Every Pocket Is Bottomless

I started playing pool in October of 2021, which means that soon I'll have played for a year. I don't know how much longer I'll keep doing it, I could get struck by lightning tomorrow or run over by a bus on my way to the liquor store, but it's quickly become my favorite game. Sometimes I fantasize about me playing as a balding old man, teaching some young arrogant smartass a thing or two and that makes me smile.

It's 3:42 in the morning and I played more games against Rudi last night and got my ass eviscerated. He's your typical happy-go-lucky Hawaiian with long gray hair (as straight as the strands on a horse's tail, usually pulled back in a tight pony), missing teeth, and an endless supply of energy. He was listening to some music on old headphones that would've snapped if someone sneezed on them, and even though I told him over-the-ear sets were better than the wires he had stuck in his ears he only smiled and said what he had was good enough. I got his number and sent him a link for some good over-the-ears anyway, for cheap. I don't believe in spending hundreds of dollars on headphones when cheaper ones do the same job. When I told him that he flashed that aged smile of his and replied that most people buy expensive stuff to impress others. I had to agree. I hope he buys the headphones I recommended. I don't wanna see him using those wires anymore.

Rudi says he used to be a hustler back in Hawaii. He started at 16 and would spend most of his restless adolescent days in school, on the waves, and in pool halls. He was taught by an old man, he says, like I so often find myself being taught, someone who made sure to teach him to keep his bridge arm straight at all times, even on a rail, and to make sure his cue was always touching the side of his body to help keep it straight. I tried that but it only messes me up. I guess it's something you have to make a part of you, something only thousands of hours and thousands of frowns can make yours.

It's interesting to watch him play because although he nitpicks at my technique he never adheres to any of his own advice. He has no pre-shot routine, at least not a conventional one. He doesn't stay down after his shots and when he's stroking hard his back leg comes off the ground in an entertaining and amusing kick that jolts his entire body. Yet he rarely misses.

I'll fault old age, inactivity, and the occasional (as well as unfortunate) accident for when he does. He likes to shoot basketball but had his ankle snapped one night when a kid lost control of his skateboard on the court and caused him to slip on it. He was in the military also, and I'm sure that's put some painful miles on him.

A part of me doesn't like it when he misses. It makes me feel sad inside, because I can only imagine him remembering a time when he didn't miss, when it was easy for him to hustle man after man for hundreds of dollars to make his rent because perfecting his game was a necessary aspect of life. But maybe I shouldn't feel sad. I don't know what's going on in his head, after all. Maybe he's just happy to be playing against someone who's willing to listen to him and take his advice. Maybe missing doesn't matter as much to him anymore as it once did, or as it so painfully does to me now. Maybe, to him, it's now just about struggling to stretch over a pool table and sharing a smile and a laugh with someone who loves it as much as he does.

If that's the case then there's no reason for me to be sad at all I guess.
I live in a building where the dead call home. Most of the time they're not a bother; on rare occasions I catch glimpses of an unkempt man or woman sitting in one of the chairs in the pool room watching me, but when I approach they disappear. Sometimes I hear whispers, voices floating above me speaking a language I don't understand. That's made me miss a shot or two but I didn't mind. It felt nice to be able to blame an error on anything other than myself.

Some folks would never live in a building where the ghosts of the past seem to always have an eye on you. I occasionally think about that when I'm masturbating. I wonder if I'm looked at in disgust by those above, if masturbation has always been deemed an obscene act by the otherworldly. If so, I wonder if they've looked down on what I masturbate to. You ever jerked off to a woman getting fucked by a dog?

Skip stopped by again while I was practicing. He had the bone spurs on his feet shaved yesterday and exuded nothing but relief while telling me how much better it'll feel to walk around. He has long dry hair, patterned with faded streaks of caramel and stone, and his eyes turn to slits and the cigarette he's always got in his mouth almost slips out whenever he smiles. He uses a walker to move about on account of the shape of his feet, but when he's at the table none of that seems to matter and he sinks balls with ease.

We played a set of three games when we first met, and like I did to my roommate, Bill, I stomped him three to nothing. At the time, I was proud of myself. I managed to soundly beat another experienced player, someone who once made it their mission to hone their game into something deadly sharp. The following day we played again, but just like with Bill, our roles were swiftly reversed and I was left on the dry end of a three to nothing spanking.

I hadn't yet learned two of the game's most important lessons:

never underestimate anybody


playing pool's like riding a bike. A man may get rusty, but his body'll always remember the hours spent training his stroke.

Skip's main gripe about my game is that I jerk the cue when I'm stroking hard. That, and sometimes I don't follow through like I should. He says that a perfect stroke should feel like I'm spearing straight through the cue ball in a clean, fluid motion. No forcing it. No muscles. No tension. No jerking.

I've been working on fixing that but when you develop a habit of doing something it's hard to make the changes you want. I have to speak to myself while I'm down behind the rock, reminding myself to stroke easy and follow through straight, regardless of the power of the shot. It does feel better when I relax my entire body and focus on sending my stick straight with momentum versus strength. I forget sometimes that pool is a game of finesse, not brute force.

We got to talking about music as I was packing things up, and he recommended I listen to Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy after discussing how Black Sabbath's Paranoid rocked our worlds. He's a product of the sixties and seventies, eras of radical change in America, and the music of his soul will always be rock and roll. As I slipped my cue stick into its black suede case he asked if I was a fan of Frank Zappa, and I smiled while sharing that Watermelon in Easter Hay is one of my favorite tracks of all-time.

It's an instrumental, an emotional poem of vibrating guitar notes that linger long after they're struck. There's a story behind the song, a fictional one that's supposed to add weight to the somber melody, but even without knowing it the song would still touch something vulnerable in you. It's agony, frustration, regret, loneliness, and hope woven into an almost ten minute unforgettable masterpiece.

It's funny to me how music can bring people so close together, regardless of color or nation. It's the universal language of humanity, bonding us with its objective peeks into the turbulent psyche of man.

