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March 26, 2003

Billiards Redux

There were these fellows having what is apparently called a "Calcutta" match last night at the pool hall, and I got to watch one of the top 10 money players in the world play 9-ball.

This was a Russian guy, with very cocky yet somehow effeminate table manners. He would stroll almost lazily around the table with his head cocked to one side while considering an angle, a nonchalant half grin on his face, then just plop suddenly into position and fire off a shot.

Usually even the best players have to take a warmup stroke or two before each shot, but this guy was just "Bang! Bang! Bang!"

He had another amusing habit at the start of each game regarding the ball rack. He was never satisfied with how his opponent would rack up the balls before his break shot. So he would come down to the end of the table, hunch over the felt with both elbows on the table almost "hugging" the balls, looking very closely to see if they were all nice and tightly packed together. They never were. Then he would spring upright and casually wave a limp finger at the rack while walking away from it, apparently to indicate "do this over please, I do not like the looks of it."

You could say this was silly bahavior, except there was probably $2000 riding on a win that night, and a nice tight racks makes it easier to sink the 9-ball right off the break, winning instantly.

It's weird, because I would have thought this kind of gambling was illegal here in New York, yet they do all the announcing over the PA system at Slope Billiards like it is a public auction. "Who will put a hundred on Brooklyn Billy? A hundred dollars for Brooklyn Billy, a steal at that price! Going once! Going twice!"

Also weird; there are always lots of Orthodox and sometimes even Hasidic jews hanging out in this pool hall. "Impossible!" you say? Come on down and see for yourself...