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October, 2011 -- the 50th anniversary of the first Johnston City Tournament

Johnston City: One Pocket's Debut in Tournament Pool

October 25th, 1961 the world of pool in America woke up to a remarkable new kind of tournament that shook the pool establishment out of a deep slumber. It was an unusual event on several fronts; one being the unlikely location for a major national pool tournament, deep in rural southern Illinois. Second, it was a game, One Pocket, not recognized by the established sanctioning body of pool in America at that time, the Billiard Congress of America. Third, the tournament boldly featured a number of known hustler pool players who had not participated in the few sanctioned events of the mid-century -- whether by their own choice, or because they were not invited due to their reputations. And finally, the promoter was a total newcomer to pool tournament promotions, a fellow who had his roots more in the gambling side of pool than the establishment side of pool, the remarkable George Jansco. So who were the Jansco Brothers, and what made them think a small town in southern Illinois could become the “Billiard Capitol of the World”?

Click here for more of the story about the Jansco's legendary Johnston City tournaments

The Game of Corners:

Close cousin to One Pocket, played on special tables with only two pockets

By Chris Owen

I was reading some old posts and found one entitled, "Special One Pocket Table", from Jan, 1997. John Walkup asked if anyone had ever made a special one pocket table, one with only 2 pockets. Ron Kilby answered with 2 posts : "I have played on a 1-pocket table with only two pockets, and am told that such tables were common in the 1920's. The table I played on was a 1924 Brunswick Regency, and the rails were obviously original. I LIKED the game!"

I can give you a little history on this subject...

Continued on the next page -- click here to read the rest of The Game of Corners

Keeping A Good Game Down

Why does One-Pocket have a mysterious 90-year gap in its history?
by Mike Shamos


One-pocket is one of the most acquired of tastes. An intense, cerebral contest, it is closer in spirit to chess than to pool. When watched and appreciated by knowledgeable fans, it is one of the most exciting and satisfying of cue games. Unfortunately, most spectators get fed up and leave when no one sinks a ball for 20 minutes. So this beautiful game is doomed to have much the same crowd appeal as curling — a small group of enthusiastic railbirds amidst an audience of largely confused patrons wondering what all the fuss is about.

And on top of that the game is highly regional. Growing up in New York in the 1960s, I never saw a rack of one-pocket. The Apple was a straight-pool town, and in that game the idea is to sink balls, not huddle them near the mouth of pocket. But in present-day Philadelphia, 90 highway miles to the south, the serious money game is one-pocket...

Continued on the next page -- click here to read the rest of Keeping a Good Game Down

Fig. 1 note:   Grady Mathews has created a slide show of old photos of pool players as part of the exhibition show he puts on, which I recently had the pleasure of attending.  As you can imagine, he has a great selection of old photos, as well as some original tournament and exhibition posters, plus he has the stories to go along with them! It was very entertaining to hear Grady tell many first-hand stories along with those old photos, really making those great old players come to life.

His collection is a pretty complete who's who of One Pocket from the 50's on out - including youthful shots of players like Hall, Varner, Sigel, Ronnie Allen, Danny D, Eddie Taylor and on and on - plus old-timers like Titanic Thompson, Fats, Cannonball Chapman and more!  He has graciously lent a sampling of those photos to, along with his 1991 History of One Pocket article for On The Snap magazine.

Click the captions to enlarge any of the photos!


History of One Pocket

By Grady Mathews


One Pocket began in Oklahoma in the 30's, if I'm not mistaken.   Hayden Lingo was the first great One Pocket player.   He was followed by "Big Nose" Roberts, Glen "Eufaula Kid" Womack, Marshall "Squirrel" Carpenter, "Clem", Ronnie Allen, "Jersey Red", Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor, Johnny Vevis, and Johnny "Irish".  


Womack was said "to have kicked like a mule," while Eddie Taylor rarely missed a bank and was, in fact, the undisputed bank pool champion of the world for many years.   "Irish" was probably the best pool player that ever lived.   He made a habit of beating very good players using a cue with no tip on it.   I don't think anyone ever beat Lingo playing even at One Pocket.


Then came the Ronnie Allen era, beginning around 1961.   In 1962 Ronnie won the One Pocket Championship as Cochran's in San Francisco, defeating Eddie Taylor in the finals.   The tournament, incidentally, was played on five by ten tables with clay balls.   Clem and Jersey Red were the only players at that time, in my opinion, in Ronnie's class.   Ronnie Allen brought "power One Pocket" into existence.   Jersey Red was and still is one of the most innovative players to ever perform at One Pocket.   Matches between Ronnie and Red were among the finest pool games I and many others ever witnessed.


"Bugs" Rucker, Chicago, became the best bank pool player after Eddie Taylor retired and he learned one Pocket along the way.   An interesting man, he would often go without playing for a year, and then go down to the pool room and defeat some great champion.   He usually arrived with an entourage.   Bugs, without a doubt, was and is one of the most colorful and exciting players in the world.


Pool hustlers preferred One Pocket because the element of luck is much less than at 9-ball.   The best player generally wins.   It is also worth mentioning that One Pocket players traditionally have played for more money by the game than 9-ball players have by the session.   In Detroit, during that city's infamous gambling heyday, it wasn't at all unusual to see One Pocket games in the five figures, by the game.

Article originally published in On The Snap magazine, January/February 1991

reprinted here with the permission of Grady Mathews

Click on any of the photos for a larger view!

Click here for Grady's exhibition 'flyer'

'Titanic' Thompson

Danny Jones, 'Cornbread', Grady, 'Fats'

Pete Margo, Bill Staton, Steve Mizerak

Freddy Bentivegna waits; Ronnie Allen & Grady sweat

Buddy Hall, Grady & 'The Miz'

Leonard 'Bugs' Rucker

Grady, Varner & the late Larry Lisciotti


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