Retirement - Gangster Style


Yoga Without Tights

The Neighbors
The Local Pool Hall

Getting Better

For those not familiar with billiards, it offers graceful moves, competitive strategy, and can be played alone or with others. In keeping with its Gangster Style roots, billiards rewards those with a steady eye and nerves of steel.

Before you discard it based on your memories of seedy, smoke filled pool halls, you need to consider the hidden benefits.

Yoga Without the Tights

Billiards provides an excellent workout. Really.

If you don't believe that, stop by your local pool hall and shoot balls for thirty minutes. You'll get a sense of the room's mystique — complete with balls slapping the pockets and squeak of chalk on the cues — and the tension from last night's big game still lingers in the air.

But the room's aurora is not the issue.

The next day your body will be screaming at you. Your back will wonder what the heck you did, and your shoulders will tingle. Through the easy flow of stretching to reach balls, billiards provides a serious flexibility workout.

Granted, billiards won't raise a sweat like hitting the heavy bag, but its stretching and reaching easily rival a good yoga session. And you don't need the tights.

The Neighbors

By its nature, billiards is a social game. Start practicing at the local pool hall every other day. In a short time, players will recognize you as a regular, and you'll be invited to play. Sometimes your opponents will try to hustle you for lunch money, but most of the time they just like to play.

In contrast to more aggressive sports, billiards is an elegant, polite game. In fact, I know of no other game with so many, "Nice shot," and, "You were robbed," words of encouragement.


Paul said, "The old guy across the street would see me in the yard and ask, 'Want to shoot a game.' He had a table in his garage. We wouldn't talk much, but we got to know each other. He was pretty cool."

Sandy said, "I was surprised how much fun we had with our pool table. Twice a year, we'd throw a pool tournament party. Winners got a $2 trophy. It was easily the most lively and entertaining gathering of the year."

If you have the room in the basement, it's a no brainer. Get a pool table.

The Local Pool Hall

Now that you have more free time, it's important to get out of the house on a regular basis. Picking up bread and eggs doesn't count; neither does returning the Hardy Boy's Mysteries to the library.

You need the hint of adventure, an injection of mischief to stir the blood. A Tuesday and Thursday afternoon visit to pool hall isn't all that dangerous — you'll probably be the only player. But the remnants of last night's cigarette smoke, and the scent that comes with competitive sports, will let you know you're still alive. You're still connected to a world that embraces risk and performance.

I may be getting carried away with the pool hall image. Especially since the last time I was there in the afternoon, the only other players were two eighty-five year old gentlemen repeating, "No, I pretty sure it's your turn." They weren't too bad once they got going.

The point is still valid. Get out. Stop by the pool hall.

Getting Better

Once you're playing regularly, you'll notice a change. Instead of losing the usual three games to Fast Tony, you'll win one. Your shot making isn't as good, but your attention to defense frustrates him into mistakes.

Now you're getting to the heart of billiards. Learning a skill and using it to take on the competition conveys a primitive pleasure. Also, winning a few games changes your pool hall status. Others no longer see you as the afternoon fish, but as a "player."

You picked a rough and tumble Gangster Style game, and now you're a player. Wow!


We might have skipped a few steps.

The training period for shooting decent pool can't be avoided.

A variety of instruction books lay out essential shots.

  • Precision Pool by Gerry Kanov and Shari Stauch. Human Kinetics, 1999. * Good illustrations.
  • 99 Critical Shots in Pool by Ray Martin. Random House, 1993. * Excellent beginning book.

  • A smooth stroke lays the foundation for solid play.

    Stroke Practice

    Here's a useful stoke exercise.

    Collect the balls at one end of the table. Standing at that end, line up the cue ball and an object ball with a far corner pocket. The two balls should be about a foot apart.

    Using the cue ball drive the other ball into the far pocket.

    Here's the key element. Strike the cue ball as gently as possible, while still making the shot. The object ball should arrive at the far pocket and barely fall in.

    The slow speed amplifies the effect of a wobbly stroke. If your stroke is slightly off, the reduced speed will make it noticeable. With a straight stroke the ball will go straight down the table; with a wobbly stoke, the ball will look like it has a mind of its own.

    Work your way through a rack of stroke practice shots before every practice session.

    You're on the way.

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