Have you ever made the most beautiful run of your life, only to get down the final ball and chunk it right into the rail? We’ve all done it. The excitement builds as you get closer and closer to winning the game and finishing the rack. As the anticipation gets greater your nerves run higher. Finally, by the time you’re facing the money ball you’re a complete wreck. You’ve missed the ball so badly you don’t even remember shooting it.

The reality is that it probably wasn’t any tougher of a shot than any of the previous ones you were faced with. You missed it because you placed more value on that ball than any of the others. You convinced yourself that final shot was worth more and had more meaning to it which ultimately just puts more pressure on you.

Instead of feeling anxiety about making the shot, you should be enjoying the experience. You worked hard for that shot. You ran the rest of the rack. You’ve earned your chance to finish the rack and win the game. Enjoy the shot. Until you’re able to reach this level of Zen, here’s a list of 10 things you can try to help you get the ball in the hole:

1. Stay positive. Before the negative thoughts even have a chance to creep into your brain, flood your head with positive thoughts and energy. Be your own cheerleader and remind yourself that you can do it.

2. Visualize the shot. Imagine your desired outcome. See yourself pocketing the ball and winning the game. Visualize not only the object ball going into the pocket but also where you expect the cue ball to end up.

3. Respect the shot. Though we don’t want to place more emphasis on this final ball than any of the other ones, we still want to take it (along with every one shot) just as seriously. Do not take the shot for granted. Don’t rush to shoot it.

4. Think "smooth". This is not the time to get tentative with your stroke. Make sure you finish your stroke in the forward position and follow through completely.

5. Keep a level cue. Check to make sure your cue is nice and level. The last thing you want is to inadvertently masse the cue ball or miscue because you had a little unintentional elevation or side spin.

6. Stay down. Make a conscious effort to stay down until the shot is complete. Try not to lift so much as your head or eye brow until the balls stop moving or something is coming at you.

7. Remember your pre-shot routine. Go through your steps and make sure you don’t skip any. Now is not the time for shortcuts. Do not shoot the shot until you feel comfortable and ready.

8. Take a drink of water. If you need to, break the tension with a sip of water or your beverage of choice. Walking away from the table can sometimes give you a new outlook when you return.

9. Wipe your hands. Keep a towel with you so you can keep your hands dry in the event any clamminess occurs with your nerves.

10. Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe. Take some slow, deep breaths to help slow down your heart rate and keep you calm.

As a bonus tip, the very best way you can avoid dawgin' it is with practice. The more you practice the more confidence you’ll have. Then, when you’re faced with the shot during competition, it’s much less scary. When you practice, you build muscle memory which will allow you to feel more comfortable under pressure.

Ideally, the above list should be used for every shot, not just when you’re shooting the final ball. If you’re able to give every shot your 100% attention then you would never have to worry about missing the money ball. It’s natural to put a little extra pressure on yourself. It’s how you overcome that pressure that helps you win more games.

The next time you’re in the mile high area and looking for a Denver billiard instructor, be sure to look me up.