My best Friend Jon Masters and I got an early start for a day off.
We left for Dayton, TN mid- morning, on a Thursday. I had wanted to play snooker since I started playing pool. I finally located a table by a chance meeting during a tournament in Crossville with a man named J. T. the Saturday before. After playing some one pocket for ten a game he invited me to his pool hall in Dayton, and informed me that he had a snooker table.
So we were on our way to play some snooker with anticipation and excitement. The trip took almost two Led Zeppelin albums, driving through the hills on the Cumberland Plateau. I also anticipated another small time match up with J. T. a one pocket wizard, I really enjoy playing him.
We arrived in Dayton around two o’clock in the afternoon. After not being able to locate the pool room, we went into town to ask for directions, we found a music store and went inside to test the guitars and ask directions. When we got to the pool hall it was closed. No hours posted? WHAT? Oh, there’s a number to call. No answer… Sigh…
So we went back into town to eat and waste some time. Exploring downtown Dayton was cool. There were all kinds of neat shops to look through, one of which was a book store, that was also an army surplus store, and the second story of the book store was an urban warfare airsoft arena. Really.
Whenever I go to used book store I always have to look, hoping to find a lost copy of Winning One Pocket, the holy book of secrets to any one pocket player. After four o’clock we headed back and saw a truck parked out front of the pool room. Oh good, we might get to shoot.
I approached the truck, the driver was also waiting for the pool room to open. He called J. T. and let him know that the shooter he invited to play some snooker was waiting for him. Shortly after that J. T. arrived. J. T. was of medium height, medium build, white hair parted on the right side, a classic look about him and quiet. He means what he says.
He has intense blue eyes and doesn’t look a day over 60, yet he is 70 years old.
He opens the door and beckons us in, “I haven’t had anyone in here to play snooker in a long time, the table has been covered for about three months.”
He brushed of the table and got us a set of balls, only ten reds though. Masters got the first break; I suggested that he use the standard straight pool break, clipping the last ball, cue ball two rails up table behind the yellow. He scratched. Shooting from the D, I had a long pot on a red to the left corner. I hand Masters my camera to video my first shot in my first game of snooker.
Concentrating, wanting to make the red, I lined up, touched the red into the pocket with a tip of top, down it goes, shape for the black. I ran a few reds and a few blacks, eventually winning our first game of snooker, which for me was strong, Masters is the better player. Masters then beat me more than I beat him for a several games.
The climate was different; we were used to shooting on the home tables in Crossville. In Crossville they have a near perfect climate control system—all Diamond tables—classy, quaint and a great pool hall. In Dayton, (oh man) it was humid. After a few hours I couldn’t even use a closed bridge. I hate powders, and did not have a shooting glove yet.
The tables were Brunswicks and Valleys. After getting nice and warmed up shooting snooker on the 5×10, I approached J. T.
“Nine six, five a game?”
“Well sure, you break.”
Man, trying to beat a wizard on his own table—yeah, that’s a smart move. He played like a wizard, making two and three rail bank shots that just won’t go on a Diamond. I tried my hardest on this unfamiliar table but the most I made was five.
J. T. is a lefty, so it doesn’t matter if I break or not, he gets the advantage of always getting the left handed pocket. He beat me out of my betting money, and then instead of charging us for the five hours we played on his snooker table, he only charged us for one. Masters and I played two more games of snooker with one of the local shooters from Dayton, a fifteen year old who has been shooting for ten years, great player for his age.
The day trip to Dayton was the most fun I had in a long time, just great. I want to stress to you the importance of these little day trips to other pool rooms. One of the major differences between a good player and a great player is the ability to adjust to playing on new equipment in a different environment.
Playing in other places helps you to develop your ability to adjust, and, if you shoot well, you will start to build a reputation for it in these other places. Soon enough, if you make these trips regularly, you’ll start to become better known in the billiards community as a whole. So in my estimation, the more you play on strange equipment in strange places the better.
Challenge yourself, play games that you know you’ll have to shoot your best to win, play in places you’ve never played before. Use all the resources you have at hand, plan your trips, but don’t over plan them. Leave some room for things to go differently than you expected.
Making an adventure out of your billiards training and enjoying yourself. Challenging yourself constantly keeps you playing better and better all the time, don’t get discouraged when you struggle. Overcome your ruts by trying harder games. Force yourself to play better through keeping yourself interested. Playing in strange places always keeps you interested.
My closing statement, go and have your own out of town adventures, you’ll thank me later.
Editor: Dana Gornall
Photo: Thomas Anderson/Flickr