Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shooting Pool

Before my father-in-law became my father-in-law, he invited me into his basement for a game of billiards. Now over the years I have dropped my fair share of quarters into tables in local drinking establishments. These early lessons from the street molded me into a competent shooter, certainly not a Minnesota Fats, but one who wouldn't embarrass himself either.

The first thing we settled on was the house rules: the game was eight ball with the option of calling the last shot.

We lagged for break and I won. I sunk a solid on the break, and we were off and running. About 20 minutes later I was lined up on a fairly easy eight ball shot. I called it in the corner pocket and slammed it home.

Game one: me.

We re-racked and dad scratched on the break. I took the cue ball and dropped a striper this time. Fifteen minutes into game two and things were rolling my way. Game over. Two won ... as were games three and four.

To make things interesting, dad suggested we make the game a little more realistic by betting a dollar on the outcome. Feeling pretty confident, I heartily agreed and off we went. After I was $15 ahead, he suggested double or nothing. This is my lucky day, I'm thinking.

It was then everything got a little fuzzy. He reached behind the counter and pulled out a black case. Opening it revealed two tapered cylinders of wood, polished to a high-gloss finish and, along the fatter end, exhibiting a tightly woven material for gripping the cue. Slowly screwing the two pieces of his custom pool cue together, he grabbed the chalk and began twisting his cue tip into it. Then, with a loud crack he busted the balls in every direction, sinking a stripe. Five minutes later he had cleared his remaining balls, dropped the eight in a side pocket, and emptied my wallet.

He smiled as he put his arm around me and said, "Son, you've just been hustled." It was then dad shared that he had once owned a pool hall and was known as an "expert" in the neighborhood.

He then looked me square in the eye and gave me some pretty good words of advice: "Son, there are lots of people out there who will gladly take advantage of you. Now that you're going to be responsible for my daughter I want you to be vigilant. Don't get in over your head; always be leery of easy money, and if it seems too good to be true, it is -- walk away. And the most important piece of advice is this: don't gamble. You will lose every time."

He then gave me a $50 bill saying, "And always take care of your family."

My father-in-law was a wise man. I have tried to follow his advice daily.

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