by 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.