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December 2018
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Vintage Videos #1


1. Remembering The Fatman by Randi Givens
2. Mort Luby interviews Minnesota Fats
3. Fats interview with Luby, part ll
4. Mosconi Interview with Mort Luby p.1
5. Mosconi Interview with Mort Luby p.2
6. Fats Hall of Fame speech part 1
7. Fats Hall of Fame speech part 2
8. Fats Hall of Fame speech part 3
9. Mort Luby interviews Irving Crane
10. Crane interview with Mort Luby part ll
11. Dorothy Wise Interview part 1
12. Dorothy Wise Interview part 2
13. Lou Butera interview part 1
14. Lou Butera interview part 2
15. Cowboy Jimmy Moore instruction
16. Cowboy Jimmy Moore trick shots
17. Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.1
18. Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.2
19. Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.3
20. Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.4
21. Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.5

Remembering The Fatman by Randi Givens

Surfing Internet pool forums I came across a string of posts saying that Minnesota
Fats (Rudolph Wonderone aka New York Fats) was a “B” player. For many years
stories have gone around claiming that Fatty couldn’t beat his way out of a wet paper
bag. However, such fanciful rumors do not conform to my memories of seeing the
Fatman in action in Johnston City in the early 60s.

Three in the side:
I don’t know if this was one of Fatty’s pet banks, but I saw him make it
six times in a row warming up.

Fats made the bank above to win a $5,000 one pocket match with “Handsome Danny”
Jones who happened to be the US Snooker Champion at the time.
Fatty’s next customer was World One Pocket Champion Marshall “Squirrel” Carpenter.
Fatty put Squirrel in the ditch by running three racks of one pocket in a row. Tell
me how a “B” player can run 3 consecutive racks of one pocket? People who demean
Fats never played him and probably never saw him play for big bucks.
Fats had enough speed to finish 4th in the World One Pocket Tournament in 1961.
Considering the field and the fact that Fats was almost 50 years old at the time, this
was quite an accomplishment. Despite an abundance of top players in attendance
in Johnston City, no one treated him like a “B” player. Even the best players were
wary about matching up with the Fatman. Fats was dangerous and everyone there
knew it.
Squirrel told me “Fats was a very streaky player. When Fatty got on a roll he could
beat anyone. His best game was 3 Cushion, then banks and then one pocket.” When
Fats went into high gear, he became an unbeatable one-pocket-playing-machine
that made confetti out of everyone who challenged him.
The day after Bill ‘Weenie Beanie’ Staton won the 1972 Stardust Open, Fats beat
him so badly playing even up that Beanie couldn’t breathe. Staton was in dead stroke
when the match started having just defeated the top one pocket players in the world,
but that didn’t save him from a brutal beating. Fats ran the last three racks, eight and
out, to finish the session and Beanie could barely stand up. At an age when most
elite players can no longer win in professional competition, Fatty was still depriving
top players of their bankrolls.
Learning that Fats studied under 1928 World Balkline Champion, Eric Hagenlacher,
for a couple of years as a youth, should dispel thoughts that Fats was a “B” player.
Balkline demands very high levels of cue ball and object ball control to play at all
and Fats was a “good” billiard player. There is no better training to produce a
professional pool player than learning to play balkline with some authority. Fats took Hagenlacher’s teaching to heart and became a professional level player in his teens.
Unlike Willie Mosconi who apparently thought of pool as a “job,” Fats genuinely enjoyed competing against tough players. He loved outplaying and outsmarting elite players. Fats viewed pool as a game of wits and few opponents ever out maneuvered him.
Fatty had a huge round Humpty Dumpty body that looked like a ping–pong ball on toothpicks. According to the freight scales in Johnston City, Fats weighed in at 325 pounds.
One thing no one disputes is Fatty’s appetite. He was barred from every smorgasbord and “all you can eat” joint on the planet. The owner of the cafeteria in West Frankfort, stopped Fats before he got a tray saying, “If I let you in, you’ll eat me out of business.” That was no exaggeration because Fats could eat two complete turkeys with the fixings at one sitting.
Fatty was the most energetic fat man I ever saw. He moved like a ballet dancer pirouetting from shot to shot. He floated around the table like a ballroom dancer light as a feather firing in ball after ball. Onlookers were often deceived by Fats babble, which was designed to lure players who should never play him into big money games. To casual observers, Fats boasting, bragging and tall tale telling were amusing, but more serious analysts recognized a deeper more insidious aspect of his chattering. After convincing victims to get down for some serious cash, Fatty’s talk turned to undermining opposition confidence. What seemed entertaining at first took on a sinister tone that eroded self-assurance. On top of the words, Fats dismayed opponents by running rack after rack.
The fact that so many people think that Fats couldn’t play may be a tribute to his ability as a con man or maybe the Fatman fooled people because of the erroneous notion that fat people are congenitally incompetent. The Minnesota Fats was one of my heroes and I miss him.

Cowboy Jimmy Moore instruction

Cowboy Jimmy Moore trick shots

Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.1

Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.2

Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.3

Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.4

Cowboy Jimmy Moore interview p.5

Vintage Videos #2

Vintage Videos #2

1. Allen Hopkins, John Brumback One Pocket HOF Dinner 2011
2. Tony “Fargo” Ferguson’s Bank Pool Hall of Fame induction 2011
3. Wade Crane aka “Billy Johnson” One pocket HOF part 1
4. Wade Crane aka Billy Johnson one pocket HOF 2011 p2
5. Johnston City 1965 Harold Worst and Larry Boston Shorty Johnson Straight Pool
6. Boston Shorty revisits Johnston City
7. Jim McKay Interview with Harold Worst
8. 1965 Johnston City-Worst & Boston Shorty 9 ball
9. Johnston City 1967 Shorty and Wimpy Video
10. Jean Balukas interview part 1
11. Jean Balukas interview part 2
12. Steve Mizerak interview
13. Jimmy Caras interview part 1
14. Jimmy Caras interview part 2
15. Joe Balsis interview with Mort Luby Jr. part 1
16. Joe Balsis interview with Mort Luby Jr. part ll

Tony “Fargo” Ferguson’s Bank Pool Hall of Fame induction 2011

Wade Crane aka “Billy Johnson” One pocket HOF part 1

Wade Crane aka Billy Johnson one pocket HOF 2011 p2

Vintage Videos #3

Vintage videos # 3

1. Truman Hogue vs Freddy the Beard, Chicago Bumps bank tourney 1986.
2. The legendary North Shore Billiard Club. Interview with Artie Bodendorfer.
3. Irving Crane runs 150 and out
4. Grady interviews, Red, Taylor, Beenie and Rood p.1
5. Grady interviews, Red, Taylor, Beenie and Rood p.2
6. The Glove’s fabulous Domino shot
7. Vintage Video Welker Cochrane
8. Vintage Billiards Charlie Peterson
9. Old Time Three Cushion Greats Video
10. The Willie Hoppe Story
11. Cisero Murphy vs Luther Lassiter p.1
12.Cisero Murphy vs Luther Lassiter p.2
13.Jimmy Fusco/Jimmy Rempe 1pkt Legends tourn Philly

Truman Hogue vs Freddy the Beard, Chicago Bumps bank tourney 1986. Parts 1 -4.

The legendary North Shore Billiard Club. Interview with Artie Bodendorfer.

1966 US Open Sherman House Hotel, Chicago. Irving Crane/Joe Balsis parts 1 thru 7 1 hr and 5 sec.

Http:// 9:59 part 1
Http:// 10:13 part 2
Http:// 10:12 part 3
Http:// 10.07 part4
Http:// 10:08 part 5
Http:// 10:01 part 6
Http:// 5:05 part 7

Vintage Billiard Articles & Videos

The 22 Best Sports Illustrated Pool Articles, Including the Greatest Article of All-Time, “A Hustler’s Holiday in the Lion’s Den.” by Tom Fox
In chronological order from 1954 to 1978

Vintage videos from YouTube off Sports Illustrated
Ralph Greenleaf/Andrew Ponzi match and Greenleaf trick shots 9:17 min

Frank Taberski plays chinese billiards 1:06 min

Mosconi/ Caras/ Ponzi video 1:23 min

Vintage Willie Hoppe/Irving Crane video 7:37 min

The 22 Best Sports Illustrated Pool Articles
In chronological order from 1954 to 1978

Nov 15, 1954 Willie HoppeLittle Willie Hoppe played matches crawling around on billiard
tables, confounding and infuriating his grown-up adversaries


April 4, 1955 Vest-pocket Master Of Six-pocket BilliardsWillie Mosconi, world’s best pool player, goes after his 12th title this month and he is understandably worried. He is so good he has run out of competition.
Robt Coughlin
Feb 16, 1959 The End of a 60 Year Reign
The Death of Willie Hoppe

March 20, 1961 The Pool Hustlers
by Jack Olson

Dec,04 1961 Hustler’s Holiday In The Lion’s DenNew York Fats, self-proclaimed greatest pool hustler of them all, battles his peers with cue and quips and action on the side. Tom Fox

Feb 25, 1963 Battle Of The Hottest Sticks The hustlers sidle into Johnston City, Ill. for the World’s Pocket Billiards Tournament, and the action is hot and heavy and fast.

Mar 23, 1964 You Don’t Beat Wimpy At The Game He Loves
Bible-reading Luther Lassiter, who in time past has overcome ulcers, the “swolls” and pool-shooting sinners who are not above duping their foes, makes a memorable last-gasp comeback to defend his world title. Tom Fox

Jan 9, 1967 Wimpy was a Sleeping Beauty
Luther (Wimpy) Lassiter, champion of all pool, began by allowing as how he was feeling poorly and finished more or less fast asleep, but Cicero Murphy, the challenger, turned out to be the man caught napping. Bob Ottum

July 10, 1967 US Open St Louis, Grandma Shot the Lights Out
Jimmy Caras wins. Ted O leary

August 5, 1968 What Can A Girl Give A Hustler Who Has Everything? Answer: A Jeweled Ginacue
Donald Ploski, Sean Holland

Oct 14,1968 Victimized By ‘a Kid’s Game’To the foreign stars, veterans of snooker and billiards, the straight pool at New York’s international tournament was a costly surprise. Pat Putnam

Oct 13,1969 The Frail Gray Man With The Strong Pool Cue
He is 55 years old, his build is slight, his taste in clothes is that of the conservative businessman he is—but Irving Crane happens also to be one of the greatest pool players of all time. Kim Chapin

Feb 8, 1971 Wimpy Tackles An Ex-Tiger at Jack and JillsAnd finds the claws still sharp as Champagne Eddie Kelly disappoints a host of country folks by beating their perennial hero, Luther Lassiter. James Morgan

Aug 28, 1972 US Open Chicago, The Kid Hustles to a Title
Pool prodigy Jean Balukas, 13, breezed through the best women players to take the crown from 57-year-old Dorothy Wise. Barry McDermott

Mar 4, 1974 Big Fish In A Pool That’s Too SmallAs a two-time U.S. Open champion at 14, Jean Balukas seemed to have run out of competition, but in the first world tournament for women she was lured into lapses and a Japanese made an unexpected splash. Richard W. Johns

Dec 16, 1974 Coolest Hand With A Cue
Into the fast company at the hustler’s tournament came Buddy Hall from Shreveport and soon the question was, would he ever lose? Walter Tevis

Nov 10, 1975 Easy Nine The Hard WayBurlington, IA 9 Ball Tourn. He was up against the hotshots, but Jimmy Rempe outcooled them. Pat Putnam
Aug 30, 1976 Money Out of their own Pockets
Unkown Larry Lisciotti chalked up a PPPA tourney funded by his opponents. Mike DelNagro

June 27, 1977 A Hustler Meets An Artist
The $10,000 Challenge of Champions matched up two opposite U.S. titleholders, the ultimate gamesman Larry Lisciotti against organization man Tom Jennings. Mike DelNagro

Aug 8, 1977 Easy Times The Hard Way
After long years on the hustle, pool shooter Danny Di Liberto realizes that he bought a dream. He has also discovered—too late—that the price was exorbitant. Barry McDermott

Aug 28, 1978 Unruffled At The BiltmoreUnder a news blackout, Ray Martin got a second chance and won the world pocket billiards title in the small hours. Michael DelNagro

Oct 9, 1978 A Thing of Beauty
The graceful, solid dignity of an English Billiards table bespeaks the charm of a game that in its varied forms—billiards, snooker or just plain pool—has fascinated its devoted followers since the invention of the cue tip. Robert Byrne

movie script: Roxanne’s Game

1. Roxanne’s Game Movie Script
clik on links below to go to Jack Cooney and his HOF Dinner
2. Jack Cooney Pool’s greatest hustler

3. Hall of Fame Dinner 2009 part 1-4, Jack Cooney and Flyboy Spears

Roxanne’s Game Script Query

Missing the next shot may cost you a year’s earnings — making it may cost you your life.
The pool hustling world has never seen anyone like Roxanne. She blossoms from a naive, oversexed Jewish-American-Princess-Valley-Brat to become slicker than a roomful of high-stakes gamblers. For 20 years, she craftily navigates her supremely talented pool player/ lover through dangerous murky waters filled with eat-’em-alive pool sharks and merciless parasites.

ROXANNE’S GAME dramatizes the true story of two decades of her survival in an exotic, often hilarious, sub-culture inhabited by a carnival of shrewd, rowdy, and deceitful players who feed, but often dupe, their high-rolling backers. All of them loving the only lifestyle they’d ever want. It’s also the story of a maturing teenage girl who learns that affection and love sometimes grow in places where there is no sunlight.

As father and daughter writing partners, we drew upon Fred’s action-filled years as one of the most colorful pool hustlers who ever played, and our mutual years of education and experience in dramatic writing.

Catherine Adami & Fred Bentivegna

Roxanne’s Game, the beginning

Original script by Fred Bentivegna and his daughter, Catherine Bentivegna Adami:


Overhead view of a pool table — a missed shot.



A bad situation is developing. Some tough-looking SWEATORS
are forming up near the pool table. They begin arguing.

I gave Sonny six hundred on that
cue-stick. That cue is mine!

Yeah, well I loaned Sonny four-fifty
on it. What about me?

That stick is only worth about nine
hundred, and he got seven hundred
from me. If anybody winds up with
it, it’s gonna be me!

I don’t care about any of you
motherfuckers, I’m leaving here
with that cue — Sonny’s ass — or
somebody’s ass!

ST. LOUIE SONNY is at the table shooting. His eyes blink
rapidly as he listens to the commotion behind him.

What’s going on, Houseman?

St. Louie Sonny hocked his cue to
four different killers and they’ve
all showed up at the same time.

Sonny is sweating. Keeps stroking and stroking. Then his
face lights up.

He shoots, misses the ball badly, curses profusely, and
smashes the stick to smithereens over the table.

The Sweators all look at each other, stunned, and then they
suddenly start laughing.

That Sonny’s really crazy, ain’t

Ain’t no crazier than we are for
loaning that goofy sumbitch any

Everybody roars with laughter.


A stream of long blonde hair flails back and forth on
ROXANNE; thirty-eight, expensively dressed, bejeweled and
beautiful, even when she is fighting mad.

And she is fighting mad right now.

That’s just fucking great, Mick!
All your experience — you still
get the “High Speed Wobbles!”
… Somebody gimme a cigarette!

A large group of spectators surround the pool table. One of
them lifts a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket.

MICK — bespectacled, sportily dressed, forties, with a
strong resemblance to Clark Kent — wrings his hands and sips
coffee on a high wooden player’s chair. His legs are crossed
as he lifts and drops his pool cue softly onto the floor.

Roxanne paces back and forth.

You got a cigarette? Anybody got a
(muttering loudly)
Why do I do this? Why? Why?

Roxanne speed walks up to Mick.

He looks defeated, slumping in the chair. He scratches his
head and looks down and away, staring at the floor.

Roxanne wags her fingers at Mick.

You’ve lost it, Mick, you’ve
fucking lost it!

A man offers her a cigarette and lights it for her.

I could have married a doctor…

With that, Mick smirks.

(to the crowd)
He can’t play anymore. I don’t
know why we bother. He should just
go back home to Pasadena and get a
fuckin’ day job.

Roxanne tries to make eye contact with the various Sweators
in the crowd while she rants.

Wasted my whole life on this one.
He plays like dog shit.

Mick chalks his cue, laboriously gets out of the chair and
walks over to the pool table to take his shot. Takes a look
at the crowd and leans over the table.

Roxanne shakes her head and tosses her hair. She rolls her
pretty blue eyes like only she can.

… Wasted my life.

Scene ll


The poolroom clock shows six a.m. There is a sound of BALLS BREAKING.



A sports car parked outside the house.


Birds chirping outside. Inside the house coffee is poured
into a cup.


The car is rocking, long blonde swishes back and forth.

Roxanne, age seventeen, is atop and kissing HIPPIE BOY.


Turns to 6:00 a.m.

A half-smoked joint in the ashtray.

G-OO-D Morning to ya, Valley Folk.
In Saigon it’s nearly dinner

Rock song of 1970 plays.


HERMAN SCHWARTZ, late fifties, short, blank, expressionless
man in a cheap suit and briefcase, approaches the front door
to leave for work where…

MAURA SCHWARTZ, early fifties, in a fluffy pink robe, hair in
curlers, holds coffee and a cigarette.

Maura, hearing the loud music, looks outside and spots
Roxanne in the car.

(Brooklyn accent)
Roxanne… is that you out there?
My God… is that you!

Herman Schwartz, like a computerized robot, kisses his wife
on the cheek, walks to driveway, gets in car, and pulls out
into the street.

Maura Schwartz, furious, starts to scream and runs across the
lawn to the Hippie Boy’s car.

Roxanne hears her mother and suddenly climbs on top of the
hippie boy, who is startled, turned on, and stoned.

Roxanne starts humping him and moaning, looking straight into
her mother’s face and then to the driveway toward her father,
who looks as if he were a horse with blinders.

Herman drives away.

Herman! Help me!

Maura, in her slippers and still holding the coffee, walks to
the driver door of the car.

Roxanne is feigning ecstasy.

Maura stops for a moment and stares at the couple, then opens
the car door and throws the hot coffee into the boy’s face,
causing Roxanne to fall out onto the street.

Laura drags a screaming Roxanne by her long blonde hair,
across the lawn and toward the house.

Ma, Ma! Leave me alone!

Sound of a car door slamming shut. The Hippie Boy burns
rubber and drives off.

Other suburban couples are out on their lawns.

(to neighbor)
What’re you all looking at? You’ve
never had a teenager? Look at me,
I’m nearly sixty! You think I
planned this one?

The neighbors look away.

Maura pushes Roxanne into the house and slams the door.


Roxanne runs upstairs into her messy room, full of Star
magazines, posters and flower-child stuff, and locks the

So, I guess you’re going to miss
school again, smart ass! Go right

A current rock tune begins to play loudly. Roxanne pulls her
dress over her head and flops down on the messy bed in her
white bra and underwear.

She opens a Hollywood magazine, smiles and giggles to
herself, and slowly falls asleep.

Scene lll


Maura and Roxanne in dresses and jewelry walk up the ramp.


Maura keeps fidgeting with Roxanne’s clothes, long hair and

Oy! I wish you would keep your
hair up.

Maura tries to keep her daughter’s hair up with a barrette.

MANNY LOWE, sixtyish, also with a Brooklyn accent, greets
them at the door. He has a shoe salesman air about him.

Hello, hello! You two gorgeous

Maura looks delighted to see Manny. Manny hugs and kisses
both Maura and Roxanne. Roxanne gives Manny a big hug.

It’s not every day my only niece
turns eighteen! Where’s Herman?


Big surprise. What else does that
man do?

Roxanne and Maura follow Manny, who leads them to a booth in
the busy restaurant.

There’s someone here I’d like you
two to meet… Barry Stone’s kid,
Adam — from the neighborhood in
Brooklyn… Kid’s got an internship
at Paramount this summer… Missed
the draft due to his jaw disease
and all…

Jaw disease?

The three approach the booth. There is a young man sitting

ADAM STONE, an extremely geeky boy around twenty-one, turns
and smiles, to reveal a mouth full of braces.

Maura, acting like she is in on it, pushes a stunned Roxanne

Adam stands to shake their hands.

Roxanne gives her mother a sinister look.

… So you work at Paramount?
Roxanne just loves movies. Who is
that you like now, dear? Oh,
what’s her name? I think she’s

Goldie Hawn?

Oh, yeah, Goldie Hawn. So skinny,
that Goldie Hawn! Don’t you think
she’s too skinny, Adam? Why can’t
she be nice and healthy… like our
Roxanne here?

(to Adam)
She means fat.


Dinner’s ending.

Adam has food stuck in his braces.

Roxanne looks horrified, then laughs.

Roxanne leans her head back and notices a DARK OLDER MAN. He
is standing and drinking a cocktail at the bar, winking at

She takes her long hair out of her barrette and waves it
around. Seductively makes eye contact. Licks her lips.

Dark older man is kind of cool and laughs.

Adam the Geek watches, jaw dropped, and is entranced.

Maura notices what Roxanne is doing from the corner of her
eye and smacks the back of Roxanne’s head.

— and God has chosen to punish me
with this one.

Roxanne laughs.

Adam the Geek snaps out of the trance.


Roxanne, Maura, Manny, and Adam wait for the valet to bring
their cars.

(to Manny)
Thank you for dinner and
introducing Roxanne to your nice
friend Adam. Adam, you must tell
your father Maura Schwartz says hi.

Yeah, thanks for remembering, Uncle

Gimmee a hug!

Manny and Roxanne embrace. He pretends to do the Tango with

You know what would make me so
happy? If you would have lunch
with Adam at the studio tomorrow.
Come on, do it for your mother…

Manny leans over to Roxanne.

(whispers in Roxanne’s ear)
My nagging sister, your mother,
she’s so worried about you, thinks
a nice boy is the answer… you get
married… buy a house…

Look at him.

Both Roxanne and Uncle Manny take a look at Adam.

Manny nods.

Okay, he’s no Dean Martin, but he’s
got money and a future.

Uncle Manny’s eyes light up to close the sale.

I don’t want to live off of his

I want to make my own money. And I
will one day, doing something

(a little pissed)
I can’t say your grades are good
enough to get you there.

Roxanne looks upset.

Uncle Manny pulls out a mezuzah (Jewish religious necklace)
and puts it around Roxanne’s neck, then reaches into his coat
pocket and hands her a twenty dollar bill.

Oh, thank you, Uncle!

Forget school. Strength and beauty
will take you far. That’s your
talent. Use it. Happy Birthday.

Manny then goes in for the kill.

Will you go to lunch with Adam
tomorrow? You can take the day off
from school…

Okay, sure.

Scene lV


Roxanne drives through the studio gates on a bright sunny
day. She meets Adam in the parking lot.

Adam is dressed in white shorts with knee socks. Roxanne has
on a sexy hippie dress and sunglasses.

… So, if you’re lucky I could
introduce you to somebody famous.

Adam smiles his geeky smile.

I figure if I work my way up here,
I’ll be running the studio someday.
I just love movies! Do you love movies?
I love all kinds: action, adventure, comedy,

Adam winks at her and gets shy.

God, Roxanne… you are so-o-o

Adam leans in closer to Roxanne, his mouth open, literally
drooling a bit.

Roxanne backs away.

PRODUCER, early thirties, muscular, tanned, in a golf cart,
stops to yell at Adam.

Hey kid! We need that mud on the
set for the pig sty scene. Now!

Roxanne giggles, eyes Producer…

Yes, sir!

Adam turns to Roxanne smiling.

A Western.

Producer, while driving the golf cart, turns around and
smiles at Roxanne, who smiles back.

Could you wait here for me? I’ll
be back in a jiffy and we’ll go to
the commissary to eat. Lots of
stars there. I think they have
meatloaf today…

Adam pauses.

Yeah, it’s meatloaf Thursday.

Sure, just leave me some money for
a soda.

Well, I don’t have any change.

Adam takes out his wallet and Roxanne, spotting a twenty
dollar bill, takes it from his hand.

Don’t worry. I’ll bring you back
the change.

Roxanne smiles at Adam, who is running away, changing his
frown into a big, closed-eye smile.

I’ll be back ASAP. Don’t leave!

Adam, still smiling at Roxanne, accidentally runs into
someone, falls and gets up. Roxanne starts to walk backward
while Adam runs around the corner and disappears.

Roxanne smiles till he leaves, then shakes her head and
starts to walk around the studio, checking everybody out.

She lights a cigarette awkwardly — a novice smoker.

Notices a woman in sunglasses and long blonde hair — a lookalike
for Goldie Hawn — and begins to follow her.

She continues to follow her onto the street outside the


Adam is supervising the moving of loads of mud into the sty
with a bunch of pigs around.

He is trying to finish as quickly as possible.


Roxanne follows Goldie Hawn look-alike to the doorway.

Goldie Hawn look-alike walks through the door.

Roxanne takes a deep breath and follows her in.


A jukebox plays loudly.

The place is very dark, with various colored lights. Has a
Rat Pack feel to it. Old movie star types intermingle with
young, good-looking movie star types. There is an old-fashioned
bartender. Sounds of glasses clinking… the sound
of pool balls clicking on a table in the back.

We hear the shouting of FREDDY — twenty-eight years old,
bearded, glasses, long-haired, tall, thin, and dressed in
Hippie threads — a very loud Italian-American with an
ethnic, South Side of Chicago accent.

He keeps moaning and groaning, as he appears to be losing at
Eight-Ball, and biting his fist.

Freddy is playing OLDER ACTOR, late forties, tan, nice hair,
wearing a white leisure suit.

Roxanne becomes focused on Freddy’s table as the Goldie Hawn
look-alike sits down to watch as well.

Freddy kind of bows to the Goldie Hawn look-alike,
acknowledging her, but not going “ga ga,” and she nods back
to him, shaking her hand at Freddy in a “just stop it”

Freddy notices Roxanne who almost gets knocked over by
people walking in the aisle.

The game ends. Roxanne, sitting at the bar, sees everyone
being paid a few dollars or so.

(to Older Actor)
You robbed me again!

Don’t sweat it, kid.

That’s three in a row. You beach
boys sure can stroke a cue. Nice
and steady … not me … too
nervous! My mother made me a
neurotic mess, I tell you!

Okay, Freddy, how about a few more
games? I’m sure there’s some hope
for you.

(answering quickly)

With that Freddy starts to rack the balls again.

Sure! Beast, get it going for a
coupla more games…

ANSEL, or the “FILTHY BEAST,” a tall “Outside Man” (someone
who handles the action other than the player) in his late
thirties, in an out-of-style three-piece suit.

He walks around the room collecting bets on a little scratch
pad. Roxanne can see that everyone is betting on Old Actor.

The Beast passes Roxanne, but she grabs him by the arm as he
tries to go to the next person…


Hey yourself, Angel. You in?

Yeah, give me Freddy for twenty.

Listen, child, I wouldn’t go in on
this game. I wouldn’t want to see
you lose all that money…
especially if you’re a struggling
actress or something.

Ansel looks around guiltily. He doesn’t seem to want her to
make the bet.

I said, Freddy for twenty.

A big, beefy BARTENDER with a straw in his mouth and arms
crossed, intervenes, intimidating Ansel.

You heard the lady, she wants
Freddy for twenty.

Yeah, Freddy for twenty.

Ansel gives the bartender a dirty look, moves onto the next
Sweator and the game begins.

Adam returns to the corner where he left Roxanne.

All done!
Adam stands alone, disappointed.


Passerby, walking past the dirty Adam, turns his nose up at

Scene V



— Freddy starts winning, but the crowd still bets on OldActor.

— Roxanne stares devotedly at the cash floating around the room, and the charismatic Freddy.




Ansel gives Freddy a look, makes a closed fist and places it in the middle of his chest.

Freddy, surreptitiously responds with an open palm, fingers extended, and places his hand palm down in the middle of his chest.

Freddy then scratches on the eight ball, losing the game. Ansel secretly nods his head in approval.

Freddy unscrews his cue-stick, packs his cue case, and starts to walk out with Ansel. There is a look of elation from the Old Actor.

Roxanne has a look of shock on her face, leaves two dollars on the bar, follows Freddy and Ansel out, and tries to catch up.

Roxanne intercepts Freddy outside.

Why’d you lose the last game?
I think you lost on purpose!
I bet everything I was winning on you!
Everybody was betting on you!

— Everybody but the Beast! Sorry
darlin’, but I wasn’t gonna let you
get away with the lion’s share of
my hustle. You had to go down,
just like everybody else.

Freddy takes out a cigarette and offers Roxanne one.

She refuses. He lights the cigarette.

… Plus, I have to be able to play
in there again… Leave my opponent
with a good taste in his mouth…Got
a few more nights left here,you dig?

(starting to cry)
But that was my birthday money!

Freddy starts to walk away to catch up with Ansel. He turns and says…

You stuck your nose where it didn’t
belong. You were out of your league
in there, kid.

Freddy walks away, with his pool cue over his back.

My birthday money!

Freddy stops in his tracks.

Beast! Wait in Jesse’s car for me.

An uncomfortable Freddy attempts to mollify Roxanne.

Please, please — stop crying. I can’t
stand it! Here’s a twenty to shut you up.
“Hippie” Jesse’s gonna beat me for this.
That’s his coupe were using, and I still owe
him from Vegas.

Roxanne is calming down and even smiling a little.

Freddy keeps looking over at Ansel honking the horn.

Roxanne and Freddy start walking to the coupe.

Listen. You hungry? I sure do get hungry playing pool.
If I were home, I could get my mother to fix me something to eat.

Freddy pats his skinny stomach.

You don’t cook, do you? We don’t have a stove
at the motel…


Then you don’t ever have to worry about me
falling for you. I need me a woman who can
cook. Can’t bring any other kind home to my


Freddy pulls out a crucifix under his “Indian Style” Hippie threads and shows it to her.

Not hardly.

Then you have to worry about me falling for you.
I’m not looking to make my parents happy — There’s
a stove at my house.

Roxanne and Freddy, standing beside the car, both laugh.

I’m Freddy, but you can call me “The Beard.”

No, I like Freddy better.

Freddy and Roxanne both smile. Freddy opens the door.

That there’s Ansel, but we all call him
The Filthy Beast, but I’m sure you don’t
like him too much right now… and your
name is…


Roxanne climbs in the back of the coupe.


Ansel points out the window at a group of factory workers leaving a plant.

Take a look at those working stiffs out there
in the “real world,” will ya. That’s where you’re
gonna windup, Beard, if you don’t start shootin

Roxanne notices that the mere thought of a normal job has sent a cold chill through Freddy.


Freddy closes the kitchen cupboard.

He is wearing a “Kosher Only” apron with a joint in his mouth.

Freddy picks up a bag of dust-covered egg noodles.

He blows the dust off the bag and it covers his glasses with dust so he can’t see.

The two of them laugh.

Roxanne sits on a stool laughing, waiting for him to pass her the joint.

Roxanne lights candles and incense while Freddy cooks.

Your mother’s not much of a cook, either, I take it.

Not if she can help it.

You sure your mother can’t hear us?

I told you already. My mother takes a pill at nine
and doesn’t wake up till six. She’s been doing
it as far back as I can remember, and my dad
is out of town for work…(quietly) He’s always working.

You got money?

Roxanne stops lighting the candle for a moment. No one has ever asked her this before.


It’s a simple question. You just look like you got
a nice thing going on here.

Freddy stirs the noodles in the boiling water.

Looks can be deceiving. What little they do have
is locked up so tight, I’ll never see any of it
…how ‘bout you?

Freddy dumps the noodles into a colander.

I’m flattered that you ask. I can tell that you
haven’t seen too much outside these walls
have you? How do I know that? Living on the
road has given me a very sharp perspective.

Roxanne focuses in, and gets closer to the bowl of noodles to hear what he is saying.

Whereas you’ve this nice house –with a pool
— which you might think is just so-so… My
parents live in a one-bedroom apartment above
my Uncle’s bar on the South Side of Chicago…


Freddy feeds her some noodles, and she smiles like a little child.

Well, lucky for you I’m a Sicilian man and
know how to cook for myself. Egg noodles,
butter and garlic! Mangia! Mangia!

Roxanne and Freddy dive into the bowl.

So, why do you do it?

Do what?

Play pool and travel around the country.

Easy to answer, child… See the world, meet
different types of people… A lunch pail and
a thermos ain’t my kinda thing. In my vocation,
us socially unfortunates can thrive. What about
your life?

Quit school and make money like you.

Like me? You’re crazy! Your mother must
not beat you enough.

Scene Vl


They leave the kitchen. Suddenly, Roxanne lunges in for a
kiss, expecting that’s what men want. Looking at those pretty
eyes, he strokes her cheek, bends toward her lips — then
straightens abruptly.

You’re too young for me, honey.

Freddy pauses, and looks up. He points his pool stick up the
stairs, to her mother’s bedroom.

… And I got that thing about


The two walk in and start playing on a cheap pool table with
the garage door open, looking out onto the street.


Ansel’s coupe pulls up and Jesse, late thirties, looking
exactly like the Dark Older Man that Roxanne had flirted with
in the restaurant, slams the door and starts to yell, until
he walks up to the garage and sees Roxanne.

Where the fuck you been, Beard? I
had to have The Beast take me here
to get you. We’re leaving here!
There’s action in ‘Frisco… Big
game with a “Great Man,” if we
leave now we can get in on it

‘Frisco, already? But I didn’t get
to go to Disneyland yet.

Get in the car, kid.

Freddy gets the nod from Jesse and grabs his coat and cue.

(to Roxanne lasciviously)
How you doing, Cher’?

Pretty good.

Jesse pulls out a pack of cigarettes from his dark suit and
Roxanne spots a gun. Her eyes open wide.

Freddy returns with his coat and pool cue.

Jesse and Roxanne stand there sizing each other up. Freddy
sees what is going on and tries to hurry Jesse toward the

Come on Jesse, I’m ready.

Jesse does not answer, just keeps staring at Roxanne in the

You ever been to ‘Frisco…

— Roxanne.

When Jesse pronounces her name he lets it roll slowly off his

You ever been to ‘Frisco —

No, I haven’t.

That’s a real shame. Real shame,

Yeah, real shame.

Freddy gives Jesse another look. Ansel honks the horn.

Alright, I’ll see you later
… Roxanne.

Jesse saunters across the lawn toward the car, while Freddy
hurries ahead of him, throws his stuff in the trunk and gets
in. Roxanne just stares at Jesse from the front door stoop.
Jesse slowly opens the car door, puts out a cigarette, smiles
at Roxanne and eases his way in. Suddenly…

Wait! Wait! I wanna go with you!
Can I go with you?


Freddy frowns and bangs his head against the back seat.

(to Ansel)
We got Little Bo Peep on deck here.

Jesse, looking back to Ansel and Freddy in victory, hee-haws.

Well, looky here… Alright Cher’,
you got about two minutes.

Jesse looks at his gold watch, very seriously.

(to himself)
No, No, No!


Roxanne runs frantically up the stairs,ripping through the
clothes in her messy room. A driving rock song plays on the


Maura rustles in her bed with an eye shade on.


Roxanne grabs her backpack and throws a couple of things
inside: clothing, brush, makeup, a Star magazine, and a
birthday card from her father.


You tell her to bring a rope?

(yelling out the window)
Bring a long rope, Cher’!

Roxanne walks to window and yells out.

A rope? Why a rope?

Lights from a few windows on the block of suburban houses
start to flicker on.

Oh, jeez.

Don’t ask Cher’, just do… You got
about thirty seconds left!

Roxanne runs down the stairs, knocking stuff over, grabs a
rope from the closet, and starts to head out the door when…

Roxanne, Roxanne? Is that you,
honey? Are you okay?

… nineteen, eighteen…

Roxanne thinks for a second, grabs chalk from the kitchen
chalkboard and writes:
“Mom. Will call. Love R.”

Roxanne runs across the lawn, almost tripping in her bell

… three, two…

Roxanne just makes it to the coupe. Jesse pulls his seat
forward and pushes Roxanne’s butt in, shoving her face
forward, into the back seat with Freddy.

… one.

Jesse slams the door and Ansel screeches off.


Roxanne laughs hysterically, breathing heavily from running,
her face in Freddy’s lap.

I’m getting you on a bus back to
the Valley first thing tomorrow
morning. This ain’t right.

Roxanne sits up and puts her fingers over his mouth to shut
him up, shakes her head no, and smiles.

One more thing, Cher’, I don’t like
smart broads. Every night before
we go to bed I’m going to put a
Florida orange and the five-ball on
top of the dresser. If you ever
get to where you can tell the
difference, I’m going to boot you
in the ass and ship you back home
to mommy. Okay, now let’s go take
care of this Great Man.

(to Freddy)
What’s a Great Man?

A Great Man has nothing to do with
accomplishment. A Great Man is how
we affectionately refer to somebody
who is a tremendous absorber of
punishment… someone who can take
brutal pool beatings and keep
paying off like a slot machine…
an exceptional sucker in other


Scene Vll


Ansel’s car pulls up in front of club.

I’m starving.

You ain’t eating nothin’ ‘til you
beat somebody.

That’s the problem with you
hillbillies… not the most
epicurean of sorts.

Epicure your ass right into that
pool room, you owing-me-big-time from-
Vegas, Eye-talian.

See the love?

(to Roxanne)
Go get us some coffee.

Jesse hands her two dollars and walks away.

Why do they call him Hippie Jesse?
He’s a red-neck!

He beat up three Hippies with a
pool cue once.


A DOPEY HIPPIE puts his hands up in surrender and giggles to
Jesse that he doesn’t have money to pay for the game he just

I’m gonna have to owe you for that
game. Better’n cheating ya’.

Jesse’s fille, (pronounced philly, like the city) or the
player he is staking, is a young black man who just stands
calmly next to Jesse with his pool cue over his shoulder,
ready to leave.

Two additional DROOPY EYED, STONED HIPPIES come to their
friends aid and admonish Jesse.

What’s the big deal about money,
man? It’s only good for two things
anyway, buying drugs and beer!
Blow, man, because your kind don’t
belong here anyway!

With that, Jesse turns violent and bashes the first Hippie
with a house cue-stick, then finishes off the other two the
same way, drops the broken cue on the floor, pulls his gun
and backs out, remarking:

Money is always a big deal with me,
you fucking freaks!

The three Hippies are shown unconscious, clumped in a pile.



— Lots of games played by the tired and hungry Freddy.
— Roxanne is tired but enjoying the action.
— Men eye her hungrily.
— Jesse gives them a warning nod and a flash of his gun,
indicating to leave her alone.


(to Roxanne)
That there is One-Pocket, the
world’s hardest pool game.

How do you play that?

Each player gets an opposite corner
pocket. The first guy to make
eight balls in his own pocket wins.
You don’t have to call your shot,
any way they go in is okay.

How is it different from Nine-Ball?

Well, it’s like this. If you were
gonna be in a foxhole in war time,
you’d want to be with a Nine-Ball
player. But if you were a
guerilla, operating behind the
lines, you’d want to be with a One-
Pocket player.


— Freddy – Plays and wins.
— Roxanne – Watching, has high energy, seeing they’ve won a
lot of money.
— Jesse – Stops his card game and goes into a corner to
count Freddy’s winnings.
— Freddy – Exhausted and starving, crams two hot dogs
that Ansel gives him into his mouth.
— Enter BUGS – A black man with a voice like Barry White.


