CLEVELAND, OH – This “business closing” pandemic bullshit Governor Richard Michael Dewine created when he and his quack health director, Dr. Amy Stearns-Acton, lied about the number of CoVid 19 infected Ohioans screwed up my pool game, but not by much.
Thirteen Ohioans were infected on March 12, 2020. Not the 117,000 they’d “estimated.” Where I’d played at least three times a week, way down from five days a week, I stopped playing for most of 2020 after he and Ohio’s mayors and councils decided they had the authority to tell Americans who weren’t infected to “stay at home.”
Now I’m playing at least two days a week and my “eye” is improving. Instead of running 15 balls or the entire rack I’m running about 12 before I miss during practice. Yes. That’s me at Long Green’s in the “feature” image.
When I played straight pool my best game saw me running three racks until I missed on my 48th shot in the fourth rack. I ran 47 balls on four consecutive breaks. For perspective the late Willie Mosconi set the world straight pool record by running 526 balls before he missed during an exhibition. That’s 37 and one half racks over four and half hours without missing a single shot. After 65 years Mosconi’s record held until John Schmidt in 2019 ran 626 balls.
American Negro player Cicero Murphy was inducted into the Billiard Congress Hall of Fame for being “the Jackie Robinson” of pool when he broke the color barrier during Segregation. If you weren’t ready to start a game 200 balls behind then you didn’t play Cicero. He could consistently run 200 balls on his opponents. The first player to reach 150 balls in a straight pool championship wins.
The pool game requires you to play a better player to improve your game. So during Segregation Caucasian players realized when they saw Murphy’s skill that they were missing opportunities to improve their own games by not playing him and other American Negro players. When Murphy was not allowed to play at Manhattan’s Commodore Hotel in 1964 for the Billiard Room Propriety Association of America tournament, Caucasian players picketed his exclusion. They wanted the competition.
Straight pool is also called 14-1 Continuous Rotation because you run 14 balls and then leave one ball for your “break” shot. The goal is to place the “break ball” at an angle where you leave yourself an opportunity to crack open the rack after making your break shot. It is the game of real champions.
I was usually good for two racks before missing and leaving my opponent with either no or a tough shot with a “safe” play. There’s a psychological advantage to starting 28 balls ahead of your opponent and keeping or expanding the distance between your scores throughout the game.
Former Cleveland Mayor the late Carl Burton Stokes took my Straight pool game for granted when we played at Sharkey’s to 75 points. After running two racks on him and leaving him safe, he couldn’t catch me before I scored my 75th point. He won the second game and we ended with a draw when he left. Attorney and former Shaker Heights Municipal Court Judge Virgil Brown, Jr. has a nice game and so does author and realtor Everett Pruitt.
Today’s “champs” play 9-Ball or 10-Ball which are games I can but don’t play. They’re “made for television game” because audiences producers who had no love for the game didn’t think audiences would watch a 45 minute to hour-long game.
The player shoots balls 1 through 9 to win. If the 9 ball is positioned near a pocket where the player can hit their object ball first during a combination shot to make the 9 ball they win. From my perspective it’s a game that requires the least skills to win.
Eight Ball is another made for television tournament game for its quickness. I play it because it’s the game everybody knows with variations on the rules. Shooters who haven’t read the rules make up their own.
My father taught me the techniques of the game at 14 and I improved between Eddie’s Billiards at E. 125th and Superior and Shaw Lanes during the late 60’s and early 70’s while attending Shaw High School. It’s now Green’s Barbershop.
When I enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1972, and pool was free at base recreation centers, I could get all the practice I wanted. For my three months of technical school training at Shephard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas I could get 8 hours of practice on weekends.
When I returned from Thailand in 1975 I was assigned to Brooks Air Force Base where during a series of tournaments I won the “Base Champ” title. After I’d fulfilled my contract with the federal government and returned to Cleveland the players who’d beat me before couldn’t. Depending upon where and who I play I generally hold my own. In the bars I’ve played in I’ve beaten the best players … easily.
Pool is a sport and of the sports I’ve played from baseball, basketball to track I love it the best. The game is based on your skill level and your age doesn’t matter. Just your sight, aim, technique and the ability not to miss.
As I’ve played throughout Northeast Ohio and other parts of the country when I’ve traveled, I’ve found that players among the Millenials and Generation X’ers who claim to be good aren’t. Most of those I’ve encountered had pool tables in their homes and no pool hall experience; so the only people they played were relatives and friends.
If no one among their pool “shooting” contacts had pool hall experience or private lessons from an experienced player they didn’t learn the game’s basics. They hold cues like “babies.” Their body posture is off. They don’t know anything about using cue English, how much or if it’s even needed to make a shot. Watch the video of then President Barack Obama playing Governor John Hickenloop. He could use some lessons.
They know nothing about “shape” which means leaving the cue positioned for the next shot. They don’t even know game rules or the types of games to be played other than 8-Ball; and they don’t know the rules of the one game most know how to play.
Pool is a gentleman’s sport played in silence. When it’s not their time to shoot younger players don’t know the etiquette of the game requires them to sit down or move away from the table so as not to distract the player who their missing gave a turn. Players who’ve lost their turn to shoot don’t hover over the table or the shooter’s pocket.