Why it takes music to do that and not just a bit of collective introspection I'll never know. Maybe we're made to simply hate one another.
Slowly but surely, things are getting easier. I read in an article that new or novice players shouldn't expect much from the game, that they should simply enjoy the process of playing and learning and most importantly just keep showing up at the table. Practice builds confidence and with enough confidence a man becomes sure of his competence, and I've been feeling that lately, sometimes to my disbelief.

I'm not consistent yet, not by any means, but long straight shots aren't as hard as they used to be. Demanding cuts are still mostly difficult, but those that were once overwhelmingly infuriating aren't so intimidating anymore. There's something in the back of my mind as I lean over the faded felt and lay my forearm across the indestructible slate, a comforting knowledge that the shot I'm about to take is possible instead of impossible. Likely instead of unlikely. It's not cocky, it's not arrogant, it's not filled with the cruel and relentless desire to dominate. Not yet at least. But it's there, finally, a stable foothold of a feeling that says with the most pleasant simplicity, "You can do this. I know you can."

And it fills me with pride.

On another note, I visited my first pool hall today.

Alright, it was actually my second, but my true first wasn't perhaps what the average person would imagine when building one in their mind. It was a mom and pop kind of place, clean and colorful and safe, a spot that the entire family was welcome to frequent. Not exactly my cup of tea.

Don't get me wrong, there were fantastic players there. I watched a guy around my age break and run a few racks and string together a number of awesome banks that made my jaw drop, but I hadn't showed up for the talent. I wanted to experience the depths of seediness, and Moira's Family Billiards wasn't going to offer me a drop of that.

So I never considered it my actual first. It just wasn't threatening enough.

But Carlito's was.

It was a Mexican spot, owned and run by a stout gangster looking son of a bitch. His twitching mustache and slicked back hair complimented his tucked in collared shirt and filled in jeans, held steady by a giant belt that must have been made by some talented artisan. His weathered cowboy boots and twinkling rings on his callused fingers completed the picture, and when I spoke to him a deep scowl never left his face.

Men mostly crowded the hall. Women weren't there for pool. Their generous tits and asses were spilling out of their revealing clothing and they generally wore too much makeup, forming stiff masks that had trouble expressing genuine emotions as they laughed and fell into the groping hands of whoever was buying them drinks. Banda music blared from overhead speakers and white lines of cocaine were openly being passed around on double-digit bills. It was perfect.

But why was I there?

Because I needed chalk.

Days ago, I ordered a dozen cubes of Master chalk online, cubes that were supposed to have been delivered to me in a small white and red box. But it never was. It was lost in transit, stolen by opportunistic hobos, perhaps even eaten by a curious dog and shat out later as a gooey burgundy log. I don't know. What mattered was that I lacked what was crucial when trying to play good pool: motherfucking chalk. I'd also ordered two new cues, Viper one-pieces that were both everything I wanted and needed, and I wasn't going to use them without chalk. So I began a local search.

I called a number of sporting goods stores and even Moira's for the prices of chalks they possessed. What did they all have in common?

Ridiculous numbers.

At Moira's, for example, they were charging $17 for three cubes. Including sales tax, that would've been nearly $20, and you're out of your goddamn mind if you think I'm paying $20 for three cubes of chalk. The box of Master I ordered was under $10, and that came with TWELVE perfectly acceptable three-dimensional products. Why in the holy fuck would anyone charge close to $20 for THREE?

So, about to give up and begrudgingly wait for my replacement box of Master, I ended up finding Carlito's online and gave them a call. The hall sounded chaotic over the phone, and that's when I decided to visit it and buy some chalk from patrons there. I'd kill three birds with one trip:

visit a pool hall that most closely resembled what I
wanted to experience in the pages of my wild imagination,

buy some fucking chalk,

and pay for an hour of practice using one of their nine footers (while also hoping that a drooling stranger approached me and asked for a game).

I have an intensely competitive spirit, one that has to be kept under control in situations where I'm out of my element. I still suck fat ass at pool, so I have to do my best to always bite my tongue and remain humble. It's the right thing to do. Respect from other players is earned only by beating them or giving them a hard time, and although I have every intention of one day giving good players a run for their money, I also understand that being delusional about my current abilities will do me no good in the end. Being brutally honest with oneself is of the utmost importance. It keeps your mouth in check and your boiling emotions fixated on one fantastic prize:


I ended up buying five new cubes of Master for $5 and a table for the same price, and even though no one approached me and asked for a game, I could feel myself being watched for a good while and that lit a spark in me as I practiced missing ball after goddamn ball. Way to look like a complete idiot, right?

Things looked up for me after I got back home though. As night fell, Skip appeared for more games as I practiced downstairs and we went back and forth for hours. At one point, I could tell he was getting annoyed. I don't know exactly why he was becoming unsettled, but it made me feel good. I was giving him good games, and that's really all a fledgling wants to offer their fellow enthusiast when competing in something they love, isn't it?
I'm at a small party composed of mostly gay men. There's a doctor, someone pretty respected in his field (something that has to do with the eyes), a former teacher (he used to teach elementary and middle school but gave up on them because teaching little shits took a toll on him and quite honestly I don't blame him), a guy who makes boats, and the masculine equivalent of a housewife who never seems to know what's going on.

The man who put the event together, James, has Guillain-Barré syndrome, an incurable condition that turns your immune system against you. He's battled through the worst of it, defeating paralysis and regaining his ability to walk, but still gets incredibly fatigued when he's on his feet for too long. He's an outspoken advocate of gay rights and will be speaking at an over forty men's club next week and has decided to practice his speech in front of us all.

It's mostly lame gay jokes, but everyone in the room laughs so hard their entire bodies shake whenever he delivers a punchline. Maybe the jokes aren't so lame. Maybe I just lack a funny bone. Comedy is subjective after all, and admittedly I've never been much of a fan. Like horror, there's so much shitty comedy that I'm usually not very interested in the genre. But to give you a taste of what I'm experiencing, here's a few jokes that he's let slip from his lips.

"What's the difference between a boyfriend and your job?"

Cue someone saying, "I don't know!"

"After two years, your job still sucks!"

Ha ha ha.

Hee hee hee.

"Why do so many gay men hire attorneys?"