(to Freddy)
You is just a slave to that man.

(choking on dogs)
I know it! I know it!

(after Bugs moves on)
Who’s he?

That’s Bugs, one of the all-timegreats…
from Chicago… one of
the guys who turned me out when I
was a kid.

Jesse approaches Roxanne, flashing her his fat bankroll.

How you feeling, Cher’?


A seductive song plays. Roxanne and Jesse make love — it
only lasts a few moments…
Jesse then rolls over and soon starts snoring.

Roxanne sits up, a frustrated questioning look adorns her

Ansel is sacked out on the couch

Freddy sleeps in the bathroom. Towels are his pillow and
blanket, a copy of Machiavelli’s “THE PRINCE” is at his side


(to Freddy)
I’ve only got about two dollars
left, and I’m getting tired of this
waitress shit. When am I going to
get a chance to make my own money?
Jesse’s rolling in it. Can’t you
help me?

Jesse is cheap. He’s a cheap,
stubborn hillbilly and that’s
probably why he’s rolling in it.
Don’t forget, I warned you about
him, didn’t I? Ain’t no lover boy
either — I guess you found that
out, too…

— Yeah.

… Only redeeming quality is he
can find high rollers, and spot
thoroughbred players like no other.
Eventually he leads you somewhere
good… but he could care less
about feeding ya.

Freddy lifts up his shirt to point to a skinny belly.

Look at the bones jutting out!

Your bones? Look at mine!

Roxanne grabs Freddy’s hands and places them around her waist
— his hands tremble slightly at her touch. They linger
maybe longer than they should.

My mother wouldn’t recognize me if
she saw me now!

Freddy, suddenly, and awkwardly, pulls his hands away.

Girlfriends and wives of other pool players who look more put
together and confident, make fun of Roxanne while she
stumbles around the room trying to be functional.

She brings drinks to Jesse’s various charges, who are playing
at different tables.

Jesse puts his arm around Roxanne when he notices the women
knocking her in a lame attempt at reassurance. She pulls
away, pissed.

Roxanne goes to Freddy who is standing next to a wall phone.
Freddy surveys the room and begins pontificating to Roxanne.

Here we are: A jail-bait, flower
child, Jewish princess, an Italian
philosopher from the great South
Side of Chicago, an illiterate
backer from Louisiana, and a
scruffy New York gypsy bookmaker.
— Hustling pool — you got all
colors, races, ages, genders. You
get it? Hustling don’t

Freddy grabs a passerby with a pool cue and money in his
hand. Stops him, takes the money, counts it, sees it is a
pittance, frowns, and then gives it back.

No special requirements to be a
hustler. Only thing anybody cares
about in a pool room, is how much
money a guy’s got in his pocket,
and how fast you can beat him out
of it…

Scene Vlll

(picking up the phone)
I gotta call home, let my mom know
I’m okay.



Both mother and daughter are yelling hysterically.

(still lecturing Roxanne, who
is trying to listen to her
mother and Freddy at the same
— Take a stockbroker. Makes big
money, right? But what did he
really have to do to make money? —
Dick! — a few stinking phone

Roxanne nods her head at Freddy while getting blasted by her
mom at full volume.

Know what I have to do to make
money? Go for days without sleep
sometimes, with good old boys with
guns standing around… knowing if
I don’t make the shot I do my
sleeping on a bus station bench.

(talking into phone)
I’m not leaving till these guys pay
me what they owe me!

(paying no attention to
Roxanne’s argument)
Yeah babe, this road is a hard
road. It’s hard but it’s fair.
It’s all about winning. Keep the
same head playing for two dollars
or two thousand. The importance of
just winning is the same. That’s hustlin’.

Freddy points his finger at Roxanne to imbed the lesson.

(continues to wax
… And don’t ever think we all
wouldn’t rob you blind if we got
half a chance.

Roxanne hangs up the phone violently.


Jesse, Roxanne, and Freddy enter pool room.

Now this smells like money!


Freddy flips for the first break with his new-found opponent.


Freddy’s opponent, looking disheveled, is paying him off,
throwing big money on the table.

Roxanne is mesmerized by a shaving kit that is being filled
with money.


Dirty and exhausted, Ansel, Freddy, Jesse, and Roxanne head
into the motel.

They walk past the swimming pool where the wives of other
hustlers she had seen in the pool room are sunbathing.
The ladies are painting their toe nails, drinking iced tea
and smoking cigarettes.

Sequential images of them as they snicker and stare at the
tired, unkempt Roxanne.


The four pool musketeers enter the motel room. Roxanne
immediately lies on the bed, exhausted.

I’m starving. Let’s go get

Girl, you better get off that bed
and head down to the store —
you’re making us breakfast.

Jesse starts to undress and move toward the shower. He
throws a ten dollar bill on the bed and closes the door.

He’s kidding, right?

No, he ain’t You’d better just do
what he says… or else. Jesse
hasn’t slept in two days… you’re
just lucky Freddy won.

— And who stayed up with him?

Go, before he gets out of the

Weak, in disarray, and pissed off, Roxanne leaves the hotel


Roxanne does not know how to cook and fumbles in the
kitchenette. She is crying.

Freddy enters and sees what’s going on. While Jesse is on
the bed, Freddy starts making the eggs for her.

Roxanne stops crying. Freddy strokes her hair.

Jesse shakes out of bed and sees that Freddy is helping her.

He goes into the kitchen and slaps her disdainfully, in the

Freddy glares at Jesse, but does nothing and stays out of it.

Where’s my cut of the money?

Oh, your cut of the money?
Jesse, snickering, throws a dollar on the bed.
Roxanne stares at the dollar, wide-eyed and disbelieving,
then she erupts. She lunges at Jesse, and tries to take his
eyes out. He fends her off easily, then he pulls his gun on
her and motions her away — laughing the whole time.

Freddy and Ansel look on, ashamed to be witnessing this.


Jesse, dressed to the nines, with a suitcase, peeks in.

(to Ansel)
… Leaving for a couple of days.
Got to pay some people.

Jesse lights a cigarette.

… Few ex-wives. Tell Freddy
we’re even. The broad is yours.
Lose her though, by the next time I
see you.

I hear ya.

Oh yeah, you’ll have to take them
in your own car. I got somebody
hauling the Beastmobile down here
for you tomorrow.

Jesse laughs hysterically and exits.

Freddy and Roxanne are eating snack foods on the bed.

Thank God he’s gone!

It’s time you left, too, honey.


I can’t take care of you. You need
someone to do that for you.

I’m going to find a way to make my
own money… and I’m not going to
depend on someone like Jesse to do

Are you really committed to being a

Freddy pauses and looks her over. He’s considering the
awesome responsibility of being the one to send her on a
lifetime path.

Maybe I should induct you into our
“Society” and show you some
of the hustler’s secret signs and

Roxanne’s face lights up and she becomes immediately

Okay. Lesson One, you got to learn
about “Tom” and “George” “Tom” is
a spoken code, and it always means
something is bad, and “George”
always means something is good.
When you use either of those words
in a sentence it tips off your
fellow hustler if a situation is
either good or bad.


Clear? Tom, bad, George, good.

Scene Vllll

You said if I’d drive you to the
spot, I could bet on you, right?FREDDY

(to Roxanne)
— Let’s get out of here. Now that
Jesse’s gone maybe I can make both
of us some money. You just keep
the men preoccupied like you do.

What… Who me?

Yeah, yeah, princess, get your
hustle on. No more kid stuff.
Pool baby, pool. That’ the name
of the game.

They walk downstairs, and then climb into the motel van and
drive off.


The valet drives them into town.

Hey, where’s The Beast?

Oh, probably blacked out somewhere
on liquor. He doesn’t use money
for anything good. He stays broke
square gambling: horses, dogs,


Freddy and Roxanne enter.

(to Roxanne)
Don’t talk to me unless I speak to
you first, and never talk to
anybody about anything personal.
Capisce. Learn how to keep people
cool with just a look.

So we don’t have to talk, we’re
gonna use hustler hand signals to
tip each other off.
A closed fist in the middle of your
chest means “Tom” or something’s

Freddy demonstrates.

(again demonstrating)
An open hand, fingers extended,
palm down in the middle of your
chest means “George” or that
everything is okay.

Roxanne nods understandingly.

There’s more that I could show you,
but this should be enough to keep
us out of trouble.

Does Jesse know the signals and
codes, too?

You kidding!? He’s a backer. A
backer to us is only a small step
removed from normal society. We
never wake up backers or square
johns! You gotta stay loyal to the
players. Got me?

Yeah, I gotcha.

I shouldn’t be showing you all
this, but I’m trying to give you a
fighting chance in this racket.


— Roxanne flirts with the men in the room.
— Freddy even lets her hold the money and pick it up from
the table which makes her feel good.
— Roxanne and Freddy leave the bar hand in hand, like
teenagers, laughing.
— They approach a dead-end looking town street.


Suddenly, a pick-up truck pulls up. The guy Freddy just beat
jumps out with a gun, runs up to Freddy, and sticks him up.
Roxanne starts screaming and jumping up and down.


Just shut her up and give me your
money, asshole.

Pretty low, Bubba.

Give it up. Now!

… Stealing the money I stole from
you. It’s real easy to rob with a
gun. A lot harder with a pool cue.

Freddy starts to laugh at the portly guy in a Budweiser Tshirt
and hands over a wad of cash from his pocket.

Shut the fuck up, moron! I said
all the money!

What are you talking about?

All the money!

Freddy puts his hand in his shirt and gives him another wad
of cash. Roxanne looks confused.

Yeah, that’s right.


Freddy acts pissed, defeated. Stick-up guy shoots the gun
off up into the air and drives off excited.

Freddy, are you okay?

Yeah, I’m okay.

Freddy laughs loudly, takes off his shoe and reveals a third
wad of cash.

These are all the big bills! We’re
still ahead! Let’s just get back
to the motel.

The two start walking up a quiet country road when suddenly,
Roxanne hails down a passing squad car.
An excited Roxanne tells the police they were robbed.

Freddy and Roxanne get in the police car with the patrolmen
and drive away.


(to Freddy)
We picked that guy up. Sheriff
questioned him. Got a different
story. Said he stuck you up with a
cue stick! Said he beat you in
pool fair and square, and you’re
just a sore loser.

(to the Sergeant; angry)
I don’t care so much that the guy
robbed me — because he didn’t get
all the money — but when he says
he could beat me playing pool,
that’s too much! I shot that guys
nuts off. I murdered him… blood
all over the floor. That guy is a
certified pool sucker!

Well now, I don’t know who to
believe… two different stories…

Freddy stands up and indignantly declares…

Okay then, this’ll settle it. What
we can dooo…
is all of us will go to that bar,
and him and I will play a match —
eleven out of twenty-one Nine-Ball –
– and the loser goes to the shithouse!

Let it go, Freddy, there’s no
justice here. We’re from the pool
world, not the “square” world. Let’s
just scoot before they arrest us!


Ansel appears in a three-piece suit. He is the perfect look
of decorum. The phone rings, and Ansel answers it.

Roxanne and Freddy are laughing on the bed. Freddy is
tutoring her on odds combinations.

If somebody spots you the eight and
nine in Nine-Ball, that’s the same
as giving you six to five on the
money. Or a hundred and twenty to
a hundred.

(into phone)
Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

Ansel hangs up phone and starts packing his bag.

Gotta go down to Georgia to meet a
new fille of Jesse’s. Room tab is

Wait, we’ll catch a ride with you.
Let me get my stuff. I bet Cleo is
down there. He’ll stake me.

I can take you, Beard, but you
gotta lose the broad.

She goes where I go. It’s karma.
We gotta make sure this kid’s okay.


— You remember how much I won when
I was down there? The hillbillies
love me! Blacks and Catholics,
we’re their favorites. Whatta you

I don’t know. Jesse don’t want to
see this chick no more.

You talk about me like I’m not even

See. She’s hysterical. Didn’t
anyone ever teach you to just stand
back and shut up?

Shut up? Why you…

Roxanne lunges toward Ansel. Freddy stops her.

She’ll be quiet, I swear. And I’ll
put her up so Jesse won’t beef.
You know I don’t ask for much, and
I always pay out.

Ansel casts a questioning look at Freddy.

(to Freddy; softly)
Are you hot for this broad?

Freddy glares back menacingly.

Dammit — Fine — Sure!

Thanks, Beast.

Roxanne sticks her tongue out behind Ansel’s back.

I saw that. You’re sitting in the
backseat! If I hear one sound out
of you, I’m leaving you on the side
of the road. I have a job to do.
I’m a hustler, not a baby sitter!

Scene X


Freddy, Roxanne and Ansel stand outside with their luggage.
Freddy looks around for the car.

Where’s the coupe?

Jesse’s got the coupe.

Just then a pickup truck pulls in front. The DRIVER undoes
the hitch and leaves a car in front of the three. The
driver gets back into the truck and waves to Ansel.

Jesse took care of the bill. Woo
Wee! Am I glad to get rid of this!

The three stand staring at a dilapidated car.

The Beastmobile!

The what?

The Beastmobile. Jesse must be

Why is it called the Beastmobile?

Ansel walks over and gets into front seat.

Are you gonna get in or just stand
there? I’m on a schedule.

Freddy puts his arm around Roxanne.

… and the broad gets in the back.

Ansel smiles wickedly, as he pushes forward the passenger
seat for her to get in. It’s not a seat at all. The seat
has been removed. It’s more like a wooden platform. Flies
are everywhere.

Wherever she puts her hand down she lifts it to reveal goo on
it — gum or a melted chocolate bar.

There is ladies underwear, beer bottles, fast food
containers, Spam, tennis shoes, etc.
Ansel laughs.

(holding her nose)
The Beastmobile!

Freddy hands her some newspaper to put down. Roxanne has to
sit on her haunches.




A live jumping rock song blares out of the radio. Freddy and
Roxanne sing along. When Ansel chimes in, all three start to

Freddy pops some amphetamines and offers the pills to the
Beast and Roxanne. Only the Beast accepts.


Lights from underpasses occasionally shine on the Beastmobile
as they drive.


Two troopers drinking coffee, one old, one young.


Some more of those Hippie freaks,
looks like… Bringing in drugs
probably. — Pull ‘em over, let’s
check ‘em out.

Patrol Car lights flash up suddenly.

Freddy! Lose them pills!

Freddy throws them into the back seat behind Roxanne. One
sticks in her hair but she doesn’t know it.

They pull over.

(shines light into car)
How y’all doing?

Fine, officer.

Older Trooper shines the light in Roxanne’s face.

What about you, young lady,
everything okay here?

Yes, officer.

(to Freddy)
You — your eyes are funny. Get
out. I’m tired of you people and
your drug shit…

Freddy gets out. Roxanne and Ansel follow.

(to young trooper)
You — search the back. I saw him
throw something back there.

(to Freddy)
What kind of stuff you been doing?

Older trooper searches Freddy.
You got any heroin?
(pronounced hare-oine, as in
Or speedy-balls?

Nothing, officer.

(to younger trooper)
I told you to check that backseat.
I saw this one throw something —
probably pills. Find those pills,

Yes, sir!

Roxanne leans over the car to try to seduce the younger
trooper, but he is closing his eyes as he sticks his hand
into the backseat.

Ansel elbows Roxanne, then eyes upward, indicating to touch
her hair. She does so, and removes the pill that is stuck in
it and throws it behind her into the woods.

Younger trooper shines flashlight on the backseat. He winces
as he sticks his hand down feeling for pills. He lifts his
arm up to find a dead mouse on his sleeve.


What the? I told you to find those
pills, boy.

I know, sir.
He keeps searching.

(not very convincingly,)
No pills.

Older trooper rolls up his sleeves.

I’ll find them myself.

Older trooper shines his flashlight in the back, starts to
put his hand in, and stops before he touches a pile of
molding garbage.

Okay kid, no pills.


Filthy Beast pulls up in the Beastmobile. Roxanne and Freddy
jump out and head to the hotel door.


So this is the “Deep South.” I
can’t wait to get out of these
filthy clothes and take a shower.

Roxanne, nude, leans into the shower to turn it on and brown,
brackish water spurts in her face.
Freddy knocks on door.

Hey babe, Ansel and I are going to
the poolroom to meet Jesse’s new
fille. Jesse fronted him big money
to drive here from Pasadena.
Supposed to be an up and coming
player. Let me know if my mother
calls. I just left her a message
with this number. My sister is
about to have her baby. Okay?


The shower water finally turns clear and she starts to soap
up her head.


Roxanne comes out of the shower in bra and underwear. Her
hair is up in a towel. She circles the room impatiently.

(to herself)
What am I supposed to do? Take a

She enters the main room, falls back on the bed. The frame
breaks and Roxanne, on top of the mattress, falls to the
floor. Laugh or cry? She begins laughing.

The phone rings. A hand reaches up from the floor to answer




FREDDY’S MOTHER, a heavy, older Italian woman speaks on an
old-fashioned wall phone, phone cord extended, so she can
stir her spaghetti sauce.

Hello honey, is my son there?

He just left for the pool room.
Any message?

Roxanne, chewing gum, blows a bubble.

Yeah! Tell him to get his ass home
right now!

Roxanne sits up straight on bed.

His sister’s in labor and he’s
gonna be the godfather. I don’t
wanna hear no shit. He’s got
twenty-four hours or I kick his ass
— hear me? And I got neck-bone
sauce on the stove, so I expect him
to come with some bread for dinner
tomorrow. Tell him to go to
Angelo’s for the bread — No, —
Rudy’s — Angelo’s wife beat me out
of a hundred last night playing
poker — Go to Rudy’s — You
remember all that?

… Rudy’s for bread — Neck-bones
— twenty-four hours — got it.

Oh, and tell me honey, is my Freddy
getting enough to eat?


Roxanne is holding a makeshift map trying to find the pool

(mumbling sarcastically, to
Turn left at the haystack, right at
the goat carcass…

Roxanne sees what looks like a bar in the woods. She is
sweating and swatting flies. She walks to the front door,
either side of her.

Hello, fellas.

Help you, ma’am?

Here to see The Beast and Freddy.
Important message for Freddy.

The Two Big Guys In Overalls step aside and point to Freddy.

Thanks, boys.

Roxanne walks in and makes a lot of noise walking over moist
planks, with palmetto bugs crossing her path. The place is a
huge wooden shack. Ansel shakes his head. Freddy is
practicing on the table.

Freddy grabs Roxanne and drags her into a corner.

What are you doing here?

Your mother called. She said you
have twenty-four hours to get back
to Chicago to bring neck-bones for
Rudy’s bread because she can’t beat
him playing poker. Or something
like that.

What? What the hell are you
talking about?

Oh… and your sister is in labor.
I thought you might like to know.

Madonna! Angela’s in labor? Shit!
Jesse just called to say he isn’t
getting in ‘til tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, we got a young Pasadena
hot-shot comin’ here tonight.
Ansel and me supposed to coach this
kid through his game… kid ain’t
even here yet and I’ve got to get
to the airport.
(loud, to bartender)
Hey, where’ the nearest airport?

Atlanta — ‘ thirty miles west
of here.

(to the Beast)
Shit! Listen man, I need you to
drive me to the airport. Gotta go,
my mother called.

Who’s gonna meet the new fille? He
don’t know nothing yet, ‘far as I
heard, but Jesse got a lot of plans
for ‘em.

So this kid’s name is Mick and he
don’t know “dick” Quite a pickle
we’re in, my dear. I need your

I’ll stay. I mean, I’ll meet Mick.
We can’t get into too much trouble.

You’re kidding, right?

What do I need to know? I stayed
up enough nights with Freddy and
Jesse to have some idea.

Fine. But I’m not leaving you with
Jesse’s money. Your job is to keep
everything holding ‘til I get back
— a couple hours. Do not let Mick
start playing. Keep everybody
occupied while I’m gone. I don’t
care if you gotta dance on top of
the bar. Hear me?

Hear you.

Jesse’s got a big investment in
this kid. Have him just practice
‘til I get back. — That’s all —
practice. No betting!

Roxanne nods her head affirmatively.

No betting!

No betting.

Ansel walks away. Freddy and Roxanne are left standing
outside the door of the bar. Freddy gives her a big hug and
slides a twenty bill in her pocket.

Scene Xl

Remember all I told you and you’ll
be okay. When Ansel gets back I
want you to get on a bus and go
back home. Give up on this. You
might learn about human nature
hanging with us freaks, but it’s
not worth it. You deserve better.
Your life is just starting… you
can do anything you want.

Okay, I’m ready to go home. I’ll
save your butt and then I’m going
back to Maura and Herman. I swear.
I’ve had enough of this life, and
this place stinks!

You got ’til tomorrow morning when
Jesse shows up here. He doesn’t
want to see you, and I won’t be
here to protect you.

Freddy gathers up his cue-stick and starts for the door.

Ask someone from the hotel to give
you a ride to the bus station —
not one of these guys… Okay?

Thanks, Freddy.

For what? For letting you slum
with us? You are a princess, baby!

— Straight from the Valley!
You’re giving me the chance to feel
smart for once.

You are smart, honey. It’s been
three months, and I thought you
wouldn’t last a week.

Roxanne gives him a big kiss.
Freddy sputters self-consciously.

I’ll see you around — on the road,
that is. Look me up in Chicago if
you ever need anything. “JoJo’s”
is my uncle’s place. Just find
“JoJo’s Bar” and you can find me.


(very seriously)
Good luck, kid.

Freddy casts a long lingering glance at Roxanne. Their hands
stay together until the situation becomes uncomfortable.

Finally, Roxanne blinks, breaks the spell and awkwardly pulls

(her voice breaking slightly)
You too.

Freddy leaves. She notices she is the only girl. She sits
at the bar and waits. A song plays on the jukebox. She
drinks an orange pop in a bottle and shrugs her shoulders
constantly as an expression of boredom. She sits up to
reveal a sweaty seat, her pants are stuck to her bottom.

A few minutes pass and a bespectacled Mick enters — as green
as grass — saying hello to everyone and shaking hands as he
walks in. Roxanne walks right up to him.

Mick, right?

Yeah, that’s my name. Just in from

With a bored look on her face, Roxanne takes a stab at
feigning experience to gain control of the situation.

First of all, don’t ever use your
real name when you’re hustling —
second, you ever hear about
intimidating your players —
psyching them out? You do need
some help!


Jesse isn’t coming back until
tomorrow… and Ansel’s out
somewhere. He’ll be back in an
hour or so. In the meantime, just
go ahead and practice.

Mick goes into a corner and starts practicing, smiling the
whole time. Roxanne scowls at him and he reacts by trying to
look mean and intimidating.


Ansel is on his way back. He pulls over on the side of the
road to get out and take a leak — does not put the brakes
on, and the Beastmobile rolls into a ditch.


RED the player, and his backer RICKY, are running out of
patience. They want to play.

Hey honeychile’ it’s been over two
hours and The Beast ain’t back yet.
My boy, Red is ready to play. We
didn’t come all the way down here
for nothin’.

Ricky reveals a wad of cash.

I’m looking to double or triple
this. Are we gonna play? It’ now
or never.

(whispering to Mick)
Are you ready?

Heck yeah! But Ansel’s not here.

(lying weakly)
Well, I forgot to tell you he said
I should take charge while he was
gone… You feel good, Mick?

Yeah, I just…

— Then get out there. The Beast
will show up soon. Even if he’s
not here — every hour — and every
dollar counts.

— So what you say? You playin’ or
just stallin’

(to Red)
Well, let’s play. Beast or Jesse
will make the money good when they
get here.

Jesse’s word is good in these parts
— lucky for you.

Alright, then.

Just in case, though… We’ll hold
you two hostage till they get back.
Roxanne and Mick look at one another.

Rack ‘em.


Ansel is walking to get help. He hears the sound of a bugle
blowing “Post Time,” the theme song of a racetrack. Ansel
has stumbled upon the local DOG TRACK. When he spots the
entrance, a smile crosses his face and he heads inside.



… That ends our racing program
for tonight. Be careful going
home. Good night.


Ansel crosses the street to a gas station.

(to station attendant)
Hey buddy. When could I get a tow?
I broke down a few blocks back.

Nothing until five in the morning,
mister. There’s an all-night cafe
a few blocks over, where you can
wait it out.

Ansel shrugs, hands-in-pockets, and starts down the street.


It is apparent Mick is down a few games. He has low energy
and is having trouble staying awake.
Roxanne is wide-eyed and anxious. Squirming in her chair.

You want to quit, boy? You’re down
four games. This is way too easy.
You owe me eight hundred.

Roxanne leaps out of her chair.

— Wait! Let me have a talk with
him in the bathroom.

Roxanne walks into a filthy bathroom — she paces inside.
Mick, apprehensive about facing her, finally walks in.

(scratching his head and
looking down and away)
I’m sorry, but I drove down here
all by myself — straight from…
Pasadena, over two days…

Don’t lose it now, Mick. We’re
doing good. We’re doing good. I
know you’ve been playing with no
sleep. — Look at me, look at me.

Roxanne grabs Mick by the shoulders and shakes him.

Jesse isn’t here, he’ll probably
kill us anyway for losing his
money. Those guys will, for
sure kill us if we don’t pay off.

Mick, bleary-eyed, starts nodding his head in agreement.

You’re going to have to get your
shit together and produce. Produce
like your life depended on it —
It might. I’m going to help you.

Mick’s eyes light up, and he seems to be responding.

Okay? You can beat this guy.
Yeah, it’s hot here — and Red is a
hillbilly who can handle it.
You’re going to have to handle it
too. Get us even and we can quit.
We don’t have to win… Just get
that eight hundred back…

Alright, alright. Let’s give it
another shot.

Roxanne pushes Mick’s head over the sink and splashes water
on his face.

How does that feel? Red’s a
legend, but Red is not as good as
you are. I wouldn’t be standing in
this out-house, ankle deep in pisswater,
trying to keep you awake if
I didn’t believe that.

Mick wipes his face, and a look of renewed determination
comes over him.

Roxanne finishes patting his face dry.

Just a few more games, and then you
can sleep for a week if you like.
I’ll drive the whole way to
wherever we head to next. Okay,

Mick nods his head in approval.

How about a fresh cup of coffee?

She grabs his shoulders again.

Look at me. We’re going to do
this. Without Jesse or the Beast.
Just you and me.

Roxanne shoves him out the bathroom door.

Get back out there and finish the
job. Get the “cheese” and get us
out of here… alive.

Roxanne has psyched Mick up. Mick is ready to play. He goes
back to the table.

Double the bet? Four hundred a

‘My kinna music. Put a rack on
them balls, son, it’s my break.

Mick racks the balls. Red breaks, and the game starts.

Scene Xll


— Mick starts to play good again. He makes several gamewinning,
One-Pocket trick shots.

— Roxanne force-feeds him coffee. She appears to be
talking soothingly and encouragingly between shots.

— He appears to have regained his confidence.


Jesse is near, stopping to get cigarettes.


Mick shoots in a game-winning bank. He gets up from the
table looking exhausted.

That’s it, Red. We’re even. I
have to quit. Haven’t slept in a
coupla days.

Mick takes his cue apart and he and Roxanne start to head
out, but the Two Big Guys In Overalls And Shotguns stop them
before they reach the door.


Let ‘em go. They’re with Hippie
Jesse. He can quit even.

Two Big Guys let them pass.


Dawn is breaking. Roxanne and Mick get in Mick’s car. It’s
an old “beater” She puts her hand out and Mick gives her
his car keys.


Roxanne is driving.

I just have to pick up my stuff at
the hotel.


On the way down the road, they pass Jesse’s car heading to
the poolroom.

Roxanne spots the car, is startled, but says nothing to Mick.

I’m exhausted. Can’t believe we
broke even and escaped from that
deathtrap. Whatta night!

Mick falls asleep. Roxanne keeps driving.


Jesse confronts the nervous Beast.

Well, where is he?

Apparently Mick left with the broad
in his car. Called the hotel.
They’re gone.

That bitch! You know what I got
invested in this guy? I had to pay
his mother’s hospital bill and two
months rent before he’d agree to
come here. That’s about eighty-five
hundred bucks I fronted for
that kid, and that Valley, Jap cunt
has snatched him and run off. God
help those two when I find ‘em.


Roxanne is still driving. Mick wakes up. A road sign shows
they are in a different state.

Jesse said he was gonna pay for my
room and all expenses… that I’d
be working for him. Where we
going? When’re we gonna meet him?

No answer. Roxanne pulls into a hotel lot.

Well, we’ll stay here for now.
We’ll see him soon enough. How
long you been on the road, Mick?

My second trip. They call me
green. I have a lot to learn. If
Jesse’s not around at least you’re
here. I need to be in the hands of


Mick lies on the bed, drinking a gallon of milk, and watching
TV. Meanwhile, Roxanne has removed all of her clothing in
the bathroom.

I’ll just lay down here on the
couch or get a cot. I know this is
just a professional relationship.
You always bunk with the boys,

Roxanne walks out completely naked in front of TV.

Professionals, right.

Mick turns around and gasps, he puts the pillow over his

Ma’am… I mean… where’re your
clothes?… I mean… what’re you

I thought we would… celebrate?

I’m.. I’m sorry Roxanne. I work
for you. We just met. This is no
good. Please, please, cover


Roxanne puts her clothes on in the bathroom and starts to

(to herself)
What was I supposed to do?

Each bed down separately, Roxanne on the bed and Mick on the
couch, watching TV.

I feel much better. You?

Yeah, splendid.



Roxanne is dreaming that Jesse has found them and has taken
his gun out and is coming towards her.


A frightened Roxanne wakes up. She freaks out and wakes

Mick, Mick, we have to leave.
Right now!

Okay, okay. What’s the matter?

Need to get out of here… go to
another spot… Problem is, I have
no money for the room bill. I’m
busted like a rat. We only broke
even yesterday. Lucky we didn’t
get killed.

No money?

How much money do you have?

Not much. Jesse was gonna take
care of me. I can pay the room
tab, but then no gas or food money.

They pack quickly. Roxanne is filling her bag and the last
thing she packs is a rope.

I’m sick of carrying this rope

(turning around)
A rope? You got a rope?

Mick hugs a surprised Roxanne.

You are a professional. I forgot
mine on this trip.

Roxanne fakes her knowledge of what to do with the rope.

Yeah, yeah. I always have one on

Mick takes the rope and starts to unravel it.

Sheesh, you think of everything.


Roxanne and Mick walk down the stairs and past the room
clerk. They wave as they walk by. Outside, Roxanne drives
to the side of the hotel. Mick gets out. The luggage is
hanging by a rope outside their fourth-story window. Mick
grabs the luggage and jumps in the car.

They drive off, laughing.

Scene Xlll


So, where to next?

Roxanne sees next city mileage sign — picks one: Nashville


To meet Jesse and get straightened
out, right?

Yeah, to meet Jesse.


— Roxanne acts like a professional, puts Mick’s cue
together, etc.
— Roxanne tries to seduce Mick in various, funny ways.
— She teasingly polishes the shaft of his cue with a
leather buffer, sexually chalks the tip, etc.
— Mick ignores all her advances.
— Mick, the perfect gentleman, helps drunk prostitutes get
into cabs, puts money in Salvation Army cans.

Roxanne becomes so engrossed in making games for Mick that
she unconsciously follows a player into the men’s toilet.

Hey babe, you come in to take a


Roxanne pays the landlady. She appears ready to fold.

That’s it. That’s the last of it.
We’re broke. I haven’t been
entirely clean with you.

We’re not meeting up with Jesse.

No, we’re not. And I’m not much of
a backer, either. All we’ve done
is break even, enough to eat and
sleep… not make any real money…
If we did I’d give half to you and
just get on a bus home. I think
it’s time for me to call it quits.

What’re you talking about? You’re
the best. You can’t give up on me.
I was born to play pool — that’s
all I can do… and I know I can
start to win big money. I’m not
cut out for nine-to-five work.
This is it for me.

Well, maybe… take one more shot.

Roxanne searches her purse for anything of value. Stumped,
Roxanne looks down at her chest at the gold mezuzah she got
for her birthday and walks out the door.


Roxanne walks up to the counter, removes her necklace and
hands it to PAWNBROKER to examine. He is an older Hasidic
man. He looks up at her and frowns.

My dollink, what are you, a yentl,
doing wearing such a ting? It
should be worn only by a Jewish

My uncle gave it to me for my
birthday. Said I was blessed with
a woman’s beauty and a man’s

The pawnbroker scrutinizes the mezuzah with his reading

A shame to pawn such a beautiful

I know. It’s supposed to protect
me. How much can I get?

I could only give you a hundred
dollars on it.

Okay, I’m not going to argue.

Pawnbroker hands her $100 and then pushes the necklace back
to her.

What’s this? What are you doing?

Pawnbroker pats his hand over her hand and the necklace.

You look like somebody could use a
mitzvah. You’ll pay me later.

But I don’t live here. I’m probably
going to leave in a day or two.

Pawnbroker hands her his card with the address on it.

So you’ll send it. Zeit gesunt,
bubbala, and good luck…

(red-faced, mumbles her
appreciation in Yiddish)
Zeit gesunt.

She takes the money and walks out, curiously observed by a
PAWNBOY who is sweeping the floor.


She drives back to coffee shop.


She shows Mick the money and hustles him up and out the door.


Where the hell did you get money?

Does it make any difference? All
you got to do is make a game, play
and win.


It’s now or never. If this really
is your life, then I want to see
you play like it is.

The two start to walk to the back when Mick spots an old man
operating on some potential suckers.

(quietly, to Roxanne)
Well, look who’s here.
Tommy the Greek, and Duke. He’s
from Pasadena too. You’re gonna
get to see something wonderful.

Mick points to an old man and a little dog.


TOMMY THE GREEK, with an audience around him, is entertaining
them with his dog, DUKE. Duke is a small mongrel doing
simple little tricks under Tommy’s direction, while Tommy
takes little swipes out of a liquor flask in his back pocket.

The crowd is ribbing Tommy a little because the tricks are
really mediocre. Finally, Tommy replies.

Listen, all you wise guys, Duke is
the smartest dog in the world! He
does a trick no other dog in the
world can do. He can get up on the
table and pick out any ball you

Tommy looks over the crowd for reactions.

Just call the ball you want, and
he’ll pick it up and put it in his
mouth. What do youse want to do
with that?

A SPORT in the crowd fires back.

I believe whatever somebody bets he
can do — he can do. But in your
case I’m gonna make an exception.
How much do you want to bet, old

Make it easy on yourself, partner.

I’ll risk twenty bucks just to see
the show.

Okay, you cheap nit-shits. I’m
gonna show you what Duke can do.

Duke is on the floor totally inattentive, scratching, and
wandering around, while the $20 bet is being put up with the
houseman. Tommy goes to Duke and nudges him to get his

C’mon Duke, wake up! We’re

Dogs are color blind. Have him get
the four ball.

Tommy picks Duke up, puts him on the table, and holds him
while Duke is looking around and acting nervous. Tommy
orders Duke.

Okay, Duke, go get me the four

Duke dashes over to a fully racked set of pool balls and
frantically scatters them all over the table. Duke is
jumping up and kicking balls and biting them, all the while
Tommy is screaming.

Stop it Duke! Stop it! Get the
four ball!

By this time the spectators are on the floor rolling in
laughter. Tommy picks up Duke and starts scolding him. Then
he turns embarrassed to the crowd.

You fucking creeps! You “sharked”
him. You got him too nervous.

One of the Sweators in the crowd fires back.

That mutt couldn’ pick up a T-Bone
steak, let alone a pool ball.

Don’t you talk about my dog like
that, you shit-heel. If you woulda
been quiet he coulda done it.

Well, if we promise to be quiet,
how much do you want to bet this

(acting very excited and
You guys have really got me hot!
You can bet all I got in my pocket.
That’s how much! My whole bankroll —
(he counts his money)
— six hundred and forty-nine
dollars. Everybody’s got to be
quiet, though. Now we’ll see who’s got gamble.

Tommy spreads his bankroll on the table.
There is a hesitation from the crowd for a moment.
Finally, one guy speaks up.

You ain’t bluffing nobody off, old
man. A sumbitch dumb as you don’t
deserve to have no money! I’ll
cover three hundred of it! Have
him get the five ball!

With the spell broken there is a rush to cover the whole $649
and the money is put up with the houseman.

Tommy turns his back on the crowd and seemingly confides to
Duke. He puts his right palm over his chest, indicating the
“George” sign.

(deliciously, to himself and
… And in the window flew a dove.

Roxanne spots the move and turns excitedly to Mick.

Am I going crazy, or did I just see
that guy give the “George” sign to
the dog?

Mick just smiles wickedly.

Duke responds to the “George” signal by jumping up on the
pool table and sitting on his haunches. He is alert with his
ears straight up and not moving a muscle. No longer is he
nervous, scratching, or looking around.

A few in the crowd start to get a bad feeling about their

Tommy, very composed and confident, says very gently to Duke:

Duke, go get me the five ball,

Duke trots slowly over to a fully racked set of pool balls,
stirs them slightly, picks up the five ball in his mouth,
walks calmly over to Tommy, drops the ball in the pocket,
sits back on his haunches and awaits the next command.

The crowd is dumbfounded. Tommy smiles at Duke, winks and
gives him the “George” sign again, then walks over to the
houseman and takes down the money.

Scene XlV

Mick ambles over to Tommy to shake his hand and introduce

How ya doin’ Mick? I ain’t seen
you since you were a kid at the
Pool Palace in Pasadena. How ya

I’m playing pretty good. I
improved a lot since you last saw

That’s some dog you’ve got there.

Yeah, Duke and me have been
together a long time. Wherever I
go he goes. Twenty-four hours a
day. Listen — there’s money to be
made here and you don’t have to
play too good to make it. See that
old man there, in the back?

Tommy nods to an old man in filthy white bib overalls with
long white hair and a white beard in the back of the pool

That there is “Del the Iron Man.”
World’s champion “stay up” guy.
Takes pills and can play for two
weeks straight. Been up for five
days playing pool.
Wore out one opponent already, and
it looks like this other guy is
ready to throw in the towel.
Nobody can stay with him. He’ll be
spotting you five days no-sleep,
you should be okay. He’ll play
you. He’ll play anybody when he’s
on those pills. Might make
yourself a little score here.

Roxanne and Mick mosey on to the back to observe the action.

DEL’S opponent looks like he’s almost out on his feet.

Can’t go no further, Del. Seventy two
hours. I’m starting to
hallucinate. I can’t last like
you. Nobody can.

Sheet. You’re just a pissy-assed
weakling. You wouldn’t a been
worth a fuck when we was fighting
on the Anzio beach head.

Del waves disgustedly at his opponent.

Go ahead and quit. I gotta take
care of this tooth that’s been
bothering me anyway. Hey! You
with the tool belt… Lemme borry
them pliers for a minute.

CONSTRUCTION GUY with a tool belt and construction hat hands
Del the pliers. Del inserts the pliers in his mouth and
performs an extraction of one of his back teeth.

Del rips out the tooth, looks at it for a moment, and then
spits out a mouthful of blood into an open garbage can. He
wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, picks up his cuestick
and goes back to the table.

Horrified, Roxanne gags and almost throws up.

Well, who’s next, goddamn it!

