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Old 02-21-2019, 10:13 AM
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Default The Lag

Alright, it was suggested to me that I post my blog entitled, The Lag, here on the 1p.org page. So, here it is. Enjoy, or don't, I don't claim to be right. These are just my thoughts.
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Old 02-21-2019, 10:15 AM
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Default The Lag #1

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Let’s talk about added money, green fees, and coin-op tables, in a tournament setting.
I suppose we could start by giving definitions or meanings of these terms.
Added money: Money which is added to the tournament prize purse from another source other than the players’ entry fees such as the venue or a sponsor.
Green Fee: A fee charged to tournament players usually to cover table rental time.
Coin-op Table: A pool table with a mechanism to release the balls from inside once enough coins (or bills) are inserted into acceptor.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s put it all together.
What are the benefits of hosting a pool tournament? Generating income for the establishment? Perhaps… How? What kind of income? It is pretty much understood that pool players as a whole drink very little alcohol. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but I am writing in terms of a large group. So, to think or hope a pool tournament is going to generate a ton of income through beer and liquor sales is, well, naïve to put it mildly!
OK, so you have a tournament with, let’s say 64 players, in your building. Of those 64 players you might have 15-20 (to be generous) who order a beer or drink. Cut that number in half for the ones who order another one. Then cut that number in half for those who have more than 3. Then, there is always the one guy who gets sloppy. So in essence, you have about 4 or 5 paying customers in your building, while the rest are just taking up space, using your electricity, and flushing your toilets. Now, just hold that thought and I’ll get back to it in a moment.

Let’s talk about the tournament. Let’s say it is a $10 entry fee plus a $5 green fee. The owner of the venue has agreed to open the coin-op tables and add $500 to this tournament with the stipulation of filling it up with 64 players. Wow! That really looks good on a flyer! Big, bold numbers, in a highlighted color to attract the eyes of the reader:
“$500 ADDED!”
(You probably saw that before you ever started reading this blog!)
See how that works? OK, back to the point: Where is that $500 going to come from? Why has a stipulation been put on it that the money is only added if the tournament fills up? That’s the first clue, right there! Guess who is really adding the money to the tournament? What is the entry fee, $10? NO!! It’s really $15! The PLAYERS added $320 to the tournament leaving $180 for the establishment to add to make it $500.
Now, it has been said that venues that make the players feed the tables are robbing the players of the added money. Seems to me like it’s the other way around! The green fee tournament directors are lying to the players about the added money. Yeah, that’s right! I said it! They are lying to you about the added money! You [the players] are adding most of the money to your own tournaments! Then, the establishments are turning around and taking credit for it like they have done some huge, generous thing! Granted, if an establishment opens up the coin-op tables for a tournament, that is nice. That is generous. But why not just advertise the tournament as $15 entry, open tables, $180 added? Here’s why: because $180 added for 64 players, and even for 32 players, sounds really weak and they’re afraid no one will come! So they choose to mislead instead. Tell me how generous that is. Tell me again how they have my best interests, as a player, in mind!

Now, let’s talk about another tournament in a different venue. This tournament has a $10 entry fee with a guarantee of $250 added and, if it fills up with 64 players, they will throw in another $250 for $500 added. The only difference is, the tables are closed and each game must be paid for by the players. Sure, the player who goes deep in this tournament then gets put out just before the money has more invested than the player who went 2-and-out, but he also was able to play more games than the early-out player. That does not really seem unfair to me. If I am a player in this tournament I know from the get-go what the terms are. I know from where the added money is coming. I know the deeper I get into the tournament, the more money I’ll have invested (giving me more incentive to win). I understand that someone will win and someone will lose and I hope I can play well enough to keep from being the loser!

If we compare these two tournaments, there really is not a whole lot of difference from a player’s perspective. The highly skilled players may be more apt to go for the green fee tournament because they will have less invested to subtract from their winnings. That is understandable. I want us to look at it from the business owner’s perspective. Let’s bring back the thought we were holding from a few paragraphs earlier. If I am the owner of the establishment hosting the event, I know it is going to cost me money. I have to figure out a way to try and recoup some of that cash. So, I have approximately 60 people in my building drinking water, coffee, tea, or soft drinks, spending minimal cash. What can I do to get some more money out of them? Well, serving good food would be the best bet, but unfortunately, there is no kitchen in my building. I know what I can do… there is no green fee. They have to pay for pool! Yeah, that makes me a big meanie! Whoever heard of pool players having to pay to play pool? Well, I can’t make them drink more beer, or shots, or big, tall mixed drinks if they don’t drink. I can’t blame them, either, for wanting to stay sharp and at the top of their game. I have to understand because, after all, I own a pool room and want to cater to these people. But I can’t do it for nothing and if the majority of people in my business are not spending money then my business is not making any money. If my business is not making any money it will not last very long. If my business closes, where will the pool players go? To the place which held the other tournament? Sorry, but they closed way before I did! They were upside down after every tournament and just could not recover!

Now, here is my take on all of this: first of all, honesty and integrity go a long way with me. If I have a choice of dealing with one of two people, I’m going to go with integrity and honesty every time! Even if the shady guy seems to be offering a better deal, I’m going to shy away from him and go with the other guy because I know there will be no surprises. A reputation means a lot! Secondly, I like to look at more than just what is on the surface. For instance, in the case of these tournaments I want to know who is running them. Is that person known to be honest or shady? Is that person a true lover of pool or is he looking for notoriety? Yes, believe it or not, there are lots of tournament directors out there who do it just so they can rub elbows with great players, get their names in print, and be seen with famous players. Admittedly, all those things are kind of cool, but as a tournament director, they have to be put into perspective. Does this person do that? How does he handle his notoriety? Along with that, I want to know about the venue. How are the owners? I don’t care if they are adding $1,000, if they do not respect pool and pool players, if they don’t know how to provide an atmosphere conducive to pool playing, including proper maintenance and care for their equipment, I probably will choose not to play at their place of business. It seems most pool rooms in this country are struggling, some, deservedly and some, just because. I will always choose to support the pool rooms whose owners and staff (including tournament directors) operate in a manner to support the game. That does not mean run themselves into the ground in the name of pool. That simply means doing what they can to support the game at their local level by taking advantage of the opportunity for residual income from a tournament. What is residual income? Residual income is income generated by the tournament after the tournament. For example, a player who has never been to that particular pool room before the tournament really likes the place, the tables, the atmosphere, everything! So he makes it his home pool room, going there to practice and brings in other players for action, which in turn brings in spectators who --- spend money! If players like the establishment, they are doing something right and deserve support. So, if I have to put quarters in their tables to play in a tournament, I don’t mind doing it! It’s going to a good cause, which benefits me as a player, by helping them to keep their doors open, cloth on the slate, and chalk on the rails!

In closing, I want all readers to understand one thing! The sole purpose of this blog is to make you think. It is not to discourage, run down, or decimate anyone or anyone else’s tournament. I just want everyone to think about why some things are done and understand the reasons behind them. On the surface, some things can look bright and shiny but be filled with rust and corrosion. Know what to look for and ask questions. Remember the age old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is!”

This is The Lag… Hit ‘em good, my friends!
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Old 02-21-2019, 10:48 AM
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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Technology: the mere word strikes fear in the minds of some, while filling others with unbridled excitement! Since the dawn of mankind we as a race of humans have striven to make life easier. Technology has played a huge role in our history as we have constantly looked for better ways to perform everyday tasks.

In the world of pool and billiards, technology has also been ever present. Though the main premise of the game has not changed much, technology has changed the way things are done. How many different types of specialty tips are now available? Low deflection shafts, zero-deflection shafts, jump cues, break cues, balls made from different composites to react and perform more consistently, even the cloth has been through a tremendous evolution! Through it all though, pocket billiards is still played on a table which is half as wide as it is long, with 6 pockets. The basic and most popular games have remained timeless, 8-ball and 9-ball. Though leagues have tweaked them from their original formats, if you walk into just about any honky-tonk in rural America and try to play by league rules, you will likely be leaving very quickly and hopefully under your own power!

