Archive for the ‘Pool Hall’ Category

Pool Hall – Shoot.Resto.Bar.Club

August 17, 2022

I suspected this wasn’t really a good place to shoot pool but I like to be thorough. Sometimes. So I headed out to check it out. It’s close to my house which is a bonus.

As with many things in Medan this is a separate building tucked behind several other buildings and not visible from the street. Arriving after dark I was nervous at first but the large parking lot didn’t have any sort of sketchy feel. The thumping of music could be heard as I went up a few steps and entered the place.

This is first and foremost a club and bar. You enter into a large main area fronted by a bar. My growing language skills are still more than inadequate at times, especially when I can barely hear the other people for the music. Beyond the bar are lots of bar tables and seating leading up to a stage sitting under an elevated area where a perky DJ was pumping out a mostly American dance hits mix. Though it was sparse when I first arrived just after 8pm, people were coming in and it looked like a band was setting up on stage. Lighting was typical club – dark with lots of flashy bits coming from the huge LCD screen over the DJ stand. I thought at first you had to buy bottles of liquor (like a bottle of whiskey) as opposed to having individual drinks, but this turned out to be a misunderstanding on my part.

Sort of like the misunderstanding that this is a place to shoot pool. Google has pictures posted of this place showing two nice tables. However I was shown to an upper alcove with a single table in an un-airconditioned area of the club. I decided I wasn’t going to stay. But I clarified first that you can order individual cocktails, though they seemed to be out of a lot of things as I perused their menu. Probably quite a popular spot with the younger folks, but not a place to shoot pool.

Pool Hall – PT’s Pub – Las Vegas, NV

July 9, 2022

I’m a traditionalist, so pool tables should have green felt. Blue if absolutely necessary and it’s indicative of good quality Simonis felt. But not red or pink or brown or any of the other awful colors you occasionally encounter. First of all it’s ugly. Secondly you have the problem of chalk. If the place expects real pool players to visit, they’re going to come with their own cues and their own chalk, and the chalk won’t be the color of the table. Some places compensate for this by requiring you to use the chalk they provide which matches the color of the table. But this discolors the tip of your cue and could also discolor your shaft. It’s a no-win situation.

PT’s has four red tables. They’re nice looking bar boxes, except they have red felt. Oh, and the rails are a bit soft and the felt is thick and slow. Other than that, they’re just fine. They feel like more of an afterthought tacked on to the large, open dining area and bar area where all the TVs are located but that’s OK. The tables were pretty busy when we stopped by. All well and good.

Until you order a drink.

If you want to sample a liquor like tequila, expect your shot to be more like a half shot and served in a small clear plastic cup. Tacky is a nice adjective. Rip-off feels more accurate. Maybe this is a good place to watch a game on TV and I can’t vouch for the food quality. Waitresses were not terribly friendly, didn’t smile much, and were not in the mood to listen to complaints about the quality or presentation of the drinks they were serving. We were instructed brusquely to take it up with management.

I’m not going to bother. There are more than a dozen PT’s around Henderson and Vegas, but after visiting one I have no need or desire to see any of the others. There are much better places to shoot pool in town – go find one of those.

Pool Hall – Kingdom Pool & Bar – Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia

March 15, 2022

This was the first pool hall I checked out in Medan. It’s by no means the best, but it still holds an appeal for me I can’t really explain. There are six tables in a small room. As typical with Southeast Asia establishments, the AC units are never fully adequate to the task of keeping the room truly cool, and so unless you’ve acclimated to the climate you’re going to likely be sweaty and uncomfortable. Just an FYI. If you happen to be in this part of the world you aren’t going to be surprised by this!

The tables are 8′ and in reasonable condition given the heavy play they receive, by and large from teens and young folks. There’s a large area with tables and seating and a bar, and at night the place feels somewhat like a club, albeit a not very popular one. The music is loud but I’ve not seen the place really grooving. As with most bars in Medan you can get food (I haven’t tried it but it’s typical Indonesian fare like nasi goreng, etc.), a variety of non-alcoholic drinks, sodas, iced teas, and the ubiquitous local beer, Bintang, along with Heineken and a few others.

