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Decoding your opponents and mastering the game
To dominate an opponent it is important to not only develop your own skills but also understand their psychology. Yomi is the ability to predict an opponent’s tactics, strategy and decision-making processes. Yomi is similar to chess. In chess an opponent analyzes every move and adapts accordingly to outsmart their opponent. In pool, you can do this by reading your opponent’s body language. You can determine a player’s strategy by observing their demeanor and how they hold the cue stick.
The ability to read an opponent and decipher their strategy requires a lot of experience and practice. A skilled player will subconsciously note their opponent’s actions, reactions and rhythm in previous matches and encounters. They then build a mental database that they can refer to when similar situations arise during an encounter. This helps them predict what the opponent will say and do.
To learn how to read an opponent, hone in on specific habits that stand out as pivotal to their style and matchup. Paying attention to the way an opponent holds the cue stick can tell you whether they are more aggressive with their shots, or play it safe. Similarly, watching how they play from different distances will help you identify their preferred buttons and strategies, such as teleports at a distance, footsies at a mid-range, or staggers up close.
When observing an opponent it’s also important to observe their reaction to certain situations, for example, when they miss a shot do they show signs of frustration or disappointment or are they quick to bounce back with determination? Having an understanding of your opponent’s mental state is important as well because it can give you clues on their decision-making processes and help guide your own actions against them.
The level of difficulty in observing an opponent’s patterns and habits will vary depending on the type of matchup and the game. However, to become a master player you should aim to have a solid understanding of as many different opponents and matchups as possible so that you can quickly identify their strategies and formulate counter plays.