Fargo Flip — Fun for All

by Bob Jewett

Bob Jewett

I recently had the pleasure of playing in the nicest pool room I’ve ever visited: Mike Page’s Fargo Billiards in Fargo, ND. It has bar- and full-sized tables and a full-sized bar along with a great menu. The rest rooms alone are worth a stop — how many pool rooms can claim that?

During the visit I was reminded that one of the most fun pastimes in my first pool hall was the almost constant ring game which had from three to six players. There were several games that we commonly played including nine ball and partners rotation. The games were as much social as “commercial” and they allowed a wide range of players to compete together.

In Fargo, Mike introduced to me a ring game he calls “Fargo Flip.” It can be played with any number of players from three on up, and we had from four to eight players in our game. The basic game is nine ball which is played by two teams. The “Flip” comes at the start of each game when each player flips a coin to determine whether he is on the Heads or the Tails team. The Tails always break. After the break, it is played like Scotch Doubles with each player taking one shot with turns rotating among the members of the team.

The order of play is up to the members of the team, but once each one has shot, they have to maintain that order for the rest of that game. At first I thought this would be confusing and lead to aguments but there was never a problem. There is some strategy if you really want to work at it, such as putting up a weak player if the shot is either very easy or hopeless, but mostly it was the closest person to the shot who took it if the order was still open.

Coaching is allowed. This can be a great benefit to the weaker players as they learn some of the strategy and possible shots, but the coach needs to be careful to speak to the level of the shooter. A beginner won’t be able to spin the ball with inside follow to come in short on the fourth cushion, so don’t ask him to. This kind of mistake I see all the time during coaching time-outs on league nights where I play.

The rules of the game are just like regular nine ball. This is different from most nine ball ring games in which many of the rules — such as ball in hand for any foul — are suspended. Pushouts and safeties are played as usual.

At the end of the game each player on the losing team pays each of the winners one jellybean. (In jurisdictions where social wagering is not illegal, you might consider playing for quarters or dollars instead of jellybeans.) So, if the Heads win and there are five on the team against the three Tails, the Tails each throw out five jellybeans (making 15) and each of the Heads picks up three jellybeans (also making 15). Be sure to have lots of jellybeans or change available. Before the flip each player should make sure he has as many jellybeans as there are other players, since after the flip he may be alone against the rest.

Players are free to enter or leave the group at the end of each game. If you need to take a bathroom break, just say you’re out for a game and don’t flip. If a new player wants to get in or a player returns from a break, he just waits for the next flip. In general, the majority can deny entry to a new player, but if Efren or Shane showed up, I’d want him in the game.

Is the scene at your local venue getting a little stale? Try Fargo Flip for a little variety.

LUCKY – part 5

Ready For The Road With Lucky

Andrew Monstis

Christmas and New Year gone by…. It’s been weeks now since Lucky and I decided to go on the road, I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it.  It’s a rare and great experience to be with this most unique person I’ve ever met.  Lucky is showing me something new every day, and by now I’ve learned not to steer the conversation into areas beyond pool or general topics.  Lucky says what he wants to and no more.  I’m writing several stories about Lucky and the experiences as we drive, enjoying the spectacular sights. We’ve seen all kind of animals — even rare pronghorns along the side of the road.  Between listening to bluegrass music and listening to Lucky’s cool stories, writing, munching, snoozing, and checking out the views, I’ve experienced no boredom or regrets.

It started like I said, weeks ago.  I showed up at Lucky’s ranch, and fell in love with it all over again.  I could move and live here, I thought.  It was quiet, secluded with great scenery, and very, very comfortable.  Lucky was working on some stuff in his study, so I wandered around the room, noticing things I hadn’t seen on my last visit.  In a glass and mahogany display case were several custom cues.  At a closer inspection, I noticed a Harvey Martin cue with a hand-scratched name on the butt.  Aha!  I thought.  I’ll bet this is Lucky’s real name!  If I could decipher it, I would slip it into a conversation with him later on, and then gloat at discovering it on my own.  I tried to be inconspicuous about peering more closely at the signature, but then realized it was much too faded for me to read.  Lucky looked up and saw me looking at it and said, “That’s one the first custom cues Harvey Martin ever made.  I might take that with me on the road.  It’s been a very lucky cue for me.”

“What’s it say down here?” I asked nonchalantly.

“It’s been so long I can’t remember,” Lucky replied, and grinned.  Then he ignored me and went back to work.  I wandered out to the great room and wrote for awhile from the comfort of an old leather couch.

Later, Lucky led me to a room I hadn’t been in before.  It looked like it might once have been the dining room.  The only thing in the room was a Diamond Pool Table, which was a big surprise, since Lucky had once told me he would never have a table at home because he wouldn’t get any work done!

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“Oh, I had it brought in a couple of weeks ago so that I could practice up a little before we hit the road,” replied Lucky offhandedly.

I was ready to start right then, but Lucky said, “Whoa, boy, plenty of time.  We’ll wait till morning.  Let’s have dinner and hit the hay.”

Time to eat and I was hungry. We were going to have leftover “New Years Turkey dinner”. I helped with creating some new dinner side dishes, collard greens with ham, corn bread and quinoa. Quinoa is one of the best foods on planet and Lucky has a big barrel of it in his storage. I love leftover turkey and it was good.

