‘Biloxi Mike’ was born Michael L. Surber in January 16, 1955 in Alexandria, VA. Mike was a regular at the reknowned Jack & Jill’s poolroom in Arlington, owned by the late Bill ‘Weenie Beenie’ Staton. Jack & Jill’s was famous for the 24/7 traffic of top players, both for the many tournaments they hosted, and for the after –hours action that Weenie Beenie encouraged. Beenie liked Mike enough to give him a job at the poolroom, and later, he steered Mike to a job at the Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, where Beenie had also worked. That was Mike’s start in casino work, and he continued to work in the casino business after he moved to the Gulf Coast. He was a dealer for the past ten years at Beau Rivage until his death.
Although he had a reputation for putting work first, he devoted his free time intensively to playing pool (and golf), and managed to compete at the highest levels, especially in his favored games of One Pocket and Banks. He set aside some of his annual vacation time every year to competing at the Derby City Classic, which seemed to bring out the best in his game. Because he was not on the tournament trail the rest of the year, he often went unrecognized by players and fans alike, who wondered “Who is this guy?” as Mike time after time held his own against players with household names in the pool world.
Mike’s major tournament record:
- 2009 Derby City Classic 10th place Banks
- 2008 Derby City Classic 4th place Banks & 58th place One Pocket
- 2007 Derby City Classic 12th place Banks & 3rd place One Pocket
- 2006 Derby City Classic 18th place One Pocket
- 2005 Fast Eddie’s 2nd place One Pocket
- 2004 Gulf Coast Classic 3rd place One Pocket
Mike was known as always the consummate gentleman competitor, who matched his dogged determination to win with an unusually dignified manner at the table. According to fellow local player Art Tripp, “He was pure gentleman, and always strictly maintained a poker face at the pool table. One couldn’t tell if he was winning or losing to look at him.”
This is from one of his close friends, prepared for Mike’s memorial gathering at his local poolroom:
“Beyond Mike’s abilities, was his tremendous love of the game. And I do not mean today’s game, I mean the old game in which one was not afraid or reluctant to recognize and appreciate another player’s prowess and skill — Mike loved the game, not just his game. Mike recognized, as I do, that the demise of the game is linked directly to the lack of good rooms that formed our “clubs” where we were taught not just the skills but also the etiquette. Mike knew pool to be a classy game, and everything he did, he did it with class. We need more Mike Surbers to show the younger generation that pool can be so much more than it currently is.
One of Mike’s favorite things he pointed out to all of us at Skeeter’s (the old Jim Bob’s) was that we needed to measure our games as “workingmen” because our games all suffered to some degree due to the fact that most of us held down regular jobs in order to support ourselves and families. Mike tried to make all of us better players, but what he really accomplished was that he made us better men. Mike had an understanding of the game that I will never have, and I am grateful that he took some of his secrets to his grave. He gave away so much to all of us in teaching us that he deserved to keep some of his favorites and take them with him. His generosity in this regard demands that he kept something. I can still see the twinkle in his eye as he would say, “I can’t tell you everything I know because then you would be better than me,” as though everything he knew would ever get me past 12-3. It will be a long time before One Pocket sees another Mike Surber.”