Thursday,Sep 2, 2021-- BCA (Billiards Congress Of America) Hall Of Famer Allen Hopkins won the US Open 9 ball tournament in 1977 and 1981, and Hopkins is a two time World 9 ball champion (1977 and 1979), and Allen is a World 14.1 (straight pool) champion from 1977 -- and his list of accolades continues, with over 20 major tournament wins to his name -- one of the all-time greats. And Hopkins has a high run in straight pool of 410, which is an incredible run for those that know the game of 14.1 -- the game of Mosconi legend, who held the world record run of 526 until recently when John Schmidt overtook that mark, weighing in at a 626 consecutive ball run, the greatest of all times. That’s all to put into perspective just how substantial a 410 ball run is -- beast-mode billiards.
Paul Hopkins is the brother of Allen, and I’m set to interview them both tomorrow morning. Paul having written the book on his brother titled ‘Allen Hopkins: Life Of Pool’ and I am going to read it tonight as well if things go according to plan. Check it out at: lifeofpool.com
Well, that’s all I have for now. I’m about to smoke a cigarette and then relax a bit before I read about these two brothers, their relationship in the game, and how Allen grew up to become one of the worlds greatest pool players…(be back later)...
Saturday, Sep 5, 2021-- Had the interview with Paul and Allen Hopkins Friday, and that went well, and I have so much great information, quotes, etcetera for the interview -- also having just read Paul’s book. What a ride it must have been to be young Allen on the road.
And when Allen won his first US Open 9 ball championship in 1977 he was just 25 years old, with Paul, 17, there watching on the sidelines at the event, side betting $20 on his brother because he knew, just knew Allen would win, which he did -- Paul picking up an extra twenty on the gambit.
So, there I was, having interviewed so many champions in pocket billiards at this point in my life, having read ‘Life Of Pool,’ thankful for the opportunity to interview such a prolific player in the history of the game as Allen -- had so much information swimming in my mind’s eye that I felt inept to get the story, which hasn’t ever happened before.
Both Allen and Paul were great. The conversation rolled along just like talking with old pool buddies, however, I had Allen Hopkins on the line! Hall Of Fame inductee from 2008 -- so much of their combined story I had read about already, so I asked about Allen’s very first turn at any pool table, and that he had run out 10 balls on that occasion, a natural talent as any the game has ever, or will ever see.
“The first time I picked up a cue stick, yeah, I ran ten balls on the table. My dad said to me, ‘You just have a gift that’s all, it’s a gift from God, what you can do on the table.’ That’s not easy to do when you first play pool,” Allen continues, “...get up and run out ten balls like that. It just came so easy for me, seemed natural. But I did play checker pool, and I did have a pool table with really small balls, so I did play pool a little bit, but never on a bigger table, like a 7 foot table with bigger balls. It was a little table with smaller balls, a little bigger than marbles.”
Even at his age now, 69 years old, Allen still plays pool every single day he goes on to tell me in the three way call with him and brother Paul that he calls “Hop.” The two seem to have a tight-knit brotherly bond, and I can tell they support each other in everything they do. They even tell me their book is being considered for a movie screenplay, which would be a timely Godsend to the pool world -- the game coming back a bit now after a steep decline in the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s, 2010’s, and only recently making a bit of a comeback after a long drought.
At just 3 minutes and 43 seconds into the phone recording for our combined interview, I already have so much information to digest, with researching Allen’s billiards career, reading the book, talking on and off to Paul about it all before, during and after the interview. Moving along…
“At my age, there’s really nothing left for me in pool,” Allen tells me, explaining that they don’t have senior events for 50 and older like they do in golf. He tells me that Mizerak used to host a seniors tournament once or twice a year in Florida, but that wasn’t going on anymore. And I think to myself how neat it would be if they did so that many of the younger pool players and fans could see these older champions, at least know who they are, just like so many baseball fans know the old-time greats in that particular sport.
