The subject of beta-blockers has crept in here before - just wanted to
relate my own experience and opinion.
Sometime in the last year I decided I was good enough to start
competing in pool ( 8- and 9-ball). I thought I was hot sh- ... er...
stuff! So I entered the Thursday night open 9-ball tourney at La Mesa
Billiards. I told them I was a "B" player (knowing full well I was
probably an "A" player).
Races to three, double elimination.
As you may have guessed, I was out after two matches...
Not only that, I lost both matches 3-0. (Wait. It gets worse...)
In the first match I didn't make a single shot in about 12 innings
over the three games. The second match lasted over 20 innings
probably. I only made two shots in the whole match.
***? Even though those watching appeared sympathetic, it was
apparent that they thought I shouldn't be wasting their time (although
the winner probably appreciated the extra ten bucks).
From the time they called my name for the first match, my heart
started pounding like the proverbial big bass drum. My muscles needed
a shot of WD-40. I was a wreck.
After a few weeks, my heart rate returned to normal, and I decided to
give it another try. (When you fall off a horse, it's important that
you get right back on). I signed in as a [behumbled] "C" player.
I played much better, winning 3 matches (one of them to an "A" player)
before getting knocked out one round before the money.
Redemption. I overheard one of the better players refer to me as a
"good B player".
Only one problem - that big bass drum was thumping away for the entire
night. I'm not sure how I got my muscles to work at all; I was still
nowhere near the top of my game. Basically, I was a bundle of nerves.
"Get used to it", I told myself. "Just keep playing in competition
and it will get easier." So I joined the monday night 8-ball APA
I'm fooling nobody... I even get nervous when I'm shooting the guys
(and ladies) [PC] in the bar on Friday night even though most of them
pose little to no threat!
So! The last time I was at the doctor's office, I asked him about my
pool game. (I really did just that! After he was done removing a
cyst I said, "I wanted to talk to you about my pool game")
After a little chuckle, and more explanation from me, he briefed me on
the different beta blockers. I wish I could remember the names of
them, but two that I brought up (and had been mentioned in rsb before)
were no good because one is somewhat depressive, and the other is for
long term maintenance.
What he did give me is Propanolol. I think this is the generic term
rather than the brand name.
The following Monday night I took one about an hour before league
practice. I think I lost that night, but I am sure it had nothing to
do with the drug. There was no psycho-active response. I didn't feel
anything at all - that was good. I had a few beers, and they affected
me the same as they always do (a "few" do virtually nothing ;o).
The only difference was that I wasn't a bundle of nerves. I shot my
first relaxed, competitive game of pool that night. I almost didn't
even realize it until the night was over, when I thought, "Damn! I
feel - normal!" I was sure I had found the miracle drug.
That night I lay in bed thinking about my relaxing evening of pool.
Then I thought about my upcoming day of work. Then I thought about
how nice it would be if I could just get to sleep. Then I thought
that perhaps next Monday I would only take half a propanolol. Then,
after about 3 1/2 hours of thinking, I fell asleep. It's odd how
something that keeps your heart from leaping into your throat can also
keep you from getting to sleep. I hadn't noticed any "speedy" effects
physically, but my mind didn't want to end the day until about 9 hours
after I had taken the pill.
Next Monday I only took half a pill. I had a slight case of the
jitters, but I think it only helped to keep me sharp. I guess a
little bit of edginess is good . In any event, I won, and was able to
enjoy the evening.
That night I lay in bed thinking... again. I thought that perhaps I
would have to learn to play with the jitters from now on.
I did enter a weekend tournament not too long ago. I took a full
propanolol in the morning before the practice session. Once again,
the pill worked its magic. I was able to play confidently, but fell
short of my capabilities, getting sent home one round short of the
I'm not offering any conclusions here. I suspect that the
beta-blocker might remove a little of that competitive edge that you
need to be a winner. However, at least in my case, the nervousness
can be strong enough that I would rather take the pill, and go home
with 2nd or 3rd place and all my fingernails. Unfortunately though,
the side effect of sleeplessness is going to force me to learn to play
competitively and deal with my nerves some other way.
"Not one shred of evidence supports
the notion that life is serious."