Archive for April, 2023

Pool Hall – Central Billiards, Nakano City (Tokyo), Japan

April 23, 2023

Located over a 7-11 and reached by a small, unmarked stairwell, this is an old, small (4 tables) pool room. No food or drink but the manager will bring you a cup of hot tea as a courtesy while you play. Tables are well-kept and the felt is fast. Hard to imagine this being a very crowded place. Probably the kind of neighborhood shop only a few people know about. Nothing flashy, no blaring music. Just the click of ball against ball and the familiar thud of balls dropping into pockets before rolling down to the end of the table return.

It’s cluttered and worn. One commenter indicated there might be renovations in the near future but they don’t appear to have started yet. It reminds me of the old Rack & Cue in Mesa, AZ decades ago when I’d wander in there on a weekday morning to practice instead of going to classes, the old men looking up from their dominos only briefly. I’m sure that on a cold Tokyo day, this is a cozy little place to run drills.

Lost Places

April 15, 2023

In addition to the places I don’t mention intentionally in regards to pool shooting, because I wouldn’t want myself or another shooter misdirected to a place not likely to provide an enjoyable experience other than accidentally, there are also places I *would* recommend but because I get distracted, may get forgotten until I’m not sure where they were. Just like I’m trying to learn to take more photos, I need to learn to mark locations immediately rather than after the fact. Especially in a place like Hanoi where the streets wander in myriad directions.

But it was wandering home one night that I discovered another great little spot to shoot pool. Again, nothing on Google to indicate a pool hall but there was a sign outside on the street and the elevator took me to the third (or was it the fifth?) floor and when I exited, voila. Four tables without a sole in the place other than the staff.

As is often the case, it didn’t take long for the staff to want to challenge me. At least one of them. A nice, young guy with a decent stroke and eye. Not terribly consistent though, and less able than I to situate the cue ball where he wanted it after making his shot. So I beat him. As I sweated in the non air conditioned room at 10pm. The bartender wasn’t coming in on a weeknight, but I was able to convince this guy to let me show him how to make a rum and Coke. He took it very seriously and was quite happy with himself upon completion, and I was quite happy as well because although I offered it to him, he made it clear he couldn’t drink on the job. I was happy to make sure his first creation didn’t go to waste.

I shot for a couple of hours here. Tables were in good condition and the house cues were in good shape. I’d definitely return if only I knew where it was. Somewhere north of P. Quan Thanh street on the southeastern side of Ho Tay (lake).

Holes in the Walls

April 14, 2023

I play pool in a lot of different places. Not all of them merit being mentioned here for posterity because they aren’t good enough. I mean, I don’t mind talking about a place that was a real dump. It happens. It’s worth remembering if only for comparison. But a lot of other places really have nothing to do with pool other than having a table. I may play on it but here I really wanna focus on the places that appear to legitimately be striving, at one level or another, to be known as a place to shoot pool.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t fun times had at some of the unmentionable locales.

For instance I’m in Hanoi in the Quang An area after dinner. I’m walking down a dirt road and I see a place advertising whiskey. That’s worth a peek inside as my usual haunts don’t have much in the whiskey respect. But then I come around a corner and see they also have a pool table!

This place doesn’t show up on Google maps and even if it did based on my criteria above it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But I had a great time shooting here for several hours with a group of guys. We couldn’t understand each other but we knew how to play pool and were willing to forego the niceties of conversation in order to do so. It wouldn’t be worth going back to this place. The bathroom alone is one of the strongest memories of the evening and not in a good way. Which is saying a lot because I’ve seen some pretty atrocious latrines in a lifetime of shooting pool.

Still, I appreciated the opportunity to spend time not alone, shooting pool, having a drink, and remembering that even when the table isn’t great and the cues aren’t straight I still enjoy a game of pool a lot. So just because I don’t mention a place doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to have a good time there. I just wouldn’t recommend a shooter go looking for it solely on the basis of the quality of the pool table and experience.

Pool Hall – Fantasy Billiards Club, Hanoi, Vietnam

April 13, 2023

This one didn’t show up either on Google but is located in the Old Quarter off P. Nha Chung street near the southwestern end of Hoan Kien lake. About a dozen 8′ tables in very good condition. House cues were straight but in desperate need of new tips. Mostly a place for amateurs as I didn’t see anyone who appeared to be a serious shooter. Mix of locals as well as foreigners. Another nice place to meet with friends but probably not the best place to find action if you’re looking for it.

Pool Hall – Newworld Billiard, Hanoi, Vietnam

April 12, 2023

Google Maps is a huge help in finding places to shoot pool around the world. However it’s not perfect. If nobody reports a place or registers it, Google can’t tell me about it. Sometimes I find things just by walking around. Newworld Billiard is one example. I was actually looking for a different pool hall but it was closed and this happened to be across from it on Pham Dinh Ho street. Serendipitous!

When I stopped in on a Sunday afternoon this place was hopping. Located on the second floor it has good signage to guide you there. Close to a dozen 8-foot tables in good condition and clean felt. Not sure if they serve food and drink but it’s a good enough place that doesn’t matter. Aircon works remarkably good but it can still get warm with a full house. Definitely would recommend this as a great option for gathering with friends. Didn’t see a lot of serious shooters there but I think there was one table towards the front with a group that seemed more focused than the average novice.