He didn’t have much to say about his health, but I did notice he took his medicine before he ate, so I guessed that was about all I could watch for, and just remember to always be ready for anything.  I helped him wash dishes, he said he’s “tired of dishes”, then went up to my room, and tossed and turned most of the night, thinking about the upcoming adventure.  It would be a whole book, just listing all the things I thought about and imagined.  Wow. Unbelievable, I marveled at the mystery that no one seemed to know this great player.

Next day I was up before Lucky I check my email and Facebook on the computer.  Lucky walked in, not even a good morning or a hello, Lucky pointed at me with a gnarly finger and stated, “Before we go on this road trip we have to get some things straight.  “How about breakfast first” I said.

Number One!  Don’t you ever feel guilty about winning anyone’s money!  People are out to try and beat you, no matter how nice they are to you.  They are waiting for an opportunity to collect some of your money.  Most people want to win money, so some are willing to lose it.  No one makes anyone else play and gamble. A person’s own ego does that.  My father told me once no matter how good you get remember that there is always someone out there better than you.  If you realize this, you will truly keep your ego in check.  There is no law against having too big an ego!

“Lucky, is there anyone better than you?”

He didn’t answer me.  “Number Two!  Hustling and gambling is an art!”  He went on to point out a host of different hustles.  He talked about people which are so slick, people never even know they are being hustled.  I know a lot about the hustling game, but Lucky had me feeling like a first-grader.  “I want you to be able to spot all the hustles.  You know some players make pool look seedy.  But I don’t think many people realize that the majority of money players are honorable gamblers.  There are hustlers and gamblers in every sport, not just pool.  They live by a code, believe it or not.  They do have boundaries.  We just stay away from the ones who have no boundaries.”

Number Three!! Money may come easy, no sense giving it away easy. Can’t be living high off the hog while on the road. You must be frugal and have a money goal. Pool players buy jewelry, cloths, steak & lobster dinners and spend money on women they meet. You should wash your cloths at laundry places, eat sandwiches made out of the ice chest in car and buy no jewelry. You will need discipline or you will end up busted.

Now this early-morning-before-coffee lesson was over, we fixed breakfast and then headed to the table for some tuning up.  Lucky again amazed me by showing me more stuff on the table than I ever thought possible, and I’m not a bad technical player.  Wow!   Some of the things I remembered from the first time I met him at the local bar and restaurant, that day when I plugged enough quarters into the table to fill Crater Lake.

We spent the day working hard.  My brain was spinning with activity, with Lucky showing me at least twenty different skills and strategies.  “We’ll leave day after tomorrow,” Lucky said.  I felt giddy with excitement, like a kid at his first baseball game.

All of a sudden Lucky had to go buy a new dishwasher, why now I don’t know. We were on the eve of leaving. We jumped in the truck went many mikes to a town where the store was.  The store seemed to have a little of everything in it. It had building supplies, food, propane, horse feed, hardware, and some appliances. It was a very unique all in one store to say the least. Rushing from aisle to aisle, Lucky was on a mission. He was looking at more than dishwashers. Looking at prices the prices they were high. I could see that he was mildly irritated.  Lucky reluctantly bought a dishwasher and they would deliver it next week, we were going to be gone so Lucky had to arrange someone be there to take delivery.

It was starting to get dark. With a few household items and auto supplies we left the store. On the way home all of a sudden, “look out!!” Lucky put on the breaks and slow down. We almost hit a big elk crossing the road. Lucky said “he’s an Imperial, that old 7 point bull elk has been around this area for years”. Lucky has seen him before and he escapes hunting season every year. He’s very smart. I am thinking how smart is he really to miss being shot but almost get clobbered with a truck.

Back at the Lucky Q we sat down for another home cooked meal. Lucky told me that a rancher in over in Oklahoma took the same name as his ranch. Lucky said his ranch was the first one named Lucky Q. He thinks that farmer saw the Ranch name, maybe driving by and liked it, then he used it for his farm.  What’s not to like in the name!

We ate all the leftovers so Lucky had to make a pot of stew. Moose stew. It took a while to cook. We caught up on this and that.  I have eaten game meat before but I was a little reluctant on this new meat. Time to eat…yummy and we washed it down with sourdough bread too. Wow…It… was… maybe the best stew I ever ate. I am not sure if I can change eating habits. We have been eating a lot of home cooked meals. The road will be filled with guessing on greasy spoons and dives to eat. I am getting spoiled on all this good food.

We talked about what our road plans should be. I told Lucky about a place called Little Creek in northwest Washington. Some good players will be there at a tournament. “I know most of them.” Lucky said “I want to keep a low profile” “remember we might be too visible there” He wasn’t sure but he’d think about going there as a rumor was that venue has changed.  Anyway it was a couple of weeks away. First he wanted to go see his friend Alex Stoop in Oregon who was going to have bone marrow transplant. Lucky wanted to give Alex a few words of encouragement and support. Alex’s friends are having a fundraiser to help with cost of this major procedure. Lucky mentioned going towards Montana, North Dakota area.  Our original plan was to hit a bunch of little action locations where little known players hung out. It was good chance to pump up our “bank roll”.

We plan to be on the road for about three weeks in the first stretch. Once we get out there we will hear from other players where the action is. When we come back regroup then decide on where to go for an extended Road trip.

One more day of practice, then we should have a clear plan as to why, where, and what before we leave the driveway.