It all started for Nick at the age of 5. When his father took him to the pool room, Nick had to stand on an old, wooden Coca Cola crate in order to reach the table. From that point on he has been enthralled with the game. “Well, when I was 5 years old my dad bought a pool room, so he took me down to the pool room, and had me stand on one of those old wooden Coca Cola cases. I remember the first shot he set up for me. He set the cue ball close to the corner pocket, and said, ‘Aim at the middle diamond and the cue ball will go in the side pocket.’ and after a few tries, I made it, and I was fascinated.” Fast forward, and Nick was introduced into competitive pool while attending college.
“When I went to college, they had a program — well, it’s still going on — it’s one of the oldest pool tournaments in the country…I went in the pool hall one day at the start of the second semester; That was Purdue University…The tournaments are still going on, but back then it was straight pool. They had 16 regions in the United States. When you win your campus tournament, they sent you to the regional tournament, and then if you won that, they sent you to the national tournament. But back in those days, they didn’t have the funding to send everybody, so straight pool was a good game to get the top ball frame average, so they took the top 4 with the top ball frame average to the nationals.” — Varner.
“When I went back, I went into the college pool room, and it was really a fantastic poolroom, we had 24 tables. They were those old Brunswick Anniversary tables. Back in those days, there weren’t any instructional manuals, so you had to learn by trial and error, and then if you could watch good players play…anyway, I said, ‘Anybody around here play for a couple bucks?’ and this guy said, ‘Yeah, that guy there will probably play you some.’ I was playing him and I was breaking even with him.” — Nick.
“The kid I played with was the campus champion, and he went and won the regional, and then he went and won the national championships. I thought, that if I could learn a little more about this game, I could beat the guy in the campus tournament next year. So, it’s kind of the way it happened. He was a sophomore and I was a freshman.” Then, Nick went on to beat him the next year 1969 and then won again in 1970 at the Intercollegiate Championship.
“When I was a junior in college, Joe Balsis came to Purdue and put on an exhibition. In some ways pool was bigger in those days. The ballroom was packed with 800 people. The way they did the exhibition, was they started with straight pool, race to one hundred and fifty points. I knew that I was a pretty good college player, but I thought that when I played him, I’d only be holding the cue. You know, I’d just be sitting there in the chair watching him play. But he ran 60 balls and missed, and I thought, ‘Wow! I wonder if he did that on purpose.’ I couldn’t believe he’d missed that ball. So, then I ran a few and missed, and then he got up to about 100, and he missed again, and then I got up again and ran up to about 92 and missed. Then it was looking like he was going to run out, then got to 147 and missed a ball. Then I got up and ran 58 and out.” “That was really the first thing that happened that showed me I may have some real potential.” — concludes Varner.
“He wasn’t used to getting beat by any college kid, so he asked if I gambled, and I said I did. I said ‘Well, maybe this is a good chance to play for some lessons.’”– Varner. So, Varner got Balsis to play some one pocket and won. Incredible, and that was well before Varner had won so many championships, and was still very young in the game. Both Varner and Balsis are BCA Hall O
Varner had also completed all the requirements to become a PGA pro representative and teach people golf lessons, and work in his own pro shop. He decided to go the pool route, and make that his life and living. So, one way to subsidize his income was to perform exhibitions in college campuses around the country. “I built it up to where I was doing about 80 colleges a year. I went to Florida State for over 20 years doing exhibitions.” — Varner, of his specific involvement with FSU — where I personally went to college for a bit. Love Florida State. Go Noles!
From 1969 right up to 2014 Nick Varner has been getting in and winning pool tournaments, and is a BCA Hall Of Fame member, a legend in the game of pool and a all around great guy. He has to many tournament titles to even begin to list here, and so many world championships, Mosconi Cup titles, etc. To think it all started at age five, standing on wooden cola crates to reach the table. What an amazing story! What an exemplary talent!
Nick Varner’s introduction into professional competition came while still in college, and everything after that is history, as he subsequently won title after title, in a long succession of winning, at one point reaching the world #1 ranking. Everyone that knows the game of pool, knows the legendary Nick Varner. Nick is an exemplary role model both on and off the table. He has enriched the sport of pocket billiards through many years of dedication and excellence.
Check out Nick Varner’s website for more info…
Author: Patrick Sampey & Co-Author Anthony Beeler
Editor: Chris Freeman
Sponsored by Jacoby Custom Cues