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My First Pool Room Hustle

A piece of pool & billiard fiction about a pool player recalling his first pool room hustle. It was originally published in the November 1995 issue of "Players Choice" magazine under the title "My First Hustle".


My First Pool Room Hustle

As I sit back with a cold Bud and watch a limber young ace slamming breaks as hard as he can, pocketing two or three balls every time, my thoughts are drawn back to when I was his age. I used to hold the table at the Bentonville Bowl until I would get tired of it. Every shot went hard with a macho "thunk" into the called pocket. I would swagger around the table with the air of a Willie Hoppe.

One night, some friends talked me into going down to the pool hall in the nearby town of Rogers. There, I watched a variety of players, most of whom were considerably better than the meager competition that I was used to.

There was this one guy, though, on a table by himself, who looked out of place. He would try to get backspin, and the cueball would jump straight up. He would line up what would appear to be a pathetically easy shot. This would be followed by a sickening "twang" as he would mishit.

He noticed me watching him with a smirk on my face. "Wanna shoot some pool?" he asked.

"I've gotta be somewhere. Thanks anyway." I wouldn't want to be seen playing against this loser!

"Aw, come on. A buck a game."

A buck a game! Well, I might as well separate a fool from his money.

It would be a very lucrative night for me, but in experience, not cash. I was about to receive my first hustle.

"Whaddya play?" he asked.

"Nine ball" I answered, maybe a little stuffily. "Do you know how to play?"

"Ain't that where you try to put the orange and yellow balls in for points?" he asked.

Orange and yellow? Yeesh! "Yeah, that's it. How about 50 cents on the five and a buck on the nine?"

He gave me a big, dumb smile. "Well, I reckon that'd be okay."

I broke. I slammed it hard with lots of topspin. I sunk the seven. I lined up on the one and kissed it into the five, which fell into a side pocket.

"Hey! Some shot!" my hopelessly outclassed opponent exclaimed.

"That's 50 cents" I answered, somewhat impatiently.

"You want me to pay up now?"

"Well, it'll eliminate any questions later. Put it in my cap, and if you win (Ha! Fat chance!) I'll lay it on your jacket there." I wasn't about to take a chance on this rube welching on my big payoff.

I had the one in front of a corner pocket. I slammed it hard, hoping to nail the spotted five. In fact, I slammed it too hard. The one skipped out of the pocket and rolled out to the middle.

"By the way, the name's Bill" said my challenger.

I shook his hand. "Ron. Your shot."

He lined up on the two. "You need to hit the one before you go for that one" I grumbled.

Bill grinned the dumb grin. "Oh yeah!"

He took a shot that could only be described as a flail. The cue contacted the ball with a sound that reminded me of a snapping twig. The cueball nudged the one into the nine, which rolled lazily toward the left corner pocket. It appeared that it would stop an inch short, but it didn't.

"Hot Dirt! Did you see that?"

"Yeah. Nice shot." Great. He had beginner's luck.

Bill looked at me, then his jacket. "Sorry" I said, reaching for my wallet. "I forgot."

He spotted the nine, and took aim on the one again. "Twang!" The one fell in the side. The cueball rolled seven inches, where it stopped in perfect position for a two-five combo into the upper right corner.

This time, he slipped as he flailed, actually falling to the floor. When he got back up, the five was gone.

He took six more spastic shots. By the time I drew a bead on the eight, I was short two and a half bucks.

I was hacked off. I hated it when a lucky shmoe made a fool of me. I slammed the eight with all the force I had. It skipped off of the table.

I didn't shoot again for fifteen minutes. Bill kept dropping shot after improbable shot. Once, he actually damaged the felt attempting to get backspin.

My temper was about to blow. Then, I noticed the rest of the guys in the pool hall. They were still playing, but watching us at the same time. Bill would hiccup a three ball money combo, and sly smiles would appear briefly, then vanish. Finally, it sunk in. He dropped the nine in while sneezing. I didn't reach for the rack this time.

"All right, 'Bill,' or whatever your name is. You've got twenty five of my bucks. Do you think you've had enough fun?"

He looked hurt. Yep, he was good.

I ordered another beer. Smack! The young ace just slammed another one home.

I don't gamble anymore. Not because of Bill, mind you, it's just that I play for fun.

I think I'll put a couple of quarters on the table and show this kid how it feels to get beaten by a shmoe.

My First Pool Room Hustle

  • Title: My First Pool Room Hustle
  • Author:
  • Published: 11/1/1995
  • Last Updated: 3/5/2022 5:56:53 AM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum (Billiards Forum)

My First Pool Room Hustle

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