The Lag # 6 ~ Kelvin Greenleaf

February 8, 2018

Are you handicapped?

What a touchy subject this can be! Handicapping in leagues and tournaments, whether from a formulated system or simply as assigned by someone who claims to know, always seems to stir up a storm among players, league operators and tournament directors. But what is the purpose of handicapping and what is its place in pool? There are some who believe leagues and the handicaps that come along with them have been what have “saved” pool. Then, there are those who believe just the opposite, that the leagues and their handicap systems have ruined pool.

If we go back to early in the 19th century, we can find out how the game of billiards came to be called “pool.” One definition of the word “pool” is: a collective bet, or ante. A “pool room” was a betting parlor for horse racing. Billiard tables were placed in these pool rooms so the bettors could have something to do in between races. It stands to reason that the bettors soon began betting on more than just the ponies! And the tables? Soon they were known as “pool tables!”

From its history, the game of pool has come from a dark, seedy, smoky, and somewhat degenerate background. The game of kings? Hardly, not in this country! If you were a person who frequented those early pool rooms chances are you were not soft. Chances are, you were a hustler of sorts. You might have had a job, but you made (and lost) your money in the pool room! It was not a place for women or children and many a man was toughened by the pool room.

As time went on, the game became more public with pool tables being in bars, restaurants, and even game rooms. More and more people started to play. Much like poker, the game itself is innocent and can be played without wagers, but it is not the same! The betting, the wagering, the gambling, is as much a part of it as the balls themselves! A new breed of hustler was born. This, is where the evolution stopped until someone decided to try and tame the game.

Hustlers of yesteryear were a rare breed. The folks who hung around the pool rooms (which were called pool rooms because they had pool tables) were not g