The technology on which I would like to focus today involves the world of electronics. We have the internet. We have smart phones with cameras able to shoot still photos or videos. We have social media, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, to name a few. On these platforms we are able to share with the world anything and everything we want! We have gone from a once private society to one which seemingly begs for attention by posting even the most minute and insignificant of daily activities for all to see! Despite all the users and abusers, social media addicts and trolls, this technology now plays a huge role in our ancient game! This is evident by all the pool related group pages and websites spewing out tons of information for any and all who want to know where the next big tournament will be held, who has the cheapest LD shaft, and yes, pictures of the unknown pool player who is moving across the country torturing everyone he plays!

Let’s narrow it down just a bit more. Most all of the social media platforms give the ability of “live-streaming” to the user. With live-streaming the user can simply use the video camera on a smart phone to broadcast live video through a social media platform. Also available is live-streaming through web sites and broadcast equipment, which may not be as easily accessible to the average “Joe,” but with a little research one can learn without taking on the lifelong debt of a student loan!

Within the last couple of years, live-streaming has grown tremendously around pool. Action games or 2- man tournaments as some are called, and also multi player tournaments can now be viewed from the small local tournaments to the large international tournaments. This has also raised some controversy between the players and the streamers as to privacy and who owns the rights to their image and what-not. But that is a topic for a completely different discussion. There are a few live-streamers out there who have risen above the rest and made quite a name for themselves. What they do differently than the rest is what makes their streams the most sought after with viewers willing to subscribe and pay for access. These streamers have such a following, venue owners will even hire them to set up at their venue and broadcast events and action just for the exposure!

It has become quite common now for someone to have a camera set up at a local tournament to live-stream the activity. I’m sure most everyone reading this blog has seen them. I find it very difficult to sit and watch some of these streams. If there is someone playing whom I know, I might watch for a couple minutes, but they just don’t hold my attention like some of the bigger productions. What is the difference? Aside from the fact that the “bigger guy” has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on his equipment there are a few things which these small local guys can learn from them. I think first, and foremost is camera angle and position. So many of these local tournaments have the camera sitting on a table or on a tripod which raises it to maybe head level of the average man. What does that look like to the viewer? It is very two dimensional. The table, the balls, the angles, cannot be seen well enough to know exactly what is happening. It is usually set up right next to the tournament director’s table so there is a lot of traffic. Players checking on their matches, reporting results, or just visiting with the director will often stand right in front of the camera. That is truly annoying! If I’m actually watching and people keep walking or standing in front of the camera I’m going to lose interest real quick! If you pay for a live-stream you will notice the main camera is positioned way above the table giving the viewer optimum visibility. So, on the local level, if you have only one camera, try to get it positioned as high as possible and directed toward one table to give the viewers the best view possible of the action. This alone, I believe, will boost interest and viewers numbers tremendously!

Secondly, if you can afford another camera, do it! The more, the merrier! Showing the same table from a couple different angles adds so much to the viewing experience. Even if it has to be shown on a split screen, giving the viewers more than one angle of the same shot is golden!
Thirdly, I think the biggest feature which sets apart the “big guys” from the locals, is commentating. Even with a prime view of the table from multiple angles the stream can become bland and boring with no sound or just the low murmur of the crowd. Having someone who knows a little about the game to do some commentating on the action will liven up the broadcast, holding the viewers’ interest even longer.

Last, but definitely not least, think about the matches which will be played on your “TV table.” The viewers don’t want to watch a couple players who keep missing, scratching, missing some more, dragging the match out for an extended period of time! Granted, those players are in every tournament and we want to encourage them to play, but from a production standpoint, putting them on the TV table is not a good idea. Give the viewers a good match up to watch! Two guys who will put multi racks together, or who are known for a lock down safety game will make for good viewing. If I’m watching a girl who can’t make a bridge, playing against a guy who just wants to get in her pants, I’m moving on. Although, I guess that could potentially get real interesting! The point is: put content on the screen that is worth watching.

Technology is here to stay. Some may love it, and others hate it. Me? I’m on the fence, though I’m learning to accept it. Using what we have as tools to better promote, better educate, and better the game overall is how we embrace this rapidly growing wave of technology which is upon us.
Live-streaming your events will undoubtedly attract attention and generate interest. Live-streaming like a professional will set you apart from the other local guys streaming from their phones propped up against a beer bottle!

This is the lag…
Hit ‘em good, my friends!
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Old 02-21-2019, 10:52 AM
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Tuesday November 28, 2017

Here I am again, sitting at my desk in the warehouse office. I am supposed to be doing “job related” activities like processing returns, scheduling pickups, inventory management, answering the phone and pretending to care about whatever the caller’s dilemma may be when in reality, I couldn’t care less! But what am I doing? I’m thinking about pool. I’m thinking about the pool group pages which I manage. I’m thinking about tournament promotion ideas and I’m thinking about my blog. So, as I sit here putting my job, well being, and future in jeopardy, this thought enters my mind: what is it about this game that has this affect on me? What is it about this game that has this affect on so many others? What is it about this game that can take up so much of my time, monopolize my thoughts, and keep me searching for answers even when I’m away from the pool room? What gives it this controlling power?

I can remember when I first fell in love with this game. I had played pool before, but not with any passion. Not with any purpose. Not with any determination or desire. This one time, this one instance though, it all came together and sparked a fire inside of me like nothing and no one else has ever been able to do before or since! What did it? What was the catalyst? I won money! I had never played for money before. In fact, the thought had never even crossed my mind because I actually hated the game! Yeah, that’s right, I hated pool! But, this time it was different! This time a new challenge presented itself, more than just knocking balls in the holes and celebrating an empty victory with a cold beverage. This time, making that game winning shot was rewarded with cold, hard cash! Suddenly, this game which had been so boring, so stupid, so pointless, now had a purpose! It required skill with an element of luck which, when a wager was placed upon the outcome, transformed this boring, stupid, pointless game into an adrenaline pumping, emotional roller coaster of excitement! I started to notice things like angles, spin, speed and how they affected the shot. Things I had never cared to notice before. But now, when the outcome of the game mattered, when it had a direct impact on my wallet, I wanted to know everything there was to know about it!

When that night was over, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment! I had ALL of THEIR money! I had done it! It was MY skill against all of theirs! It was MY desire to win that had pushed me! Not a coin flip, not a lucky guess, not luck of the draw, it was ME! I had done it better than all of THEM! Granted, none of us in that group were of any account by the standards which I gauge my game today. In fact, we were nothing more than bangers who hadn’t clue! But at the time, it was huge to me! That was the first time I had succeeded in something which I had chosen myself! It wasn’t an assignment handed out by a teacher. It wasn’t a test on a lecture by some monotone professor. It was something I had chosen on my own. I had put myself in that situation and I had handled it! That night was life changing for me!

Ever since that night, which has now been nearly 30 years ago, the game has never left my thoughts. Sure, there have been breaks during which I played very little, but it was always there! During those breaks, I think it is safe to say the game was on my mind and in my thoughts even more so than when I was playing! I can remember dreaming about a shot I had missed for MONTHS after missing the shot! I can remember replaying scenarios in my mind of games I should have played differently. What that night did to me was open my eyes. In my desire to learn and play the game better I was exposed to just how beautiful the game really is! Masterful control of the cue ball with nothing more than a stick with a piece of leather glued on the end is mind boggling! All the things which can be done with that stick, to a round ball, then to transfer that control to another ball with the first one? Really? Think about that for just a moment! Then, to be able to use that control to win a game against someone with the same desire and quest for knowledge is the absolute most exhilarating activity available to man!
What I have realized, is that the possibilities are endless, the scenarios are countless, and knowledge is infinite! There are those who might scoff at how little my skills have progressed in almost 30 years of playing. But that’s alright. I am not a “natural” talent. I have had to work for every, little increase in my ability! For some, it has come easy, and for others, it’s even more difficult than for me! That is part of the beauty of it! Even now that I am closing in on half a century of time on this planet, with my body failing me and my eyesight waning, that desire to learn is still there! That fire still burns! I continue the quest to the best of my ability! One can say I love the game. One can say I am addicted to the game. I say, the game is a part of me! It is my passion! It has become my life! That, I suppose, is why it does all those things to me!

This is the lag…
Hit ‘em good, my friends!
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Old 02-21-2019, 11:14 AM
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December 14, 2017

I originally wrote this in January of 2016. I thought I would share it again. Even though it is my story, it applies to many others as well.


