Few people are able to compete with deadly intentions against an opponent who has just informed you about a personal tragedy. It’s just kind of hard to get into the competitive mood. If you are normally a kind and gentle person, beating up on a suffering human being just is insensitive to the max. In the wide world outside of the pool hall, this is a completely acceptable, even praiseworthy, reaction.
The pool hustler informs you that some tragic event has recently occurred. It is some terrible situation, but something that does not require him to be elsewhere. He made this commitment to play you – and he feels obligated to follow through. And, here he is, being true to his promise. He puts on a brave, even courageous front, bearing up under the weight of his sorrow.
How can you put the whole of your fighting spirit into beating up on someone who is so obviously already beaten down? Such compassion for a fellow pool player take a lot of your internal competitive fortitude away. It changes your viewpoint of the game and how seriously you can play.
One assumption you adopt is that, because of his problems, he is unable to apply proper focus and attention on the match. You intentionally slack off on your will to win. You no longer have the fierce joyful expectation of a hard fought battle of wills and skills.
Here is one way the pool hustler can set up the situation. He (hesitantly of course) explains what has happened and the problems this causes in his personal life. Then, he explains that he must complete his commitment to play you. This is where he gives the impression of stolidly soldiering on - a noble spirit, unbowed and unbeaten, head up till the end. He needs only the occasional grimace of internal pain to cross his features (as if momentarily recalling his problem).
Another approach is the "life is beating me up and I'm hurting bad". This requires a constant look of sadness and a mental push to begin his turn at the table, which is also played slowly. He approaches every shot with a morose and glum appearance. Talking is limited to monosyllables.
Here is an example of the two used together. As he shakes your hand, he says in a right tone of voice (but sad look), "Congratulate me. I am now part of the idle class." On a request for clarification, he describes how he just got laid off. He accepts your sympathetic hopeful wishes for a better tomorrow with a wane, "I'm doing my best" smile.
After a few minutes, he drops into the victim phase. He lightly touches on the effects of unemployment - the financial problems, the wife cutting back on expenses, and the depression he is feeling. A few well-heaved sighs help further this facade.
Attempts to raise his spirits are poorly rewarded and barely acknowledged. He wants you to feel guilty about your non-problematical lifestyle. The more convincing he can make this appeal for your compassionate concern, the easier it is for you to slack off and let him win a few games – and the whole match. This kind generosity on your part rewards you with a sober thank you and a sad smile of appreciation for your concern. He has to remember to not appear joyful over the easy win you just placed in his hands.
Most competitive games of pool are not so necessary that they be played when one of the shooters is experiencing personal hardships. Therefore, be suspicious when an opponent presents most types of serious life problems. Think about it. Why would anyone with such difficulties want to get involved in a competitive contest? It would be better for him to stay home and apply an alcoholic sedative.
Rather than back off on your intention to win, consider doing him a favor and win the match as rapidly as possible. If he makes any kind of protest to this seemly callous consideration, tell him straight out, “The sooner I win the match, the quicker you can go home.”
With this hustle failing, it’s going to be pretty difficult for him to suddenly become very competitive. You should have a decent lead to the win before he shakes off his hustle and tries to get back to a competitive mindset. Spread the word among your pool playing friends so that this guy won’t be able to use this trick.