Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cheaters at Pool: Pity the Poor Desperate Fools

“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn't blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who cheats, then you know you are a worthless human being.”

I have to admit, there is a part of me, a small part that says people who are so desperate to win at pool that they resort to cheating are to be pitied. I mean, they truly are pitiful human beings. Thankfully, a larger part dominates, the one that screams “You no good mother-effin’, cheatin’ piece of crap – you’re lower than snake shit.”

The owner of the pool room where I grew up had zero tolerance for cheaters, air-barreling welchers, and other slick characters who thought they might make a score at his establishment. He dealt with them decisively - by throwing their asses out.

Down here in Florida, things aren’t so simple, especially in barrooms. For one thing, people who own the bars aren’t likely to make any moves that might cut into their revenues. Then, there’s the fact that their establishments are usually left in the hands of bar maids who don’t know squat about pool and couldn’t care less. And, of course, you have to consider the quirky nature of the rules which often vary from bar to bar. Around here, bar rules usually mean no safes, honest-effort, call the rails and kisses. Crazy, but that’s what it is.

Like the other day, I’m sitting at my usual perch, right next to the first bar table, watching the local Friday night bar tournament, when a player snookers himself on the 8-ball and calls a kick into the corner using one rail. Now, the 8-ball’s on the rail, so the call of “one-rail” immediately got my attention. Were it my shot, I would have called two rails allowing the cue ball to hit the second rail just in front of the 8. That is, if I really wanted to make the ball. I suspect that this player had no intention of pocketing the 8 and hoped only to knock it toward the hole. So, the player launches his kick shot. It hits the head rail then angles toward the 8-ball. It was pretty well on line, except it hit the side rail just before the eight and knocks the eight into the corner.

To the unknowing, it looked like a great shot. People were clapping and hooting and hollering. They did not realize it was technically a bad shot. Maybe they didn’t hear him call “one-rail.” Maybe they didn’t care. His opponent, a member of my pool league team, knew it was a bad shot as, of course, did I. The tournament director asked “Who won?” and I told her “Craig, because it was a bad hit.” Then, the arguing started. People started saying the hit looked good to them. I’m saying, “If you had been watching you would have seen it hit the long rail – he said ‘One rail.” Things continued to go back and forth like that with people who could not have been watching closely swearing that the shot was good.

The thing is, the guy who made the shot, and the subsequent bad hit, had as good a view of the cue ball as I did. He knew, as well as I and his opponent, that it was a bad hit and he could have settled the argument quickly by just admitting it. But, he wouldn’t. Why? Well, that would have meant the end of the night for him – the loss would have knocked him out of the tournament.

Eventually, to settle things, they decided to play the game again. The cheater won this game, though he was aided by another bad hit which he didn’t call on himself. Call me stupid, but when I make a bad hit I stand up and admit it right away and relinquish my turn. I don’t wait to see if my opponent notices or to see if he’s going to call it on me – that’s sleazy.

Anyway, the way I feel now, I don’t think I’ll be attending this tournament any time soon.

Been cheated? Leave a comment detailing your experience.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Best Sneaky Pete

As you might expect, the emails keep rolling in.

Dear Ace,

I read that you prefer Sneaky-Pete cues. Why? Do you hustle pool? And which Sneaky-Pete would you recommend?


Justin B. May
Greenville, SC

It’s true, Justin, I do prefer Sneaky-Pete cues. Not because I like to go out hustling nits, but because they have the look and feel of the house cues I learned to play with when I was a kid in northern New Jersey.

I don’t mean to knock those who go in for the exotic inlays and fancy wraps – if that’s what you crave, have at it. But, let’s face it, all that artwork does nothing for your game. All it does is jack up the price of your pool-shooting implement.

I personally have three Sneakies – one custom made by Keith Josey of Josey Cues that I bring to the local pool rooms, a Predator SPW Sneaky Pete that I use from time to time, and a Mezz ZZSP Sneaky Pete that I carry around to bar tournaments and bar league matches. As far as I’m concerned, these are top-notched cue sticks. If you’re serious about getting yourself a Sneaky, I would suggest you start here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

John Bender Cues: Great Cues If You Can Get One

There’s a good reason why I haven’t written the great American pool novel – several reasons, really. But, among the top reasons is the fact that I’m easily distracted from the task by all kinds of meaningless pursuits. Such is life.

My friend John Bender, on the other hand, is a single-minded artisan whose energies are concentrated primarily on one task – making first class pool cues. Having worked with Richard Black, it’s no wonder that he too produces cues that not only play superbly but also qualify as legitimate works of art.

Of course, there’s a backlog. Players crave his cues. But, if you place an order, in due time you will be in possession of one of his magnificent signature cues. Believe me, there’s no stick that compares.

Click these thumbnails to see some detailed pics that were recently taken at John's shop:

Do yourself a favor. Check out John Bender Cues online.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Robert May (8/16/1934-10/22/2009): Gone

I heard, today, that Bob May, a fixture in our local Pasco County pool scene and a friend to many in the New Port Richey area, has passed away at 75. Bob’s health had been declining for several months but he battled bravely till the end. Originally from Wisconsin, it was his wish to be returned to his native soil, as cold and as lonely as it is up there.

Bob enjoyed playing pool and could be found many afternoons banging the balls around at Hammerheads or DJ’s. When he could, he liked to travel down to Stroker’s on Wednesday nights to play in their regular open 9-Ball tournament. Not long ago, he emailed me telling me he had finished in the money the previous night, scoring victories over Dave Williams and Donny Mills enroute.

Some time ago, I published Bob May’s One Rail Kicking System, here. I’m glad I did. Not only because Bobby got a kick out of it, but, since he always enjoyed sharing his knowledge of the game, it’s a fitting remembrance.