D I A R Y
of a

P O O L    S H O O T E R

The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.




Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Hard Times is gone




Over 30 years of glorious billiard history has come to an end. Hard Times Billiards was southern California's hardcore pool players headquarters. No other pool-hall came close to the history and true pure love of billiards. They had no alcohol, no fancy sports TVs. What did they have? They had hardcore tables. Snooker tables, Heated Carom Tables, and 25 tough gold-crown 9-foot tables, and ten of them set impossibly tight for the best players in the world to compete on, complete with arena seating. That's right; one went there to see the best players, like in any other major sports arena.

Hard times was voted the Best pool room in America by Billiards Digest in 1996. New York had Amsterdam Billiards, California, had Hard-times. First opened by the Markulis family and subsequently sold to the Thomason family. Then lastly, to Edie. Hard Times served pocket-billiards for several generations. The best players came here not only from Los Angeles, not only from the state, no, they came from all over the world. Where else is this to happen?

Every day up and coming players would come from all over, to lose to the best in tournaments, or to play in ridiculously high-stake money games. Hard-times was a pro player's top college. This pro-college turned out future billiard stars and billiard pros like Oscar Domingues, who now owns and runs the sister Hard Times, Sacramento, now the last temple of billiards left in California. New York gave us the Jeanette Lee, and Hard Times gave us Mary Avina. POV pool media was also was born at Hard-times. A temple of pool gave us an endless list of other great and notable, but lesser-known players such as; Andy Chen, Box Patterson, Jay Helfert, Jun Almoite, Jenny Lee, Dave Hemmah, Melissa Herndon, Brook Thomason, Ken Thomason, Jerry Matchin, Robin Bell Dodson, Wayne Pullen, Frank Almanza, Chris Robinson, Ruben Bautista, Sal Butera, James Woods, Butch Barba, Mark Barba, Catfish, and Hawaiian Jimmy all that become somebodies the tough way, getting their ass kicked. Wagering big and small, no participation trophies here. You win, you lose, get over it. Where are the kid and teenager future pros players going to go? Where is there another monthly tournament drawing over 90 players plus? One that had been doing so for over 30 years. Huge yearly purse tournaments that attracted the best players from all over the world year in year out. Where else?

The tournaments were, though, local champions when to Hard-Times to lose. Why because being the best in one town or county or even a state was not good enough, not special. For the big tournaments, you had to beat Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, Keith McCready, Nick Varner, Mike Sigel, Mika Immonen, Alex Pagulayan, Earl Strickland, Buddy Hall, Dennis Orcollo, and Shane Van Boening. In other words, the best in the world. Even the weekly tournament would draw 4 to 5 pros or more on average. For close to no money, you had to beat the likes of Ernesto Domingez, Morro Paez, Bernando 'King Kong' and Jose Parica. Where else can you upstairs and have your cue worked on or made by 'Little AL'?

These are sad times for billiards, Hard-times was a magical place for the hardcore billiard player, and I'm angry. Maybe I'm a dinosaur of times past. I don't love easy tiny tables, and I love playing for money. Still, it feels like little by little, the heart of American billiards is being replaced by easy, small tables and handicapped league systems. Finding a money game is harder and harder. I don't dislike leagues but to me. To me, pool should not be easy or safe. I like my pool serious, and we just lost another temple of pool. To quote the great Barbara Lee, "Pool is not dead" Yes, you're right Barbara, pool is not dead, but you know what? We are down, and it hurts. It really does hurt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

INVINCIBLE, the Kindle book



INVINCIBLE 

now available 
on Kindle books (Amazon)


Wednesday, November 06, 2019

My First Pool Table Now BFF's





When I moved from Philly to Chicago in 1974, one of the first things I did was buy a beat up old pool table, had it refreshed, and installed in the new family home. I loved that table. Every day after work I'd shoot a few racks to unwind. 

That lasted only a couple of years until I just couldn't handle the Chicago weather and moved to San Diego.  (Best move I ever made.) Unfortunately there was just no room for the table in the U-Haul moving truck.  My best friend since high school, Rick Feeny, came to the rescue and I sold it to him for one penny profit (see the framed check below).  

At the time of the sale, Rick and his lovely bride Chrissy also lived in the Chicago area, but subsequently moved to North Carolina and took the table with him. Since then, he has moved several times, always taking the table with him. Just recently, he moved again to South Carolina and built an addition to his new home specifically for the table.

WOW! What a beautiful room it is, and the table is spectacular. Well done, Rick. Thank you for taking such good care of "our" table. 
😀

Rick has done some research on the nameplate (see photo detail below): 

Jaburek and Richard 

Master Tables, 

1735-37 West Lake Street           Chicago


The story he unearthed is that the table was "probably" made by Brunswick around the early 1900's, well over 100 years ago, and relabeled with the seller's name, a somewhat common practice at the time. It is unusual in that it has a 4-piece slate!

