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Death of the Houseman – as written on AZBilliards Forums

Death of the House Man

Perhaps it’s just me, perhaps it’s my generation that is starting the resurgence of pool in America. The internet telecasts, live streaming, information traveling at the speed of thought. With all of this new technology dawning on us every day we must also look back to our roots as pool players. Whether it’s playing in our family’s basement, going to the local pool hall with friends, or knowing someone who played professionally our past really is important maybe more important than we realize.
One of the things I most fondly remember when I first decided to take our game seriously was the kind and knowledgeable houseman. Always good for a couple of games or a piece of advice, a bastion of knowledge and respect, maybe not the strongest player in the joint but everyone knew his name and took him seriously.

As pool continues on more and more I am finding that these once highly regarded watchmen of the felt are slowly fading away as if time itself is replacing them with younger less experienced counter help. Believe me friends there is a very large difference between being a counter person and being a house man.

In my own local pool room the lack of a house man’s presence is quite noticeable. The current regime if you will is gruff and has grown bitter over the years. What once was a sprawling utopia of billiards is now simply just another pool hall. Tournaments used to bring in competitors from all over the country vying each for over ten thousand dollars and that was just the Calcutta money. Now tournaments bring in the same eight to ten regulars playing on the same tables every day for their ten dollars. Now there is nothing wrong with catering to these individuals because let’s face it they help pay the bills and any business is good business but what happened to the good old days?

Tables are no longer vacuumed the way they should be, rails not wiped, trash not removed, and the bathrooms well let’s just say the bathrooms are an acquired odor. Not one I would personally like to acquire but to each their own. Advice not given, games not played etc. etc. etc. the list goes on and on.

I hope dear reader that in your pool hall you at least have someone who takes pride in their work and does find it an honor to be the all important house man. Someone who makes you feel welcome and part of a club. I miss that feeling in our pool hall. I miss that feeling that what we were doing was somehow bigger than ourselves as kitchy as that sounds and Im sure it does.

I miss that feeling that when we were shooting and we had action that there was nothing else in the world going on. Time could literally stop outside and our own private party was going on strong inside. Hootin and hollerin, woofin, and of course some gentle trash talking. “Ill give you the six ball anytime for anything” for example. Nothing too serious and nothing too expensive. Don’t get me wrong we had action big action with one event coming to mind. A foot race between two portly gentleman from one end of the block to the other for five thousand dollars. I remember laughing as these two rotund gentleman waddled up the block huffing and puffing as my new found family and I laughed for hours after. This whole event started because of the house man. Stirring the pot and finding something anything to do, to bet on, to play for.

It wasn’t always about money. It was for the pride of the room. Our room. Now unfortunately we solemnly await the final nail in our coffin, that fateful wind to blow the doors of our little piece of the billiard world closed as it has done so many others. Will the housemen of years past fade into memory like pool halls of yesterday or will they too in pool rise again. Will they take their rightful place as the historians, the wise ones, the voices of reason? Time will only tell and as the clock ticks on so do I in the hope that one day we will see the phenomena of the house men once again come into the light.

Charles M Eames

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April 8, 2010 Posted by | Portfolio Writing | 1 Comment

Something I wrote a very long time ago.

Call it a first entry if you will into the world of billiards writing. Hope you enjoy.

The State of Pool and Billiards
In the Mainstream Sports World
By: Charles Eames

Pool and billiards for years was known as a sport of kings and gentleman. Dating back to its inception in the fifteenth century there have been three main variants of the game. Pocket Billiards, Carom Billiards, and of course Snooker. All cue sports are generally regarded to have evolved into indoor games from outdoor stick-and-ball lawn games such as croquet or golf. Since then the game has evolved greatly into various sub-divisions of each game including nine ball, 14 and 1 Straight Pool, 8 Ball and many many more.