Cues are not in the best of shape and there are specific break cues you’re supposed to use for breaking. These are poorly marked but the table girls will likely point them out to you.

As typical in other places in Southeast Asia I’ve played, there are table girls (and to a far lesser extent, guys) who are there to rack the balls for your game. You can tell them eight- or nine-ball. Quality of racking skills varies widely so if it’s important to you pay attention. Particularly the girls here are not necessarily skilled or even very interested in what they’re doing so pay attention and correct as necessary. It’s customary to tip them when you’ve concluded your time.

This place runs specials during the week and some of these specials limit your playing time to an hour but at a discounted price on the table time or the drinks. Be forewarned if you aren’t adept at the language this might be confusing when they ask you to leave just when you’re getting warmed up!

Pool Hall – The Jointed Cue ~ Sacramento, CA

December 9, 2021

I happened to find myself near Sacramento for the second time in less than six months, definitely a record in terms of visit frequencies. This time just stopping overnight south of Sacramento in Elk Horn, home, I discovered, to The Jointed Cue which claims to be the oldest pool room in northern California. It’s good it has this claim to fame, as I confer another less pleasant one on it – the ugliest pool shirt I’ve run across in all my years of travel and this most recent couple of years of collecting.

Located on the northwest corner of Fruitridge and 24th Street, I discovered the place had only re-opened just a few weeks earlier on November 2 after nearly three years of being shuttered due to a lawsuit against the previous owners, perhaps related to an ADA issue. I was there on a Monday night and the place was packed with a beginner tournament. It’s not a small place – I counted 11 nine-foot Brunswick tables as well as two three-cushion tables. There’s a bar that served food and soft drinks when I was there, but hoped their beer and wine liquor license would be finalized just a few days after I left. I hope that came through for them!

It’s under new ownership, allegedly a coalition of long-time afficianados of the place who came together to get the financing to reopen it. With tournaments running throughout the week it looks like they stand a good chance of making it an ongoing prospect and continuing a tradition dating back to 1968.

While the play was pretty basic when I was there due to it being a tournament for beginners, it’s clearly a place where all levels of players hang out. I saw some very impressive three-cushion play and I look forward to learning more about that game in the coming months. While the area is a little rough and parking is inadequate, I’d strongly recommend this spot to anyone in the area or passing through. It’s worth the stop!

Pool Hall – Legends Billiards ~ Beaverton, OR

October 24, 2021

Located on the south side of SW Allen Boulevard just west of the 210 is Legends Billiard Room. It’s an amazing place with a split personality. On one side is a family-friendly, all-ages pool hall with 25 Diamond billiard tables (both 7′ and 9′). On the other side, and accessible by a hallway, is a 21-and-over pool bar with four more 7′ Diamond tables. Tournaments are scheduled nearly every weekend and there is tournament play during the week.

The tables and felt are in good condition. Cues are good but good chalk (not ground down to near-uselessness) was in shorter supply. The bar side was a step up over many pool bars, offering daily cocktail specials that showcased more than the typical whiskey & coke options and beer that dominate most pool bars. There’s also a pro-shop on site that sells a variety of professional merchandise and pool gear.

If you’re in the Portland area this is definitely a place you need to stop if you’re serious about your pool!

***** Backstory *****

Pool – like any sport or discipline – thrives on routine and predictability. Sudden change-ups in what you do and how you do it can influence your game dramatically, and rarely for the better. Most pool players have any number of rituals when they play, from how often they chalk their cue to how often they circle the table before taking their shot or how many strokes they make with the cue before connecting to the cue ball and making their shot.