January 30, 2016
Love and Pool

Recently, while in one of the pool rooms I frequent, I heard someone make a comment. This particular person is someone whom I respect both for his ability as a player and as a person in general. The comment was, “I have my own money, but apparently I don’t have my own time.” He was referring to the jealousy the lady in his life feels when he goes to the pool room. When I heard that statement I started thinking. You might say it triggered some old memories of past experiences, most of which I would rather forget. Nonetheless, there they were which leads me to this blog. It is my hope that reading this will help someone to make the right decision and if the young man who made the comment happens to see this, I really hope it helps to open his eyes!
Almost everyone who will see this has been bitten. Nearly all of us in this group have that one thing in common. We have all been bitten by the pool bug! Here is my story:

I started playing this game by accident. The recreation hall at the campground where my parents and I spent our summer vacations had a couple pool tables. If it happened to rain, I might have spent an afternoon banging balls around until the weather cleared. As I became older and started driving and hanging out with friends, I went to a local game room a few times, but honestly, I did not enjoy playing pool at all! In fact, if going to the game room and playing pool was suggested, I would opt out, choosing to do something else or just stay home. At the time it was my opinion that the game of pool was just silly and stupid. Having fun playing the game seemed impossible! I could not understand how or why others had such a good time playing it. Yeah, that was me all the way until 1989.

In 1989 I turned 21. I also found out on my 21st birthday that I was going to be a daddy (happy birthday to me!). One day that year while at my 2nd shift factory job, one of the guys talked about a cool little bar he had stumbled upon in downtown Chattanooga. He said they had a bunch of pool tables, the food was really good, and the beer was cheap! A group of us decided to check it out after work and we all met there later that night. The place was a dive! It smelled terrible! Most of the ceiling tiles had long since fallen from the leaky roof, and there did not seem to be anyone else within our age group in the place. As a matter of fact, it was all a bunch of older guys who yelled at each other, cussed each other then played each other! Anyway, our group gathered at a bar table in the back of the place. The beer was cold, the food, amazingly enough, was very good indeed! I had not played any pool in probably two or more years and had never played more than a couple games in a single outing. Remember, I hated it. But, I came along this time for the social value and was having a good time. I even put some quarters up and played a game or two! Then, as happens so often when alcohol is involved, someone suggested we start playing for money with the winner keeping the table. I was unsure about this but had just enough beer in me to quash my inhibitions. I was about to play my first ever pool game for money! Little did I know, this was a pivotal moment in my life!

I think I was third, maybe second (it doesn’t really matter) to play. Evidently someone in the group had played a challenge table game before and kept things running smoothly. Up until now, my games had consisted of banging balls around the table, trying to move as many as possible, hoping to make one of “mine” without knocking in the 8 ball! Suddenly, I realized, all that had to be done was to hit the balls in the right place, and they would go in! I had never thought of that before! I won my first game! My opponent paid me, and then promptly put his quarters up to wait his turn to get back on the table. I won the next game as well; and the next; and the next! My pocket was filling up with cash! My buddies could not believe it! After all, I was the guy who hated pool, never wanted to play, and found other things to do if pool playing was the activity of the evening! Some of them actually had their own “pool sticks” which, of course, meant they were “good,” and I was beating them! They kept coming back for more. Game after game I won. I even figured out the basic concept of position play by trying to leave angles on each shot which made it easier to move the cue ball. Don’t misunderstand me. I was in no way running out, drawing the cue ball 3 rails for shape, or anything of that nature. I had no idea what a “stroke” was, nor did I know it was even possible to make the cue ball go backwards, until I saw one of the guys do it. But, I definitely had some sort of advantage over everyone else in my group and by the time I left to go home, I had pretty much busted every single one of them! Remember that bug I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it bit me that night! It bit me hard and I would forever be “infected” by the pool bug!

Pool had become a part of my life. I loved it! I wanted to get better. I went to Service Merchandise and purchased my first cue and case. It was official, I was a pool player! I started to frequent this dive of a bar and practicing by myself on the coin tables and occasionally on the biggest tables I had ever seen! I would go there every night after work, even if I didn’t have any money. I would sit at a booth in the corner and watch. I saw some pretty amazing things, things which intrigued me greatly. This was a culture. It was more than just a hobby to these old guys who were always in here. It was a lifestyle. Of course, little did I know who I was witnessing at the time. Howard Barrett, Vernon Elliott, Charlie Lane, Gene Cooper, and string of others whose names have long escaped my memory or I never knew, came through the doors several times a week. Night after night, week after week, I came and sat in the dark booth and just watched. They didn’t seem to even know I was there or if they did, they certainly didn’t care. They carried on with their barking and haggling and the money they were passing around made my head spin! I wanted so badly, to be good enough to do what they did! That is the story of how it all started for me. At the time, I knew nothing about a “pool bug,” and had no idea what an impact on my future those few weeks would have.

I became a father later that year. With that came responsibilities. I wanted to be a good father and husband, and I tried. I really did. But there was this one thing that kept coming in between us: pool, at least that what I thought and was led to believe. I thought I could be a father and husband, and still play pool. I could not understand the problem, but there definitely was a problem!

By 1992, I was divorced and living in my parents’ basement. After my divorce, I felt extremely guilty about my pool playing. I sold my cues and swore I would never play again! After all, it had ruined my life, right? Even though I had all the time in the world now, I was going to chastise myself forever by giving up the game I loved! That lasted about six months. I finally decided there was no reason for me not to do what I enjoy when I no longer had any marital obligations. I bought another cue and started back playing. This time, after the 6 month hiatus, my game actually improved by leaps and bounds. The break had broken me of most of the bad fundamentals and mechanics I had developed. I basically had to learn all over again, only this time I learned correctly, or at least closer to correct than before.

The old dive bar downtown, which by the way had been called, The Brew n’ Cue, had since closed down and the building demolished. There were a few other places in town to play but none had the vibe, the aura, the personality of The Brew n’ Cue! I missed that place and the old players who seemingly lived there. I would see some of them from time to time, but never again was I able to observe them in their natural habitat at The Brew ‘n’ Cue.

My pool game continued to pick up, little by little over the next 3 years. By 1995, most of the players in town at least knew who I was. I was still green and though my skills had improved, I was far from a force with which to be reckoned. Then it happened! Eyes the color of the ocean! A smile that could bring any man to his knees! And she asked about me! Once again, I was smitten! Lucky for me, at least I thought so at the time, she was a server at the pool room! How could I beat that? Well, to make another long story short, we were married in 1996. Wow! What a mistake I made! Funny thing, I realized it on the way home from the courthouse the day we were married! There had been red flags aplenty over the past year, but again, I chose to ignore them believing I could not play pool and be a good husband.

By 1998, I had all but quit playing again. I was involved with coaching baseball, trips to local BMX tracks, and of course, work. Occasionally, I would venture out for an evening at the pool room. That venture always came with a price which took several days to pay. Eventually, I decided it was not worth the nonsense with which I had to deal afterwards, so my trips became more and more of a rarity. Again, following the belief of the status quo that it was the pool playing which was bad, not that I had made a bad choice in women.
Several years passed by. She still worked at the pool room, only now she was the General Manager. I still had my full time factory job, yet I assisted her at the pool room, running tournaments, dealing poker, and other things for which I was paid. My pool playing was nearly nonexistent. I was at the pool room 4 nights a week, seeing people play, watching a little action now and then, but never was able to play. I was miserable! I started drinking heavily. It became worse and worse. I hated my wife, I hated my life, and I became almost suicidal.

There was something missing from my life and as obvious as it may seem by reading this, I had no idea what it was! It all came to a head late in 2009, and by mid 2010, I was divorced again. This time, however, the marriage, the divorce, had all taken a heavy toll on me.

For the next two years I struggled to recover, looking for ways to cope with all the triggers the years of psychological abuse had created. Finally, I was able to function normally again, and guess what… I started playing pool again!

Over the last 4 years or so, I have come to realize that the failed marriages were not my fault. For some reason society wants us to believe that pool playing is a bad thing. Honestly, it’s no worse than football, baseball, basketball, or anything else someone may do. I figured out that what we as pool players need to understand, is that pool is a part of who we are. When we make choices such as, with whom we want to spend our lives, we are often times blinded by infatuation. We allow ourselves to become smitten by a beautiful woman (or handsome man for some) and relish in the fact that they want to show us affection. This is where the mistake is most often made. It is nearly impossible for someone who does not play pool, someone who has not been bitten by the pool bug, to understand that the game is a part of us. To them, it’s just something we do to pass the time and there is no reason why we can’t just quit doing it and spend every free moment with them, doing what they want to do!

