June 01, 2006

Late Night at McCoy’s (and Nothing to Show)

Angle Shooter n.: A player attempting to win extra money with tactics of dubious legitimacy. (Defined in glossary of Positively Fifth Street by Jim McManus).

I drove up to Pennsylvania last night to play in free pool tournament ($50 gift-card for winner) at what turned out to be a real seedy bar called McCoy’s. The three pool tables were located in the basement, which, as the night wore on, became more and more populated with persons of unsavory character. Myself included? Not this time. It kind of reminded me of the scene described in the Little Feat song "Spanish Moon" about a dive establishment.

Ever hear the phrase "flat beer out of rusty pipes"? I don’t know if the pipes were actually rusty, but the Coors Light on tap was so flat that I actually started buying bottles by the end of the night. This was especially tough b/c it was $1 drafts – but I figure even $1 for beer you can’t drink is still a bad deal. I signed up for the pool tourney at around 10:15 (it was supposed to have already started). I shot a few warm-up games and was feeling pretty good about my 8-Ball skills for the evening.

Finally, at after 11:30, the tourney got underway. I had to wait for my first round match (best of three games) because there weren’t enough tables to simultaneously accommodate the 15 or so people who signed up. When I eventually got to play it was against a younger guy named Brandon. I’m going to extricate any racial identifying for this post, but I will say this – I played people of varying skin tones, and by the end of the night an overall sense of misanthropy was reinforced in lieu of any racial stereotype reification. I tried to start the game off friendly and classy by ceding the first break. We then (in typical disjointed poolroom conversation) tried to work out the basic ground rules (call your shots, open table after break, etc.). The first time that Brandon slopped in an unintentional shot and continued shooting I said, "Ok, well, next time call that if that’s how you want it to go in." It happened at least two more times, I never protested much more than a slightly sarcastic, "Yeah, yeah, whatever" kind of thing. He was also doing stuff like palming the ball that the cue was near so he wouldn’t move it, standing near the rail in my line of sight for every shot I took, and giving me the, "You sure that’s where you want it?" kind of crap on eight-ball shots. I beat him soundly two games straight. Next!

Side Note: It seems to me that people who invest so much attention on finding little b.s. ways to get an "edge" often lack the requisite fundamental skills in the game they are playing. This has historically been true for card cheats – why should pool be any different? South-side-shark angle shooting is lowbrow, classless, and pretty laughable. Get some game and play straight-up like a man (not a macho thing, I suppose it could be "like a decent person," but that kind of breaks the flow).

My next game was with a 26 year-old named Alex. I had watched him play his first match an heard him talking a pretty good game, so I anticipated a challenge. He won the lag for the first break, but I took control of the table right away, pocketing a bunch of "trouble" balls and leaving myself a good looking situation. Sure enough, I was able to bank the 8 into the corner pocket on my third turn at the table. About halfway through our secondd game we both agreed that the 8 had to be banked in (by handshake, he was big on the handshake – I probably shook the guys hand 20 times last night). It actually saved me, he was the first to it and made a mistake by accidentally putting it straight into a pocket. "Cool," I thought to myself, I just won my second match. Not exactly. Alex starts in about, "I saved you on that game," honor-this, blibbety-bloobety that. Ok, buddy, get more quarters from the guy running the show and I’ll play you again. At this point the people who I knew there had all left, and I was in no mood to get my ass beaten over a free-roll pool tourney. The last game was close, and it was looking grim when he pocketed his second-to-last ball leaving only the seven-ball hanging near on the edge of a pocket (no bank-the-8 rule this time). But wait, the cue trickled behind one of my stripes and it looked like I would get a chance to finish the game myself. Strangely, lining up what I thought was a bank-shot attempt, he pocketed the 8-ball in the side pocket! No question mark on that game, I had now beaten him three games in a row.

The only problem is that when reported the win to the tournament "director" a little while later he told me that Alex said he had won. In the meantime he had been buying me beers and treated to a side-game of nine ball while I (I guess he thought he) was waiting. I won that game, too, by the way. I explained what had happened, and I got to play again, this time against a girl named Squeak. I botched the first game after running a bunch of balls and scratching on the 8-ball (my favorite way to win and least favorite way to lose). I actually wasn’t worried, she didn’t seem to be very good at all. I racked up the second game while wondering how she won two previous matches. I was shooting real well still and worked my way to a pretty easy shot on the 8-ball with maybe 5 of her solids still on the table. The catch: on my previous shot I pocketed my called shot, while knocking in a solid after the cue ball had struck my ball. This is not unusual, and had actually happened at least once already in the previous game. Now she indicates that she thinks it’s her shot because I hit one of her balls in. Here we go again. This time I didn’t hesitate to object, and decided that the best thing to do was just say, "I don’t think so" and hit the 8. I had no problem winning the next game and was now in the finals – sweeet.

Alex was still around and still bitching about how he beat me and I was lying (uh-oh, once the "liar" talk comes out it’s time to think about rolling). It didn’t matter much anyway, because at this point it was after 2:00am, and I was told that "no one won." I was pretty mad (it seemed like everyone there was trying their hardest to screw me over) but I reminded myself yet again that there was very little at stake and decided to walk.

Cest la Vie. Live and learn.