This shark tricks you into playing well below your regular speed. The opponent demonstrates poor playing skills. This is designed to weaken your intention to win by demonstrating a huge difference is skills between you and your opponent. After all, the guy obviously doesn’t have the skills to be a serious competitor – right?
During the first couple of games, usually with very small bets (for the fun of it), your opponent demonstrates this difference in skills. When this is obvious, he begins saying things like:
“I can’t possibly have any chance of winning against you. You are just too good.” Follow-up complaints can include, “Why are you playing so hard against me. I’m not that good of a player. Aren’t we playing for fun?”
These communications are designed to shame you into not taking the games seriously. Once you start “accepting” these requests to back off on your competitive spirit, it is very easy to relax your standards and just start banging off shots without thought or consideration of the table consequences.
When he is successful in modifying your playing attitude, you start committing a number of pool playing sins. Because the competition becomes less important, you spend less time and effort in table analysis. You also don’t take enough time to properly calculate the shots, including aiming, along with the proper cue ball speed and spin. You intentionally downgrade your own skills, just to make your adversary feel better.
Now he can start to win a game here and there – all the while crying about the need for more fairness – when you win. Eventually, your playing intensity is dialed down so much that you become outright lazy. He has convinced you that the “value” of winning is unimportant. With no reason to focus and concentrate on the game, it becomes acceptable that your opponent starts winning more games. And, when he does win, the hustler apologizes while saying it was just pure accidental luck.
Relaxing playing standards also leads to the emergence of bad habits that you struggled hard to overcome. You don’t get down the shot, you brain stops working, and even your stance starts getting sloppy. You stop considering defensive plays, completely. Basically, almost all of your fundamentals deteriorate.
In some cases, you don’t even need your opponent to moan and groan or otherwise coerce you to downgrade your skills and abilities. You can easily become your own victim by intentionally hobbling yourself.
There is some research that indicates this impulse goes all the way back to when you were a toddler. The giants (adults) around you constantly badgered you into “sharing” toys and being nice. And when you didn’t want to, punishment was quick to follow. In school, many teachers make it their life’s goal to convince all of their students that the outcome of all games should be “fair” and “competition” is bad.
There are times in life when making it all fair is an important and necessary action, especially when everyone is attempting to negotiate an equitable arrangement. Or, you might be playing with a bunch of buddies where the purpose is not to win games, but only to have a good time being together.
But in competition, this “fairness” impulse is a deadly sin and contributes to the loss of games what should never have occurred. Keep in mind this one most important fact: “There are no friends on the table.” You can be friends before the match and you can be friends after the match, but not during the match.
The solution is actually quite simple – don’t back off on your speed. If there is a real difference in skills (and the bets are relatively unimportant), handicap the games so that you must always play at your best. Some options are:
- If playing an absolute beginner, let him pick up the cue ball and position it for every shot.
- If playing someone with a few playing skills, but not a strong finisher – give him two turns for his inning.
- If there is a small disparity, give weight.
The main thing you want to ensure is something that forces you to play your best.