Before going into a relationship, we pool players need to accept ourselves for who we are, and be true to ourselves in our relationships. Someone who understands that pool is more than just a hobby, but an element of our personalities is very difficult to find, for us straight men, anyway. It took me until I was 44 years of age to finally find that person, and let me tell you, I am having a blast! Sure, there are responsibilities and obligations which accompany a relationship, but when the other person understands me and knows what I’m about, those obligations are easily fulfilled!

It is so easy to be seduced by the beauty and affection of those who don’t understand us, but there is a high price for that seduction! I’m here to tell you, there is nothing hotter than having a woman who loves you, sitting in your corner while you’re playing, and she actually knows what is going on! It was a long time coming for me but it was well worth the wait!

My advice to anyone who may be going into a relationship whether serious or not, be true to yourself! Don’t deny your passion for the game. It is not a vice, as some would have you to believe. It is a part of you! If the other person cannot handle that part of you, they cannot handle any of you! Hold out for the one who appreciates you, the whole you! It will be well worth it! If you settle for less, you will be able to deny your unhappiness for only so long before it consumes you. By then, it may be too late!

Kelvin Greenleaf ©2016


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Old 02-21-2019, 11:17 AM
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Default The Lag #5

December 21, 2017
Pool Etiquette

I recently made the comment to someone at a “pool league party” that I wished this particular large league would incorporate some pool etiquette into their system. It seems to be so prevalent amongst players in the league to have no idea of what any kind of etiquette is or that any actually exists. To them, it is a social event at which they can drink and cut up with friends and just have a good time. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with that but, from this pool of league players is where we get new players into the actual pool culture, pool in the “real world,” as I call it. That is why I try to educate those with whom I come into contact while playing in the league. It can be real rude awakening for some when they try to cross over from league play to something more realistic. A little education might help to soften the blow on them and also spare some pool players the headache and high blood pressure of dealing with the uneducated.

So, let’s talk about etiquette. Believe it or not, in this rough and tumble, mentally brutal, dog eat dog game we love, there are some unwritten rules. Rules that are learned over time by those of us who have chosen to join the culture. Probably somewhere along the way in our journey through the pool world, each of us has come across someone or a group of people from whom we received some pretty stiff lessons! I can remember one such lesson, and to be honest, it may have actually been my first!

In a previous entry I shared the story of how I started playing pool. I mentioned the dark, dank pool room upon which we stumbled and how, after that first night there, I returned as often as could! Not too awfully long after that first night I was there again with one of my buddies playing a great new game we had discovered, called 9-ball! Now, at this time most bar table games cost 2 quarters. That was also true at this place with the exception of 4 tables in a row, in the area where most of the “big action” took place. These tables had only 10 balls in them and each game cost 1 quarter! Yes! Four tables solely dedicated to 9-ball! Oh, by the way, at that time we had no idea of the terms, “action,” or “action area” and what they meant.
So, there we were, me and my buddy playing 2-dollar 9-ball in the “action area!” Keep in mind this was maybe 2 weeks after that first night I was bitten by the pool bug. We chose one of the end tables closest to the wall because there was a booth next to it where we could sit while the other was shooting, eat our food (which by the way was really, really good at this place!), and set our beer bottles and cigarettes. Little did we know that by choosing that table it was the only smart thing we would do that night! Now, 28+ years later, it is obvious to me that area was cordoned off the way it was for action. Back then, neither of us had a clue! All we knew was, “Hey! These tables only cost a quarter!” So that’s where we planted ourselves for our night of “big action” playing 2-dollar 9-ball against each other!

It wasn’t long, an hour or so, before the “players” came in. I remember an older guy, kind of short, white hair, I can’t remember his name though “George” is ringing a bell. Anyway, George seemed to always be the loudest, meanest, roughest, and toughest of the bunch! He was always barking at everyone about “playing some for fifty!” Well, he came in and was barking at another guy. Whenever this started I was intrigued! So much so that I couldn’t play, I had to watch and listen intently! My buddy would get aggravated at me because it would be my shot and I would just sit there, watching and listening! But I didn’t care. I was in school and class was in session! I was paying attention like I had never done in actual school! It was the bug. It had me!

Anyway, after several minutes of barking, they agreed to play. I can’t remember if they were playing even or if George was getting a spot. I don’t think I understood the whole, “spot” thing at that time, but looking back, George really didn’t play very well so he was probably getting spotted. They chose the table right next to ours! Of the four tables, there was probably a favorite and I’m guessing that was it. Otherwise, why would they choose to play next to a couple of bangers? They flipped the coin and started playing. My buddy and I also continued our match right next to them; us playing for 2 bucks a game, them playing for 50 bucks a game! It was my first experience playing that close to someone playing for money. Before then, I had never really thought about what could happen. It had never occurred to me that there was etiquette to it or a sort of right of way. I had no idea that my $2 game, as much as it meant to me, was absolutely meaningless to them! More than meaningless, it was an annoyance! I guess we were lucky that they had not kicked us out of the action area when they got there. Maybe they should have but had they done so, the lesson we were about to learn would not have been learned, at least not that night.

I remember I was down on a shot. I don’t remember which ball I was shooting, but I certainly remember which ball George was shooting! I don’t know who got to their shot first, me, or George. I never saw him. Before I shot my shot, I felt the butt of his cue poke me right in the hip! I immediately stood up and turned. My eyes met the eyes of George, whose face was blood red! He reached up and grabbed the cigarette out of his mouth, and proceeded to let out a string of cursing like I had never heard, at a volume level that could make the bravest man cower! I was barely 21, a stoner with long, golden hair and at the time weighing in around a buck-twenty, and looked like I just left the set of MTV (back when they actually played music videos)! He was a hardened gambler who had more than likely done some time in the penitentiary and though a bit short was not small in stature! In other words, he scared the shit out of me! Though his opponent and the sweaters who had gathered got him to back off of me, it was made abundantly clear that we should not be playing in that area. It was fine for us as long as there was no “real” action. But if real action came in, our $2 game had to be relocated. The funny thing is, it made perfect sense to me while pissing off my buddy. He insisted that we should not have to move! We were paying customers! He didn’t get it. I was starting to understand the culture. Sure, we were paying customers, but George and his group were part of the culture! We could go to the back, out of the way, keep doing what we were doing, and still be paying customers.

Being a paying customer is what meant the most to my buddy, though, and that’s probably why he rarely came back. Me, I wanted to be more than just a paying customer. I wanted to be a part of the culture! I wanted to be in that world! I wasn’t mad at George. He taught me something and I respected
that. I learned who had the right-of-way. I learned action supersedes non action. I learned to respect the culture. After all, the culture had been around longer than the game rooms and bars which were simply exploiting the game for their own gain. I learned my place. I learned people like me and my buddy played a role in their culture, even if we didn’t understand. I learned we were the ones supporting their culture. I learned they didn’t care if we were there as long as we stayed out of the way. As long as we knew our place, they had no problem with us. They knew they needed us and they accommodated us, but the game was most important! It’s more than a game. It’s a way of life to many. We were merely newbies exploring the game and culture. All George and his group wanted from us was respect. Not necessarily for themselves, but for what they were doing. At the time I had no idea what all that respect entailed but George and his group was actually willing to educate and help us, and I was eager to learn!

I had no idea I had stumbled into a little corner of pool Heaven! I was never really aware of that fact until a few years later, but the things I learned in that old, dilapidated building will stay with me forever!

This is the lag…
Hit ‘em good, my friends!
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Old 02-21-2019, 11:20 AM
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Default The Lag #6

February 8, 2018
Are you handicapped?

What a touchy subject this can be! Handicapping in leagues and tournaments, whether from a formulated system or simply as assigned by someone who claims to know, always seems to stir up a storm among players, league operators and tournament directors. But what is the purpose of handicapping and what is its place in pool? There are some who believe leagues and the handicaps that come along with them have been what have “saved” pool. Then, there are those who believe just the opposite, that the leagues and their handicap systems have ruined pool.

