Snow, slots, pool! It’s the infamous US Pool Players Association (US PPA) Tournament a few years back in Reno, Nevada.
Tony Annigoni, Tony Chohan and a huge cast of pool characters are dressed in the most interesting garb, playing twice a year events. A little guy is here that shoots almost standing straight up, then “jumps” back after he hits the ball. The entire Rakin clan is here. There’s a young girl who bobbles her head back and forth like a metronome while lining up her shot. A guy with a big belly guy and suspenders reels you in with his, “I don’t play very well,” then runs over you like a cement truck. A host of other regulars is also here.
This old girl goes to each and every one of these, always determined to do better, go further, get smarter and—hopefully—win some money back. I’m cutting my teeth on higher stakes tourney play.
Now, “Joe” (named changed to protect the guilty) attended each of these events too, and that’s where the trouble started. I start watching Joe because no one could be present at one of these events and not know Joe was there! Loud, boisterous, sharking, intoxicated, obnoxious…you name it. I’m thinking, “Please don’t let me draw that dude.” Fortunately, I didn’t—at least not at this event.
Although there were many run-ins with Joe, these stand out because no one else at this event had the (ahem) balls to confront this jerk! I’m sitting on the sidelines, sweatin’ matches. I glance to the right, down the lane of tables and see Joe playing against some young, leggy kid with complexion issues—and Joe is standing up behind the kid while he is shooting and sharking him. Of course the kid misses the shot, and Joe runs out.
I glance at the score—hill to hill, race to 7. Joe has gone to the bathroom for a break. The poor kid looks distraught. I just couldn’t help myself. I am seeing red. I feel bad for the kid. I’m pissed!
I march down to the table, kid sitting in his chair facing away from my approach. I get close, lean over and whisper in his ear, “Do not let this guy take you out! He’s sharking you!”
The kid turns around and says, “Oh, no, I’m just not playing very well right now.”
“No, no, no! Look, when you get up to shoot, if Sir Sharks-a-Lot stands up behind you, you stop and get up, turn around and tell him to sit his ass back down while you are shooting. If he gives you any trouble, call for a referee or the tourney director. But—listen up—you can beat him and you need to take him out for all of us!” Joe is returning from his break, so I turn and walk back to my seat. I keep an eye on their match.
Five minutes later, the entire room erupts in cheering and clapping. The kid took him out.
Hooray! End of Round #1.
Again, I’m sweating a match. This time a very dear, close friend of mine is in a heated match towards the ﬁnals of the event. They are on the table directly in front of the directors. A drunken Joe saunters into the venue. Oh no.
Decked in fur with a cue case the size of a whale, cues sticking out—he looks like an ad for “Bigfoot Mates a Porcupine.” He starts yelling to the directors as he struts towards their table. Players and sweaters alike are rolling their eyes. He’s sharking all the tables in view and he won’t stop.
The directors are trying to calm him down (fruitless!) but they do nothing to remove him. Here we go again!
Someone needs to do something. Why I have to intervene is beyond me. Standing up, I approach the bigfoot/porcupine and with a lot of intention, and get in his face. “Joe, hey, take it outside, please. There’s a tournament going on and you are bothering the players!”
He looks at me, incredulous. “You are telling me what to do? Who are you? Some woman telling me?”
Yada, yada. I persist.
Again, calmly but with authority, I tell him to take it outside. He starts muttering, but he is walking towards the exit and out he goes.
Triumph! End of Round #2.
I sit back down and enjoy the rest of the matches in peace. In a few, one of the directors comes up to me on the sidelines. “Hey, thanks a lot for helping to ‘handle’ Joe.”
“My pleasure,” I reply, while I’m trying to ﬁgure out why they couldn’t handle him.
Fast-forward a number of years. The US PPA, the “Tony’s” and all are kaput. We sure miss the annual events and are eager to attend anything that is being put on.
Finally! It’s Northern Cal, the famous Great Hard Times Billiards in Sacramento and it’s a big tournament—woot, woot! I’m waiting for the matches to be called. I see Joe out in the smoking area. Oi. I hear the loud speaker announce “Barbara Lee and Joe—table 22.”
I make my way over, all the while trying to decide how I’m going to respond if he brings up all my interference with him. I set my mind as to how to play him, what to do if he starts sharking, etc. I’m ready. He lumbers over to the table, approaches me (sober, thankfully), extends his hand and says “Hello, I’m Joe. Nice to meet you!”
What? End of Round #3.
Moral? This stuff just ain’t gonna happen on my watch.
Photo: Jesse Pool/Flickr Editor: Marcee Murray King