Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: Not a political post, The Color of Money

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    West Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    9,934

    Default Not a political post, The Color of Money

    I've been pestering my Wife to watch some old classic movies instead of old HBO series like Suits or Six Feet Under (which we are enjoying again) just for the variety. But She's not interested in anything with Bogart or older. No Casablanca or Sahara or Treasure of the Sierra Madre or To Have and Have Not, etc. She did suffer to watch Network with me, the nineteen-seventy-six classic with William Holden, Robert Duval, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Ned Beatty. "I'm mad as hell! And I'm not gonna take it anymore!" Fun movie and a gas to see the dated movie tech.

    And then somehow She added The Color of Money to the list I can choose from. She's a Paul Newman fan, as am I. She met him once, when she lived on the East coast for a time as a twenty-something. One night, working in a restaurant, he tapped Her on the shoulder to get by as he was walking through. She said She was surprised how short he was, and how blue his eyes.

    So when I brought up in conversation that it was the sequel to the original movie The Hustler, the story of Fast Eddy Felson, I suggested we watch that first, because, of course. Sixties B&W, Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, a real tour de force. The Hustler one night, The Color of Money the next, with Tom Cruise when he was young and bright, and good, too.
    Speak softly and carry a mouthful of marbles.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    West Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    9,934

    Default Re: Not a political post, The Color of Money

    Unexpectedly, the movies dredged up old childhood, teenager, memories for me. When I was a kid we played pool. There was a pool hall in the old downtown of my hometown. Of course then I was too young to shoot pool in a bar. My Old Man taught us when we were old enough to get it, how to shoot pool the right way, how to make a proper bridge, how to calculate not just the shot in front of you but the 'shape' for the subsequent shots following sinking the first one if you made it, and the importance of a smooth stroke as opposed to just whamming on it, why you use chalk on the cue's tip and what 'english' is. When we were old enough to get downtown on our own with five bucks to rent a table for an hour, during the summer when school was out, we'd be there.

    In our hometown pool room there was, as typical back in that day, in the large airy room, twenty or so regulation pool tables, the walls and the structural support pillars around the room lined with racks of cues. All the tables had a proper hanging light over the middle, supplied by some beer company. And over in one corner by itself, and usually empty and available, a single regulation billiard table.

    Even though the marquis outside the entrance advertised billiards, being a little classier for marketing purposes than pool, it was a classic pool hall. One billiards table and, IIRC, one snooker table.

    My Old Man told us that when he was a kid fresh out of the navy after WWII, back in LA where he grew up, going to school on the GI bill, at USC and UCLA, he and his best, life-long friend, the piano player in my Old Man's big band, they would hang out at the pool hall downtown, Santa Monica, shooting, actually hustling, billiards for walking around money. He told us back then it was the other way around—that a typical 'pool hall' was filled with billiards tables and maybe one pool table. They'd play each other waiting for a 'whale' to show, and when they spotted the rich guy coming back with his cue in a case, they'd hold theirs up, mimicing fishing poles and reeling him in.

    ***
    For those of you who aren't familiar, 'pool' is played with sixteen numbered balls, half of which are solid colored and the other half the same, matching colors but with a broad stripe—solids and stripes, and played on a table with six pockets, one in each corner and one in the middle of both long sides. The standard game, straight pool, consists of players alternating turns, trying to sink the balls in sequence, each ball sunk good for one point. The game is played, usually, to fifty. Whoever sinks fifty balls, rack after rack, first, wins. Variations include nine-ball, which uses only the solids and the nine, which is the first stripe in the sequence. Same game procedure, shooters alternate as long as they make a shot they continue, when they miss, the next player shoots. In nine-ball, the five ball is worth money, or points, and the nine ball is worth more money and wins the game. If you can sink the nine-ball in conjuction with shooting the proper next ball in sequence, you win the game, and the money, no matter how many balls are still left on the table. A good plaryer can actually sink the nine on the break and win the game with that single shot. Rare but it happens. Nine ball is what they played for the dramatic competitions in the two movies.