If we go back to early in the 19th century, we can find out how the game of billiards came to be called “pool.” One definition of the word "pool" is: a collective bet, or ante. A “pool room” was a betting parlor for horse racing. Billiard tables were placed in these pool rooms so the bettors could have something to do in between races. It stands to reason that the bettors soon began betting on more than just the ponies! And the tables? Soon they were known as “pool tables!”

From its history, the game of pool has come from a dark, seedy, smoky, and somewhat degenerate background. The game of kings? Hardly, not in this country! If you were a person who frequented those early pool rooms chances are you were not soft. Chances are, you were a hustler of sorts. You might have had a job, but you made (and lost) your money in the pool room! It was not a place for women or children and many a man was toughened by the pool room.

As time went on, the game became more public with pool tables being in bars, restaurants, end even game rooms. More and more people started to play. Much like poker, the game itself is innocent and can be played without wagers, but it is not the same! The betting, the wagering, the gambling, is as much a part of it as the balls themselves! A new breed of hustler was born. This, is where the evolution stopped until someone decided to try and tame the game.

Hustlers of yesteryear were a rare breed. The folks who hung around the pool rooms (which were called pool rooms because they had pool tables) were not generally what we would call everyday people. There were the gamblers and there were the players. Sometimes, the gamblers could even play a little bit, too!

The point I am trying to make is, pool will always have that stigma from its early days at the tracks. That is where the modern game originated and became what we know it as today. That history is an intriguing, mystifying, and almost holy part of the game to those of us who have a true passion for pool. It is not a game for everyone. It was never intended to be a “family friendly” activity. Those who played the game played with true heart and desire! They celebrated when they won, and they paid off when
they lost. There was no crying in pool, and if there was, it was part of a hustle! The game was never meant to be fair. The best player or players were supposed to win. Those who didn’t win would go back to the poolrooms to practice, or they would quit! The rules were never changed to give the weaker players a better chance. The hustlers never gave back their winnings due to a guilty conscience. It was a game for people who were tough, thick-skinned folks and were not easily offended by anything! The thought of banning anyone from a tournament because they “played too good” never crossed anyone’s mind! In my opinion, that is the true nature of pool. Just like any other sport or activity, it can be done “just for fun” if that is all one is looking to get from it.

In my younger years I considered myself an avid softball player. I played in local leagues and tournaments and at the time was probably one of the best outfielders and base runners in the area. One day, I met a guy who had played some pro baseball. He had been called up as a closer (pitcher) for the Cleveland Indians. He also had played some softball so I recruited him to play on my team. When he showed up to his first game we decided to warm up with each other. Immediately I realized the difference between what I considered myself, and what he was! I was known for my “cannon arm” which he proceeded to mock making my cannon look like a spring-loaded BB gun! His speed and prowess in the base paths put mine to shame! He was an all-around better ball player than me! I took the game just as seriously as did he, but his natural ability, talent, and training put him at a much higher level. I respected that. Was I jealous? Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t! But instead of turning that jealousy into hate, I turned it into desire. For the few games he played with us, I watched him throw. I watched his swing. I tried to learn as much as I could from him to better my own performance. We didn’t make him throw with his left hand, or bat with one eye closed, he was just better than us and we accepted that.

The correlation I am trying to make here is this: Pool seems to be the only sport/game in which there is no real reward for improving. As players’ skills improve, more and more often they are punished for being better at the game than those who have not tried as hard! It makes absolutely no sense! These guys we watch on Youtube, PoolactionTV, and numerous other streaming sites, have dedicated their lives to this game! To some, that dedication is misinterpreted as a misspent youth, a degenerate, or just plain laziness. While I will agree some of those traits do accompany some pool players, I will never agree with punishing players for playing better! This trickles all the way down to the local level. Every day I hear about or see tournaments which won’t allow certain players to participate. “No road players allowed!” “No pro players allowed!” I’ve even seen, “No 7s allowed!” Why? This softening of tournaments has to stop! The phasing out of the strong players has to stop! They should be the heroes! They should be the idols to whom the rest of us look up and try to emulate! Sacrificing the integrity of a tournament for participation numbers does more damage than good in the long run. The softer players, the ones who just don’t have what it takes to survive in the pool world, become spoiled. They want to enjoy the benefits of winning without putting in the work to be a winner. Once they get a taste of that, it’s very difficult to rid their mouths of it! In turn, the strong players who are no longer allowed to play become obsolete. General play and skill levels decline. Those who had the potential to be great see what has happened to those who got there, then they no longer want to get there themselves and not be allowed to play!

What is the point of trying to be a better player if, once you get there, you’re not allowed to play anymore? How do you think these strong players got to where they are now? Do you think they emerged from the womb with a champion stroke? Were they born with a knack for One Pocket strategy? Absolutely not! They put in time, countless hours of practice, and countless hours of being beaten down by those who played better than them at the time. They paid their dues in both time, and cash! That is what it takes! It takes heart! It takes dedication! It takes desire! It takes a killer instinct with which only a few people are born! That is what the game is about! Those are the people for whom the game was created! If you don’t have the heart, if you don’t want to dedicate yourself to it, if you don’t have the desire or that killer instinct, you don’t need to play in tournaments! You need to stay in league, collect your participation trophies and patches while you manage your handicap in such a way so as to make it easier to win. Real pool competition is not for you! You are handicapped!

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not against leagues! Leagues can be a good thing and are perfect for generating business and revenue for bar and pool room owners (and league operators). Also, league night is a good time to recruit those select few players who appear to have what it takes to graduate to real pool. I participate in a league and thoroughly enjoy my league night (most of the time). It’s a great opportunity for me to share my limited knowledge with beginners and see if I can ignite the same spark in them. Not everyone will want to listen. Not everyone will care. But there will be one or two who want to go farther. They are the ones in whom I am interested! Everyone else? Sure, we’ll cut up, have a good time and enjoy ourselves. It’s league night! But when league night is over, the next time I pick up my cue I will be on a mission! I may not be a great player and probably never will be, but my heart and desire is as big as anyone’s! That’s what it takes to play. I am not handicapped!

This is the lag.
Hit ‘em good, my friends!
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Old 02-21-2019, 11:26 AM
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Default The Lag #7

March 6, 2018
Taking the Plunge!

The year was 1993 or 1994. I thought I was a pool player on the verge of making it big! That, all by itself, shows how green I actually was! One thing I knew, though, I loved the action! I had gotten a taste of it myself and I had seen enough good action to know I loved it!

I had a friend who, though he was younger than I, had been around the game and the action much more than I and had some seasoning. He took me “under his wing” and tried to help me get the seasoning I desperately needed if I was going to survive in this culture. From him I learned a lot of things about the game, about money, about hustling, and about myself! My biggest problem, according to him, was I had a player’s mindset! I was eager, too eager in fact, to play! Potential opponents could sense that eagerness and use it to their advantage whenever it came time to match up.

“You don’t have to play…” my friend would tell me over and over.
“You have a job, right?” he would ask rhetorically since he knew where I worked.
“Yeah…” I would say.
“You’ve paid your bills, right?”
“Yeah…”
“There’s gas in your car?”
“Yeah…”
“You have some cash in your pocket? I mean, you can eat until payday, right?”
Knowing where this line of questioning was going I would reluctantly nod my head and answer, “Yeah…”
To which I would get the same response he gave me every time this came up, and it came up a lot!
“You don’t NEED to play! You just WANT to play! You want to play so bad that you’re willing to jump in and lose all your money just to be in action! You gotta learn to say, NO!”
Then he would shake his head in frustration, crack open a cold beer, light up a smoke, look at me and finish with, “Relax man! The pool tables aren’t going anywhere and neither is the action, because you ARE the action! They’re all waiting on you! Let ‘em wait! Maybe they’ll be the ones too eager to play by the time we get there!”

Eventually we would go. We ALWAYS got in action because I was the eager one. During the time we ran around together, we probably ended up close to even on the money, but the lessons I learned from him were priceless! Granted, it might have taken awhile for those lessons to sink in and for some I needed experience to put his words into perspective. As long as we were together I was not going to get trapped! At the time I don’t think I fully understood that. I thought I was ready! Again, with the eagerness, I went to the bank, withdrew every dollar from my account, called in sick to work and took off on my own!

