Friday, August 20, 2010

Pool Room Etiquette: Shut the F#&K Up, Please

It ain’t tennis, or golf, or a chess match, but it isn’t a gin mill either – it’s a pool room and, as such, there are times when excessively working your mouth is inappropriate. Like when a big money game is going on. Back when I was a kid and literally hung out in the pool room, you could tell the moment you walked through the door that a money game was in progress. Except for the random clicking of balls, the place was immersed in thick, tense silence. Onlookers, staking out all the reasonable vantage points from which they could view the action, watched, hardly breathing. There were no signs on the walls, no announcements had been made, it was the natural way to behave.

Of course, the big money game was an exception rather than the rule. Most often players were involved in what nowadays are called “cheap sets.” Still, even for those games, there were accepted rules of decorum. For one thing, you would never charge up to the table and start shooting the shit with one of the players. Most often, you would approach someone on the periphery and ask if they were playing for something. “Playing for something” was how we referred to gambling. If guys were gambling, that meant they weren’t just screwing around – they were serious. If, for some reason, you did say something to someone who was gambling, as soon as he said “We’re playing for something” you knew enough to make yourself scarce. Like I said, none of this was written down, it was just the way things were, common sense.

Florida pool rooms are over-populated by old-timers who claim that they grew up in pool rooms and, of course, that they once could play much better than they do now. Unfortunately, ninety-nine per cent of the time, this is bullshit. These are people too uncoordinated to play golf, who may have occasionally played pool at their local watering hole or at the Moose Club, who have taken up pool again so they have excuses to get out of their houses and away from their wives. The problem is they don’t know how to act.

I was playing a guy, let’s call him Lenny, some cheap sets up at Capone’s the other day when an acquaintance of his comes sashaying up to the table with a drink in hand, plops his ass down on a stool next to him, and starts up a conversation. I, at the table, just froze. Lenny saw my reaction and told his friend that I didn’t want him hanging around while I was playing and, after rephrasing that a couple times, the guy finally took the hint. I really didn’t like the idea of Lenny making me the heavy. The way I see it, all he had to say to the guy is “We’re playing for something,” then the guy should’ve known enough to get lost. Instead, he made it appear I was unreasonable and that if it was up to him the guy could have stayed around for a good oldfashioned gabfest. WTF.

Lenny’s another guy who claims he once hung out in a pool room, in Brooklyn no less. I have a hard time believing that folks in Brooklyn would put up with that kind of shit while they were playing, but what do I know, I was 40 miles west in suburban New Jersey.

Speaking of Lenny, a couple months ago we were playing when, jacked up between a cluster of balls at the foot of the table, I tried to make an extremely thin cut. Well, I missed the shot and almost missed the object ball completely. In fact, it barely moved, then settled back where it had been. I told Lenny the ball moved and I guess he didn’t believe me because just last week we’re talking and he brings up something he refers to as “The Phantom Hit.”

Now, you might think he could have taken my word that the ball had moved and been done with it. After all, I was right there with my eyes glued to the balls while he was at the far end of the table engaged in smoking, farting and belching as he normally is. Beside that, during the time we’ve been playing each other, I’ve frequently called fouls on myself that he wouldn’t otherwise have known about. Just a couple weeks ago we were hill-hill and I called a foul on myself for a double hit on the cue ball. He had no idea I had fouled, but I did, so I called it. I doubt seriously that he would ever stop for a foul I had not noticed. At least, he never has. Just saying.

Anyway, you think he could give me the benefit of a doubt and take my word for it that the hit was good? No, two months later he brings up the “phantom hit.” And I wouldn’t doubt that he’s been telling his fellow nits the sad tale every chance he gets. Needless to say, he and I won’t be playing any more. I hate whiners. Maybe he can hook up with his nitwit buddy and they can shoot the shit till the cows come home.

Friday, August 13, 2010

First DJ’s Memorial 9-Ball Tournament A Success

Top players from around Pasco County converged at DJ’s Family Billiards last night, 8-12-2010, for the first annual Memorial 9-Ball Tournament. The night was dedicated to the memory of several special people, among them Tommy Moses, Albert Osanna, Bob May, New York Jimmy, Tommy Hill, special, not only to gathered friends and family, but to all in attendance because they shared an affection for the game of pocket billiards.

Three weeks before he got hit with his final illness, Bob May called me bright and early one Thursday to let me know he’d had a good night down at Stroker’s (Palm Harbor) the night before. Not only had he finished in the money, but on the way he had defeated local notables Dave Williams and Donny Mills. He was on top of the world.

Well, Bobby, I had a pretty good night last night at your memorial tournament. Not only did I finish in the money, but, like you, I managed to beat a few people I had no business beating. Unfortunately, my success had more to do with a streak of luck than great playing, but, what the hell, we have to take what we get.

Among those showing up for the tournament were Mike Davis, Billy Moses, Fast Eddie, Mark W., and Bobby Livrago. I, of course, slipped out as soon as I was eliminated, so I can’t report who won. I can tell you Mike Davis and Jared were still in it when I left.

The tournament was co-sponsored by my website