PoolRoom

Go Big Or Go Home

Frost, who opened Freezer’s Ice House in Tempe, Ariz., says most poolroom owners are “simply behind the times.”


While poolrooms struggle across the country, two industry veterans open sparkling new rooms in the Southwest U.S., with hopes of changing the public’s perception of the game. Ask anyone in the industry how to fix pool or how to save pool or what to do to re-energize pool, and you better not have a dinner reservation in 15 minutes. That one question can elicit a wide range of answers. All it needs is another “Color of Money”… We gotta get kids playing pool instead of video games… The big companies and leagues need to work together to promote the game… These proposals, individually, are not wrong — but they are far from short-term, practical fixes. One person isn’t going to get junior leagues up and running across the country. A slick advertising campaign isn’t going to create millions of new players. Any comprehensive solution will have to gain traction at a grassroots level. Changing perceptions of the game will require widespread effort, in addition to any a top-down solutions. Two new poolrooms — Scott Frost’s Freezer’s Ice House in Tempe, Arizona, and Mark Griffin’s eponymous Griff’s in Las Vegas — are aiming to support those already bitten by the pool bug, while also attracting those adjacent to players and fans. These sprawling spots — Frost’s is 15,000 square feet; Griffin’s is 8,300 — are hoping to improve pool’s image by attracting players and a casual crowd who may just want a beer, a burger and a place to watch the game.

Taking Another Swing

Freezer’s is a multi-purpose entertainment center, but pool is the primary draw.

Mark Griffin has done just about everything you can do in the pool world — he’s been a table mechanic, room operator, player, instructor, league operator and tournament promoter. The 70-year-old Alaskan native made his biggest play in 2004, when he sold his room in Anchorage, Alaska, and purchased the BCA Pool Leagues. Relocating to Las Vegas, he went full bore into promoting amateur participation and promoting the BCAPL’s annual pilgrimage to Sin City for the league’s championships. Griffin, a tireless advocate for the game, was neck-deep in the amateur side of the game, while also promoting professional events alongside the BCAPL National Championships. He has organized events under his CueSports International brand, including the U.S. Bar Table Championships, the U.S. Open 8-Ball and U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships, and other West Coast events like the Jay Swanson 9-Ball Memorial tournament. Griffin was also a longtime partner in Diamond Billiard Products, owning the tablemaker’s first building in Tennessee, though that business relationship has recently ended. Never one to sit idle, Griffin faced his most troubling opponent in 2014 — news that he would require a lung transplant. Undergoing the procedure in January 2015, that year was dedicated to his recovery — though one eye remained on his pool projects. “Finally, by the end of the year, I started feeling better. I had my health back,” Griffin said. “And it was just about then that the opportunity to buy the room came about. I thought, ‘Why not?’ I thought I’d take a swing at it.”

Going Off the Road

In addition to pool, Freezer’s features a sports bar/lounge and restaurant.

Scott Frost has spent plenty of time on the road. The 42-year-old has scrambled across the United States for the better part of 15 years. One of the best one-pocket players in the world, he put together an impressive resume — collecting major titles including the U.S. Open One-Pocket Championship, Derby City Classic One-Pocket division and the Legends of One-Pocket title. Having beat Efren Reyes a few times, Frost found it harder to find an action game to his liking. In 2007, he started working in a Phoenix poolhall. Officially the house pro, he spent years learning the business — he wasn’t just there to hit balls and attract in hardcore players and fans. “That was kind of an internship for me,” Frost said. “I did everything there — building the leagues, promoting the room, being the face of the business.” After that business partnership ended in 2015, Frost was left without a motivating force. Burned out after that much time on the road, he started thinking about longer term ways to support himself — while fulfilling a personal promise to his family. “My mother and father were both in business,” he said. “When I found pool when I was 16, they were not thrilled. But about three years later, when I could possibly make a living, they really got behind me. I always promised I would never be a broke, degenerate pool player. “That’s a touchy situation because a lot of my heroes and idols — a lot of those guys showed me what to do and what not to do. I always had it in the back of my mind: someday I was going to figure out a way to build my dream poolroom and make it a success.” Without a room to call his own, Frost called up an old friend, Jason Chance, from Des Moines, Iowa. Chance, a strong player in his own right, purchased his father’s business in 2000, turning Diamond Oil from a steady, if unspectacular, business into a 14-location company on the up. “He’s done so much for me already,” Frost said. “I called him up with my idea — and he said I should start scouting locations.”

