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Don't Call It A Comeback By Patrick Sampey

Updated: Aug 12, 2022





Monday, August 8th, 2022 – Some people say, "I used to play pool so well back in the day." And some people say this, and they say that about how it "used to be." I'm not one of those players. I've been a top amateur player since back around 2000 when I became a skill level 7 in APA eight ball and nine ball. Now? If I played APA anything, I'd be a skill level 7 in eight ball, and a

NINE in 9 ball. When you know, you know. And I've been thinking about pool lately, writing billiards articles, covering the news, players, products, personalities in the game, anything and everything pocket billiards related. And I hadn't hit a ball in over three months…until…I got in the local, race to two, eight ball tournament just last night. And I was thinking, "I'll just go to play this local pool tournament, reward myself, celebrate making it past 30 days with no drinking alcohol," told some other players I see in there how I hadn't even touched my pool case, sitting there in the living room for over three months, looking lonely. And I really enjoyed myself, but I had no clue as to how the night would turn out as far as the tournament goes… I had a "bye" the first round, as did most of the players, in the race to two on the Valley bar box, with the "turtle rack," and the eight on the break not a win, and a respectable race to two, small little weekly Sunday 6:30pm tournament, $10 entry, plus $3 "greens fees." One thing to know as well, is that, although it was a small tournament, most of the players in it can all really run out, so the tournament is a good one. Size doesn't always matter. The competition was "Jam up," for amateur level play I mean. The pros are, of course, on another level. That goes without saying for some that realize the limits of their game, such as myself, I have no "delusions of grandeur," but last night was divine. To set the scenery in its place: I got dropped off to the gas station across from the pool hall called "Rhonda's" after Rhonda, the owner, got myself a drink and chicken fajita bowl, sat outside with my orange JB Custom case I earned writing pool articles for Sneaky Pete Mafia magazine. Garrett Troop, CEO of SPM (Sneaky Pete Mafia), had procured for me the case, Jacoby playing cue, jump cue, and break cue for me in appreciation for my contributions to his publication here. Shout out to Troop. He really supports the game and players, but anyone doing anything positive these days always has haters. You know what I say about haters? They make you greater. Hate on. Or you can get that chip off your shoulders, "man up," and/or "woman up," and live your life without all that salt in your life. With all these flavors, and some choose to be salty? It is what it is. I digress. A homeless guy walks past just before I finish up my drink and little meal outside of the CEFCO gas station, just across from Rhonda's, and he makes some comment about my cue case, and walks in the store. I get up, throw my trash out, saunter on over across the street where Rhonda's is, and go inside. Rhonda's on the inside is a quaint little pool hall with 7 Valley tables surrounding a wrap-around bar, table 2, horizontal to the front side of the Island bar, being the table they feature for live streaming when they host a bigger event. And Rhonda's really takes pool seriously, maintaining their tables, balls, and other billiards equipment in a very detail-oriented way. They run their tournaments smoothly, some players help out, and everyone has a great time most times (pool can be a frustrating game at times…). Outside of Rhonda's, the yellow painted, cinder block building isn't much to look at, with a liquor store part of the building Rhonda rents in tandem with her business. When you enter Rhonda's, as a pool player, you feel the love they put into their little place, from the way the equipment is kept, to the organization of their tournaments. Some places are more about the alcohol sales, and of course Rhonda wants to make a profit, it's not a charity of course, but her place is all about the game of pocket billiards. So, I get in there, see Rhonda up at the bar, talk to her a bit, let her know I had told myself, "No pool until you reach 30 days no drinking alcohol," and how I was at about 33 days sober from alcohol, so I said I'd treat myself with some pool play once I had made it over a month with none of that tomfoolery. Karma was about to give me the best billiards gift I've had in a little while. After Rhonda and I chatted briefly, I went and sat beside one of the tables, checked my Facebook and messages, sat there a second until she brought out the balls for the tournament, and the "turtle rack" of course. Then, she brought out the balls. Also, they use the "red dot" cue ball as well; like I said, only the best. So I set up, and just begin enjoying the "pleasures of small motions" (Dr. Bob Fancher). I ended up practicing for the tournament about 2 hours before the event began. Then, they took everyone's entry after I had been there a while. After that, they place playing cards upside down on the table, and depending upon which card you pick decides who you play in the first round. Everyone in the tournament had a "bye" the first round, except 4 players, two sets that everyone else waited on that had a "bye." From the random draw in the event, I had to play the winner of two tough opponents. I ended up playing this guy they call "MJ," who is one of the best amateur players I've ever matched up against personally. MJ also maintains the tables at Rhonda's; he's actually broken down tables in the middle of a tournament before. That was a trip. Back to the tournament: suffice it to say, MJ beat me in the first match I had there 2-1, so I essentially went straight to the losers side from the jump, and I would have had him 2-1, but missed a straight in, corner to corner, 9 ball shot. So, there I was, straight to the losers side, and I didn't even care. Because I knew I was still in it, and when you're in it, you always have a chance if you know your game can come on at any time, and you catch fire: Kobe! Grinding through the losers' side, I came back to win 2-1 from down 1-0 four times, including beating the same guy that sent me straight to the losers side, MJ, 2-1 in the finals, before he offered to split with me, which I agreed to! And man! You gotta keep grinding to do what I did. And today? Today I'm on top, the world is my oyster, the sun is shining and it isn't raining in my heart, and I feel a oneness with the pool Gods, and universe as a whole. I stand in the center, the billiards cosmos revolving around me like so many open doors! Don't call it a "comeback," I've been here for decades. I didn't "used to play" well. I've been playing great since 2000. Game up playas, and keep on hitting them balls!

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