Ask the Viper

Melissa Little

Melissa “The Viper” Little has been a WPBA Touring Professional for over 10-years, she has represented the USA in Four WPA World Championships and has over 20 top-10 WPBA career finishes. Melissa is currently the house-pro at the Wynkoop Brewing Company located in Downtown Denver. She teaches monthly clinics, gives private lessons, and has created a juniors program that promotes billiards education to the local youth. For more information about Melissa please visit: www.melissalittle.com 

 

Question: 

“What are the differences between professionals and amateurs? And what is the process of becoming a professional?

— Daniel D. from Denver, CO

Answer: 

The differences between the professionals and the amateurs are that the pros establish a world ranking through either the Women’s Professional Billiards Association (WPBA) or the World Pool Association (WPA). The WPA is the governing body for pool and asks organizations such as the WPBA & BCA for their top ranked woman/men players to participate in tournaments such as the World Championships. I have been honored to represent the USA/WPBA and participate in 6 world championships.

How to become a professional? Over the years the formats have evolved, but currently the WPBA has created nine regional tours across the USA. The top players from each tour receive special invites to participate in the yearly Regional Tour Championships and the top finishers from that event get spots onto the WPBA for the following calendar year.

The WPBA awards points for participation on tour and at the end of the year if you have calculated enough points to be ranked into the top-32 then you become a touring professional plus get an invite to play the following year. At the end of the classic tour year if you’re ranked below the top-32 then you must re-qualify through the regional tours system.

Another venture is to compete in individual WPBA qualifiers. This is where all amateur players are welcome to participate in a tournament in which the winner receives a paid spot into a WPBA event. For more information I suggest visiting www.wpba.com or www.wpa-pool.com.

The men are basically the same, open to all independent events such as the Men’s US Open, Turning Stone, and the Steve Mizerak Championships award points towards the BCA men’s world rankings. Then the top men are invited to participate in events such as the World championships and additional international events. Also, the Mosconi Cup US team is collaborated of the top finishers of the BCA points list. For more information on this visit www.bca-pool.com

Best of luck to you, Viper

If you have a question for “The Viper” please e-mail them to Melissa Little at Melissa@melissalittle.com

Lucky #10

Lucky in Action In Vegas Continued… 

by: Andrew Monstis

Andrew Monstis

…………….We snoozed, watched some NBA Basketball on TV and had some “quark” and crackers in the room for a couple of hours and then returned to the action. There were new faces in the room gambling. Lucky was right. If he got action this way, very few people would remember him. I found a couple of folding chairs along the wall for us, and right away a kid came along and asked to gamble cheap. I said no thanks and Lucky shook his head and said, “No, maybe later. I don’t want to get in over my head.” He hooked the kid by the extra comment.

The kid had a high-pitched laugh, “Yeah, you would lose, old man. I’m pretty good. You want none of me” How arrogant I thought!!

Lucky tilted his head up at the kid and asked him if he played chess. The kid chomped his gum, eyes roving around the room restlessly.

“I am here to play pool, old man. Not some other game”

“Well, maybe I’ll play you later on,” Lucky said. “I might learn a thing or two from you.”

We watched the room action for a few minutes and here came the kid again, back after catching no fish to try Lucky again. Lucky was patient and declined politely. He knew that when they played they would play under Lucky’s conditions. An older guy listening nearby leaned over and said, “Say, fella, I saw you playing in here earlier. How’d you come out?”

“Oh, it was okay,” said Lucky, “I got lucky and won a few games.”

The kid interrupted, “Come on, old man, what are you here for? I’ll play you for a few bucks. Fifty a game, that’s cheap.” He tried a little intimidation, “What, are you afraid of me?”

“Chess?” Lucky queried.

“Pool,” the kid said, and muttered something under his breath.

Lucky stroked his beard and his mustache and finally said, “Oh, all right. That’s cheap enough.”

So I went over and got my cue again, while the kid fooled around, chopping the cue ball with his hand, back spinning it all over the table. As I handed the cue to Lucky, he whispered to me, “Ok, here’s where I have to beat him flat out to take the cash, whereas in a set I could lose a few games and still win the money. Don’t leave. This will be quick.”

This was going to be interesting. The kid, just happy to be playing somebody, finally, was practically bouncing from one foot to the other, nervous energy crackling. “C’mon, let’s flip,” he urged.

Lucky won the flip. They agreed to pay on every four games. The kid racked the balls and you could see he was acting as if he racked tight. Now Lucky knows better than most that there is no perfect rack. He takes a look at the rack, but only to see how the balls lie, so he knows how to break them. He broke and made the nine.

The kid racked about the same way again. Lucky broke, the nine going into the same pocket as before. I could see the smirk on the young hustler’s face as he racked yet again. Lucky took a look at the rack but said nothing, and returned to break. Most players will change something about the rack to keep the nine from going in again, and this rack was no exception. Lucky broke and pocketed the nine — in a different pocket. The kid slammed the rack onto the table, muttering something about ‘lucky b*****d.’