A Destination Spot

Griff’s features 25 Diamond pool tables and lures players from national tournaments with a shuttle service.

Back on his feet by the end of 2015, Griffin began construction on the room early the next year. Formerly Pool Sharks, the building needed a complete rehab. Walls needed to be replaced. Flooring had to be ripped up and redone. This wasn’t a matter of slapping on a fresh coat of paint and hanging a new shingle out front. “Really, I don’t know how it stayed open with the health department,” he said. “Everything we have is brand new, besides the ceiling grid. We had to expand the kitchen, replace the air-conditioning units. The bathrooms — you could take those and drop them in the Bellagio and nobody would notice.” Located in a 55,000-square-foot mall on four acres, Griff’s is roughly two miles west of the north end of the Vegas Strip. It has 25 Diamond tables — 17 7-footers and eight 9-footers — in addition to a Chinese 8-ball table and a three-cushion table. Investing nearly $1 million in the project, Griffin sees his room, which opened Oct. 31, 2016, as a standard bearer for the game. “I just want pool to have the facilities that will let people see the game how it’s supposed to be,” he said “It’s a gentleman’s game — treat it like that. There’s no woofing and screaming from across the room. It’s a comfortable, classy place.” “We have security at the door. Heck, the guy’s 75 years old, but he’s here because he knows everyone. He was the doorman at Pool Sharks for years. We haven’t had those issues because people act accordingly.” With Las Vegas hosting so many amateur league championships, Griff’s will certainly be a destination for a certain set of tourists. Along those lines, the poolroom runs a 15-person shuttle back and forth to the various tournament hotels. But Griffin knows steady business is found in developing local and regional followings. “We are definitely catering to the local players and even Arizona players,” he said. “We have weekly tournaments, TAP leagues, APA leagues and independent leagues [in addition to BCAPL and USAPL].” But ask any poolroom owner and he will tell you pool and alcohol won’t keep the lights on by themselves. Griff’s put that expanded kitchen to work and offers full bar service. Other promotions, like karaoke contests, hope to catch attention of those who don’t tote a cue case. The room is also one of the only venues in Las Vegas to be completely smoke-free. (Considering Griffin’s recent medical history, one can see why it’s targeting the non-smoking demographic.) “I want to be a place people will visit because there’s no smoking,” he said. “That is a big deal — and I have people come up to me all the time to say thanks. We have one regular [customer] who is a heavy smoker, but he loves it because the place is nicer.” Due to some licensing issues, Griff’s doesn’t yet have video gaming, but Griffin expects to offer the machines that are ubiquitous in town to his patrons. “You can’t survive in this town without them,” he said. “The grocery stores have them. But we’ll hopefully take care of that in the next few months.” While gambling might be part of the culture in Las Vegas, Griffin feels like he’s already won. With his health and plenty of energy, he’s back being an advocate for the game — though vacations might be more plentiful moving forward. “I’m lucky to be alive, that’s the way I look at it. I shouldn’t be here,” he said. “I’m going to work hard but I also want to travel and enjoy myself.”

A Desert Hot Spot

Griffin (left) spent $1 million remodeling an existing room, and plans to add video gaming.

Frost didn’t waste time when he got the go-ahead from Chance to scout for possible locations for a room in 2016. He visited more than a dozen potential sites in the Phoenix area, eventually setting his sights on a freestanding building at the corner of a bustling intersection in Tempe, Arizona. Just a few blocks south of the Arizona State University campus, the spot promised plenty of drive-by traffic, along with the interior space to build a multi-faceted room with pool tables, a lounge/nightclub area and a bar and grill. But wanting and having are two different things. “People ask what was the most stressful part of this whole project,” Frost said. “Far and away, it was negotiating the property.” Bidding against a local organic grocer, Frost spent three months in discussions with the owner before his bid was accepted.

