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Carom Billiard - 3-Cushion - Bert's column (NED)

It's better than nine to five, right?

Posted by on September 3, 2018

It's better than nine to five, right?

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We have discussed at length on these pages what it takes to be a world class 3-cushion player, technically. You need solid stance, a stroke that can go from brain surgeon delicate to Viking sledgehammer, perfect speed control, nerves like cables, great shot selection, clever balance between offense and defense, deep knowledge of position play. In short, you need a 1.600 average. If you can produce that, you can call yourself a top player. Make it 1.800, and you are among the best in the world.  

These are good days to be a top 3-cushion player. We've all seen Merckx cash a big check in Seoul, Caudron an even bigger one in New York. It's not tennis or golf, but they make serious money now. If you are a young, talented and ambitious player who thinks he could reach that 1.600 in the next few years: is there a golden future for you? Maybe. A fair warning: there's more for you to conquer than just the game. You also have to master the profession.

If you love animals, I suppose there is no more noble and rewarding profession than being a veterinarian. However, it does involve sticking your arm into a cow's ass from time to time. There's a downside to every job, and being a 3-cushion pro is no different. I'll go over a few aspects of it, just to give you an idea.

Travel. If you have ever flown from Europe to Asia, or even from the USA to Europe, you know how long eight hours can last when you are sitting in a plane chair. Prepare to spend well over 100 hours in that chair, every year.  

Jetlag. Some are affected more than others, but most people struggle for two or three days to get into a new rhythm of going to bed and waking up, after a transcontinental flight. You will sometimes find yourself at the billiard table feeling sleep deprived, feeling inexplicably tired.   

Food. Yes, you can eat at McDonalds in every country in the world. But trust me, you will be a happier (and healthier) man if you can learn to appreciate Korean food in Korea, Mexican food in Mexico, etc. Don't expect your body to feel and function as it does at home, because it won't.   

Languages. Whatever your nationality is, you would do yourself a big favor if you could at least speak (some) English. It will be a big help on every continent. What does that have to do with performing well in 3-cushion tournaments? Ask any of the current Korean or Vietnamese top players. Or the Turks.

Formats. There will be times when tournament organizers make you play three matches on the same day. Physically, that's not such a big deal, but mentally, you will be exhausted. Sometimes, there will be six hours between your two matches. Boredom can be brutal.  

(And by the way, the fans at home, in front of their tv or computer, have never, ever said: "His stomach must be upset from the strange food, and he's only had three hours of sleep last night." What they HAVE said, a thousand times, is this: "He's playing like shit. Even I could have made that shot.")

Tables. Believe me, there is no comparison between league conditions and tournament conditions. It may sound strange to an outsider, but it is true: in the leagues, the cloth is older and the tables are - in general - shorter, in world top tournaments everything is brand spanking new... which makes it EASIER to play high averages in the leagues. The first few days of international tournaments can be cruel. And you, as an aspiring 3-cushion pro, need to be able to perform on six or seven different brands of table, all with their specific character. Maybe you've practiced on a Verhoeven or Gabriels for 3000 hours. Then they give you five minutes to get used to the Platin, the Carrinho, the Min or the Hollywood.   

Conduct. Your world class colleagues will demand of you that you behave in the manner that has become the norm in top 3-cushion. Don't think lightly of it: the standard is very high. If you make a two-rail point and the referee counts it, you are not going to get a medal for going to the chair. It is what you are expected and supposed to do. Steal that point, and it's one step forward in the match, two steps back in your career.   

Disappointment. You will play poorly sometimes, and lose. You will also play extremely well sometimes, and lose. You can be the number one player in the world, and you will still get eliminated by an unseeded guy from time to time. Disappointment, and how to deal with it, is a key factor in a 3-cushion career.  

Media. Giving an interview after you've just won is easy. But now that 3-cushion is professionalizing rapidly, you will be expected to talk into a microphone two minutes after you've lost. Can you say something nice about your opponent, admit defeat gracefully? Or are you going to make a fool of yourself, talking about that little mistake the referee made?

It's not an easy job. But it's better than working nine to five for a cranky boss. 


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