LUCKY – Part 8
Well, somewhere along the long road of life, I’ve finally found time to do more follow-up on the U.S. Bar Table Championships. But Reno…wow. The smoke at the Sands was atrocious. It sucked into the playing room like a fast-flowing creek. Lucky started hacking every time he went into the tournament room. He was completely bummed out. His old beat up face looked like he’d lost his best friend. He mentioned a conversation with Stevie Moore where he found out that Stevie quit several months ago and said it was one of the best decisions of his life. We’re talking about the reason Lucky quit playing after all those years! It was the smoke and it affected his health! I know, I know, those of you who smoke are heaving big sighs of smoke and disgust reading this, but thankfully, more and more of you have been able to actually quit and know the joy of breathing again.
But outside of that, the tournament seemed like it was run well. Bad Boys Productions has a pretty good crew and they got on it.
So, while the smoke kept Lucky away from one of his favorite pool events in the country and sulking in his room most of the time, flipping channels and trying to find old westerns to watch, it didn’t keep us from going down to the Pneumatic Diner. This is a very cool out-of-the-way vegetarian eatery he turned me on to. Who would have thought that old cowboy could rub shoulders with the long hairs? Oh, wait, he likes me. Well, it was real food and it tasted great — and only blocks from the Sands. Best damn food on the whole trip.
So I was left to my own devices at the event. I got to see the young crop of good new players showing some metal… like John Morra, Mitch Ellerman, and Adam Smith… and I wasn’t disappointed watching established players like Steve Moore, Stan Tourangeau and Glenn Atwell, though Glenn’s patina seemed a little worn this time around. Maybe it was the altitude and snow. Reno is up there in elevation about 4400 ft. And, it was cold and never over 33 degrees.
Vivian Villarreal played great. Lucky has been keeping one eye on the women… playing, that is. He says some of them are getting consistently closer to the men’s skill levels these days. Pretty amazing to hear that old backroads gentleman say with confidence that someday soon the gender barrier could just disappear into the sunset.
Lucky said he snuck in and watched Washington’s Ivan Doty play some. I had to chew him out, but I understood. Ivan, it turned out, did not have any expectation, just came to play vacation-style pool. He said he surprised himself in the 8-ball event, ending up beating several top players. Even with his nerves over the top, he crushed Stevie Moore, one of the favorites to win the event. Lucky shared with me how impressed he was with this future grand master. “You’re never too old to play good pool,” Lucky said he told Ivan. Oh, and he said they drink the same beer, too. Great minds, great taste.
Pat Schumacher played well, considering his lack of swing time after coming back from a bad motorcycle accident a couple years ago that had him in the hospital for two months, wondering if he’d ever play pool again, His ‘second coming’ was a bright light for him, All he needed to complete his long-mustached Yosemite Sam look was a Hoss Cartwright Hat. Lucky may have felt some kinship with Pat, because once again, he’d slipped in unbeknownst to me and had been watching him play. He’d even offered him some breaking tips — lucky for Pat, who immediately put them into practice and got some instant gratification. He was breaking great and making a ball every time. Back in Lucky’s room after the event, we were sitting around eating Diner leftovers, and he told me if Pat could have matched that with some run outs a few more times at the end like he did in the beginning, he would have won the whole thing.
In between slices of pesto spinach and feta pizza and cranberry-pistachio yogurt salad (unbelievably delicious), Lucky revealed more about who else he saw when he snuck in behind my back. He mentioned Barbara McDonald — said in his opinion she was one of the best tournament direction helpers Jay Helfert or Reno’s events had ever seen – said he would be hard pressed to remember anyone over the years so pleasant and professional. He said he saw Henry Dorsey, who was a great pool hustler in the 80’s. He’d played “Walt” — as he was called in those days — and said Walt was always good for a few dollars every time. Every time. He was trying to be known as one-pocket Dorsey and lost a few bucks to the Monk down at the pool room. I told him “The Lion Slayer” Kings Santy beat Alex Pagulayan and had progressed into a pretty good player. I think I’ll have to drive Lucky to Boise sometime so he can play him some. I mentioned Phil Boucher from Montana as the gentleman of the tournament. Sure enough, Lucky said he knew Phil’s brother and played him at Four Bears in North Dakota.
Speaking of action – outside of Lucky beating that kid from the east coast (last issue), during the week-long event, there usually is a ton of action in the practice room, but for some reason, not this year. Lucky was “flabbergasted,” as he called it, by the lack of action and lack of stake horses. He said he saw only a few 5/20 dollar games, “Hardly enough to spit at,” he said. But, he said, the local pool room had drawn most of the action – how he knew that I didn’t even ask. Said Boy George was stiffing everyone who didn’t know better and rumor had it that after a visit from a couple of guys to give him a “tune up,” Boy George paid off.
So anyway, Lucky had marked Warren Kiamco, the all-around winner, to play him after the tournament. I was with him when he corralled him and his road buddy during 9-ball and asked him if he wanted to play. Warren and his Filipino buddy had a short discussion in Tagalog and then Warren said, “Ok! Play for $500 a set.” Lucky later told me they were saying they should be able to get about five or six sets out of him before he gave up. (He never fails to surprise me.)
Lucky, of course, shoving his old hands into his worn pants pockets, said, “Well, I reckon that’ll be ok, but I just want to play you. You’re a mighty fine player.”
Warren looked at his road partner and laughed. “Ok, we will play,” he said.
So Lucky thought he had a second bit of action to look forward to at the end of the tournament. It turned out he hunted for Warren after 8-ball finals, but came up empty. Kiamco had disappeared without a word. Maybe he thought the old man Lucky couldn’t possibly be serious. Or, maybe Warren didn’t have the money to play. Lucky said, whatever, it happens… but he just might show up one day where Warren plays to see if he’d still like to knock balls around.
We threw all our junk in the trunk and left Reno the next morning. It was 9 degrees. That would be c-c-cold.
Next month: I brought Lucky back to Oregon, since I was headed over to the biggest amateur regional event in the country right after the Reno event. Lucky thought he’d like to take a look at some of the Northwest players and see who was coming out of that bunch. On the drive up, we munched on chili relleno casserole we got to go from the Pneumatic Diner. Good stuff. I got him an adjoining room at Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City where the Western BCA event is held twice a year, and we turned in for a good night’s sleep before the action began the next day.