Mick meekly raises his hand and offers to play.

I’ll try you a few games of One-
Pocket, mister. But I couldn’t
play for more than a day or two.

Yeah, I guess that figures too.
None a you young punks got any kind
of stamina. Only good to smoke
that loco weed. By the way, what
the hell does that shit do fer ya

Del is referring to two young men near the table that are
sharing a joint, a POT SMOKER and a YOUNG COKE DEALER.

It relaxes you, slows you down and
makes everything all mellow.

Sheet! I take pills to keep from
feeling like that.

(produces a vial of cocaine)
This is what you’re looking for,
Del. A few snorts of this will
straighten you right out. This
stuff picks you up.

Yeah, I heared about that stuff.
How much you want for it?

This is one gram, but I’m only
gonna charge you a hundred dollars.

Goddamn! It better be good. I
heared it was pretty pricey though.
How in hell do you do the goddamn

Pour some out on the table, make
two lines, and snort it up in each
nostril with this straw.

Del pours out the whole gram on the table, divides it in two,
and honks up the whole gram in two monster snorts before the
young coke dealer can stop him.

Wait! Hold it! You don’t do the
whole goddamn gram at once.

Del looks up sheepishly and his beard is loaded with at least
a 1/2 gram of droppings that fell out of his nose.

Hey Del, let me snort up your
beard, man. I got my own straw —
Can’t be wasting that shit.

Inventive coke-head proceeds to try and snort the leftover
coke out of Del’s beard with a long straw.

Boy, you better get up off me,
‘fore I crack your head with this


— Due to the overdose of cocaine, Del becomes addled out of
his mind and begins shooting wild shots, missing often.
— With eyes bulging, and a wild man look, Del attempts a
shot and hits it so hard the cue ball jumps the table.
— The side-line Sweators put their hands over their mouths
and giggle under their breath.
— Mick, methodically and professionally continues to pocket
— Mick displays an arsenal of One-Pocket trick shots.
— Del falls easy prey to Mick, and goes broke.
— After the last game, an elated Roxanne gives Mick his

Going to the bathroom. Out in a

The Pawnboy who was sweeping up at the pawnshop slips over
next to Mick.


Mick turns.

That your girl?

My partner.

Must believe in you. She pawned
her necklace down where I work
today. Left the store in tears.



Roxanne drives to the pawnshop.


Roxanne gets out of the car.

What’s up?

Something I gotta do.

She goes up to the door of the now closed pawnshop. Slips
money into an envelope, writes “Thanks” and “Zeit gesunt,”
and drops the envelope through the mail slot in the door.


They drive to a rooming house.



Roxanne is so groggy, she drops the key on the ground. They
both reach down for it. Mick looks at her lovingly.

She looks confused. His hand touches her face, he kisses her,
and carries her in his arms into the room.


Mick drops her on the bed and begins caressing her.

You pawned your necklace so I could
play pool? Nobody has ever
believed in me like that.
I didn’t really trust you before,
now I think you’re the most
wonderful thing in my life.

I’ll be with you all the way.

They proceed to make mad, passionate love.

Scene XV


Mick awakens, nudges Roxanne.

Well, babe, shall we go back to the

It’s pretty late but I got a line
on an after hours “Bottle Club”
where there’s supposed to be good


Roxanne and Mick enter.

(to Mick)
The houseman in the poolroom told
me about this place. A dump,
filled with coke-heads, but it’s
got bar pool tables, plenty of
gambling and we can play all night.

A waitress comes over to take their order.

Give us a Seven-up and ice set-up.
(to Mick)
You’re supposed to bring your own
bottle. That’s how they skirt the
liquor laws. Challenge the table
and let’s get some action started.


— Roxanne’s edgy but relaxes once Mick starts playing.
— Mick beats everyone mercilessly, with Roxanne making
side bets with a COKED-UP ON-LOOKER.
— Many other people are snorting cocaine.
— Roxanne sings along to the sounds of the jukebox.


Suddenly, the Coked-Up On-Looker, who has been betting with
Roxanne and losing, pulls out a gun and starts

You two think you’re so good? I’ll
show you something! Give me back
my money!

Roxanne is shocked, but still refuses to give up the money.
Infuriated, she swings her purse at him and tries to knock
the gun away.

He staggers, but still maintains the gun.
She dives on him and tries to wrestle the gun away, in the
tussle the gun goes off, shooting her in the ass.

Mick alerts to the situation, screams like a banshee and
fearlessly charges the coke-head, who runs out of the bar.


The coke-head is running from Mick and wildly shooting back
at him.

With the coke-head too far in front of him, Mick stops, turns
and runs back to the bar and Roxanne.


Roxanne is looking at herself and her wound, crying.


Mick is alone, smoking a cigarette, reflecting.



Roxanne, in a hospital bed, is just waking up. Mick walks in
with flowers.

How you feeling, Angel?

She nods her head and Mick strokes her forehead.

I’ll never forgive myself for what
happened. Why didn’t you just give
him the money?

It’s not your fault. It’s my job
to make sure the place is secure,
yours to just play. I couldn’t
just let that creep take our money.

No, No, No. Never do that again
baby, the money is never that

The money is always important. I
learned that from Jesse and Freddy.
Those people were so wasted. I
hate that coke crap. Doesn’t
anyone just smoke pot anymore?

Roxanne tries to make the last line a joke.

So what’s next. Back on the road?

What? — Are you kidding? I almost
got us fucking killed, remember? I
should have spotted that trouble
before it happened. I’m no help to
you. I’m no backer. Just an
attention-starved “Jap” from the

Don’t say you almost got us killed.
I’m your man — I should be
watching out for you, protecting
you. I only want what we both
want, and that’s to start winning
big! I’m ready to jump forward if
you are.

Roxanne has a look of understanding in her eyes. She puts
her hand out to his and they squeeze.

So you still want to be a top

Heck yes. And I want you to be my
backer. You gotta be the prettiest
backer out there — probably the
only girl.

I am the only girl.

And I’d much rather share a hotel
room with you.

Roxanne hits Mick over the head with a pillow.

You already know a lot from hanging
with Jesse and his crew. What we
don’t know we can learn together.
Just keep putting me in games. I
have faith in you. I don’t know
why you chose this life, but I’m
sure glad you did.

Thanks hon’. Let’s get out of the
South first. I’ve got a friend in
Chicago who’ll steer us — find us
the right action.
(shakes her head)
He’ll never believe what has
happened to me since he left.


Car enters an Italian- American neighborhood in Chicago.
Car pulls up to a corner restaurant/bar.

The couple enter.
There is a table of old Italian men. They turn around when
the door opens — their card game has been interrupted.

Roxanne and Mick timidly walk up to the bar.

Hi. I’m a friend of The Beard’s
He told me I could find him here.

The Beard?


Freddy? My nephew. He’s upstairs
by my sister, eating dinner.

Barman points to TEENAGE BOY reading the paper.

Pino! Take these two upstairs.


PINO takes them up the back stairs.

Smells like braciole. Aunt Kate!
Ummm. Aunt Kate!

Pino opens the door to —


There’s a large table filled with people eating. Many
generations. Steam hits their faces when they walk through
the door. Freddy’s mother, KATE, is in an apron stirring
sauce over the stove, smoking a cigarette.

You gonna eat or what, Pino? Who
are these two?

Friends of Freddy.

Well, he’s over there next to your
uncle. I got about three braciole
left — you’re lucky.

Pino finds a plate and moves to fill it. Freddy is eating,
dressed in a Captain America T-shirt and purple bell bottom

Frederick — your friends are here.

Freddy looks up.

Find ‘em a chair!


You told me I could stop by any
time. Mick — Freddy.


Jesse’s fille.

(petulantly jealous)
I see.

Sorry to interrupt your dinner.

Roxanne and Mick sit at the small kiddie table and start to
eat with Freddy.

You got to be married to sit at the
big table.

Later, coffee and cake is served.

Well, if you are up for some
action… I’ve got a spot to go to
tonight. Chance to get you guys
some side action if you want it.

You bet.

We better get out of here.

Freddy, Roxanne and Mick bring their plates into the kitchen
and Freddy’s mother stops them.

Where do you think you’re going?


What about your aunts? Who’s
gonna take them home?

Three innocent-looking old ladies — RORO, CARM and ANNIE —
are sitting on the couch by the window.


Freddy begins to load up the backseat of Mick’s car. Each
old lady slides through one door and then slides out the
other until all three are standing on the sidewalk again.

Aunts — what’s the problem? I
gotta be somewhere in thirty

Oh, I’m not going with her.

RoRo points to one of her sisters.

You can take her home and just come
back and get me.

What? No, no!

Freddy is carrying food for them to take home. Carm slaps
Freddy’s hand with the tupperware in it.

Don’t mix the macaroni with the

Freddy’s other aunt, Annie, chimes in.

You’re not going with me? I won’t
go with her! She’s gonna smoke in
my face.

I’ll smoke all I want. Your fat
ass ain’t gonna fit in the back
anyway. You’re too cheap to smoke.

I’m cheap? What about the twenty
you’ve owed me for three months
from Elsie’s poker game?

What’re you worrying about? You
got about fifty thousand in cash
under your mattress.

At least I didn’t have to get
married to my husband.

— My glasses! I left my glasses

Freddy is exasperated. Roxanne and Mick just kind of laugh.
Men standing in the street in front of JoJo’s watching, are
laughing too.

Shut up! Shut up! Get in the F’n
car! I have to be in the pool room
in less than a half hour. I’ll
give you each a fin if you just get
in the car.

A moment of silence. The sisters look to one another for a

Make it ten and you got a deal.
Drop us off at Bingo.

The old ladies all crawl in. Roxanne sits on Mick’s lap up
front. RoRo slaps Carm’s hand.

(to herself)
Works every time.

Scene XVl


Roxanne and Mick park on the side of pool room and start
walking toward it. The sign above the door reads “North
Shore Billiard Academy, The Home of Champions.” Roxanne and
Mick momentarily stare up in awe at the sign above the
legendary room, and pause, hesitantly, before they enter.

So this is North Shore Billiards?
This is where you got turned out,

Yes, ma’am. This is where the
little mullets swim in to get eaten
by the sharks. You need a hustler
union card to operate in here.
Don’t worry though, I’m the
president of this union.

Freddy waves at Roxanne and Mick, urging them into a quick

Okay, so here’s the deal. Like
most hustles, you got about five
minutes to prepare, but with you,
our born actress, this should be no

Roxanne and Mick laugh.

We’re about to “Lemon Hustle” one
of the Great Men of all time. He’s
taken more abuse than the Three
Stooges. This ain’t the way I
normally make money — with a con
hustle. But I always make an
exception for this guy, because
he’s “mobbed up.” He’s an “Outfit”
bookmaker. I love doing it to him.
So, are you ready, Roxanne?


My student! You’ve far exceeded my
expectations. Now get your cool
on. After I score here I’m heading
down to Florida for awhile.


Yeah, I got a girl down there.

(slightly taken aback)
You got a girl?

Roxanne recovers.

She cooks?

Hell, yes!


A large, old-fashioned poolroom with many tables.

(to Bugs)
He here yet?

Bugs shakes Freddy’s hand, shakes his head, “no” and blows a
bubble. Roxanne walks around the pool room with Freddy
getting introduced to everybody.

(to Roxanne)
Nice look about your fille. Looks
like he came out of the funny

Mick is smiling.

Like Clark Kent.

Pool’s Superman.

I’m happy for you, kid. You’ll go
far with him if he’s got half the
game Jesse told me he has. I don’t
expect he’s….

No, goyim all the way. He’s the
one though…

Oh, Jesus. Be careful, you might
have to learn how to cook and clean

Not if I can help it.

Here comes Boston Stubby. Ain’t he
Don’t argue, and do what I do.

Enter BOSTON STUBBY, a balding, bespectacled middle-aged man,
no taller than five-foot two inches.

Look who’s here! The man of the
hour. How you doing, boy?

Freddy slaps Stubby on the back. Stubby doesn’t answer.
Freddy starts a animated, phony sign language. He introduces
Roxanne, who follows Freddy’s lead and replies in her own
version of phony sign language.

Games are being played while Freddy brags to Roxanne.

This is gonna be my greatest
hustle. We’re trapping this mark
with Stubby. I flew him in.
Stubby’s a top player, but few
people know what he looks like,
‘cause he never leaves Boston.

Freddy’s eyes light up and he rubs his hands together in
anxious anticipation.

I can’t let Stubby talk, ‘cause
once he opens his mouth, his Boston
accent will tip the guy off. He’s
paranoid already ‘cause plenty of
champions have been sent in to rob
him. He’s a pretty good player
himself. Except for a few guys
like Stubby, he knows all the
people that can beat him. That’s
why I came up with this scam to
pass Stubby off as a deaf mute.

Stubby begins playing THE MARK (a sucker). All exchanges
between Freddy and Stubby are done in sign language.


The other hustlers in the room all have a sudden need to go
to the bathroom at the same time.

The bathroom is filled with guys “in the know,” falling all
over the place laughing.


— Stubby is beating up on The Mark.
— Stubby cuts a comical figure. As he stands waiting for
his shot, holding his cue stick, the stick is taller than
he is.
— Stubby is conversing in sign language with Freddy, and
makes an obscene finger gesture toward the mark.

I seen that! I seen that! You
little cock-sucker! I don’t need
to know sign language to know what
that means!

The Mark barks at Freddy.

You tell him I don’t let nobody
curse at me in any kind of
language! I’ll stuff the little
shrimp in a spittoon!

Roxanne covers her face with her hand, but her torso is
vibrating with suppressed laughter


The bathroom is almost entirely full of hustlers rolling in


The Mark is looking over the table and he absentmindedly
remarks to Stubby…

I know. I’m taking a long time,
but do you want to try shooting
this shot?

(in a thick Boston Southie
Naw, you gah ahead and shoot it

Stubby puts his hand over his mouth.


The Mark opens and closes his eyes, looks up and starts
talking to the sky to his dead mother.

Ma! They’re killing me down here!
They did it to me again, Ma! I’m
comin’ to you soon, Ma, and I’m
gonna take a bunch of these
motherfuckers with me.


A busy street. It’s the home of Chicago Blues. An old Urban
blues number like Jimmy Reed’ ” Any Way You Want Me to Go”
plays from inside a record store with the door open.

Roxanne, Mick, and Freddy stand outside a busy Jim’s Hot Dog

Three pork chop sandwiches.

Server doles out three pork chop sandwiches in take-out
wrapping. African-American man walks past them and opens his
coat to reveal a bevy of gold chains.

Wanna buy a necklace? Necklace for
the lady?

Freddy gives the street hustler the “get lost” sign.

They eat their sandwiches leaning against an old tailor shop

That was great, Freddy. I’ve never
laughed so hard.

(to Roxanne)

Freddy hands Roxanne a few bills.

(to Mick)
Did you do any good back there?

Yeah, I won a few hundred on the

We need a little more to stretch us
on the road for awhile. Any ideas?

Alright, let’s put Mick to work
right now.

Freddy starts to walk back up to the hot dog stand.

Three coffees.

Scene XVll


Onlookers leer at them driving by.

Right here.

Mick pulls up onto an empty lot. They exit the car and head
toward a three-flat tenement building.
Freddy hands a young Hispanic boy a bill and points to their

Here to see Manuel.

Hispanic boy nods.

Watch the car, amigo.
They walk up a short stoop into an apartment building.


People in work clothes give the three of them very strange
looks. Freddy leads them down a hallway to a door.


They enter a room with no windows.
Freddy taps his foot on the rug on the floor. Roxanne and
Mick look around the room befuddled.


The floor baseboard opens up to the cellar and a ladder comes
sticking up out of the floor. A small, Hispanic LADDER GUY
with a wrench in his hand, climbs up the ladder and peeks his
head out.

(pointing to himself)
Amigo of Manuel.

Ven! Ven!

The ladder guy waves his hand “come on down” and climbs down
the ladder into the cellar.

(whispers to Freddy)
Why does he have a wrench in his

(whispering back)
Because if you don’t pay up before
you leave, he can crack your head
open with it.

Mick, Roxanne and Freddy climb down the ladder into the
There are no windows, a dirt floor, a stack of hubcaps on the
back wall, and two pool tables.

Do you speak Spanish?

About three words. Don’t need it.

Freddy flashes a bankroll over to MANUEL who is a middle-aged
businessman type, sitting in the corner behind an old desk.
Ladder guy removes the ladder from the kitchen floor, closes
the baseboard, and sets the ladder against the wall.

Do they have any money?

Sure they got money.

Manuel begins counting large bills.
Freddy points to the back of the basement which is an
underground garage filled with hubcaps.

A “customer” gives Manuel several hundred dollar bills and
Manuel hands him a set of hub caps.

Five hundred for a set of used hub

Well those caps as they say, are
“built for speed.”

The customer opens a hubcap and inspects a bag of pills. He
pops several in his mouth, closes the bag, puts it back
inside the hubcap and leaves.


The customer goes to his car puts the hubcaps on the wheels
and drives off.


At the pool table a YOUNG HISPANIC MAN constantly shouts
“Cocksucker” over and over in between bouts of Spanish. He
speaks “C.S.” in good and bad emphasis. He makes a pool shot
and takes a large wad of cash from the table.

I’m not sure about this.

You’ll be fine, Mick. You just got
a case of the “High Speed Wobbles.”

There is a loud scratching noise coming from above. It can
be heard even over the radio that is playing Spanish music.

What’s that noise?

Don’t ask.

Noise overhead gets even louder. Dirt falls on their

Freddy, what the fuck is that

— Rats. Think of that ceiling as
the Autobahn of the rodent world.

Roxanne and Mick cringe, and look up and see big ceiling
water pipes that the rats run across.

Come on, it’s time you guys met the

Manuel gets out of his chair and meets them halfway.

Freddy, why you bring a broad down
here? What are you, crazy?

Manny, she’s not any broad, she’s a
backer from California. Ran with
Hippie Jesse. They just got in
town today and I promised I’d show
her fille some action. How about
some Nine-Ball?

(look of incomprehension)

Manuel nods an okay, and motions for the Hispanic player to
come over.

Roxanne, Freddy, and Manuel watch as a session begins.

Roxanne looks hesitant.

Mick is sweating.


— Mick misses frequently and appears to be struggling.
— Ca’Sucker has a few big runs and Mick racks the
balls over and over again.


He’s getting murdered. Why did you
do this?

Now tell Manuel you want to play


Roxanne gets up and signals to Manuel.

Manuel, this kid is too good for
us. If he’ll play Mick some One-
Pocket, we’ll keep playing;
otherwise we’re going to quit.

Manuel nods to Ca’Sucker slightly smirking. He will play
Mick anything because he is shooting good and winning.

Roxanne walks over to Mick.

Why’d you make me play Nine-Ball?
This guy owns that game.

It’s okay. We’re going to play him
One-Pocket and we’re going to raise
the stakes. Freddy’s plan all
along. Now just get in there and
get the cheese.

Roxanne and Mick smile. She holds his hand for a second in


— Ca’Sucker keeps drinking the coffee and chain smoking
— Mick wins over and over again.
— In between, a giant rat falls off a pipe from above,
messing the setting of the balls.
— Ca’Sucker is grumpy and angry.
— Roxanne and Mick win a few thousand.
— Roxanne is paid off by Manuel. Manuel’s crony with the
wrench looks to Manuel as to whether or not to let them
leave. Manuel nods them a pass and they climb up the
ladder and out.


Freddy, you want to tell me what
actually happened in there?

Sure. We let Ca’Sucker feel good
about beating Mick at Nine-Ball.
Meantime, he downed about five
Cuban coffees and a handful of
speed pills. Nine-Ball’s a game of
pep and energy, but it’s not the
way to win at One-Pocket. One-
Pocket’s precision, strategy and
patience — like the difference
between checkers and chess. I knew
Mick would torture Ca’Sucker
playing One-Pocket.

(to Freddy)
Well, here’s where we part company
again. We’re going to head back
South to work off this bankroll…
maybe pump it up and head to Vegas
for the big Stardust Tournament.

There is an almost imperceptible pause as Roxanne gazes at

Just be careful on the road. Jesse
thinks you two made him look
foolish. You know how dangerous he
can be.

We’ll be careful… It really has
been great seeing you again.

Roxanne plants a sisterly kiss on Freddy’s cheek.

(waving goodbye)
‘Til we meet again.
Don’t forget — get paid after
every game, don’t sleep any
scratches, and may you never need
to use the rope.

Don’t worry, the next time you see
us, we’ll be living high and
driving brand new wheels.

Scene XVlll


Roxanne and Mick drive into a small town and stop at the
local poolroom.


They walk in looking for action. They spot a FAT DRUNK
“hooting and bellering,” daring everyone to play for big

Ain’t nobody got any gamble in this
shit-water town? I got a big
bankroll and I’m looking to fire it
at the first sumbitch that shows he
got balls!

Fat drunk has two big dogs with him. Mick finally

I’ll try you some One-Pocket,
mister. How much you wanna play

Looking to play high, son. Four or
five hunert a game… Can you
handle it?… Whassa matter sonny,
you afraid to play a drunk?

No, I’m not scared of a drunk. You
got action, mister, five “hunert” a

Roxanne pulls Mick off to the side.

All we got is enough for three
games, about sixteen hundred.
There’s no room for error..


— Soon, Mick realizes the guy is not very drunk.


(confiding to Roxanne)
I don’t think this guy is all that
drunk… looks like he can really
play. We’re in a trap. You wanna

I don’t know. We’re not losing.
We’re dead even in games and you’re
playing great. Fire two more
“barrels” at him and see what
happens. I hate to quit — good as
you’re playing.


— Mick continues to play fantastically and winds up breaking
the fat drunk.
— The session over, the fat drunk is broke.
— The fat drunk goes to the bathroom.


An OLD SWEATOR eases up to Mick and whispers to him.

Do you know who you just beat, kid?

No. He’s a good player, but I
don’t care who he is. I’ve already
shot his nuts out.

Well, that’s Rat Poison Ronnie,
pal. Best One-Pocket player in the
country. Has been, for years.
Hell, and you beat him like a barn

That’s Rat Poison Ronnie?

The guy who sold one of his kids to
get money so he could play another

That’s him all right — by the way –
– he lost the session. What’s your
name, son?

Mick. Pasadena Mick. Remember
that name, Pops, it might mean
something one day. I intend to be

RONNIE emerges from the bathroom. Mick rushes over to shake
his hand and Roxanne gives him some money.

Here’s some breakfast money to walk
with, old man. You play a great
game. The toughest Mick ever
played. He had to get lucky to
beat you.

Save all that flattery stuff, girl.
It’s somebody on the way up and
somebody on the way down. You two
got a great future ahead of you.
Maybe we’ll run into each other
again at one of the big
tournaments. I like your style,
girl. Remind me of Fat’s old girl
friend, “Double-Smart” Lucy.
What’s your name?

Roxanne, and this is Pasadena Mick.

“Double-Smart” Roxanne. That’s
your new name, kid… If Rat Poison
Ronnie can ever do you guys a turn
on the road…

The trio silently look at each other in a moment of mutual



The Filthy Beast stands in front of the pool room door as
Jesse approaches.

Hey, Jesse. Brooklyn Charlie, the
player you sent to Alabama, is
waiting for you inside. Bad news —
he got broke there.

Broke! How could he get broke? He
shoulda robbed everybody in town.
Ansel shrugs and they walk inside.


BROOKLYN CHARLIE, leaning on the front counter, spots Jesse
and rushes over to him.

What happened, Charlie? Nobody
around there coulda beat you. You
get drunk or doped up?

No, no! I was straight! I ran
into some young guy and a broad.
Honest to God, Jesse, the guy never
missed a ball.

A comprehending scowl comes over Jesse’s face.

What’d they look like? Like
Superman and Lois Lane?

Yeah, yeah! How’d you know? Only
the broad was a blonde. Real goodlooking,
smart too. I’m sorry,
man, but the guy was just too good
for me.

Jesse’s eyes narrow and he begins nodding his head slowly,
imagining retribution.


Pool tournament signs everywhere announcing: “STARDUST WORLD
Roxanne and Mick are in the lobby checking in.

Hope I can hold my own with all the
big boys here.

You’re going to do just fine.
Plus, we caught a break, I heard
Jesse’s not showing up for this
one. Remember, we’re here to play
pool. Double nix on the square

C’mon Rox, I’ve got a great craps
system I want to try. I’ll only
invest forty or fifty dollars.

Okay. Forty or fifty bucks — but
that’s it. I’m going up to enter
you in the tournament. You can
fool around with a few bucks. Soon
as I get back, your gambling spree
is over. We’ll go to a nice place
for dinner.

Sure, sure. By the time you get
back, I’ll have won enough for ten

Roxanne heads for the stairs and Mick drifts to the craps


There’s a line in front of Roxanne — registering may take a


Roxanne’s registered and returns to the casino to find Mick
at the crap table. He has a wild look and it’s obvious that
he’s losing.

Oh, I’m glad you’re back. What the
hell took so long? Let me have
some money. I don’t have enough
for the next system bet. It’s
alright — The system is just
stalled right now. One winner and
everything will be okay.

Are you crazy? I left you with
over five hundred. Five hundred!
I’m not giving you any more money.
We’re not here to gamble on crap
games. I never knew you were such
a dumb son-of-a-bitch!

Give me the money. Soon as these
dice turn, I’ll quit and I’ll treat
you to a lobster dinner, with

Mick is scratching his head, looking down, avoiding Roxanne’s

(offering weakly)
… It’s half mine anyway.

I’m not giving you anything. I run
the finances. I’m not going off on
some casino trap. This bankroll is
for gambling on pool — the game
you win at.

I know this game too! Honest.
Just let me make the next system
bet. It’s big, but I’m going to
win it. — Give me the money,

He reaches for her purse but she pulls away, bolts to the
women’s bathroom and runs inside.

(talking to bathroom door)
C’mon Rox, don’t embarrass me like
this. You have to come out

Mick has drawn a crowd.

If you don’t come out I’m going to
auction off my watch and the car!


Roxanne is inside crying.


Okay, people. I’ve got a 1969
Chevy, and a Rolex Oyster. Do I
hear any bids?

Both items go quickly for bargain prices.
Mick takes the money to the crap table.

Five hundred on the Field!
He loses.

One thousand on the Field!

He loses.


Mick yells inside.

You can come out now! You got
what you wanted. I lost all the
money. Your curse worked. I hope
being right all the time makes you

Roxanne flies out of the bathroom with blood in her eye and
attacks him. It’s a full-fledged brawl. Fists are flying
from both parties.

Both get in some great licks before the fight is broken up by
the Casino security people.

Onlookers, many of them pool players and some who know the
two, critique the fight.

I don’t know. It was close. I
make it a draw.

Naw, Double-Smart bloodied his
nose. I give her the split
decision. Whatta gal! Mick better
sleep with one eye open.


Bloody and disheveled, the two start to regroup.

So there’re two people I have to
look out for — you, and the sucker
that’s inside you fighting to get
out. I’ve gotta watch you much
more closely.

I’m sorry, hon’. I just couldn’t
stop myself. Something came over
me. I’ll never do anything like
that again.

We’ll see. Meantime, we’ve been
thrown out of the hotel and
disqualified from the tournament.
Where do we go from here?

How about a doctor’s office? My
head is still ringing from that
shot you gave me.

(laughing) )
You son-of-bitch, the next time
I’ll cut your balls off. From now
on, I handle all the money. Let’s
just take a bus to California.
I haven’t seen my parents in a long
time. We can pick up another car

Scene XVllll


They show up at her parent’s door. Roxanne fidgets as she
tries to open the front door, but it’s locked, so she rings
the doorbell.

Mick has flowers in his hand. Maura opens the door and sees
Roxanne — Roxanne smiles — Maura slams door in her face —
then reopens the door, kisses them both and cries.


The next morning Roxanne and Mick are having coffee.

Well, I’ve paid my respects.
Introduced you to your future inlaws.
Slept in my old bed, and
made dopey conversation with my
parents. One night back in this
life and I’m ready to jump out of
my skin. Get on the phone and find
us a game somewhere.


Mick gets on the phone.

(to Roxanne)
I’m calling The Palace Pool Hall.
They might know where we could go.


The houseman answers the phone.

Palace, home of champions. If you
can’t play, stay away. What can I
do for you?


Bobby, this is Mick and Roxanne.
How you been doin’ Have you heard
of any big action anywhere?

(covers the phone and calls to
Hippie Jesse)
You know of any action, Jesse?
I got Mick and Double-Smart Roxanne
on the phone, and he sounds hungry.

Mick, eh?

Jesse lights up a cigarette. Ansel stands around as well.


Johnston City.


Johnston City — by Fat’s place in
southern Illinois. It’s gonna be a
pool jamboree.

— Johnston City, Illinois, by
Fat’s place. A pool jamboree.

The “Band of Brothers” will all be

Got that kid? Johnston City.
Southern Illinois. Everybody
there, big action. Okay, okay,
good luck.

Mick scratches the info down on a piece of paper.


Mick returns from phone call.



I know it’s hard here in
Valleyland, but I appreciate your
patience. I love you, you know?

I love you too, babe. And your
parents are fine. Real great,
putting us up and all.

Mick starts fumbling.

It’s just that, this past year…
the two of us… I’m just not used
to being in any one place for too
long. I love seeing new places,
new people… playing pool.

Mick grabs Roxanne’s shoulders and looks her in the eyes.

I’m never going to be able to
settle down. I need to keep
moving. That’s what makes me feel
good. That, and you with me.

Roxanne’s eyes light up, and she dreamily replies:

I signed on for life, Mick.

Mick takes stock for a moment, then nods his head in

There’s big action down near Fat’s
farm. Johnston City, Illinois.
Everybody we know is gonna be
there. It’ll be like the Olympics
of Pool. Let’s blow this popstand!


Roxanne washes up, pretties herself, goes into her bedroom to
pack alone while Mick is lying on the bed.

Maura knocks on door.

We’re driving you away again,
aren’t we?

You never drove me away, I was
always ready to leave. Ever since
I was little…
all those movies, magazines… I
always wanted to travel and walk
into smoky bars, bat my eyes like
Lauren Bacall and walk off into the

We can’t get you to stay a little
longer? Uncle Manny wanted to take
us all to dinner.

Roxanne shakes her head. Maura embraces her.

Always send me postcards and call.
I love you my daughter, my gorgeous

Roxanne smiles as they hug.

— Shot by drug addicts, gone for a
year, she finally comes back to her
loving mother.

Roxanne starts to laugh.

— Tear your mother’s heart out…

Maura reflects a second, seems to make up her mind and

Okay. Well, I never told you this,
but your grandfather used to run
numbers in the neighborhood, back
in Brooklyn. So I guess you always
had some gambling in your blood…
And you make a living playing pool?

Not that simple, but yes.

And this makes you happy?

Yes. Tell the neighbors I’m a
flight attendant — the first
Jewish one.

Roxanne and Maura both laugh




Roxanne and Mick get back on the road and head to Johnston


They turn off into the exit for Johnston City.



As the car pulls in, they see the marquee advertising:


Roxanne and Mick enter the lounge and run into The Filthy

Jesse’s here and you’d better make
peace with him, if you know what’s
good for you. He’s in the back of
the bar.

As they walk past the bar they are treated to a rogue’s
gallery of the greatest hustlers in the country, FATS, DAPPER
info could be displayed at bottom of screen like a series of
“Wanted” posters.)

Well, well, look what the ill-wind
blew in. Pasadena Mick, the guy
who promised me one year on the
road — provided I paid his mommy’s
bills — and Double-Smart or
rather, Double-Cross Roxanne, his
treacherous side-kick.

I’m really sorry about that, Jesse.
We only have a six thousand dollar
bankroll, I can give you five.
We’ll pay you the rest, I promise.

Too late. Your promise is no good
any more. I got another idea.

Roxanne and Mick cringe and steel themselves in anxious

You owe me one year on the road and
about ten dimes — with the
interest. I could have some
friends of mine wring you like a
rag for the money and force you to
come, but you might not play good —
with the broken bones and all.

Roxanne, in horror, digs her fingers in Mick’s arm.

I want you to come on the road with
me of your own free will, so I’ll
gonna give you a chance to settle
our disagreement with a gamble.

A drizzle of hope passes through Roxanne and Mick.

I want you to put up that six grand
and play my guy some One-Pocket.
You’re supposed to be one of the
best, so that shouldn’t be a
problem. If you lose, you go on
the road with me for a year. Win?
We’re even. I’ll even put up two
thousand so you’ll only be laying
me three to one — there has to be
some penalties for your crime. The
alternative? You can negotiate a
better deal with my two friends
over there, Sluggo and Boppo.

Jesse points to two menacing characters leaning against the

Alright, we’ll go for it. But not
because of the threats. I pay my

Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just show up
in the back room at nine o’clock

Jesse walks away and Mick is confronted by Grady “The
Professor” Mathews, a tall, thin, totally bald, bespectacled
man in his thirties who resembles Dr. Silvana of Captain
Marvel Comics.

What do you say, hot-shot? I been
hearing good things about your
game. Everybody says you’re a big
gun. Maybe you’re even ready to do
some serious gambling with me. How
‘bout it? Even up, of course. No

Don’t worry, Grady, I’ll get to
your ass. First, I’ve got to
settle up with Hippie Jesse. I’m
tired of ducking him. I’m gonna
play a match that’s been brewing
for a long time. It’s some player
of his. It’s not you by any

No it’s not me.
But while you’re looking for
whoever the hell it is, maybe I
could keep an eye on your girl
friend for you.

No chance. I know all about you.
If I catch you anywhere near her
when I’m not around, I’ll have your
elbows removed.

Okay, okay. Take it easy. Rumors
regarding my reputation have been
greatly exaggerated.

Grady walks away.

(to Roxanne)
Exaggerated, hell. That’s one of
the kinkiest pool players of all
time. You know what the title of
his autobiography is? Bet High and
Kiss Low!

Roxanne cracks up laughing.


Here comes Hippie Jesse and his
player. Holy shit, it’s Freddy,
pregnant wife and all.

Freddy and his pregnant wife approach Roxanne and Mick.

Mick is nattily attired with a flashy, golf cap.
Roxanne stares at Freddy’s wife’s swollen belly.

You’re gonna play Mick?

Scene XX

I’m a little surprised myself, that
this is the game Jesse set up. But
like I told you when I was turning
you out, “friends is friends, but
gambling is gambling,” and gambling
comes first. If anybody chooses to
play me, I’m going to try to shoot
his balls off.

Okay, people. This match is a
“freeze-out” for all the marbles.
No one can quit without forfeiting.
You gotta keep playing until
somebody wins all the money.

Jesse walks over to Mick and whispers.

Oh yeah, there’s a couple more
minor stipulations I forgot to
mention. One, you got to spot
Freddy a ball, eight to seven. I
wanna see how you play under real
pressure. Two, I don’t travel with no broad.
So when we go on the road — you
and I — you’ll get to visit
Roxanne only on the High Holidays
and Christmas. Good luck, pal.

The session starts. Freddy breaks the balls “safe” and they
jockey shots back and forth until Freddy accidentally leaves
Mick a long shot.

Mick tries to focus in on the shot but the balls seem to be
moving around. He finally lunges at the shot and misses it

Jesse eases up to Freddy.

(innocently, to Freddy)
Well, how do you like that? How do
you feel, kid?

Real good. I’ll be sharp tonight.

Let’s hope so. The two grand we’re
putting up is coming out of your
pocket — just to make sure this
game is played on the square.

I only play on the square! You
know that.

That’s all wonderful, but don’t
worry, I took out some insurance

What’d you do?

I “jarred” him. I paid the
waitress to put a few drops of
Scopolamine on his hamburger. In a
few minutes every ball will look
like three. Just hope he can stay
on his feet long enough to finish
the set!

You jarred him? — You put CIA
truth-juice on him?
— In a match with me in it? You
shit-heel, cocksucker! You know I
ain’t no “jar hustler.” I play
hard, but I play on the square.
This is brutal. If any of the
other players find out, I’ll be
marked a rat — just like you.

Yeah, well I always knew you were a
sucker at heart. It’s too late,
just get your ass in there and get
the cheese.

Freddy returns to the table and with his back to Jesse gives
Roxanne the “Tom” sign — a closed right fist in the middle
of the chest.

Roxanne’s eyes go wide but she acknowledges the “office” with
a slight nod.

(whispering to Mick)
What happened on that last shot?
Freddy just “officed” me that
something is very wrong. How do
you feel?

I kinda feel like my eyes are
wandering around in my head. I
feel good but the balls look upside

Freddy is trying to tip us off.
Somehow Jesse must have jarred you.
You got to try to shake it, ‘cause
the money is up and you have to
either play or forfeit. Let’s get
you to the bathroom.

Roxanne calls a time out with a wave.


Mick goes in with Roxanne and tries to vomit as much as he

Drink this. Milk. It’s the only

Roxanne force feeds him multiple glasses of milk.


Freddy appears to be stalling and taking an extraordinary
amount of time on his shot. He gets up, he gets back down,
he gets up again…

C’mon speed it up! You’re playing
like you’re going to the electric

Roxanne walks Mick back to his chair.

Rat Poison Ronnie cuts into Roxanne.

Hey, Double-Smart, what is it with
your guy? Is he laying down my
drunk act?

No, that fuckin’ Jesse jarred him.
If we had some time, maybe he could
could come out of it. I fed him
about two quarts of milk.

Ronnie thinks for a minute.

You guys were alright with me after
you broke me. Maybe I can help.
I’d love to fuck-up that jag-off
Jesse’s scam. Just watch this.

Ronnie staggers over to Mick’s table and fakes a heart
attack. He grabs hold of Jesse and drops to the floor
gasping and moaning, dragging Jesse down with him.

Arrgh! My heart! Help me. This
is it!


— The game stops.
— An ambulance is called.
— Paramedics examine Ronnie and carry him out on a
— In between writhing, he winks at Roxanne.
— The game begins again.

Do you feel any better?

Still shaky, but I think I can

Roxanne smiles and looks over to Freddy and gives him the
“George” hand signal. Open palm across chest, fingers

Mick is okay. Freddy eases over to him.

Well, I guess the game is back on.
So as they say in marbles, “shoot
your hardies” — And from here on
out I wish you luck, Mick — all


— Flashes of shots
— Payoffs on the side bets


A spectator joins a friend in the bleacher seats, squeezes in
and sits down. His friend has his elbows on his knees and
his hands under his chin, watching the game. Both men are
kind of nerdy and middle aged.

So what’s going on?

It’s a real big match. You see
that guy over there? That’s
Pasadena Mick.

Double-Smart Roxanne’s boy friend?

Images of Mick at the table.

Yeah, he’s famous for inventing
impossible shots. Needs one right
now. Freddy’s pocket’s loaded with balls
and the cue ball is buried behind a
wall in front of the Beard’s
pocket. Mick’s got no way to play
a safety.


The session’s tied. This is the
deciding game for all the cheese.
If Mick doesn’t come up with a
miracle shot, this match is gonna
be over.

Roxanne eases over to Mick and takes him by the arm.

Everything we got is on the line.
Our whole stake. If you don’t want
us stuck in the Valley living with
my parents you’ve got to come up
with something here.

I’m gonna give it my best shot,
babe. No sense stalling.