“It was a lot. One week we thought we had it — the next, we weren’t sure,” he said. “The owner really bought into our concept and what we wanted to do with the place. Once we got that deal, it felt like we were gathering momentum.” Construction began in December 2016, with major renovations to what had been a retail space. Throughout the building process, Frost was onsite as much as possible, working with contractors to ensure the reality matched his vision. “It seemed like a million years because I was coming in everyday wanting to go, go, go,” he said. “But really, in what was accomplished in that time, it’s amazing now that I can look back on it.” Six months later, in late June, with a total investment north of $2 million, Freezer’s Ice House opened with 35 Diamond tables, 12 dartboards and more than 100 TVs. Appropriately enough, the Ice House has three different rooms. In addition to the poolroom, the Hot Spot Lounge is a sports bar during the day that turns into a nightclub later in the evenings. The Chill Grill is a third area that offers quieter drinks and dining. Like Griff’s play to attract non-pool players, the Ice House is more than chalk and stale beer. “You have to give people a reason to come,” Frost said. “I wanted a place that could have families come in. The dad can play pool, mom can have a glass of wine in the lounge and the kids can play Ms. Pac-man.” Also, like Griffin did with his room, Frost sees the Ice House as a contradiction to the tired stereotype of a dirty poolroom. “I do not say ‘poolhall,'” he said. “There’s a stigma there and I don’t want to be a part of it. This is an upscale poolroom. My partner and I, we want to change the face of pool. This is something that is needed, and it’s wanted by a lot of people.”

Doing Things Differently

These two rooms are aberrations in an industry that has seen rooms go out of business across the country. So, begs the question, just what makes these guys the ones to be successful in a tight market? Griffin has a simple answer. “I’ve done this before,” he said. “I had the Anchorage Billiard Palace for 16 years.” (He also owned a handful of rooms in San Diego in that time.) Frost, meanwhile, believes his time on the road, along with the years spent working in a Phoenix room, primed him to do it the right way. “I’ve got so many memories and I’ll never regret it,” he said. “But in my opinion, 90 percent of rooms are behind the times. Everybody’s saying the game is dead. Pool isn’t dead. The poolrooms people play in are.”

Partypoker set to sponsor Mosconi Cup XXIV

Matchroom Multi Sport is delighted to announce Partypoker as the title sponsors for the 24th annual Mosconi Cup at Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas from 4th to 7th December.

Partypoker.com is one of the oldest, most recognized and trusted online poker brands. Launched in August 2001, partypoker.com is one of the pioneers of the online poker industry.

The partypoker Mosconi Cup returns to Las Vegas this winter as Team USA look to finally wrestle the famous Cup back from the hands of the Europeans. Renowned coach Johan Ruijsink has taken over the reigns as captain for the hosts, who hope he can have them same impact on America as he did with Europe while Marcus Chamat’s men are out to continue to reign supreme on pool’s greatest stage.

Managing Director of partypoker Tom Waters said: “I am very pleased to announce this partnership with Matchroom Sport that sees partypoker sponsor the Mosconi Cup this December. Partypoker players will have the opportunity to win a trip of a lifetime to Las Vegas. More details will be available soon on partypoker.com!”

Matchroom Sport Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted partypoker will once again be title sponsors of the Mosconi Cup. They have a long-standing relationship with both Matchroom Sport and the tournament, which is undoubtedly the greatest show in pool.

“This is one of the most eagerly anticipated partypoker Mosconi Cups for years. There is a strong feeling USA can turn the tide in Las Vegas and reclaim the famous trophy from European hands. The stage is set for a thrilling week and we are delighted partypoker are on board once again.”

