Frederick Bentivegna was born November 16, 1940. He died June 18, 2014. He is survived by his daughter Catherine Bentivegna Adami and son Dino.
‘The Beard’ grew up in Chicago, where he first discovered pool as a teenager in a neighborhood bowling alley that had several well-worn pool tables. Later, he started to make trips to the downtown poolrooms that featured better players, including Bensinger's, the most storied name in Chicago poolrooms. At first repeatedly sent home broke, Freddy learned from each foray, and eventually he too developed into one of the key players that ruled the roost in the ultra-tough pool town of Chicago.
Chicago was a banker’s heaven – or hell – at that time, and that discipline in particular developed into his signature skill. After serving his country in the US Army, Freddy built a successful career as a pool hustler, with Banks as his top game. He also took his game on the road from Florida to California; sometimes in stealth, but often in an open challenge to the best the country had to offer.
After the demise of Bensinger’s, Freddy opened and ran the North Shore Billiard Club, which may have been small in terms of the number of tables, yet it was huge in the talent and action it hosted.
Freddy never claimed to be a natural talent at pool, but instead described himself as a dogged and astute student of the game, who worked hard to succeed and was not afraid to risk failure by challenging the top players of his time. He confessed to having “worshipped” the great players and hustlers of the generation before him that he learned from, such as Eddie Taylor, 'Fats', Harold Worst, Hubert Cokes, and his personal mentor, Gene Skinner. Later, as he matured into a great player and teacher in his own right, he relished the fact that he had become a member of that elite club himself. ‘The Beard’ was inducted into the One Pocket Hall of Fame for Bank Pool in January, 2006.
Freddy was a frequent and popular commentator for Accu-Stats videos for many years, especially for Banks and One Pocket. He also has authored several highly acclaimed books and DVD’s on advanced banking, Banking with the Beard, and The Gospool According to Freddy ‘The Beard’ and Banks That Don’t Go, But Do. This year he published his third book, The Encyclopedia of Pool Hustlers, a very entertaining collection of stories about many of the interesting players and characters that Freddy ran into in his years as a road player. Freddy had recently returned home from a well received book tour to NYC and was getting some great press in mainstream publications like Chicago’s Daily Reader when he entered the hospital.
Freddy came to the first One Pocket Hall of Fame dinner in January, 2005, and as a guest speaker that first year it became obvious he was a great choice to share the podium with One Pocket legend Grady Mathews. From that year on, Freddy served along with Grady as Co-Master of Ceremonies for the One Pocket HOF. Over the last 10 years in that role, Freddy honored many legendary players – some living and many deceased.
It became an annual tradition at the One Pocket Hall of Fame dinner to begin the evening with a wonderful poem written by Dennis Bondarenok, titled "You'll Be Up Here Yet." You can hear Freddy read it here on Youtube:
"You'll Be Up Here Yet"
Freddy's induction into the One Pocket HOF
for Bank Pool, with Grady Mathews
Over the last few years Freddy became a significant guardian angel for several aging pool players as their health declined, by visiting them in the hospital and helping to raise money for their expenses, and finally delivering eulogies at their funerals. In fact he did such a touching, knowledgeable and sincere job with the eulogies that he told me that more than one older player had already put in their requests to have him do that for them when they passed. Who knew that it would be Freddy that went first, and who is there to deliver a eulogy with his uniquely warm and respectful, yet irreverent and entertaining style? I am sorry Freddy, but your legacy is going to have to speak for itself, for we are at a loss. In your own words, then, “Bank on, Brother!” On to the other side, my friend.
Diana Hoppe photo