Since pool is often shot in bars, drinks can become part of the habits and rituals of a player. If you normally have a beer when shooting, you want to do that regularly. If you don’t, it affects your mental game which affects your play. It isn’t that you need the drink because of the alcohol, you’re just used to having it and when it’s absent you notice it subconsciously (and/or consciously) and it can throw you off.

So it was I was standing in line to buy a drink for my buddy at 9:00 am in the morning. We were in Las Vegas for the world pool tournament which, contrary to all human decency, started matches at 9:00 am. Most pool players are night owls and used to shooting after work. To shoot in the morning is a huge change. And for most people shooting without having your favorite drink in hand is equally shocking. So as he was preparing to start his first match of the day I volunteered to go get him a whiskey & Coke (Pepsi, tragically, for this event).

I started making conversation with the guy in front of me. I found out he helps run a pool hall in Portland and also is launching a new line of pool-related professional gear. Knowing we’d be up in the Northwest before too long I got the name of the place and told him I stopped by.

So I did. I expected to find a high-level pool hall, which I did, eventually.

My wife and I showed up, but the place looked nothing like the images from online. Far smaller – just a handful of tables. I tried to verify the address and the name of the place several times on my phone and everything seemed right – it was just too small. Finally I asked the bartender, who clarified there were two sides to the place. We were in the bar side, and the all-ages, 25-table pool hall was on the other side.

When I inquired about getting a t-shirt for the place from the pro-shop he directed me to a guy at the end of the bar. Sure enough, it was Mark, the guy I talked with in Vegas. He claimed to remember me, though given time and masks and liquor that seems highly unlikely! But he was congenial and lined me up with a shirt which made me very happy.

Definitely check out Legends Billiards. I wasn’t able to stop and see any other pool halls in the Portland area this time, but it’s hard to imagine a better venue than this one!

Pool Hall ~ Six Billiards ~ Lakewood, WA

October 22, 2021

The area between Tacoma and Olympia, WA boasts only one actual pool hall, Six Billiards in Lakewood. Located in a strip mall filled with ethnic businesses, Six Billiards is small but boasts an impressive collection of three-cushion and pocket billiard tables. Located not far to the west of I-5 near the intersection of 88th Street and South Tacoma Way, it’s a clean and neat no-nonsense Asian-style billiards hall.

At least half if not more of the 15 or so tables are three-cushion tables. In the United States the most popular game is known as pool or alternately pocket billiards. This is what you’ll find in nearly every pool hall or pool bar you walk into – a table with six pockets. Americans typically play either 8-ball or 9-ball, although there are other games for pocket billiards tables such as one pocket, straight pool and 10-ball.

But elsewhere in the world three-cushion remains very popular. A three-cushion table has no pockets at all. It’s played with only three balls (as opposed to 8, 9, 10 or `15) and the size of the table can vary just as it does in pocket billiards. It’s a form of carom pool, which means the object is to drive a cue ball off of one ball and into the second one. Points are scored only when the shooter successfully causes their cue ball to hit a first object ball and then a second object ball, with the cue ball also making contact with two or more rails at least three times, usually in between contact with the first and second object balls. It’s an extremely challenging game more popular in the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I’ve played it only a few times, but knowing how popular it is in Asia I look forward to playing more of it in the future!

The pocket billiards tables at Six Billiards were all Kangaroo brand, one I’m not familiar with. However the tables were some of the fastest I’ve ever played on. The lightest touch could send a ball the length of the table with ease. I had to severely adjust my typical playing style to compensate. That was amusing to a certain extent.

This is not a bar – no alcohol was for sale and perhaps not even a vending machine for sodas. Cues were of a variety of styles and conditions. Table time ran $15/hour per table, with a timer at each table to keep track of your time. Any amount of time over an hour would incur additional charges, though it wasn’t clear if that would be another whole hour or calculated on a fractional basis. There were four or five other folks in the place at about 3pm, most gathered around to watch or play on one table. The radio station was playing a selection of classic rock and roll. As with most places these days it seems, it was a non-smoking facility and with the current Covid situation, masks were required at all times while inside.