With his cue ball hemmed in behind a wall of balls in front
of Freddy’s pocket, he gets down on the shot and aims and
aims, and strokes and strokes with agonizing concentration.

Suddenly, he jumps upright, turns his hat around backwards,
gets back down, takes one stroke, and whacks the shot home.

The cue ball is about six inches away from the object ball,
straight-in and pointed down table. He hits the object ball
tremendously hard and banks the ball toward his pocket.
The cue ball goes up in the air and flies over the wall of
balls that were blocking it and lands and stops perfectly
behind those balls.

He makes the bank and gets position to run the game out. We
see the shot in full speed first, then a replay in slow

All the players in the room stop what they are doing and look
over. There is tumult in the room.

What happened! What happened!

He banked it in his pocket, and
jumped over the stack, he’s behind
the balls and ready to run the game

Mick proceeds to quickly run out the remaining balls on a
dejected Freddy, who is looking up at the sky. On the game
and session ball, Mick announces to Roxanne:

I’m coming home, baby!

Mick fires at a cross-corner bank shot at about a hundred
miles an hour, and it goes in.

Everyone applauds. Roxanne jumps up and kisses Mick.

That, my friend, is One-Pocket!

Jesse, with two hands, throws the money loosely up on the
table, snarls at Freddy, and walks away.

(to Freddy, derisively)
You fuckin’ sucker!

Jesse grabs his stuff and walks out while the money is
transferred over to Roxanne. Freddy smiles grimly and shakes
Mick’s hand.

That was a game! You might have to
back me a couple of games the rest
of the week. Jesse made me put up
the two thousand you won.

Freddy signals his pregnant wife over. They all meet and
laugh together…

(to Mick)
You know, even when that shit was
in full force, you didn’t play all
that bad. How’d you do it?

Well, I was seeing three balls at
once, but I just tried aiming at
the one in the middle!

Laughter from all.

Final scene — The Reckoning




Digital clock turns from 6:59 to 7:00 am. Roxanne opens
glove compartment, moves a gun aside to grab a sunglasses
case. Empty coffee cups, fast food bags and maps adorn the
otherwise empty front seat.

Mick is sleeping in the back seat under a short, tattered
flannel blanket. He is in the fetal position.


WAITRESS #1, an older blonde, late forties, turns on an old
radio with a scratchy dial.

Happy Monday morning to ya. Time
to go to work.

A COUNTRY & WESTERN TUNE begins to play


The car pulls into the lot and parks right in front of the
truck stop window.

Roxanne, in sunglasses, gets out. It’s cold enough that you
can see her breath. Slams her door shut, walks around to the
trunk, and takes out a leather pool case, a 50’s style beauty
case, and a hanger wrapped in plastic with items of dry

She opens the rear door and gives Mick the cue case, which he
sticks between his legs and goes back to sleep.

She runs her hand lovingly over the Lincoln, then impulsively
plants a wet kiss on the windshield, leaving a very sexy
lipstick mark. Smiling, she stares contentedly at Mick for a
minute, and a beautiful ray of sparkling white light forms a
halo around her head.

(to herself)
We’ve all come a long way since the


Roxanne enters, dry cleaning and beauty case in hand. The
place is about half full with truckers. A typical, starting-to-
get-busy, Monday morning. The counter seems almost a mile
long. Front of the building is covered in glass and the cold
dew of the morning.

(nodding to waitress)
Two black coffees to go. Ladies

Straight back to your left.

Waitress moves her head to the side to get a better look at
Roxanne, recognizing her. Roxanne starts walking toward the
bathroom before the waitress is half-done giving the

I know that woman… Under the
sunglasses that is. Carl? How do
I know that woman?

Carl, the GRILL GUY, shrugs again, with no answer.

Oh, yeah. Her husband is the pool
player. They been here ten times
or so since I started here in
’75… figures… Pool room is only
a mile away. Plenty action there.
Did make fifty dollars some years
back betting on her husband. Eats
like a horse. He once bet he could
eat a whole tray of chocolate cake.

Agnes, pauses to relive the episode.

… Took a whole gallon of milk to
get it all down, too.

Oh, now I remember. That’s Double-
Smart Roxanne.

Sure you remember, cause you bet
her husband couldn’t do it, you
dumb shit! Took you two months to
pay it off too…
(to herself)
My lord, she has hardly aged a bit.
I reckon she hasn’t seen more than
an hour of daylight in the past
twenty years, ‘cept behind a
steering wheel!

Roxanne yanks on the ladies bathroom door. It’s occupied, so
she enters the men’s She locks the door and moves a garbage
can under the knob to secure it further. She’s done this

She undresses quickly. A holstered gun on her ankle, money
taped to her thigh, and a big scar on her butt from her
gunshot wound.

She dresses just as quickly. Brushes her teeth and puts on a
layer of make-up.


The bottom of the case contains some gold and diamond
jewelry, a switchblade, and an open letter addressed from an


Roxanne reads the letter.

“You are asked to appear on
Tuesday, the 12th of February for
the reading of the will of Maura
Schwartz. Please respond…”

Roxanne stifles a tear, puts the letter away, looks at the
mirror, brushes her hair with her hand, forces a smile, and
walks out.

She sizes up the whole room, walks up to counter, and puts a
couple of singles down.

(kind of excited)
How ya been doin’ sugar?

Come again?

(points to herself)
Remember me? Agnes? —
Roxanne, right? You’ve been in
here quite a few times — not
lately — You and that nice husband
of yours… can’t think of his name
I won fifty bucks when he ate that
pan of chocolate cake.

Roxanne looks irritated that Agnes recognizes her, but pushes
the dollars toward her.

Here you go then.

Agnes, realizes that Roxanne did not want to be recognized,
and pushes the money back.

On the house.

Roxanne smiles at her and Agnes smiles back. Agnes tries to
force herself not to speak as Roxanne walks out but does so
anyway like a giddy schoolgirl.

I guess ya’all been doin’ okay.
That there’s a dandy new Lincoln
you got parked in front.

Roxanne stops in her tracks, turns around, and just smiles a
powerful smile that lights up the room. It is her trademark.


Roxanne and Mick take a look around and notice a YOUNG PLAYER
(the player from the opening scene). Cue case in hand, he
walks into the pool room with an entourage.


— Light is coming into pool room as time passes.
— Mick is losing games and paying off.
— Mick and Roxanne look tired, sweaty and worn out.
— It’s very late and only a few hangers on are watching the
— Roxanne and Mick act agitated with one another and Roxanne
walks around the room, maniacally asking for cigarettes.
— The entourage of the other player keep congratulating him
and needling Mick.
— Mick sits on his pool chair, looking grief-stricken.
— He’s scratching his head and looking down and away — the
loser tell!


You’ve lost it, Mick. Look at
this! Look at this! You’ve got a
Great Man to play, and you’re going
off like a rocket. We’re quitting.
You couldn’t beat Ray Charles.

Roxanne is making a scene in front of the quiet crowd. The
Sweators and entourage feel uncomfortable and embarrassed for

No! Just give me the money then.
Leave if you want. I don’t care.
I’m going to keep playing anyway.

Roxanne takes out her purse, empties out all of the money on
the pool table.

Here — you son-of-a-bitch, you may
as well take the cheese and bet it
all. Every cent we have left.
Just blow it all. I’m gone… Palm
Springs to live with my dad. And
— that’s it for you! I knew all
along that I could never control
the loser inside you!

Roxanne hits him in the arm. She then walks up to the young
player and hands him a wad of cash. The young player
reluctantly takes it.

The young player, who’s very cocky, hands it to his own
backer, the leader of the young showy entourage, and he
counts it.

This is a lot of money lady —
But, you got action.

Roxanne throws her hands up in the air, gives Mick the
finger, and storms out.

The young player nervously misses his next shot and Mick
takes a deep breath and stands up to take his turn.


Dawn is breaking. A very tired-looking Mick exits the pool
room. His cue case drags on the sidewalk. Shades his eyes
with his hand to ward off the early morning sunlight.

Head down, he walks down the street and turns the corner —
there is Roxanne, standing there leaning against the car.
When he gets closer, she opens her arms.

Mick, from a back view, opens his arms.

We see Mick frontally, with his arms and jacket open,
revealing the inside of his black leather jacket and the wads
of cash stuffed in the inner pockets.
He reveals his first smile.

They climb into the car and hold hands, kiss and giggle like
little kids and drive into the bright happy sunrise.


(in a female voice, mocking
Oh, you’ve lost it this time Mick!
I’m going to marry a doctor! You
can’t play for shit! Take all the
money, Mick!

Both laugh hysterically.

Next time don’t hit me on my right
arm. Coulda screwed up my stroke!


Hope everyone enjoyed the story as much as my daughter Catherine

and I did writing it. It’s fiction of course, but it was based on
real-life adventures, and real people who we tweaked a litlle to avoid
the libel suits. Catherine apologizes to anyone who we may have offended.
As far as me apologizing also — sorry, it’ll never happen.

Jack Cooney

Anonymous said:
Who’s Jack Cooney?

Jack Cooney was probably the greatest pool hustler ever. He traveled with his wife Barbara. He was a great “lemon” man; that is a player who can disguise his true pool talent in order to lure an opponent into big action. He avoided tournaments because he didn’t want his face or speed to be circulated around. He was very personable and easy to like. Even after they lost big money to Jack, his opponents still spoke well of him.

the Beard

Hall of Fame Dinner 2009 part 1-4, Jack Cooney and Flyboy Spears

HOF Dinner part 1

Hall of Fame Dinner 2009 part 2

Hall of Fame Dinner 2009 part 3

Hall of Fame Dinner part 4 the closing

more interviews & short story:Gar, The Iron Man

Player Interviews with, Ronnie Allen, Donny Anderson, Freddy the Beard Bentivegna, Artie Bodendorfer, Al New York Blackie Bonife, Danny DiLiberto, Willie Jopling, Grady Mathews, George Rood, Bugs Rucker, Sonny Springer,  Bill Weenie Beanie Staton, Eddie Taylor, Norm Webber,

Clik on the link below and scroll to the left side of the page.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008
My short story, Gar, The Iron Man, was available for viewing and reading on Amazon. It had the good fortune of being the #1 bestselling/most read, short story in the Sports category for 2 weeks.

Once upon a time in Chicago, there lived a fabulous character named Milborn Gar Frazier, AKA “Gar, The Iron Man.” He was born poor, a sharecropper’s son from South Carolina. Despite being uneducated, with few natural talents, he was gifted with an indomitable heart and the endurance of a Kenyan marathon runner. Mind-boggling endurance was probably his long suit. No one could outlast him and no human has ever stayed awake for longer periods of time. Week long gambling sessions were the norm; and in the 70’s, Gar probably set the world’s record when he stayed awake for twenty-one days and nights playing pool and cards. The record did come with a proviso because he downed handfuls of speed pills to set it. Even so, a three week stay-up-stretch is still pretty crispy. He later nearly broke his own record in the 80’s at my place, a twenty-four hour action spot called The North Shore Billiard Club of Chicago. He began playing pool on Jan. 1st ( the place was closed for New Year’s Eve), and continued playing nonstop until Jan.14th. Gar finally gave out and went home. Once he got home, he only slept about eight hours. Somehow he popped back up and returned to North Shore. He played more pool and pinochle until Jan 21st, and then went home again for the day. To add to an already unbelievable story, he came back once more and finished out the month. In the course of his run, Gar pulled out two of his own teeth with hand pliers, and vomited twice into a garbage can. None of those interruptions gave him any real cause for pause. He just spit the blood into a paper cup, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then stuck a very suspect bag rag in his mouth to sop up the remains, and went back to racking the balls or dealing the cards. Near the end of his marathon, his feet had swollen up so much that we had to cut off the toe part of his shoes with an exacto knife and turn his shoes into sandals. He also never washed, save for an infrequent face splash, or changed clothes for the full thirty-one days.
Before the North Shore Billiard Club, I had another gambling spot called the 4 B’s Club. It was named after the four partners who all had an B in their name. The time was the early 70’s. Many famous pool players came through the club. The great One Pocket player, Grady “The Professor” Mathews, spent much time there and loved the joint. Gar would stay in there 7,8,9,10 days at a time playing poker, pool, or staking someone else to do the same. I was a top pool player at that time and he liked to put me in action. He was the only stake horse I ever had who would not let me quit when I had a bad game. He would beg me to keep playing, “Just one more set, one more set. We’ll get him this time,” he’d say as I was getting my brains knocked out.
The action in pool, poker, and pinochle went on nonstop. The majority of our clientele was country boys like Gar, southern folk who looked at gambling as a lifestyle. Naturally, a lot of rough and rowdy guys hung out there; but anyone could win all they wanted to and never have a problem. However, money leaving the place at gunpoint was another thing entirely, because we did manage to get stuck up twice — a very scary experience. In the first robbery, they tied all of us up with baling wire, forced us face down into the floor, and put our coats over our heads. They had to be pretty good heist men too, because everybody in the joint was usually packing themselves. However, the heist-men had shotguns and that trumped our pistols.
The main attraction for these robberies was probably Gar, because he was known to always carry a bankroll. I sort of semi-missed the second heist because I was sleeping on a cot in the back room at the time. The robbers rushed in through the back door and ran right by me. The lights were off in the room and they apparently didn’t see me. I was terrified they would spot me on the way out, so I crawled under the cot and waited them out. I failed to mention that it was a metal fold-up cot, and there was a bar in the middle that I had to squeeze under. The problem was, and thank God they never noticed it, in order to get under the cot, I had to lift it a few inches off the ground. When I finally got under it, the cot was no longer touching the floor, I was supporting it on my back! One of the main targets in the heist, besides Gar, was another hillbilly high-roller named James Justice. James had just bought a five carat diamond ring and he had been showing it off all week. That story somehow must have gotten back to the robbers because during the heist, they began grilling the victims, asking who was it that had the big diamond ring. They had everybody lined up , facing the wall and leaning against their palms. They interrogated Gar to find out if the guy with the big rock was in the joint. You must first understand that Gar and James had been bitter rivals for years. James was propped up, ring hidden, right next to Gar. Gar cursed courageously at the heisters, and bellowed, “Screw you! If I did know, I wouldn’t tell you bastards a goddamned thing!” But as he said that, he moved his hand ever so slightly along the wall and surreptitiously pointed his finger directly at James. James was carefully searched, and the precious gem was discovered and added to the haul. During the robbery they also made everyone drop their pants. Gar asked if he could be excused from that drill because he didn’t want everybody to see his shorts, considering he hadn’t changed them in about a month. The heist-men sadistically refused his request.
Gar was a unique, unforgettable personality, a tough-old WW II vet. He served the entire length of the war in combat, from Africa to Italy, from 1942 to 1945. He owned a house in the old Uptown area in Chicago. It was definitely not a high-rent district, filled with whores, dopers, and white-trash hillbillies. One night, while walking home from the grocery store in his neighborhood, he was accosted by a huge, ominous-looking mugger with a long knife. The mugger demanded Gar’s bankroll, but Gar managed to push him away and then took off running, with the now-angry mugger hot on his heels. Gar had a plan, though. Thinking quickly, he headed toward his car which was parked in front of his house. While on the way, he fumbled his trunk key out of his pocket. Luckily, he reached the car and hurriedly popped open the trunk, dove in, and removed a large hammer. Now, with hammer in determined hand, he defiantly turned and faced his oncoming adversary. His would-be pursuer caught sight of him, skidded in his tracks, did an about-face, and took off running in the opposite direction with Gar now hot on his heels! The avenging Gar cut a formidable figure flying down Wilson Avenue, waving that hammer high above his head. He provided sound incentive for the mugger to keep on keeping on when he shouted at him ” Don’t trip now, motherfucker, ’cause I’m dead on your ass.”
However, there was another side to this man’s personality. At heart he was a softie, an easy mark for a touch, and a true friend of the unfortunate. I was in his house once when I noticed he had a barrel of peanuts and a barrel of bird seed in his hallway. “What the hell are these for, Gar,” I innocently inquired. “They’re for the squirrels and the pigeons, you dumb-ass!” Gar took care of everybody, friend or fowl. Every Christmas Gar would fill up an old supermarket cart with toys, and mosey up and down his street passing out toys to the underprivileged kids on the block. One Christmas he ran into trouble when an old hooker took an attitude with his offer. She refused to send her kids down from her second floor apartment to get the presents. “We don’t need no charity from you, you old bastard!,’ she ungratefully shouted. Gar persisted, and yelled, “C’mon down and get these toys for yer kids, you goddamn whore!” The lady was unmoved by his generosity and dumped a pan of water out the window on him.
At the age of 70, Gar became diabetic, but he never took decent care of himself, resulting in his right leg having to be cut off at the knee. Typically, he refused all rehab and amputee therapy and counseling, citing that he was on the Anzio beachhead for two months and was plenty familiar with missing limbs. He stayed in the hospital only two days after the operation before he released himself. He went directly to a card game and played poker all night. Gar stopped by the bar I owned for coffee the morning after the game, bemoaning the whole time his bad luck at cards, no mention of his missing leg.
After that, things got worse for Gar. His disdain for diet and treatment caused him to lose his left leg, also at the knee. Next, the thigh of both the right and left leg was sliced off. Finally, he had a stoke that paralyzed his whole left side. All this didn’t seem to slow him a step. Undaunted, he did the only thing he could do. He became a beggar in a wheelchair, and could be seen out working the streets every day. A friend of mine spotted him on a busy corner with a tin cup, begging. The friend playfully asked what would Gar do if he just snatched up the money that was in the beggars cup? Gar had a newspaper in his lap and his hand was under the newspaper. When he pushed the paper aside he was holding a 7″ switchblade knife. Gar told my friend, “Go for it!” Needless to say, nobody ever put their fingers in Gar’s cup. Operating with 1/4 of a body, Gar had more “cods” than a squad of US Navy SEALs.
After a successful morning of begging, Gar loved to go to the racetrack and fire his hard-earned package at the horses. He didn’t have a clue about handicapping and he would invariably blow whatever he had garnered on his beg route. Race track touts would surround and barrage him with “hot” tips. He bet on all they would give him. He might be betting on as many as five or six horses in the same race, so his chances of success were nil. In those days the track was not handicap accessible and people had to go up a long ramp to get to the admissions booth. This posed a serious problem for the wheelchair-bound Gar. He eventually solved the dilemma by hiring someone to wheel him around. Gar probably should have used a higher set of employee qualifications, because the guy that wound up pushing him was totally blind! They were a hilarious duo, with Gar cursing and shouting orders at the blind guy, urging him to go faster. Between the two of them, they didn’t have a full contingent of body parts.
Near the end of his life, Gar finally succumbed to the diabetes and passed into a coma. Even brain-dead, Gar hung on and wouldn’t die. If someone wanted him dead, they would just have to kill him. Eventually the hospital had to pull all the plugs, and the old warrior’s heart was finally stopped.

One final Gar tid-bit. I just remembered this one:
When Milborn “Gar” Frazier was a young buck back home in South Carolina, he and his first wife Diane, were in a bar and had been drinking heavily. They had become very loud and boisterous, and were eventually confronted by the bouncer.
Gar’s wife and the bouncer got into a heated argument when the bouncer insisted the two leave the premises. Finally, Diane asked the bouncer, “You ever been hit by a woman?” The bouncer taken aback slightly, said, “Yeah, sure.” Then Diane said, “I mean really hard!” Then she proceeded to bash him with a solid right hand that knocked him out colder than a Siberian popsicle!

True Road Adventures

True Road Adventures Index:

1. 1970 Playboy Article on Johnston City by Craig Vetter

2. Donnie “Waterdog” Edwards, A Shark out of Water. biographical news article.

3. 2006 Hall of Fame Dinner Slide Show — the induction of the Beard

4. “Pull up your pants!” New Orleans adventure

5. Me and Sugar Shack in Oklahoma City

6. Most $ Money I Ever Played For. Wrestling with Archie the Greek Karras

7. Interview with Bunny Rogoff, part 1 by Randi Givens 1993

8. Bunny Rogoff Nite Club Act part 1 “expurgated version”

9. Interview with Bunny Rogoff, part 2 by Randi Givens 1993

10. Bunny Rogoff Nite Club Act part 2 “expurgated version”

11. Pretty Boy Floyd Shoots From the Hip, an interview with Jim Mataya by R Givens © 1991

12. Vintage nostalgic Slide Shows from Bill Porter

1970 Playboy Article on Johnston City by Craig VetterSHOOT-OUT IN JOHNSTON CITY . . . in which — after all the hustlers have traded lies and shots — Wimpy and Fast Eddie are left standing to play some no-forgiveness pool.

(This article first appeared in the November 1970 issue of the magazine)

There are some worlds in which the spoken truth isn’t welcome or necessary. Professional pocket billiards is one. In a room with a pool table and a couple of hustlers, the truth is a silly abstraction. Around high-stakes pool, everybody lies about everything, to everyone, loudly or quickly, but nonstop and with style.

And it works. A tight society of pool hustlers — the best 100 or so players in the country — hangs together, perpetuates itself, sees very many arguments, very few fights, makes inside jokes, has a jargon of its own, maintains a grapevine, works around a common gaggle of superstitions, has gentlemen and drunks. Young Turks and old pros, fat times and skinny, Rembrandts and Walter Keanes, watches new people arrive and old ones die.

The reason it can exist on a billion little lies is that the single unspoken truth it honors is the only one for which it scores points: That’s Euclid’s truth — Newton’s truth. Poke the cue ball at the right angle (there’s Euclid) and the object ball drops (that’s Newton). One point.

The lies after all, are designed only to get you a game:
“My game’s off. I been sick.”
“Yeah, well, I been up four days straight. I’m dead. I’d go to bed but I can’t find my hotel.”
“You shoot good tired.”
“Well I’m drunk too.”
“You shoot even better drunk.”

“Hell, I can’t even see the table. I’m blind for Christ sakes.”
“Yeah, and you shoot good blind.”
“Listen, I’m drunk, I’m tired, I’m sick. I’m having trouble with my old lady — and I’ll spot you three balls.”
“All right, rack ’em.”

The lies get you into the game, but only the truth gets the hell out with the money. Chalk, shoot, think, bank shot, roll, chalk, work the rack, chalk, shoot, until someone goes home with the truth in his pocket. All rolled up in a rubber band. Some go home with just the rubber band, and some lose that too.

It’s the little lies that get the press — but only because they’re so damn much fun. The truth about professional pocket billiards is its own classic and subtle drama which is built around a set of skills that takes a lifetime to master. The observer’s problem is that for every hour these men spend learning to play, they spend two hours learning to talk crooked about it.

Pool tournaments are a mixture of the truth and the lies. In the official games only the score means anything and it’s guarded by a referee, a scorekeeper and a standings poster. But the side games, the unofficial afternoon or late night action is generated by the network of lies. The hustlers meet for tournament play four or five times a year. There’s the Stardust tournament in Las Vegas for $35,000, the Johnston City meet for $20,000, the Billiard Congress for $20,000, and usually one or two others to get the sharks off their home tables in Houston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles or Philly, and get them together to work on one another. Because notoriety precedes most of these men into the pool halls across the country, the only real action they can get is among themselves.

The Johnston City, Illinois, World’s All-Round Pocket Billiards Championship is the oldest of the pro tournaments. Paulie and George Jansco started it 11 years ago in a room they’d built behind their Show Bar. That was in 1950 and pool was at its lowest ebb. The pros had of course, been playing all along, but for 20 years things had been lean — so lean that some hustlers had even learned a trade.

About 1940, pool halls around the country had begun to close for lack of business. Before that, pool in America had seen its golden age between about 1920 and 1930. Those were the salad days of guys like Al Miller. He was on the road at 14, hustling for a living and pocket billiards was a dude’s game.

“I remember about 1918, I was a teenager and got my first tailor-made Rambow. Beautiful thing, cost $7.50. Rambow was the best cue you could get. Still is, and a lot of guys use ’em. ‘Course, Old Man Rambow’s dead, but they’re still making the sticks. Back then, you could really hustle. Not that you can’t today but then . . . well, a lot of things was different. Around ’30, ’31, I was really shooting. I won four tournaments in Chicago and a couple in Philly and in ’32, I won the national. The halls were different then. They were like palaces. There was this one place in Detroit that had, like, 144 tables and girls racking the balls. And these places were for gentlemen only. You’d go in and a girl would take your hat and you had to sit down and be quiet, and pretty soon you’d get a table. The place was done in royal purple with brass rails and fittings everywhere and during the day you could get away with a sweater with velveteen sleeves. But at night, you had to have a tux. Only games we played then were Straight Pool and Rotation. There was no Nine-ball or One-pocket or even Eight-ball then. And the balls were Zanzibar ivory, much heavier, and you really had to smack ’em to move ’em around.”
By 1939, pool had a rotten name. It mattered little that the best of the players wore tuxedos and behaved like gentlemen. The public knew that there was a lot of gambling and cigar smoking and hoods who liked the game. When the War came, professional pocket billiards nearly disappeared.

Then, in 1961, The Hustler came out. That movie, along with the Jansco brothers and Rudolph Wanderone (“Minnesota Fats”) put it all back together. The second golden age of pool began. It was more widespread this time; there was less cigar smoking, and pool halls with names like Town and Country Billiards even began to attract the ladies.. The heroes turned out to be pretty much the same men who’d been the best 20 years before: Al Miller, Luther Lassiter, Irving Crane, and 20 or 30 others. But there were some flashy kids too — Danny Jones, Eddie Kelly, Ronnie Allen — and there was television and a new generation hungry for sports to watch and play.

In 1961, the first year of the Johnston City tournament, 13 guys showed up. “Mostly to catch George and me” says Paulie, “but we was tired of losing, so we let ’em have each other.” Every year, the prize money and the entries grew. The Janscos added another big room, and then the hustlers really came — like piranhas after some poor cow that wandered into the wrong river — but only to find one another. By 1963, the field was illustrious enough to bring ABC’s Wide World of Sports to cover it. The beer and bourbon — standard playing equipment — had to be served in paper cups, and the lights were a little hot, but ego runs high around the hustlers, and ABC went back for five years in a row.

The Johnston City tournament has more pool action than the Las Vegas get-together (which Paulie Jansco also runs, for the Stardust hotel). In Vegas, when two hustlers begin the courting ritual that’s designed to get them into a side game with the right odds, negotiations are likely to break down early and the two usually end up laughing together and losing their money — not to each other but to the house in a game of craps. Johnston City however, is a coal-mining town of 3,400 people so thoroughly tucked away from everything on the southern Illinois flatlands that to get there you have to fly into St. Louis, Missouri, 100 miles west. The three October weeks that the hustlers spend in town are more likely to be rainy and the only things to do are drink and play pool. The two are far from mutually exclusive and Paulie Jansco has them both sewed up.

The press always shows up in Johnston City. Over the three weeks they drift in and out, talking to the players (“How old were you when you started to hustle?”), buttonholing Paulie (“Whatever gave you the idea to start a hustlers’ tournament?”), searching for whatever’s left of Damon Runyon in America, looking for the color, trying to find out if “Boston Shorty” is really short and “Handsome Danny Jones” really handsome. Paulie knows what they’re after, and when they sit with him in the Show Bar, sipping Scotch or beer while he sips coffee (if it’s before five P.M.), they can’t write fast enough. Paulie is a reservoir of pool stories about the great pool hustlers.

“We like the hustlers,” he says. “We don’t cater to Straight Pool players so much or any particular branch of pool. But the hustlers are the best. This year Allen’s here, Kelly’s here. They’re probably the two best all-around players in the world. Lassiter’s here too, and it’s hard to bet against him. He’s won three all-around tourneys and has a good chance to win this one. Danny Jones is here; he’s the defending champ, but he’s got a crick in his neck this year. All the hustlers are here. They come looking for each other and the action is pretty good. The other night, two of them flipped a coin for $2,400; $4,800 takedown. The one that lost the flip immediately challenged the other to a game of Nine-ball for $2,000, which he also lost. He had a bad day.

“I get along with the hustlers because I understand them. But they’re temperamental as hell. You think movie stars are temperamental — ha, get around some pool players. They got be the world’s worse. I got a good example — I got 500 examples — but the year before last, Joey Spades was in Las Vegas. Now, in Vegas we get, like, 140 entries, double elimination, three divisions, and we have to play it off in 17 days, which means you got to play day and night. But Spades says, “Don’t put me on in the daytime.” I say, “Why not?” and he says, “I can’t bend my finger around the cue in the daytime. I can only bend my finger around the cue at night.’ So I look around and there’s no open windows or doors in the place and so I say, “How do you know whether it’s day or night when there’s no doors or windows and we operate strictly by electric light?” and he says to me in his most serious voice, ‘My finger knows.’

“And anytime a player loses, it’s never his fault. He was never outplayed and he never played bad. He’ll tell you the lights were bad or the table was bad or the atmospheric conditions were bad — like some kind of weatherman.”

“They’re a crazy bunch. Really nuts some of them. And they drink a lot. Some of them never get sober. But I’ve seen those guys where they were bumping into the corners of the table walking around it, couldn’t see the ground, and they’ll still shoot your eyes out. It’s a hard way to live, making money off a pool table, and it does funny things to a guy’s head. Most of my best friends are pool hustlers, but I still tell people when I get hot, ‘If I was a witch, I’d turn you into a pool hustler.’ They’re different from other people. They just want to be pool players. Take Al Miller — he’s a master electrician, but he don’t work at it. He’s content to be poor — not dirt poor, not most of the time — but you know, poor, and he has no ambition at all except to play pool.”

And someone always asks, “Where’s Minnesota Fats?”

“Fatty? Oh hell, who knows. He was one of the instigators of this tournament and he played in the first couple, but he’s so busy with his exhibitions and television and his corporations that he usually doesn’t show up around tournament time. He lives about 20 miles from here, and we’ve been friends since ’39. He is the king of hustlers, no question, and I don’t mean just pool. He’s a born hustler, a fabulous person.

“I’ll tell you who Fats is. He’s got a Cadillac and the whole trunk is full of clippings, stories about him; you write something about him he’ll buy a thousand copies. Anyway, when he and his wife go on a trip, they have to take two cars, ‘cause there’s no room for luggage in Fats’ trunk and he won’t leave those clippings behind. One time he stopped at the side of the road and some guy was plowing a field. He got him over, introduced himself and he’s showing this farmer his clippings. He’s amazing. He and his big mouth have done more for this sport than anything.

“He’s also the best bite man in the world; better on the snap than anybody. He’ll borrow some money from you and make you go out and get some more so you can give it to him. I’ll tell you a funny story about him and Al miller. We’re in Norfolk and every day Fats bites Miller for a hundred. Every single day for six weeks. Well, there was this big crap game and Fatty got his tit in a ringer one night and he loses $4,800. Next day Al is there and we’re talking about Fats losing $4,800 and Miller really gets hot. He says, ‘That son of a bitch he’s been getting $100 a day from me for six weeks to eat on and you mean he had $4,800 to lose in that crap game?’ So now he’s looking for fats; he’s going to punch Fats in the nose. He’s standing there in front of the poolroom for about two hours just burning, and naturally, we’re rubbing it in. Miller’s so mad he can’t see anymore. He says, ‘As soon as the fat man comes I’m going to run over and fix his nose good!’ So Fatty drives up and Miller runs over, opens the door and jumps in the car and they sit there for about 20 minutes. Then they get out and Miller’s walking real dejectedly back towards us. We asked him what happened. ‘The son of a bitch bit me for another hundred,” he says. You got to be a king to do that kind of thing,”
“Is that stuff true?”
“Is it true?” says Paulie, “What did they send me, the religion editor?”

“Listen, the match tonight is going to be one of the best of the tournament. One-pocket finals; Lassiter against Allen. That’s going to be pretty pool. There ought to be a good crowd, because both these guys are popular. Ronnie Allen’s from L.A. and he’s flashy. Walks around the table talking to the crowd, laughing, making jokes, very colorful, dresses in that Mod style. And he’s very good. He’s favored and he ought to win. Young as he is, he shoots beautiful pool. His nickname is Fast Eddie, you know, like the movie. Everybody gets a kick out of him.

“Luther’s going to be way over his head against Allen in One-pocket. In Nine-ball or Straight Pool, Lassiter would eat Allen alive, but in One-pocket it ought to be the other way around. But it’ll be a good match. Luther’s a pro, he’s been playing for 38 years and when he goes down into that pit, he goes to shoot. No matter what, there’ll be some no-forgiveness One-pocket pool in there tonight.

“One-pocket’s a very specialized game. Very tough. Each player picks one pocket — either the right or the left at the top of the table [the foot spot end] — and then whoever gets eight balls in his pocket first, wins. What happens is it turns into a very tight defensive game, because any one of these guys could sink eight balls in seven seconds if they had open shots. So the trick is to keep your opponent from having a shot. You hide the cue ball: behind the pack, on the wrong rail, anywhere you can. Just so you leave the other guy nasty. That’s called playing it safe. It’s maybe the toughest game in pocket billiards, because you have to know how to shoot, bank, play combinations, perfect position; and hardest of all, you have to know how to shoot a safety. It’s a nervous game, gives every body those sneak-up kind of heart attacks. It’s beautiful.”

He was right. When the big room opened at 7:30, the crowd was there. It took the 500 or so of them about five minutes to bunch through the double doors and find seats in the grandstand that surrounds the pit on three sides. Those who couldn’t get seats stood and sat in the stairway aisles. The rest stood on chairs behind the grandstand.

In the pit, two very green, brand-new billiard tables with special overhead lights were getting a final careful brushing (with the nap of the green felt, called Simonis number one).

Behind the tables, up out of the pit on the side without a grandstand, some of the hustlers were drifting over to get a piece of standing room or a seat at the long folding table with the trophies on it. Behind that on the wall hung a huge elimination chart with the record of three weeks of pool on it. It looked like the professional pocket billiards’ family tree running nearly floor to ceiling, with all the great pool hustlers paired off against each other: “Handsome Danny” Jones, “Cuban Joe” Valdez, “Cicero” Murphy, Marvin Henderson, Al Miller, “Cincinnati Joey” Spaeth, “Champagne Eddie” Kelly, Eddie “Knoxville Bear” Taylor, Jack “Jersey Red” Breit, Al Coslowsky, Joe “the Butcher” Balsis, Billy “the Kid” Cardone, Joe Russo, Richie Florence, Bill “Weenie Beanie” Staton, Larry “Boston Shorty” Johnson, all dovetailing to the left until only six names were repeated, then four, then two: Luther “Wimpy” Lassiter and Ronnie “Fast Eddie” Allen, hanging one above the other with only a single line next to them to fill.

Allen came in the back door from the general direction of a marathon gin rummy game, walked through the milling hustlers in front of the trophy table and began laughing and saying hi and looking around at the crowd. His Mod clothes — flared pants, body shirt with loose long sleeves and long pointed collar — all were a contrast to the other players’. So was his age — around 30. Perched on top of his head, above an Our Gang-comedy face, was a vermilion corduroy cap that said even before he opened his mouth that he was insanely cocky.

The betting had started in the crowd even before Allen had arrived. Now it began among the hustlers. The odds were on Allen seven to five. Allen’s entourage — three or four madras-bell-bottom-Mod-mustachioed L.A. friends — was doing the negotiating and holding the money. Allen overheard a conversation in the front row between two guys trying to make a bet. He leaned over and said to the one who wanted Lassiter, “You want to bet? I’ll take your bet. What do you want?”

“Seven to five on a hundred.”

“Seven to five?” Allen is shouting now (the liar’s tone). “Man do you know who I’m playing? I’m playing Lassiter — Luther Lassiter — and you want seven to five?”

His pigeon, unconvinced, held firm. “I want seven to five.”

“Take it,” said Allen over his shoulder to one of his moneymen, a guy in squared-toed shoes.

Lassiter had stepped quietly through the crowd now and into the pit. He looked, as he always does, more like a troubled stockbroker than the seven-time champion of the world in Straight Pool. White shirt, dark tie, gray sports coat and short-cropped white hair — whiter than it should be at 50 years. There was some scattered applause as the crowd noticed him, but he didn’t look up. He took his Balabushka cue out of the case, twisted the two halves together, slid the case under table number one and sat down without a word on a stool in a corner of the pit. He sat there for five minutes (while the chatter and the betting continued) with one foot on the ground, and one foot on the crossbar, head tilted to the left and not moving: an overly calm portrait in a room that by now had the decorum of an auction barn.

A moment later, Paulie Jansco stepped into the pit and the room quieted, except for some coughing and a few last-minute bets. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said “welcome to the ninth annual World’s All-Round Pocket Billiards Championship. We’ve already crowned a Straight Pool champion in Joe Russo and a Nine-ball champion in Mr. Luther Lassiter. Tonight we’ll crown a One-pocket champ in either Ronnie ‘Fast Eddie’ Allen of Burbank, California, or Luther ‘Wimpy’ Lassiter of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The best four out of seven games will win.”

A referee is in the pit and the lights over table two have been turned off, Lassiter is still sitting quietly, eating ice out of a paper cup. As Paulie leavse the pit, Allen takes his arm and says,

“Wait a minute, wait — wait — wait. He ain’t getting his choice of the table.”
“All right, we’ll flip for it,” says Paulie.
“OK, that’s fine, but you don’t give the choice away, for Christ sakes.”

Paulie tosses a quarter, Allen wins and says, “The other table.” The referee sets two cue balls on it and Allen and Lassiter step up to lag.

Allen scrunches the cap into place on the back of his head, and then, smiling, he asks, “May I lag Mr. Lassiter?”

“Yes sir,’ says Lassiter in his quiet voice, “I hope it’s your pleasure.”

Lassiter wins, a rack of balls is set on the spot, he sights along his cue then takes a gentle break shot that pushes the pack towards the upper right pocket and leaves the cue ball nearly on the lip of the left-hand pocket, where Allen will have no shot except a safety. Allen is on the stool and engaged in a giggly, whispered conversation with two of his friends in the front row.

“Your shot, Mr. Allen,” says the referee.

He walks quickly to the table, looks briefly, bends, takes one stroke to line his shot up, and then pushes the cue ball through the pack, off the 6, off the 3, and leaves it buried on Lassiter’s side. A nearly perfect safe. There is a slight applause as he returns to the stool, a cigarette, a drink, and his conversation.. Lassiter walks to the table and around it slowly. He is taking deep breaths, blinking and shaking his head back and forth. There are two possible shots, but not very possible. He stands still, chalking his cue, taking both shots in his head. The only sound is Allen’s animated whispering. Lassiter walks on the other side of the table, takes another deep breath, then seems conscious of the time he’s taking and says softly, “This boy’s a genius — this boy is the best player in the world.”

Allen turns, smiling. “You want to bet on me, Mr. Lassiter, sir?”

Lassiter is still looking. He bends, strokes two or three times, and then says, “No sir, I would not,” and pokes a safe shot along the high rail. Allen is up and to the table. He looks, bends, shoots and walks quickly back to the stool.

“Fast Eddie,” says Lassiter, looking at the table again and shaking his head. “Boy, I wish you’d put me out of my misery.” After a moment he plays safe, and there is applause. He’s put Allen in a very bad spot.

