The HyperTexts

Famous Pool Sharks (and some SEXY ones too!)
Famous Hustlers and their Fabulous Nicknames!

Who were the greatest pool sharks of all time? Which players won the most tournaments? Who was the best hustler in the clutch―playing for cash―with his own money on the line? Who was the best shotmaker, the best bank artist, the best bar table player, the best run-out king? Who had the best nine-ball break, the highest straight pool run? Who played the best defense: the best "safeties"? Who played the best cue ball position? This page delves into such questions.

Did you know that a British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, helped invent the modern game of snooker? Or that Albert "Peter Pan" Frey was the first American pool shark? Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was a pool enthusiast who was shot by another pool shark, John Wilkes Booth? Or that Mark Twain wrote a poem about cushion billiards and followed the exploits of the great players of his day: Willie "the King" Hoppe, Jake "the Wizard" Schaefer and George "the Handless Wonder" Sutton? But how can someone without hands or prosthetics be one of the greatest pool sharks of all time? Who are these demigods, and why do they have such colorful nicknames: Buddy "the Rifleman" Hall, Earl "the Pearl" Strickland, Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel, Efren "the Magician" Reyes, Johnny "the Scorpion" Archer, Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge, Keith "Earthquake" McCready, and of course Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone?

If you think you can play pool with the great sharks, please consider what one of the best nine-ball players of all time, Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter, said: "I watch a man shoot pool for an hour. If he misses more than one shot, I know I can beat him."Think about it: If you miss more than one shot per hour, you're dead meat! That's how good the top pros are!

How up on the game are you? Do you know the difference between cushion billiards and pool? Have you heard of Harold Worst, and do you know why many experts consider him to be the best pool/billiards player of all time, despite the irony of his last name? Do you know why James Evans wasn't allowed to play in pro tournaments, and yet still ended up spending the prize money? How did Minnesota Fats rob Richie Florence, even though Florence was the better player? Which player scared the hell out of Luther Lassiter and Eddie Taylor when they were considered the best nine-ball and one-pocket players on the planet and he was still learning their games? Which all-time nine-ball champion ran 11 consecutive racks to qualify for a million dollar bonus, only to be ripped off by insurance company's bean-counters? How did Minnesota Fats become the most famous pool player of all time when he never won a major tournament and couldn't beat the best players head-up? Did Buddy Hall really spot top pros the seven ball and take their backers' money, or is that just a myth? Who was the greatest proposition gambler of all time: a man who killed five of his victims without batting an eye and even dared to hustle Al Capone? If you want to learn more about the fascinating games of billiards and pool, and the sharks who rule such dangerous waters, you have landed on the right page ...

If you're looking for the colorful nicknames of your favorite pool sharks, there is a VAST collection of pool nicknames at the end of this page. To reach the nicknames quickly, you can use CTRL-F to find them, or your browser's search function. To start at the top of the nickname index, search for "nickname index."

compiled by Michael R. Burch

Related Pages: Was Minnesota Fats Overrated?, Was Harold Worst the Best Pool Player Ever?, A Brief History of Billiards, Pool/Billiards Record High Runs, The Sexiest Sharks, Johnston City Sharks, Nashville Sharks, Dick Hunzicker, "Saint Louie" Louie Roberts, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Who was the best nine-ball player?, The Best NFL Players by Position, Famous Hustlers, Famous Rogues, Famous Forgers, Famous Frauds, Famous Flops, Famous Hoaxes and Hucksters, Famous Americans, Famous Firsts, Weird Sports Trivia

"The best game on earth." — Mark Twain, who may have been America's best writer and its most passionate billiards enthusiast!

That billiards is one of the oldest competitive sports can easily be demonstrated. Billiards was being played outdoors in France in the 1300s, as it appears in medieval art. Court records show that King Louis XI of France purchased a billiard table in 1470. In 1587 Mary, Queen of Scots, complained bitterly that her captors had deprived her of her table de billiard, shortly before they deprived her of her head. Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester and a favorite of Mary's nemesis, Queen Elizabeth I, also owned a billiard table. The earliest known reference to a billiard table in a private residence is a 1588 inventory of Howard House, the London home of the Duke of Norfolk. It contained a "billyard bord coered with a greene cloth three billyard sticks and 11 balls of yvery." The first literary reference to “billiards” (then spelled "balliards") appears in Edmund Spenser's poem "Mother Hubberd’s Tale" in 1591. Another early reference to the game can be found in Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra, circa 1609, when Cleopatra tells her handmaiden:

"Let's to billiards!" — Shakespeare

Sounds like good advice to me. So "let's to billiards." But let me begin by issuing you a stern warning: Don't gamble with her, or she'll "bust" you ...

