Crokinole Skills Tip - The Self-Assist

Introduction

Have you seen our video about the Crokinole Assist or the Helper, or the Apple, or whatever you want to call it? It is when you set up an opportunity for a future 20. Regardless of what you call it, it is typically used in doubles play, but not always. In this video, we are going to dig in and take a nice close look at what is called the Self-Assist. Let us look.

The Self-Assist

Jeremy Tracey here of Tracey Boards. Please give us a like, a comment, a share, or a subscribe. It all helps to spread the word of the greatest game on earth.

The Self-Assist is much like the regular assist, except it is a lot like it is on steroids. It is way tougher to do well; it has a low success rate. This is a very low percentage shot. So, you may be asking, “Come on now, Jeremy, why would I even consider doing this?” The reason is that when you can pull this off and do it successfully, it is super satisfying, a massive tide-turner in any Crokinole match, and could easily become the TSN turning point in the game. As we go through this, we are going to do four things:

We are going to look at the basic concept of the self-assist – what you are trying to accomplish. We will look at all the ways that this can go horribly wrong and why it is such a low percentage shot.

We will cover the different ways that this could set up as a possibility on the board and when it may set up that you will use the self-assist. Most importantly, we are going to take a nice close look at the perfect self-assist and why, when you do it perfectly, it can become such a TSN turning point in the game.

How Could This Go Wrong?

Number Two: How Could This Possibly Go Wrong?

It can go wrong in so many ways. Thankfully, there is no video footage to have proof of what I am about to tell you. But there was a time when I played against Jason Bierling in the Golden Horseshoe tournament in Hamilton. The reason there is no footage is because I bribed Nathan from the Crokinole Centre to destroy all the evidence. But what happened was I was playing against Jason, and as often happens when you play against Jason, I ended up on the wrong side of the 20 counts.

He had more 20s than me, and because I had been practising the self-assist, I said, “Now is the time I’m going to turn the tide on Mr. Bierling and use the self-assist.” When I did that, I successfully knocked his disc straight into the centre hole, gave him a 20.

Pro tip: do not do that. At which point, Jason, being such a kind, gracious competitor, said, “Thank you, Jeremy.” And I said, “You’re welcome, Jason.” And the round continued. Of course, he was able to easily knock my disc off, and in the way that I am, I decided to double down and try it again. If at first, she fails, make another mistake.

This time, again, I was unsuccessful in my self-assist. I did not put it in, but I did set him up perfectly to go through his own disc, hitting mine, and his shooter went in and put me even deeper in the 20 counts. At which point, Jason said again, “Thank you, Jeremy.” And I said, “You’re welcome, Jason.” And the round continued. But the truth is, if I had to do all over again, I would still try because I was going to lose that round anyway. I have nothing to lose. This is more something you use in desperation mode.

Fast forward a few months, you would think I would have learned my lesson. I did the exact same thing against Brian Cook in Budapest. You can watch this footage because apparently Nathan put his bribery prices up. I could no longer afford to have the evidence destroyed. Same thing. I went for the self-assist.

Brian Cook possibly going for a hide here. Oh, a bit of an assist play there, and Brian was able to feed it to me by going through his own disc, dropping a 20, and obliterating me. Those are just a couple of examples of how this technique can go wrong. But we are also going to look at the flip side of that, how it can go incredibly right.

 

Close up of Tracey Crokinole board with red buttons on a table.

Number Three: Different Setups

We are looking at the different setups that happen on the board when you can possibly consider using the self-assist. For example, if there is a button of your opponent’s that is sitting somewhere on your side of the board, and basically, anytime it is sitting on your side of the board and you have the option to bump it in, but these options, some of these options are less than ideal.

If, for example, you do it from the side, even if you are successful and you set yourself up perfectly, but you have left your disc wide out in the open, what is going to happen is your opponent will very easily and skilfully take that out. So, there are two of their buttons on the board. You are set up for a successful; you have successfully pulled off the assist, and you have drained a 20.