Partypoker Mosconi Cup XXIV takes place from Monday, December 4th until Thursday, December 7th and will be broadcast live throughout on Sky Sports in the UK. The tournament will have a wide international TV reach, with details of global broadcast partners to be announced in due course.

Tickets for partypoker Mosconi Cup XXIV are available now at www.mosconicup.com. Tickets start from $48 per session with season tickets comprising all four sessions from £161. Premium and VIP packages are also available.

Appleton, Rossman Elected To BCA HOF

Darren Appleton was already 30 years old when he made the move from English 8-Ball to American Pool, and soon thereafter from Yorkshire, England, to the United States. But in 11 short years, the doggedly determined former boxer made an indelible mark on the game, winning three world championships in three different disciplines and nearly a dozen more major titles. For his efforts, Appleton has been elected into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame, the BCA announced today.

Appleton, 41, who will enter pool’s most prestigious hall in the Greatest Players wing, is joined in the Class of 2017 by trick shot impresario and enthusiastic pool ambassador Tom Rossman. Rossman, 69, was elected into the Meritorious Service category. Voting was conducted by the United States Media Association. “It’s amazing to know that I’m in the BCA Hall of Fame,” Appleton said. “I can’t really put it into words. There is no bigger honor for a pool player. This is the pinnacle.”

“I’m humbled and honored to be elected into the BCA Hall of Fame,” Rossman concurred. “The Hall of Fame designation is extra special in so many ways. When a person connects with his or her dreams, visions, blessings and passions in a heartfelt manner, he or she may truly rack up a victory in the game and, more importantly, in life.”

After a decade during which he was the world’s top-ranked English 8-Ball player seven times, Appleton made his move to American Pool in 2006. After honing his skills in the Philippines over the course of the next two years, Appleton shocked the pool world by winning the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) World 10-Ball Championship in 2009. Over the next five years, Appleton would add the WPA World 9-Ball Championship (2010), the World Pool Masters (2009), World Games gold medal (2013) and back-to-back U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships (2010, ’11), International Challenge of Champions (2011, ’12) and World Tournament of 14.1 (2013, ’14) titles to his collection. In 2015, Appleton won his third WPA world title when he captured the Chinese Pool World Championship.

Rossman has been one of pool’s leading trick shot experts, teachers and ambassadors for nearly 40 years. He is considered the founding father of the “Artistic Pool” movement, and is credited with getting the discipline accepted by the WPA. Rossman logs tens of thousands of miles each year putting on exhibitions and teaching junior players and new enthusiasts.

Appleton was named on a whopping 87 percent of the ballots in Hall of Fame voting, easily outdistancing Women’s Professional Billiards Association champion Gerda Hofstatter. Hofstatter was named on 47 percent of the ballots. Vivian Villarreal, Jeremy Jones and Shannon Daulton were also on the ballot. Rossman was recommended by the Meritorious Service Committee, and was confirmed with 90 percent approval by the Hall of Fame Board.

Appleton and Rossman, the 69th and 70th members of the BCA Hall of Fame, will be formally inducted during ceremonies later in the year.

Tools of the Trade

Pool players have a love/hate relationship with their cues. We talk to some of the game’s best to better understand how equipment impacts performance.

Photos by Mel Evans

Pool isn’t baseball, where an inside fastball can snap a bat in half. Pool isn’t golf, where an errant drive can wind up with a driver floating in the nearby pond. Pool definitely isn’t basketball, where LeBron James might never wear the same shoe twice. Pool players and their cues have a markedly different relationship. Maybe it’s the function of the cue, as a literal extension of the human body. Maybe it’s the sheer amount of time one spends with it, hours at the table, in the airport, in the car. It’s not an exaggeration to call it an intimate relationship, even if that 20-ounce hunk of wood and leather can be a fickle partner when it’s needed the most. For the Cue Issue of Billiards Digest, we talked to nine of the best players in the world. We asked them about their preferences, about their horror stories, about any advice they might have for the average player.

