This is an insidious effort, and one of the easiest sharking tricks that a pool hustler can implement. His compliments on various aspects of your pool game are delivered with obvious sincerity and clothed in good sportsmanship. This shark is successful when you react with touchy-feely enhancements to your self-esteem.
In pool, as well as other life activities, anytime you start thinking highly of yourself, there is a leveling force (call it the universal teeter-tooter) that applies reality to your fantasies. These attitude adjustments are brutal. The more you think you got the goods, the harder the slap-down.
To quote the Bible, King James Version, Proverbs 16:18 "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." When you accept your opponent’s flattery as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – there is a significant degradation of your competitive attitude.
The first couple failures might not affect your assumptions, but third poorly considered shot starts a leak in your inflated ego. IN the meantime, he picks up a couple of easy wins.
He constantly closely watches your reactions. When he starts on the bright sincere-like approach, any facial response to the flattery encourages him. When you include a "Thank you", he knows and owns you.
So, let’s say you are a superior competitor. No fair words or sweet compliments can sway your rugged determination to play each shot with dedicated serious intent.
The pool hustler simply turns this compliment shark from the sweetness and light approach to the dark side. With simple adjustments in tone, he can take the same complimentary words and apply a vicious edge. Instead of trying to butter you up, he hands you compliments that do not deserve even the most minor recognition.
On the simplest and easiest of shots, he expresses praise with obvious banality. Even shots worthy or real respect are dissed with the same bland “good shot” verbiage.
This starts out with simplistic standard two word phrases – “Good shot.” “Not bad.” etc. Then, as the mid-match games are played, additional commentary is included - such as, "You must have worked pretty hard to master that type of shot."
Other commentary can include statements like, "You're a pretty good shooter." and "That was excellent control." and "I've seen a lot of shooters. You're on your way to becoming one of the better players." All of these are delivered in a monotone, devoid of good intent.
The “irritating” version of this shark also introduces "Good try." And “You almost got it.” on misses and poor shape for the next shot. This, of course, just adds insult to injury. Not only are you frustrated on the failure, he is stating the obvious.
If you are able to relegate his commentary to background noise, nothing he says, on the bright or dark side of compliments affects your game. You essentially play the table with a deaf ear.
If you tend to be "sensitive" to actions and sounds around you, there are ways to deflect his efforts. Take his attempts and go proactive. Apply this same shark on his shots – but with greater emphasis and obvious insincerity.
Instead of the simplistic two word phrases (“Good shot.”), expand with additional adjectives/adverbs, i.e., “REALLY good shot.” Etc. If you wish, you can through in a a sentence or two of how the shot was so amazing and fantastic – you get the idea. Continue doing this until you feel some sense of physical danger.
At this point, play the bigger and better man, and offer a truce. Negotiate a deal for both of you to cease and desist, so that the game can move on. That should end it.
However, if the guy is (or thinks he is) a master hustler, he abides by the one agreement – and simply move on to another of his bag of tricks. Constant vigilance against known hustlers is necessary.