We left Luckys friends house after a delightful evening. The early morning road was quiet we seem to be the only ones out there we were going about 60 miles per hour just cruising …..We were talking about the some issue on the Imus talk radio show I forgot about. All of a sudden we heard a faint sound that got louder and louder. It was a sound of a wailing siren growing out of the distance. Lucky driving, he could see in rear view mirror very slightly through the early morning fog the headlights and flashing blue and red lights of 2 Sheriff’s car racing toward us. Light drops into a dip, in the wavy road reappears almost immediately, hurling down the center of the 2 lane highway. “What the hell” “Are they coming for us?” It appears they are in pursuit of a speeding car. They get closer and closer the lights and siren fill our senses. We have to slow down and pull over then they zooms past us. We barley got out of the way. It was a newer Aston Martin. As it pasted us the sport car skids off the asphalt in front of us in an impressive driving maneuver and starts up a bumpy dirt road the 2 sheriff’s cars just following. It was just like in the movies. The sport car seemed to be pulling away. I don’t think they will catch this car.
We are headed now to the first big destination the U.S. Bar Table Eight Nine and Ten-Ball Championships in Reno. Where many top players go to. This is one of Lucky’s favorite tournament. He has seen a lot of new emerging talent here. This is always a great tournament. Jay Helfert once did a wonderful job. A new crew runs it now, the CSI’s group with Bill Stock. Lucky and I were both greatly pleased to see that the tournament was still non-smoking, a great advancement in the sport of pool believe it or not. Part of Lucky’s health problem is due to breathing secondhand smoke over the years. He had told me that it was one of the main reasons why he had quit playing over the past few years. He just found out that two close friends of his have throat cancer. Now that most states have changed laws he is more compelled to play again.
No one knew Lucky was at the tournament most were newer players. You got the impression that when people walking by glanced at him they might have remembered his face in some previous tournament crowd. Looking at him sitting there with his fists holding up his chin, you would never know he even played the game. He sat as one of the spectator most of the time. He asked me to keep a remoteness, as people who knew me might start wondering who he was.
Many great players were at event. Sitting around talking to everyone and watching matches on the bleachers was fun. Lucky was studying the players and waiting for the right time to get a game. We were particularly watching Glenn Atwell, Stevie Moore and Shane VanBoeing matches. There were plenty of other great players playing besides those. Also a few young prodigy’s in attendance.
Just then old friend Lee Lang walked in and told me he had gone up to his room but found a do not disturb sign on the door put there by his roommate. He heard what sounded like a late night horror movie on TV — a female voice screaming and moaning, and since Lee hates horror movies, he came down to the poolroom to see what was going on. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what was really going on in his room. Lee and I talked a while about Stan Tourangeau and Kim Davenport winning the tournaments 10 years ago. It must be my luck that I had to play both of them my first matches that event.
On the second night in the action room, we watched this twenty-something kid play one of the best bar table players in California, a guy nicknamed King Kong. He plays like a monster. The kid’s name was Anthony, and he was from the somewhere in the South, Florida I think. They were playing seven ahead for $1,500. It seemed a pretty even match — King Kong had Anthony by four games, and the kid wanted to jack the bet even as he was losing. King Kong backer took the bet. The bet was up to $3,000, plus another $2,000 on several side bets, and the kid ran the next four, played safe. Anthony’s entourage was excited and hollering it up and keeping a careful eye on those who had side bets so they wouldn’t sneak out of the room. Anthony ran the next three, played safe then the following four, only allowing King Kong to shoot, kick, twice. The kid won eleven games in a row. King Kong’s backer was done. Lucky said the kid was good and cocky the understatement of the year.
We watched pool matches and some action all week. (Many stories to come from Reno later) Can’t tell you how much fun that was. The last night we went down to the poolroom and Anthony was there with his girl. Not many others “Where’s all the pool players?” Lucky asked.
“Probably in the casino gambling,” the kid replied. Lucky said he came to see some action. The kid snorted, “I’m the action. Everyone is scared of me. All these great players here and I can’t get any action … Why, old man? You want to play some?
“Well, sure,” Lucky agreed. “Want to play cheap?”
“I don’t play cheap. Nine-ball, race to 9 for a $1000,” the kid rattled off. “You look like you could use weight. You want weight?”