Kelly Fisher

Like Allison, Kelly Fisher dominated snooker before switching to American pool. The three-time snooker world champ has won a pair of 9-ball world titles and a handful of WPBA titles in her dozen years as a pool pro.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
I once left my cues circling on the conveyor belt at the airport. I didn’t even realize I had left them there until I got home three hours later.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
I’ll never forget it. I was 13 or 14 years old. My dad took me to a custom cuemaker and I was allowed to choose it all by myself, whatever I wanted.

Do you have a particular horror story that comes to mind?
When I arrived at the 2015 Women’s World 9-Ball Championship in China, I went to practice the night before, only to find my tip was half off. I got my spare shaft out of my bag and, I have no idea how, but that tip was also hanging off. One of the players helped me reattach the tip, but the uncertainty was in the back of my mind. (Editor’s note: She finished in ninth place.)

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I don’t clean my cue. I actually don’t do anything to it — and I like it dirty.

Do you have any superstitions with your cues?
I take them out and put them back in my case in the same place and order.

Darren Appleton

In the decade since “Dynamite” made the switch to American pool from its English counterpart, he has won world 9-ball and 10-ball titles, two U.S. Opens and seven Mosconi Cups as a part of Team Europe.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
In 2005, I lost, 9-8, on the TV table in the quarterfinal of the World 8-Ball Championship (in English pool). On the way out of the arena, I put my 10-year-old craftsman ash one-piece cue over my knee. I broke it right in half and threw it in the corner. Afterward, I was a little unhappy since that cue was like my right arm. I couldn’t find a good cue for the next two years. Nothing made me happy. I was never the same player again. Then, in 2007, I switched to American pool, so that was my savior really.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
My first cue was a Riley two-piece when I first started, around 1991 or so. I loved it because Stephen Hendry, the world snooker champion, used a Riley. I thought it was the best cue ever, even though it was worth all of $30. But Hendry won his seven world titles with a $30 cue, which is pretty amazing.

What, if anything, does a cue say about a player?
I don’t think it says much. My favorite color is red, so I’ve had a few of those.

What’s the most difficult thing about switching cues?
What kind of mental obstacles do you face?
Switching cues in English pool is very difficult, because no two ash cues are the same. But American cues are made of maple, so a lot of brands are pretty much the same. It’s more like golf clubs.

What’s the most common misconception among players in terms of tip maintenance?
Most amateurs don’t have a clue about their tips. Really, if you just have a nice dome shape, you should be good. But having the right tip is important. A player with no cue power should be using a soft tip and a player with a lot of power should be using a medium or hard tip.

Justin Bergman

One of the best young players in the United States, Bergman is dangerous in all of pool’s disciplines, while also being a dangerous barbox player. The Illinois native has represented Team USA three times in the Mosconi Cup.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
My first cue was a Dufferin, one of those made for little kids. My first normal cue was a McDermott — it was all red with a black snake on it.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I never do anything to my cue except replace the tip.

 

Allison Fisher

It’s not often “Hall of Famer” is an understatement. The “Duchess of Doom” is arguably the greatest woman to ever pick up a cue. She’s a four-time world champ, 40-time winner on the WPBA tour and 11-time world champ in snooker.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
My first cue was a gift. It had a screw-on tip.

What’s the most difficult thing about switching cues?
What kind of mental obstacles do you face?
The difficult part is adjusting to the deflection and throw between cues. I can adjust pretty quickly because I am a feel and method player. I pay close attention to what happens to the path of the cue ball. The mental obstacle is the different feel of the hit.

Do you have any pet peeves about how other people handle cues (your or theirs)?
I don’t like it when people bang their shaft into balls to gather them for shots. I sometimes let people shoot with my cue, but I have to know they respect cues before I do. I observe what they do with their own. I don’t like people picking up my cue without my permission.

Thorsten Hohmann

The German now residing in Florida has nearly done it all in his career. “The Hitman” has won a pair of world 9-ball titles, a straight-pool world championship and $350,000 for his win at the International Pool Tour’s North American 8-Ball Championship.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
I once made the mistake of wanting the front end of my cue to be heavier. I had a friend add an ounce of weight right behind the ferrule. It created so much deflection that when I put sidespin on the ball, I missed the object ball entirely.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
It was blue.