A few weeks prior my friend and I had made the long 35 minute journey from Chattanooga to Dalton, Georgia. There was a 24 hour game room which was notorious for action during the late night hours. The son of a large carpet manufacturing company would often play there and lose amounts in the six figure range. That was our goal, to get me to the table with him. Anyway, while we had been at this game room, there was a young man playing who just never missed! He ran out and ran out and ran out! He was (I thought) the best player I had ever seen! We hung around for a few hours, but I never played. We were just showing up to get acquainted, something we would do several times so as not to be strangers when we had the opportunity to get in the box with the degenerate son of the carpet mogul!

Back to heading out on my own: Remembering this kid from Dalton, I made a beeline straight to the game room with my humble bank roll. You see, there was some major action happening at the Chattanooga Billiard Club! Gene Cooper was there. Wade Crane, Jeremy Jones (a very young and fat Jeremy Jones!), and a bunch of money men in Lincolns and Cadillacs whom I had never seen before! Money was flowing like water! Steak dinners, high dollar cigars, drinks and women! Yes, pool groupies! Who woulda thunk! Every short stop player for miles around was there looking to get a piece of the action! That’s where we were headed! No longer was I the player, I was the money man! The one in charge! The shot caller! I was sure no one knew of this young kid, barely old enough to get in the door at the Chattanooga Billiard Club! We were going to get them all! We would start small and build our bank roll! I was excited! I was…… EAGER! After all, we had the nuts! We couldn’t lose!

When I arrived at the game room and told this young boy what was going on and what my plan was, he was happy to ride with me back to Chattanooga! What player doesn’t appreciate someone who is willing to put up all the cash for them to play? Since I was fairly new to the game and had not been very far from Chattanooga to play, I did not know many of the players lying in wait like sharks in a feeding frenzy at the pool room. My “horse” began to point out different players, telling me who we needed to stay away from, who he thought he could beat, who wouldn’t have any money, and so forth. There was an older man there who had been coming in for a week or so before all the action started. I had seen him play and in my “professional” opinion, he was not that impressive. As we sat on the outskirts of the action surveying it all, the older man walked over to our table.

“You boys interested in playing some 9-ball?” he asked.
Way too quickly I piped up, “He’ll play you some!” and nodded toward my young friend from Dalton.
“Oh yeah?” he smiled while holding a cigarette in his teeth. “What do you wanna do?”
“How about a race to 5!” I stated it more than I asked it, trying to show assertiveness and confidence.
“A race to 5, huh… for how much?” the man asked.
“Two hundred,” I said, “we’ll freeze up 2 sets. You wanna freeze up 2 sets? If not we can find someone else to play!” I was proud of myself for acting like I knew what I was doing!
The older guy chuckled, still holding the cigarette in his teeth. “That will be fine,” he said. “We’ll freeze up $400.”

Eagerly, I reached into my wallet and counted out the twenty $20 bills and stuffed them into a corner pocket of the table on which the game was going to take place, on top of the man’s four $100 bills. I was about to turn $400 in to $800! Maybe he would play some more and we could double up again! I hoped he wouldn’t ask for a “spot” and it would be easy pickin’s! I loved being the player but this new role was in some ways even more exhilarating! I ordered a beer, lit a smoke, and sat back to watch my new “friend” do work. I couldn’t help but think about how lucky this was to get in action this quickly! I was about to hit the “big time!”

The first game was a little slow. My friend, who never missed a shot in Dalton, missed a couple balls. He just needed to get warmed up and find his groove. When he catches his gear we’ll be fine, I thought. We were down 1-0 when the older guy broke and ran the second game. I still wasn’t worried. The third game my friend got to the table, and missed!

“I’m used to bar tables. These 8-footers play different,” he said. But he reassured me he could make the adjustment and get in stroke.
Three to nothing, four to nothing, and five to nothing! We lost the first set! I couldn’t believe it! My buddy from Dalton was a champion! We had another set to play and I was still confident he would get in stroke and get the cash!
The second set went much the same way. Looking back, I think I could have played better than my “champion” friend! He would look like he was getting in stroke, and then miss on the 8 ball or even the 9 ball! Five games straight, again, we lost the second set!

Before it begun, my quest was over! I was broke! I put everything I had into that match! I couldn’t figure out how in the world that had happened! My guy was a GREAT player! How could he have lost?

“Sorry, man. I tried. I guess I just can’t play on these tables.” The words offered no consolation.
“That’s ok, we’ll try again sometime,” was my halfhearted response.

The next day I was back at the pool room. I was broke, but I was there. So was the old guy that had won my money. My friend, who I had ditched because I thought I was ready, came to the pool room to sit with me.
“So, what happened?” he asked, already knowing I had done something stupid.
“Well, I went to Dalton…” I told him the whole story from the beginning to the end. He sat quietly sipping his bourbon and smoking his cigarettes while I talked. I even pointed to the old guy who played so my friend could get a better visual. Finally, after I was finished reliving my nightmare, he spoke.
“Do you know who that is?” referring to the old guy.
“I know his name and he’s been coming in here for a couple weeks and playing in the midnight tournaments. He doesn’t play that good, really!”
“He doesn’t play that good?” he about spit out a mouthful of bourbon.

At this point I am not going to divulge the man’s name, nor the name of my “friend” from Dalton. As it turns out, the old guy was also from Dalton and he and my “friend” had known each other for several years. Basically, I forced myself into a “two brothers and a stranger” type of hustle! I was “thrown into the river.” I was “creeked.” All terms of which I had heard but thought I was too smart to ever fall for. My friend had tried to warn me. He told me I wasn’t ready. He told me my biggest problem was being too eager. I didn’t listen, because I was too eager.

I paid for my mistake. In the grand scheme of things that $400 was nothing, though at the time, it was everything! In this culture there are dues which must be paid by all. No one gets a free ride! Many have tried, and many are yet to try, but in the end all will pay their dues or quit! That is how lessons are learned. Believe me, I learned a lesson that day which I will not forget, ever! That has never happened to me since and probably never will again. That is a lesson I may never have learned had I not taken the plunge!

This is the lag…
Hit ‘em good, my friends!
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Old 02-21-2019, 11:31 AM
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Default The Lag #8

April 6, 2018

Last night had the highest turn out of any Thursday night tournament at Runway Billiards, where I do 2 weekly tournaments on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After the tournament was over I packed up all my stuff and headed out to my truck for the 45 minute drive home. It is 44 miles from the Runway parking lot in west Mobile, Alabama to my driveway in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Though that is not terribly far, nor a terribly long drive, sometimes it seems twice as far and twice as long at 1:00 am knowing I have to be right back in Mobile by 7:30 am!

As I opened the doors to my truck I noticed someone behind me. A bit startled because I had a pocket full of cash and my arms were full with a cue case, brief case, and a ticket tumbler, so I couldn’t reach my pistol which was in the front! Fortunately, it was someone I knew who was no threat and had followed me outside to chat for a moment. Keep in mind my drive home and the sleep deprivation I will surely suffer tomorrow! Nonetheless, I stopped to hear what he had to say, hoping he would make it quick so I could get on the road. When he started talking I immediately felt a little guilty for wishing he had not followed me outside. He was showering me with thanks and compliments for doing the tournaments at Runway! Now, when I was young, I was sort of the shy type. I had a difficult time meeting new people and, of all things, knowing how to graciously accept compliments. As I have become older, I have learned how to overcome that shyness, for the most part, but taking compliments? I still have a difficult time with that. I don’t know what to say. I feel uncomfortable, self conscious. I just don’t like the attention! But yet, there we were! He was telling me all sorts of things which were supposed to make me feel good, all the while making me extremely uncomfortable! Finally, he finished and since he knows of my drive home, he let me close my door and head home.