Her name is Ewa Mataya Laurance, nee Ewa Svensson, the "Striking Viking." She's a BCA hall of fame pool player, and the wife of Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya! And do you really think you can outshoot this shark, with your eyes popping out of your head? ...

Her name is Anastasia Luppova. And don't even dream about playing any of these sharks for money, regardless of what they're wearing! For whatever it's worth, here's my personal stab at ranking the top twenty pool sharks of all time, with a few ties:

#20) Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone (#1 at hustling, showmanship, talking and "blarney")
#19) David Matlock (#1 on a bar table with a big cue ball; great cue ball control; the "King of the Bar Box")
#18) Walter Lindrum (Australia's #1 player; set 57 world records and raised millions for charity)
#17) "Saint Louie" Louie Roberts (#1 shotmaker; the Elvis of pool; charismatic showman and pool ambassador)
        Keith "Earthquake" McCready (another great shotmaker, run-out artist and colorful pool personality)
#16) Jose "The Giant Killer" Parica (#1 at kicking; great money player; has won more than 100 tournaments)
#15) Steve "The Miz" Mizerak (the affable John Madden of pool; another wonderful ambassador of the game)
#14) Allen "Young Hoppe" Hopkins (a great player despite his quirky stroke; also an excellent TV analyst)
#13) Vernon "Burnie" Elliot (the #1 "undercover" shark; he would play anyone for anything, anytime)
        Don Willis (another legendary undercover "monster" player; the #1 money nine-ball player of his era)
        Dick Hunzicker (Willie Mosconi cautioned friends not to tackle this undercover "monster" at straight pool)
#12) Leonard "Bugs" Rucker (especially strong at bank and one-pocket)
#11) Johnny "The Scorpion" Archer (#1 for making difficult shots look routine; great form; precision pool personified)
#10) Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel (#1 at safeties and defense as his nickname suggests; he won 100+ tournaments)
#9) Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen (#1 at power one-pocket, shooting with mop handles and other crazy spots)
#8) Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor (#1 at bank and close to the top at one-pocket)
      John "Rags" Fitzpatrick (#1 at one-pocket, according to legends Eddie Taylor and Bill "Weenie Beenie" Staton)
      Raymond Ceulemans (#1 at three-cushion billiards in the modern era with 24 world championships)
#7) Earl "The Pearl" Strickland (#1 at run-out nine-ball; five U.S. Open championships; McEnroe-like talent and tantrums)
#6) Efren "The Magician" Reyes (#1 at rotation; great kicker; strong at all disciplines; the best overall modern-era player)
#5) Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall (#1 for long-term consistent nine-ball greatness; 200 tournament wins; spotted top pros)
#4) Alfredo de Oro (held world titles in three-cushion billiards and straight pool simultaneously, an impressive feat)
#3) Ralph "The Showman" Greenleaf (pool's first charismatic superstar; like Babe Ruth he created interest in his sport)
#2) Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter (he dominated the legendary Johnston City pool hustler tournaments even past his prime)
      Willie "Mr. Pocket Billiards" Mosconi (#1 ball runner; the king of straight pool when straight pool was king)
      Willie "The King" Hoppe (#1 at three-cushion billiards; won 51 world titles and held the high run for 50 years!)
      James Evans (banned from tournaments due to segregation, he'd play the winners and take the prize money!)
      Albert "Peter Pan" Frey (America's first pool shark dominated continuous/straight pool and pyramid/eight-ball)
      Ronnie "the Rocket" O'Sullivan (#1 at snooker; he ran a perfect 147 a record 15 times and has 1,000 century breaks)
#1) Harold "the Best" Worst (Luther Lassiter and Eddie Taylor dodged him; Ronnie Allen begged him for spots and idolized him as a result; other top pros demanded mortal locks; but still "everybody that played Worst shook!")