Lucky broke game four and I could hear a different cracking sound off this break. The nine disappeared in the headstrong right corner pocket. I saw the kid’s eyes burning, but he only clenched his jaws as he handed over $200 to Lucky.

“Again?” Lucky inquired politely. With only four people, including myself, watching the match, Lucky got loose and put another four nine balls down quick. The kid didn’t know what to do, he was so angry, and was unable to speak. Lucky took the proffered $200 and shook his head, “Eight nine-ball breaks! Son, I love your racks. That was something!”

I could hear the kid saying, as he slammed his cue case together, “Ah, the old fart (nicer word than he really used) was just lucky. He couldn’t even play. Lucked in the nine on the break a few times.”

Lucky walked over to where I was sitting. He had kind of a strange look to him. He said the next strategy was going to be different. He wanted to get everyone lined up to play like he had back in his hometown that time I first met him there. I wondered how he planned on accomplishing that in here.

He said, “Watch,” and went straight over to a small crowd watching a match and tapped one person on the shoulder. “Play cheap? Fifty a game?”

“Ok!” exclaimed the stranger, Mexican looking heavy set guy beer in one hand and cue in the other with a blue sun hat. Named Sebastian. He had his cue off his shoulder and out of the case before Lucky finished saying the words, “Fifty a game.” I settled back, expecting to be here for a while. Lucky then proceeded to lose game after game after game. He lost $1,000 so quick it made my head spin.

I sat there, stunned. What was happening? I never saw him lose this kind of money before. And then, on top of that, he up and said, “I quit, for now.” I couldn’t believe my ears! I never saw this coming.

The player who took Lucky’s money, grinning from ear to ear, bragged to his buddies and onlookers, and then turned back to Lucky, saying, “Maybe we can play some more later.”

Lucky, normally a very polite and laid back person, ground his teeth, flexed his hands, and, in general, looked pretty darned upset. “Look, mister, I have plenty of money. You tell me where and when. You won’t win next time.”

He yanked out his bankroll and I about had a heart attack. He flashed it under the guy’s nose and exclaimed, “See? Just so’s you don’t think I’m kidding you.”

At that point I grabbed Lucky by the arm and steered him away, where I said, “What the hell are you doing? You have got to be out of your mind!”

Lucky shrugged off my hand with an angry look. “I’ll play anyone in here for $500 a game, right now!” he said loudly. I regained my grip on Lucky’s arm, my cue, and walked Lucky out the door. A few people were barking at Lucky to play them as I hurried him out.

Needless to say, I was puzzled by how Lucky was operating. This was not the Lucky I knew, the gentleman pool player, the class act. I was just about to say something to him, when he calmly turned to me and said, “Everyone knows me now. When you’re in the fish tank you have to act like the other fish sometimes.”

He waved his arm at a taxi. “Where do you want to eat?”

We rode a short distance to a casino that offered a great all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. Over lobster and crab legs and an array of exotic seafood, Lucky said that he was going to play only sets for high money from now on, unless one game was $500 or better. I said nothing, focusing instead on a great dinner.

Finally, over coffee and dessert, I said, “Look, Lucky, I don’t know where to start, exactly, but I don’t think I can…”

“Son,” he said, “Let me explain something to you before you go wasting all that energy you need to digest what you just ate. Now, normally, you would not see me doing anything like what I just did today, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” I said. “I know you are better than that.”

“Well, consider this. This place we are at, this amateur event, have you ever seen such a bunch of wannabe’s in all your life? It would  take me a long time to find the high stakes games if I didn’t make some noise. Shake the trees to see what falls out. You know I don’t have that kind of time. Let me tell you about fish, Drew. Small fish lose their lives to bigger fish and those fish lose theirs to even bigger fish. And it’s always the big fish you want to catch. And if you’re in a hurry — well, you’ve heard of using dynamite? Not exactly a sporting move, but it does the job quickly — stuns them all and brings them to the surface of the water.”

Lucky smiled, with a little glint in his eye, and stabbed into another scallop. “There are times when you just have to create your own show and throw in some dynamite. You might say I just issued an invitation. Great food! I’m going for seconds on these scallops – maybe some more lobster, too. You coming?”

Went down to the action room in the Riviera, Sebastian Franco, Charlie Peterson, Ronnie Allen, Tony Banks, John Evans, King Kong and Bucktooth All was barking up a storm But Bucktooth was trying to get Shane in a game with Pots and Pans who some think can’t play. Shane just won the US Open10 ball Championship. The game they were trying to get were they both played one handed. Shane had to play left handed $2000 a game. Boy there was barking. After saying how unreasonable the game was Shane disappeared only to re-emerged 10 minutes later with his cue. It looked as if the game was on. Bucktooth had wrenched up the heat wanting to bet more. Shane was trying to get a different game with Bucktooth as he knew Pots and Pans could still play some even at his age.

We have a couple more days at the event. We heard there were a group of Taiwanese players playing and beating everyone they have booked no losers. They always pool their money every time they are all are in on every match. Heard even Atwell lost to one of them. I know Lucky has a plan………more on Vegas next issue .