Allen was adopted into the family before Paul was born, about eight years older, so Allen knew Paul ever since he was a baby -- but they grew up as brothers, the dynamic in their house thicker than blood or water, something not all families have. “I was taken in as a foster child at the time, and they had two daughters, Peggy and Judy. Judy is deceased now. Peggy is out in Vegas. Hop (Paul) was born late. My mother was about 40. She wasn’t supposed to be having kids anymore, and she got pregnant with him, so I’ve known him since he was a baby (laughs),” Allen tells me.
Also, Allen said his aunt Norma -- his mother’s sister -- had an eight foot table, with particle board instead of slate, he would sometimes play on as well when they would visit over at his relatives house, providing he and Paul with another outlet for pool every now and again.
“Basically, the most important thing in pool is following through the ball -- coming through the cue ball, because if you don’t come through the cue ball, you’re not going to get any english on the ball, so it’s your speed of stroke coming through the cue ball that gets you all the english you want on the ball. I had no problem getting the cue ball around the table,” Allen tells me after I ask him about his signature, short, piston stroke he developed as a result of learning in the confines of their basement -- their father having provided them with a smaller 7ft table to play on as kids.
Later, during Paul’s college years, Allen went out to visit his younger brother and the two both got games with other players -- Allen telling me that he ran 150 and out on one player to win some money, and that he set Paul up with a game as well, and Paul also won them quite a bit -- both getting a little pool hustle going on. The way Allen tells it, sounds like they had a blast. That was around 1979, and unfortunately around that time as well, the brothers found out their father had been diagnosed with lung cancer, passing shortly thereafter, hitting them both hard.
But the brothers continued on, and the story of all this is also in ‘Life Of Pool: Allen Hopkins With Paul Hopkins,’ which is an excellent read -- so I don’t want to give too much of the story away for anyone that wants to check it out. Here is a link to the rich story of their lives for those interested:
Paul now resides in around the Ocala, Florida region, with brother Allen staying up in New Jersey, where he told me it was about 57 degrees out, and “perfect,” which is a little cold for my thin skin, but “hot” and “cold” are relative terms, whatever your personal preference is.
“I was the only one to win the straight pool tournament and nine ball tournament in the same year...I don’t even know if that’s been repeated yet, to tell you the truth. I’m not sure,” Allen tells me at one point in our collective conversation.
“I’ve actually been in the finals of the US Open 5 times, since they’ve been running it,” Allen concludes.
I then ask him about hosting the ‘Super Billiards Expo’ each year -- a bit about that, and how the last two years because of COVID-19, the 4-day event had been cancelled, which has put a financial strain on Allen at a tough time, “Next year it’s going to be for 7 days instead of 4 days. I’m adding a couple of events to it. I’m adding the TAP (https://tapleague.com/) nationals also, so they’re going to do their nationals there and the ‘Rally In The Valley,’ and then I’m going to be adding another event -- another tournament also. I haven’t decided which one yet. It may be eight ball...but yeah, we’re going to run it 7 days instead of 4 to get people back into the groove of playing again.” -- Allen. The Super Billiards Expo will be held April 18th through 24th in 2022.
“Players, fans, exhibitors, and buyers – we have made the very difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Super Billiards Expo. While the current covid climate is rapidly improving, we simply do not feel it would be prudent to attempt to hold an event of this magnitude at this time. Rather than host a capacity-restricted event or attempt to reschedule a few more months out, we have already begun a plan for an even bigger and better 2022. Based on current progress, we feel this will allow ample time for anyone who wishes to receive a vaccination to do so, and for the safety to gather in large numbers to return…” -- Allen Hopkins, from part of a statement He made to the players and vendors at https://superbilliardsexpo.com
Additionally, Allen is entering the US Open this year, which will be held at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City this September 13th-18th (today being September 9th as of this edit) -- in just a few short days. Hopkins continues to push; he isn’t done yet.
All in all I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview both Paul and Allen, hear their story, report about it, as I continue to follow the all things pool and billiards. Thanks to both these gentlemen and what they bring to the diversity of pool.
Keep on hitting them balls. Tallahassee Squirrel out until next time.