My eight-ball league starts tonight… this past weekend I was thinking I should get some practice in and so Tyler and I went to the local pool hall to kill a few hours. While I was there I ended up talking to this teenager who was shooting at the table next to mine. We decided to play a few games and while he was a pretty good shot I was beating him consistently. “Have you ever played in any tournaments?”, he asked. Then he went on to tell me about a nine-ball tournament that they have a few nights a week at a place called Main Street Billiards, in the old part of Mesa.
Monday night I decide to go check out the nine-ball tournament. When I get there to sign up I’m told I have to be “rated”. So some chucklehead watches me play for maybe 5 minutes and decides I’m a “7”. The best guys are rated 9 or 10, so I figure I’m in pretty good shape since I won’t have to win as many games when I play the best shooters. The tournament starts, and I beat my first opponent, who wasn’t really very good. The next guy I play is pretty good, and on top of that I shoot pretty badly, so I lose. I go home, not even realizing there is a loser’s bracket and I could have taken another shot at the tournament.
I spend the rest of Monday night trying to fall asleep, pissed because I gave that match away. So last night, Tues, I’m still thinking about it and decide to go back and give it another shot. When I get there it turns out I’m 5 minutes past the deadline but the guy cuts me a break and lets me in the tournament. Also it’s different from the previous night in that the entry fee is doubled. I look around and it seems more serious, and the guys playing aren’t the same kids as the night before.
I shoot my way through my first two opponents in record time, the guy running the tournament even made some comment about how I’d have to wait until some other tables catch up before I can play my next match. At this point a couple of guys standing near the score-keepers chart keep looking at me and obviously talking about me. Even for a pool hall in a relatively questionable part of town, the place seemed kind of hostile. So I eventually get through another match, and that’s where it got interesting, especially for me. I walk over to my next match and notice I was going to play a guy that I had been watching murder everyone all night. I was pretty jazzed about it because I was shooting better than I had in years and I really didn’t think I could be beaten.
I win the coin toss, break the rack, and run out. This guy was rated a 10, and needed to win six games to my three. When I sank the nine he got visibly upset and shouted “OK, you need two, I need six!”. The next rack I made nothing on the break, he ran out five balls, but I ran out the last four. So now I only needed one game to his six. At this point the guy walks all the way to the other side of the pool hall, and had a conference with the guy running the place, obviously bitching about my rating. I watch the conversation and then watch it spread around the pool hall that I was trying to steal the tournament by getting a low rating on purpose. The guy comes back to the table and starts asking me where I’m from, where do I live, etc, as if I’m a hustler and he might have heard of me. It was awesome. Finally we start playing again, and from there on out it was all him, he beat me six games in a row. But I had my chance a couple of times, and he knew it. I decided to stick around and play in the loser’s bracket just because I might get a chance to play this guy again.
My next match is against a guy who looked a lot like Bigfoot, only a little more scary. He was rated an “8”, so I only needed three games to his four. I knew at this point that my rating wasn’t fair, because I was going to destroy the guy, but hey, I didn’t ask for the rating and no one asked me what I thought it should be. I beat the guy three games to one and instead of shaking my hand and saying “Good match”, as is customary, this guy just turns his back and walks away. It seems like everyone knows everyone in this joint and I can feel everyone watching me. It was more than a little disconcerting, at one point I was considering leaving because I thought I might end up with a bunch of guys waiting outside for me.
So now I have to wait to see who my next match is, and I’ve officially finished in the money no matter what. I look up at the board and of course it’s going to be Mr. 10. I had been watching him play all night and I was pretty sure he was a borderline pro, it had been years and years since I’d seen anyone that good. For those of you who are familiar with the old Altoona days, this guy is easily comparable to Billy Rupe.
Right before my 2nd match against Mr. 10 starts, the guy who runs the place informs me that I’m now rated an “8”, so I need four games against his six. And this is a guy who is beating everyone six to nothing all night. I didn’t even care, I was so stoked to get another shot at Mr. 10. I lost the coin toss, the guy breaks, and leaves the two and nine right in front of the corner pocket. I cut off of the one, hit the two into the nine, and now I need three to his six. The rest of the match was so entertaining, I didn’t even care that I lost. I watched Mr. 10 run six racks of nine ball in a row, it was literally a clinic in position, like watching a demonstration on ESPN. After breaking the balls in rack number two, I never took another shot, I just watched and racked the balls when it was time. Everyone was watching the match, and everyone knew from the beginning I was going to get murdered. I was not disappointed really, my goal after losing to him the first time was simply to get in his way again, and I could tell he took our second match much more seriously.
I took fourth place, out of over 20 guys, and doubled my entry fee. And I didn’t get stabbed in the parking lot, which was good. I didn’t get home until well after midnight, so I think that tournament will only be an occasional thing from now on, but I’ve really got to have anther crack at Mr. 10.