While I believe Harold "the Best" Worst was the best pool/billiards player of all time, I think Albert "Peter Pan" Frey deserves special mention. Before Albert Frey, playing "shape" or cue ball position was unknown. As games in which balls had to be pocketed became more popular, cue ball position suddenly became of prime importance. Frey was the first pool shark to play "shape" in new-fangled games like 61-pool, 15-ball, continuous pool (the forerunner of straight pool) and pyramid (the forerunner of eight-ball). And while nine-ball did not exist at the time, it is essentially a watered-down version of fifteen-ball, which Frey also dominated in the early days. Anyone who dominates at fifteen-ball would be even better at nine-ball. Frey was also the first player to "shark" other players by rolling out to "impossible shots" which he would then make. This would become a tactic employed by other sharks to come, such as Keith McCready, Louie Roberts and Harold Worst. Albert Frey was the first American pool shark, a real original. So let's give credit where credit is due. [BTW, I came up with the nickname "Peter Pan" for Albert Frey after seeing his image on a playing card.―MRB]


These are truly great world champions we don't hear much about today, or not enough ...

Bennie Allen won three consecutive straight pool titles (1913-1915) then 35 years later became the first US national snooker champion
Andrew "Ponzi" D'Alessandro won four world titles, defeating Willie Mosconi, Irving Crane, Jimmy Caras and Erwin Rudolph
Frank "The Inexorable Snail" Taberski won ten consecutive world titles, defeating Ralph Greenleaf and Johnny Layton, among others
Johnny Layton won twelve three-cushion billiards championships, defeating Willie Hoppe and Welker Cochran, among others
Thomas Hueston is one of only four players to win three-cushion and pool titles, with Layton, Alfredo de Oro and Harold Worst
Sang Chun Lee won twelve consecutive USBA national championships (1990-2001)
Larry "Boston Shorty" Johnson was a master of 9-Ball, 1-Pocket, 3-Cushion Billiards, 8-Ball, Straight Pool, Rotation, Cribbage, Cowboy
Ruth McGinnis was the first female superstar of pool; she had a high run of 128 and won 98% of her exhibition matches against men

High Honorable Mentions: Joe "The Butcher" Balsis, Jean Balukas, Jack "Jersey Red" Breit, Melvin "Strawberry" Brooks, Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge, "Machine Gun" Lou Butera, Francisco "Django" Bustamante, Robert Cannefax, Jimmy "Boy Wonder" Caras, Irving "The Deacon" Crane, Arthur "Babe" Cranfield, Welker Cochran, Steve Davis, Allison "The Duchess of Doom" Fisher, Stephen Hendry, Mika "The Ice Man" Immonen, "Champagne" Ed Kelly, Johnny "Irish" Lineen, Ray "Cool Cat" Martin, Mike "Tennessee Tarzan" Massey, "Cowboy" Jimmy Moore, James "Cisero" Murphy, Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan, Jim "King James" Rempe, Erwin Rudolph, Jake "the Prodigy" Schaefer Jr. and his father Jake "the Wizard" Schaefer Sr., Alfie Taylor, Nick "Kentucky Colonel" Varner, Dallas West, Dorothy Wise

The best billiards/pool players by era, including the bolded names of candidates to be the first known pool shark. Players are listed only once, usually when they first rose to prominence or toward the height of their powers.

1400s - King Louis XI of France is the first person known to have a billiards table.
1500s - Cardinal Thomas Wosley, Henry III of France and Mary, Queen of Scots, are players.
1600s - Michel Chamillard, a court favorite of Louis XIV, is called "a hero at pool" but a "zero in the ministry."
1700s - The Earl of Chesterfield gets hustled by a "notorious gamester" called Lookout.
1750s - Louis XVI plays billiards, often being beaten by his wife, Marie Antoinette (the first female shark?).
1800s - François Mingaud demonstrates the spin possible with his invention: the leather cue tip.
1810s - The Dutch Baron is the first pool shark described as such, in Sporting Sketches.
1820s - The first official English Champion is John Carr, the inventor of side-spin, or "English."
1840s - Michael Phelan is the first American shark and the father of American billiards and pool.
1850s - John Roberts Sr. claims the title of "first player in the world" and offers spots to all comers.
1870s - Top players: William Cook, John Deery, Joseph Dion, John McDevitt, A. P. Rudolphe
1880s - Top players: Albert M. Frey, Cyrille Dion, Jake Schaefer Sr., Maurice Vignaux, Maurice Daly
1890s - Top players: Alfredo de Oro, James L. Malone, George F. Slosson, William Peall, Frank Ives
1900s - Top players: Willie Hoppe, Jerome Keogh, John Daly, Thomas Hueston, W. A. Lovejoy
1910s - Top players: Ralph Greenleaf, Frank Taberski, Erwin Rudolph, Johnny Layton, Bennie Allen
1920s - Top players: Jake Schaefer Jr., Welker Cochran, Joe Davis (snooker), Walter Lindrum, Otto Reiselt
1930s - Top players: Eddie Taylor, John "Rags" Fitzpatrick, Joe Balsis, Jimmy Caras, Arthur "Babe" Cranfield
1940s - Top players: Willie Mosconi, Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter, Don Willis, Irving "Deacon" Crane
1950s - Top players: Harold Worst, Ronnie Allen, "Champagne" Ed Kelly, Steve Mizerak, Leonard "Bugs" Rucker
1960s - Top players: James "Cisero" Murphy, Larry "Boston Shorty" Johnson, Cornbread Red, Raymond Ceulemans
1970s - Top players: Buddy Hall, Louie Roberts, Mike Sigel, Allen Hopkins, Jimmy Mataya, Jim Rempe, Jean Balukas
1980s - Top players: Efren Reyes, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Nick Varner, Oliver Ortmann, Steve Davis (snooker)
1990s - Top players: Johnny Archer, Ralph Souquet, Sang Lee (billiards), Ronnie "The Rocket" O'Sullivan (snooker)
2000s - Top players: Shane Van Boening, Mika Immonen, Niels Feijen, Alex Pagulayan, Mike Massey (artistic)
2010s - Top players: Darren Appleton, Dennis Orcullo, Thorsten Hohmann, John Schmidt, Allison Fisher

