These are a number of smaller tricks that a pool hustler can use against you, even while you are at the table and he is waiting to play. All he needs to do is set up a waiting area (usually down table) and perform little activities, seemingly unrelated to you. These little distractive activities are very common among amateur hustlers.
An experienced gamesman usually uses other tools. However, if he notices that you are hyper-aware, this are very easy to apply – and coming from a good player can even be done while seemingly unintentional.
These tricks are designed to provide background “noise” to your concentration on the game’s strategies and tactics. Even the occasional recognition that he is doing some kind of movement interferes with your game thinking.
Here is how the hustle works. First, he stakes out his personal waiting location near the foot of the table. This means that during half of your shots, he is visible to your eyeballs, either directly in your line of sight, or well within your peripheral vision.
You can’t really say he is directly sharking you, since he is performing these little gimmicks whether you are facing him or not. A person who is unfamiliar with how gamesmanship affects focus and intention would pass off these actions as simple personal habits.
Here are some examples.
- Flipping any small object from hand to hand.
- Squirming in place.
- Leaning slowly over to one side.
- Apparently dozing off, and then jerking upright.
- Leaning the cue stick slowly over to one side.
- Scratching (everywhere from crotch to back).
- In-place jerky movements (if music is playing).
- Motions of encouragement - thumbs up, double-thumbs up, nods, and smiles, with the occasional "Whoo, whoo." thrown in.
- Cue maintenance activities with various tools.
- Using the cell phone, quietly of course, but with animation.
For the more obvious distractive movements, at a tournament you can inform the tournament director who can issue a warning. In a league match, discuss the problem with your captain and ask that he talk to the opposing team captain.
For the more subtle movements, the passive approach would be to live with the situation. To do this, place all of your attention only within the boundaries of the pool table. Anything outside this rectangle simply doesn’t exist. You could actively ask him to refrain, but that would not be a long term solution. A hustler would simply stop for several innings, and then start with subtle actions.
In a casual match, the simplest way to stop him from using this shark would be to threaten to stop playing. An experienced hustler recognizes that this trick is not working. He simply switches over to another shark, so make sure to keep your guard up.
In a bar situation, use the two-step approach. First, loudly enough to be heard by the railbirds, request that he stop his actions. Then, identify one or two of the more drunk onlookers and ask them to watch him closely.
At the very least, this intimidates the amateur wannabe. Such public exposure easily embarrasses him into stopping. (And sometimes the unexpected notoriety distracts him enough to give you an easy win.)
If nothing else works, the absolute last resort is to simply pack up your stick and walk away. Ignore any current bets. There are lots of other places to play that don’t include majorly stupid players. You don’t need the aggravation.