Allen, at the table, looking at the trap he’s in, says, “Very pretty.” There is no shot and almost no way for him to play safe. Lassiter, on the stool, drops a cube of ice in his mouth and watches, Allen plays a table-long bank, down the rail and back up into the middle of the pack — where the cue ball buries itself. There is applause, the loudest of it coming from around the trophy table, where the other hustlers are watching a game they’re glad they’re not in. Allen has escaped the trap and left Lassiter in a worse one.

At the table again, shaking his head again, Lassiter looks for 30 seconds and then says, “I wish I had Daddy Warbuck’s head on my shoulders right now.” Herbert Cokes — Daddy Warbucks — is sitting on a folding chair in front of the cluster of hustlers, shaking his head no.

“I’m glad you recognize talent when you see it, Luther,” says Allen from the stool.

“Oh, don’t worry, I can tell from that cap alone, my boy, says Lassiter without looking up from his studies. There is laughter and Allen, smiling, tips his cap. Lassiter’s looking at a bank combination. It’s not a shot he wants to take, because a miss will leave the table to Allen. He bends in to shoot it, then straightens up again and chalks his cue nervously, then bends again and takes the shot. The cue ball leaves the pack, hits the rail, then rolls back into the pack where the 5-ball breaks out and runs for the hole. There is yelling and clapping before the ball drops, which it does. Allen is smiling, pounding his cue butt on the floor. Cokes is leaning forward in his chair, eyes shut, clapping, the crowd is still applauding and some of them are on their feet. Lassiter is smiling and looking at the table for his next shot.

His position is good and now he begins to work on the tight pack of balls like a gourmet over a duck. He breaks the 2-ball off the corner of the pack and straight in on a hair-thin cut, then the 3 straight in, then a bank on the 11, the 6 up the rail and in, the 4 on a bank and then a pause.

“Mr. Lassiter, shooting for two,” says the referee.

Lassiter is looking at a bank shot on the 15-ball. An easy shot, but there’s nothing afterward. He sinks it and then shoots a safety. There is applause as he sits down.

“Mr. Lassiter needs one ball to win,” says the referee.

Allen is up. He looks carefully at the table, moves around it, then leans over the 7-ball and puts his eye very close to it to see if it is touching the rail. The referee moves around, bends over it and says, “Not frozen.”

“Yeah, thanks, I know,” says Allen, “for all the good it does me.” Then he banks the cue ball the length of the table; it comes back and kicks the 7 a foot and in. There is wild applause and some spilling of drinks. This is the magic the crowd has come to see. Allen has an opening now and, unlike Lassiter — who usually sinks a ball here and a ball there, between safes — Allen’s style of play is called runout. Given an opening, he can sink the eight balls he needs to win without a miss.

He turns to the crowd now and announces, “The blitz is on.” And then with almost no hesitation between shots, he banks the 8 in, pokes the 1 straight in, the 13 along the rail, the10 straight in, the 9 on a cut, the 14 straight in, and then the 12 on a bank rolls toward the hole, bangs the rail and hangs up on the lip of his pocket. The sound of disappointment from the crowd.

Allen is smiling. He steps back and says, “Should have had a hamburger.” The winning ball is alone on the table in the upper left corner.

Despite the miss, there is no real shot for Lassiter. He is chalking, looking at the table. The one ball that’s left is dangerously close to Allen’s pocket and open only to a difficult cross bank. If he makes it, he’s likely to scratch. If he doesn’t he’ll leave it for Allen.

“Don’t miss,’ says Allen. And then as Lassiter takes the shot gently, the ball comes off the rail and runs towards his pocket. Allen stretches off his stool and says, “Will it go?”

“It will, my boy, it will,” says Lassiter. It does. The gallery is on its feet, clapping, and the hustlers are clapping, shaking their heads, laughing, exchanging money. Allen is smiling and shaking his head back and forth.

And the rest of the seven-game match followed the same rhythm — Lassiter refusing to leave anything open, playing very tight and then making shots where there weren’t any. One here, then safe for five minutes, then another, until finally there were eight down. Allen became quieter, and whenever he could eke out a shot, he turned it into a fast run of five or six. After he’d lost the first three games, he took off his little red cap in a moment of bravado for the crowd. They loved it. He won game four by making a ball on the break and running seven more balls in about a minute.

In the next game, Lassiter again controlled. He tied Allen up, never let him get warm, made his speed [ability level] inconsequential and his knowledge of the table impotent. All through the final game (it took half an hour), a drunk in a tweed jacket and horn-rimmed glasses who had timidly placed $25 on Lassiter with Allen’s men kept shrieking every time Lassiter made a shot or a fine safety. “Atta boy, Wimpy, did you see that? He never misses that cut . . . . Nice and easy, nice and easy, goddamn, look at that! He’s still the greatest, Chuck. Shit, come on Wimpy.” Lassiter never looked up at him (Allen did), nor did the still anxiousness of every move he made through all five games ever loosen. In fact, it got worse until he sank the last ball and the drunk had given his last whoop. Lassiter was shaking badly and breathing very heavily. The crowd stood, applauding, and he walked from the table to the stool where Allen sat smiling. Wimpy shook hands with his left, cue dragging on the floor from his right. He was smiling the smile he seems always to want to repress.

The next night, before a full house, Lassiter beat Joe Russo in Straight Pool, Nine-ball and One-pocket for the overall championship. Russo gave him little trouble. As their last game of One-pocket ended and the announcement of Lassiter’s championship was made, and the table lights were turned off, and as Lassiter tried to pack his cue between handshakes, Ronnie Allen stepped into the darkened pit and got $5,000 in $20 bills on table number one. He said nothing. Lassiter moved past him and through the crowd and then made his way into the restaurant that Jansco runs in the same building. None of the crowd left their seats and Allen stood talking with some of them — his money still on the table — as his friends were dispatched to find Lassiter . . . and work out the terms.

Al Miller and Lassiter were sitting together eating grilled cheese sandwiches when the first offer was made. Lassiter told Allen’s moneymen to go away. He didn’t want to play; but then he said he’d think about it.

“Give him a chance to unwind, for Christ sakes. He just finished playing,” said Miller.

They left and another man arrived. He had a Latin complexion, a dark blue suit and sunglasses. Lassiter and Miller knew him and he sat down.

“I’m tired,” Lassiter told him. “I’m just tired and nervous.”
“Why don’t you take something?”
“I do, it helps a little.”
“What do you take?”
“Compoz. C-O-M-P-O-Z. It’s supposed to calm you down.”
“Yeah, all right. Listen, they want to spot you two balls, for three hundred a game. Nobody in there has left their seats, Wimpy.”

“They all want to see me get beat. They love that.”
“Come on, Wimpy. They’re waiting.”

The man in the sunglasses was standing now. Miller finished his sandwich and said, “Tomorrow we’ll take off and play some golf. You can relax then. It’s all right.”

“Yeah, but I’m nervous. Nervous. I’m afraid I’m going to get beat.” He was wiping cheese off his mouth with a paper napkin and shaking his head.

“Come on. You been beat before, haven’t you?” said the man in the sunglasses.

Lassiter said yes, shook his head, picked up his cue case and the three of them went back to the pit room.

Allen was waiting, along with the crowd. At this point, the reporter’s eyes and ears became no good to him. Because finally, it’s no fun to resist the lies anymore, or to remain the only sober man in a room full of hustlers. They played seven games, or eight, or twelve; it depends on whom you ask. Lassiter won five and Allen won three, or they both won four. The played for $300 a game; or they played for $600. The backer in the dark glasses made a bundle, or he made a couple of bucks, or he lost heavily. Allen was drunk. Lassiter quit because his head was getting funny; he quit when Allen wanted to lower the spot. There was no referee and Lassiter played in his shirt sleeves instead of his coat. There was no scorekeeper, and the story of what happened got retold only by people who had a stake in how the story went: “I lost ‘cause Lassiter chickened out. “Allen couldn’t take the heat. I won a bundle.” “I came out about even. Lucky thing, ’cause Lassiter was starting to crack.” “Allen hadn’t slept for two days and he was so goddamn drunk.”

“Hey, Danny, you going to be at the Stardust in March?”
“Maybe we can play some Nine-ball.”
“Yeah, if my neck’s better by then.”

A Shark out of Water
Donnie “Waterdog” Edwards, biographical news article
Don Edwards passed August 2006

2006 Hall of Fame Dinner Slide Show — the induction of the Beard

This is a slide show on YouTube put together by Bill Porter at the Onepocket HOF dinner in Derby City in 2006. Bugs Rucker, Eddie Taylor, Gary Spaeth, CornBread Red and Freddy Bentivegna were inducted into the inaugural Bank Pool HOF. Bugs was inducted into the Onepocket HOF the previous year.

“Pull up your pants!” New Orleans adventure

I was in New Orleans about 10 years ago. On Bourbon St they used to have an off-track betting parlor. It was in a bad section of Bourbon St, it’s not there anymore. Desperate to bet horses, I went there anyway. Once inside I realized that it was a real low class operation. Homeless types, bag ladies and various brokes filled the joint. It was the only place I have ever been in whereby you could bet as little as $1 to win. As luck would have it, I got off tremendous winner. By the 4th race I was $4k ahead. I started to get nervous because I suddenly realized just how much 4k would have to mean to people who had less than 5$ in their pockets. I didn’t dare go outside alone because the street was dark and dead empty. I called my partner, Wayne Hopkins to come and get me, and bring help. In the meantime a security guard appeared magically after the phone call and confronted me. I figured the guard was gonna say like, “Don’t worry sir, We know you got all that money. We protect high-rollers here. I got the gun and I will walk you out.”Instead he tells me this, “Listen sir, you are going to have to pull your pants up or leave, we have received complaints from the ladies here.” Huh? While I am somewhat famous for originating low-riding jeans and often baring a little crack, the fact that I was singled out for humiliation in this dump, and by a hideous collection of hags was unbelievable. I looked around all over the place and could not find any women who I thought could possibly be offended by anything. Wayne finally showed, and I zoomed, red-faced out of the joint — never to return.

Me and Sugar Shack in Oklahoma City

I went to Oklahoma City in the early 70s and hung around Chester Truelove’s pool room at 50th and May. One-Eyed- Tony Howard from Hazard, KY was still alive at the time and he was playing there too. I was on the road with the famous tush-hog, Sugar Shack Johnny Novak, but OK city at that time was still the scariest place I was ever in. There was a “range” war going on between the North and South side stick-up gangs, and Sugar and I were in the middle of it. Everybody had a gun but us.

A very bad gunman named Boatware had stolen my Ginacue and Sugar Shack was terrorizing all the bars in town trying to find him and get the cue back. I knew how dangerous Boatware was, and my nerves were in a constant state of shock. For some reason it didnt affect my pool game, as a matter of fact I never played better in my life! It’s probably something a psychiatrist should study and look into. Finally, Boatware shows up at Trueloves, and has nine more brutes from the gang with him. They all had cue butts and Blackjacks, and Boatware had a .38 long. I figured this was it, and hoping maybe I could escape with a few broken bones.

To speed this up, Boatware called to Johnny, “You looking for me?” Johnny’s reply, “Yes, I certainly am. I want that cue stick back!” Boatware opened his shirt and flashed the .38 in his pants. Boatware, “You ready to die for it?” Sugar Shack, “Yeah, show me a bullet!” Crazy as Boatware was, he realized Sugar was even nuttier, so he took another path. Among the nine cohorts was a famous tush-hog from Arkansas named Dennis Parker. He was about 6’4″ and weighed about 240 lbs. Boatware, “You want the cuestick? He got it.” pointing to Dennis Parker. Goofy as Sugar Shack was, fighting some big gorilla was a better option than trying to outrun a .38 slug.

Sugar Shack, “You mean all I got to do to get the cuestick is whip him? Ok, I’ll meet him anywhere he wants, just him and me, and we will fight to the death for that cuestick!” Now big Dennis was no coward, but sanity was now starting to infect these lunatics. Fighting “to the death” for a piece of wood just didnt seem like a good idea. Boatware, now sensing that move wasn’t going to work either, next told Sugar to meet him out on some point on the highway about 9 PM and he would give him the cuestick. With that we all dispersed.

I begged Johnny not to go, I said it has to be a trap. He went anyway, met Boatware, Boatware gave him back the cuestick that he had stolen from me, said to meet him later at some action bar and he would dump his backer to us. We went, and he did (about $600), and we all would up getting drunk together. To close, now that all the horror was over, and the town was tame again, Sugar Shack wanted to leave, so we went back to Florida.

Now, about the earlier part when I said all that fear made me play my best: Old-timers know how good One- Eyed- Tony Howard and Norman Hitchcock played, I was robbing Tony Howard giving him his scratches dont count and he would play me 8 to 6. I was playing Hitch One Pocket on that real tough pocket table 10 to 8 — me spotting him — for thousand dollar sets! Now Tony is long dead, but Hitch is still alive(no longer) to confirm my story. They were both in Trueloves when Boatware came in with his boys. Boatware was later arrested in a shoot out with police at a motel and given a long prison term.


So. Carolina’s David Sizemore, played a nice game of 9 Ball, and had a reputation of being wild and crazy. He once cut a friend of mine, another So. Car. boy, David Gadsden’s throat. My friend was lucky and survived. In Johnston City IL, while playing the deadly, Hubert “Daddy Warbucks” Cokes, he missed a shot and smashed his cue stick. He was still carrying the jagged edge around while he ranted and raved. He came within a inch of getting his head blown off, as Hubert thought Sizemore might have been threatening him, and Hubert carried no less than three pistols on his person at all times. Lucky for Sizemore, a local grifter cooled Hubert out, saying David was harmless and was only mad at himself. Once Sizemore realized his mistake he dropped that broken cue like it was on fire and apologized to Hubert profusely.

Here’s the addendum to the dangerous, Sizemore, Johnston City connection. The same year Sizemore almost got killed by Hubert Cokes in Johnston City, David asked my old road partner, the equally dangerous, Sugar Shack Johnny Novak, to give him some money to play Gin in the back room of the Show Lounge. Johnny gave him $300 with the instructions that he could play anybody in the room except, Jersey Red. Jack Breit.

Johnny left for the bar and returned a couple hours later to find Sizemore playing Gin with, who else but, Jersey Red. He asked Sizemore how he was doing, David replied that Red was beating him, and had him on his last game. With that, Sugar Shack gave Sizemore a backhand that sent him flying across the room and crashing into the wall. When Sizemore got up, he did nothing but apologize. Many sweators who knew of David’s reputation warned me that he would sneak up on Johnny and get revenge. Knowing both parties, David, while a genuine lunatic, knew that Sugar Shack was a much worse lunatic, and was tickled pink to get off with just a ferocious slap and was content to end everything right there. Sugar Shack had a way to make many “crazy” people suddenly decide to become sane. Sizemore was eventually murdered while still a young man.

Most $ Money I Ever Played For. Wrestling with Archie the Greek Karras

Verily, I will explain the circumstances behind the most money I ever played for. It was against the highest roller of all time, Archie Karas. Archie, at one time had the Horseshoe Casino in Vegas stuck for over 30 million dollars playing dice. I’ll explain how I had Archie fooled into thinking I was an eccentric billionaire. This is one of my secret road stories. It started with these guys that put a “spread” down for me to play and trap Archie Karas.

Archie the Greek, from Las Vegas. He was the highest rolling man of all time. You’ve all heard of Nick the Greek Dandalos? Well, Nick the Greek was like a nit next to Archie. Nobody in the history of the world has ever gambled like Archie Karas. There’s an article about his incredible exploits in Cigar Magazine. He was, like, $30,000,000 winner at the Horseshoe Casino. He got his start by playing Bobby Baldwin the manager of the Mirage Casino, pool on his nerve, ended up winning about a million, and then beat him for more playing poker. He even broke all the champion no limit poker players. They couldn’t beat Archie because money seemed to have no value to him, it was only chips. From there he went on to win about $30,000,000 playing dice. He had all the $5,000 chips in the Horseshoe. They even had to print a new chip for him, a $25,000 chip. Nobody gambled like this guy. He started dead broke and he got up to $30,000,000. But what goes up must also come down, and now he’s on the way down, he’s lost most of the money back shooting craps, he’s got a few million left, three, four, five million, so these certain guys laid a trap for him. They told him there’s a billionaire in Pennsylvania, an industrialist that likes to play pool and gambles real high — which there is such a guy. He was a billionaire gambling degenerate who was known to have lost zillions. Weiss was his name. Archie had been hearing about this guy for years. The hustlers told him they could get him a game with Weiss, the only kind of guy who could gamble his fee. So they got him to go to Pennsylvania, to this little town — and planted in that town is me. I’m Weiss, the billionaire. All Archie knows about this guy is that he is an eccentric, he doesn’t dress fancy, doesn’t wear jewelry, and that he’s a degenerate gambler. We meet, they introduce me and pass me off as Weiss, and so on. Then we go to the poolroom; we’re going to play some Eight Ball. I say, ‘Whatta you wanna play for Archie?’ He wants to kick it off at $40,000 a game! Archie has in his pocket $200,000 in $5,000 and $25,000 chips from the Horseshoe. The $25,000 chips were like travelers checks, you couldn’t steal them from him because nobody could cash them. He’d have to okay it to cash them in because he was the only guy authorized to have $25,000 chips. That’s what he had in his pocket instead of money. …So the first game of Eight Ball was for $40,000. He broke, didn’t make nothing, and I ran out. It was an easy layout. He reaches in his pocket and gives me eight $5,000 chips. I break, I don’t make nothing, he runs out. Another easy layout, I give him back the $40,000. Now I got a little shaky. I could beat him, I was a top pool player, but we’re playing for 40k a game and I don’t have a quarter! None of us had that kind of money. There ain’t no paying him off. What are we going to pay him with? We see-sawed for awhile and we ended up playing One-Pocket for 100k a game, and now I’m stalling. I have to stall to make it look good. I ended up beating him out of an even $100,000 the first night. He pays me off with four $25,000 chips.

It was a tough balancing act, stalling enough to be credible, but I couldn’t afford to lose. However, I was a good “lemon” man in those days, so it was just another hard days work. …Now it’s over, and we go up to the counter to pay the time. We were playing in a little bowling alley, a cheap joint, and the time is only $21. For the finale, I short-armed him on the time! I’m $100,000 winner, but I’m also an eccentric billionaire, I have to play the part all the way through. So I started patting my pockets and looking bewildered. I’m patting like I can’t find $21, I’m slow-drawing out on him. He finally says, “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got the time.” I’ve got him so f**king hooked, he paid the time! I said, “Oh, thank you Archie.”…Anyway, it was a hell of a deal because then we had to stall around before playing again because we wanted to get those chips cashed first.

We’ve got to cash those chips and get our money in case he manages to find out who I am. We sent a guy back to Vegas to cash the chips. Archie had to call The Horseshoe Casino to okay it. Next, I told him that I had to fly to Japan. We had to let time elapse, that’s why I said I had to go to a big business meeting — that would supposedly get me out of the country and give me an excuse to not play. I didn’t want to play more until we got our cheese.

…But we got the okay, and we got the money cashed and then we played again, and he lost another $100,000. But the guys that set the operation up weren’t too smart; they weren’t experienced scufflers, real lemon hustlers. They’d set it up nicely but they didn’t really know how to take it off. He ended up paying off $200,000, but he still owed $800k, which we never got because they didn’t know how to collect. When Archie went back to Vegas these guys screwed it up. They acted too guilty about it. You have to act like a legitimate thing occurred. I’m supposed to be Weiss, and I had Archie convinced that I was Weiss. To Weiss 800k wasn’t such a big deal. I won $200,000, so what? I’m supposed to have lost millions. But they dogged it real bad when it came to collecting what Archie owed, they were too timid about asking for the money. They were supposed to be standing good for it, so the normal reaction to his not paying should have been outrage. …So then he eventually got suspicious and started asking around about this guy that plays One-Pocket, wears glasses, and limps. Pretty soon, someone says, “I know that guy, that sounds like The Beard from Chicago.” So our scam got busted and we didn’t get the rest of the money. But it was one of the great cons; he was really hooked. I laid a great stall down. At one point in the game, they were trying to get him to quit because they didn’t want him to owe too much money. But he said, “No, no, his leg is going to give out on him any minute.” He thought my bad leg was going to give out on me cause it looked like I was really suffering. I was in pain, my leg was screwed up. I was in a lot of pain, but so what? I could play for days like that. You see, I got turned out by some good lemon men. I hung around with Bunny “Pots and Pans” Rogoff, and a guy named Hollywood Jack, and some other real good lemon men. The great Jack Cooney was another. They were great lemon men. It’s called the lemon, because an apparently favorable situation eventually sours for the sucker. So that’s how that story ended. I never ran into, or talked to Archie again until last Jan (2007) when Harry Platis put me on the phone with him. He accused me of being a publicity seeker for releasing the story. I told him that I did wait about 15 years before I told anybody.

Interview with Bunny Rogoff, part 1 by Randi Givens 1993

Bunny as Charlie Chaplin

Bunny The Rogue aka Pots & Pans
An interview with Bernard “Bunny” Rogoff by Randi Givens © 1993.

R Givens: How did you get your nickname?
Bunny Rogoff: I got the name because when I was about 3 they dressed me up like a rabbit during Easter. That’s when my family began calling me Bunny. It just stuck.
RG: So you had a nickname before you started playing pool.
BR: Yeah, but my nickname playing pool was Pots and Pans.
RG: How did that happen?
BR: It was my first trip to Johnston City and I was hustling cookware. I
stopped in the Show Bar about three days before the tournament and
some guy offered to play for $40 against the cookware. I was paying
$20 for the cookware, so the guy is laying me 2-1 on the money.
Willie Mosconi can’t beat me giving odds like that. Anyway, I beat the
fellow out of the $40 and we began playing for $50 cash instead of the
cookware. I won $500. His name was Louie Reed. He was an oil millionaire
from Ducoin, Illinois. After I beat him, he shook my hand and bought me a
drink. “Man you are the greatest. Where are you from,” “I’m from Pittsburgh,”
I told him. “Well, I don’t know about that, but you my man, are the
Pots and Pans Man.” That name has stuck with me ever since. That
happened over 30 years ago and I’m still known as “Pots and Pans.”

RG: What kind of cue do you use?
BR: I always use a house cue off the rack.
RG: What do you look for when you pick a house cue?
BR: Well, I usually sneak my own house cue in.
RG: How did you get started playing pool?
BR: When I was 14 years old, I was walking up the street and I heard
clicking noises. I looked inside and in the back of a barbershop there
were three tables side by side. When the barber wasn’t looking, I
walked in the back. It fascinated me when I saw the balls. There was a
fellow about my age practicing, so I started playing with him. The owner, the barber, didn’t know I was back there. Finally, he came back and
saw us playing. I was playing his son. Anyway, they invited me back
and that’s when I started playing.
RG: Were you immediately interested?
BR: Oh, yes. I was fascinated right off the get go. Not only that, I
had been hanging around with a bad crowd, so it did me a world
of good. I might have got into some drastic trouble if I hadn’t
discovered pool. I was from was the Hill District in Pittsburgh,
a middle class neighborhood, but there were some gangs and kids
getting into trouble. Pool took me away from all that.
RG: That runs contrary to the image of the game. Pool is
supposed to lead people astray, not the other way around.
BR: Right. But, pool kept me out of trouble.
RG: How did your game develop?
BR: My Dad used to give me 50¢ for lunch and I’d hook school
on Fridays. We used to go to the movie, but that opened at 11
in the morning and the pool hall opened at 8. There were other
kids there too and we used to play pool. If you didn’t win, you
didn’t eat and you didn’t go to the movie. So I got under pressure
at an early age, if you know what I mean. I became acclimated to
gambling and playing under pressure.
RG: How did your game progress?
BR: It took a couple of years to become a good shooter. But more
than being a good player, I knew how to get good games.
RG: So within two years, you began playing good?
BR: Yeah. Well, I played my best pool when I came out of the Navy
when I was about 22. I went in the Navy when I was 17. I was in from
1944-46. I came out for a year then I went back in. I put in five years
altogether. I played my best pool when I came out after my second hitch.
RG: What kind of games did you play then?
BR: Mostly 9–ball and 8–ball.
RG: Did anybody teach you how to play?
BR: Nobody showed me anything. I learned by watching and playing
with good players. Anytime I could play a good player, I’d do it. But
they never showed me anything. I just watched them. Of course, I never
gambled with the better players.
RG: If you had an instructor would you have progressed faster?
BR: Oh, definitely! You have to have a certain amount of aptitude,
but it’s more practice than anything.
RG: So you reached a professional level when you were 22?
BR: Oh, no. I just played my best 9 ball at that age. I didn’t really
learn until later on. About five years after that I learned safety and
all of that. Up until then I just played runout 9 ball. Of course, they
never played one foul then. It was all pushout.
RG: What’s the difference between pushout and one foul?
BR: When you play push out you have to be a real good shotmaker.
More so than in one foul.
RG: Did you ever play other games like 3 cushion billiards?
BR: I hit ’em around once in a while, but I never really played the
game. Mainly because the 3 cushion players never bet unless
they were champions.
RG: You have a reputation as a great game maker. Tell us about it.
BR: Well, I hustled pool all my life, but I always worked. I was selling
Mirro Cookware. I would bring the cookware in and set it on the
table and show everybody my business card. I’d tell them the stuff
was left over from the home show and that we normally sold them for
$60, but because they were left over we were letting them go for $40.
I’d never say anything about playing pool. But most of the time someone
would challenge me to play for the cookware. They’d put up $40 and
the cookware only cost me $20. They were giving me 2-1 on the money
and hardly anyone can beat me that way. You’d be surprised at the
people who couldn’t even run three balls who tried to win that cookware
set. Occasionally, I’d run into good players, but it didn’t matter because
they were giving me 2-1 on the money. But most of the time I’d catch
people who couldn’t play at all. I never mentioned gambling or anything.
I would approach them, tell them what I had and start for the door if no
one seemed interested. One of the guys would always say, “Hey, I’ll play
a game of pool for that cookware.” So that was my gimmick to get people
to play. I sold a lot of cookware too. I was underselling the stores. I was
making my expenses with the pots and pans, but I made more on the pool
tables. Selling cookware meant that I always had money in my pocket, so
I was never under pressure. I didn’t have to worry about going broke
because I always had merchandise to sell.
RG: Tell us about your disguises.
BR: I used to use a truck driver’s uniform with a big wallet on a chain. I got
a truck driver’s uniform from Sears. I’d come out of that long wallet with
a $20 bill and people would think there were thousands in there. I don’t
know why that is, but people think there’s a lot in one of those big wallets.
So I’d go in and flash some Money. I had a real good gimmick for getting
people down. If I saw two guys playing for $5 a game, I’d watch them for
a while to make sure I could win. Then I’d go up to the table and challenge
them for a drink. The guy would say, “Hey, we’re playing for $5 a game.”
So I’d walk away from the table and wait about ten minutes before
I went back and challenged them for a drink again. People would get
indignant. They’d say, “We’re playing for $5. If you want to challenge,
you’ve got to play for $5!” That’s when I’d put the move on them. I’d say,
“I don’t gamble, but if you want to bet, I’ll go you one for $55.” Then I’d
turn around and walk back to the bar like I was bluffing. All of a sudden
they’d come right out with the money and play for $50. A move like this
is very strong because you originally wanted to play for a drink and
then you came back asking to play for $55. It’s a hell of a psychological
move. If people have money, there’s no way they won’t play in that spot.
They always stop you before you get back to the bar.
RG: You are one of the master psychologists of game making. Could
you tell us about that?
BR: I learned those moves from watching people who couldn’t play.
They were suckers. They were the ones who came up with the moves.
I had been playing for $10 a game and had a sucker come up. We told
him “We are playing for $10 a game.” So the guy says, “Well, I’ll play
you one for a $100.” But the guy was bluffing and when I agreed to play
he would just walk away. That’s where I got that move from. The only
difference is that I wasn’t bluffing. The players thought I was trying to
save face when I didn’t back down. RG: I must admit that it’s one of
the best tactics for starting a money game that I’ve ever seen. I busted
a few joints using the same method.
RG: Tell us more about the action you got into.
BR: I got trapped one time in Miami. I have a gimmick where I put a
patch over the guy’s eye and spot him the five and the break playing
9–ball. If the guy plays my speed, I figure to beat him like that because
you can’t judge distance and depth. It throws you way off. So I’m giving
this black guy down in Miami the five and the break. I play him safe
on the end rail and boom, he pops the eight in. I figured he must have
lucked the ball in. The next game, boom, he pops the five in from the
end rail. That’s when I realized my mistake. I told him, “Man, if you want
to play anymore, you have to put the patch on the other eye. I know you
are blind in one eye.”
RG: One-eyed players seem to cut the balls pretty good.
BR: They shoot good. the only thing they can’t do is long distance shots.
I know people with one eye and they can’t shoot long shots. It tires them
in a long session. RG: 8 ball has always been the main game in bars.
What do you think about 8 ball?
BR: I always wanted to play 8 ball because if you play 9 ball with a
mediocre player you lose when you don’t run out from the 4 or 5 ball.
But in 8 ball you never have to run more than three balls to win. You
keep blocking the pockets and make sure they can’t get out. That
way you don’t expose yourself.
RG: Do you have any advice for playing 8 ball?
BR: I break and look at the table. If in my mind I wouldn’t bet even
money that I could run out, then I don’t even try to get out. I’m talking
about playing with a good player. Against a person who can’t play,
I never try to run out from the break. But against good players, unless
I can bet even money that I’ll get out, I won’t even try. It’s like playing
checkers. If you are one ball up and you keep trading off, when
you come down to the end you’ll get the first shot to win the game.
You try to get his balls off then you play safe. I like to make my
opponent’s balls and leave my balls where he has no shots. Now
he can’t win because I have too many options for playing safe.
8 ball is the best game in the world to play. Actually, one pocket
is the best game, but very few people play it. 8 ball is played
everywhere. When they came up with one foul 8 ball that was the
best thing that ever happened to the game because I play a lot of
RG: What do you think about call shot 8 ball?
BR: You get too many beefs with that game. A guy will say,
“You hit the wrong ball. It didn’t go the way you called it.” There’s
too many arguments when you have to call everything.
RG: How long were you on the road?
BR: Off and on, my whole life, except when I was married.
I was still hustling, but I stayed in Miami and worked as a bellhop.
I did that for 15 years. I didn’t make any road trips, but after work
I’d go around the bars a lot. RG: Who were some of your opponents?
BR: Well, no one ever beat me playing 8 ball in a bar. Not when I
was playing my best. Of course, I didn’t go around looking for
champions either. I ran into some good players by accident, but
if I knew a guy was a strong player I wouldn’t mess with him.
I trapped a lot of people getting odds. I was real good at that. I’d
try to get the last ball off or something like that. I’d put on a little show
with somebody. I’d spread and they’d beat me the first game. I’d act
like I was scared and end up getting a couple of balls off. This was
years ago, so they didn’t know what balls off meant. Even strong
players didn’t know the strength of getting balls off in 8 ball.
RG: Tell us about putting out a spread.
BR: I’d have somebody who knows me go in there and play the
guy we’re trying to catch. They’d play for $5 a game or whatever.
Then I’d come in with my routine about wanting to play for a drink.
So I’d get down with my buddy for a $105 and have him beat me
in front of the guy we’re trying to catch. I’d let the sucker hold the
money. So my buddy says, “OK I’ll give you the last two balls.” I
say, “No, I’ve got to have the last three.” So in the second game
my pal beats me real bad. I’m not playing at all. Then he shoots
at my ball and plays a safety. Now this is years before they played
one foul. So he shoots my ball to play safe and I start screaming
that he doesn’t play fair. He beats me that game and I quit.
So my friend says, “Alright, we’ll play so that if I hit your ball, you
can put the cue ball anywhere.” I’d say, “No, you shot my ball. I
quit.” So then the guy we’re trying to catch jumps up and offers
me two balls off. I say, “OK, but if you don’t hit your ball, I can set
the cue ball anywhere.” Like I just picked the idea up from my
friend. If we play that way, I can beat the guy with no strain.
With the last three, there’s no way you can lose on a bar table,
unless you fall dead. With the last two off, there’s a chance a
champion might beat you. But with the last three, I ain’t never
been beat. I trapped Keith McCready a while back. He gave me
the last three balls and went broke. That’s strong. But on a big
table you can still lose. I learned how to play 8 ball from the blacks
in the Hill District. They knew all the moves.
RG: What’s the difference between 8 ball on a big table and a
bar table?
BR: There’s not a big advantage in getting balls off on a big table
for me because I don’t figure to get out. You have to run out. You
can’t stall on a big table because the balls are open. They aren’t
clustered. Because the balls are a lot more congested on a bar
table there’s a lot more safety play. On the bar table, if you don’t
get all the way out, you’re going to lose against a good player.
The biggest mistake is trying to run out when you can’t get out.
You may look like a champion and lose. The guy who moves well
may not look like he can play, but he wins.
I played a black guy called “Country.” (Charles “Country” Monroe
from NY) He played strong 8 ball. He played where you could shoot
at any ball. You could shoot the other guy’s balls in and there was no
cue ball in hand. He robbed me like that because if you play shoot
at anything, there’s no advantage in strategy. When we played by
my rules, he had no chance. A guy came down to Miami from Canada
when I was playing good. I was playing snooker everyday on a 6 x 12. I
played by his rules where the cue ball doesn’t have to hit a rail and he
robbed me. Then we played where a ball did have to hit a rail
and he couldn’t beat me. It’s just what you’re used to playing.
to be continued… end of part 1

Bunny Rogoff Nite Club Act part 1 “expurgated version”
Clik for part 1

Interview with Bunny Rogoff, part 2 by Randi Givens 1993

Willie Mosconi & Norman “the Jockey” Howard

Bunny The Rogue aka Pots & Pans
An interview with Bernard “Bunny” Rogoff by Randi Givens © 1993.

RG: Do you have any guidelines for playing 8 ball?
BR: Don’t try to run out and try to make your opponent’s balls. I play combinations with my balls to make his. Get his balls off to where he has nothing to hide behind. Then you have all the opportunities to play safe. That’s strong. I have a rule for playing people that can’t play at all. I believe that a first impression is a lasting impression. Anything you do immediately after you make a game will be remembered. Like if I win the toss to break, I might let the cue stick fly. Just let it go when I break the balls. Look like an idiot. Sometimes I come back and run the cue stick into the side of the table. You get everybody in the joint laughing at you. I’d give them the impression that I was helpless, not all there, or a drunk. Here’s another good move. When you don’t play cue ball in hand and you play from behind the line on scratches, you don’t put the cue ball up near the line the way everybody does. You put the cue ball back near the end rail and shoot from there. (Bunny illustrates the idea with an a object ball a couple of inches from the foot rail about a foot from the pocket. A moderate cut shot.) If you put the cue ball on the line and make the shot, they figure you can play a little. But if you act like an idiot and put the cue ball on the rail and make the shot, they won’t think anything of it. It doesn’t matter if you make it because you were an idiot to put the cue ball in a bad position. That’s a real strong move. I’ve used it a hundred times.
RG: So your main concern was concealing your speed?
BR: Right. Exactly. I was making people bet more than they wanted to. That was another thing. If you get a $5 player to betting $50, he’ll stay with you because he knows in his mind that he plays better than you do. But he’s dogging it because of the big money. He can’t play his game. I’d make them overbet so they’re not playing their game. But in their mind they know they are the better player. That’s what keeps them playing.
RG: Do you have any advice for playing on bar tables?
BR: Follow the ball for position instead of drawing it. Of course, it’s harder to follow a ball three rails than to draw it most of the time. It’s easier to draw a lot of the time, but people who can’t play don’t realize that. You scare them off when you use draw. When you start drawing the length of the table, they get leery.
RG: Tell us about the scores you made over the years.
BR: The most I ever won was $10,000 right here in Las Vegas. As much hustling as I did, I should have won more than that at one time or another. I just wasn’t at the right place at the right time. Once I was playing a guy in Carlsbad, CA, who owned a bar there. He was a golfer who loved to play pool. I was playing for $600 a game. That was the most I ever played for. I got to drinking too much——this will probably never happen again—— he quit me because he didn’t want to take advantage of me.
RG: You overdid the act.
BR: I was there by myself and I was betting 20 guys on the side. I had the money in a telephone book on different pages and got too drunk to keep track of all thebets. The owner wouldn’t take advantage of me and he quit. When I counted my money I was only $300 up. If I had someone to take care of the bets or I hadn’t got so drunk, I could have made a real nice score.
RG: I met you when you were hustling around Chicago.
BR: That was one of the best cities I ever played in, that and Detroit. They were the best. You didn’t have any hassles. I got in very few fights or anything in the bars at that time. Nowadays, I wouldn’t go near those bars.
RG: Did you have many fights hustling in bars?
BR: For the amount of time I spent in bars there were very few. I knew how to avoid them. I could talk my way out of it. And I didn’t play when I thought there might be trouble. I had a gimmick when there was big money in a bar where there might be trouble. I’d go in and lose a few games and tell the guy, “I’d really like to play some more, but I’ve got to meet somebody at Joe’s Bar. Usually the guy would agree to play over there. So I’d move the game into a safe place to play. If I’m winning, I buy the house a round of drinks, so if something comes up somebody is going to stick up for me. Another thing, never call a bad hit when you are beating people. If it’s close, give it to them. I got out of a couple of bars by calling the police. I told them there was a guy with a knife who just stabbed someone. When the police came, I’d walk out with them. I never told them the guy had a gun because they wouldn’t come near the joint. With a knife they don’t worry so much.
RG: You used to wear a beard. Did you ever hustle the same players twice because he didn’t recognize you with or without the beard?
BR: I beat a guy three days apart one time. I played in a tournament in Macon, Georgia and I beat a salesman called “The Razorblade Man.” I had the beard in the tournament and I beat him. Three days later, I shaved the beard off and he didn’t recognize me, so I beat him again when I ran into him in a bar.
RG: What was the best disguise you used?
BR: I found out that the best way to go into a poolroom is in a sports coat with a briefcase, like you are a businessman. Now they think you have money. With a truck driver’s uniform, they might figure you had $500-600. The other way it might be unlimited how much they think they might win, if you put up a good front.
RG: What did you do when you ran into a strong player?
BR: I’d lose a couple of games and quit. Most of the time I knew who I was playing, but occasionally I’d run into somebody who could play and I’d just quit.
RG: A lot of players who hustle in bars have drinking problems.
BR: Most of them. I used to tell myself that it was good to drink because you’re putting on an act and win more money. That’s bullshit. Yeah, I drank too much. I thought it was an act. I found out it wasn’t an act when I started hustling bars that didn’t have pool tables. The pool interferes with your drinking because you’ve got to stop to shoot. I haven’t had a drink in seven years. I saw that it was doing me no good.
RG: What about breaking in 8 ball?
BR: If you have a knack for breaking from the side, that’s the best break because you’ve got a real good shot at making the 8 on the break. You hit the second ball. I’ve seen real good players who didn’t have a knack for that shot. It’s a little tricky. You’ve got to have the right snap. On the right table you might make the 8 two out of ten times. That’s quite an edge.

