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"What should I know before playing in my first pool tournament?"

That's a question I get on occasion and thought I would write a little something on the subject that I wish I had known before started playing in tournaments.
Find one:
Unless you have unlimited funds, I would suggest starting with the cheaper $5 & $10 tournaments. Get in as many as you can. The experience alone is well worth it! If you have fear, understand many others do as well. You'll find the anxiety will decrease the more you play.

Know the rules:
You may not like the rules but everyone else in the tournament has to play by the same rules. Work them to your advantage. If you have a question during a match, just ask the tournament director. That's why they're there. And if you see your opponent is about to make a questionable shot, respectfully ask if he/she waits and have the tournament director watch the shot. Many tournament directors have a rule that only they can call a foul. So if your opponent does commit a foul and doesn't call it on himself, you're out of luck.

You should familiarize yourself with the league rules in your area AND the rules of the tournament. Many of the tournament players may be new to tournaments as well and end up playing by their league rules not knowing any differently. Things to be especially cognizant of are the following:
  • Are jump cues allowed?
  • Does making the 8-ball on the break count as a win? (Or as a loss if you scratch?)
  • Is the 8-ball neutral after the break?
  • If the cue ball is frozen to the object ball, do you need to shoot it at 45 degree angle?
  • Are you using the 3-foul rule (in 9-ball)?
  • Is the table open after the break (in 8-ball)?
  • Are you playing "call shot" or "call pocket"?
  • Do you have to call the 8-ball or mark the pocket?
Unwritten Rules:
If you're racking for your opponent, do a good job of it. You don't want to have the reputation of giving bad racks. Someone will come along who makes you do it over and over again until you get it right. Just do your best to eliminate any gaps between the balls.

If you need to take a break, for whatever reason, wait until it's your turn to shoot. Preferably, you would wait until the current game is over and you have the next opportunity to break the rack.

Shake hands when the match is over.

Something should be said about sharking at this point. If your opponent is shooting, sit down and be quite. If your opponent is on the 9-Ball and you get out of your chair to pull quarters out of your pocket, there's a good chance your opponent will assume you're conceding the game and doesn't have to shoot it.

If you want to hustle the table, do it by running out when it's your turn. Don't be a jerk.

Be ready:
If the tournament is on coin-op tables, have the quarters. If you fall asleep in the bathroom, understand you may wake up with a forfeit if you don't make it back to the tournament in time. Not that this has ever happened... oh, wait, that did happen. There's a story someone told me about a guy who was sponsored and travelled around to tournaments. He was notorious for taking a drive while he was waiting and getting lost which resulted in forfeits and losing his sponsorship.

Don't be a baby:
Things will not be perfect. There will either be something wrong with the tables, the lighting, the music, the tournament director, your food, the service, or anything else you can possibly think of. Deal with it. One way to do so is to tell yourself, "Not only is everyone having to deal with the same equipment, but I can overcome this." Don't be a crybaby and make the tournament director go to extra lengths just for you. Granted, if it's warranted, a table may be taken out of the tournament if it's in especially bad shape, but I wouldn't count on it.

Have fun!
Imagine the following scenario. You're on the bubble (one out of the money) and you're down 7 to 3 in a race to 9. You have to win 6 more games before your opponent wins 2. And your opponent just happens to be someone you truly dislike. If you can smile in this situation you are handling things much better than a lot of players out there. It's not always easy, but have fun. You may find that if you decide to make a game out of it, you'll play better.

If you have any questions or comments on this article, please contact info @ pool4u .com.