I Play Pool

John B Nevin at Derby City Classic One Pocket Tournament 2018

When I was a freshman in college, I entered a free tournament at the Southwest Missouri State University Student Union (now called Missouri State). Around 50 of us played 9 ball on 9 foot gold crowns with extremely bad cloth; I believe it was a race to two, and I seemed to be the only person in the room who had ever been on a pool table before. I went undefeated easily, which gave me rights to the laughably exaggerated title of Southwest Missouri State University 9-Ball Champion, and it also gave me an entry into another tournament against the players who had won similar tournaments at their own schools.

Representatives from Kansas U, Kansas State, Missouri U, Wichita State, my school, and a few others I don’t remember played for the bigger title, which would be something like Midwest Regional Bistate Collegiate Division One Billiards Champion, Esquire, though I’ll admit it may have grown over the years. I don’t remember details, except that I won and there was no prize. LOL

My best performance as an adult is 5th place in a one-pocket tournament at Shooter’s in Kansas City. I think there were 44 players, including Francisco Bustamante, Joey Gray, Manny Perez, and Benny Conway Jr. I am privileged to have played my best against a very good player and local name, winning three in a row to come back from a 2-0 deficit, and later won a match I am proud of against Manny Perez, a young professional whose game I admire. I also had a match I will never forget with Taylor Anderson, who once defeated Shane Van Boening in the U.S. Open Eight Ball championship before his untimely death.

The above picture was taken by a professional photographer at the Derby City Classic one-pocket tournament in 2018. It was my second appearance in the open tournament. Anyone who can pay the ~$300 entry fee can play and there were ~400 players. It was my honor to draw John Brumback in the first round, who is one of the best one pocket and banks pool players in the world, and had won this tournament previously. I played well for me but lost 3-0. For another few hundred bucks, I forget exactly how much, I bought one more chance. This time I drew Chris Melling, among the best pool players in Great Britain. I played as well as I could possibly expect, winning one game. I was literally shaking. Melling went on to win the 9-ball tournament, and Brumback took second in the banks. I couldn’t have picked two better players or finer gentlemen out of the whole room.

There are few experiences like being a part of good pool. I’ve had the pleasure to watch some of the best players in the world, such as Efren Reyes, Johnny Archer, Tony Chohan, and Scott Frost, whom I’ve always been jealous of 😀 But what a great group of unique individuals. Like golf, but on a smaller scale, a fan can stand right there in the pool hall and watch the professionals play, and walk around wherever. The sport has interesting characters who tend to be intelligent and to see through bullshit.

A common misconception is that a person who plays good pool is a person who is good at trickery and deception. But I am not a hustler. I am among those who just want to play as well as I can — and we are not the exception. I am not afraid to wager on a game with a friend, but there aren’t any other pool players whose money I crave, I wouldn’t want money that I had earned dishonestly, and I don’t intend to practice being adept at word or mind games. Even among other popular hobbies, pool is one of the most highly conducive to self-development, at or near music, drawing, hunting, conversations, and digging dirt. I wouldn’t want to waste time with fakery or tricks.

I have made a few pool videos and written about pool before, but it is experimental stuff that will be redone. Eventually this space will house all of it.