All pool hustlers have a library of sharks based on different tactics. Many sharks can be categorized. There are a large group of conversation-based sharks and another group based on delaying tricks. The “Thinker” shark is one of those delaying sharking tactics.
It is especially useful in competition environments that restrict direct communications between the players. The most common of these are formal tournaments. Players have designated seats to wait their turns. This is also common in some private pool rooms designed to discourage inter-player communications.
Potential targets for the “Thinker” shark are methodical players. These are shooters who enjoy the Green Game because of the in-turn playing routines, combined with the consistent shooting rhythms (table analysis, shot selection, set up, execution, and maybe a bit of post-shot consideration of the consequences). Methodical players are very sensitive to interruptions in their routines. The pool hustler only needs to modify his victim’s timing and playing rhythm to reduce that player’s focus and concentration.
This shark takes the table analysis segment of every shooting routine and uses it to affect your thinking. If you are one of these methodical players, this trick interferes with your normal expectations of the game flow. Doing this a few times doesn’t have much of an effect on your game. But, over the length of a match, there is a cumulative effect. By the time the match enters the end-games, every time the hustler shoots, the delay has become just a bit more irritating. This affects your state of mind, which, of course, helps the hustler win.
Here is how this is used in a competition. Your opponent's turn comes up. He walks over to the pool table and stops stock still in a statue-like position for a lengthy amount of time. The position can be in a variety of poses. It might be a dignified “English gentleman” – one hand on chin. He might use the “spread-eagle” pose – feet apart, leaning onto the short rail with both hands. He might even use the “edge of the table, half-butt”.
He holds this position for a long time. With no formal time per shot, this can extend out beyond 60 seconds and longer. This pose is held until you actually say something. Upon which moment you have just told him the limits of your patience.
From that point onwards, this is his benchmark. He knows that, as the match proceeds, your cumulative frustration increases.
During a long match, he has some options. For example, he might temporarily stop this shark to determine your focus recovery time. He can use it two or three times in a row – or every other shot. With this information, he can control the level of your competitiveness.
He isn’t wasting time while in his pose. If you look closely, you can see his eyes darting all over the table area as different ideas are considered and discarded. This shark also gives him the time to evaluate dozens of ideas, concepts, options, and considerations. Even if he makes a shot decision in the first few seconds of his Thinker pose, he can still continue evaluations of options.
When he finally moves past the pose, the actual setup, execution and post-shot analysis doesn’t take much time – less than 10 seconds. Then the whole process starts over again. Even if he is strongly pressured and cuts the time in half, you are still waiting longer than you consider practical – and are already frustrated.
Here is the best solution to handling this shark. Use this trick against the hustler. This is an excellent opportunity to improve your thinking game. While he is doing his table analysis, you can also give serious consideration to a wide variety of "what if" scenarios.
Watch him carefully as he studies the playing situation. See if you can identify his options. Try to predict the final choice, and then compare his plan of attack to what you consider the correct selection. If your choice is incorrect – figure out what he was trying to accomplish. It can be very beneficial to know how he makes shooting choices. At the least, you get an insight into how effective his choices are compared to yours.