Las Vegas, NV
Left fatherless at the tender age of 12 years old, Robert “Cotton” LeBlanc spent the next year grieving his father’s death, then left his widowed mother, younger brother and older sister behind in Memphis, Tennessee so he could discover his fate—playing pool along the back roads of America.
That long grief-filled year before he hit the road, Cotton spent most of his days and nights at community centers and bowling alleys learning to play pool. It was the one thing that eased the emptiness in his heart. He soon realized that not only was he skilled at the game, but that he also had a “silver tongue” and dazzling smile that captivated most everyone he met.
He honed his talents and made friends quickly in the pool world.
Before he left on his travels across the country, he met and played with such legends as Mike Massey, Buddy Hall, U.J. Puckett and others. The tips and tricks he learned from these players launched him into a secret world unknown to most people, which lasted almost 40 years.
While on the road, Cotton teamed up with the likes of champions New York Blackie and “St. Louie” Roberts, and also came face-to-face with criminals, thugs, killers and others he befriended, because as he justified, “It’s better to have them on your side, than against you in the pool world.”
Then, at age 16, he was confined to a full bodycast for a year due to a near-death auto accident in Texas that put him in a coma, and where three of his pool buddies perished.
His sister drove him back home to Memphis in the back of a station wagon and his little brother, Paul, took care of him until he recovered. He then resumed his travels with his dog, Ginger, and a life that included machine guns, “drop-dead gorgeous women,” size 23 shoes, marrying a stripper in Tijuana, stacks of money and diamonds, pistol-whippings, massacres, heart attacks, and being falsely imprisoned.
These experiences culminated in his becoming Technical Advisor and cameo actor in the 2003 cult hit movie, Poolhall Junkies starring Christopher Walken and Chaz Palminteri. No details of his life are spared and are all contained within 320 shocking pages of his very personal memoir, Confessions of a Pool Hustler.
Take the journey with Cotton as he bounces along the highways and byways of a life from poolhalls to bar-rooms, from broads to booze to bar fights. Winning and losing thousands of dollars on any given day is the way of a road player’s life. In his book, Cotton documents his exciting and dangerous adventures spanning four decades, and traces them back to his roots to uncover a life of no regrets.
Photo: Provided by Robert LeBlanc Editor: Dana Gornall