Are you an individual who is courteous and attentive to others when they talk? Do you try your best to "get along"? If you fit this profile, you might find yourself the victim of this trap.
To make this work, the pool hustler uses a double step-down approach intended to dull your keen competitive edge. When the match starts, he needs to convince you, either by attitude or by his shooting, that he is unconcerned about winning this match.
Once you start emulating his laid-back playing attitude, the next step is to maintain your lack of concern. He uses phrases like, "It's not important who wins. It's only important to have fun." Comments like these can easily cause you to relax your focus and competitive intent. After all, he’s not trying to be competitive, so why should you?
Even if you resist his call to be lazy and kick back to enjoy a relaxing round with a friend, he continues to persuade you of the relative unimportance of this competition.
Once your intense desire to battle for ascendancy is squashed, he applies the second level of this trap. After you stepped down your competitive intensity, he has to make sure that you stay non-competitive.
He now becomes the “talker”, not for the purpose of entertainment, but to keep you lulled and relaxed. The subjects he brings up are non-controversial and boring (hence the name of this shark). Nothing he says is designed to involve your interest or attention.
He rambles on about material that simply doesn’t require you to pay attention. His tone is monotone – delivered flatly and without emphasis. For example, something like:
- My high school invited me to a reunion. I think it was the 15th, or maybe 10th – I can’t remember. <ramble, ramble, ramble>.
- I read a book about moss the other day. It talked about 20 major species and about 200 varieties. There was this black moss that <ramble, ramble, ramble>
The monotone sound of his voice slowly develops a slightly numbing effect on your mind. And that’s all he needs to accomplish.
He plays to fit this approach. There is no single-inning runout, no dramatic three-rail banks, nothing to call attention to his true table skills.
He just consistently play a little better than you do. When you come to the table, you have something to shot – it just won’t be easy. Because you are not playing seriously, your chances of missing increase significantly.
When he wins, he apologizes. You even win a few games – just not enough to get ahead. Basically, he just barely keeps ahead of you.
Some players who use this shark are doing so not because of an evil heart. Through trial and error over months and even years, they discovered this tactic to prevent intense competition. This has become a mechanism to make competitors match their dulled down emotions.
The problem with recognizing this shark is recognizing this shark. An entire match can be lost before you realize what is going on. Therefore, once you are aware, the first and best protection from this trick is the strength of your focus and attention. This is one of the few situations where you want to play the table and not the opponent. Treating every shot as a puzzle to solve very effectively offsets your opponent’s efforts.
Another response that helps is to assign his rambling to the level of background noise. Use automated acknowledgements (grunts and hrumphs) to disconnect your attention to anything he says.
There is one proactive response. In the process of his dull communications, ask follow-up questions related to his topic. Express and interest in the topic. This interrupts his placid playing attitude and affects his ability to focus. You interaction splits his attention between answering your questions and playing the table. He ends up distracting himself.