"I don't have a clue!"

"They love to get screwed!"

Ha ha ha.

Hee hee hee.

And so forth.

Now two guests are singing "From a Jack to a King" and their voices aren't too bad. Everyone seems to enjoy their harmony, but I don't give a shit. I wonder when I became such a Debbie fucking Downer. When I stopped caring about keeping up appearances and smiling and laughing just because everyone else is. James' husband gave a piano exhibition minutes before the duet. He wasn't very good and after his last note died it was revealed he was self-taught and rarely practiced so that made sense. Yet still everyone applauded and made a point to tell him how good he played, how impressive his skills were. Fucking bullshit.

In general, the party's just a bunch of pretentious nonsense. A few women showed up: cousins of James and two overweight fag hags. They're nice enough but they're laying things on thicker than most of the men.

James hasn't hesitated to ask me to pour drinks and snacks and I've even made four frozen pizzas and washed dishes. I'm supposed to be a guest. I'm also his housekeeper once a week, that's why he invited me, but he was insistent that the party wouldn't be work. It doesn't help that I'm the only darkie here and even though I know James isn't like that it still makes me furious inside. But I don't show it. It wouldn't be right. He's not being considerate at all but even still I do my best to keep a smile on my face and remain as cordial as can be to everyone in the condo. It's his home, not mine.

But he could've ordered pizzas from a major chain. He could've had the champagne already poured and snacks ready in their bowls. He could've bought other dishes that didn't need anyone to prepare them. But he didn't. He's perfectly okay with treating me like the hired help even though I'm off the clock. He's perfectly okay with thinking about no one but himself.

I wish there was a pool table here. I want so badly to ignore everyone around me and forget they exist while lining up for a slight cut or exhilarating long shot. I wanna practice some banks. I wanna scream "cross side" while whacking away at the rock and watch, wide-eyed, as it teases me with a route to my desired pocket.

I don't wanna be around any of these people.

I just wanna lose myself in a game of pool.
More losses against Rudi tonight. He was high and sometimes when he bullied a shot he grunted to himself and said, "Too hard! Like my dick!"

I'll never get tired of watching him move around the table. He's like a wasp, quickly buzzing from spot to spot and stinging at the cue ball with the manner of a creature trying its best to kill. I wish I could go back in time and watch him hustle. That'd be some kind of treat.

He revealed that he was 73 years old tonight. I didn't think he was older than 65. The fucker keeps himself in shape despite his injuries and has a restlessly youthful demeanor that few men his age can muster, let alone maintain. Maybe it's the weed, although you'd think weed would relax him a bit. Fucking Rudi.

He's a likeable guy, he really is. He went into detail about the skateboarding accident that broke his leg while playing basketball, and he says it was snapped in six places after slipping on the out of control skateboard, flipping head over heels, and landing in the worst way. He laughed while describing the reactions of the other players on the court; they huddled around him and kept screaming, "Goddamn, nigga!" while jumping up and down and grabbing their faces. He said watching them go hilariously crazy at the sight of all his blood helped him relax, which baffled them. He said that if he'd lost his cool it would've been more likely for him to go into shock, so he didn't. He just went for his bike, hobbled back home, stuck his bones back into place, and visited the hospital the next day.

The next fucking day.

He said he slept like a baby the night before, although I don't know if I believe that.

Fucking Rudi.

After our games he did compliment me though, so there's that. He said I was shooting better and that with more practice I'd be gambling in a year or two. He says that pool hustling is dead, and that if I had any desire to play for money (which I do) I'd be strictly relying on my skills versus other formidable players in upfront matches.

Even though I know I have a long way to go before I'm a consistent player, let me tell you that hearing him say those words excited the shit out of me. He also said to be prepared to lose a lot of money.

"Gambling isn't for pussies. You take the risk and you do your best, but you gotta be ready to lose it all."

I've gambled before. I used to bet on boxing and mixed martial arts and over three months and starting from nothing I built over five grand in winnings. Then in a weekend I lost it all and I promised myself I'd never gamble again. The drowning feeling of panic and despair I felt while realizing I'd lost every cent was something that truly frightened me. And then I wondered how I'd feel if instead of $5,000 I lost $100,000.

I couldn't imagine it.

But gambling on oneself, on one's own polished skills and attitude, that's vastly different than betting on others, isn't it? And losing would come easier because you'd be in more control, right? Accountability is necessary when betting on yourself. If you lose, there's no one else to blame but the dejected man in the mirror. I could take that. I could live with that.

But it's not a possibility quite yet. I don't know what the future has in store for me, after all. I guess all I can do is take things day by day and continue to slowly learn and grow. And if I never turn into a gambler then I'll still be a decent shooter, and that wouldn't be too bad at all.
Bettie, another resident, had her grandson with her for the day and brought him in to play pool tonight. She's obese, likes to wear jeans and slides, and always has her shoulder length graying hair tied up in a ball. She works for a food delivery service and usually has food with her when waddling by on the way to her apartment. On the second night we met she gave Scott and I, another resident glued to an electric wheelchair, an undelivered order: two heaping plates of chicken, vegetables, hummus, and lots and lots of rice. Scott didn't want any so I thanked her and took it all and you can believe my gluttonous ass ate every single bit later.

Her grandson, AJ, a curly-headed twig who didn't look any older than ten, had only played pool once before but I still told him I looked forward to beating him as he, with Bettie's assistance, racked for our first game. I was testing him to gauge his competitive spirit, but he was shy and didn't show much of anything. We agreed on games of 1v2 and I suggested they play as alternates on their turns, meaning that they switched after every shot. Bettie was obviously the much better player and if it hadn't gone that way AJ would've hardly been at the table. Plus, it allowed her to coach him after setting him up with impressive position, offering him guidance on his stance and bridge and where it was best to hit the cue ball.

That worked for a few minutes until I was reminded of how difficult pool is for an absolute beginner. AJ was getting frustrated quick and so I told him that on his turn he could put the cue ball wherever he wanted.

That did the trick.

After a few more minutes I took over for Bettie and together we made most of his shots. I gave him three main pointers: to make sure his bridge was tight and flat on the table (because of his shorter height), to always hit the cue ball dead center, and to take all the time he needed.

