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 .

LUCKY – Part 7

Andrew Monstis

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…….