Do you have a particular horror story that comes to mind?
I once left my cue at a Guinness Beer booth during an event in Indonesia. It was my birthday, so I went to celebrate in a different part of the mall. When I went back to pick up my cues and go play, I realized someone had poured Guinness down the pipes of my case. The shaft had expanded and everything was filthy, wet and stunk like beer. I had to get all new equipment.

A good carpenter never blames his tools, but do you remember a time it was definitely your cue’s fault?
It’s always the cues fault—unless it was the crooked table, the very bad roll, the sharking opponent, the terrible lighting, the annoying spectator or the wind gust that made me miss.

Rodney Morris

“The Rocket” is one of the game’s most explosive players. The 1996 U.S. Open Champion and BCA Hall of Famer has dozens of titles and has represented Team USA in the Mosconi Cup 10 times.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
The most bone-headed thing I did with a cue was grab my whole case and throw it across the room after losing in the World 9-Ball Championships in 2004. The best part was that it was a soft case! Very lucky that all my cues didn’t snap.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
The first real cue was a Barry Szamboti. I love everything about it — the feel, the hit, the sound. I knew right away I had something special in my hands.

Do you have a particular horror story that comes to mind?
I remember playing in a big match when my tip flew off right in the middle of a shot. I didn’t have another shaft, so I just quit.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I don’t do any of my own maintenance on my cues except for scuff or tap the tip when I feel it needs it. I never learned how.

What’s the most difficult thing about switching cues? What kind of mental obstacles do you face?
There was a 15-year stretch where it seemed like I used a different cue about every six months. The hardest part is learning the deflection on slow spin shots — and they always come up when it’s hill hill! Mentally, you’re in big trouble at that point.

What does a player need to consider before switching to a low-deflection shaft?
Before switching, you need to try it out. A cue should fit you right away. It shouldn’t mean you have to adjust to it.

Do you have any pet peeves about how other people handle cues (your or theirs)?
I hate the way some people chalk their cues if they make a loud squeaky sound. That irritates the hell out of me. Or when they drag their cue around behind them when they walk around the table.

Monica Webb

A perennial top-10 player on the women’s tour, Webb has won two WPBA titles. She currently runs her own poolroom in Georgia while continuing to compete at the highest levels.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
I once slammed the ivory butt of a cue once. The [bumper] was worn down, so it cracked all the way up.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
It wasn’t a “real cue” but when I was 8 years old, I kept my own house cue behind the bar. I got my own cue when I was 9 or 10. It was my favorite — being able to have a proper cue and get more consistent.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I don’t clean my shaft much at all, but my ferrule needs to be clean.

What, if anything, does a cue say about a player?
Beyond something flashy versus simple and conservative, I think it might say something about a personality, but it doesn’t say much about the player.

Jennifer Barretta

New York’s own has been long been among the elite women in the U.S. She also starred in Tru TV’s “The Hustlers” and is a regular on the Women’s Professional Billiard Association tour.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
All of my bone-headed things I’ve done have been at the table. The mishaps and mistakes were definitely not the cue’s fault. No cues were injured in the making of my career.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
I remember my instructor telling me about the Predator shaft when it first came out. I knew nothing about pool, but I sure did like the name.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I never clean my cue. Other players touch it and cringe.

What, if anything, does a cue say about a player?
Flashy? They are the players with flashy games. Subdued and technical? Their game matches. Very expensive and filled with inlays? Play them for money. They usually suck.

What’s the most difficult thing about switching cues? What kind of mental obstacles do you face?
I’m not a fan of switching cues. You put so much trust in this instrument that you play with. How can I trust a stranger?

Do you have any superstitions with your cues?
Sometimes when I’m having a good tournament, I find myself “making them comfortable” in the hotel room—laying them on the sofa, making sure they’re out of harms way, ridiculous stuff like that. I think they appreciate it, though!