As far as where I placed the cue ball for his shots, it was always lined straight behind an object ball, and when he understood that straight shots were the way to go I allowed him to place the cue ball himself while always emphasizing that it was best to make things easier for himself. The little shit had a quiet confidence even though he didn't know much of anything; every shot he set up was long.

But he took my instructions well and in no time he was picking his shots and shooting them well enough all on his own, and that made me proud. The light in his eyes and the smile on his face when he made a ball was something to see, let me tell you.

I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and at first he said he hadn't decided, but after some probing he revealed that being a YouTuber was his heart's desire. In hindsight, that shouldn't have been surprising to me. Having a profitable platform on the internet is entirely possible for folks young and old alike. In this era (and especially as technology continues to become more and more advanced as the years go by like whistles), it's a legitimate job.

I don't know why he didn't say he wanted to be a YouTuber at first. It's difficult, but not impossible, especially for someone so young. I once built a YouTube channel to nearly 6,000 subscribers before sabotaging my momentum, and I found that most people weren't successful with their own channels because they quit too early. They were discouraged by a lack of views and positive feedback and tried too hard to please everyone, which eventually burnt them out and made them throw in the towel.

Building a successful YouTube channel, like anything else, takes lots of effort and lots of time. There are no shortcuts, no easy ways to the top, and I told him that. I told him that no matter what, if that was really what he wanted to do with his life, to never quit, to keep making videos and keep trying new things, even if no one else was in his corner. I made him repeat my point multiple times, hoping it would stick somewhere in that young sponge brain of his.

"No matter what, don't you quit."


"You understand?"


"Say it."

"Don't quit."

"Say it again."

"Don't quit."


In truth, he'll probably never become a success on the internet. It's saturated with every animated Tom, Dick, and Sally trying to snatch their own five minutes of fame in order to launch their own binary legacies, and most folks don't have the discipline or overwhelming desire to see something like that through. But he doesn't need to know that. All he needed to hear and repeat were those two words: don't quit.

Hopefully, even if he never becomes a YouTube sensation, he'll remember the lesson and use it to catapult him to great heights in other ways. I'd love nothing more than for the little shit to carve his own slices of success and happiness from this fucked, bleeding world of ours.

I really hope he does.
I made a revelation today while at the table. I decided to start practicing my draw shot; back spin will be essential to my game soon enough so I figured I might as well get serious about starting now. I tried to practice it for many months before my old cue lost its tip, but, as you can imagine, nothing but center ball hits would do while playing with what truly became the flat end of a stick.

I bought a book called The 99 Critical Shots in Pool weeks ago and the draw shot is listed as shot number seven, and to practice it the book recommends setting two object balls on opposite ends of the table and drawing back after pocketing one to get position on the second after coming off a rail.

Easy enough, right?

Well, I quickly gave up on shooting with the purpose of sinking the second ball and instead focused only on drawing back the rock to a cushion.

If I'm honest, putting terrific back spin on the cue ball has to be one of the most, if not THE most, amazing things a pool player can do. It's the definition of finesse, the pinnacle of mastery over the cue ball once executing the move becomes consistent. It's nothing short of miraculous to the layman and always impressive to the connoisseur.

It's just unbelievably cool fucking shit.

But learning and getting the hang of the action has to be one of the most infuriating tasks I've ever taken on. I've watched video after video and read article after article, trying my best to understand and apply each expert and professional's explanation of the technique, but to no avail.

For the longest time, draw always seemed damn near impossible.

Until tonight.

After trying and trying, I managed to get enough action to draw my cue ball over two feet to a rail, and when I tell you I grinned like a motherfucking idiot and shouted my amazement I fucking did. I imagine my feelings were similar to Einstein's when he came up with his theories of relativity. I just felt so goddamn powerful, like I'd found the keys to Pandora's box.

And after repeating the action a few more times and really dissecting what went on with my stroke, I came to the heated conclusion that all those experts and professionals were full of the most rotten shit.

Goddamn them, every single one.

Goddamn them to the most sulfuric pits of Hell.

You see, I was told, time and again, that good action draw was the result of keeping a level cue and striking the cue ball as low as possible with a straight stroke.

Time and again.

But that's not fucking correct.

Not entirely.

It's true that a player should keep a level cue. After all, most shots require it because a level cue delivers a straight stroke that's easiest to control.

It's also fucking true that, in order to get the most back spin, the cue ball should be struck as low as possible. The top of a tip impacting the bottom of a cue ball is what gives it the spin necessary to roll backwards.

But that doesn't happen because of a straight stroke.

Not at all.

It happens when the tip is delivered, right before the moment of impact, at a DOWNWARD ANGLE.

THAT'S how the magic happens, and best believe it blew my fucking mind.

Understand that the downward angle isn't steep. It's gradual, like a plane beginning to fall just after its engines died. But it happens so fast that it FEELS like your tip plummeted and shot into the bottom of the cue ball, and in my case, perhaps because I'm still getting the hang of it, it felt like I was WHIPPING at the cue ball, as if my stick had turned into a nylon cord and cracked into the hard resin. My stroke felt like it was morphing JUST to make the back spin happen.

It was an intense thing to experience, and I'm looking forward to breaking it down further and eventually mastering it, but I can't help but wonder why the technique isn't described that way. If you were only told what I was told and left to your own devices, you'd be practicing far longer than necessary to get it down, and for many, they'd practice until they were blue in the face and eventually give up.

Draw isn't an easy thing to create by any means, but it CAN be easier to do when told EXACTLY what needs to happen to make it a reality.

Tonight was a milestone, a far cry from evenings when I'd shuffle from the table more annoyed than satisfied and consider fucking pool off completely.

It excites me to know that the secrets of draw are within my reach. Now I just need to practice, practice, and motherfucking practice.
Chopin came to play against me tonight. Everyone calls him that because he likes to listen to the late composer's music, often blaring it in the early morning so loudly that it can be easily heard while walking past his door. He's a junkie and an alcoholic. I know because I've seen him smoke meth on the third floor walkway, oblivious to the rest of the world while taking hits of that sweet, sweet crystal. He's always up at night, always walking around with his cane and getting into different cars in the parking lot, most likely to join other junkies in meth-fueled adventures not for the faint of heart.

