Pool hustler out hustled in 8-ball mind game

August 14, 2001 6:09 AM
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THEY CALLED HIM GRUMPY! He really wasn’t a bad guy. However, he had some traits that earned him his nickname. He loved the ladies. And, whenever he was with one he wore a smile. With a doll at his side he was real George. He bought drinks for nearly everyone. He laughed and even told jokes.

Besides the ladies, he loved to gamble. Horses, numbers, cards, darts, pool . . . name it, Grumpy played it.

His favorite hangout was a saloon that was headquarters for rounders and guys who loved the action.

Pete was one of the latter. He was a hustler’s hustler. Pool was his game.

With a cue stick in his hand, Grumpy was the showman of the bar. He constantly tried to egg someone into a game. Watching him showoff made it impossible for him to get any challengers. He would run a rack or two and make the cue ball talk. He was awesome in controlling the cue. He would chalk up his stick and make the balls disappear.

One night Pete, who had been clocking Grumpy, spoke up when Grumpy teased for action.

He accepted Pete’s challenge. The smile of a Cheshire cat spread across his face.

Everyone thought Pete was nuts. Not Pete. He must have seen a chink in Grumpy’s armor and was ready to test it. He told Grumpy that he would play a game of eight ball with him for $50 on one condition. Grumpy would only be able to sink his balls in the pockets on one side of the table.

The balls were racked. Grumpy won the toss and broke. Everyone emptied from the bar and circled the pool table.

Right from the start, Grumpy appeared to be limping with controlling the cue ball. Pete, who never had much to say to anybody, was constantly in Grumpy’s ear. Every time the Grump made a shot, Pete announced that he was crazy taking on such a pool shark.

Grumpy ate it up.

Pete still had three balls left on the table when Grumpy was shooting for the eight ball. He missed his first attempt. Pete missed his shot, too. The cue ball came to rest at mid-table. The eight ball was just off the cushion. It was set up for a combination shot. Grumpy chalked the cue, took dead aim and made a perfect bank shot. The ball went right into the corner pocket. It was a great shot. The problem was it was not one of the pockets he had to sink his balls in.

Pete declared himself the winner. The crowd agreed.

Grumpy went ballistic.

“You beat me on a technicality. You didn’t beat me fair and square. Give me another chance!”

Pete agreed. The only condition was that Grumpy had to sink his balls in the pockets on the opposite side of the table.

Grumpy laughed.

This time Pete broke. He ran five balls.

Grumpy began to sweat.

When it was his shot ”” he had the low balls ”” they were clumped with the eight ball. Grumpy fired into the pack. Two low balls went in. The eight ball bounced off a side cushion and kept on rolling right into a pocket.

Oops, another loser for the Grumpster.

By now he was irate and beside himself. He even stuttered when he asked to play one final game for $100.

Pete placed his cue stick in the rack as if he was finished. Grumpy began begging. He begged and begged and begged.

Finally, Pete said he’d play on one condition. The game would be for $100, but Grumpy would have to sink all his balls in one pocket.

Everyone was shocked when Grumpy agreed.

A very nervous Grumpy appeared. He repeatedly chalked the cue stick. Every time he fired he missed. Pete had turned him to mush. He won the game and pocketed the C-note. In less than 40 minutes he had beaten Grumpy out of $200.

Grumpy tossed the cue stick through the air and ran out the back door of the saloon. It was years before he returned. And, the game of pool was no longer in his repertoire.