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Recognizing Pool Sharks and Dealing with Them

Learn about the subtleties of sharking at the pool table, such as identifying a "sneeze shark" or avoid the pitfalls of the "handkerchief hustle" in R. Enderland's detailed piece below about sharking in billiards. It was originally published in early 2000, under the title "Sharks".

Recognizing Pool Sharks and Dealing with Them

Have you been playing pool for longer than ten minutes? Do you enjoy the competitive nature of the game? Do you like adding a little "interest" to the contest, making an occasional wager? If you answered "yes" to all three questions, then it’s safe to say that you have also been sharked, whether you realize it or not.

The "honorable" art of sharking is as timeless as the games of pool themselves. I put the term in quotation marks because of the controversy surrounding the art.

Some folks feel the same way about sharks as they do about a having a root canal, The Borg, and people who kick puppies. They have absolutely no use for those who might use creative means to distract their opponents and ensure victory.

Others admire the imaginative tactics used. They appreciate how much work it is to win when you’re playing someone who may be better than you.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, sharks are abundant. Learning a few of their tricks may help you to hang on to your bankroll.

One of the commonest forms of sharking is to play to less than your potential. We are all probably guilty of this one from time to time.

You begin playing your opponent in eight-ball, nine-ball, or whatever. You win a match or two for small change. The shark starts complaining about his lousy luck. Or, he may start boasting that he’s never played this well in his life. Pretty soon, the sizes of the wagers begin crawling upwards. If he’s good, then it’s you who’s raising the stakes. The next thing you know, his "luck" begins to change. Shots begin just barely falling in. Frustrated, you raise the stakes still more, certain that his incredible luck can’t last much longer. Eventually, you go home with a much slimmer wallet. If the shark has done his job properly, you will be ready to get revenge on him when he shows up tomorrow night.

The old stick drop is another time honored hustle. A five-foot piece of maple can make a sound approximating that of a hydrogen bomb blast if its contact with a tiled floor is timed just right. Of course, if the floor is carpeted, then the hustler resorts to the old stick-against-the-table ploy.

Stifled sneezes can wreak havoc with your nerves. One loud blast followed by obvious apologetic efforts to avoid "disturbing your concentration again" can cause your bankroll to transfer to your worthy opponent’s pocket at the speed of sound.

Closely related to the sneeze shark is the handkerchief hustle.

At a strategic point in the game, Jaws takes a handkerchief out that is within your field of view. Its size and color will generally be large and bright, in that order. He will wave it around, getting all the wrinkles out, then use it in the nose-blowing process. He may provide a loud blast, or he may give a quiet little snort that can unnerve you even more.

He has been completely "unaware" of you at this point. Now, the show over, just as you’re drawing back your stick, comes the apology. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to distract you!"

Needless to say, after yet another distraction, you miss. He generally makes at least a six ball run at this point.

Cigarette smoking sharks have a built in advantage. A well timed light-up (usually involving a foot-high butane flame) is deadly. So is an ever-growing length of ashes at the end of an untended coffin nail sticking out of his mouth. Waiting for that inch-long mess to fall off can take your mind off of your game. Of course, there’s also that "accidental" blow-smoke-in-your-face thing.

Let’s not overlook the effectiveness of the old football "timeout."

You know how it works. The kicker is looking at a fifty-yarder to win the game. Just as the holder is preparing to receive the ball, the defense calls time. The intended effect is to tense up the kicker (who is usually a nervous little guy anyway) and make him miss.

In pool, the timeout is called by leaving the table. Going to the can, or getting another beer (asking you if you need one as you’re lining up being part of the package, of course), or having to make a telephone call forces you to stop your play. If you’re doing well, why not see if a pause in the action will improve the odds? The shark has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

If you’re at a critical point in the juncture, it’s just like you’re lining up that long kick. Expect a timeout to be called.

Yes, the shark is alive and well and can be found down at your local poolroom. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Assume that that stranger with the holes in his jeans and the house cue in his hand is really a hardened hustler, circling you and preparing to make the kill. Whether or not he succeeds is up to you.

Recognizing Pool Sharks and Dealing with Them

  • Title: Recognizing Pool Sharks and Dealing with Them
  • Author:
  • Published: 2/15/2000
  • Last Updated: 3/5/2022 4:41:59 AM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum (Billiards Forum)

Recognizing Pool Sharks and Dealing with Them

The Recognizing Pool Sharks and Dealing with Them article belongs to the The Mental Aspects of Billiards and Pool category. Pool playing tips to help you master the mental aspects of pool and billiards.

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