But he's cool to me and that's all that matters, I suppose. He wears round glasses with real thin frames and most of his bony face is obscured by a wicked mustache I wouldn't be able to grow even if I was spliced with hairy DNA. When he showed up he didn't say a word. He only watched me for a minute until I asked him if he wanted to play. He didn't say yes. Instead, he only asked for a cue.

We played two games and I barely beat him, which didn't satisfy me at all. I'm still learning not to underestimate anybody, and I guess I didn't expect our games to be so close because I've never seen him playing downstairs. I just assumed he'd be so rusty that I'd shoot circles around him and leave most of his balls on the table, but that shit didn't happen. After warming up, he developed the effortless stroke of someone who'd played many games in their life, made some impressive banks, and almost ran out on me during our second game. But I clawed my way back after a series of errors that brought his balls together, making things considerably harder for him.

Before our games, he did say one more thing after asking for a cue. "Good luck."

And after I sank my last eight ball I turned to him and said, "Good game."

He chuckled as he left and said he'd see me again, but I didn't respond. I tried not to show it but I was fuming inside, and only told myself that I'd wipe the floor with him next time.

A disturbing pattern during our set was that I kept missing shots that normally would've been no problem, and you can imagine how demoralizing that was for me, repeatedly watching my confident balls be denied their pockets while witnessing his own gradual successes. I beat him, yes, but it wasn't convincing. To be honest, I only beat him because he beat himself. I could feel that he was the better player. I could feel that he gifted me my victories, handing them over on polished platters, and that fucking annoyed me.

Missing so much felt like all of the time I've spent practicing was for nothing. It was an insult to all of my effort, a gooey wad of spit in the exhausted face of my training.

I practiced for a bit after he left, but I wasn't interested. I dragged myself around the table, sagging down into position and not caring if I missed a ball or not. I ending things early and as I'm typing this I'm actually amazed, while thinking back, at how much our emotions play such a role in influencing our performances at the table.

And what's funny is that even though I practiced on my own, it didn't (and doesn't) feel rewarding. I don't feel like I reinforced any positive habits. I turned lazy because of my bitterness. I hated the game because of my failures.

I wonder how worthwhile pool would be if I never missed. I know missing is a part of the game, but that doesn't eliminate how sour it makes me feel.
I played a few games with a balding fellow named Pete tonight. Imagine an aging Paul Newman, but with slurred speech, a paralyzed right arm, and a wheelchair that refused to lock in place. Why it didn't is beyond me. Whenever he stood to take a shot I made sure to walk over and hold it steady. The damn thing rolled backwards on its own and Pete liked to plop his fragile body back into it, so use your imagination and picture him trying to play without someone there to help. Guaranteed injuries. Painful fun for everyone.

He said that he used to play all the time, at one point possessing "a hell of a fine stick," but tonight he could barely hold a cue steady and most of the time he miscued. He cursed at himself when he did, and even though he was enough of a sport to pass the ball to me when it happened after a while I just let him keep trying until he made a solid hit, miss or no.

When he missed (which was often) he would point at his useless arm and say, "It's because of this. I'm paralyzed."

To which I'd say, "Oh, it's alright."

And he'd respond with, "Alright for YOU!"

Son of a bitch made me laugh.

He told me he took pleasure in watching me play since he couldn't anymore and offered some pointers. He said I hit way too hard most of the time and had a bad habit of not taking my time.

"You play slower you'll play better," he said soothingly.

He also emphasized that the most important thing in pool is to always be aware of the path of the cue ball.

"You need to know where it's going after you hit it," he'd say while pointing at the table with his crooked fingers. "That's pool. That's what it's all about."

He left with a wave and a smile but some minutes later came back and reintroduced himself to me like we'd never met. Then he watched me play some and offered the same tips with the same tone of voice and movements of his fingers.

"I used to play a hell of a fine stick," he'd say.

And the only thing I could respond with was, "I believe you."
I'm so over pool right now. I just don't give a shit about it. I lost too many games against D tonight, a guy I know I should've been able to beat easily, and ended up breaking one of my sticks after scratching on the eight ball during our last game.

He promptly left without a word and I went to walk to clear my head. When I returned, Rudi was waiting for me with those wires stuck in his ears. I guess he never cared to look up the headphones I shared with him. No big deal. If he's fine with his wires then so be it.

I shot better with him but I still missed so many fucking shots I know I should've made. Cuts are suddenly so difficult for me. I experimented with both the ghost ball and fractional ball aiming methods while trying to get them down, and after much trial and error I ended up combining them into something that works more often than not. But tonight nothing was clicking. Regardless of how sure I was while aiming so many balls decided to fuck off and steer well away from their intended pockets. It was a cruel joke of the highest order and it made me truly despise pool.

What kind of fucking game is one where the more you practice, the worse you get?

I don't know.

I don't care either.

But what's truly sad is that tomorrow I'm gonna drag my frustrated ass back down to the table and practice some more, knowing full well how likely it may be that my effort won't be enough. At least that's how it feels. At this stage in my pool journey, nothing's enough. No amount of desire, no amount of practice, no amount of affirmation, no amount of confidence. The game's just one irritating fucking joke, and what's worse is that if you were to describe what the fuck I do at that goddamn table the answer would be that I play with balls.


I expressed my woes to Rudi and he laughed while putting together a tight rack.

"You're getting angry because you think you can beat these guys," he said. "So when you don't, it's the end of the world." He shrugged. "You need to have patience. Patience is the spice of life. Don't worry about beating them, 'cause maybe you can't. When you play for money sometimes you're gonna play against a guy that's way better than you, and when you don't win, what'll you do? Lose your head?" His gray ponytail danced as he chuckled. "For now, don't think you can beat anybody. Just relax and enjoy the game."

I get where he's coming from, but that's also easy for him to say. He's good. He doesn't have to deal with the chagrin of someone still learning the ropes. His skills make relaxing second nature. So I understood him, but I also wanted to tell him to fucking stuff it.

