Watch Out It’s Contagious!

By Samm Diep © October 2010

Samm Diep

In my recent interview with Hall of Famer Nick Varner, he said:
“You’re always liable to miss those hard shots; you got to brush them off and just try to learn from ’em what you can as far as getting used to the table and stuff so you don’t miss the next shot you come up against. You try to not let it become contagious. It becomes like cancer where you go from bad to worse. That happens to a lot of players.”
Unfortunately, there is no antibiotic you can take to keep this condition from progressing when you start to catch a miss. It could be that the balls are just getting a little sticky or maybe the air is humid and everything is reacting a little differently than you’re expecting. The spin exaggerates and combinations become much tougher.
When you start missing a shot here and there due to the table conditions, it’s very common to start losing confidence. That’s when, as Nick says, “it becomes like a cancer where you go from bad to worse.” Once your confidence is shaken, it’s very difficult to regain your composure and that’s when we often make bad decisions too. It’s really easy to start questioning your mechanics or abilities when you miss a couple back to back shots. The key is to be aware of why you’re missing so that you can make the appropriate adjustments.
It could be something mechanical or a variance in the equipment. Whatever it is, this is where all those long hours of practice come in handy. It’s so critical to be in tune with your game so that when the conditions and the equipment are slightly off, you can adjust quickly before it’s too late. Pay close attention to what’s happening. If you know your game, then you should know what the cue ball should be doing on certain shots.
Home Remedy: Practice on as many different tables and in as many different playing conditions as possible. The only way to recognize when things go from bad to worse is by experiencing it. Learning to adjust to various circumstances will keep the cancer from spreading. When it starts happening in a match, reduce your speed and use less english until you can make the adjustment.
Remember, each time you approach the table, it’s a new shot, a new opportunity to do your best, and anything that happened before is now in the past. Learn from it, and then let it go.
The above excerpt is from the article, “Nick Varner: The Original Comeback Kid.” Go to to read the complete interview and other Pro Vision interviews.
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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