Since those days the game we love has been morphed into a sport of hustlers, degenerate gamblers, and thieves in the eyes of the mainstream sports world. We have been relegated to the idea that pool rooms are dark and dingy places smoke filled with the scum of the earth roaming around searching for their next mark or target. They are places that parents are afraid to let their children go to and a place that laws pertaining to the distance from a school or religious property (church, temple, religious school, etc.) are currently in effect in some states. These are laws that also pertain to strip clubs and we know what so called polite society?s view of those are. Basically its just a different kind of hustler.

Now dear reader you might be saying to yourself that they can?t all be that bad. You yourself may have been inside of a pool room recently with friends or family and are now thinking to yourself hey it was nothing like you are describing now. Well believe me I have been in my fair share of dank dark pool rooms and they deserve the reputation they have gotten. However I have also been in some of the most elaborate, and upscale rooms in the country. Full restaraunts with great food, nice people, and a great ambience all around.

Next is the topic of gambling. Of all of the stereotypes of the game, gambling is by far the largest. That players are gambling away money that would be better used for personal gains such as rent, food, bills and the like. Now herein lies the rub dear reader. One of the newest phenomenons sweeping our nation is poker. It is on television constantly whether on ESPN or the Travel Channel. Even NBC one of the largest broadcasting networks has gotten in on the action. Poker is a game in which gambling is a must. It is the largest staple of the game that you are basing your betting on the quality of your own poker hand or the weakness of your opponent?s. The worlds top players have gained a celebrity the likes of which Tiger Woods would be jealous of. Golf, Football, Baseball, even Soccer all have betting lines in Las Vegas but that is considered to be a legitimate venture. Im not even going to mention horse racing or boxing and the gambling that goes on there. You might be asking yourself how this pertains to pool and billiards but think about it. There is an old joke that more money changes hands on the golf course than the entire New York Stock Exchange. Basically the point of this is that gambling is ok so long as its on the sports that society deems fit.

Pool in general it would appear is going through a renaiscannce. Professional tours with prize money in the tens of thousands, sponsors putting up money for newer and better quipment. Social leagues are also coming into play more than ever with memberships in the hundreds of thousands. Television coverage and fans across the country. Pool rooms popping up in family oriented places such as Dave and Buster?s and Jillians. Much like the Vegas we now know to be a family oriented place, pool is slowly creeping its way back into the minds of people as a sport that can be recognized as a friendly competition between friends, family, and of course a resected opponent.

The point of this little essay while I am sure it could have been written better and thoughts organized more, is that there are those of us who play as gentleman and of course gentlewomen. That we are sportsman and while we may enjoy the occasional gamble on a friendly game with friends or in tournaments, we play for the game. Although it sounds clich? I truly feel that we do it becaseue we love it. We strive to be great, we strive for excellence like in any sport. There are those of us who play with the etiquette and respect our opponents and the game deserve. There are those of us who dream of the bright lights of the final table (and no not poker) and the cameras rolling as our families watch on ESPN.

Just so everyone knows the idea of this was conceived while browsing through the magazine section of my local Barnes and Nobles. While they carry instructional books regarding the game on how to play and the rules. There is not one magazine dedicated to the subject. From my own research I have found there are over ten publications about pool and or billiards. Magazines following current events and trends in the game and what not. When I asked the manager about this travesty he said that the corporation deemed pool an unfit topic to have a magazine about stocked in their store. This of course was said while we were standing in front of every handgun, shotgun, hunting rifle, and knife magazine known to man.

While browsing I came across five different magazines about poker or gambling one of which entitled Slot Player. I guess slot machines are ok for our children to learn about in Barnes and Nobles. Perhaps it has something to do with the math aspect. Learning win loss ratios or statistics and number variances.

Now I know I didn?t articulate all of the issues and opinions regarding this topic. I know that what was said here today could have been better said and better laid out but it has gotten to the point that I simply could not take it anymore.

I look forward to any and all opinions and responses.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Pool Synergy, Portfolio Writing | 1 Comment