If you're a competitive pool player of any level sooner or later you will find your pool playing brilliance has been replaced with someone who seems like they've never played the game before. Routine shots suddenly become difficult, and the difficult become impossible. Add to that, every time your opponent misses they either make the ball in a different pocket or leave you nutted up in a safety. What is going on? You are officially in a slump.

There are many theories as to what a slump is; playing too much, playing too little, high expectations, low expectations, the list is endless. In the end it doesn't really matter what started it, it only matters that you try your best to end it. The only thing that is certain about a slump is that it is self perpetuating, and putting an end to it is somewhere deep within you. The following is a list of strategies to try to manage and hopefully end your slump before you prematurely decide to auction off your gently used pool gear on EBay.

1. Play through it. Or not. When you're really taking the heat and you find being at the table unbearable, just walk away. The question is, how long should you stay away? If you're serious about your game I wouldn't stay away long. A week at most to get a fresh perspective on the game will usually get it done. Beyond that, if the bad play continues, put in a series of solo practices, playing only until you turn into a blubbering, miserable mess.

2. Pay attention to the details. Really focus on what's happening at the table. Think your shots through, and walk around to determine exactly where you need to be. I think a lot of slumps are caused by missing details, like a step in your pre shot or not thoroughly thinking your shot selection through.

3. Don't ask too much of yourself. Don't put yourself in high pressure games, and if you have to, don't go for as many of the tough shots. This is a good time to work on your safe game. If you're not sure you're going to make the shot, don't shoot it. You may lose, but it doesn't feel as bad if you make your opponent earn it. Many matches are actually won like this. Good players call this grinding it out.

4. Stay positive. Try not to focus on your bad rolls and your opponents good rolls. Treat it like a job and stay focused on the task. Spending time thinking negative thoughts not only makes you feel bad, it makes you play bad. Instead, think about exactly what you want to happen on the shot you're faced with, or just think about things that make you happy.

5. Keep it in perspective. Hopefully you still have a job, a family and your health. After all, it is just a game of pool.