They also miss “learning” the shots specialized by skilled players when they play among their family and friends at home. Cleveland player Rufus Brady practiced until he perfected a bank shot where he called “5 rails in the side pocket” on either side of the table. I used to practice “4 rails in the corner” bank shots.
At Eddie’s I learned how to cut a ball positioned in the midde of the “rail” to either corner pocket using extreme left or right English. I didn’t believe the shot could be made when Eddie taught it to me.
Over the last few decades I’ve watched the number of places to play the sport dwindle. As a Cleveland East sider the number of places to play pool from the 1960’s through the 1980’s were numerous. I started off at Grant’s on E. 105th Street and Scatter’s.
When my parents moved our family to East Cleveland my late cousin Darnell Ivory and I played at Eddie’s Billiards and Shaw Lanes. I also played at the Hippodrome, Severance, Paul Wells‘ place on Carnegie and Sharkey’s. But over the years as the owners of pool halls died so did their businesses. Franchise pool halls like Jillian’s didn’t last.
Today there are not even a handful of pool halls left in Cuyahoga County let alone Cleveland. They’re even disappearing in many of the bars. A search for place to play the game on the Billiard Congress’ website produced one result for a placed called “Miss Cue” on Reynolds Road in Toledo.
I play now between Long Green’s Billiards in Cleveland, Wickliffe Lanes in, of course, Wickliffe; and Continuous Play Billiards in Parma.
Green’s is closer to home and the atmosphere for me is familiar. It’s where I can hear the Soul music of my youth from my favorite Rhythm & Blues artists while I’m playing. I’m a singer and a trumpet player since the age of 9. I like the fact Carl’s got a picture of Dizzy Gillespie on his wall. Dizzy and I once shared a couple of drinks and conversation when he performed at Jim Swingo’s in the Statler Hotel sometime between 1990 and 1992.
I joke with Long Green’s owner Carl Green that he’s running “a senior day camp” because 80 percent of the players are around my age or older. I’m 67. It’s in some way like a daily reunion of people who played at all the East side and downtown pool halls from the 1960’s and 70’s when we were in our teens and early 20’s. Ain’t nobody hustling anymore because most of the players have either jobs or pensions and drive luxury cars. LOL.
I also enjoy playing at Long Green’s for the 9 foot tables that are 5 feet across. Your game and aim has to be more precise. Prices are $5 per player per hour. Senior citizens 65 and over pay $4 an hour per player. Long Green’s is located at 7420 Carnegie. It opens daily at 3 p.m. and closes at 1 a.m. On Saturdays Carl opens at 12 p.m. He’s closed on Sunday’s. 216-361-9955 is the phone number.
Carl appears to own the “only” billiard hall on the East side of the “city” of Cleveland. The municipal corporation’s anti-small business political officials have targeted too many places they have no knowledge of for closings. I don’t know of anyone in Cleveland politics today who plays the game. Cleveland should welcome as many billiard halls as entreprenuers are willing to open.
Wickliffe Lanes opens at 9 a.m. and closes at midnight. They open at noon on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sunday’s and Monday’s. Prices for the table are $5 an hour until 5 p.m. Afterwards prices increase to $10 an hour for the table. It’s also a place where I’ve run into some of the same “older” players I’ve seen at Green’s. The tables there are 4.5 x 9 feet in dimensions. Wickliffe Lanes is located at 30315 Euclid Ave. The phone number is 440-585-3505.
Continuous Play Billiards is a private, membership only club that’s open from 5 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. $5 to join. From my East side residence it’s closer than Wickliffe Lanes via Interstate 480. As a private club they have other “features” I like. The tables at Continuous Play Billiards are 4.5 feet by 9 feet. I’ve played there twice but each time I’ve felt welcomed as I got in a couple hours of practice.
I’ve shared an instructional video above from Tor Lowry that very competently and thoroughly explains the techniques of playing. He teaches beginners how to run tables like a pro and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn or improve their game.
Playing pool on a video game is not playing. Joysticks operate differently than pool cues. Novices call them “pool sticks.” It’s another nuance of the game that tells a skilled player whether their opponent is a player or a shooter.
Entreprenuers should consider opening more pool and billiard halls in their communities with all the empty storefront space in towns throughout Cuyahoga County and Ohio. It’s a great game and a spot with 10 busy tables can generate earnings of $100 an hour at $10 an hour.
A 10-hour day puts $1000 in the owner’s pockets and the only cost of ownership after the tables are purchased and the furniture is installed is for rent and utilities. $1000 a day for a 6 day work week is $6000 or $312,000 a year.
It takes about 10 years to wear out a slate pool table before the slate and cloth need to be replaced. By then an enduring owner’s made over $3 million off their 10 tables. If they add food or a liquor license, and book the place for parties and fundraisers, the money is even better. Elected officials should see the business as providing usable tax dollars for cities, counties and the state.
If you’re looking for a year-round sport to play try pool. If you’ve only been playing at home with family and friends, and want to improve your game, try a neighborhood pool or billiard hall. You won’t learn much about the game in bars playing on dollar a game tables.