Lucky said, “What do I need” “I don’t understand this spot thing I’ll just play even” The kid said “what ever man’. Later Lucky told me he should have taken the weight because the kid was so arrogant.
Lucky asked to borrow my cue, and they lagged for break. The kid ended a foot from the end rail, with Lucky trailing about 6 inches behind. Lucky racked. Only a few people were in the room — the kid, his girlfriend, Lucky, myself, a couple guys breaking down some of the tables and two casino gamblers who had wandered into the room out of curiosity. The kid had no crowd to incite as before. This was one on one.
I won’t go into all the painful details, but basically Lucky played a classic “keeping close” on this kid. He strung him along like a puppet until the score crept up to hill-7, the kid’s favor. All the games Lucky won he made look like he was nothing but lucky, slopping in balls all over the place, or getting lucky hooks. Both the kid and his girlfriend were chain-smoking despite the “No Smoking” signs posted all over the room. Lucky said something about the smoking once, but they just ignored him, so he said nothing more. I saw in Lucky’s eyes that the cost of that bit of rudeness had just gone way up.
Lucky broke, made nothing, scratched his head and growled, “Damn! I can’t even make a ball on the break.” Lucky’s breaks were looking suspiciously like one he had shown me the very first time we played – where he plays the one safe. But the kid didn’t roll out. He shot, made two balls, and in his first real mistake of the set, hooked himself. What a fluke, I thought. He took a flyer and missed. Easy out. Lucky won the set. The kid slapped down the grand and said Lucky was just lucky. They played again.
Lucky broke every rack and made nothing but left a hook on the one ball. The kid kicked or rolled out every game. Lucky seem to win the games not by running out but by seemingly slopping balls in. Lucky was soon on the hill, 8-0, and couldn’t resist saying, “Hope I can make a ball for once.”
Crack! The nine went straight into the left corner pocket. Game, set. The kid was squirming now. “Lucky bastard,” he muttered. Lucky was up two grand. Now the kid wanted to play for $2,000. “This is the only set I was ever skunked in since I was thirteen,” he snorted. Lucky told the kid, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. We’ll play my $2,000 against your $1,000 on the set, but if I win 9-0 again you pay me $3,000. And I break first.” The kid groused about giving up the first break, but it was only an act. Knowing Lucky had only made a ball on the break once in two sets, and got lucky on just about everything else, he wasn’t too worried about it. I know the kid thought Lucky was just plain stupid.
Lucky broke and guess what — finally made a ball. He ran out — in fact, Lucky ran out the next seven games and just for the fun of it missed making a ball on the last break but once again left the kid hooked. The kid was more than eager to save his remaining cash. He took another flyer but he missed, and Lucky cleaned the table. The kid had disbelief written all over his face. He had no entourage to back him up this time. He was angry he threw the bills on the table and walked away with his girl in tow, Lucky said with feigned surprise in his gargled old voice, “What, you’re quitting?”
What exquisite torture……
Just then Chris Byers walked in. In his usual good humor, he asked, “What’s been happening around here?” As I sat down with Chris, I noticed Lucky, who had returned my cue to me, slipping out of the room. So I relayed the recent events at the table, enjoying the recount almost as much as the performance itself. Chris was intrigued. “So that was Lucky? Wish I could play him. You should have gotten a hold of me so I could come and watched and learn something.” I told him he had to keep it quiet and couldn’t tell anybody, and he agreed. Maybe some day they would play.
Later, in my room, I sat with my feet up on the window ledge and looked out at the sky for awhile, just thinking back over the last few days. Reno had many great matches and tons of action sorry to see it end. I did savor the punishment given the smart-aleck/cocky kid, and looking forward to watching more praiseworthy matches Lucky would find on the road ahead. I thought especially now that I was able to put some of Lucky’s teachings to use. I might even face up a to a challenge or two myself on this trip. That still might not be for me to decide. Lucky does know best. I do have to decide what to do with this moment in time that I have with Lucky.
After breakfast we’re headed out to another stop, and I’ve called ahead and made hotel reservations for us. The place was famous for its food. I’m looking forward to a good, hot dinner there tonight. Lucky has taken over the wheel for awhile, so I’ve some time to catch up on writing my story and starting an e-book, and now the next chapter remains to be played out, with the only thing ahead of us at the moment the painted highway lines the truck we were following and the disappearing in a wobble under the car…….