English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : August, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : August, 1911

Things that Matter in Billiards

X.- TEMPERAMENT

Temperament matters in many things, but there is, probably,
nothing in which it matters more than in billiard
playing. And it may remain a puzzle throughout the ages
why even the philosophical temperament, which is proof
against most things, seems to give way, and even go to
pieces, during a 250 up. Men who, after being shot violently
out of an aeroplane and severely shaken, are found
cheerfully lighting a cigarette, do the same thing through
sheer vexation of spirit and to stifle the welling up of strong
language when making a miscue.

Tell a strong man of affairs that his place of business is
on fire, and he quietly replies that he will be along presently;
let him receive in his post an intimation, on paper
of a blueish tint, that a firm looming somewhat largely on
the debtor side of his ledger is calling its creditors together,
and he merely lifts his eyebrows and passes on to the next
paper on the pile; but let a promising break at billiards be
spoilt by an untimely kiss, or, far worse, let his opponent
be sailing along by the mixed aid of luck and flukes while
he can do nothing right, and this life with all its alluring
joys and compensations, seems to offer no further attraction-
to him.

There is really a study here in the human disposition that
might be worthy the attention of some subtle and experienced
analyst of the emotions. How is it that material
things often agitate men but slightly whereas trifling things
disturb them sensibly. There are men, for example, who
can stand anything in the course of business except what
has happily been termed “cussedness.” The manager or
foreman comes up and says there has been a serious
machinery accident or collapse and practically the. only
emotion that enters the employer’s mind and that finds
expression in his first question is: “Has anyone been
hurt?” Reassured on this point he will say: “Well, what
arrangements are you making? Let that same employer
give a carefully-considered direction on some comparatively
minor matter and find that an employee, choosing to substitute
his own notions— perhaps with the best intentions—
has bungled the business, although no essential loss or
harm has accrued, and the employer, for the time being,
will feel positively ill. It is the bare” cussedness “of the
thing that annoys; and that is where the well-laid little
schemes of the striker at the billiard table so often” gang
aglee.”

The real person that the player who can do nothing right
is annoyed with—vexed at almost past endurance—is himself.

It is not the fact that he is losing the game that
annoys him. The prime and outstanding cause of irritation
is his own play. He knows that he is not playing his real
game and he knows that he is himself alone to blame for
it. Just now he had a decent opening, and there were two
ways of dealing with it. He could get immediate position
with one difficult shot, if successful, or with two or three
easy shots, either of which would be difficult to miss. He
chooses the more spectacular and difficult shot, breaks
down, retires, and silently fumes. Or he is slightly overreached
and the marker makes a movement with the rest.

No; he will try it as it is. The stroke is missed or muddled
and several more valuable ounces of equable temperament
evaporate.

By the adversary these unmistakable signs of temperamental
deterioration are noted with suppressed glee, and
when, in due course, he finds that the ball is being
“chucked”back to him from a pocket instead of being
gently rolled, he does not resent the roughish treatment to
which it is subjected in the least. He feels that he has the
game in the hollow of his hand, and his strokes develop
a deadliness and confidence that are increasingly noticeable.

How is the now demoralized player to pull himself
together? The cigarette will not alone do it, nor even a
whisky and soda. All that is needed is a little Common sense,
a stern self-repression, and a return to normal temperament.

But the” other fellow “is getting all the
leaves! He is getting exactly what is left to him by half confident
and inexact play. But he is having all the luck!

There is no such thing as luck in billiards, in which lost
and safe balls, kisses, and covers should be foreseen and
provided against. But he is scoring half his points from
flukes! Then he is hitting hard and is to be pulled up and
cooled down by a gentle position shot and a nice sustained
sequence.

In brief, if success is to be achieved in billiards the temperament
must be controlled. This applies both to the too confident
and the too-easily-depressed temperament. Many
a commanding lead has been lost by players who have presumed
upon their advantage and many a game might have
been won against odds by ignoring the score board, taking
no unnecessary risks, and carefully utilizing all chances.

Even when, in an ordinary 100 up, 99 to 50 is called, the
game need not be given up. Players sometimes go to pieces
with only a single point to make and the steady player who
has full command of himself creeps steadily up, under these
circumstances, with tens and twelves, and, perhaps, a
twenty or more, until he has the pleasure of hearing the
marker call” game “to him.

Perhaps two of the best pieces of advice that, apart from
execution, can be given to billiard players are: (1) When
you have the lead take care to keep it, and (2) When you
are behind never cease trying, for there is no end to the
surprises that occur in billiards.


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