I asked if he'd heard about the abortion issue stabbing the decaying heart of this great nation of ours today, and he said it was impossible not to hear about it. So I asked his opinion on it, and he said that an abortion shouldn't be done once cells came together in a womb to form the human equivalent of a tadpole, a word that started with a p and ended with wog. I don't even know if that's a thing. I guess I'll be researching the human life cycle later.

To him, abortion was usually wrong. It was better for women to always have unwanted children and give them over to the state than to kill them.

"Unless she's raped," he said with a dark seriousness in his eyes. "If she's raped, then I understand a woman wanting an abortion. It's not good for her to have a child from something terrible like that."

I nodded. "So do you think abortion is murder?"

"It depends," he said, "on if a human is alive in there or not. If it's a tadpole then yeah, but I don't know if I'd call it murder." I could tell he thought the word was too harsh, which was funny to me. "But it's definitely killing, and killing an innocent human is wrong."

To be honest, I've never thought too much about it. The perks of being a man, I suppose. I'm pretty uneducated as far as human biology's concerned. I couldn't tell you the phases of a human as it grew from a cell into an infant even if you stuck a Magnum between my teeth. But if I was a woman, I know I'd definitely want the option of an abortion, regardless of the reason.

And I can't really explain why, but my gut tells me that getting rid of a woman's right to an abortion will help to only spell doom for our society, not that we're not royally fucked already.

Most problems always boil down to our innate greediness and selfishness as a species, and I don't think this abortion issue is any different. The rich want nothing more than to control everyone else, and most people are too desperate to fight against the system those bastards lock them in. That's just the way of the world. Everything is about control, and when you can control a people's reproductive rights, well, you're sitting as top dog up on that golden hill, aren't you?


Well-known member
Your pool stories are fun, suggest you stick to those. We already have plenty social justice warrior threads around here…
I learned an important lesson tonight while playing against Rudi.

As usual, I was shooting poorly, and when I made something of note it was always unintended (think trying to kick or bank into a pocket but sending your ball straight into another), so I was hardly winning. But Rudi's breaks weren't so hot when we started game after game; we always have the loser work the triangle and in my case I make sure to always give my opponent the best possible rack. I double-check for spaces between the balls and especially between the ball on the foot spot and the two below it, so even though I know I'm not perfect, most of my racks are pretty damn close.

Despite that, Rudi's breaks kept leaving an undisturbed cluster of balls below the foot string. It was strangely consistent, an usual thing to see considering Rudi rarely has a problem breaking. He would lean over the table ever so slightly, take his few aiming strokes, pull back for an impending strike, send the cue ball racing down the table, then WHACK, there went the echoing sound of a solid impact.

With little scattering.

And you'd think that would give me some advantage, right? Having to repeatedly deal with bothersome clusters would force errors from any man. But not Rudi. He'd huff (sarcastically, I might add), "Good rack! Good rack!" while pacing around the table, then, and this is the lesson, target those clusters immediately.

And he'd do it in style, sometimes sending the cue ball off a pocketed ball into the cluster, sometimes making one of the clustered balls at the end of a combination, and sometimes using one of the clustered balls to hit a ball outside of the colorful nightmare. But whatever the method, it always achieved the same goal: eliminating a tight group of balls.

Now, I will say that getting rid of problems as soon as possible isn't a fresh concept to me. It's something I have written down on my pool priority list, but not something I consistently remember to do in games. I guess seeing someone actually making the effort to do so and succeeding at it over and over flipped a switch in me. It makes all the difference. Getting rid of a cluster turns an impossible situation into maybe not an entirely winnable one, but a manageable one, and that's all that matters.

Pool is about control. Control of your stroke, which controls the cue ball, which controls the table.




All I've gotta do is get that through my thick fucking skull and maybe things will turn out easier at the table.
I suck so much ass at this game.

Ass that hasn't been wiped in weeks. Explosive diarrhea ass. The kind of ass you wouldn't eat even if someone offered to make you a millionaire. Crusted cat ass. Swollen, parasite-ridden dog ass. Any disgusting example of ass you can imagine. I'll let you do the rest.

I'm just so horrendously inconsistent at everything. Straight shots, cut shots, stop shots, follow shots, kicking, banking, position play, and the list goes on.

And let's not talk about my fragile mental state. I've realized that my mindset is at its worst when I miss shots I know for a fact I should be able to make. My inevitable self-hatred begins as a frustrating disappointment, then simmers into a crippling disbelief, then boils into a quiet rage that distorts my face into something resembling a gargoyle's before I ask myself, "Did I really just do that? What the fuck is going on?"

I just suck ass.

I need to work on controlling the cue ball more.

Lately, I've been practicing by racking and breaking six balls and trying to make them all in a row, but that's not doing anything to help me master the rock, because its position never matters when all I'm trying to do is pocket balls. I just take whatever position I put myself in and move on to ball after ball until eventually the table clears. There's no focused plan to manipulate the position of the cue ball. I'm putting more of a priority on breaking and running than my skill at predicting and executing accurate routes for that all-important white ball.

That needs to change.

An older woman kept passing by the pool room with her bicycle tonight. She wasn't bad looking, but her straight peach hair was wild, like a dry bush that hadn't been trimmed in years. A sky blue purse hung from one of her exposed shoulders and after noticing her watching me while walking by for about the fourth time I thought about asking if she wanted to play, but she didn't come back.

I wonder who she was. I haven't gotten laid in a while, so maybe that's why my memory's fixated on her now. She was wearing jean shorts and had decent legs, smooth and toned. I wonder why most men love a fine pair of legs so much. You can't fuck legs, so what's the big deal? But we sure do love 'em anyway.

When I was a kid, one of my brothers had an album by Ludacris called Chicken and Beer or something like that. The cover was of Ludacris, while sitting at a bar table layered with fried chicken, holding and pouring salt on a woman's bare high-heeled leg. I can still remember how much the image turned my adolescent brain on. It was really just a hilariously cool album cover, sure, but that didn't stop me from wondering, even as a kid, how satisfying it would be to sexually tease the woman attached to the leg by sinking my teeth into her calf.