(Here are more of Bunny’s War Stories and Tales of the Road):

Norman Howard, aka “the Jockey,” and I were on the road travelling to the tournament in Johnston City. I said, “Hey, Jock, how about driving for a while. I’m getting tired.” A few minutes later Jock said, “Wake up! I can’t see! I can’t see!” “What’s wrong Jock,” I said. “There’s snow on the windshield.” Jockey answered. “Why don’t you put the wipers on?” “Oh, I thought they were just for rain,” he replied.
The next day we were in Cumberland, Maryland and Jock’s playing a radio announcer who’s giving him the 8. Now, Jock’s supposed to beat the guy even, but he can’t make a ball. So I say “Why don’t you quit and play him some more tomorrow. You’ll beat him with the 8 and then beat him even.” “I ain’t quitting. I can beat him. I know I can beat him.” Jockey yelled. “You’re quitting,” I said. “No I’m not,” Jockey argued. “Oh, yes, you are. You’re quitting,” I insisted. “What makes you think I’m quitting,” he said. “Because if you don’t, when we get to Johnston City and your first match comes up, while they’re announcing it over the microphone I’m going to tell them about the windshield wipers.” I replied. Less than a minute later Jock was in the rack.
Kilroy (Roy “Kilroy” Kosmanski) and me were on the road and he was posing as an executive opening tomato-canning factories. I had the truck driver’s uniform and a beard, so they never connected us anywhere.
Kilroy was telling everybody stories about building tomato factories so often that he actually got to believing it himself. After we took off the money, we’d go to the outskirts of town or down the road a ways to eat so they wouldn’t see us together. After a while, Kilroy got to the point where he wouldn’t sit with me. He’d take a booth and make me sit at the counter because he was an executive and didn’t want anybody to see him associating with a truck driver. How do you like that?

I was visiting Pittsburgh and a guy named Tex told me about a bookmaker taking bets out of a steelmill. “If you can get him to the table, he’ll lose some money. The only thing is that there is a little heat in the bar. So we’ll have to send a couple of guys in there to get you out when you win the money. I thought that was fair enough, so I said, “That’s alright. Give them a third.” I played the fellow for $40 a game and took him off for $800. So we left the bar and cut up the money. After we gave the guys who helped us their third they left and I asked Tex, “I didn’t see any heat in there. What’s the story with giving these guys a third. I didn’t see any trouble whatsoever.” “The heat was those guys who took you out of the place,” Tex said. “They were going to rob you if you didn’t give them a piece of the action.”

I was on the road with Earl Shriver and we stopped in a small town in Virginia. Earl was dressed in a sports shirt and slacks and I wore the truck driver’s uniform with the wallet on a chain so I wouldn’t connect with him. We went in a bar and I sat at one end while Earl went down to where they were playing. There were three guys playing for $3 on the five and $3 on the nine. Earl was sitting there watching and before long one of the players walked over and said,” Man, I put too much english on that shot.” “Yeah, that happened to me the last time I was playing Jack. You see Earl had picked up the names of the players while he was sweating the game.
A few minutes later another guy comes over to Earl and says, “Bill’s really shooting good today.” “Yeah, Bill’s playing alright today, but I played him a while back and he didn’t shoot that good,” Earl responded. Fifteen minutes later I looked back and Earl was in the game and the bet had been raised to $5 on the five and $5 on the nine. In less than an hour, Earl busted the game and walked out with all the money. Then I heard the players saying, “Do you know him?” “No, I don’t. I thought he was a friend of yours,” the first player said. “No I never met the guy before. I thought he was your friend.”

Bucky Fair took me to Hendersonville, N. Carolina and I beat this guy who owns a music shop out of $200 and he heads for the rack, asking me for the 8 and the 9. Giving this guy the 8 is a real tough game and I don’t have to win, so I don’t like it. So we go down to Greenville, S. Carolina where there’s a guy called “Grinder.” Now, it so happens that neither one of us can beat the Grinder, but the Grinder isn’t around. He’s out hustling somewhere. I get on the phone and call Hendersonville, where I won $200 the day before. I get the Music Man on the phone and pretend to be the Grinder. “A man passing through told me there was some action up there yesterday.” The Music Man said, “Yeah, a guy was here and we played for $20 a game. We broke even.” The guy wouldn’t admit to losing the $200, but I was acting like the Grinder so I said, “I’ll be up there around two or three o’clock. If that guy shows up, you’ve got part of the action.”
So we head back to Hendersonville. As soon as we hit the door, I asked the Music Man to play some, but he asked for the 8. “Man, you know I can’t give you the 8.” I told him. Then the Music Man said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ve got some business to take care of, but I’ll be back around two o’clock and we can play some then.” “I don’t think I’ll wait,” I said, heading for the door. “I’m heading on.” Before I made it to the door, the Music Man called me back. “I’ll play some for $5.” “That ain’t no good. We played for $20 yesterday, so we’ve got to play for at least $10,” I told him. “OK. We’ll play a few for $10,” the Music Man said. Now this guy is waiting for the Grinder to show up, but the Grinder ain’t never going to come. The Music Man kept looking at the door and meanwhile I win another $300 for a total score of $500. That’s not bad.
It sure beats working in the steel mill. I did that for seven months too. I couldn’t stand it though, all that working like to ruin my stroke.

Bunny Rogoff Nite Club Act part 2 “expurgated version”
Clik for part 2

Pretty Boy Floyd Shoots From the Hip, an interview with Jim Mataya by R Givens © 1991

An interview with Jim Mataya by R Givens © 1991
R Givens: How did you get started in the game?
Jim Mataya: I used to hang around a boxing gymnasium and they had a pool table there. You played until you lost. I was ten or eleven years old. I’d watch the big guys play and wait for my turn. Naturally, I’d get beat and wait thirty or forty minutes to play another game.
RG: What attracted you to the game?
JM: It seemed pretty interesting to me. I had a lot of fun with the game watching the balls roll around. Along about that time the movie “The Hustler came out and a lot of people began to be attracted by pool. At that time I was impressed with pool anyway, so I figured I’d give it a go.
RG: Did the “Hustler” have a big influence on you?
JM: Yeah, I guess so. I was about eleven or twelve years old.
RG: How did your game develop?
JM: I started to play in tournaments when I was 15 and being around all the good players for so many years helped me learn. I had a natural ability to play the game, but you have to learn things about the game. Tournaments helped a lot, playing all the top players.
RG: What was the hardest part of the game to learn?
JM: Hmmmm. When to quit, I guess.
RG: What do you mean?
JM: (laughs) You get into a lot of individual battles away from the tournament scene and no matter how bad someone would be beating on me, I’d never want to quit. There’s times you should use your head a little better. You might end up with more money that way.
RG: Was an instructor instrumental in developing your game?
JM: Yes. I had a guy in New York by the name of Bill Amadeo who helped me a lot playing straight pool when I was about 17.
RG: How did he help your game?
JM: He taught me what balls to shoot first. I could shoot anything from just about anywhere, but that ain’t the way you play the game. You’ve got to have a little insight into what you are doing. Thinking ahead and so on. He taught me the right shots to shoot. It’s more than a game of hitting a ball into the hole. You’ve got to have an idea of what you are doing, a little road map in your mind.
RG: How long did it take to reach a professional level?
JM: It didn’t take me long. I won my first major tournament when I was 17.
RG: When did you know you’d make it as a pro?
JM: When I was about 15. I won my first tournament when I was 15. From there on I knew I was going to play pool all the time. I won the World title when I was 21 and again when I was 22.
RG: How important is topflight competition for maintaining peak performance?
JM: It’s real important. It keeps you ready to fight. When you are playing guys where when you miss you aren’t going to get another shot, it’s a little different than playing someone who is not on your level. The minute you run into somebody that’s a force you are going to be in trouble, if you haven’t been doing a lot of battling with top players. It’s just like a fighter. He can spar with bums all he wants, but it’s a little different when you’re going for the title. Tough competition helps a lot. It helps keep you razor sharp.
RG: What’s your best game?
JM: 8–ball, 9–ball, straight pool.
RG: Any distinction between the games?
JM: No any one of those three. It doesn’t matter.
RG: How well do you play straight pool?
JM: I’ve run hundreds in straight pool.
RG: What’s your high run?
JM: About 200.
RG: That’s very good.
JM: Well, straight pool is not all that hard once you learn a few things about it. It’s not as hard and as gruelling as 9–ball. In 9–ball, you’ve got to make shots the length of the table and shoot bank shots and cut shots, where in straight pool you always play for the little easy shots. Straight pool is a good building block for any other game. You learn a lot from the game, but it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It ain’t near as tough as 9–ball.
RG: How would you compare the players twenty years ago with those today?
JM: A champion is a champion. They all do the same thing. They get the job done. You give them a shot and they are off to the races. The only thing different today is there is more competition, more people playing. So you’ve got a lot tougher road to go in these tournaments compared to years ago. The players are becoming more educated all the time, so it’s tougher to win because of the upgrade in the competition. And like I say, the game today is 9–ball instead of straight pool.
RG: What’s the biggest difference between a good amateur and a professional?
JM: The education of the game. Knowing when to play safe. Knowing the right shot to shoot. Having a road map in your mind of what to do. Most amateurs and beginners just shoot the ball in and take what’s left. They don’t think ahead. Well, they think ahead, but they don’t think the right way. It takes a long time to learn how to play the game the right way. If you are just a shotmaker, that’s a good tool to start with,but to improve you need to learn things from the game and you learn by playing a long tie and from people helping you.
RG: How can average players improve their pattern play?
JM: Unless someone explains it a little bit, it’s hard to pick up on your own. It’s hard to understand hat they are doing, unless you have it in your own mind. A guy might run four or five racks of 9–ball and you might say, “Well, he’s a good shotmaker,” but there’s more to it than that. You don’t want your cueball flying all over the place. Of course, in 9–ball, sometimes you can’t help it. But you don’t want to move the cueball around too much.
RG: What causes most misses among experts?
JM: Taking a shot for granted. sometimes you miss because you take a shot for granted. As far as tournaments go, you just dog it because of pressure.
RG: Is pressure a big factor?
JM: Sure it is. That’s the number one factor. When I practice, I play as good as anybody that ever lived. Never miss a ball. Get out there in a tournament and it’s a different story. A different story when you got pressure on you. The mental trip is half the battle. You’ve got to somehow relax yourself. If you don’t, you are in a lot of trouble.
RG: A handful of players like Varner, Strickland and Davenport dominate the pro tour. What sets them apart from the rest of the pack?
JM: They handle the pressure better than a lot of people, They know the game real well and they’ve got a lot of natural ability. When you win, you gain confidence. A pool player without confidence just can’t win. When you get on their level all you want is a shot. As soon as you get a shot, you know in your own mind that the game is over. When you get that type of feeling, you are there. Mentally, your concentration has to be there. You’ve got to want to win. Winning’s got to be the most important thing to you. When the good players play, it’s just a question of who’s going to get the shots and who isn’t.
RG: Why can’t the women beat the men?
JM: they don’t have the education of the game. Twenty years ago I watched them play and it was boring. It’s not like that anymore. the women play good now. They have the capability to shoot balls in the hole, but now they have to learn how to play the game. Men have been playing the game for centuries; women have only been playing for 25 years where they’ve got good competition. They’re learning things from the men when they go to tournaments. The women can’t beat the men because they don’t have the education of the game, but once they do there’s no reason they can’t compete with the men. They don’t have a powerful opening break, but after that there’s no reason why a woman can’t play as well as a man.
RG: What do you think of jump cues?
JM: I think they should be barred from the game. It doesn’t take any talent to use a jump cue. If you have to masse your cueball or go three or four cushions to hit the ball, it takes an education, but they pull out these jump cues and it takes no talent as far as I’m concerned. It takes a lot of skill away from the game. Instead of practicing with their jump cues, they ought to practice some billiards. Then they could learn something that really helps when you’re playing with rules where you have to kick at the ball. The rules really favor a good billiard player.
RG: What do you like about the pro tour?
JM: When I was young, I used to like the competition. I like being in competition. I’ve been competing for 26 years. Now I want to get paid for it. A fighter can go out there and get knocked out in ten seconds and pick up ten million. You play a pool match and if you lose you don’t get paid. I don’t like that at all. Neither do any of the other players. Pool tournaments are real simple. If you don’t come in 1st or 2nd, you go home a loser. It’s too tough. There’s no game tougher than pool. Of the non-physical sports, pool is the boss of all games. When you have to beat the best in the world to pick up five or ten thousand, it’s an insult.
I’d like to see how good the golfers played if they didn’t get paid for losing. There’s no pressure if you’ve got to make a putt to win $200,000 and if you miss you get $120,000. Hell, you call that pressure. Get up there when you’ve got to shoot a shot nine feet rail to rail and you get nothing if you miss. that’s pressure.
RG: How do players survive on the tour?
JM: They get backers. They hustle around a little bit. If there’s a tournament somewhere, I don’t care if it’s on the moon, they’re going to it. Whatever it takes to get there, they’ll do it.
RG: The snooker players in England succeeded in getting money into their game.
JM: They succeeded because they have gambling. You can bet on it. They’ve got legalized bookmakers thee just like going to the race track. People can turn on their TV and bet on a match.
RG: What can be done to get the game moving?
JM: We need a sponsor. We’ve got the tour. We’ve got the players. We can put on the greatest show in the world for them, but until the big money comes along what good is it?
RG: 7-UP and some other major corporations use pool in their commercials, but I don’t see them promoting the game or sponsoring any players.
JM: Sure, pool players have been getting used and abused their whole life. Take a look at the commercials on TV involving a pool table. They have a model come in who can’t even hold a cue stick. Who wants to watch some guy from Mabelline that can’t hold a cue. It’s boring. If they had a professional doing it the right way, it’d be the kind of commercial where people wouldn’t turn the station. That’s the difference between being smart in the marketing business and being an idiot. If those advertising executives want a commercial that’ll be talked about, send them to me. I’ll make the most talked about commercial in history.
RG: Do you think pool has an image problem?
JM: They say that pool has a bad image, but I don’t understand that. Watch Tommy Lasorda on TV. If you can read lips, I don’t have to tell you what he says every three minutes. The same way with all those referees, coaches and players—nothing but filthy language. They’re all on drugs and everything else. They can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell their name, but that’s OK because there’s big money involved. That’s where America is full of baloney. Anything that’s got money involved, they’re all for it. They don’t care about the fact that you’ve been in prison or that you are a dope head. As long as there’s money involved, it’s OK. They dog pool players because there isn’t any money involved. If there was some money in the game, they’d think pool players were the greatest people who ever lived.

Interview with Jimmy Mataya by Randi Givens 1991
PRETTY BOY FLOYD SHOOTS FROM THE HIP an interview with Jim Mataya by R Givens © 1991
R Givens: How did you get started in the game?
Jim Mataya: I used to hang around a boxing gymnasium and they had a pool table there. You played until you lost. I was ten or eleven years old. I’d watch the big guys play and wait for my turn. Naturally, I’d get beat and wait thirty or forty minutes to play another game.
RG: What attracted you to the game?
JM: It seemed pretty interesting to me. I had a lot of fun with the game watching the balls roll around. Along about that time the movie “The Hustler came out and a lot of people began to be attracted by pool. At that time I was impressed with pool anyway, so I figured I’d give it a go.
RG: Did the “Hustler” have a big influence on you?
JM: Yeah, I guess so. I was about eleven or twelve years old.
RG: How did your game develop?
JM: I started to play in tournaments when I was 15 and being around all the good players for so many years helped me learn. I had a natural ability to play the game, but you have to learn things about the game. Tournaments helped a lot, playing all the top players.
RG: What was the hardest part of the game to learn?
JM: Hmmmm. When to quit, I guess.
RG: What do you mean?
JM: (laughs) You get into a lot of individual battles away from the tournament scene and no matter how bad someone would be beating on me, I’d never want to quit. There’s times you should use your head a little better. You might end up with more money that way.
RG: Was an instructor instrumental in developing your game?
JM: Yes. I had a guy in New York by the name of Bill Amadeo who helped me a lot playing straight pool when I was about 17.
RG: How did he help your game?
JM: He taught me what balls to shoot first. I could shoot anything from just about anywhere, but that ain’t the way you play the game. You’ve got to have a little insight into what you are doing. Thinking ahead and so on. He taught me the right shots to shoot. It’s more than a game of hitting a ball into the hole. You’ve got to have an idea of what you are doing, a little road map in your mind.
RG: How long did it take to reach a professional level?
JM: It didn’t take me long. I won my first major tournament when I was 17.
RG: When did you know you’d make it as a pro?
JM: When I was about 15. I won my first tournament when I was 15. From there on I knew I was going to play pool all the time. I won the World title when I was 21 and again when I was 22.
RG: How important is topflight competition for maintaining peak performance?
JM: It’s real important. It keeps you ready to fight. When you are playing guys where when you miss you aren’t going to get another shot, it’s a little different than playing someone who is not on your level. The minute you run into somebody that’s a force you are going to be in trouble, if you haven’t been doing a lot of battling with top players. It’s just like a fighter. He can spar with bums all he wants, but it’s a little different when you’re going for the title. Tough competition helps a lot. It helps keep you razor sharp.
RG: What’s your best game?
JM: 8–ball, 9–ball, straight pool.
RG: Any distinction between the games?
JM: No any one of those three. It doesn’t matter.
RG: How well do you play straight pool?
JM: I’ve run hundreds in straight pool.
RG: What’s your high run?
JM: About 200.
RG: That’s very good.
JM: Well, straight pool is not all that hard once you learn a few things about it. It’s not as hard and as gruelling as 9–ball. In 9–ball, you’ve got to make shots the length of the table and shoot bank shots and cut shots, where in straight pool you always play for the little easy shots. Straight pool is a good building block for any other game. You learn a lot from the game, but it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It ain’t near as tough as 9–ball.
RG: How would you compare the players twenty years ago with those today?
JM: A champion is a champion. They all do the same thing. They get the job done. You give them a shot and they are off to the races. The only thing different today is there is more competition, more people playing. So you’ve got a lot tougher road to go in these tournaments compared to years ago. The players are becoming more educated all the time, so it’s tougher to win because of the upgrade in the competition. And like I say, the game today is 9–ball instead of straight pool.
RG: What’s the biggest difference between a good amateur and a professional?
JM: The education of the game. Knowing when to play safe. Knowing the right shot to shoot. Having a road map in your mind of what to do. Most amateurs and beginners just shoot the ball in and take what’s left. They don’t think ahead. Well, they think ahead, but they don’t think the right way. It takes a long time to learn how to play the game the right way. If you are just a shotmaker, that’s a good tool to start with,but to improve you need to learn things from the game and you learn by playing a long tie and from people helping you.
RG: How can average players improve their pattern play?
JM: Unless someone explains it a little bit, it’s hard to pick up on your own. It’s hard to understand hat they are doing, unless you have it in your own mind. A guy might run four or five racks of 9–ball and you might say, “Well, he’s a good shotmaker,” but there’s more to it than that. You don’t want your cueball flying all over the place. Of course, in 9–ball, sometimes you can’t help it. But you don’t want to move the cueball around too much.
RG: What causes most misses among experts?
JM: Taking a shot for granted. sometimes you miss because you take a shot for granted. As far as tournaments go, you just dog it because of pressure.
RG: Is pressure a big factor?
JM: Sure it is. That’s the number one factor. When I practice, I play as good as anybody that ever lived. Never miss a ball. Get out there in a tournament and it’s a different story. A different story when you got pressure on you. The mental trip is half the battle. You’ve got to somehow relax yourself. If you don’t, you are in a lot of trouble.
RG: A handful of players like Varner, Strickland and Davenport dominate the pro tour. What sets them apart from the rest of the pack?
JM: They handle the pressure better than a lot of people, They know the game real well and they’ve got a lot of natural ability. When you win, you gain confidence. A pool player without confidence just can’t win. When you get on their level all you want is a shot. As soon as you get a shot, you know in your own mind that the game is over. When you get that type of feeling, you are there. Mentally, your concentration has to be there. You’ve got to want to win. Winning’s got to be the most important thing to you. When the good players play, it’s just a question of who’s going to get the shots and who isn’t.
RG: Why can’t the women beat the men?
JM: they don’t have the education of the game. Twenty years ago I watched them play and it was boring. It’s not like that anymore. the women play good now. They have the capability to shoot balls in the hole, but now they have to learn how to play the game. Men have been playing the game for centuries; women have only been playing for 25 years where they’ve got good competition. They’re learning things from the men when they go to tournaments. The women can’t beat the men because they don’t have the education of the game, but once they do there’s no reason they can’t compete with the men. They don’t have a powerful opening break, but after that there’s no reason why a woman can’t play as well as a man.
RG: What do you think of jump cues?
JM: I think they should be barred from the game. It doesn’t take any talent to use a jump cue. If you have to masse your cueball or go three or four cushions to hit the ball, it takes an education, but they pull out these jump cues and it takes no talent as far as I’m concerned. It takes a lot of skill away from the game. Instead of practicing with their jump cues, they ought to practice some billiards. Then they could learn something that really helps when you’re playing with rules where you have to kick at the ball. The rules really favor a good billiard player.
RG: What do you like about the pro tour?
JM: When I was young, I used to like the competition. I like being in competition. I’ve been competing for 26 years. Now I want to get paid for it. A fighter can go out there and get knocked out in ten seconds and pick up ten million. You play a pool match and if you lose you don’t get paid. I don’t like that at all. Neither do any of the other players. Pool tournaments are real simple. If you don’t come in 1st or 2nd, you go home a loser. It’s too tough. There’s no game tougher than pool. Of the non-physical sports, pool is the boss of all games. When you have to beat the best in the world to pick up five or ten thousand, it’s an insult.
I’d like to see how good the golfers played if they didn’t get paid for losing. There’s no pressure if you’ve got to make a putt to win $200,000 and if you miss you get $120,000. Hell, you call that pressure. Get up there when you’ve got to shoot a shot nine feet rail to rail and you get nothing if you miss. that’s pressure.
RG: How do players survive on the tour?
JM: They get backers. They hustle around a little bit. If there’s a tournament somewhere, I don’t care if it’s on the moon, they’re going to it. Whatever it takes to get there, they’ll do it.
RG: The snooker players in England succeeded in getting money into their game.
JM: They succeeded because they have gambling. You can bet on it. They’ve got legalized bookmakers thee just like going to the race track. People can turn on their TV and bet on a match.
RG: What can be done to get the game moving?
JM: We need a sponsor. We’ve got the tour. We’ve got the players. We can put on the greatest show in the world for them, but until the big money comes along what good is it?
RG: 7-UP and some other major corporations use pool in their commercials, but I don’t see them promoting the game or sponsoring any players.
JM: Sure, pool players have been getting used and abused their whole life. Take a look at the commercials on TV involving a pool table. They have a model come in who can’t even hold a cue stick. Who wants to watch some guy from Mabelline that can’t hold a cue. It’s boring. If they had a professional doing it the right way, it’d be the kind of commercial where people wouldn’t turn the station. That’s the difference between being smart in the marketing business and being an idiot. If those advertising executives want a commercial that’ll be talked about, send them to me. I’ll make the most talked about commercial in history.
RG: Do you think pool has an image problem?
JM: They say that pool has a bad image, but I don’t understand that. Watch Tommy Lasorda on TV. If you can read lips, I don’t have to tell you what he says every three minutes. The same way with all those referees, coaches and players—nothing but filthy language. They’re all on drugs and everything else. They can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell their name, but that’s OK because there’s big money involved. That’s where America is full of baloney. Anything that’s got money involved, they’re all for it. They don’t care about the fact that you’ve been in prison or that you are a dope head. As long as there’s money involved, it’s OK. They dog pool players because there isn’t any money involved. If there was some money in the game, they’d think pool players were the greatest people who ever lived.

Vintage nostalgic Slide Shows from Bill Porter

1982 Forest Park Billiards Dayton OH. Nostalgic Slide Show set to a moving musical backdrop. 3.26 min from the famous photographer/archivist Bill Porter
One the great tourneys ran by Joe Burns and Joe Kerr. This is the tourney that
Denny Searcy broke everybody playing payball.

War Stories, None by Oliver North


1. “RIP – Grady Mathews Memorial Video
2. “Hubert Cokes, AKA Daddy Warbucks
Pool’s most dangerous player.
3. “Brooklyn Jimmy Cassas, one of the 711’s finest
My visit with the great Brooklyn Jimmy
4. The Last “Westie” More with Brooklyn Jimmy
5. “Titanic Tales,
Titanic Thompson by San Jose Dick McMorran
6. “George McGann: Gambler, Con man, Hit Man, Kennedy Assassin?
by Johnny Hughes
7. “A Bad Day in Dallas
More George McGann, by San Jose Dick McMorran
8. “The Easiest and Also the Worst Job in the World
Sammy Eubank and Dale Smith, hustler’s extrordinaire
9. “Ronnie, Richie and Fats
Ronnie Allen, Richie Florence, and Minnesota Fats
10. ” Benny Conway
The fabulous “Goose.”
11. “ClydeChildress 1985 tournament accu-stats isssue – Big win for Earl Strickland
12. “Efren Reyes(Caesar Morales) his 1st win at Reds in Houston accustat issue 1985

CaliRed, Greg Koch has prepared a beautiful memorial video of our departed friend, Grady Mathews. Clik this link to see more about our old pal, Grady.

Grady and I were great friends but that never stopped us from being fierce competitors against each other. Whenever we played neither side would ever give an inch. After the games we would often go out together for drinks, or go partners gambling in the Casinos. Grady was an avid craps player, and often hit for big scores. Late in life we found an internet gaming site that caught our attention. It’s a virtual casino with all the bells and whistles, just like Vegas except you can play from your desktop.
The link to the spot is:

Minnesota Fats and Hubert Cokes
January 1966 issue with an article about Hubert Cokes and Harold Worst
Daddy Warbucks
By Tom Fox
Hubert Cokes is one of those larger than life mortals who seem to step off the pages of history onto the wide, wide screen of life.
When Hubert Cokes was a rambling gambling man in the rowdy 20s, the guys and dolls of that romantic era called him The Giant. It was a simple, almost childlike endearment and yet it implied singular distinction. It wasn’t that Hubert Cokes was a massive hulk of a man, although he was, nor that he performed Himalayan feats, albeit sometimes he did. They called him Hubert Cokes The Giant because of his indomitable scorn for protective cults. The only protection Hubert Cokes ever needed was Hubert Cokes.
Stories of the derring-do with which the freelancing Giant defied powerful gang lords are legend and they are retold, and perhaps embellished, wherever floating crap game alums gather. Once they say, Cokes was running a rich dice game somewhere and a benevolent arm of a protection society announced it was muscling in. Cokes looked down his leathery nose at the ultimatum and when a couple of dockwallopers were dispatched to his tables, The Giant whipped hell out of the toughs with his bare fists. Hubert Cokes was always the master of his house. Then there was the Southwest Incident: Cokes was operating a posh gambling casino in a booming oil town. The handle was a robust $40,000 a day but in the same town Pretty Boy Floyd was knocking off banks and post offices for $800. Floyd, the aficionados claim, thought the law offered better odds than The Giant.
You hear all sorts of stories about Hubert Cokes. He is one of those larger
than life mortals who seem to step off the pages of fiction onto the wide,
wide screen of life and some of his intriguing stirrings have been dramatized
with exaggeration. In truth, the man’s image is part myth.
The Hubert Cokes I know is a gentle, brown-eyed man of 67 who wouldn’t harm a miller moth. He is a huge, bald man of 6’2 and 220 pounds and he has cold, piercing eyes that might frighten lesser men but he smiles easily and he walks softly and dignity is his big stick. He has tone, as they say. He likes the simple things in life. He enjoys playing golf with his wife, Frances, a former nurse, and he delights in teaching kids, and sometimes women, how to shoot pool. Once I saw him up to his ears in housewives in one of those carpeted billiard rooms in suburbia. He was instructing les girls on the proper technique in making a bridge. A salty old sandbagger like Texas Guinan, who knew Hubert Cokes when he had hair, would have laughed out loud.
Hubert Cokes is a wealthy Evansville, Indiana oilman-sportsman who takes the sun in Florida in the winter and spends the summers golfing in the Midwest. He shoots in the low 80s (“In the fall when the ground is hard”) and he’ll wager on his drives and putts on the drop of a tee. He was, for the record, one of those country club hustlers who had a hand in sending ex-heavyweight champion Joe Louis to the poorhouse just beyond the 19th hole. Hubert Cokes also loves to bet on his pool game because he is an excellent pool player, in fact, one of the best around, bar none. When he is in the dashing, chancy world of the pool hustlers, Hubert Cokes is known as Daddy Warbucks, a nom de guerre that needs no explanation. He looks like Daddy Warbucks — the bald head, the big ears, the tiny deep set eyes, the taut mouth, and the ever present cigar. He is also very rich and extremely generous and so he is a soft touch for the luckless, down and out pool hustler. Of all the picturesque pool hall sobriquets, Daddy Warbucks, perhaps, is the most poetic.
When Hubert Cokes is in Evansville, almost any night you can find him in the game room of the Elks Club, a stately old ante bellum mansion that stirs thoughts of another day. It’s a massive beige brick building with large white columns jutting up from the front porch and in those hand fan days of the late, late, 30s, the Elks used to sit out there in their big rocking chairs with the stiff starched white slip covers and watch the oil men come and go at the old McCurdy Hotel on the other side of First Street. The Elks have long since retired to the clubhouse, now air-conditioned, thank you, and the oil men still stop at the McCurdy but it’s not like it was when Hubert Cokes first came to town.
He was younger then, fortyish and newly wed, and had just made a strike in the oil fields around Centralia in Southern Illinois and he was thinking about a place with a mailbox and a lawn and a flower garden. For 25 years he had been a rambling, gambling man, a rover with the soul of a gypsy and the roots of a sparrow. Life had been one glorious high roll after another and for a quarter of a century Hubert Cokes had been running to where the action was — In Joplin, or Tulsa, New York or Chicago, Miami or New Orleans. But in 1939 the action was around Evansville, IN where new found oil spilled over like a spring flood and riches awaited the free soul with the bankroll and guts to dare chance. It was a gambling man’s Brigadoon, a big lusty wheel of fortune with no sheriff to fade, and as legal as the Bill of Rights. And so they came from all over — storied Ray Ryan, the highest roller of them all; fabled Titanic Thompson, the prototype of all proposition men; solemn Preacher Du Buford, who wore dark suits and spoke softly like a man of the cloth but bellowed invectives when he struck a dry hole; crafty Jimmy the Greek Castras, who made book on anything, once on how many cups would break at a DAR party; and a carload of other blithe spirits, Hubert Cokes among them, with nerves honed over crap tables and the daring to risk it all on one more roll. They were all out of Runyon, by gosh, an they checked into the old McCurdy and fortunes were made and lost right there on the marble floor of the lobby; and out on the sidewalk this flamboyant new breed did things with money that had the Elks holding hard to their rocking chairs across the street.
In those freewheeling days before World War II, Evansville was a lethargic little river town on the northern shores of the beautiful Ohio and back then, as it does today, the scene suggested the best of two worlds — the tranquil grace and charms of the Old South, coupled with a bustling, yet cautious and prudent Yankee enterprise. There’s a special grace about Evansville, a low-keyed horse and carriage pace that makes the living relaxed and easy. A visiting Elk might miss it but it’s there and you feel it after you’ve been there a while. And there’s a devilish, almost Janus-like fascination about the town at night, around the witching hour when the old wildcatters like The Preacher and The Colonel and Ladies Man Louie and Young York and Abie The Oakie stroll into the McCurdy lobby for the morning paper and a cup of coffee and a slice of nostalgia; and the past becomes the present when these Night People weave stories about the Runyon crowd that swept onto the scene and loved and sinned and hoodwinked and lived high and hard and put a splotch of rouge on Evansville’s haughty old face.
In 1939 Hubert Cokes, with a new stake and a new bride, took it all in and liked the odds. Evansville, indeed, was his kind of town. So he settled there and after a few more gushers poured in he went into the oil business on Main Street. He built an elegant home on the fashionable East Side and joined the Elks Club and the Petroleum Club. He might have been a pillar of the community too, except that in Evansville, Indiana pillars of the community come from a select circle of old-line families, the old rich, as it were, as opposed to the new rich, who are mostly oil people like Hubert Cokes who stayed on after the boom.
He is one of them now but after 26 years he is still a heavy who sits below the salt at the dinner table. And that’s how it will always be with Hubert Cokes, for as he defied the town bosses and their strond boys, so too, has he stuck out his tongue at the Sunday social mores of the Midwest. He remains the gambling man because it is in Hubert Cokes’ blood to take odds and give odds and protect himself in clichés.
Because of his wealth, Cokes is constantly singled out for the big hustle and sometimes the propositions, not to mention the stakes, are staggering. Several years ago on a sabbatical from the oil derricks, Cokes was vacationing in Las Vegas and between visits to the roulette wheels and blackjack tables he got to playing a “little money pool — just for kicks.” He had not picked up a cue in eight years (“it felt like a broom,” he remembers) and his stroke and his eye showed it. The Giant looked ripe for a toppling. Word spread quickly and overnight hustlers seemed to walk right off the desert. Everybody came to get a piece of Hubert Cokes, including one of billiards’ all-time legitimate champions who flew west to propose a $50,000 summit meeting on the Vegas Strip. The cunning Cokes smiled and said he was, indeed, interested providing of course, he could name the games — left-handed, one-handed and jacked-up. Indignant, the champion termed Cokes’ proposal “debasing” and grabbed the next plane East. Cokes chuckled all the way to Evansville but the hustlers, sensing a bonanza, trailed him like bloodhounds. “They knew my game had fallen into a rabbit hole,” Cokes said, “and they all wanted odds, even the ones who could play me straight up.”
Nonplused at having to sidestep such action, Cokes bought a second hand pool table and moved it into a vacant room above Joe Larvo’s Restaurant in Evansville and for a few months he worked at his rusty game, honing it to a stiletto sharpness. Then he took on all comers and took might be too mild a word. “I busted one of the country’s best players, smack down to his car and then I won the car, too.” Cokes said. “I thought about getting in the used car business for a while.”
A few years ago Larvo’s Restaurant was gutted by a pre-dawn blaze and Cokes’ table was lost in the mound of rubble. Since then he’s switched his training camp to the game room at the Elks Club and there he and his “sparring partner” play five nights a week to see that Daddy Warbucks’ game remains respectable.
His partner is tall, slender, blondish and 32 year old Larry Meyer who grew up in Louisville, KY and moved to Evansville a few years ago. By ordinary standards Larry is a good pool player but he doesn’t belong on the same table with Cokes. “I’m Mr. Cokes’ punching bag,” says Meyer. Cokes gives outrageous odds in the game room sessions, yet, he says it’s necessary. “I’ve got to protect myself from those rascals (the hustlers),” he explains. With a $5 wager on each game, the Elks Club training sessions go something like this: (1) eight or no count one-pocket, meaning Cokes must drop eight straight balls in one pocket without a miss or start again from scratch. (2) one-pocket even, Cokes shooting left-handed. (3) one-pocket even, Cokes shooting WITHOUT his glasses. (4.) One-pocket even, Cokes shooting with one hand. (5.) Banks even. Despite the la Russian Roulette rules under which Cokes chooses to play, over a nine-month stretch, Daddy Warbucks led the long series by 24 games going into September.
Like most men his age, Cokes is myopic. He reads the newspapers, even the fine print on the stock market page, with the naked eye, but on a pool table he is helpless without glasses. He tried bifocals but cue ball and object ball never seemed the same size and Cokes’ game suffered markedly. “That’s when I got these,” he said, picking up what he called his “pool cheaters.” The glasses are extra large. The black frame and prescription treated lenses are about the size of a cue ball and when Cokes puts them on they cover his eyes, his eyebrows and a goodly portion of his forehead. They arouse memories of old fashioned racing goggles, the kind Sunday drivers used to wear at the wheel of the old open touring cars, and when Cokes stares out of the thick lenses he looks more like a Mad scientist than a tired businessman relaxing at the club.
The game room is one of those long, narrow, masculine looking clubrooms where cigar smoke and spilled beer are part of the “men only” decor. Four outmoded ceiling fans hang overhead and although they haven’t been used in years they are part of the decor too, fossils of another age. The six pool tables get a good play from the membership and so does the bar which is on the other side of a swinging door at the far end of the room.. There is nothing special about the bar except that it doubles as the music room for the regular Monday night vocalizings of the 23 voice Elks Club Chorus and on occasion the assorted tenors, altos and baritones provide amusing background music.
One night last summer Cokes, in deft stroke, ran a quick eight balls to win an eight or no count version of one pocket and as he pocketed the last ball, as if on a prearranged cue, from the bar the chorus sang out lustily:
“Be my little baby bumble bee… “Buzz around, buzz around, buzz around and ’round.”
Tenors: “Baby…baby…baby…baby…”
Baritones: “….Buzz…buzz…buzz…buzz…buzz.”
“The maestro out there,” said Cokes, acknowledging the musical salute, “must have bet on me.”
Later, when Cokes’ game was less stimulating, the chorus burst forth with a solemn, throaty version of the old tent revival hymn, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.” Cokes smiled and Meyer, shooting surely, ran out another game.
“Damn,” said Cokes, “this boy’s getting good enough to take on the road.”
The road…the road…the road. Any pool player who has broken a rack in a serious money game has at one time or another found himself on the road. It’s the only place to go when the action slows down, which is the way it was for Hubert Cokes in 1913. He was 16 and attending high school in Hot Springs, AR, and during a long hot summer things were slow, even in Hot Springs. Young Cokes had heard tall tales about the “money action” up in St. Louis and one night when things were slower than usual. Cokes and his pal Hubert Bray, the police chief’s son hopped a freight train for St.. Louis.
“We told them we came from Hot Springs and we wanted action,” Cokes said. “And we got it –nine ball at 25 cents a game. We played all day and all night. We were $22 ahead when we hopped a freight back home. After that I was a rolling stone.”
The hobo ride to St. Louis convinced the teenage Cokes that a cotton farm was no place for a young gambling man and soon the took to the road for good. His wanderings were to last for 25 years and take him across the country a dozen times, living out of suitcases and earning his keep in grubby horse parlors and chandeliered casinos. When he ran short of capital he headed for the nearest pool room. His game was always good enough for eating money.
“I played pool as a boy in Hot Springs and I thought I knew the game,” he said. “But I was educated in 1916. That’s when I met Jack Hill in Tulsa. He originated one pocket out there around 1912. He liked me and took me on as his protégé. He taught me the fine points. That was my college education in pool.” And Cokes graduated with honors for today, almost 50 years later, he remains one of the best one pocket players in America, especially if the stakes are high.
“I never felt like a complete player until 1925,” Cokes says, “and I think I played my best around 1945. I was 47 and at my prime. I could have handled anybody in the country back then. I busted everybody who came through Evansville, everybody but Willie Hoppe but he was out of my class in cushions. I played him an exhibition at the Elks Club and he gave me a good lesson. But 20 years ago I owned the hustlers. I broke ’em all.”
Cokes insists he was never a hustler himself. “I never said I was a bus driver or a traveling salesman,” he says, “They always knew who I was. Today if somebody calls me a hustler I say, “No, I’m a producer of hustlers.” This hustler image came out of Hollywood hustlers and I’m their producer. I back ’em all with cash is the proposition looks good.
Among the early hustlers backed by Cokes resources was a roly-poly, nonstop talking fat boy the oil man met on Broadway in 1930. His name — Minnesota Fats (nee New York Fats) is a household word in any pool room today but in 1930 the Fat Man (Rudolph Wanderone, of Dowell, IL) needed backers. “Fatty looked the same as he does now, a little lighter perhaps, and he talked, talked, talked, the way he babbles now. I backed him in some $500 nine ball in New York. He was walking all over the place, talking to everybody, spilling powder all over the floor and not paying attention to what he was doing. I walked up to him and said, “Look Fatty, that’s my money you’re playing for. Concentrate on the game.” He laughed and said, “Don’t worry Hubert,” and without looking at the table he shot and pocketed the nine ball. If Fatty couldn’t run off at the mouth he wouldn’t run six balls.”
One of Cokes’ inseparable road companions was the incomparable Titanic Thompson, a legend himself. Thompson once won $10,000 by throwing a peanut atop a Chicago building (the peanut was filled with mercury). He gathered a fortune shooting golf right-handed, losing a small bet on a close game and hiking the wager by boasting he could beat his score left-handed. Thompson a natural lefty, was a par golfer from the port side and his list of pigeons was long and impressive. He once propositioned Cokes out of a tidy sum, though not on a golf course.
In the 30s, when hard times fell on everybody, Cokes worked as a pharmaceutical salesman. In writing endless order, the spelling of medical and drug terms became routine and when the foxy Titanic wagered Cokes couldn’t spell asafoetida, Hubert plunged heavily. “Hell, I know how to spell asafoetida,” says Cokes, “but I lost the bet. There are actually four different spellings so any way I spelled it Ty said it was wrong and showed me a different spelling in an old dictionary. I paid off but later I found out Ty had hustled me good. I can laugh about it now but back then I felt like a sucker.” Cokes laughed. He likes to laugh and does often. There’s a Katzenjammer side to his personality. He likes a good joke, even if it’s on him, or on his father for that matter. His father was once an unsuspecting victim of the son’s levity.
The father was from Arkansas and Hubert’s mother was a Mississippi farm girl. The elder Cokes, a barber by trade, put down his clippers and tried his hand at cotton. But both marriage and the crop were failures and when Hubert, an only child, was still a toddler, his father quit the farm and opened a barber shop in San Antonio, TX. The years raced on and Cokes was a grown man before he saw his father again. It was in 1921, when Cokes was 24, that he wandered into San Antonio. He found his father’s shop, walked in and said he would have a shave.
“The old man,” said Cokes, “was a pleasant, easy going sort but he was very proud about his trade. He claimed he was the best barber in the whole state of Texas. Well, he started shaving me and I drew back. I made a face and said,” Damn man, can’t you sharpen that razor?” He made all sorts of apologies and tried another razor and I yelled, “That’s worse than the first one– are you trying to slit my throat?” Now he didn’t know me from a load of hay but he gave me a cold look and said, “Sir, please get out of my shop, I don’t care to serve you.” I jumped up and hollered, “Well Mr. Cokes, you’re not only a bad barber, you’re not much of a father either — don’t you know your own son?” He was so glad to see me he shut up the shop and we had dinner together.”
Cokes, laughing heartily, took a long pensive draw on a cigar. “That was a long, long time ago,” he said, “a long way back.”
Hubert Cokes looks back on 67 years filled with vigorous, hard-nosed, no- holds- barred living It would make a hellova novel but there are too many blank pages and that’s the way Hubert wants it. “I did a lot of brawling and scrapping,” he says. “I don’t know if I could take it again. I’m just sure of one thing — I’m a lot wiser than I was when I left the farm.”
The knuckle-dusting Giant who captivated the myth-makers of the 20s has mellowed and sweetened with age. He has acquired the poise of a diplomat and the soft tenderness of a doting grandfather, yet beneath the lordly, dignified demeanor resides the jugular instinct of the Giant of old. Hubert Cokes can still be a ruthless brawler is someone pushes him
You hear all sorts of violent sagas about Hubert Cokes but when you sit over a late cup of coffee with the man and he smiles softly and tells sentimental stories, somehow the twains don’t meet. Some people have a let down when they meet him because there is a vast grey area between Hubert Cokes the Man, and Hubert Cokes the Myth.
“When I first met Hubert I was terribly disappointed, “say Evelyn Wanderone, the tall strikingly beautiful wife of Minnesota Fats. “I had heard all those stories about the Giant and I expected to meet someone nine feet tall.”
“Evelyn,” said Cokes, sounding very much like Daddy Warbucks lecturing Little Orphan Annie, “your trouble is you’ve been married to Fatty so long that you believe everything he says.”

