The Road Dogs

LUCKY – Part 8

Andrew Monstis

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.

Lucky – The Beginning of the Road

Andrew Monstis

Part 6: The day we left for the road was an adventure. It was early and cooo old. Bet is was 35 degrees. I was jacked! So was Lucky. We decided into taking the sedan instead of the truck. The truck was too unsecured. Bustling around the ranch trying not to forget anything was a bit stress full. We kept running into each other at every junction, on the stairways in the kitchen at the garage. The favorite expression when we met up was “ops, pardon me! Scooter Libby” Given that Valerie Plane ordeal a few years ago, we were “scooting” around the house and it also the phrase rhymes.

We packed cloths bags, made sure twice, three times we had the right maps, auto tools and gear. Very importantly was the laptop with all the information in it. The data on it had where to go and what players we knew were in the areas. That research took weeks. It was a lot of calling friends and looking on the net for tournaments and checking the action report on AZBilliards. We learned a lot of STUFF. We were prepared on where the action was and all the tournaments even the unpublished ones. We had a virtual road map. Every town had names of players, stake horses and skill levels of many players. Unlike many Road players, who fly by the seat of their pants, Lucky was prepared.

The car had a secret compartment behind the back seat where we could keep our best pool cues. We kept the plain two-piece bar cues in trunk. Planed to use them mostly. The car had a cutoff switch so no one could steel the car. I had to remember to turn it on when we stopped. We were only taking a certain amount of cash and only keeping a certain amount in our pockets. Anything we won went into bank as soon as possible. If we needed money we would go to the ATM. Didn’t want to carry too much, we could be a targets for being robbed. Man, Lucky thought of everything.

I am continually reminded just how smart the man is. He is constantly reading magazines, journals and newspapers. He has a huge vocabulary but only uses simple language. He is up on all the politics and the drama they create. He especially knows about human nature. He reads people well. Seems like he’s known them for years. He might as well be a psychologist.

When we started out we were easily clearing $150 a day on average just on small local area action no known player types. On a couple days we made around $40-50 and some days $500. That seems to me to be not a lot of money, but Lucky said he made more last time out on the road.  He thinks we could be making three times that on the average and we will. After 3 1/2 weeks and after expenses, we were pumped up to over $4,000. We had enough money to carry us on the road for a while. We even could take a few days off sitting in the sun or rain depending on where we were.

Lucky and I have played every single day with someone or one another.  Although playing every day his opponents have been polite and friendly gamblers, just waiting to take his money, or so they thought. Not one player yet has been a real run out player. Not one score was big, so far only a few hundred off any one guy. Lucky never pushed any game.  We were staying away from any known players and bad action. “ you beat a good players the word gets around, fast” you play good players when the time is right.

We started out and headed for Little Creek Casino until we heard the WBCA tournament got cancelled. I guess the Casino foolishly double booked some act that hardly anyone cares about. They jolted a whole bunch of pool players attending. Not bright! Oh well! Lucky was anxious to see some of these players, but we had action everywhere anyway. I was driving to our next location. The driving was easy and traffic was light. Tuning the radio we found the BCS football championship. We were listening to it for awhile. Lucky kept saying how the Ducks misfired 3 times in the first quarter and that will be the difference in the game. We had been driving about 4 hours when Lucky got a call on his cell phone. “Hello!” “well I’ll be a monkeys uncle” What you been doing”. They went into some sharing on what they both been doing and Lucky settled into a listening and a less animated discussion manner.  Lucky ended the call by saying “it will take about a day” “ see you then” Lucky said  “Slow down” I put my foot on the break and started to steered the car in to the turn out “turn left at that intersection up ahead”   I said ‘aren’t we going straight” because we were headed to the next planned place and it was about a days drive too. Lucky said were going a new way.