What does a player need to consider before switching to a low-deflection shaft?
That they won’t miss as much. Consider your decision very carefully!

A good carpenter never blames his tools, but do you remember a time it was definitely your cue’s fault?
I was sponsored by a new cue company right after I came off a very long break. I stuck it out because I thought I had forgotten how to play. That sponsorship ran out and I started playing with my Lucasi Hybrid. It was like night and day the moment I put it in my hands. Definitely the cue’s fault.

Mike Dechaine

A mercurial talent from Maine, “Fireball” has used his powerful stroke to take a place among the best in the U.S. The four-time Team USA member in the Mosconi Cup also starred alongside Barretta in Tru TV’s “The Hustlers.”

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
Wow, there are so many things I’d like to take back when it comes to cues. My biggest mistake was switching from something I really liked. When you get used to something, keep it. Also, I’ve changed tips in the middle of tournaments when I was playing perfectly fine. I do not recommend doing that.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
My first “real” cue was a McDermott my father gave me. It was simple but played extremely well. It was before I knew anything about high or low deflection. I actually still have this cue, so maybe I’ll dust it off and start playing with it again.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
Most everything about my equipment is straightforward. I use a specific tip, taper, like my shaft smooth but dirty and prefer a forward-balanced cue. Some have commented on my unique chalking habits. Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with it, but I guess it’s strange from what I’ve heard.

What, if anything, does a cue say about a player?
For me, all I care about is if the cue plays well. It could be the ugliest looking thing in the world, but if it hits good, it’s in my bag.

A good carpenter never blames his tools, but do you remember a time it was definitely your cue’s fault?
I’d like to say every time, but we all know that’s not the case. One situation I wish I could take back was a week before the 2015 Mosconi Cup when my ferrule cracked. This was heartbreaking for me because I was playing excellent when this all happened. That time, it was 100% the cue’s fault!

Fill in the Blank

The most important single thing about a cue is _____.

Kelly Fisher: You trust it.
Monica Webb: The shaft.
Jennifer Barretta: The shaft.
Darren Appleton: The tip.
Rodney Morris: The hit.
Allison Fisher: The balance.
Justin Bergman: The tip.

Nickel- or dime-shaped tip?

K. Fisher: Dime.
Webb: Nickel.
Barretta: Nickel. I get too much spin with a dime.
Appleton: Nickel.
Morris: Dime.

I’m especially aware of my cue’s _____.

K. Fisher: Crisp hit.
Webb: Wrap.
Barretta: Balance.
Appleton: Tip.
Morris: Tip hardness.
A. Fisher: Balance.

Players who name their cues are _____.

K. Fisher: Odd.
Webb: Goofy.
Barretta: Lonely.
Appleton: Bipolar.
Morris: Participation-trophy kids.
Bergman: Strange.
A. Fisher: Interesting.

When I’m walking with my cues/cue case, strangers most commonly mistake them for _____.

Webb: Musical instruments.
Barretta: Musical instruments.
Appleton: Guns.
Morris: Arrows.
A. Fisher: Musical instruments.

As far as its hit, the most underrated aspect of a cue is _____.

K. Fisher: Vibration
Morris: The age of the shaft wood.
Webb: The ferrule.
Appleton: Again, the tip.
A. Fisher: Weight distribution.
Bergman: The joint.

How many cues do you currently own?

K. Fisher: Three, though hundreds more if you count the ones at my pool hall, retail story and Kwikfire line of cues!
Webb: Not many. Less than five.
Barretta: They seem to accumulate, but I only own three that I actually use.
Appleton: Three.
Bergman: 10.
Morris: Just two.
A. Fisher: Quite a few, but I only play with one.

How many cues have you owned in your lifetime?

Appleton: Around 20.
Barretta: Around 20.
Morris: Hundreds.
Bergman: Hundreds.

What’s the most you’ve paid for a cue?

Barretta: $200 for my first cue.
Appleton: $100
A. Fisher: $2,500
Morris: $12,500
Bergman: A couple thousand dollars.

How much does your cue weigh? Your break cue?