I’m going to NY to see an old pal, Brooklyn Jimmy Cassas. For those who don’t know the man, he is an original alumnus from the old legendary7-11 poolroom in NY. His contemporaries included, Boston Shorty, Jersey Red, Richie from the Bronx, NY Blackie, Johnny Ervolino, etc. As slick as that crew was, Jimmy was the 8 ball smarter than anybody else. I intend to have a great time cutting up all the old jackpots from yesteryear. See ya in a coupla days.

…Fri. 8/24 2007. It was great in NY, spent time with Brooklyn Jimmy Cassas, a member of the original 7-11 poolroom crowd. Jimmy was a top player who could run a hundred balls, but was content with tricking weaker players into thinking he was a pool retard with a bankroll. Even though he was blessed with extraordinary pool skills, his real passion was betting on the horses. He only played pool to finance his race track “jones.” Eventually discarding his pool career, he went on to become probably the finest, and most successful handicapper in the country, winning millions.

This is one of many wonderful stories about my pal, the great Brooklyn Jimmy. I was in Miami Beach in 1963 watching Jimmy “lemon hustle” a stone sucker in a local joint. The guy was totally helpless, and naturally didn’t know Jimmy or Jimmy’s real speed. Jimmy was about 20 games ahead at $3 a pop, when he suddenly quit. “What’s wrong?” The sucker queried. “You think I don’t know what you’re doing.” Jimmy replied. “You sluff a few games off to me for cheap money, and then you get me to raise it to like $15 or $20 a game, and then take me off. I’m from NY, we know about guys like you. I ain’t going for it.” With the guy now denying it all, and begging Jimmy to keep playing, Jimmy finishes him off with, “Ok, I’ll give in and do what YOU want. I’ll let you win a few back at $15 a game, but then I’m gonna quit. I’ll let you get close, but you ain’t gonna get all the way even.” The bet is now $15 a game, and naturally Jimmy goes ahead and busts the guy. The guy couldn’t make a ball in the ocean to begin with. Jimmy could’ve spotted him the five through the nine.Friday, May 30, 2008

More with Brooklyn Jimmy

August 5 2010

For all the venerable pool historians, I have a report on the legendary Brooklyn Jimmy Cassas, of 711 fame. I just spent the weekend with him up at Saratoga Race Track. Jimmy was a fixture of the old 711 NY poolroom in the days of Boston Shorty Johnson, Jersey Red Breit, and Brooklyn Johnny Irvolino. Often considered the smartest hustler of those smart hustlers, Jimmy was a terrific player himself, playing maybe the 8 ball under Shorty, when Shorty was Shorty; but Jimmy’s true love was horse racing.

He went on to become one of the best handicappers in the country, and of course won big money along the way. As good as he played pool, pool was just a means to drum up money to get to the track. For our short stint at the track, Jimmy came through again, winning about $3500 for the two days. He also treated all of us to about $1200 worth of fancy meals.

I was with my room mate, John Bosnak, and Jimmy brought along an old friend of his who had just been released from a 25 to life prison sentence up in Comstock NY. (He did the whole 25 years.) His name was Warren “Chief” Schurman, and he is the last of the “Westies.” For those who don’t know about the “Westies,” they were a wild, violent Irish gang from Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan. Some of their most famous (or infamous), adventures included kidnapping Carlo Gambino’s nephew, and the murder of Big Jim McBratney by John Gotti. Some other “Westie” notables include, Richie C (Chaisson), Mickey Featherstone, Jimmy Coonan, and Big Jim McBratney. All the old “Westies” are bye-bye, mostly murdered, except for the Chief. I guess that long 25 year stretch is a big reason why he is the last living “Westie.”

Chief turned out to be a personable, intelligent, fun-loving sort, and the weekend went by rapidly. For the pool connection to this story, Chief and Richie C spent a lot of time hanging out in Ames and 711 poolrooms, and Chief was good friends with Brooklyn Jimmy way back then.

Below is a letter the Chief composed and sent to the famous NY Post syndicated columnist, Cindy Adams in 2005. I read a copy of the letter and the Chief gave me permission to publish it on my site for posterity, and also for some false, “Westie” psuedo-history clarification.

October 18, 2005

Dear Ms. Adams,

My name is Warren “Chief” Schurman. I’m in the twenty-first year of a twenty-five to life prison sentence in the New York State Correctional System. Since you have a reputation for accuracy, integrity and fairness, I beg your indulgence with this letter. An old friend of mine recently sent me an excerpt from one of your columns (August 24, 2005), my misspelled name was mentioned by some kid named Joseph McBratney trying to hustle a buck by dishonoring his father, James McBratney; dead 32 years. Big Jim McBratney was never called “Mad Dog” when he was alive. This vaguely disrespectful posthumous appellation aside, I’m sure this is just the beginning of a fictive characterization of a man who was tough, close-mouthed and honorable — rare qualities now and in the past. Abasing his memory doesn’t serve a higher purpose.

With the resurgence of interest in the doings of West Side hoodlums of the 60s, 70s and 80s, there will come a spate of half-truths, untruths and outright fantasies. In the half-truth-bordering-on-fantasy category falls the “Westie” legend. In point of fact the “Westies” was a moniker made up by a NYPD detective named “Publicity Joe” Coffey and his partner, Frank McDarby. “Publicity Joe” was very media friendly and the media of the late 70s was hungry for underworld tidbits, so they ran with this nickname…really ran with it. It was a joke to everyone on the West Side who knew better. It sounded like a bunch of cattle rustlers from Wyoming. A name made up by a couple of NY cops over drinks entered the American crime lexicon. As a half-serious joke, our little crew tried to name ourselves. We were torn between, “The Tuna-Fish Mob,” which I favored, and, “The Egg-Salad Gang.” We figured you are what you eat, sandwich-wise, thus the name choice. It seemed perfectly logical and ridiculous at the same time. Fortunately nobody bit, not even Screw Magazine. We were probably too low key to be good copy. The cops didn’t have us targeted, didn’t know we existed probably, so they couldn’t pimp us to the media. A small group of crooks and hustlers hanging out in a few nefarious Times Square bars weren’t sexy enough to attract such attention from the law or the press. No underworld fame for us back then.

As you undoubtedly know, a sizable segment of the American public has a voracious appetite for bogus revelation. With the TV and movie world about to embark on a questionable foray into the West Side Kingdom-of-long-ago-criminality, we’re in for a tsunami of aberrant nonsense. Every self-promoting nitwit with a vaguely plausible story about a dead relative who may have walked down a street on the West Side will be coming forward; not necessarily with anything of historical veracity. Movies and TV shows attract hucksters like light attracts insects.

In the 60s, Tommy the Hat, the night houseman at Ames Poolroom on West 44th St., said this to me: “Kid, from 6th Ave. west to the Hudson river, every avenue is Gaff Avenue, every street is Swindle Street. After midnight any warm body roaming this neighborhood is working some kind of hustle, vice or scam. Know this and you will know the West Side.”

The letter excerpted in you August, 2005 column referred to me as an “Infamous Irish Gangster.” It seems the usual path to infamy was rerouted in my particular case. Up to this point one had to be famous before becoming infamous, i.e., O.J. Simpson. I went directly to infamous, skipping over famous … Missing out on the good stuff … Going straight to the crap. This road to infamy began with the publication of the book, “Tough Guy” in 1995 by William Hoffman and Edward Maloney. Maloney is a former associate who rat-rolled to become an all-purpose stool-pigeon in 1982. He squealed for the FBI, NYPD, and whomever else wanted to use him. His rat fees were quite substantial for the times: $30,000 plus, in People vs. Schurman, from the 1986 trial transcript, p.137, 138 and 139. FBI agent Woods confirming upon cross-examination.
$62,890 for squealing on John Gotti, NY Daily News, December 21 1986, p. 3.

Maloney also got unspecified amounts from the state and federal authorities for maintenance and undoubtedly a wink and a nod to earn some side income, possibly illicit. The other cases Maloney snitched on concluded with pleas or other resolutions, so an exact dollar amount for his rattery would be hard to report.

The book in question, soon to be a movie, “Tough Guy,” is a putative autobiography of Eddie Maloney. However, since Maloney was incapable of stringing together two coherent sentences, a writer had to be hired. William Hoffman created Maloney’s book by interviewing him extensively… Boswell to Maloney’s Johnson. The finished product is actually a hagiography, characterizing Maloney as the baddest, coolest, slickest denizen of the West Side since Arnold Rothstein. I’m portrayed as a homicidal half-wit’ a foil to Maloney’s criminal genius… Abbot and Costello in the Underworld.

Fortunately, “Tough Guy” was not a big seller, so only a few avid crime book readers know I’m a malevolent moron. The old “Chief” was still happily in the shadows. Apparently that’s about to change since the cool, slick Matt Damon is about to make the cool, slick, Eddie Maloney a movie hero… and I a movie villain of course… the mind boggles!

I disavow any references to me or my friends. Any characterization of us in this upcoming “work of art” will come from the wet dreams of addle-witted fools. Who knew Hollywood hotshots could be so gulled and gaffed by a nickel and dime huckster and stoolie with an interesting life story. Henry Hill, another notorious rat, comes to mind.

If this movie is indeed made, it will be indicative of mister Maloney’s preternatural resilience. A man in high shame, shot and shunned as a rat by his former associates will now be remade into a counterculture star. This type of historical revisionism should give intelligent people pause for thought not cause for cheers.

Art and life are related. If a betrayer is elevated in a work of dramatic art then all who do not engage in betrayal are demeaned by this work. Christians don’t revere or respect Judas Iscariot do they? For if they did it would degrade the honorable apostles.

Notwithstanding the unwanted bad publicity coming my way, you’re probably wondering what caused me to write this letter…a mean cranky convict rattling his chains? Maybe. A rare chance to practice Socratic irony? Doubtful but possible. More likely it’s the philosophical incongruity of this moment…a guy with my pedigree and background able to make a logical claim to ethical and moral high ground. It’s scarily sweet and at some level, funny. Such irony is tasty but not very filling. Teaching moments never last. A chance to let a few self-important fools pause and look at themselves is nice but probably meaningless. No one contemplates their own ugliness for too long. Some not at all.

Respectfully yours,
Warren “Chief” Schurman 86-A-1764
Great Meadows Correctional Facility
Box 51
Comstock, NY 12821-0051

PS Sorry for the bad punctuation. I’ve been out of school for a long time.
PPS I apologize for my long windedness. I usually don’t speak at all, availing myself of my Fifth Amendment rights to non-self-incrimination and silence. In fact, as I type these words, I feel myself falling into another long silence…..

(So far the movie “Tough Guy” is still in limbo, with no future date for filming set as yet.
The Beard

By San Jose Dick Mc Morran

In the 60s, wherever the action pool room in Dallas was at that time, either the Cotton Bowling Palace or Times Square, Alvin C. Thomas, AKA “Titanic” Thompson would hold court almost daily. Ti, already in his 70s, could still wield a mean golf club and a meaner deck of cards. His many other games of chance and trickery were legendary and all the young “scuffs” (yours truly included) would hang on Ti’s every word when we could get him to open up about some of his past exploits.

I had the privilege of caddying (well, driving the cart anyway) for him, a few times, in his frequent high stakes golf match-ups. A high rolling gambler once staked a highly regarded lady pro to give Ti three strokes a side, in a $2000 nassau. I was out of town when the actual event took place. We did speak by phone the night before, and he assured me that there was, quote; “No “mop-squeezer” in the world that could give him three-a-side!” unquote.
He had to have been over 70 at the time, but sure enough, he won both sides and the back side press, for a cool $8000. He had her in tears. There was no re-match.

Male chauvinism was alive and well in those days. Ti was lucky there were very few, highly skilled, lady pool player’s back then, or he may have let his male ego get him in trouble. That goes for me too.

The game of pool was one of the few things that Ti never quite mastered. His usual con and gamesmanship seemed to leave him when he matched up at his favorite game, One pocket. He took some brutal, large dollar beatings at the hands of “New York Fats” and Hubert Cokes (to name a few), when One pocket was young, in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Eventually, Cokes and he became quite good pals, and they often hit the road together. Talk about “double trouble.”

Ti was a solid “B” player, and not completely helpless at pool, but as he began to realize his limitations, he zeroed in on a seldom played game and succeeded in pushing it well beyond his skill level at ordinary pool. He became one of the best three rail kickers I have ever seen. Playing either off the spot, or making the middle ball in a 15 ball rack, Ti could beat players far more advanced than him at the other pool games. He also knew exactly how many shots he could safely bet on. Using his natural gift of gab, he caught many players and side bettors alike in his little “three rail kick-in” trap. In fact, he became so proficient at the game, that he could beat a lot of shortstops at it by throwing the ball with his bare hand, instead of using a cue stick.

Ti, as everyone called him, loved the game of One pocket. He would often bet on me (or stake me) even when I had the worst of it. Sometimes, just the intimidation factor, of such a legendary gambler would be just enough to throw my opponent off, and turn a bad game into a winner. Ti appreciated my knowledge of the game and would often grab a set of balls and challenge me to a horrible match-up, for him, just to get some cheap lessons. We would bet it up a little at times, but we would keep adjusting the game so no one got hurt bad. I’d often be gone for extended periods, and when I’d return, I can still see his “cat eating” grin, when he’d greet me with, “Dick, you won’t believe how much better I’m playing One pocket now. Get the balls, I’ll play you some 8 to 6, and kick your young Irish ass.”

We became quite good friends in those years. I looked up to him and always felt very fortunate to have him for a mentor. Sure do wish I would have absorbed more. His son Tommy, from a long forgotten marriage, re-surfaced around that time and we became close too. Tommy was a real chip off the old block. He lacked his father’s gift of gab, (just try and follow that act) but he had learned his way around a deck of cards as good, if not better, than Ti himself. Ti sent Tommy up to Evansville, for further training in the “Daddy Warbuck’s” school of gambling, and, just like he had done with Ti decades earlier, Mr. Cokes and Tommy took off some high $$$ scores.

Partner’s One pocket was quite popular in those days and presented a virtual kaleidoscope of potential ways to match up a game. A and C players against two B players, A and D players against B and C players, etc., and coaching, either allowed or not allowed, made for some really spirited pre-game negotiations. Most regular players knew how to match up head-to-head, but partner’s opened up a whole new ball game. Many times neither team would know for sure who had the best of it until it was too late. For the most part, it was pure gambling. The high rolling gambler’s and oil men loved partnering up with the top players. They’d bet it up, big time.

Enter into this equation a man by the name of Red Box. Red owned one of the greatest action pool rooms ever, the Guys and Dolls in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was a good, smart gambler, and he and Ti were always trying to “one up” each other. Red was a little bit like Ti, in that he would have sacrificed a major body organ to play top notch One pocket. Ti, as shrewd a gambler as he was, thought he played about even with Red, but I could clearly see that Red had the best of it by at least ball, if not two.

Every month or so, a typical conversation between Ti and me would go something like this; “Hey Dick, Red called today and he said that Peter Rabbit, or Buddy Hall or Earl Heisler was in town, and they will give us 8-7 playing partners. I think we got the nuts at that, don’t you?” He would elaborate on his reasoning by saying, “You play as well or better than Red’s partner (whoever that might be) and Red and I are pretty even, aren’t we?

Ti and I had played partners with some of the local Dallas players with varying results. The big differential was usually whether I was allowed to coach him during the games. We had worked out an elaborate set of signals for the games where coaching was not allowed, but there really wasn’t an effective way to tell him where I wanted his cue ball to end up. The signals were pretty much limited to the specific ball I wanted him to shoot, and he was mostly on his own after that. However, at some point Red snapped to that and I had to look away from Ti when he was at the table (in the “no coaching match-ups). In addition, I could never convince him that he was at least a ball shy of Red’s One pocket game. There was never a problem with the money. Ti always had plenty of cash and if I didn’t, he was willing to bankroll any partner’s play we made. I don’t have to tell you how persuasive he could be when he felt like playing.

Usually, our matches were made before we left for the 200 mile drive to Shreveport. Ti was often a little lax in his demand for me to be allowed to coach him, because I think, in his mind he thought he knew all there was to know about the game. Many times we would get off loser at the partner’s game, and I would have to match up a tough heads- up game to try and recover our losses. Red Box was a good, smart gambler, but he loved action and fortunately, although a lot of money changed hands between us, no one got hurt too bad in those good old days. Ti, and Red sure loved their one-hole.

Ti eventually realized that he was no “Eddie Taylor” at pool. He, Tommy and I, roamed around together for a while back in the late 60s. We were a pretty well rounded crew with Ti’s con games, Tommy’s card playing skills, and my occasional pool score.

There were times we hit some pretty rough joints in the Ark-La-Tex area we moved around in. But I never felt any apprehension because every night, Ti and Tommy would clean and check their “artillery”. Ti carried an old .44 revolver with about a ten inch barrel, which looked much like a typical old John Wayne six-shooter, and I knew he wasn’t afraid to use it if he felt it was necessary. Ti, almost always, wore a suit to conceal the old “hog leg”. Tommy’s .357 was always strapped to his ankle under his bell bottoms, so we weren’t short on firepower should the need arise.
Fortunately, it never did. The few awkward spots we encountered, would usually wind up with the offending “tush-hog”, backing down from the “skinny old man” with the piercing eyes.

I’m not trying to infer that Ti and I were full time partners, but for several years, we hooked up often enough for me to have had some very memorable life experiences. I hope you’ve enjoyed my sharing a few with you. I have always considered it a privilege to have met and befriended, one of the true legends of our time, Alvin C. “Titanic Thompson” Thomas, 1892 – 1974. RIP old rounder, what a pleasure knowing you.

Dick Mc Morran
June, 2007

Dick, just for you, I’ll tell the only Titanic story that I have. I seen him in action only once down in Johnston City in the early 60s. He must have been 70 yrs old but he had 3 young girls traveling with him. He laid down a spread with an unwitting kid from Chicago named Tennesee Willy. Ti lost $400 to Willy playing 1pkt for $30 and $40 a game. He never made a ball, and was acting semi-senile. Willy was a very loud, obnoxious player and attracted a lot of attention. I knew Willy very well and he really thought the game was on the square, and was giving Ti plenty of “raspberries.” I overheard the smart guys whispering that Ti was probably over the hill, and was now a ripe target. The next day Ti had his choice of good games. He locked somebody up good, I forgot who, but I remember the bet. His first bet was naturally, $400 a game!

Freddy the Beard

by Johnny Hughes

George Albert McGann was this almost comic Texas road gambler and con man when we used to play poker and gin rummy together back in the mid-sixties in Lubbock, Texas. He was born in Big Spring about 1937. During the 1960s, Lubbock was a real center for big no-limit Texas Hold ’em games although we obviously just called it Hold ’em. Many of our opponents came from distant towns and nobody knew or cared where they got their money. Poker players were by definition outlaws. Jack “Treetop” Straus was playing one time with a guy who would leave the game and go rob a bank. The FBI followed the guy back to the poker game.

Treetop spoke for all gamblers when he told the FBI, most truthfully, “We don’t know or care how he got that money.”George was a real mystery man. He’d get out on the blacktop and go all over Texas and show up in the middle of the night at some poker game. He seemed to mostly lose. Like most practiced con men, he was most charming, likable, and extremely well dressed. Watch out for a player whose shoes are new and a little too fancy. And those pinkie rings. If you told George, “I like your watch or hat or sweater.” He’d say, “It’s for sale.”

Once, George sold a bag of fake diamonds to this gullible gambler I knew. He told him they were hot diamonds from big Dallas burglaries that were in the newspaper. The guy had to promise to hide them for a decade before he moved them. George bragged about these things but he often told cryptic stories, talked in riddles, and hinted at a dark side.

Much has been written about George McGann being a hit man for the Dixie Mafia. Some of the Kennedy assassination researchers think George was involved, even one of the shooters. One of the huge factors in being a professional poker player back then was finding a game and keeping the game going. This led to a lot of loaning and staking. Be careful about borrowing because then you are obligated to make a loan to that guy. If it was the middle of the night and a guy says he is going to quit the poker game if it gets down to five-handed, you might put some railbird like George in the game if you were bigger behind than a cotton-patch spider.

I loaned George $150 once. He soaked two beautiful expensive sweaters. I wore them for a few years. He had this long list of the people he owed money to. He’d pull it out and show it to me. He said paying all the poker players around Texas back was very important to him.Years later, some Kennedy assassination researchers led by Gary Shaw of Ft. Worth. came here and we had dinner. He mailed me some pictures of George and George’s list of debts. I was on it as were a Doyle, a Slim, and a Sailor. George would go down to Odessa and try the big game with all the future World Champs. He couldn’t beat it and neither could I.

I wasn’t afraid of George but I had not heard all these bad things. Looking back, I guess George could pump all that money on the tab because the smart money was afraid of him. He was the kind of poker and gin rummy player that you knew would go broke. On fifth street, he’d study and puzzle, and shake his butt all around in the chair and convince himself that some guy that had not bluffed since the Great Depression just had to be bluffing this time. If you held a hand, George would pay you off and he was pleasant about it with the con man’s semi-permanent big smile on his face.One of the places we played was up this long flight of stairs.

The houseman kept a shotgun leaning against the wall visible to all players. Now it was expected that the houseman would have barking iron, but tastefully out of sight. Someone suggested he hide the shotgun if George came around. This was the first hint I had that the gambler’s were wary of George and his nocturnal ramblings.Mornings might find me driving by several spots looking to play one of my side games, bridge or gin rummy. I’d prop folks to play heads-up Hold ’em but settle for gin. I’d try the golf course or one of the dice games before it opened.

A few times I went by George’s fancy apartment in Lubbock’s best apartment house. George had a whole closet full of fancy clothes and shoes. We’d play gin rummy and then go for mid-afternoon breakfast. I was careful not to break him but he was the type of gambler you could carry all the way to busted. I do not really remember ever seeing George win.One morning, we sat down to play gin rummy. He had left the two major suit nines in the card box on the kitchen cabinet. I figured this out early but didn’t see any sense in saying anything. He knew two nines were gone. I knew two nines were gone. He did not know I knew. At first I thought he was holding them out. I jumped up and suddenly looked in his lap. Nothing was there.There was some other shiny-shirt road slick there. The way they kept carney-talking and eye-dancing each other, you’d know they gaffed he deck.

After I beat him out of a day’s walking around money, I pulled up. I went in the kitchen and could see the cards in the box. Neither of us mentioned it. As George was getting ready to go to breakfast, he slipped a pair of brass knuckles in the front pocket of his very tight slacks. These showed for a mile. I asked him,” Why don’t you carry a pistol like everybody else?”He made a lengthy reply about his uncontrollable temper. He said he’d kill somebody if he had a gun.

Later, he did just that. George McGann told me a lot about Jerry James who he knew. James was on America’s top ten most wanted. James robbed other outlaws all over the south. When the word hit the gambler’s grapevine that James was in town, joints closed and folks stayed armed and indoors. George said that when I got robbed at a poker game, it would be Jerry James. James was later a leader in the New Mexico prison riot where thirty-nine were killed. He befriended Jimmie Chagra in prison at the behest of our government and James gained valuable information. Later, I was at a big poker game that was robbed by three masked gunmen. They told us to face the wall and not look and that was fine with me. Only one of them spoke but some of the players later said one of them might have been George. Big Fred threw his healthy bankroll behind the ice box and saved it.

After the robbers left, there was a hastily arranged small posse who had guns in their cars. They gave chase but played lucky they didn’t get to smell any gun smoke on that particular beautiful summer night.George McGann told me the most curious thing of our friendship after the Kennedy assassination. He showed up with a brand new Cadillac that was red on the bottom and white on top. He said Jerry James had a matching Cadillac. George said that after the assassination, the Texas Rangers arrested him in East Texas and had at first mistaken him for Jerry James who they were chasing. George said they shuffled him around to various small town jails without charging him with anything. Finally, they let him go and drove him to the Cadillac which they had pushed off into a bar ditch and dented up.

George married Beverly Oliver, the so-called Bakuska Lady, a Dallas night club singer, who said she filmed the Kennedy assassination but the FBI stole her film. Most of what she said has been discredited. She said George killed Doris Grooms and George Fuqua. She was the source for the information that Ruby met Oswald in Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK. Beverly Oliver said that she and George McGann met for several hours with Richard Nixon when he was running for President. If they played poker, I am sure Nixon won. He financed his early political career on poker winnings.

Buford Pusser of Walking Tall fame said George was one of the Dixie Mafia hit-men that killed his wife. It has been written that he killed George McGann but that was not true. A friend of mine was an eye witness to George McGann’s killing in Lubbock, Texas, September 30, 1970. He was an old thirty-three. According to my friend, a group of honky-tonk hero’s numbering four were at a house in the middle of the night. George got a phone call from a woman who said that Jerry Meshell, 30, had abused her. George shot him twice, killing him, while the woman was still on the phone where she could hear. Then George didn’t know what to do. He held my friend and Ronnie Weeden, 31, captive for several hours.

Finally, Weeden went to the back of the house and came back with a pistol. He killed George and did some time for it.I think the Kennedy assassination was a small Dallas-New Orleans conspiracy headed up by Carlos Marcello. At that time, bookies in Dallas laid off bets to Marcello, the real Mafia. Jack Ruby was a bookie. His telephone records are at Texas Tech’s Southwest Collection. It is obvious he was calling Ft. Worth every few minutes in relation to Fall football. Do you think the Kennedy Assassination was a conspiracy?? I hope you like my old stories.

Johnny Hughes

PS. The “Big D” crowd of Johnny Hughes, Garren Hensley, Fibber, Billy T. Dyer and yes, even George Mc Gann were all former stake horse’s of yours truly at one time or another. Pretty fast company for a dumb kid, huh ?

by “San Jose Dick” Mc Morran
For more years than I care to remember my life has consisted of matching up and getting down. The larger cities had great old rooms where all the guys doing the same thing would come together to try and get the best of each other. But most of the time, it was on the road in a strange town where you could slip in, unknown, and get some “soft” action playing the hometown champion. Many times I have wished I’d chosen a little softer career path.
Shortly before the assasination of JFK, I left San Jose and moved to Dallas. It was an ominous beginning to the best 7 or 8 years of my life. Within a few hundred miles of where I settled in Arlington, there was all the action (soft and tough) any player could want. Wichita, O.K. City, Tulsa, Shreveport, and Houston were all less than a tank of gas away. With gas at thirty cents a gallon, my 1959 Buick rarely saw under 80 MPH getting to where the action was.
Now to my story. I’m awakened at 3 AM from a sound sleep by a voice I recognized immediately. It’s U.J. Puckett and he said “Get your ass down here right now”! Only half awake and lying next to the sweetest “pool groupie” I’d ever met, I said “F— you”! U.J. went on to explain. A mutual acquaintance of ours, George McGann was loser some serious money backing U.J. against some young stranger. George wants you to get over here and try and get him even. The kid says he’ll wait so hurry up”. I threw on some clothes and got a warning from Sweetie Pie (she tended bar for George) and she said “Watch out for him, he can be real mean”. I knew that very well. I said “Not to worry, he’s going to be on my side”.
I was forty minutes away from George’s bar on Lemon Street; I made it in twenty five.I knew that George was probably the most dangerous and unpredictable tush-hog in all of Texas. T.J. Parker, who owned a pool room in Houston, was just as mean, but not as crazy. George was known to brag about his many enemies “disappearance”. Yeah, they found him dead in the desert shot full of holes, terrible case of “suicide”. As I entered, George, Puckett and Billy T. (another Dallas tough guy and a real good friend) were sitting at the end of the bar. A young handsome blond guy was dancing to some loud music with his girlfriend. This kid, I learned later, was Surfer Rod Curry. It was our first of many encounters.
The guys filled me in on what had happened. George was $800 loser backing U.J. at $50-$100 eight ball. Billy T. was a few hundred loser side betting. That’s a lot of money in today’s dollars. After trying to get him to play nine ball, Rod finally stopped dancing long enough to flip a coin and we kicked it off for $50 a game eight ball.Bar table eight ball was not my best game. After a few hours of see-sawing, I was a game or two loser. Rod was playing pretty solid. In a flash of brilliance I said “Let’s jack it to $100 and play last pocket”. Rod danced over to the juke box and said “You got it”. Puckett agreed that should give me an edge and sheepishly admitted he should have thought of that.Sure enough, I won about 5-6 games in a row and Rod said “That’s all, I quit”.
I sensed something was going down. Billy T. left (very unusual)and James Pelfrey came in. James was one of George’s pet gofers and a poorly educated, big, mean tush-hog. James would literally “kill” for George. He was a real loose cannon. As Rod is gathering up his stuff, George came out from behind the bar with the biggest handgun I’d ever seen. He put it right up to Rod’s temple and said “You ain’t quitting Mother F—–r!” I tried to calm George down and even told him I wouldn’t play under those conditions. He’s still got the gun two inches from poor Rod’s head, he turned his wild eyes in my direction and said “Yes you will, Dick.” Whatever medication George was on, in his mind, this was an honorable way to get his money back, short of an outright heist. He told Rod if he busted us, he could leave with no problem..right! Rod and I had no choice but to continue the charade at virtual gunpoint. He threw me a few more games (George was still a few hundred loser) and Rod, never short on pure guts, said “I quit, shoot me if you want to”.
Puckett had gotten George calmed down a little by that time and he let Rod and his
sobbing girlfriend leave the joint. I followed him out to the parking lot and his car had been ransacked, trunk pried open, seats and floor mats pulled up, etc. I hadn’t noticed but James had been absent for the last half hour.I was profusely apologetic about what had taken place. He understood it was not my fault. In fact we met and played the very next night, just the two of us, at an undisclosed location. Once again, Rod did not like it. He got robbed without a gun to his head! But that’s another story.

Dale Smith and Sammy Eubank
That probably belonged to Corky Eubank, the younger brother of one of the premier old-time hustlers, Sammy Eubank of Little Rock, AR. The preamble to this story is Corky’s prior job attempt for Sammy. Corky’s booze and dope habit was well known to brother Sam when Corky approached him for a little help in the career department. Sammy realistically knew Corky wasn’t fit to do too many things so he tried to make things as simple and easy as possible. After all, blood should look after blood. The job was this: at 3 pm every day, Corky was to pick up Sammy’s kids from school and drive them home — about 20 minutes each way. For this he would receive $100 a day. There was a stipulation though. Corky must be sober and totally clean for the trip, with Sammy inspecting him thoroughly upon his return. Breathalyzer and eyeball check was taken for granted. Any violation of such would be subject to a pistol whipping. This job proved to be too demanding, and Corky packed it in after only three days. Three in the afternoon was just too long a time to wait between hits. If Sammy could find a school that let the kids out around 11 am, Corky thought he could probably handle that.
This all occurred back in the 80s when Sammy was staying in the suburbs of Chicago, hustling with his lifelong partner, Dale Smith. Sammy and Dale were fearless hustlers, and they even went so far as to prey on various Outfit joints throughout the mobbed-up suburbs. They had been warned to leave the robbing of the customers to the Outfit themselves, but Sammy and Dale flew no flags, took no prisoners, and paid no heed. They had a, “suckers belong to the whole world” philosophy.
Philosophy notwithstanding, being on the wrong side of mob Whack man, Joey the Clown Lombardo, did cause Sammy some paranoid apprehensions. He dealt with those in a very practical way, he paid his brother Corky $300 a week to start his car every morning. I had stayed over at his house a few nights so I got to witness the show first hand, and believe me it was hilarious. Sammy would give Corky the keys, and then he would lay down (I would too) on the floor until the car was safely started. This ritual was repeated daily.
I asked Sammy how he could let his little brother do such a job. He reminded me that Corky wasn’t very talented and he had already tried him at other things including the school pickup thing, plus he only had to work about 10 minutes a week for the $300. I guess that was a pretty high pay scale if you thought about it.

Great stories, and an interview with Richie Florence at his old stomping grounds, the Tropicana Bowling Alley:

Clik for a entertaining, hilarious 7 part audio interview from 2006 with the great Ronnie Allen

Click for another great interview with Ronnie Allen at:

Here’s a story from the Beard:
Johnston City, 1969 or 70

I had the pleasure and privilege of watching Ronnie Allen and Minnesota Fats play Onepocket. I say privilege, because few people were allowed to watch the game. To see Fats play Ronnie, or his other opponent, Richie Florence, you had to be invited. Getting a spot, and maybe getting beat in public, was pretty much the reason Fats would only play to a selected audience. Fatty didn’t want any squares seeing him getting a spot from Ronnie and Richie. I was just a kid then , and it was very exciting. Some earlier scribes, who obviously weren’t there, said Ronnie gave Fats 8 to 6 and Richie Florence gave him 9 to 7. Not true. Richie gave him 8 to 7, and Ronnie played him 9 to 7 and $330 to $300 on the money. ($300 a game in those days is equivalent to about 4 million a game today.) Neither guy had a good game with Fats. Ronnie and Fats broke even the night I watched. Greatest Onepocket performance by both players that I ever saw. Anybody who doubts Fats’ offensive ability is nuts. Fats would shoot a two- railer and stop his cue ball right in front of Ronnie’s pocket. Ronnie would do the same. Ronnie would run 9 and out, and Fats would run 7 and out. Incidentally, Fat’s sevens looked much better than Ronnie’s nines. Fats ran out like Mosconi, and as fast as Lou Butera. They both played fantastic, the games never wound up down table. They played for about 2 hours and might have played as many as 25 to 30 games in that time. 9 and out and 7 and out was just about all they did. Ronnie ran 9 every time he seen the edge of a ball, and Fats ran 7 like it was water. The games lasted an average of about 5 minutes each. The outcome was predictable, after a couple of incredible hours, they were about even and they quit. The odds on the money probably put Fatty a few bucks ahead.

During that same time period Fatty did beat Richie out of 52k, according to a later interview with Richie himself. Richie Florence was a great Nine ball player, and pretty good Onepocket player, but his reign was very, very short. He was basically done and out of the loop before he was 30 years old. At seventeen, he was a world class Nine rocker and super fast gambler. I personally believe his career was shortened due to the brutal punishment and beating he took from Minnesota Fats playing 1 hole in Johnston City. I think Fats gutted him out and he was just never the same afterwards.
A few months before the Johnston City tournament started, Richie and Eddie Kelly had been on the road together, and Richie had just beat Cleo Vaughn in Mobile, ALA out of some serious money to amass the bankroll that he lost to Fats. They started playing about 30 days before the Johnston City tourney started, so Fats had Richie all to himself. The only other player that was there was Ronnie Allen. Ronnie had also been in Mobile, and he suggested to Richie that they go to Johnston City a little early so that they could match up with Fatty. Fatty, was a veteran hustler who knew every horrible psyche move, he was an overmatch to young Richie who had too much heart for his own good. All Richie had to defend himself with, was talent and ability. The brutal way that Fatty out managed, and maneuvered Richie in order to beat him was scandalous. Ronnie Allen wisely stayed out of the game and didn’t have any of Richie’s play. However, I believe that Ronnie was in with Fats. My suspicions have always leaned toward Ronnie having a nip of Fatty’s play. It’s hard to imagine that Ronnie could stand by and watch Richie get jerked around that badly without getting compensated. To this day, Ronnie denies it.
They played when Fats wanted to play; they bet what Fats wanted to bet; they quit when Fats wanted to quit — if Richie started shooting too good, Fats would quit and wait until the next day to continue– if Fats was winning, they would play all night. Fats would show up late, waiting until Richie had plenty of drinks in him before he would play. It was a classic example of just how good a turned-out hustler Fats was. Richie never recovered from the “gutting” Fatty gave him. After that strumming, his pool glory days were over.

