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Ode To Billiards. ~ Patrick Sampey

The ocean of green felt that canvases most pool halls calls to me, and I feel like a musician when I play the game, holding a good piece of wood in my hand — the instrument we pool players use to perform our art with — the cue stick.

This is my Zen. This is where I go to find that inner peace and silence those voices inside my head. This is where I go to find my enlightenment.

Like dervish dancers we pool players sashay to the tune of a kaleidoscope of multi-colored balls clicking and clacking in pool halls around the world.

It’s an addiction, a habit, a great symphony of spheres colliding in the smoke-filled haze of light and dark that is the billiard room.

Why do we do it? You may as well ask someone why they breathe oxygen. It is life. It is our happy place.

Pool, for most of the extreme, over-the-top billiards aficionados like myself, is as important as working a good job, maintaining a good relationship, or anything worthwhile in this world. We not only want to play, we must. There is no such thing as not doing it. We will never quit.

It is an intricate, dynamic, and multi-faceted game that requires skill, will, determination, concentration, and often a grind-it-out attitude that would break most mere mortals.

Only the strong survive, and most have to be tough as nails to not give it up at some point.

This game will test you, challenge you, and you will either be stronger for it or give it up. I don’t give up. Not this game for sure. Love it too much.

This is for the full-throttle players, not just the part-time players, casual players, or people that bang balls every now and then. This is for you my friends: the all-in players that give this game their heart and soul.

This is for all those that bleed green.

This is for all those that love the chalk embedded in their hands, clothes, and cues.

This is for those that love the smell of smoke that never seems to leave their clothes long after they return home from the pool hall.

This is for you.

When I got out of the Army in 1997 from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and the 101st Airborne Division, I had no hobbies other than reading and writing (which have always been within the very synapses of my nervous system) but I wanted to find something a little new, something different, and so I found it in the game of pool.

I began playing at first in a little pub that I’d frequent just down the road from where I was living in Tallahassee, Florida. I was just a casual player then, until this old man named Jack noticed I had some ability in the game and asked me to join his APA team (American Pool Players Association), and I agreed.

I started out as a four, like so many do, went down to a three, then back up to a four, then five, then six, then seven, and found myself as one of the best 8-Ball pool players in the league. This didn’t happen overnight though, as sometimes it takes long periods to travel short distances of improvement in this game, and to me personally has been a test of tests to see just how far I could take my game.

At first I loved 8-Ball and hated 9-Ball or any other game — just sticking to 8 like so many amateurs. When I began to go beyond a seven in 8-Ball however, I began to love 9-Ball more and more.

9-Ball just often times takes more skill, moving the rock for shape as they say, and extremely hard shots that just don’t come up as often in 8. So, I eventually joined a 9-Ball team and when I left the APA about nine years ago, I’d reached a skill level seven.

Now? Now I’d be a nine I’d imagine if I still played in the league, as my game has improved by leaps and bounds since those days. I break and run out sometimes — not all the time like some of these professionals and champions, but enough to feel like I’d be a nine.

I once even strung together five straight racks of 9-Ball, which was awesome for me (I still feel like I got a little lucky.)

Nowadays I break and run every so often. I’ve even beaten some pros, or professional level players, although I’m sure I had a little luck there as well, and some skill too. Now, however, I only play perhaps two, maybe three times a month; For some reason that’s been enough to not only sustain my game, but somehow I’ve improved upon it. I can’t understand it, as it usually takes much more table time than that, as many great players would tell you.

At the same time, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m pro level. What I’m saying is that I’ve become the best player that I personally can be. Perhaps one day I can get even better.

That is the quest in this game of spheres and cue sticks.

In the end, that’s what the game is about: being the best player you can be personally. It is a personal quest for perfection, where the goal is never achieved, but constantly sought after.

Keep hitting those balls my friends! Play on!

Sponsored by POV Pool and Jacoby Custom Cues

Patrick Sampey, aka Cellophane Man, is a US Army veteran, billiards enthusiast, from Gainesville, Florida and is 42 years old. He is Air Assault qualified, COMPTIA A+ Certified Repair Technician and an Electronics Technician. Photo: Flickr/nicolicreer Editor: Hannah Blue

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