I’d love to go back in the evening to see how busy this place is and try to strike up a game with someone. If you’re a pocket billiards player be prepared to reduce the power in your shots dramatically. But I’d encourage you to give three-cushion a try. It’s a fantastic game for improving your skill in controlling the cue ball instead of focusing simply on putting balls in pockets.

Pool Hall – Hard Times ~ Sacramento, CA

September 16, 2021

There used to be another Hard Times located in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, they went out of business a few years ago. I thought there used to be one in San Francisco as well, but I might be mistaken about that. Which leaves Sacramento as the last surviving Hard Times. I show up here after a singularly disappointing experience at another pool hall in town a few minutes earlier. Certainly this has to be better, right?

You bet it does – and is!

It’s located on the northeast side of town at the intersection of Auburn Avenue and Garfield. In a strip mall that has seen better days. But I’m not here for exterior aesthetics. What matters with pool halls – as with many things in life – is what’s on the inside.

This is a true pool hall. Thirty-one high quality tables maintained in fantastic condition. Even though it was early afternoon there were at least six tables in use. Rates are good. They keep their house keys behind the counter and determine which one might work for you based on whether you prefer a light or heavy cue. The tips all appear to be in great condition. Balls are clean. Staff is courteous and professional. In addition to the general play area there’s a separate tournament room where several other people were playing.

This place is serious. Serious about pool, to be sure, but also serious about staying in business. Signs clearly indicate masks have to be worn anytime you leave the area immediately around your table. While I was there a woman was going around disinfecting and cleaning all the tables not in use. This means not just wiping down the hard surface but the cloth itself. All the employees were masked. They were also prompt and friendly. Not over-the-top, but respectful and quick about their business. They want you playing pool and they know you are there to shoot pool.

This place is owned by professional pool player Oscar Dominguez and that professionalism carries over into the entire place and atmosphere. Although there are dartboards and food available, pool is clearly the focus. No music stages (and unfortunately no full bar – just beer and wine). But it’s clear they aim to run a safe, friendly place for people of all skill levels who enjoy playing pool. This would definitely be my preferred place to shoot if I lived in the area though there are several other options I hope to briefly check out on my way back out of town on Monday.

Pool Hall – Corner Pocket Sports Bar ~ Sacramento, CA

September 16, 2021

I’m on a business trip to central north-central California. Marrying former parishioners. Visiting a congregation in Sonora. I’m grateful for the inexpensiveness of the flight from Phoenix to Sacramento (about $100 round trip!), but the timing of the rehearsal and wedding as well as the Sunday morning church visit mean that I have a fair amount of spare time. Flying in Thursday and back home Monday. Which means, of course, there’s time to hunt for pool halls.

I don’t like to write poor reviews of places. Being critical is easy (at least for me. Hmmm.). I’d much prefer to encourage and support small businesses who no doubt are struggling to survive than criticize a place for not being what I hoped it would be.

Case in point, Corner Pocket Sports Bar in northeast Sacramento near the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Antelope Road with an outside marquee encouraging people to support their local bar. Hear, hear! So even though it’s early (just after 11am) and they’ve only just opened, it works into my schedule to stop here on my way out of town towards more isolated (and beautiful!) environs.

It’s a big place. Taking up a somewhat wide ‘L’ shape at the end of a strip mall. As you enter the bar is on the right and an area with tables and a stage for musicians is on the left. Follow the bar around to your right. Go ahead – the bar keeps on going. This leads you to the pool tables. Quite a few of them as well. This is definitely intended to be a place to shoot pool, as opposed to a bar with just a single table idling away in a corner. Promising!