Why are there no women in my top twenty? Not because I'm sexist, but because, for whatever reason, the best female players are still not as good as the best men. For instance, Jean Balukas had a high straight pool run of 134, which is damn good, but some of the men on my list have doubled or tripled that number. Willie Mosconi nearly quadrupled it. But women are narrowing the gap. Ewa "The Striking Viking" had the high straight pool run in WPBA competition for many years, with 68 balls in 1992. More recently, Loree Jon Jones, Jennifer Chen and Jeanette Lee have had runs in the range of 140 to 150+ consecutive pocketed balls. That is STRONG. Alfredo de Oro's high run in a tournament was only 82 balls, according the New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards, so things can become a bit hazy. But there are hundreds of men, many of them unknown to the public, who have run 150 balls at straight pool, so for now I'm going to stick to my guns and say that while there are some great female players, the best male players are still better.

Any player on the list above, at his absolute best would be hard to beat, so the "best player" at any time is the one with the most talent, playing his best game, who has the hottest hand. But the very best players were the ones who played at the highest levels the longest. When Louie Roberts and Keith McCready were "on" they could play with anybody, but they didn't hit their top speed and maintain it as consistently as the higher ranked players. If I had to pick one player to shoot for me with everything on the line, I would probably pick Buddy Hall for his remarkable consistency and composure. But if I wanted to be entertained, I would choose the charismatic go-for-broke run-out kings: Louie, Earthquake, Fast Eddie, Fats, the Pearl.

In an AZbilliards poll, Harold Worst was picked by a well-informed panel as the third-best American pool player of all time, after Willie Mosconi and Earl Strickland. But was Worst the best all-round, since he excelled at pocket billiards, while they couldn't hope to match him at cushion billiards? Worst was a world-class player at three-cushion billiards, straight rail, nine-ball, one-pocket, straight pool and snooker. Bank seems to have been his only possible weakness, but he was a cut shot artist who didn't need to bank in order to win, and there were no major bank tournaments in his era. When Harold Worst was at his best, the championship games were the aforementioned ones. And during the last year of his life, when he was in his prime, he cleaned everyone's clocks at those games, despite being sick with terminal brain cancer that ended his life at age 37. To learn more about this incredible pool shark, please click this hyperlink: Was Harold Worst the Best Pool Player Ever? Experts who have nominated Worst as the best (or one of the very best) include Willie "the King" Hoppe, Ralph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, "Toupee" Jay Helfert, Johnny Ervolino, Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna, "Champagne" Eddie Kelly, Artie Bodendorfer, "Fast" Larry Gunninger, Bill "Mr. Three Cushion" Smith, George Fels and Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen. One might also suggest that all-time greats like Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter and Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor also nominated Worst by dodging him at nine-ball and one-pocket, respectively.  

Ronnie Allen: "In my professional opinion, Harold Worst was the greatest pool player who ever lived, or ever will live."
Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna: "As far as pool players go, we were all earthlings and Harold was from another planet."
"Toupee" Jay Helfert: "In the last years of his life, he was generally acknowledged by his peers as the best player alive ... He was the dominant force in pool, the equal of any man at any game."

