Day 33: Aurora, CO
I read in the Cue Times
that there is an 8-ball tournament on Friday nights
at the "Rack 'em Billiards" pool hall in Aurora,
so I drove over there hoping to get some more 8 ball practice.
When I got there, I learned that the tournament
is played on small bar tables, not regulation 9-footers.
That killed it for me, as I have no interest
in playing on the mini-tables
because the US Amateur championships are played
on the big tables, so that's where I focus.
OK, so I decide to shoot some balls, solo,
and try out my new Predator 314 series 2 shaft
which I just had shipped in to me from home.
I ordered it before I left on this trip,
and it didn't arrive in time for me to take it with me.
The new shaft is supposed to have even less deflection
than the standard Predator 314 shaft,
which is alread one of the lowest deflection shafts
available on the market.
I ordered this new shaft 1 inch longer than my others,
figuring maybe it might come in handy on stretch shots.
I did notice that it changes the balance of the cue
but just a bit, and I quickly got used to it.
On the table next to me was a solo guy setting up
straight pool break shots, then going for the runout.
Imagine, straight pool!
Nobody plays that anymore, but that's the game I love.
So I asked him if he wanted to shoot some straight pool,
and he jumped at the chance.
In no time at all I had a comfortable lead in points,
when in comes an old black dude, white hair, and
he sits down, starts talking with my opponent (Calgary Dave).
They were doing a lot of talking because Dave was
doing a lot of sitting while I was doing a lot of shooting.
But every once in a while I would miss, and go talk
with this black dude who turns out to be the most
interesting guy I have met in this entire trip, so far.
Check this out:
He is 67 years old, and has played pool for more than
fifty years, and still plays with the same
BALABUSHKA cue he had made by George himself,
which he showed me and allowed me to hold in my hands.
It was the first time I ever touched one of these
He said he paid $250 for it but now it is worth
several thousand dollars, but of course he would
never sell it, and plans to leave it to a friend.
We talked some more, as I had really no interest in
playing any more straight pool with Dave, when I
could be talking to this living repository of
all things pool for the last half-century.
I told him that Cecil Tugwell,
a legendary black player, showed me how to
shoot one-pocket, and soon he was going on about
a whole list of great black shooters,
who he knew and played.
I asked him if he would like to shoot some pool,
and he said he only shoots for money, period.
I told him I don't gamble and so it looked like
I wouldn't see him play, but after a while he
seemed to be getting the itch to hit some balls,
and he made the proposition that he would
take Dave's place and the lower score and
we would finish out the game in progress.
When he made that proposition,
he didn't know that I only needed 3 balls to win,
and Dave needed something like 25,
but he went ahead anyway.
And then the magic happened...
Without any warm-up at all, this man just
started running balls with an ease and fluidity
I have very rarely seen.
His stroke is so smooth it must be seen to
Pool players call it a "slip stroke" because
the cue moves forward in the grip hand,
so that instead of pushing the cue forward
using a grip, he actually throws the cue forward
and catches it in one motion.
Extraordinarily beautiful, and very effective.
Soon enough, he only needed a few balls, maybe three,
so he counts what he needs, continues to shoot,
and then the strangest thing happens: he misses
the winning game ball!
So he IS human, after all.
I hardly felt right about running the few balls
I needed to win, but I did it anyway.
And that is the story of how I beat
the team of Calgary Dave and "Georgia Boy"
(his pool hustler name)
on a Friday night in Aurora, Colorado.
And it's all true.
Georgia Boy and I agreed to meet again on Saturday,
and he will give me some lessons.
I would love to get a video of his stroke,
but he wasn't too excited about that idea.
Maybe I can sweet talk him into it.
After all, I did get him to play without gambling.