I'm really looking forward to playing on the table again. Rick has been taking some lessons from Loree Jon Jones, and been doing a lot more practicing than I have, so it should be a good challenge.










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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Efren Reyes - some seriously super shots

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Pool Table Comes To Del Mar



In the fullness of time, a pool table has finally appeared in the village of Del Mar, where I live. This has never happened before, at least in the last 40 years! I took this photo through the front window; they were closed at the time.

The location is the new Debonair Barber Shop, 1202 Camino Del Mar. Ask for Lauren for a great cut. The table is "challenging" due to the absence of slate and the cushions are somewhat solid and rather unpredictable, but when you consider what they play on in third world countries, it's ok. In my world, any pool table is better than no pool table.

I hear there will be tournaments in another month or so, when they finish the construction work out front.

You can tell they are catering to a manly clientele because of the paintings of naked ladies, and there's some hard liquor available for paying customers. Extra barber chairs for you while you wait.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

MLK Day - Martin Luther King, Jr. shoots pool




I'd like to hear stories about how MLK got into the game...


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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Shoreline Billiards is GONE!



In a recent 13 day road trip I found myself in Mountain View, California to visit the Computer History Museum (geek heaven, right?) and figured I stop by Shoreline Billiards to move a few racks around.

I Googled Shoreline Billiards to get the address for my GPS, and... OMG, WTF? Shoreline Billiards is gone. It has ceased to be! This is very troubling because it is/was the scene of one of my greatest triumphs; my undefeated win in the 2004 APA Amateur Championships for California.

Pool rooms are a disappearing breed of business in the digital age, and that is a sad thing indeed.




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Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Jerry Scott Rambow Cue


Jerry Scott is a long time subscriber to this blog, and recently sent me a few photos of the cue that legendary cue maker Herman Rambow built for him 54 years ago in 1962... for only 47 bucks! I can't imagine what that beauty is worth today. But playing with that great cue is priceless.

This is the first time I've even seen photos of the great cue maker's work, so I asked Jerry if I could share the photos here, and of course he said "Yes!".  Thanks Jerry!






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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My semi-private pool room just got lots better



I'm totally loving the 3 new 9' Diamond pro tables where I occasionally shoot pool. They replace a mismatched set of beat up tables that weren't regulation size... but I managed to win on them anyway (when my game was stronger).

These tables were just installed last week and are the gift of several of the players and a little donation from the county. I stopped by to check out the tables, and since this was the first time I've ever played on Diamond tables (1-piece slate!). They are Excellent, and since the pockets are a bit tighter than the previous ones, definitely more challenging, so I guess I have to up my game! 



Did I mention that table time is FREE!  Tough to beat that deal...



After I won the big quarterly tournament (on the old tables), I stopped competing and let the other guys get a shot at winning it.


Here's my little bit of immortality. A nice plaque on each table.



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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Another one bites the dust



Every once in a while I take a couple of hours away from Global Domination to shoot some pool at the local pool hall.

In this case, it's not that local. About 20 miles away, but that's the closest. And now it's not. Not not closest, just not, as in that it has ceased to be. WTF? That's kind of rude, actually, not even an email, no notice whatsoever!

But I guess anybody could have seen it coming. It couldn't have been making money. It was like they weren't even trying.

Sad.

But I would not give up. It was still an hour before closing time at the nearby senior center where the weekly tournament was just finishing and we (good buddy Keenan M.) got to shoot a few racks before we got kicked out.

A little bit of pool is better than no pool at all.





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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Among the best...




It's hard to be humble when you're me, 
but I work at it every day, 
and every so often somebody notices!

:)




Diary of a Pool Shooter has been featured in the Best Billiard Blog Awards:



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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Practice: Shane does Billiard University Exams


Practice: Shane does Billiard University Exams

Billiard University has devised Playing Ability Exams and world champion player Shane Van Boening gave it a go. Check these two videos of the exams, and try it on your own:

Fundamentals:


Advanced:



More info at BilliardUniversity.org


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Practice

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Pool Tournaments in San Diego


A few years have passed since I have been active in tournament competition, and I have stopped tracking all the events in the area. My list, previously shown in the sidebar, had become woefully out of date.

But there is another list, probably so much more current, and a better looking display as well. Check it out at http://www.sandiegopooltournaments.com


I'm taking my list down, and linking to http://www.sandiegopooltournaments.com


Enjoy...


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dark Times



Today should be sad, but it passed without emotion, probably because I wasn't there when it happened. My pool table, for two years on loan to a tech client's company, was disassembled and the pieces wrapped and stored. For how long is anyone's guess, but it will cost a hundred bucks a month to keep it safe while it hibernates. Hope is strong that it will soon again see good play, and that I will be among the players. I had in mind a startup accelerator; it seems that a pool table is an essential for such places. And it would be good to hang with some startupists who are also cueists. I see a lot in common.

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