K. Fisher: Both my playing cue and break cue are 19.5 oz.
Webb: My playing cue is 19 oz. and my break cue is 18.5 oz.
Barretta: My playing cue is 19 oz., my break cue is 20 oz.
Appleton: My playing cue is 19.5 oz. and my break cue is 19 oz.
Bergman: My playing cue is 18 oz.
Morris: My playing cue is 20 oz. and my break cue is 19.5 oz.
A. Fisher: My playing cue is 18.2 oz. and I don’t know what my break cue weighs.

I prefer a wrap/no wrap because _____.

K. Fisher: A prefer a wrap because it is less sticky.
A. Fisher: I like the beauty of a wrapless cue, but I prefer wraps because the lacquer can be too thick and sticky.
Webb: I like a wrap because of the grip.
Appleton: I prefer an elephant ear skin wrap for its feel.
Bergman: I prefer a wrap because my hands sweat so it gives me a better feel.
Morris: I prefer a leather wrap because I like how it grips my hand.

A good cue repairman is worth _____.

Webb: A lot! Nothing is worse than your tip falling off at a tournament or needing repair on the finish and wrap. It’s very important to me that I have the best person work on those things.
Barretta: Chaining up in your basement!
Appleton: Paying him properly for his work.
Morris: $2 million! (Approximately.)
A. Fisher: A good repairman is worth quite a bit but a good cuemaker is priceless.

Ruijsink to Coach U.S.

Ruijsink will switch jerseys for the Mosconi Cup.

In a move that was met with mixed reviews, Mosconi Cup promoter Matchroom Sport announced Holland’s Johan Ruijsink as 2017 captain for Team USA. The 50-year-old Ruijsink is well known in Mosconi Cup annals as the undefeated captain for Team Europe, having led the squad seven times between 2006 and 2014. Ruijsink voluntarily stepped down as Team Europe after the 2014 event, in part citing the lack of a challenge in leading the European team.

Ruijsink replaces Mark Wilson, who helmed the U.S. squad for three years, coming closest to victory in 2015, when the U.S. lost, 11-7.

With Team USA posting just one win in the last 11 Mosconi Cups, Matchroom said it was seeking a game-changer to “revive America’s flagging fortunes,” even if it meant appointing a European coach.

The announcement caught many American players and fans by surprise. Numerous posts on social media decried the decision as “an insult to the Americans,” while others applauded the selection as America’s “best chance” to become competitive again.

“The reason to take on this job is quite obvious,” Ruijsink commented in the Matchroom release. “I am an authentic lover of the game and especially of the Mosconi Cup. In 25 years of coaching, the Mosconi Cup has proven to be by far the most exciting event in the world of pool.

“As a coach in pool, there is no higher goal then working in the ‘home of pool,’ the U.S.A. My entire coaching career has been founded on seeing the American players compete at the World Championships in Bergheim, Germany, in 1990. There I saw Earl, Varner, Davenport, Mizerak, Mataya, Lebron and a young Johnny Archer, and they made me love the game even more.”

Ruijsink is credited with coaching Holland into a pool powerhouse, mentoring stars like Alex Lely, Niels Feijen and Rico Diks in the ’90s and early 2000s. In recent years, he has been coaching in Russia, developing a talented crop of players, including recent World Pool Series champion Ruslan Chinahov.

“I was shocked at first,” said American Justin Bergman, who has played on the last three U.S. squads. “But I don’t think it’s a horrible idea from a player’s view, since he probably has good ideas and he’s a knowledgeable coach. I think we should all support him.”

“I think it’s good, since he was so huge for Europe’s team,” echoed Skyler Woodward, Team USA’s best player over the past two Mosconi Cups.

According to Matchroom, Ruijsink will get to hand pick his five-player team, so long as each player is ranked in the top 10 in Mosconi Cup points in 2017. Additionally, Ruijsink plans to travel to the U.S. several times during the year to meet with and observe potential team members.

Ruijsink’s first decision was selecting Archer as his vice-captian.