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The Hatchet Man. ~ Patrick Sampey

Today I had the privilege to interview Dennis “The Hatchet Man” Hatch. Hatch is a man with a passion for pool; he has a seemingly indomitable heart for the competition, and his favorite color is red which may indicate the hue of that passion, the timbre of his moxie, and the fiery, all-guns-blazing way he attacks the game with the force of a hurricane.

I was curious about the psychology of what it means when red is your favorite color, and I found that “Having red as your favorite color identifies you as extroverted and optimistic, courageous and confident.”

I’d say that from what I’ve seen, having reviewed a few of his matches on Youtube prior to speaking with him today, his game reflects that sentiment above, and the unflinching spirit of a true competitor right down to the marrow.

Hatch says that his girlfriend, Jaymi Levenhagen, not only supports him in his game but plays pretty well herself, having won two state championships: Michigan, and then the team state championships for Illinois.

Hatch was introduced to the game of pool at the age of two by his father—shooting pool balls on the floor with a cue shaft—played his first major event at the young age of nine, ran 124 balls in straight pool and became a pro at the age of fifteen. By the time he was twenty was a seasoned professional, having played for five years against some of the best in the game. At that time, “The Hatchet Man” made his way into the finals of the US Open against none other than Hall Of Famer Buddy Hall, also one of the games greats. The match was at 8-8 (hill-hill), with Hatch breaking; then, he broke, didn’t make a ball, and Hall ran out for the win. At 22 Hatch beat Reyes in the finals of a major tournament.

“I was in the newspaper for the youngest player to ever play in a state tournament at nine years old…I just picked up the game and loved it,” Dennis explains of his early ability in pool.

The pool world is abuzz with talk of “The Hatchet Man” currently. He’s working in conjunction with InsidePool and Sneaky Pete Mafia, two up and coming shakers and movers in the game. InsidePool is hosting exhibition matches between Earl Strickland and himself at various locations around the States. Also, I’m on assignment with Sneaky Pete Mafia writing this article to cover him, with the audio going to InsidePool. So, in addition to this article, the recorded audio will be featured in a upcoming video collage of some of his best play, so look for that soon here.

Hatch on straight pool (14.1): “I love it. It’s my favorite game.” (Before 9-ball was 14.1, the game Willie Mosconi, Ralf Greenleaf, and many of the other historic legends played.) When I ask him if he feels that Mosconi was the best to ever play 14.1, Hatch says, “Obviously he was, yes. He was one of the best that ever lived in the game.” He then describes to me a story about Mosconi winning the world straight pool tournament with a 5 rail, full-throttle-billiards shot to kick the ball in and win. Hatch tells me how Earl Strickland recently showed him the shot in an exhibition last week.

“Confidence is not being cocky,” Hatch says, (and I agree). “My father always raised me to be, to ‘believe in yourself, and believe you’re the best, and if you don’t believe that then you won’t win.’”

“Even if I wasn’t the best, when I lost, I always felt like I shouldn’t have lost…unless a guy played perfect on me, then I’d have to say that I didn’t have a chance to win,” says Hatch.

While Strickland and Hall were his two favorite players early in the game, when pressed further about who his favorite player is now, he retorts, “Do I have a favorite player? I do. It’s me.” Confidence.

“There’s no words to describe it. I was in another world at the time,” Hatch describes, as he speaks of his experience in the Mosconi Cup, one of the world’s most prestigious events – an electric, epic 9 ball match up where 13 countries are represented from Europe, with the USA standing alone to face them all. And in 2009, when Hatch was voted the team MVP, he came through for team USA in nearly perfect form, showing his grit, skill, and the heart of a true champion of champions.

“When I get loose and get rolling, I’m tough to beat,” says Hatch as he speaks of his experience in competition and money matches. If you’ve seen Hatch play when he hits top gear, you know exactly what he means.

Got gamble? Hatch does. In 2009, then world number one, Darren Appleton, challenged Hatch to a money match – race to 100 –for ten thousand dollars. Hatch said to bump the bet to twenty thousand. Appleton agreed, and Dennis gave him the hatchet—100-83.

On his advice to players wanting to improve their games: “I would just say, do what I did. Play in as many tournaments as you can. The more competition you have, the more seasoned you are, the better you’re going to become. And, if you can gamble, gamble a little bit within your means, for whatever you can gamble.”

Hatch’s father staked him at thirty dollars a game at the age of  nine!

“If you’re not in competition, you can practice as much as you want, but when you get out there against someone else, it’s a completely different ball game, so I say, you have to play tournaments or gamble, so you can get seasoned, and get used to the pressure, and handle the nerves,” says Hatch.

Hatch is a one of kind competitor, and all around straight shooter, in his game I see a freight train coming… I see a pool player of the highest caliber.

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/Ida Myrvold Editor: Hannah Blue

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