(This is today’s bit of advice from the book Safety Toolbox.)
A hero shot is any low percentage shot that, if made, would be admired by anyone watching. It is so-called because only a hero could make the shot. A success would be worthy of acclaim. Missing it would make him a bum, with vocal supporters yelling out, “That was stupid!” Hero shots, by their very nature, are rarely successful.
If there’s a hero shot around, of course there must also be a superhero shot. If a hero shot has a less than 5% chance of success, a superhero shot has a less than 1% chance of success. To an observer who appreciates the complexity of the Green Game, it is even more painful to watch.
Competitors often thank a player who does hero shots. It’s one of the few sure ways to come back to the table with an excellent chance of having a good layout. These shots also expose the shooter’s internal mental laziness.
Where a smart shooter would figure out a sensible safety, the player attempting a hero shot demonstrates that his thinking abilities rank at the level of a drunken bar-banger.
When you have such an opponent, count the game and match as easy wins. Provide him every opportunity to show off. Be generous with your encouragement and praise. It is good to have an opponent willing to constantly prove he is more or less non-competitive.
Generally, when such a person demonstrates this incompetence, the game has little or no importance to him. Feel free to inquire as to why he considered the shot in the first place (friendly-like so he doesn’t get scared into thinking properly). His response gives you a look inside his head.
Most players, if forced to honestly answer a question about why, would fall back on excuses. Admitting the truth would meaning have to admit to being dumb. He would explain away his silliness with something like, “I didn’t expect it to work anyway.” or “I just wanted to try something interesting.” (If you want to dig at him, try an appropriate comment like, “Wow. I’m impressed with your imagination.”
It is surprising how many otherwise careful shooters let their guards down enough to take a chance on a hero shot. At the least, they are turning loose the cue ball and trusting to billiard god luck (chaos). Do not miss this opportunity to pick up a game or two before he decides to get serious again.
Sometimes your opponent may be hiding his skills. If he took what seemed to be a hero shot, check the results carefully. If you ended up with a bad position, it might be worth considering whether your opponent just performed a defensive play.
If you have the slightest suspicion, pay closer attention, or you could be the one being played. It never hurts to be suspicious about an opponent who appears to have accidentally pulled off an effective defense. (They might also have read this book.)
What to do when tempted to be heroic?
When faced with a shot deep within your chaos zone, maintain self-discipline. No matter how casual the game may be or how little importance it has, do not succumb to a heroic impulse. Instead always look for every opportunity to practice your analysis skills.
No matter how tempting a hero shot might be, ignore the momentary thrill of exploring the unknown. Before bending over to make a stroke, select a shot that makes sense. At the very least, you resisted temptation.
If you do have a shot idea that might be worth attempting, play it as a serious two-way. Assume failure, and plan out possible object ball paths in relation to the cue ball. Include in your calculations the results of various cue ball speeds and spins. Take your time to walk through all possible results.
If you find yourself loosing concentration while working out the details, the shot is too difficult. Switch over to playing a simple safety.