    Billiards, OTOH, is played with only three balls, on a regulation table but with no pockets. Each player is assigned one of the solid white cue balls, distinguishable because one of them has a tiny but noticeable dot on it. The other ball is a solid color, usually red. The game is played by players alternating shots after the break, and a player continues for as long as he makes his shot. In straight pool and the variations, proper game etiquette is to 'call' your shot, say which ball you'll sink in which pocket. In billiards, the game might be played in total silence—whether the shot is made or not is too obvious. The way a point is made, a player shoots to knock his cue ball into the red, or object ball, and the other player's cue ball in whichever sequence, and also bounce off or touch the cushions on the edges of the table at least three times. The game is often called 'three cushion billiards.' When a shot is made, the player's cue ball hitting the other one and the object in some combination with three cushions, it's called a 'billiard' and good for one point. The game goes to whatever total the players agree on beforehand. And when playing for money, a billiard is worth a unit of cash, a penny, a dime or a buck, whatever, and side bets, on tricky or difficult shots are common. And that's where the money comes in.

    When our Old Man taught us all that, and then actually took us to the pool hall to play with us as part of his tutelage, we were literally the only ones to shoot billiards, and I don't think I've ever met another guy my age who plays billiards. When I was in the service, every barracks had a dayroom where you could lounge and relax when off-duty, and each one always had at least one pool table along with the vending machines for snacks and beverages. A cool thing, overseas, the drink vending machines were stocked with Bud and Coors in addition to Coke and Pepsi.

    Every dayroom and every bar, at the bases I was stationed at there was also a dedicated rec center, with more tables and vending machines, and usually crowded. And I got a chance more than once to wow my buddies when I got the billiards balls and racked them up on the table with no pockets, which was usually empty. A good shooter can make a dozen billiards in a row, the champion shooters play rack after rack without missing a shot, fifty shots in a row for a game where the other player didn't even get a turn.

    ***
    When I was in Korea, unaccompanied, meaning without wife and family for a solid year, all my off-duty time, when I wasn't down in the 'ville drinking beer and watching the dancers, was spent in the rec center, and my roomate in the barracks there, a guy who worked on my team in the secure compound on the top of the hill, taught me to play foosball. Real foosball. He was a champ. Literally, in his hometown, Phoenix, before his time in the bag, he earned drinking (and cocaine) money playing foosball competitively. The guy taught me how to defend my goal and how to make shots past the other guy's defense. There were half a dozen guys, regulars in the rec center who played at that level. My friend could ring the bell at will, and he was the best.

    Drop the little white solid ball in the center of the table, watch it roll to within touching distance and then, with a motion of his wrist you couldn't actually see because it was so quick, he'd snap the ball into the goal. Ding. And then look up and see the astonishment on his opponents face.

    We'd play for hours at a time. The game was so intense, I'd be standing hunched over my goal, my hands on the rods tensed in anticipation. I knew it was coming. He'd watch my eyes while 'dribbling' the ball casually back and forth between his 'men,' and then, boom, ding! Point. Game. Pay up. Which was usually my time to buy the beer.

    The rec center would sponsor competitions. They'd post a sign-up sheet, and a couple dozen guys would show up to play. By the time I had been adequately schooled by my buddy Randy on how to play, and I could actually beat him once or twice out of the hundreds of games we played, I recognized a dozen players of those who signed up for a competition. There were half a dozen tables and the games were fast, the sound of the balls dropping and being shot and blocked, back and forth, punctuated by the ding of the goal winning shot. During the hot summer, even though the joint was air-conditioned, I remember standing at my side of the table in a literal pool of sweat I'd dripped on the floor, so intense were the games.