I go to the bar and wait for someone to come and ask me for a drink order or offer me a set of balls. Crickets. They’re laying down the rubber matting inside and around the bar after apparently having it and the floors cleaned the night before. The owner or some other sort of person with an air of authority oversees that personally. There’s a woman at the end of a bar wearing a tee-shirt for the bar – I assume she’s the bartender having a bite to eat before starting her shift in earnest. An older gentleman sits a few barstools away from her with a beer. He walked in just a few minutes before I did.

I wander around. Go back to the bar. Take a picture of the pool tables. Use the restroom. Nobody acknowledges I’m there, let alone asks me what I want. The tables are non-descript and the felt is stained and in pretty poor condition. There doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to play a few games in a place where they can’t be bothered to offer a drink or a set of pool balls or even recognize that I’m there. A few more minutes and I leave.

Support your local small businesses – even the bars. They need your support for sure. But to the folks running those places, it’s really bad business practice to ignore when someone walks into your place. I won’t be back here. Part of that is that I’m just passing through but a greater part of it is I dislike poor service since there’s generally no excuse for it. And considering this isn’t the only pool hall in town, that makes good service even more important!

Pool Hall – Kolby’s Corner Pocket ~ Tempe, AZ

September 15, 2021

I was still in the first half of my educational venture at Arizona State University when Kolby’s opened. Having become addicted to the pool tables in the Memorial Union on campus, I was excited about another option for playing pool, even as my interest in classes continued to wane.

There were other places to shoot pool back then. Rack & Cue was still in operation on Apache near McClintock, Cue & Brew had relocated to the location it still maintains on Southern & Broadway. But Kolby’s was by far the nicest and newest place to shoot. As it should, this lured the best players, and my early impressions of Kolby’s were that I was way out of my league. Rather than be embarrassed by my lower playing level, I just opted to avoid Kolby’s and shoot in less competitive places where people weren’t watching and comparing so much.

That avoidance has lasted the better part of 30 years, and I can count on probably two hands the number of times I’ve returned to shoot there. The location has never changed – a strip mall on the south side of University Drive just east of Dorsey Lane. It’s still one of the nicer places to shoot pool, although (as with us all) it’s showing it’s age. The tables are still good (Diamonds) and the felt is still kept in good shape. It remains a shooter’s pool hall with ongoing tournaments as well as league play. It offers beer and wine as well as a kitchen that can do a bit more than the typical fried bar food.

They have ten nine-foot tournament tables including Diamond and Brunswick brands. They have five seven-foot Diamond bar-box tables, and also one Joy Chinese Eight Ball table. Everything is kept in good condition. Staff is friendly enough and prices are reasonable.

When I stopped in the other evening I played for about an hour. I’ve enjoyed the practice I’ve gotten on nine-foot tables since relocating and joining a league that plays on the tournament-size tables. As such, I played fairly well. I noticed one guy wearing the jersey from the recent World Tournament in Las Vegas, and the play level of the people on the next table was definitely higher than mine. Still, I garnered at least two compliments for high-level bank shots I made in the process of just hitting the balls around.

I don’t feel out of my league here any more, though it still isn’t likely to become my preferred place to play since they only have beer and wine, neither of which I enjoy. It’s nice to know that in the last 30 years or so not only have I been able to further my education, but I’ve become a much better pool player!

Pool Hall – BCA World Pool Tournament ~ Las Vegas, NV

September 8, 2021

Since we’re planning to head overseas in the near future, it may not be possible for me to play in the BCA Pool League World Championships. I’ve been blessed to shoot in this tournament most of the last six years or so. Playing for a local BCA bar pool league qualified me, and I’ve enjoyed shooting both as part of a team as well as individually. Over the years I’ve competed in both 8-ball and 9-ball team events as well as individual 8-ball events. I decided early on that if we weren’t deployed yet, I would attend this event for perhaps the last time.

This year I didn’t have a team to play with. The one I’ve played with for the past decade has largely dissolved. One of the three core members moved to Las Vegas in early 2019. Then I moved this year. Our remaining core teammate has assembled another team to continue playing in the local league but there wasn’t enough interest in coming to Vegas to compete. So the two of us decided to head to Vegas separately and meet up with our buddy there.

All three of us competed in the individual 8-ball event. Dave and I played in the silver division – so named because of the skill level not because of our hair. Our buddy James played in the Bronze division – which he placed third in last year, completing his play just hours before Las Vegas was shut down by Covid.

We met up Friday night to watch a little of the professional player matches. The one we watched featured a young guy who is really an up-and-comer in the competitive pocket billiards world. Chris Robinson came out of Ventura, California, where I had the opportunity to play against him several years ago when he was still a minor and on the cusp of becoming old enough to start competing seriously. We shot at the only pool hall in Ventura – Stixx. At the time a former teammate of ours was giving Chris some tips on shooting. I seem to remember beating Chris, but most likely he wasn’t trying very hard and I got lucky! Now he’s in the spotlight playing with the big names in billiards.

Chris Robinson competing in Las Vegas, NV.

Saturday was a light day of play for me – just a couple of matches through the day. To my surprise, I won both matches, though they were nail-biter, come-from-behind-and-win-by-the-skin-of-my-teeth victories. That kept me in the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament. My buddy Dave was bumped to the loser bracket and was out of the tournament by the end of Saturday. James stayed in the winners’ bracket in his division through Saturday as well, though he had to play several more matches than I did.

The main tournament room at the Rio, Las Vegas. 110 tables plus close to 30 vendors.

Sunday started bright and early. Matches start as early as 9 am, which is really an extremely unpleasant hour for most pool players. I’ve argued for years the matches should start much later – noon at the earliest – and then play into the early morning hours if necessary. That would be a lot more natural and comfortable for the vast majority of the players! However nobody listens and we continue to start early. Of course, the 9am start is really not the beginning. I was up at 6am to get showered and start waking up. Then it was a drive to get a bite to eat and some hot tea on my way to the Rio, the casino just off the strip where the tournament has been held at least as long as I’ve been going. Arrive by 8am, finish breakfast and tea in the car before masking up and heading in to start warming up.

This is a huge event. Thousands of competitors from around the country and North America show up for it every year. The main tournament has 110 bar-sized (7’x3.5′) Diamond tables with Simonis felt. Around the perimeter of this room the vendors set up shop, selling all sorts of billiard related merchandise from cues to apparel and everything in between. Deals are usually good and over the years I’ve picked up a case as well as a variety of tools to keep my cue tips in good condition and shape.

Additionally there is another room for tournament play with another 70 or more tables in it. And another room with about the same number of tables set up for side tournaments. This is one of the big attractions of the event – mini-tournaments. For $10 or $20 or more you can enter a small tournament pretty much from 9am to midnight. You play against 3-4 other people and if you win you win money. Quick and easy and more than a few folks show up just to play in the minis rather than the main event!

I lost this early morning match and was bumped to the losers’ bracket. In some ways, this was a relief. I don’t consider myself to be as good a player as I ought to be and playing in the losers’ bracket took some pressure off. That’s good, because I proceeded to shoot pretty much non-stop until about 10pm that evening. Win after win after win. My first one was commanding and pretty. Most of the others weren’t as pretty or commanding, but a win’s a win.

My last match started about 9pm. By this point, I knew that I was in the money. That meant that even if I lost this match and was out of the tournament, I would still get some money from the tournament. And this was the first player I’d encountered who was close to being a buzzsaw – a term for a player who’s just orders of magnitude better than you are, and therefore cuts through you pretty easily. I made several stupid mistakes and handed him the win in three of the games. I managed to win one game, and he finished up the final two.

I was out. I was also exhausted. But I had made back my entry fee money for the event, which was a lot better than I expected to do. I also am now able to claim I’ve won money in tournament competition in Las Vegas in both teams as well as individual events. Out of the 350+ competitors in my division, I placed 33. That’s not a bad feeling!