I’m not an “A” player. In fact, as a pool player, I hit my prime at age 16, about 42 years ago. But that’s another story. The point is that even though I can’t compete with the heavy hitters who dominate the local “A” tournaments – Monday night at Capone’s, Wednesdays at Stroker’s, Thursday nights at DJ’s in New Port Richey – I still want to compete. So, what’s open to me? There are a few handicap tournaments in the area, most notably at Capone’s on Wednesday nights. I venture up there every once in a while, but the powers that be have long had me confused with some bald-headed guy who can play and I wind up spotting my opponents 99% of the time. Several times, I’ve been told that the next time I come my rating would be lowered a notch, but it never happens. In fact, I went there a few weeks back. It was the first time I’d been there in a year. 2004 was a shit year for me. Two operations on my colon had me laid up from Spring through New Year. Anyway, when I showed up at Capone’s I discovered that I had been dropped from the computer. So what do they do? They start me off as a “plus one.” The idea of a handicap tournament is encouraging for guys like me; however, when you’re the one who has to win 6 games to your opponent’s 3, they’re no fun at all.
This leads me to the local barroom 8-ball tournament circuit. On the positive side, there’s no spotting anybody anything. But the negatives, for me, are overwhelming. For one thing, I grew up with a disdain of 8-ball. I was a straight pool shooter and couldn’t think of any good reason why I should play a lesser player a game where they could get lucky and beat me. Let’s face it, no chump is ever going to run 50 balls on you. A second negative is an offshoot of the setting – a lot of the guys you’re playing with have had too much to drink. But, the most negative of all the negatives are the crazy rules you have to play by.
Of all the ways you can play 8-ball, I prefer the “call-your-pocket” “ball-in-hand” game. Unfortunately, most of the bars around here opt for the “no safe,” “call-your-shot,” “honest-effort” version. The problem with this game, as you probably know, is that there are no commonly accepted guide-lines for judging an honest effort. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve lost because someone played me safe in the latter stages of the match.
Tuesday last, I was in a tournament at the bowling alleys down on old 54 playing this guy Ned (His name has been changed to protect the guilty – it doesn’t really have an “n” in it.) Anyway, at a critical juncture he cheated me by playing safe. Now, I distinguish between playing safe and trying a shot while being careful not to give away the farm if you miss. Let’s face it, no matter what rules you play by you have to use your head. But, Ned didn’t call a shot and he made no attempt to make a ball. He played an out and out safe. So, of course I got pissed off… again. I mean this kind of crap is par for the course. Later on, he tried to portray the shot as a lucky accident. “Wha’d’ya think, I’m freakin’ stupid?” I said to him. He never answered directly, but I’m pretty sure he does.
So, he cheated me and beat me. I won’t forget that and I’m actually looking forward to an opportunity to repay him in kind. That’s about all I can do.