    Randy was so good, and so confident, though not a boor about it, that he would see a competition announcement, and then mosey over to the large display cabinet where they put the trophy prizes they offered for winners. There'd be a prize for third, second, and first, and a grand prize, each one worth more than the others. Typically the kind of stuff you might buy in one of the touristy shops down town or in Seoul, a jade sculpture, a silk smoking jacket. He'd walk over, scan the prizes, and say, "I think I'll enter. I don't have one of these yet," pointing to the big grand prize for winning the overall competition. And then, by damn, the day of the competition he'd play and win, game after game steadily. Ding! Point, game. Game after game, until it was all over and he was the last guy standing. Collect the big prize and we'd go back to drinking beer and listening to Pink Floyd on Bose nine-oh-ones, cranked up to ten, in our tiny cinderblock barracks room, before our next shift.

    I've spent a lot of time in beer bars in the intervening years since then, shot a lot of pool on quarter tables, was good enough in stretches to have someone else buy the beers all night, and I don't think I've ever played another game of foosball, or billiards, since Korea. People where I used to go to drink had never seen or played real foosball, and it just didn't come up.
    Last edited by Jim Mahan; 07-03-2022 at 10:29 AM.
    Speak softly and carry a mouthful of marbles.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    St. Helens, Oregon
    Posts
    4,643

    Default Re: Not a political post, The Color of Money

    Great story, Jim! When I was a kid we had no such thing and my friend who had a nice pool table (slate bed, leather pockets) had it covered up with plywood as we used it as a workbench building a pair of Snipes while his dad built a Tollycraft cruiser. We played a few rounds of pub pool in college, but I was never any good and never got enthused. You mention "billiards", but how does that compare with "snooker"? Any knowledge there?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    West Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    9,934

    Default Re: Not a political post, The Color of Money

    Snooker is unique because it's played on a special table, just like a pool table, but with solid round post-like obstacles in strategic places mounted on the table. Players need to negotiate their shots around the obstacles, which also serve as bumpers on which to make 'carroms' to ricochet off and then hit the opponents ball, like in billiards. I haven't actually played any snooker. The term 'snooker' as slang, which means to block someone else's attempt, comes from the game, which strategy consists of not only hitting your opponents ball but 'hiding' your own behind the posts. They use a special rack of something like fifteen red object balls in addition to each players cue ball. You sink the object balls for points while evading your opponent, and as I am recalling vaguely, the hide and shoot strategy is about positioning, or getting shape for getting the red object balls into the pockets while keeping your opponent from doing the same. When you snooker someone, you've left them without a shot, stuck behind some immovable object. They coulda called the game 'you're fooked' it would mean the same thing. I think. I might be wrong.
    Speak softly and carry a mouthful of marbles.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 1999
    Location
    West Boothbay Harbor, Maine
    Posts
    24,933

    Default Re: Not a political post, The Color of Money

    Snooker is a box of cookies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ4YSXv6Xkg
    "So we beat on, paddleboats against the wake of a neighbor’s jet ski, born back ceaselessly into the past." The Great Lakes Gatsby

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Aquitaine
    Posts
    2,196

    Default Re: Not a political post, The Color of Money

    You need to watch on UK TV. That is snooker.

    I might be a bit slow today, but I don't recognize your definitions from UK. Snookering was setting up the balls so your opponent had no options for his shot. Hence the expression 'Snookered' in general parlance. Played with two queue white balls and a bunch of red ones, formed into a triangle with a frame to start the game.

    Bar billiards was a pub game that had holes to drop the ball into in a slate table, with T shaped wooden pegs that were placed on the table as obstacles. My father's partner in the boat building days had a sports factory that produced many of the Bar Billiards tables in the UK. Obviously not close to true billiards, with just three balls. One put some coin into the slot and the balls were released. When each one was dropped into a hole, it was stored untill the next game. These were the only tables I know that had holes other than round the edges.
    Last edited by Andrew2; 07-03-2022 at 01:13 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    West Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    9,934

    Default Re: Not a political post, The Color of Money

    Yeah, got the snooker table bit wrong. Like I said, never played snooker and it’s been decades since I’ve even seen one.

    Ted Lasso, the whole series, was a hoot.
    Speak softly and carry a mouthful of marbles.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •