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Worldwide Chris. ~Hannah Blue {Interview}

I spoke with Chris Lawson—nicknamed Worldwide Chris—from his home-base of Indianapolis, IN. Chris has almost literally been playing pool since he was in diapers; he had his first mini table by the age of three, and won his first in 9-ball championship, at the age of 23, in 1994.

Chris then quit the world of professional pool and moved away from his home-town of Wichita, KS. Sometimes “real life” just gets in the way; he had kids to support, so he took a job with the Indianapolis Star newspaper.

After an 18 year gap, Chris is back in the world of professional billiards. Chris is an authorized APA instructor, and he’s won multiple state titles, multiple regional tours, and has had several top finishes on the pro tour. He’s a player rep for Hustlin USA clothing company, and is sponsored by Meucci Cues; Chris has designed multiple cues for Meucci, and is also a Meucci dealer.

Because of the nearly 20 year “break” Chris took from the world of billiards, he is in a unique position to see how the industry has changed: much like how you may not notice your own game improving, but a friend who hasn’t seen you play in a year can immediately tell the difference.

“When I was playing it was directional felt—now its cloth. The pockets are smaller, the cue balls are lighter, rails are bouncier… other than the smaller pockets, it’s easier overall. And there’s definitely less people playing pool. Americans are no longer the best players in the world. Bar table pool and one pocket have exploded.”

Here’s what else Chris has to say.

Hannah Blue: Do you remember your first professional match?

Chris Lawson: My first professional match was at a event in Southern California, in 1989. I got a free entry for helping set up the tables at the hotel. I had never played in such a big event up to that point. My first match was against Danny Medina, who back then was a top 10 player. I was playing well at the time but had never played a player like Danny, so I was very nervous.

I won the first two games, and I will never forget the 7-ball I missed; I just flat choked on it. Needless to say I was beat in straight games, and was never up to the table with a makeable shot. After that I won four or five straight matches, then was put out by a local player named Billy Graves. The thing is, later, on my way to winning my first big tournament I beat Danny Medina in the one loss finals before going on to win the event.

HB: What is your playing style? (Please be detailed for our readers who are less knowledgeable!) Also, how many hours a day do you practice?

CL: My playing style is hard to describe, but let’s see… I am right-handed and left eye dominate. My lower body is in a modified snooker four-point stance; I learned this from the European players and Canadians that are pool players. I have a long bridge like Earl Strickland. My stroke hand is on the very back of the cue, and I have a slightly bent wrist and my stroke style is a very similar to a Filipino style.

I have different stroke for bank pool, which is more of a punch stroke, taught to me by Truman Hogue and I bank in the same style as him—very hard and fast. Needless to say, Banks is my best game, although I do play all the games on all the tables well.

I play with either a strict methodical pre-shot routine, or I try to fall into a rhythm. I decide how fast to play based on what’s good for me and what’s bad for the other guy. I also play aggressively; I don’t come to the table scared to shoot the right shot. That’s one thing I picked up from Earl Strickland—always shoot the right shot.

I try to practice at least six hours a day, seven days a week.

HB: Can you briefly go over the equipment you use?

CL: I play with a Meucci cue with a Meucci Pro Series shaft, and I use a pressed Le Pro tip. It’s really similar to a milk-dud, but I use a Le Pro and not an Elk Master. My cue weighs 18.25 ounces, and my shaft is 12.25mm. I use a Meucci Pogo Stick jump cue, and I break with a Meucci Big Bang Breaker prototype that weighs 18 ounces. I use the APT tip tool. I usually use Master blue chalk, but I keep a cube of Kamui chalk on me for extreme power shots with English (to avoid miscuing).

HB: Since bank pool is your best game, what’s the most bank shots you’ve ever made in a row?

The most banks in a row I ever made was eleven, at a Great Southern Billiards Tour event back in 2012.

HB: What’s your highest run in straight pool?

CL: My high run in straight pool is 134, but in competition my highest run was 67 and out at Red Shoes Billiards in Chicago.

HB: What are the most racks you’ve ever run in competition?

CL: The most racks I have run in competition is seven, at the world 8-ball qualifier on a nine-foot table.

HB: What’s the most racks you’ve ever seen run?

CL: The most I’ve ever seen run with my own two eyes was ten in a row. That was Gabe Owens playing bar table 8-ball—Ryan Stone dry broke, and Gabe ran that rack, then broke and ran nine straight.

HB: What’s the most money you’ve ever played for?

CL: The most money I have played for is $6,000 a game playing bar table 9-ball. The most I’ve ever won in a tournament is $6,300.

HB: Are there any specific players you hope to compete against in the future?

CL: I think we can just forget this question, for many reasons. One, I want to play the worst player playing his worst every time, haha. I am far beyond any kind of hero worship… these guys are my competition, and I hate them when I am playing them no matter who it is—just another person trying to beat me and keep me from winning.

HB: You’re sponsored by Meucci and have designed multiple cues for them. How did you first start working with them?

CL: A few years ago at the first Southern Classic, I was having a disagreement with a cue maker during a tournament. Bob Meucci overheard me, and came up to me to tell me that he agreed with me. At the time I didn’t know who he was, and we talked on and off about things over the whole 10 days of the tournament. He eventually revealed himself to me.

I stayed an extra week, and went to his factory for five or six days. At that time we decided to produce the jump cue “pogo stick” that I had designed, and that turned into a cue design—Pro Series—then a shaft design—The Pro—and a break cue that’s coming out this year. So that turned in to being a dealer player rep, and then getting sponsored for my expenses at tournaments, and working at booths for the promotion of the Meucci brand name. The relationship has been great for the both of us.

HB: Where do you want to go with your game in the future? Do you have plans for your business?

CL: I want to take my game up a level—more specifically, I’d like to get it back to how I played when I was younger. I am not getting any younger, and at 44 I am significantly under my best game. Don’t get me wrong, just a few years ago I was 73rd in the final 2012 ABP pro rankings. I’m currently ranked 102nd on the BCA men’s list, so I am going downhill a little. But at my height I was ranked in the top 50, and I’d like to get back there again.

I want to expand my billiards business by giving more lessons, and building my website to sell more of my Meucci products.

HB: What are your views of the pool industry as it stands now? Where would you like to see it go in the future, and what needs to change for this to happen?

CL: My view of the pool industry now is mixed. The industry worldwide is expanding at a fast rate, but the pool industry is declining here in America. I was talking to a large U.S. wood supplier, and he told me that the pool industry has declined by about a third in the last 15 years in the United States. Most billiard supply manufacturers have also declined along the same lines.

I am not sure—no one is sure—how to fix the pro tour problems, but I think if we could sell more tickets to watch the live events and get higher television ratings, then a more stable pro tour could be established… we could look to snooker as a model maybe—they seem to be doing well. I think bringing back straight pool could be a good idea; people like seeing those high runs in snooker, so maybe high runs in 14:1 would work…

Making TV pool 8-ball on a nine foot table might be good, for two reasons: first of all, most pros feel that is the easiest game to break and run racks—not bar table 8-ball but nine foot. This would mean that there would be a lot of break and runs for the audience to get excited about.

Secondly, if you go knock on a hundred random doors in a neighborhood and ask them what solids and stripes or 8-ball is, the majority of people would almost certainly know. So, if any random person turns on TV and sees 8-ball, they will instantly know and understand the game and what the basic rules are. Ask those same 100 people about 10-ball, one pocket, red balls yellow balls, banks, or most other games and they don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Most league players that take lessons from me don’t really understand 10-ball, much less one pocket. I think that’s why bonus ball didn’t do as well as it should have—because it was so hard for people to understand and learn… I still don’t really understand that one.

In the future, I would like to see pool become more mainstream—be on television like bowling, golf, tennis, etc. Then, I think there should be a consistent international and American pro tour.

HB: You have a website coming out soon, what can we expect to see from that?

CL: should be ready by 2016. It’s going to be a place that someone can purchase pool cues, accessories, training videos, and supplies. I am also going to do a subscription so people can have ongoing training videos from myself and some of the other Meucci staff pros on a downloadable daily basis—basically a curriculum.

HB: When will we get to see the training videos you’re coming out with in conjunction with Meucci?

CL: My training videos will be ready by 2016. They are going to be given out with a purchase of any Meucci Pro Series cues, and also some of the other models. They will also be available for purchase on the internet.

HB: Is there anything you’d like to add?

CL: Worldwide baby!

Hannah Blue is lead editor for Sneaky Pete Mafia, and a graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago. She’s had several shows this year; you can see her artwork on her website. When she’s not working Hannah spends most of her time playing pool, making art, and enjoying life in general. Photo: provided by Chris Lawson Editor: Hannah Blue.

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