So, you even the 20 counts, but now they have a disk on, and they have an open board. In that situation, you are really, really, really putting your marbles in the basket of counting on your opponent to make a mistake. Sometimes it works, but not always. The other thing is that if you do it straight in front of yourself, the likelihood of them being able to go through their own disc and still hit yours is quite high, so those options, although they are there, they are not necessarily going to work all that well against a super skilled player.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for, the perfect self-assist situation. In my experience, even though I have shared how this has failed miserably for me in competitive play, it has worked out occasionally.

It works best when your opponent’s button is between the two pegs right in front of you, somewhere on that 15 line. What you want to do is successfully bump theirs up. Again, like with all these examples, setting yourself up for an assist. But for it to be perfect, what you want to do is have your shooter end up tucked away, hidden behind a peg. So, you have accomplished two things with one shot: you have set yourself up, and you have hidden and left your opponent with an extremely tough shot.

Now why this can become such a tide-turner is because if you look at this situation, your opponent is going to have a really hard time even making a valid shot by contacting your disk because the peg is in the way. If they look at it this way, their own disk is in the way. If they look at it in their other path, a couple of things can happen. One, they just straight up miss, therefore you end up set up perfectly for an assist 20, and you have still got a button hidden on your side of the board.

What makes this even more of a tide-turner is when your opponent attempts to go through their own, but they do not contact yours. So, they lose their shooter and their button that they have in the middle, leaving you with an open board. Then if you can hit that open 20, massive shift of tide because then you have still got a button hidden on your side of the board.

So, in countering some of the other examples that we looked at were things where it leaves your shooter out in the open. I said in that situation, you are counting on your opponent to make a mistake. When you were able to successfully pull off that perfect self-assist, you are not hoping they make a mistake; you are almost forcing them into a situation where they are extremely likely to make a mistake. That is what makes this the perfect self-assist.

Number four

What we are going to dig into now is how you can counteract someone using the self-assist against you. How can you neutralize that? How can you make sure that they are not able to force you into making a mistake?

So, let us say you are sitting there playing and your opponent successfully does this. The first thing I would encourage you to do is look at all your options. Is there a way for you to play through your own and successfully make a valid shot? Even if you do not drop a 20, you are going to end up with two buttons on, and you have dug them into a little bit deeper hole.

But ideally, if you can go through your own, make a legal shot, and drop a 20 like Brian Cook did to me, it digs them into an even deeper hole. But let us say they truly have successfully reached the pinnacle of self-assist accomplishment and they leave you completely jammed up. You look at all your options and you are like, there is a 99% chance I am going to biff this shot, and you do not feel good about that.

You absolutely do have the option to do what we call “trough your shot.” That is when you simply take your disc and drop it in the gutter or you set it and just shoot it off to the side.

Just keep in mind that if you use this and you do go ahead and trough your shot, I will lose all respect for you. Your friends and family will probably disown you, and your self-worth could take such a hit it takes years to recover. But hey, you will win two points in a round of Crokinole. So, it is up to you.

Clearly, I am joking. Truthfully, in a tight situation in an important match, this can absolutely be your number one go-to strategy, your safest bet, to try to win that round. But nine times out of ten, when you are playing casual play, I would absolutely encourage you to go for that shot. It is either going to lead to awesome, incredible, amazing shots that frustrate your opponent, or it is going to lead to lots of hilarity — is that a weird hilarity? — and confusion and chaos on that board that keeps people coming back for more.

Conclusion

There you have it, an up-close and personal look at the self-assist in Crokinole. Just know that this will not present itself in every single round that you play. It is more of something you just want to keep in mind as an option and an opportunity to turn the tide in a game. And when you learn to use this successfully, you may find yourself one day featured as the TSN turning point of the game.

Mark my words, we will get Crokinole into the Olympics. Our hope is that ultimately this will lead to some more self-fives, some more of you mock hanging your head in shame, and most importantly, even more fun and laughter as you continue to enjoy the greatest game on earth.

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