On the drive home I had some time to think and ponder over the things he had said. I did appreciate him expressing his gratitude and appreciation for what I do. His words got me thinking again why I do what I do. Why I put myself through the hardship of late nights and early mornings. I certainly don’t have to do it, but week in and week out, there I am, sitting at my table, taking signups, selling Break & Run tickets, and running the bracket! I do it because I love the game! That’s it! I love pool! It is true that Runway pays me a nominal fee to run these tournaments (which does NOT come out of the tournament money!), but I am most certainly not getting rich doing it. Here’s the kicker: IT DOES NOT FEEL LIKE A JOB! I enjoy it! I more than enjoy it, I love it! I know sometimes I can sound like a broken record talking about my “passion for pool,” but I can’t help it! I love to play, I love to watch, I love to promote and plan, and I love to run events!
When I moved to the Gulf Coast in 2014, I was amazed at the players I found! I was also amazed at the lack of tournaments and action. I found a few, attended some, but for the most part, I was left hitting balls by myself at the pool rooms with no competition. I wanted to play, and I knew there were others like me out there because occasionally I would stumble across someone. I heard the same thing from everyone, “pool is dead on the coast.” I could not, and would not accept that! I had to do something, so I did! I resurrected the Sunday tournament at Skeeter’s in Gulfport, then things just took off from there. That’s when representatives from Runway contacted me, making me an offer I could not refuse. Do what I love, and get paid?!?! I could not believe it! But it was true and I have been there almost 2 and a half years, now! I still love it as much now as I did then!

One of the things that brings me all this happiness and joy is watching players improve. The majority of players come for awhile and start to lose interest, get burned out and quit. I love watching the guys who keep coming back, keep trying, keep asking questions, all the while improving little by little! Don’t get me wrong. I do not take credit for their gains other than giving them an outlet to test and gauge themselves and an encouraging word here and there. Everyone knows I am certainly not qualified to be teaching much of anything on the pool table! But watching these kids (and they are not all kids, some are older than me!) grow and improve really makes me feel good!

The fact that I am able to share my passion with others, plant a seed in these guys, and watch it grow is a great feeling! It is not necessarily a feeling of accomplishment, but more a feeling of purpose. Many times the topic of discussion around the pool rooms, or on social media groups is, how can we fix pool? What can we do to give pool the luster it once had? Then there are comments and arguments about who has the best idea and it always reverts to money. Though pool may lack financial support and mainstream coverage, I think the main thing pool needs is PASSION! If everyone who owns a cue felt about this game the same as I do, there would be no stopping it! It would be huge! Without passion, it is just a pastime, a game, a meaningless activity to occupy time. Without seeing the beauty of perfectly executed shots and knowing what it takes to do so, there can be no passion! Without understanding strategies and moves, there can be no passion! Without a desire to learn, there can be no passion! That is my purpose. That is my goal, to share my passion and hopefully watch it grow bigger and bigger in others. We cannot all be champions. Only a select few will ever succeed to that level. But what we can do is have the heart and passion of a champion! If each of us had that, all the “problems” in pool would take care of themselves.

So, though I was very uncomfortable for a few moments, I am grateful for the compliments last night! More than just compliments, they were words of encouragement! Words which reminded me of how
much this game means to me, how much I want to help it grow, and gave me the determination to keep on doing what I am doing!

Hit ‘em good, my friends!
This is the lag…
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Old 02-21-2019, 11:51 AM
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Default The Lag #9

June 2, 2018

The Lag #9
The 2018 Buffalo’s Pro One Pocket and 9-ball Open, My Experience

Since its inception in 2015 I have attended every one of these. The 2018 tournament was the second annual tournament at the new Buffalo’s on Bloomfield. There are things about the old place I miss, like the general aura. I mean, when you walked into Buffalo’s on Airline it felt as though you had just entered a time warp landing somewhere between 1963 and 1975! With the exception of top notch, modern equipment the place just had the feel of yesteryear and you knew as soon as you walked through the door that this was a place where pool happened! Pool players and high stakes pool matches took priority and you better stay out of the way! A sign on the wall by the front two 9 foot Diamond tables read, “NO GAMBLING cheap on the front tables. Go in the back!” That sign said it all! Does cigarette and cigar smoke bother you? You better find somewhere else to enjoy your microbrew and play cutthroat with your buddies because if there was a big match going on, you could cut the air in the old Buffalo’s with a knife! I loved it! Everything about it! When I heard he was moving I was somewhat heartbroken because pool rooms like that just don’t exist anymore in today’s politically correct environment and every pool room having to bow down to the leagues just to keep their doors open. But I understood the area of Airline where he was located was not exactly welcoming to anyone from out of town. A big time player with a big time stake horse practically needed an armed bodyguard to go to the car any time after dark. So even though I was going to miss the old Buffalo’s, I looked forward to the new one opening. I saw pictures posted online as Buffalo and Painter scrambled to make the move. I was working full time again so I did not have the free time to just take a jaunt to New Orleans to check it out. I was back in the working class and once again had to request time off from work to do anything. My first request for time off was to attend the 2017 tournament at the new Buffalo’s on Bloomfield! When I walked through those doors for the first time last year, I was amazed! I was in awe! I was in disbelief! It was like Buffalo had taken the old place, pumped it full of steroids, and plopped it in this huge building in Jefferson! It had the same feel as the old place only about 5 times as big! Somehow Buffalo had managed to bring the aura with him and transplant it in this building with 25-30 foot ceilings! And the setup? Let me tell you, Buffalo knows how to set up a pool room! We all know how annoying it is to be playing a serious match and have a bus load of folks come in and have to walk right by your table to get to the bar. Then, right by your table again to go to the restroom. Then, since there are so many of them, they stand up to do their partying which is way more important than the silly game you are playing on the table they are now using to prop themselves up. Well, that does not happen at Buffalo’s on Bloomfield! There are no pool tables close to the bar and there is plenty of seating at the bar and in the bar area for that bus load of power drinkers on their way back from the Quarter. When they have to go to the restroom, yeah it’s at the other end of the building but there is a walkway with 4-foot walls on either side to guide them all the way to the hallway where the restrooms are located! Once there, they are likely to sober up because that hallway acts as a wind tunnel for the air conditioning system. Once you turn that corner, you are within the a/c! It’s at least 10 degrees cooler, if not more, in that hallway! Basically, it is obvious that there was some serious thought put into the layout of the place with the pool players in mind. How often does that happen anymore? Almost never!

This year I arrived on Friday so I missed the One Pocket Calcutta and early matches. But again, I have to say, I am always impressed when I walk into Buffalo’s. There are always little, subtle changes that add to the “feeling” of the place. And in the case of this big tournament with Ray Hansen and Poolaction TV on location, the arena set up for the feature table was perfect! Seating around the bar tables was done in such a way so as not to interfere with the players as well so plenty of spectators could get a close up view of some of the world’s best as they played 9-ball on Diamond bar tables!
I hung around for a little while on Friday evening just to take it all in. I love being at Buffalo’s and after several months of working without any real time off, sitting in the middle of Buffalo’s on Bloomfield for me is as relaxing and refreshing as throwing down a towel on the beach and laying in the sun for most normal people! I was able to say hello to some people I had not seen since last year. I was able to see some folks in person whom I had met only through Facebook. I was able to watch some great One Pocket being played. The match between Jason “Jaybird” Brown and Roberto Gomez was quite an exciting match! That little Roberto is a shot maker. He will shoot at anything at any time and make the shot! He very quickly jumped out to a 4-2 lead over Jaybird before Jaybird finally was able to slow him down. I have to say, Jason Brown put on quite a display of what heart and sheer desire to win can do! He started moving like a world class One Pocket player. No longer was Roberto able to just free stroke balls at his hole. Now, there was a price to be paid should he actually miss! That added pressure caused him to put some more thought into his shot selection and show his inexperience in One Pocket. Jason scrambled back to tie up the score at 4-4 or double hill. Roberto even said to Jason at one point, “Jason, give up!” which seemed to give Brown even more desire! Roberto ended up winning the final game as Jaybird found himself in an early trap and could not escape. Roberto did not immediately get out, but the ball count was 7-0 real quick. Even in that position Jaybird continued to fight until the bitter end! I was extremely impressed with the heart he showed during that match! There was some good gambling going on as well, which always gets my attention more than anything! But after a tough week of work, I was ready to go to the room and catch some sleep. I planned on playing in the 9-ball open and I knew once it started sleep was going to be something that could only be caught a little at a time, if at all, for the next couple of days! So Friday night I turned in early to prepare my old ragged body for the abuse it was about to endure.

