Control it or Ignore it

By Samm Diep © January 2011

Samm Diep

You play pool because it’s fun. There’s also a part of you that enjoys the problem-solving aspect of the game. Your brain looks at the table and begins finding solutions to the puzzle. You can’t control it. That’s just how it works. It’s a game, which means there’s ultimately a winner. Your brain automatically begins to troubleshoot all the possible scenarios and outcomes to determine a way to the finish line.

What it’s overlooking is one significant detail. Your subconscious does not distinguish between can and cannot, e.g. things that you can or cannot control. Therefore, your brain will automatically attempt to fix anything, even if it may be out of your control.

In the problem-solving mode, the brain is involuntarily seeking solutions to ‘problems.’ In most cases, the problems may be how to get from the 3 ball to the 4 ball or should I bank this ball or play a safety? What you may not realize is that your brain will continue working overtime to address your other needs. Such as, the tables are awfully close together or these balls are terribly dirty. There may be other valid concerns that your brain will want to manage.

It’s instinctive to react when you’re uncomfortable or displeased with your surroundings, without considering whether or not they are even within your control. Instead, before changing your behavior to accommodate for the circumstances, ask yourself if what you’re reacting to is in your jurisdiction? If you are reacting to something that you cannot control then you shouldn’t be reacting at all because if it was out of your control to begin with, it will still be out of your control after you react.

Okay, let’s review.

Things you cannot control: Things you can control:
Your opponent plays a safety on you Making the best educated decision possible on how to make a good hit
Your opponent is running out on you Studying the table and being prepared for your next opportunity
The table rolls to the left Making a mental note to yourself and playing your next shot wisely
The spectators are being very loud Giving extra focus and attention to your mechanics and follow-through
Your opponent misses and accidently hooks you Taking deep breaths and remaining calm so you can think clearly and deliberately

The next time you’re in a match and you catch yourself distracted by something. First, ask yourself, “Is this something I can control right now?” If the answer is no, then just do your best and quit inviting unnecessary stress. If the answer is yes, then do what you can to address the issue. Control what you can and only focus on the things that can be controlled.

Samm Diep, “Cherry Bomb” (

House Pro at Rack ‘Em Billiards (Aurora, CO)

Author of “You Might Be A D Player If… (101 Classic Moves That All Pool Players Can Appreciate)”

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