On a Friday night a few months back, I made the drive over to the west side of Los Angeles to a bar called Big D’s to play in a $10 8-ball tournament that’s been going on there most weeks for many years. Most of us still call it The Mayfair tournament because that’s what the bar was called several owners ago. It usually draws a pretty strong field for a weekly bar box tournament and they usually get about twenty entrants. This particular night was a little different than most. When I got there just before it started, I noticed amongst the players hitting balls and getting warmed up, was Shane Van Boening.
Everyone had a great time and when it was all said and done, a world champion got third and everyone had a story to tell their friends. Three weeks later, Dennis Orcollo showed up at Big D's and won. In the course of a month, two world champions showed up at a weekly $10 8-ball tournament and played with the regular patrons. In what other sport does that occur?
About fifteen years ago, I played in a ring game in a little bar east of Los Angeles called Duffey's. The participants included a bartender, a dotcom millionaire, a lawyer, a car thief, and a guy trying to win enough for a place to stay for the night. At $2 on the five ball, and $5 on the nine, nobody got rich, but we all hung on every shot like it was the final at the US Open. I don’t remember much about who won or lost or how much. I doubt anyone finished over two hundred won or lost, but six guys that probably wouldn’t have three words to say to each other away from a pool table because they had so little in common, yucked it up at the same jokes and lived and died with every shot until 4:00 in the morning like brothers.
At least three of these guys would never be allowed to play at a local tennis club or golf course and two of them probably couldn’t afford breakfast at Denny’s if someone had suggested we all go.
Pool is unique in many ways. I have played many different kinds of games over the years, some more competitively than others. I’ve never been below about a ten handicap at golf, and the chances of my ever playing Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth are as high as hitting the lottery. I play an average game of pool. Sometimes a bar patron who knows next to nothing asks me if I’m a pool hustler, but nobody who knows what they are looking at will ever confuse me with a pro player. However, like many players my level, I have played with and shared a drink or sweated a match with many of the greatest players the game has ever produced.
It is common to hear people tell you everything that is wrong with pool and why it will never be this or that, but the truth is, it is a fantastic game. It can be played by children or the elderly. It can take an hour to get out of an 8-ball rack, or a pro can run six racks of 9-ball in thirty minutes.
In fact, if you put two or more random strangers in a room with a pool table, chances are very good that they will be playing a game within minutes. Pool is played by rich and poor in almost every country. There is a pool table in the White house. Yes, the President plays pool, as have kings and sheiks and dictators.
Pool is played by Caucasians, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific islanders, and rumor has it, a race of purple people with green spots somewhere in Louisiana. The balls don’t care who is playing. They go where you hit them no matter who you are.
Most pool rooms have the same hourly rate regardless of race, creed, religion or color. There are no socioeconomic class structures over a game of pool.
For all these reasons, and too many more to mention, we should stop worrying about what is wrong with pool and start taking the game to the world as an example of just how equal we all really are.