In the blink of an eye Saturday morning arrived. I checked my phone to find it full of texts and PMs from people on their way wanting me to sign them up for the 9-ball tournament. No problem, glad to do it. Pool is part of my life and helping pool players is what I do. After a nice breakfast downstairs at the Inn, it was a 4 minute Uber ride to Buffalo’s. I quickly found Painter and signed up all who had contacted me then went to hit some balls on the immaculate Diamond bar tables at Buffalo’s on Bloomfield! Before I even got started, Tommy Farrow and Bill Webb from Mobile walked in the door. I steered them to Painter to get signed up before they joined me to hit balls. Of course, Bill was beside himself because Efren was sitting at one of the tables in the bar area with Corey Deuel just hanging out watching TV. Tommy and I proceeded to warm up while Bill went fanboy on Efren and had a picture taken. He came back grinning from ear to ear over that! After an hour or so, the place started really filling up. Other players wanted a chance to hit balls and warm up so we gave up our table to sit and wait for the calcutta to begin. More and more players kept signing up! Paperwork was misplaced. It kind of looked like a circus at the director’s table. But running two tournaments a week I understand how it can turn chaotic real quick even with just 20-30 players, so the fact that they were dealing with over 100 players kept it from bothering me that the calcutta did not start right on time. You really have to expect that at an event as large as this, especially with another tournament taking place right alongside of the 9-ball. Finally, the calcutta was underway. Ray had divided the players into 3 groups: the upper echelon which he auctioned off first, the shortstops went second, then the unknowns or non threats went last. With 112 players or so, a 3 hour calcutta was not surprising! After taking in over $31,000 in calcutta cash, the first matches were called and the tournament was underway!
It’s funny how some things work out. Tommy Farrow from Mobile, and Karl Humphries from Pensacola, drew each other in the first round! Pensacola and Mobile are like Slidell and New Orleans. Pensacola players play in Mobile and Mobile players play in Pensacola. Needless to say, Tommy and Karl know each other and have played in many of the same local tournaments. So to drive to NOLA and draw each other in the first round was a bit ironic.

Players in the One Pocket tournament were allowed into the 9-ball tournament once they were knocked out of the One Pocket. The way it was set up, they knew by the time the 9-ball started there would be only 4 left in the One Pocket. Those 4 would not play in the 9-ball tournament, but the rest of them could if they wanted. This made for some real land mines in the bracket with players like Jeremy Jones, Jason Brown, Roberto Gomez, Billy Thorpe, and Efren Reyes coming in! Besides them, there were plenty of others who could break one off in you like Rob Saez and Alex Calderone to name a couple!
As the night went on, I played 2 matches, winning them both much to my own surprise! The first guy was a NOLA local and I don’t remember his name. The second guy, Paul Dodge, I remembered because there was some bidding on him in the calcutta. I really felt like I should have lost to both of them but somehow I squeaked by, going double hill with Paul. Checking in at the director’s table I was informed I would have to play one more match that night and it would probably be awhile as my opponent, Kid Chris, was in a high stakes gambling match and they had agreed to call his tournament match with me last. Someone had to be last, I suppose. Sure, why not let it be me. I’m only playing the best 9-ball of my life! I don’t mind being put on ice for 3 hours before playing again. Oh well, the free time gave me a chance to do some spectating.

I think the coolest thing I saw the whole weekend was an elimination match between Roberto Gomez and NOLA local, David Haar. Tommy, Bill, and I just happened to be sitting by the table where the match was called, so we had front row seats. David had a huge group of fans come to watch the match as well, though their words did not do much for David’s confidence as they ribbed him (as friends do) more than anything. As the match got started and Roberto jumped out to an unsurprising lead, Roberto began to cheer for David as well! It was one of the greatest things I’ve seen at an event like this! Roberto who, if given the chance, could put a large package together, cheering and trying to pump up David who, well not to be too critical but I doubt he has ever put a 3-pack together. David did finally get to move his penny after a 1-9 combo. You would have thought the Saints just won the Super Bowl if you were in there when that happened! With the score at 6-1 in the race to 7, Roberto gave David a chance. He called the 9 ball in the corner and attempted to make the cut which looked impossible. He scratched. David got a second game! If I remember correctly, Roberto broke and scratched the next game. A high pitched, “Uh-oh!” came out of his mouth as David only needed to shoot in the 1 ball then another easy combo on the 9! David had 3 games! “OK, that’s enough now!” Roberto exclaimed laughingly. “Are you happy with that score?”
“I was happy to get 1 game!” David replied.
Then Roberto finished him off. His attitude toward David during the whole match was awesome! He was not stoic and quiet, he was jovial and helpful! He wanted David to try hard. He wanted to boost David’s confidence. Most of all, he gave David an experience he will never forget! Sure, Roberto could have just run over David in no time and got it over with. But instead, even though he beat him handily, letting him win a game or two, he gave him a very positive experience and a lifelong memory. I hope David understands the significance of what happened during that match. I’m sure he does.

Finally, my match with Kid Chris was called. It was nearly 2:00 am. The winner had to return at 1:30 pm on Sunday, and the loser had to be back by noon! How important was it to win this one? As we got started, I could see Chris’ mind was not on this match. Chris is a much better player than I and under any other circumstances would crucify me in bar table 9-ball. We went double hill! Fortunately, even after the extended wait, I was still playing the best 9-ball I have ever played. I don’t even remember how, but somehow I won the last game! I couldn’t believe it! Chris was very polite. He shook my hand and told me how well I played and that he didn’t know I played that well. He told me he was glad I won after making me wait that long and assured me that he did not just let me win. He went back to his big table match and I headed back to the room!

There was no getting up and going downstairs for breakfast on Sunday morning! We slept way too late for that! It was a McDonald’s all day breakfast item for us, then back to Buffalo’s. My first opponent Sunday was going to be none other than, Tommy Farrow! Tommy and I play real close and if you asked each of us separately, we both would probably say we have the edge over the other! It was clear to me as our match started that I did not have the same break I’d had the day before. That is a huge factor in bar table 9-ball! I took an early lead by capitalizing on mistakes Tommy made, but he caught me by not making any more of those mistakes and taking advantage of my break which was not working in my favor at all that day. I did reach the hill first and was left a long rail bank on the 9 ball. I rattled it and left it for Tommy. He still was not at the hill yet. The next game, I left him a long rail bank on the 9. He nailed it! That put him on the hill with me. Again, I do not remember exactly how that last game went down, but Tommy got me. He played better than me that day so he deserved it. That win put him in the money and the loss kept me one match away from the cash. His next match would be against Billy Thorpe. That alone would make the whole weekend worthwhile!

On the one-loss side my next match was against Zack Sanderson, another local player but a strong one, nonetheless. I was starting to get my stroke back from the day before, but my break was still not there. I put up a good fight against Zack, surprising him a little as we also went double hill, but in the last game I got out of line on the 7 ball and was forced to go for the shot as there was no safety to be played. I missed, not by much but you know what they say about getting close. It’s no good in 9-ball. Zack got out to move into the money rounds sending me packing one out of the money (17-24).
Out of the 9-ball tournament I was able to watch a little of the One Pocket before deciding to go take a nap. We returned later that night just in time to see Justin win the One Pocket from the one-loss side over Tony who was in the hot seat. Back to the 9-ball we were able to watch the last few matches. Jeremy Jones took out Billy Thorpe in a match with one of the most comical jump shots ever! Taking advantage of being able to climb on the table Jeremy, who is by no means a small man nor a young one anymore, sat right in the middle of the table to position himself to reach a jump shot on the deuce. He hit the shot perfectly, but watching him get out of the way of the moving balls was even more comical than watching him climb up there! He managed to do it without touching anything and pulled it off! Next he faced Roberto. Their match went double hill with Roberto breaking. Double J took third.
The rest is history. Roberto double dipped Efren in the finals. Had it not been 3:00 am, it might have turned out differently.

That was it. The event was over. But it’s Buffalo’s and there were a bunch of players looking for action. One Pocket, Banks, 9-ball, it was all going on like always at Buffalo’s!
We hung around for another day and unfortunately, I got sick on Monday evening. No action for me but I got 16 straight hours of much needed sleep before heading back to Mississippi on Tuesday!

It was a great time! I love this event and I love Buffalo’s on Bloomfield! I look forward to this event all year and savor every moment! I have not been to a lot of places across the country, but I have been to a few. I would bet there are not many places like Buffalo’s, if any, in the country! They go all out for this event and it is well worth it for anyone who loves pool to make the trip from anywhere to attend! I certainly plan on being back next year and as many after that as there are! Great job, Buffalo, Bullseye, Painter, the Buffalo’s staff, Ray Hansen and Poolaction TV! You put on another fine event!
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