Click for a great Fats story by the incomparable Hippie Jimmy Reid:

Here is a link to a great story about the iracible hustler, Benny the Goose Conway. Http://

Strickland wins the 9 Ball, Truman Hogue takes the Banks
Childress #3

Efren Reyes(Caesar Morales) his 1st win at Reds in Houston accustat issue 1985

Secrets of a hardcore pool hustler


1. UJ Puckett on CBS 60 Minutes part 1
interview by Harry Reasoner
2. War Stories of Brother U J Puckett>/a>
UJ Puckett on CBS 60 Minutes part 2
4. The Art of Gamesmanship
How to win — any kind of way
5. Pool Players Diet
6. Kilroy’s Rules of the Road
The Hustler’s Handbook
7. The Best Players for the Big Money $$$
Cornbread, Bugs, Ronnie, etc.
8. The Hillbilly Code
The secret codes of hustlers
9. Knockers and the Poolroom Police
Don’t let this be you.
10. Old Hustles:”Three friends and a stranger”

UJ Puckett on CBS 60 Minutes part 1

Harry Reasoner’s look into the hustler’s life of Utley Puckett on CBS 60 minutes.

Rare cameo appearances of Mexican Johnny, Bananas Rodriquez and Jersey Red.

War Stories of Brother U J Puckett

Originally Posted on AZ billiards forums by Jay Helfert, author of, “Pool Wars.”
“Okay, a Puckett story. We are all in Atlantic City for the first Legends Of Pool. All the old timers are there like U.J., Fats, Lassiter, Crane, Mosconi, Caras, Black Rags Woods, etc. . There is some serious money to be won here, something like twenty five grand to the winner. I was there because Big Fights hired me to write all the bio/promo material for the TV guys to use.
The Straight pool guys all hang together and go to sleep early, but the old hustlers like U.J. and Minnesota Fats stay up late hanging out in the bar, telling stories, drinking and just having a lot of laughs with all assembled. Fats and U.J. are having a blast. After all, the bill is on Big Fights, so they are going to party it up on their dime. The conversation gets around to the recent 60 Minutes show with Harry Reasoner, and U.J. tells everyone that he and Harry are buddies now, and he talks to him all the time. He said they even went fishing together, and hung out for a couple of days after the shoot.
A few in the crowd express doubt about this, since Harry Reasoner is a big TV star. U.J. says “Hell, I’ve got his phone number right here. You want me to call him and talk to him right now?” Now, it’s after one in the morning, and U.J. is a little looped and feeling no pain. He has the bartender bring a phone to our booth and plug it in. No one is really believing him. So U.J. pulls out a piece of paper and calls the number in New York. He wakes Harry Reasoner from a dead sleep. “Wake up Harry, it’s U.J.” But once on the phone they begin to gab.

U.J. puts his hand over the phone and says to us, “He’s got a broad with him”, and he cackles away. Now he hands the phone to Fats, telling Harry there’s someone who wants to talk to him. Fats and Harry talk for like 15 minutes, laughing like hyenas. Then he hands the phone back to U.J. U.J. tells Harry to come on down and hang out with them. Now, I know this is crazy, Harry Reasoner is NOT going to come down to Atlantic City to hang out with a bunch of pool players.

The next day Harry is there –with his girlfriend, a young beauty. No one can believe that THE Harry Reasoner is here sweating the pool players. He hangs around all day watching Fats and U.J. play and then they hit the bar. Harry parties with the best of them, drinking and laughing just like one of the boys. U.J., Fats and Harry are like three little kids, telling jokes, laughing their asses off and drinking up a storm. I hung around and did my gofer thing for them until about 2 AM. Then I went to bed. No telling how long they stayed up. Probably til the wee hours. Harry was gone the next day. U.J. said he had to go back to work.”

Wonderful, wonderful story, Jay. That just shows how unique and fabulous those two characters, UJ and Fatty were. Everybody wanted to hang around them. Presidents or emperors wouldn’t have fazed those two. I feel a special kinship to you Jay, because both of us got to experience and appreciate the specialness of those two extraordinary people. I’m so jealous that I wasn’t there with you. May they live forever.
Freddy the Beard

U J Puckett was one of the most colorful pool players who ever lived. Yes, he was a great sharker and a horrible loser. He was not cut out for tournament play. His act only played well to the hustler cognoscenti. In Hot Springs, AR at the Oaklawn Park race meet in the 80s, UJ hung in “Tommies” poolroom with us. He was 80 plus at the time. In those days I was a bad boy, and like many of us at that time, did cocaine. (No longer, many years clean) In those days almost everybody was a user. So here we are, snorting up in the back of the poolroom when unbelievably, Puckett wanted in! We were all astonished. An 80 year old man wanting to party with us! He laughed and said we all thought we were real cool, when actually he’d partied with coke back in the twenties! That’s when I realized I was in the presence of greatness, an octogenarian with the attitudes of a youth.
I didn’t witness this but heard it many times. It was in the late 60’s or early 70’s.
UJ Puckett was playing at the Stardust Hotel, in a straight pool match with “The Jockey”
(Norman Howard) refereeing. I don’t recall who UJ was playing, but I do know that he was from the East Coast. The guy had just had run like 90 balls, and was only a few balls short of winning. He finally missed, and Puckett stepped to the table to begin his inning. Those of us that knew Puckett can appreciate this gambit more than others, but nevertheless it was still ludicrous.
Puckett really didn’t like straight pool, and he certainly didn’t like some New Yorker keeping him in his chair for, what he felt, was like an eternity. So, when he finally had an opportunity to shoot, you could see volcanic ash running from his nose. He got down and began stroking the ball, when suddenly the Jockey hollered, “FOUL!” Puckett’s shirt cuff had lightly touched an obect ball. Puckett refused to acknowledge the called foul and continued to stroke the ball. The Jockey then said, “That’s a foul Puckett.” UJ got up from the shot and looked the Jockey in the eyes and said, “Son that’s no foul, THIS IS A FOUL!” and proceeded to maniacally rake and scramble the rest of the balls all around the table with his cue stick.
Freddy the Beard
From Bill Stroud of Joss West Cues re an oft told Puckett story:
“When I was on the road with Puckett he told me the true story about this particular adventure. He was gambling and spotting a guy playing One-pocket. In those days there were still clay balls around, and the one ball usually took a real beating from players breaking the rack playing Nine-ball.
As it turned out, in the One-pocket game, the sucker was shooting the one ball at his pocket for his game winning ball. He hit it very hard, and the ball split into two pieces. One piece went to the rail and the other piece when into his pocket.
Puckett saw what happened, stared at his opponent, and finally said, “Looks like you still need a half a ball.””

Final Puckett quote: “A man won’t shoot an air barrel aint trying hard enough.”

UJ Puckett on CBS 60 Minutes part 2

Harry Reasoner’s look into the fabulous hustler’s life of Utley J Puckett on CBS 60 minutes. Part 2
Rare cameo appearances of Mexican Johnny, Bananas Rodriquez, and Jersey Red.

The Art of Gamesmanship

This will be a tips and tid-bits section dealing with gamesmanship, or put another way; how to secure yourself an advantage when playing, hustling, or gambling.

When you played me you might as well expect anything. I was a serious advocate of gamesmanship. I learned it’s power at an early age, when it was used regularly against me and kept me broke. I was very subtle however, and seldom got caught. I could do a little work even in the tough joints. Why do you think Ronnie Allen was so hard to beat? We even came to an understanding once, and he bestowed me the honor of not sharking me if I would not shark him. Maybe the only time in his life where he suspended operations. I often thought of doing a course in gamesmanship, something like in that movie, “School for Scoundrels.”

George Fels

An excerpt from George Fels column, NEW CLOTH, in Billiards Digest, Dec. 1993
“…the perfection of the cloth itself. It has not yet been violated by chalk, dust, or that most sinister of stainers, talcum… Naturally, one cannot ignore the sharking possibilities inherent to these aesthetics. The late billiards player Bud Harris, who played pretty fair pool when he could be coaxed into it, had an undeniably prissy nature; he liked everything just so. Thus he stood no chance whatsoever against the Machiavellian Freddy Bentivegna, despite being a much better player back then, because Freddy would simply bring to the table mounds of powder unrivaled for size except in the jungles of Colombia and the mountains of Peru. One had to peer through perpetual fog to watch Fred flay Bud, and more often than not, what one would see was poor Harris doing a kind of forlorn vertical breast-stroke, striving for a reasonable glimpse of at least table if not balls too. The cloth itself was a wonder to behold, (the Fred/Bud encounters took place on 5’x10′ tables in the classic Bensinger’s, for even greater cloth carnage) Kelly green yielding glumly to …white whorls and whirls and swirls…Michael Jordan made a point to decorate the broadcast announcers with a clap or two of talcum just before tip-off; Jordan reportedly plays decent pool, and you have to wonder if he studied talcum technique at Freddy Bentivegna’s knee.”
Here’s an addendum to the above post: As irritating as talcum clouds might be to a fastidious type player — and this should include almost all 3 cushion players — something almost as effective is to turn the chalk upside down and let the granules leak onto the rail. I used to drive the suit and tie billiard players nuts with that move. In truth I was just as big a neat freak as they were, but I was compensated by how much it jerked their chain.
When hustling in a strange joint, bring your own chalk, powder, and cue ball with you. Here are some tricks to get your own cue ball into the game:
When you are about to start a game, make sure you volunteer to bring the balls to the table, this way you can sneakily switch cue balls at the counter. If your opponent is already playing on the table, suggest playing on a different table. If he concedes, you go get the balls and switch the cue balls. If your opponent refuses to change tables, suggest a compromise and ask for a clean set of balls. He can hardly refuse. To keep him busy when he agrees, tell him you will go get the clean balls if he takes the old set off the table. Switch cue balls at the counter.
Advice on lagging for the break: Make sure your opponent goes first. This will allow you to measure his speed of stroke. It is at least a 25% advantage.
When flipping for the break, if flipping a penny, call tails. It’s a 10 to 15% advantage over the normal 50/50 due to the weight disparity on one side. If you are able to make the penny spin on the table, your advantage goes up to at least 60%.
Here’s how strong gamesmanship can be. I was in Milwaukee, WI playing in the National 8 ball Bar Team League Championships in 82 or 84 (I forgot). There were about 200 teams and this was the final shot of the final game of the final match. My team was a strong one, Artie Bodendorfer, Johnny Abbruzzo (greatest team 8 ball player ever), George Powalski (a legitimate 250 ball runner) and me, I was the anchor man. I wound up frozen on the long rail, with the 8 ball between the foot spot and the pocket, and dead straight in. It was not that hard a shot but it was worth $5000, and it was hard to keep the trembles from showing. Needless to say, I dogged it brutally and I miscued. Now I may have been shaky, but I hadn’t lost my ability to think on my feet, so as the cue ball drizzled away from the rail, I caught it with the bottom of the shaft of my stick and rolled it back to be refrozen to the rail, leaving my opponent a tough cut shot on his last ball. It all occurred in one smooth motion, and in those days you could make a guy shoot again after a foul, but there was no cue ball in hand. My opponent shot, missed and left me the length of the table away from the 8. Revitalized now, and with nothing else left to lose, I had already embarassed myself, I hit the 8 as hard as I could, made it, and the cue ball flew around the table and fortunately didn’t scratch. We made the front page of the Billiard News.

Jimmy Reid and Keith McCready

When you are not blessed with natural talent, you have to develop other skills. For example, I was playing in Monroe Brock’s big tournament in Richmond, KY at the Maverick Club. Keith McCready was my opponent, and we were playing 6 out of 11, short rack 9 ball banks. The score was, Keith 5 games to my zero, when I broke the balls and didn’t make anything. Keith banked 4, missed a tough shot for the session ball, and left me hanging in the corner pocket at the foot of the table with no shot. Responding criminally to a hopeless situation, I took a ball out of the ball return box and put it on the spot, giving myself a cross-side. Keith, thinking HE must have broke the balls and made one, didn’t bat an eye. I banked 3 from there, played safe, and wound up winning that game and the next 5 to take the session! There were sweators in the bleachers that knew what had happened, and they were writhing in their seats trying to mentally tip Keith off. Later in that first game, Keith counted the balls that were left, and realized that the score didn’t add up right. He knew something was wrong, but couldn’t put his finger on it. I cooled him out by allowing that no matter what, he still only needed 1 ball, and that was the one thing we were both in agreement about. He also agreed that I banked 3, so what was it we were arguing about? Gamesmanship was my compensation for the discrepancy between Keith and my shot-making skills. Did I feel guilty about it? Nah.
I guess I’m old enough so it don’t matter anymore, so I am going to release what I always considered one of the greatest sharks of all. I rate it as great mainly because it could be used even in super tush-hog spots. It’s basically near un-prosecutable, or discoverable. It was invented by my good friend from Chicago, who now lives and plays in the San Fran/Oakland area, George Michaels. George still plays good so he might not be happy that I am giving his creation up to strangers.

George would stand just off the main line of the shooters sight line with his stick in his hand, butt on the floor, and it standing straight up. While his opponent was stroking, George would slowly lean, perfectly to one side, stick and all, so he would be standing there straight and very still, but at about a 25 degree angle. If his opponent caught even a glimpse at George it could very well confuse his visual perceptions.

Pool Players Diet

If you are planning to gamble that night, don’t eat a big meal. Eat light. You will always play better hungry.

If you know your going to be in action within an hour or two, don’t eat a meal at all. Instead, have a candy bar, a bag of peanuts, or something to that effect.

Pool hustler’s are nocturnal, and usually eat either after they play, which is usually after they win, or after the pool room closes.

A pool hustler’s gourmet menu:

Filet ala Oscar, and a pine float.
(Boloney sandwich, and a toothpick in a glass of water.)

Evening dinner:
Entree of Grilled Tube steak. Finish with Chateau Le Thunder Bird.
(A hot dog and a fifth of T-Bird wine — it used to cost 60 cents a bottle)

Here’s a Roy “Kilroy” Kosmanski story about the realities of pool hustling:
A guy goes into a doctor’s office. “Doc, I think I’m constipated, I ain’t shit in a week.” The doctor prescribes a strong laxative. Guy returns the next day. “Doc, I still ain’t shit.” Doctor prescribes a super powerful laxative, guaranteed to work. Next day the guy is back again. “Still nothing, Doc.” The doctor is perplexed, and decides to dig into the man’s routine. “By the way sir, what do you do f for a living?” “I’m a pool hustler, Doc.” the man replies. The doctor lights up in realization. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place. Here’s a couple of dollars, go get yourself something to eat!”

Kilroy’s Rules of the Road

Secrets from “Kilroy’s” Old-Time Hustler’s Handbook & Rules of the Road.
Items from my personal Hustler’s Handbook. These are lessons that the “Square Johns” that hung in the poolroom were never made privy to — until now. The Handbook was first put together by Roy “Kilroy” Kasmanski, the great “lemon hustler” from Detroit. They were known as his Rules of the Road.

Kilroy’s rule #1
Always keep a warm blanket in the trunk to use for sleeping in the car, and in case the car breaks down in winter.
Rule #2
Learn to sleep comfortably in the back seat of a car.
Rule #2a
Kilroy says to take a can opener and a spoon with you on the road, ” ’cause it’s easier to eat the canned beans if ya’ got the right tools.”
Rule #3
When you are going to “scoot the check” (leave without paying) in a restaurant. Make sure you have a large bill folded over the check just in case you get stopped outside. This way you can convincingly demonstrate that paying the check just slipped your mind and you can show the attached money as proof.
Rule #4
(This old-time hustler’s road advice no longer applies, it comes from the days when there were no credit cards and you had to put up your luggage as collateral in a hotel. You couldn’t get past the front desk with your luggage without paying your bill.)
Never go on the road without taking a long rope with you. Reason: When you are getting ready to leave the hotel and duck paying the bill, use the rope to lower your luggage out of the window down to your associate, who recovers it, throws it in the car, and down the road you go.
Rule #5
On the road, where do you keep your bankroll? Never keep it in your wallet. Keep it in many different pockets. This way if you get jack-rolled or heisted, it’s unlikely they will get all the money.
Freddy the Beard’s Rule #6
If you are gambling in a bad joint and you become forced to defend yourself outside, and you happen to wear glasses; to insure that at the very least, the glasses don’t get broken, throw them under a parked car before the melee. I say this from personal experience, I once had to fight my way out of a hillbilly bar. I returned later, and recovered my untouched specs from under the vehicle. As an aside, I did get away with all the money also.
Rule #7
Always keep a 2 foot rubber hose in the trunk for when you’re broke and out of gas, so you can sereptitiously siphon enough fuel out of someone else’s tank to get you going. (This old-time hustler’s road advice no longer applies with the new gas tanks)
Rule #8
A Pool Hustler’s gourmet menu:
Lunch:Filet ala Oscar, and a pine float.(Boloney sandwich, and a toothpick in a glass of water.)Evening dinner:Entree of Grilled Tube steak. Finish with Chateau Le Thunder Bird.( A hot dog and a fifth of T-Bird wine. 1960 price, 60 cents a bottle.)

Anonymous said:
“Freddy, you are making the road sound pretty brutal. When do the tips come for the good times on the road. Like the day after a big score when you get to get the big suite and relax by the pool with the hookers?”
Freddy the Beard said:
“Ah yes, Anonymous, but these tips are the things that help you to survive and eventually have an opportunity to make a score and party with the hooker’s. Those stories will be related in other posts.”
Rule #9
To protect against getting ripped off in a strange pool room, put your coat and cue case under the table you are playing on. This advice applies double in cold weather.
Rule #9a
If you see two guys shaking hands in a poolroom, one of them is a sucker.
Rule #9b
If you are in a poolroom or a card game and you can’t figure out who the sucker is, then it’s probably you.
Rule #10
If you have to drink coffee, make sure to leave the cover on the cup. That will discourage, the “Jar hustlers” (Unscrupulous rogues that put scopolomine in your drink) from just passing over the cup and dropping the “jar”in. That makes it much harder for them to ply their evil trade.
Rule #11
Put up the money before every session — and have somebody you know hold the stakes. Get paid after every game, and don’t sleep any scratches. Never mark games up on the wire unless you’re the guy with the short money.
Freddy the Beard’s Rule #12
When leaving a tough spot where you just won the money and sense there will be trouble from the losers, send whoever didn’t do the playing out first. They won’t follow him as long as you are still in the joint with the money.Your associate’s instructions are simple: Get the car, pull it right in front of the place with the motor running, the passenger door open, and the car pointed towards home.I once had a partner who left the last part out. He did everything perfect except pull the car out of the parking space. I went outside, jumped in the car, and while he was maneuvering out of the parking space, the bad guys descended, pulled their guns and got in the car. I eventually escaped, with all the cheese, and my life and limb, but that’s another story.The reasoning behind my instructions are sound, the tush-hogs will seldom pull a shot in the joint. They would rather wait and do their mischief outside, where nobody can see anything to call the police about.
Rule #13
A good place to hide your bankroll in a motel room is inside the shower-curtain rod. It’s hollow and can be easily removed and replaced.You may have to remove 1 or 2 screws, so pack a combo, Phillips/Square-head screwdriver for such occasions.Don’t quote me on this, but a curtain rod also makes a good stash for illicit chemicals.

Kilroy’s advice regarding gambling with a very hard-nosed player: “Don’t bet against him. He tries so hard he puts fingerprints in the slate.”

A Kilroy story about the realities of pool hustling:A guy goes into a doctor’s office. “Doc, I think I’m constipated, I ain’t sh*t in a week.” The doctor prescribes a strong laxative. Guy returns the next day. “Doc, I still ain’t sh*t.” Doctor prescribes a super powerful laxative, guaranteed to work. Next day the guy is back again. “Still nothing, Doc.” The doctor is perplexed, and decides to dig into the man’s routine. “By the way sir, what do you do for a living?” “I’m a pool hustler, Doc.” the man replies. The doctor lights up in realization. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place. Here’s a couple of dollars, go get yourself something to eat!

The Best Players for the Big Money $$$

(Cornbread and me. Probably my all-time favorite pool pic)

I look at this question from a little different perspective. I rate not who played the best for the big money, but rather who you had better not give a gamble to. Some guys played great for big money, but they always had a good game. My respect goes out to those guys that didn’t need a good game, just a good gamble. Just show them that they could win big money, and how good the game was was secondary. Artie Bodendorfer played great for big money, but he wouldn’t play with a bad game. Cornbread Red Burge, Ronnie Allen and Leonard “Bugs” Rucker, their only requirement for playing was to just give them a gamble and tititlate them with the prospect of a score. Having the worst of it did not really matter. Actually, every time I ever seen those guys playing for the big stuff they had the worst of it. The standard advice about playing one of those guys for big cheese was, “Whatever it is you think you need to have the nuts, you better still try to get one or two more balls, if you want to win. I never in my life seen any of those guys get an even-up gamble for the mega-bucks. As the bet went up, so did their competitive nature.

The key factor that those guys had for outrunning the nuts, was when they did come with a shot they got all the way out! Games that had both players in the one-hole were rare because those guys never stopped on the game ball. If I had to pick the most frightening guy to play with for giant money out of those three it would have to be Cornbread Red. As the bet went up his already long slip stroke would lengthen ever further. I will never forget a set for 30k he won in Philly playing “Cornflakes” (aka John “World” Hennigan, he now plays in the World Series of Poker) with me, Buddy Hall, and Wade Crane each betting 1800 each on Red. Cornbread was shooting at a triple-shimmed 4″ pocket, and he had a long straight-back for the money. He long-stroked it in 100mph. After the set he grumbled that he didn’t have time to go home to Detroit and get more money to bet than the measly 30k. He was my hero and I miss him terribly.

Here is a poem dedicated to that great man:

The Pilgim, Chapter 34
By Cowboy Dennis

See him standing at the table
With the cue stick in his hand
He’s played in every poolroom
And all the bars throughout the land

They say to be the best
You have to beat this man
This man with nerves of steel
And piano player hands

His amazing grace and accuracy
Have shot men down like lambs
Many men have tried to take him
At oh so high a cost
Many men that thought themselves better
Have only to say “I lost”

Yet they still keep trying
To take him if they can
Somehow they think that if they win
It makes them the better man

But he’s been around forever
And he’s paid all his dues
So everyone knows he’s still the best
If occasionally he should lose

He’s played for hundreds and thousands
Sometimes for days and days
He’s played the best the world can offer
And takes the cash and all the praise

He’s a legend in his own time
He’s a hustler supreme
He’s a gentleman with the ladies
He’s the best that we have seen

He’s a killer when it comes to pool
A shark in a sea of fish
To play with his ability
Mortal men have wished

Who is this man with steely nerves
And hair of fading red
To some he’s known as Billy Burge
But he’ll go down in history
As the one and only “CornBread Red

The Hillbilly Code

“Tom” and “George” are two of the secret components of the “Hillbilly Hustler’s Code.” There are many more words and hand signals that all “made” hustlers used throughout the country in the old days. Using the word or name”Tom,” in any conversation denoted something “bad.” Conversely, the word or name “George,” meant something or whatever, was “good.” You knew you were a “made” scuff when someone taught you the hand signs and code words. It was a small tight group. You all would be surprised to find out just how many old-time, famous pool hustler/players were never made privy to that info.

Sample code words for playing cards or pool balls:

One ball or Ace ………….play
Two ball or deuce………..sit or sh*t
Four ball or four……………funny
Seven ball or seven…….certainly or certain
Eleven ball or Jack……….break
Thirteen ball or King…….come

Hustler talk:
“Laying out a spread.”
A ploy used to lure a victim into a bad game or trap. It’s lIke laying out a banquet spread on a buffet table, seemingly with all kinds of goodies to choose from. But when you go to bite into something it bites back. ‘Frisco Jack Cooney was the acknowledged master of this manuever. I also used this move to beat Archie The Greek Karas out of 200 grand.

Knockers and the Poolroom Police

How does one conduct ones self in the poolroom? It depends on whether you have a huster’s mentality or a square-johns. A hustler is looking to CREATE action, ALLOW action, and WIN MONEY. If you are hanging in the poolroom with a hustler’s mentality then you should learn to hate the knockers and the mother hens that run around looking to “protect” their flock, the self-appointed poolroom patrolmen. If you want to make sure that every game is exactly even (and who are you to make that determination?), and take it personal when you see someone going “off,” why did you pick a poolroom to spend your time in the first place? When I was coming up, knocking was a dangerous profession. If a player came around that I knew and nobody else did, it was professional courtesy to keep my mouth shut and let grown men take care of themselves. The pluses for this type of behavior was many; you could bet on the side, you could discreetly ask the player for a piece of his action, and you could ask for a consideration bite after the player won. By keeping the player anonymous, you could take him to other spots and win more money. Lastly, If you had a treacherous nature, as some did then, after accumulating trust by keeping silent you could later steer the player into a game where he couldnt win. If the players knew they could go somewhere, get action and not get knocked, this encouraged other players, some not so good, to come around and want to play in your place. This made for an action spot where everybody had a chance to make money. In Chicago’s Bensingers, and Detroit’s Rack and Cue, knockers were looked upon as pariahs and were always at risk for physical violence.

Here is a good example of how this works out well for everybody concerned (except the victims):
I brought Jack Cooney to the all-black poolrooms on the South and West Side of Chicago. There were several players in each room that knew Cooney. None said a word. However, after Jack took each joint off, they all came around with their hands out and all received fair consideration.

I always thought that you went to a poolroom to play, gamble and compete. Knocking does nothing
to further those concepts.

Old Hustles:”Three friends and a stranger”

This was a hustle designed to catch a live sucker with a bankroll, in a bar. There would be three of us in the bar challenging the table. We acted as if we were three separate guys. Only one of us would be shooting good. Finally, one of us would declare that it would be more fun to play partners because we wouldn’t have to sit out games that way. Naturally the sucker would choose the “good” shooter as his partner. We would reluctantly agree but one of the weak looking guys would demand a raise in the bet so he could have a chance to get even. The larceny would come out in the sucker, since the apparent best player was his partner. Now, one of the other two partners begins to shoot good and the suckers partner starts to tail off. Now the sucker, after a few payoffs, wants to change partners and get the new hot shooter. The guy that hasn’t made a ball yet, agrees only if the bet goes up again so, “he can have a chance to get even.” This combo doesn’t work out for the mark either. Finally, the sucker quits the partner game and wants to play head up with the third guy who hasn’t made a ball all night. I was usually the third guy. Of course we raise the bet again, and I come to life just enough to finally bust him. A funny comment one determined sucker made while deep into the spread was, “I’ll beat you three mother——s yet!” Try as he might he never could find the correct combination

Pontificating with The Beard

This is me, Freddy the Beard posting my own blog. I will be pontificating on the sociopathic, political, and philosophical views I garnered and honed during my 50 years in the underworld. Also I will talk about pool, and periodically snitch off some secret tid-bits. Let’s just see where we go with this.


1. Little Richard — when he was really little.
2 Charles Manson Parole Hearing 1996
3 The way it was: The Boogie Woogie –oh yeah! Here’s how they are doing it right now in Switzerland (it’s very popular there). The dance the kids are doing was known as the Jitterbug. Eat your hearts out!
4 Anita O’Day Take The A Train
5 Marciano/Walcott Title Fight
6 Dino’s Fancy Cardician’s Riffle Pass
7 How I rate the Billiard Magazines
8 Michael Vick/ Doggie Style
9 Missive for the day, Ann Coulter
10 Teachers packing in schools?
11 Wher iz dey? WMD’s.
12 Sean Pig Penn
13 My Night Out at the IPT Event
14 My personal pin-up girls
15 The Last Days of Bugs Rucker

Charles Manson Parole Hearing 1996

Saturday, February 23, 2008
How I rate the Billiard Magazines
Billiard Digest = two to three tripper
I rate pool magazines by how many trips to the john they last with me doing number two. Billiards Digest takes from 2 to 3 seatings on the donicker to finally finish. All other pool mags are finished by me in a single sit. Sometimes, George Fels’s column uses up one whole squat all by itself.

Saturday, February 23, 2008
Michael Vick/ Doggie Style
Here’s hoping that Michael Vick lands among some serial-killer dog lovers when he checks into the hoosegow. Then we’ll see how he likes getting it “doggie style.”

Monday, February 11, 2008
Missive for the day, Ann Coulter
While I spent the 60s and 70s as a full blown Hippie, time has mellowed me out and changed my perspectives. I now fantasize having sex with Ann Coulter rather than Gracie Slick.

Friday, February 1, 2008
Teachers packing in schools?
Another incident of a student going on a shooting rampage in Cleveland. A sensible solution to the teachers that want to pack guns in schools would be for the local police depts. to set up special task forces of policeman qualified to teach in high schools. They would serve double duty as cops assigned to the schools as instructors. The high school would be their beat. On the low end they could be gym or shop teachers. On the high side they could be college grads with degrees in education. Their educational bonafides would determine their pay scale on the police force. For example, a college grad could start off as perhaps a sergeant (after completing the normal police training). This idea would serve to temper the understandable resistance from parents not wanting their children to attend classes with teachers who are carrying weapons. Working out the details of who pays what shouldn’t be too hard. The school has to pay a teacher anyway. How much the police dept. would have to add to the salary would be the biggest obstacle, since that type of double duty teacher would deserve to be paid more than an ordinary teacher, and on the other side, more than an ordinary policeman.

Friday, February 1, 2008
Wher iz dey? WMD’s.
When is somebody of some consequence, be they democrat or republican, going to ask the question that has been bugging me personally for 6 yrs, “What happened to the weapons of mass destruction that nobody could find in Iraq?” Ok, we know they weren’t there when we arrived, but where did they go? Saddam sure as hell did have them at one time. He boffed-in a couple hundred thou Kurds and Iranians with ’em. What did he do with ’em? Destroy ’em? Where is any evidence that that happened? Bury ’em? Burn ’em? Dump ’em in the ocean? Give ’em away? If give ’em away, to who? Syria? Iran? Good-Will Charities?
Nobody even speculates on what might have happened. We captured many of the top guys, including Saddam, and not one peep about the dispensation of said items. Apparently that was a question that those guys weren’t even asked. A couple of ’em got hung. You would think to save their necks they would have at least ‘fessed that up. Conspiracy? Cover-up? By both parties, left and right? Could the answer be so horrible that the dems and repubs have both agreed to keep the story under the rug? The answer is certainly above my pay grade, but believe me, somebody sure as shit knows.

Friday, February 1, 2008
Sean Pig Penn
For this creeps latest, thumb-his-nose at America caper — suck-holding Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez — if there was some way I could be his punishment administrator, I would sentence him to have to win in order to eat, by making pool games in the old Bensingers, or NY’s old 7-11, with a no-bite or walking stick clause after he books a loser. Let Mexican Johnny or Brooklyn Jimmy give him his just desserts. Since that scenario is only a fantasy, I’ll have to take refuge in the delicious thought of how much abuse he received at the hands of Madonna when he was married to her

My Night Out at the IPT Event

I was one of the 50 invitees to the Bustamonte/Deuel Internet match game last night. I would first like to say how amazed I am at all the criticism leveled at last night’s festivities by so many AZ forum contributors. With all the beefing and squawking about the sound, and interruptions caused by a problem with the Internet streaming company in Calif., something that the IPT had absolutely no control over, you would think that the IPT was charging a Pay Per View price to see the show. It was a freebie, fellas, a freebie. Sheez. An ambitious, expensive attempt to get something started again for pool players. I, for one, had a good time. In my view the whole operation was a first class operation. The 50 sweators were treated to a lavish free buffet of food and drink before the match. Pizza from Giordano’s, Italian Beef, Sausage, Poor Boy sandwiches, and salad. They had a sexy waitress bringing in free drinks all during the match. When I asked Grady if the IPT had finished paying off all their old debts to the players, he said the final payment went out and now everybody has gotten their money. Terrific, if true. With so much groaning about the IPT payouts I think back to my Johnston City days whereby you would have to stay 3 weeks and beat the 64 best players in the world to win $2000 for each event and $2000 for the all-around. I was dumb enough back then to think that that was generous. That should give you some idea of how poor other pool payouts were at that time. Those of you who watched the match online surely must have noticed the bevy of lovelies that were flitting around; The score girl, the director, the waitress, Bustamonte’s 3 Filipino girlfriends, Rachel Abbink, and about 8 or 9 more beauties that had my old pal Mike Sigel thinking about getting hair plugs. The best part, however, was the match itself. Bustamonte shot the numbers off the balls. Man, did he play good! Corey didn’t really play badly, but Busty was breaking so good that Corey didn’t get to the table often enough to win. On that slow IPT cloth, Busty was shattering the balls with his break. They’re gonna do it all again on Mar. 5th. Hopefully, they will have the streaming problems ironed out by then. No matter, I’m still looking forward to the next one.

The Beard

(Jeez, I just realized that this post is so IPT positive, maybe Trudeau might give me a job, or at least a couple of free self-help books.)

My personal pin-up girls

The two great porn stars of the 70s, Seka and Juliet Anderson (Better known in the porn world as Aunt Peg) My old backer used to produce x-rated movies and he took me to a porn star convention and introduced me to my childhood idols, Seka and Juliet.

The Last Days of Bugs Rucker
Bugs Rucker,  fact and fiction

When Bugs played Minnesota Fats in Johnston City in the early 60s, Joey “The Cincinnati Kid” Spaeth was staking him. A great player himself, Joey did not often back other players. However, Spaeth had just come from Chicago where he had the misfortune to have played Rucker. While there, Joey instantly became a convert to the Bugs Rucker fan club, when in a game of Onepocket with Spaeth only needing one ball to win, and everything seemingly out of play, Bugs banked all of the remaining balls into his pocket to win the game. He banked eight and out into one pocket! Joey had never seen anything like it before, and I personally have never seen or heard anything like it since.

Also in Johnston City, Illinois, Bugs spotted Hall of Famer, Buddy Hall two balls playing banks, 10 to 8 — and won the money. Perhaps you think maybe Buddy played badly — he didn’t. Buddy made every makeable ball he shot at, played dead-nuts safeties, never dogged anything, and still lost every game. That was the kind of bank speed the mighty Bugs had.

During the filming of The Color Of Money, Leonard “Bugs” Rucker, was originally slated to play the black guy that hustles and beats Paul Newman. Bugs was absolutely helpless as an actor, and couldn’t do a single line. They finally gave up on him and installed Forest Whitaker to do the part. The rest is history. Whitaker is an oscar winning actor today.

Requiem to a Champion

After visiting my dying pal yesterday, Bank pool and One pocket champion, the once mighty, Leonard “Bugs” Rucker, and seeing him in such a fragile emaciated state, I couldn’t help but think back to more glorious times for the man. Times when he would sweep into a poolroom with an entourage rivaling Muhammed Ali, confidently looking for the big-time action. Back then, Bugs was tall, broad-shouldered, powerfully built and nattily attired. No relation whatsoever to the skinny pile of bones deteriorating in that hospital bed. I guess it’s true, life can sometimes be all too cruel.But overall his life was a glorious one. He was afforded legendary status, feared and respected by his pool peers.
We had always been friends, but we were also bitter adversaries. We played each other on sight. Because he was so great, I wanted badly to beat him. He was the supreme target and goal, and I would do anything in my power to win over him, and that shamelessly included everything in my hustler’s bag of tricks. If I could, I would cheat, shark, and steal balls. For me to invent personal justification for such larcenous chicanery is testimony to the level of competition I thought I would need to summon in order to beat him. Sharking was a waste of time, however. He was totally unflappable, and was oblivious to even the great sharkers like Ronnie Allen, Alphonse Daniels, and Preacher Red Jones. While I would commit almost any crime to win, Bugs played on the up and up. In a contradiction of terms, Bugs was a totally honest pool hustler. He never cheated, took any cheap shots or put in any false claims. I guess he didn’t need to do any of that stuff, because on the table and in the game, he was a deadly killer. If you were dumb enough to give him an honest gamble he would bury you. He doesn’t have much time left, but I just can’t bring myself to go back to the hospital anymore. Age and disease can make cowards of us all.

I visited Bugs at St Margaret’s Hosp. monday. I brought him another 1k (grand) collected from the good folks who participated in Steve Booth’s charity raffle. I have another 1k to give to his daughter Sondrea tomorrow. That makes about 5k so far with more to come. Later, for a real revelation regarding how tuned in Bug’s family was to his profession.

You might never see another champion the likes of the mighty Bugs Rucker. He could play anywhere, on any table, for any bet. He didn’t even have his own cue stick. Even if someone gave him one, he would usually sell it within a week. He could play with one directly out of the wall racks. He ducked no champions, but many champions ducked him. If you were dumb enough to play him a short set, like two out of three for all of it, nobody outside of Cornbread Red or Ronnie Allen could handle that kind of pressure like he could. Let’s celebrate him a little while he is still with us.

Bug’s daughter Sondrea and I were visiting him at the same time, whereupon I discovered that she didn’t have a clue as to what her daddy did for a living for all those years. Finding out he was the world’s bank pool champion for 20 yrs. and a member of the Bank Pool, and One Pocket Hall of Fame was a complete surprise to her. All she could relate to what he did was that he would leave town for a few weeks and return home flush with money. It turns out nobody in the immediate family knew anything about his pool career including his son, his mother and his wife! “They thought I was just a bum.” was Bug’s reply to me. Why he never told them anything remains a mystery. I can only guess that his family was probably very religious and strait-laced. (This later proved to be the case)

Bug’s Birthday
Today, Aug 18, is Leonard “Bugs” Rucker’s 69th birthday. He is spending the day in St Margaret’s hospital with a bad case of diabetes and a missing leg. He asked me to bring him a special birthday lunch, king crab legs and baby-back ribs. I dont know if that’s a healthy thing to do, but I’m gonna do it anyway. The meal cost pretty good too, so I put him to work autographing balls. I brought my son, Dino with me. Bugs hadn’t seen Dino in about 15 years, but his mind is still sharp and he recognized and acknowledged Dino immediately. That made my son feel good and glad that he had come with me. Happy birthday to a great champion.

Memorial Service Program & pics from Bug’s Wake

More Pics from Bug’s wake

The service was wonderful, many of Chicago’s finest players attended, mostly the old school guys, however. We had a little gospel singing and a little evangelistic preaching, it was great and uplifting. The guy who sang a solo gospel tune played as good as Lou Rawls. After the service about 16 of us went to Chinatown and had a feast at The House of Fortune. Ed Young, the famous cuemaker did the ordering. The champ had a really nice send-off.