Mary Avina calls herself an Artist, Pool Player and Documentary Director, but to the Billiards community she is actually much more than that.
She is a wonderful ambassador for this sport not only because of her love for all things related to Billiards, but also because of her amazing attitude towards life itself. We here at Sneaky Pete Mafia wanted to find out a little more about Mary and she graciously agreed to grant me this interview.
Q: Mary, after reading the quotes on your Facebook page, I realized that not only are you a person who loves pool, but also someone who loves life. That leads me to my first question: What are some of the things that you like to do in your spare time when you are not shooting pool or doing a trick shot exhibition?
Mary Avina: My biggest hobby is eating. Second only to traveling, love to see new places, eat exotic foods and meet new people. I really work hard at making sure I take time to smell the flowers.
Q: If you could spend an afternoon shooting pool with anyone, who would it be and why?
Mary Avina: There is no particular person I would love to shoot pool with. It could be anyone who loves pool and would truly value my company. After all, I love meeting strangers, especially those who don’t expect me to be able to play. I love to see the surprise in someone’s face.
Q: Do you remember when it was that you fell in love with shooting pool and who, if anyone, taught you how to shoot when you first began?
Mary Avina: Yes, I fell in love with pool from the first moment that I played it. It was in a little dark bar and I lost. No, I learned the old fashioned way by doing it, at least at the beginning. Within a year I started to rely on books and later videos. I also learned from watching the best. For example, the first pro I met was Efren Reyes. I figured till I did as well as he did, I still sucked so I set the bar high. Later I actually ran with many pro players from tournament to tournament and absorbed by just having normal conversation on the game and techniques. Of course, all of this was done only in between my obsession with food and sightseeing.
Q: If you had to give up shooting pool and doing trick shot exhibitions forever, what would you choose to do instead and why?
Mary Avina: What I plan to do anyways is direct more. I plan on doing full featured movies, especially as I get older. Directing is like painting, but with a fuller range of colors as it really appeals to my imagination and natural skill sets.
Q: You are an attractive woman as well as being very talented at what you do. This can be very intimidating to some people, so I am wondering, has this combination of talent and beauty helped you or hurt you as far as your career goes?
Mary Avina: Looks are good at getting people’s attention, but it is a double edged sword. Just because you get people’s attention does not mean people give you the opportunity to capitalize on it. A lot of times people feel uneasy dealing with a woman or their significant others do. I find this sad as many opportunities go down the drain for both parties.
Q: Doing trick shots is a very specialized area in the world of pool and not many players actually know how to perform them. How did you get started doing trick shots and did you have a mentor or did you teach yourself?
Mary Avina: Within a year I was winning most all the time, so I would run out of opponents. Still I did not want to stop playing so with all my downtime I would mess around on the pool table. I was experimenting on the extremes of the cue ball and its effect on other balls. I learned how to jump the ball off the rail on my own. when I saw a jump cue for the first time I figured I could do it one handed. I did it right away and bought that cue for ten dollars. It was the first cue I ever purchased. Also, any time I saw something unusual that happened on the pool table I would mimic it. Eventually I got introduced to videos on You Tube. I saw cool trick shots by many unknown and known players and I just started doing them. I did not understand that my percentage of execution was so much higher than theirs since I was watching all of this recorded.
I was making most of my shots on the first try many times over and over again. I did not think anything of this since I had seen Efren Reyes do much harder things playing golf on a snooker table. It was not until other people pointed out that I was good at it and eventually I was encouraged by my friends and then by Mike Massey at a local show that I attended. Someone told him I was a trick shot artist and Mike Massey took the time to give me his trick shot book and tell me it was special that I did trick shots because there was not too many of us out there as he put it. I was a little slow, but eventually I caught on that people really like it. Eventually, I had a website to sell art as a painter.
Unfortunately, most people did not go to my website to look at my artwork, but at the tiny section where I talked about pool and showed a few trick shot videos. I was unaware of this as I lived in a small town where I mostly played for money with the old men on a ten foot snooker table. I started going to bigger tournaments because it excited me even if I did rather terribly in them. That’s where I met some players I knew of who recognized me from my videos. It never dawned on me that so many people watched! Eventually I started getting offered money to do shows and of course I said yes, and along with this, You Tube started paying me every month from the views my videos generated. In short, I started doing trick shots for the fun of it to entertain myself during downtime and now I do it because it makes other people happy. Also, it helps promote this great sport that I love.
Q: Is there a particular or unique cue that you like to use when you are doing trick shots, or do you use more than one cue, depending on the trick you are performing?
Mary Avina: On most shots I use my Avina cue by Meucci and regular jump cue, which is the same one I bought for ten dollars years ago. Most shots require no special cue, since I already use a soft tip, which is perfect for masse’ shots. I have used specialty cues, particularly for extreme masse’ shots. Most specialty cues I have ever used were custom made for me.
Q: My readers will never forgive me if I don’t ask this. When you aren’t doing trick shots and you are shooting a regular game of pool like eight or nine ball, what type of cue do you use and do you use low deflection or regular hard rock maple shafts? Also, is there a certain tip that you prefer to use?
Mary Avina: I use my own line of cues called Avina Cues. The shaft is a Black Dot Meucci. The tip of my cue has to be soft, as it works best with my hard stroke and once in a blue moon masse’ shot.
Q: Finally, looking forward, what are your immediate goals as far as playing pool and performing as a trick shot artist and when you think of your more distant future, do you think that pool will always be a part of your life?
Mary Avina: This last year I rebuilt my stroke and I’m looking forward to trying it out more on the road, particularly in big tournaments. I have won lots of little titles and I want to win a big one. What this means to me is a tournament with a large field of pros and other great players which includes the male players. I do not believe pool should be segregated most of the time. I never want to stop playing pool, so I do not see myself parting ways with it any time soon. I can see myself as an old lady dying on the snooker table or while playing one pocket. I see myself making a great shot and then collapsing on the table, content, then dying.
I would like to thank Mary Avina once again for being kind enough to grant me this interview and for being so open and candid with her answers to my questions. You can find out more about Mary by visiting her website, Mary Avina “Loving Life.”
Photo: via Mary Avina Editor: Dana Gornall