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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Ask “The Viper”

Melissa Little

Melissa “The Viper” Little has been a WPBA Touring Professional for over 10-years, she has represented the USA in Four WPA World Championships, is the current USA Bar Table Champion for 8-Ball and 9-Ball and has over 20 top-10 WPBA career finishes. Melissa is the house-pro at the Wynkoop Brewing Company located in Downtown Denver and is sponsored by The Wynkoop, Jacoby Custom Cues and The Colorado Cue Times. She teaches monthly clinics, gives private lessons, and has created a juniors program that promotes billiards education to the local youth. For more information about Melissa please visit:


Can a person without natural talent rise to the professional level with hard work?” John S. – Denver


People from all walks of life have deliberated over natural talent vs. hard work. In my opinion, even though there are natural born pool players, it is the dedication and hard work that gets them to the championship level. I think the natural player can get to the pros a little bit faster but a person who works hard on there game will eventually get there. Either way it takes an enormous about of work for both. Over the past decade I have been playing on the WPBA pro tour and have noticed that are a few players without natural talent but who have dedicated their game to hard work and it’s paid off.

I think its very important to set some goals and then dedicate your time to hard work and in due time the rest will come. If you place all of your energy on a trophy prize then you set yourself up for disappointed. My goal is not to be the number 1 ranked player in the World but to become the BEST pool player that I can be.  If I dedicate my time and energy to hard work then that championship titles will come. Be patient and ponder on your thinking.

Trophies, rankings, and prizes are just materialistic items. But what counts is that you chose to play a game with passion!! Its not the end result of a championship but what it takes to get you there. The true trophies are built upon memories, places traveled, and even that awesome shot that you made during pool league. Those are the things that really matter…

Best of luck to you, Viper

If you have a question for “The Viper” please e-mail them to Melissa Little at