerves over and over again until I have mastered them. To not be nervous about screwing up a high probability break and run you must break and run over and over again until it becomes normal. To not be nervous about a league match you must grind through it over and over until the certain losses turn into certain wins. Finally to not be nervous about playing a tournament you must enter over and over again until you are certain that you are playing your game. This is obviously where paying your dues comes in literally.

My first tournament I was literally shaking I had so much adrenalin rushing through me and I just couldn't control it. I pretty much forgot how to play and just went ball to ball hoping for the best. Instead of throwing in the towel I forced this torture upon myself knowing that while it would lose me money in the short run, it would also make me a much better player in the long run.

After the drubbing I went home and before going to sleep I thought about what I did right and wrong. I started doing this when I was a competitive bench presser to assess how I was doing. I considered a poor workout to be wasted time. Progress, no matter how small is the positive I looked for. I considered the terrible performance to be ground zero and expected progress the next time.

Each time I entered I saw more and more progress. Each time I saw progress my nerves grew more weak and my confidence grew. Each time my confidence grew my game got better. My shakes are gone and I actually feel that killer instinct warming up again. I'm going to keep paying my dues until I am the last one standing.
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