Breaks Can Be Deceiving

By Samm Diep © January 2011

Samm Diep

In the infant stages of my pool game, I was constantly reminded of the importance of practice and repetition. I was building muscle memory and honing my skills. If I went for more than one day without practicing, I could feel my game suffer. It seemed like I was taking an immediate step back and in some cases would even need to relearn things.

Of course, I never minded playing and practicing so much in the beginning because I was obsessed. I put in the hours because I was falling in love with the game. The breaks were seldom, by design.

These days, as I’ve improved and my skills and knowledge advanced, I find myself practicing for longer sessions but with less frequency. Let’s face it, there comes a point where your priorities shift and “life” keeps you from putting in the hours that you were once accustomed to.

Over the past year, whenever I’ve taken a break, I’ve returned to the table renewed. I’ve found myself pocketing balls just as well or better than I was prior to the time off.

Does this mean it’s not necessary to practice on a regular basis anymore? What’s the point of practicing if I’m playing just as well without it? The two main factors that infrequent practice affects are confidence and consistency.

Playing well after a long break can be deceiving for a couple reasons:

  1. When you’re playing well without practicing, you fool yourself into thinking you don’t need to practice. You may be able to get away with it once or twice but over time, that lack of practice will accumulate and take its toll on your overall ability to execute. With waivered confidence, tentative shots and decisions will lead to repeated mistakes and vice versa.
  2. Playing well without practicing gives you a false sense of security. You might start hitting the balls well and feeling like you’re ready for competition. It’s only then when your abilities are put to the test that you realize you’re pocketing balls on autopilot. Once you get to the money ball or key ball, that’s when the inconsistency surfaces. Routine run outs become more work than they should be.

Confidence is so critical in the game of pool. If ever you tell yourself you’re out of stroke, then you’ll be out of stroke. You may be hitting the ball well but you will still be a bit rusty. The next time you return from a break, try to still play with confidence but do not be deceived. Be aware of your limitations and play within them. Until you get back in stroke, take fewer risks and be more patient.

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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