I was such a horny ass kid.
I don't care about improving anymore. I just don't.

Progress is damn near impossible to make and when you DO think you're getting somewhere someone better comes along and happily spreads their feces all over your cue stick while running out on you before trying to shake your hand with their stinky middle finger.

This "game" is a retarded mess of a pastime and whoever plays it is a goddamn moron who pees sitting down.

Tonight was just a dreadful time at the table.


I'm seriously wondering why I keep on doing this to myself. Why I keep putting myself through such pointless nights on a quest to get better at this maddening game. What's the point? When will I genuinely feel like I'm getting better? When will I get a consistent level of confidence? Will all this practice and failure be worth it?

I guess I just have to sit down and ask myself WHY I'm playing this game. Why do I want to get better? Why do I care? Should I really stop caring? How much would it really matter to me if I kept playing and didn't make substantial leaps in skill ten years down the line?

Should I keep playing, or should I just call it fucking quits?

I've had some fun. More disappointment and rage than fun, but fun nonetheless. And I've got some stories in my pocket, some that I'll remember for a long time.

The problem is that most of the time I just end up failing and stop caring. You'd think that if you really cared about something failure wouldn't matter so much. You'd just put your head down and charge your way through to a breakthrough, or two, or three, before finally realizing some powerful evolution.

Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I just don't love this game enough. And if that's the case, then I'll only keep bashing my teeth to bits month after month until eventually I wise up and realize there's more rewarding things to do in life.

Maybe I've just lost sight of what I should really be putting my effort into.

'Cause it sure doesn't feel like it's supposed to be this bullshit game.
What the fuck are you talking about?

Of course you're not quitting, you worthless piece of dog shit.

So you've had a few bad days. So you've had some embarrassing weeks. So what? You think you're the only one? You know how many pool players fail over and over again, night after night, and find the stones to crawl back to their tables and fail some more? You know how many players wrestle with the thought of snapping their cues and giving up altogether when nothing seems to stick?

Get a grip, fucko.

You're not special.

You're not unique.

You're one among millions, so you'd better learn to settle down, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that nothing's over until it's over.

Go on.

Say it, you weak bitch.

"Nothing's over until it's over."

Good fucking whiny lad.

I hope you come back and read this shit one day and realize just how hopeless you sounded.

Get a fucking grip.

Take it easy.

This shit's gonna be a slow fucking ride.

Also, one other thing. How dare you consider giving up when you have a table at your ungrateful disposal? It's not the best, I know, but I'm sure many players out there would shave off their tits for a table of their own, so get your head out of your hairy ass and count your blessings.

Set a goal.

Smash it.

Then rinse and repeat.

Now, I won't lie to you. I don't know if trying to get good at this game is worth it. But it's fun (when things are going the way they should), isn't it? And so often you find yourself thinking about it, don't you? You want so desperately to exist in this world of colorful balls and artisan cues, isn't that right?

Well, that's never gonna happen if you stop playing.

So don't stop.

You have to trust that things will turn around eventually. You're not gonna be as good as you wanna be in a month. Or a year. Add a few more to that and you'll still have a ways to go. But your skills will come. Things will turn around, I promise. But you have to keep playing.

So don't stop.

Get back to the table, relax, and take things one step at a time.

You may never stop being a festering asswipe, but you CAN become a better player.

So play.

Play, and play, and play some more.

Nothing's over until it's over, remember?


Your goddamn sense
I played a race to seven against Nike tonight. I call him Nike because he's always wearing a bright white pair with ocean blue shoelaces. He says he's had them for over six years and takes pride in the fact he's maintained them for so long.

He stopped by looking like he'd been through a petty drug deal gone wrong. His clothes were soaked with sweat, there was a bruise on his cheek, and the normally straight bill on his camouflage baseball cap was bent and turned almost backwards. He was breathing heavier than normal too, but when I asked him if he was alright he only grinned and gave me a familiar thumbs up from the red chair he was slouched in.

"I'm right as rain, baby!"

He's not a bad player by any means, but he has a bad habit of hitting the balls way too hard and throwing his entire body into every shot. The harder the shot the more he throws, and it's usually not long until he's going through the motions of a mini seizure while trying to make an insane cut.

I noted that although he looked like shit his shoes were pristine as always, and that made his face split with happiness.

"When you're a broke motherfucker like me you gotta take care of your shoes," he said while tilting one foot to show off, "and you take care of your shoes because your shoes take care of your feet. So if you want your feet to love you it's important to take care of your shoes!" Then he laughed while grabbing his crotch. "That, and you get pussy with good shoes. You can look like a caveman but still get women with shoes like mine. I'm proof of that."

I didn't wanna go down that rabbit hole of a conversation so I told him to rack 'em up and after a less than stellar break on my part we were off.

For the most part, I'm pretty comfortable playing against guys like Nike now. They're experienced because they spent years shooting it up in bars, but never stuck with it and/or practiced a whole lot and ended up with an inconsistent and incomplete game. That doesn't mean I can run laps around them. I still have to focus and play my best, but at this point I'm competent enough to know that a handful of mistakes won't necessarily cost me a game.

There's no doubt in my mind that I'm still a beginner, but I'm not bad for a beginner, if that makes sense.

Anyway, we ran through four games and I found myself up three to one, so there wasn't supposed to be any pressure to exceptionally perform, but it was there anyway, and all because of Nike's annoying fucking snickering.

Whenever I'd miss a shot he'd shake his head and snicker, snicker, snicker, and when I'd scratch he'd snatch the cue ball off the table with this shit-eating grin that made me wanna shatter his jaw. He's built like a lumberjack, so I'm sure he could take a punch, but the point is that he was doing a fine job of pissing me off, which only helped to make me lose control of my emotions. What started as a relaxed, friendly set quickly became one in which I had to obliterate Nike, and pretty soon I went silent and glared at the table while waiting for my turns.

Obviously, my frustration didn't help my game. I played much worse, and it wasn't long until I was down four to three and wondering, as I seem to do so often, what the fuck happened.

