When these thoughts are uppermost in your thoughts, you are experiencing pressure. The amount of pressure is directly proportional to the importance of the money ball. (For example, you don’t feel pressure when there is no value on winning.) To all observers, if you make it the money ball – you are a hero. If you miss – you’re a bum.
These emotional and physical reactions are an aspect of your most primitive responses to anything that you consider a danger to your well-being - the fight or flight response. When faced with a dangerous situation (i.e., loss of money or prestige), do you battle with all your strength, or do you run away to fight another day?
In a critical game with a chance to win but facing a tough shot, do you go for the win (betting your life on the result)? Or do you try to play defense and hope for another chance at the table? The longer you sit on the fence while being indecisive, the more painfully intense are your worries. Most people, when suffering indecision will make a snap choice to go for the win. The problem, of course, is that hurried decisions also result in hurried pre-shot routines. This usually results in an uncontrolled aim and stroke. Then the billiard gods get to help your opponent.
All is not lost. There is a process that eases the “choking” problem when on the money ball. It is “experience”. The turning point in your ability to handle pressure is to place the situation in perspective. This occurs at a point in your life when you finally realize that death will not be the result of failure. Only with this realization will your ability to face pressure improve. With regular exposure to important shots, your nervous reactions will have a lesser and lesser effect on your attitude.
Here is a quick trick to gain lot of personal experience on the practice table. Assign a penalty cost to a critical shot. Make the penalty for failure something personally painful – such as adding physical exercise repetitions to your workout or some other sets of distasteful tasks.
When playing a similarly skilled opponent, put a little money on your ability to succeed. If you win the money ball, he pays you $1.00. If he wins the money ball, you pay him $5.00. Another cash penalty is for his wins, you pay him $1.00. For your wins - you get nothing. (For opponents who don’t want to put money on the game.)
Create any kind of imbalance that costs you for not paying attention to the game. Give a generous handicap. Force yourself to play intelligently and consider your opponent to be dangerous.
When you can accept such lop-sided odds and put in your best effort, any nervousness on the money ball will fade away, replaced with the deadly serious necessity to stay focused. The experience of constant pressure will then become a routine and accepted part of your game.
It doesn’t matter how much of problem that nervous concern causes to you now. You can intentionally do something to make this concern a laughable problem of the past. And there is one interesting result – the game gets to be much more interesting and a lot more fun – for the rest of your life.