Lucky told me that a friend of his asked him to come to town where there was “this” action. This was not the quote normal action but a reprisal game. Lucky’s friend had played and lost to these guys and was treated badly and was totally intimidated by the behavior they exhibited. He knew Lucky could handle them easily. Lucky always said he will try to stay away from that type of action where it is more about getting even then about the money. I quizzed him on it…Lucky said at the request of an old friend he had to go. Lucky painted a harsh view of these guys.

We were driving most of the next day. Going through this town we stopped at this bar. We got out of the car stretched then went inside hung around a while and just played a few locals. Surprisingly everyone liked to play pool for money. It wasn’t long before the characters came in. They made sure they were noticed, demanding drinks and food from the bar tender, Her name was Simona. She did a good job of biting her tongue.

The one character is commercial building contractor who makes a lot of money doesn’t know how to spend it. He uses his money to make himself feel like a big shot, at the expense of other people mostly. He acts more like a leader of some weekend mercenaries, ordering people here and there. He buy’s his friends, and occasional buy’s dates. People put up with him and his so called best friend.  Everyone one really enjoys when they lose. Them losing is better then watching a war in WWII movie where the Nazi’s get bombed to oblivion.  This contractor has a real gambling jones and loves to play pool. Known to bet it up. The name they call him when he’s not around is Sugar Daddy.

His best friend crony, a used car dealer, who thinks he’s a player and who seems to act like the mayor of the town. He would never get my vote. Doesn’t have anyone’s respect and there are plenty of names giving for him too. He has no clue. The people around have to be drunk to put up with him. I can’t really say his nickname here but it is a common name giving to a prison cellmate.

They came in and started in on everyone. They saw we were playing pool with their pigeons. Like they had ownership of these games. They started in on the new guy, Lucky

Car dealer tells everyone ”We have more money then anyone in this joint, I’ll bet on that. The car dealer might have $120 in his pocket while his contractor friend might have $10,000 in his. Convenient for the dealer to make that statement. The truth of it was they probably did have the most money in the place.

Lucky was nervous because this kind of situation could escalate and we are not young bucks anymore. Lucky worked it well. Lucky let them dictate all the gambling by acting indecisive. Lucky had them like a cat chasing a string and they knew nothing. They thought they were getting everything their way and pulling the wool over our eyes on the betting moves. Lucky played a couple of short sets. They would play one short set to 5 for $100 then want to jack the bet to a thousand. Lucky hemmed and hawed.

“I am not sure about that much money” so they came up with a lower bet amount like $200.

Lucky said “that’s still a lot”, “Ok I guess”. Lucky would win some watching silently applauding. Then all over again “play for a thousand!” and settle on less.

They were gleaming that they brilliantly got Lucky to keep playing. It wasn’t that Lucky didn’t want to play for higher stakes, he was managing the situation to avoid any problems. After about $3100 of their money Lucky finally talked them out of continuing to play. He made it seem that they were the ones quieting. The one ridiculous buddy said something like “well you bring all your money down here tomorrow and we’ll play for it all, all you got”. If you don’t believe me ask these folks in here. I know what Lucky was thinking, embarrass them but likely they would not show up the next day anyway. Nursing hangovers. Lucky said “ I have to be out of town working for a few weeks but I’ be back. The contractors eyes swirled around and around and so did his head. He said “ any time your, ah…. back in town, ah…. we’ll play, “I am going, ah…..  bust you”.

They were happy to be losing the money and having the action. I guess the locals that were watching hated seeing them in the bar always badgering games. They were glad they were losing their money. We left and Lucky said that’s how we get out of a bad situation and we will likely see this type thing again and likely them again.

I asked Lucky “I thought you avoid jerks like this”. Lucky said, his long time friend and the people in town were really tired of their antics and wanted me to bust them because Lucky could do it in style.

We went over to his friend and visited for awhile. They brought up some old pool players they both knew. They talked about Jimmy Caras. Lucky continually bring him up and always prefaces any conversation with he’s really the best players he’s never played. He had talent that most everyone has never seen. It was late and his friend offered for us to stay the night and we were always welcome to come and stay between travels. Lucky has friends all over the place for such a private man………