And it got me thinking.

As I stood watching Nike line up for another shot I asked myself why I was allowing my attitude to fuck everything up. I was being an angry shithead. I despised Nike and wanted nothing more than to crush him. And that was when the lightbulb clicked on. You should've seen my face. I realized that all of my focus was on HIM instead of my GAME.

More and more, I'm realizing how absolutely critical my mentality is, and as I peeled my epiphany apart I hurried over to my phone and started typing. I had to make a note to record my feelings in the moment.

Now, my autocorrect's a real bitch so the following's a grammatical gangbang, but don't worry, I'll clean it up for you.

These are my original notes, typed while Nike was busy doing whatever the fuck he was doing:


Youe frustration cant ve xjrected at yourself. Ad it cant ve directed at your lplonent. It needs to be turned into an unwavering focus, and that focus needs to be aimed at playing patterns and making balls. Anything else is self destrxtvw, one if the only things guaranteed to doom your game in the long run.

There's nothing wrong with a scorching desire to win, but it has to conteoled. It cant e allowed to rage like a forest fire, otherwise you risk losing control of your emotions.


And here's the clean version:


Your frustration can't be directed at yourself. And it can't be directed at your opponent. It needs to be turned into an unwavering focus, and that focus needs to be aimed at playing patterns and making balls. Anything else is self-destructive, one of the only things guaranteed to doom your game in the long run.

There's nothing wrong with a scorching desire to win, but it has to controlled. It can't be allowed to rage like a forest fire, otherwise you risk losing control of your emotions.


After calming down and focusing only on playing my best while pretending that Nike didn't exist, I came back to beat his snickering ass seven games to four, winning the set.

I didn't wanna give him dap after because I still hated his guts, but I did anyway. I understood that after a bit I wouldn't hate him anymore than I hated the night sky, and ended up practicing for some minutes alone until I decided to call it a day.

Lessons like these seem so obvious in hindsight, but in the moment it's so hard to be completely in control of myself. I'll have to make training my mind just as vital as training my stroke. I know I'll need it to be stronger than steel eventually.
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I challenged Fabricio to a race to twenty.

He occasionally shows up on Saturdays, playing alongside Bert, Jerry, and Phelps, the three caballeros of my tiny pocket billiards world.

Bert's got the kind of smoke gray beard you wanna rip from his chin and slap onto yours; it always looks like the perfect home for a pair of fairytale birds and squirrels with its enviable size, shape, and what I'm sure is the perfect texture. I'd honestly love to feel it but I got a feeling if I asked he'd think I was queer, so that'll remain a mystery to me. You rarely wanna mess with the perceptions of old-school folk, especially if their perception of you is positive.

He plays with one arm most of the time and it's always amazing to watch him work a table. It's like he transforms into a completely different person while hunching over and adjusting his balance for whatever shot's under his nose. He normally runs his mouth. When anyone's shooting against him you can bet the whole room'll hear his trademark phrase, "You better look at it twice, you can only shoot it but once!" and that gets me chuckling sometimes, but when he wraps his twig fingers around his jade green cue's Irish linen and lets his bad arm flop against his side he goes as quiet as an Alaskan tundra.

Jerry, despite his older years, has somehow maintained the rippled physique of a light heavyweight boxer. His skin is tight and clear of any blemish you could think of and the top of his bald head always shines when he takes off his black suede fedora to wipe his brow. He often sweats because to him everything is a workout and pool's no exception.

"And one for a mothafucka's ASS!" is his catchphrase of choice while shooting for gold.

Phelps is the Zen master of the three, a stout, clear-eyed man with the most beautiful cue I've ever seen. It looks like glass and the shaft is a midnight black with a blood red ferrule. It's a bonafide work of art. He's always saying, "Love, brother, love," and "Blessings, blessings," and even though he's usually quick to smile and offer encouragement he sings the saddest songs to himself while shooting, songs about love and loves lost. He's a bit of a womanizer even though he's married with kids, and I'm guessing he's fallen for some of his flings and had his heart broken more than a few times.

They're all much better than me. MUCH better, with Bert specializing in shotmaking, Jerry more than capable at defense, and Phelps as the kick and banking expert.

And Fabricio can hang with all of them.

He's been playing for over three years, starting not long after he first moved in and came across them shooting the shit one weekend afternoon. Like me, it wasn't long until he became hooked and Bert says it took Fabricio less time than he thought to "play competently with the big bad wolves."

He's a little taller than me, just an inch or two over six feet, and has longish oily black hair and a curly mustache he cares for more than his body. He's a big boy, and I get a kick out of watching him huff and puff around the table while muttering that he "needs to lose some fucking weight." He can crack a joke with the best of 'em though, and always manages to stump Bert into silence when the man tries to start a shit talking battle in the middle of a game.

"This lazy fat boy sure can play pool, can't he?" is his war cry.

I've played him once before. It was the second time we met, maybe about two months ago, and although I was impressed that he'd gotten as good as he was in the span of three years, I also had a good feeling I could beat him.

So, at the end of the night, before he started packing up his things, I challenged him to a race to three.

He beat me three games to one.

But I won one.

It was the first game of the match, and that win, in addition to his body language throughout the race, gave me enough confidence to believe that it wouldn't take much longer for me to get him.

So, after more time spent practicing and learning, I eventually decided it was time to soak my feet a little more.

I happily caught Jerry coming out of the elevator last night and told him to relay a message to Fabricio for me since he's guaranteed to see him every week:

A race to twenty in one month. We each put up $100 and he gets to decide the weekend.

I didn't worry about sharing any further particulars like who breaks after a win or what game we'd play, although I'm sure he'll assume it's eight ball. I'm not good enough yet for nine ball but you can bet your sweet ass that game'll be challenged in due time.

Jerry was surprised but I could also see excitement in his eyes, and that made me smile. It makes for something his crew can talk about and a healthy dose of drama never hurt anybody.

I'm hoping Fabricio accepts my challenge. If he does, I'm giving him a month until the match so he can brush up on any neglected skills. I want him at his best. I want to beat him at his best. For me, nothing else will do.