Minnesota Fats nominated Harold Worst as the best pool player of his generation, saying that he was "in my opinion the best pool player in the world at the time of his death in the summer of 1965, at age 37 ... Worst not only made a successful switch [from three-cushion billiards to pocket billiards], but he whacked out the top one-pocket and straight pool players all over the country ... What made Worst's accomplishments so remarkable was that he only entered two tournaments, yet he won both of them."

The Best Celebrity Sharks

#10) Paul Newman, who starred in The Hustler, picked up enough to run a rack from time to time.
#9) Tom Cruise made most of his own shots in The Color of Money, including a massé that he made three times in a row.
#8) Peter Falk of Columbo fame was a top celebrity pool player in the 60s and 70s, despite having only one eye!
#7) Dustin Hoffman is reputed to be a strong snooker player on a 6x12 table.
      James Garner was the best player in Norman, Oklahoma when he was a young man, according to Jay Helfert.
#6) Leo Durocher was such a good pool player as a young man that he considered pool as a career, over baseball.
#5) Jackie Gleason played Minnesota Fats in The Hustler and executed his own trick shots; he was able to run 40-50 balls at straight pool.
      When Paul Newman challenged Gleason to a game for $50, Gleason ran 15 balls and won. Newman paid up the next day with 5,000 pennies!
#4) Jerry Orbach of Law and Order once gave Cornbread Red a three-hour run for his money. Orbach's high run was 67. On the Tonight Show in 1973, he ran the table on Minnesota Fats.
      Mark Kendall of Great White has been witnessed running 62 balls
#3) Walter Alston, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, had a high straight pool run of over 100 balls.
#2) Fred Astaire was known to devote up to six hours per day to straight pool, and was able to run 100 balls.
      In his Memories and Adventures, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote "Surely billiards is the king of all indoor games." He played in the Amateur Billiards Championship in1913 and once had a 100 break against Greenhough Smith.
#1) Mark Twain is rumored to have run 100 balls; in any case, by his own admission he was a pool nut.
      Abraham Lincoln was also a pool enthusiast. Unfortunately so was John Wilkes Booth, who got loaded in a pool hall the day he shot Lincoln.

Albert Pain, the friend and biographer of Mark Twain, said that America's greatest writer and humorist was "obsessed" with billiards. Twain by his own admission "knew nothing of the art of pocketing balls," but nonetheless managed to run the table against George Dolby, who fancied himself to be a master of fifteen-ball, the forerunner of modern straight pool. Twain's account suggests that he was a quick study and quite adept at billiards. Twain wrote of being in New York to see Hoppe and Schaefer and Sutton play. So he was familiar with the games of the masters of his era. But Twain also praised the abilities of a hustler he called "Texas Tom," who played in the "perishing saloons" of Jackass Gulch. Twain claimed to get plenty of exercise playing pool, walking ten hours per day with cue in hand. He also claimed to get nine hours of "exercise" per day during the week, and ten to twelve on Sunday.

Honorable Mention Celebrity Pool Players: Ben Affleck, Cap Anson, Milton Berle, David Brenner, James Caan, Johnny Cash, Walter Cronkite, Matt Damon, Peter Graves, Dorian Harewood, Buck Henry, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Johnston, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jack Klugman, David Letterman, Gugliermo Marconi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Willie Nelson, Barack Obama, Manny Pacquiao, Lou Diamond Phillips, Prince, Joe Rogan, Babe Ruth, Ken Shamrock, Charlie Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Kiefer Sutherland, James Tolkan, Michael Vartan, Jack White, Flip Wilson

Best Pool Jokes

Two players are complaining that the pockets on the table they're gambling on are too loose. Minnesota Fats interjects some sage advice: "Raise the bet ... they'll tighten up!"
A pool player in a tuxedo is like whipped cream on a hot dog. — Minnesota Fats
If Cornbread Red ever plays me, he'll be known as "No Bread Red." — Minnesota Fats

Best Comebacks and Rejoinders

Danny McGoorty: "There's a hundred players who would swim a river of shit to play Fats."
Fast Eddie Parker: "Fats would talk you out of a game rather than shoot you out of a game."
Willie Mosconi once wore earplugs so that he didn't have to listen to Fats during exhibitions.

Ed Kelly was playing Richie Florence in a nine-ball tournament in Southern California in the late 70's or early 80's. "Ed 'Champagne' Kelley" says Richie, "they will call you 'Budweiser' Kelly when I get done with you." But Kelly beat Florence 11 to 3 or 4.

"Some hustlers l knew were terrific actors. You would swear they were drunk, or sick, or just learning to play. Tugboat Whaley used to put on rain gear, rubber hat and all, and say he was a tugboat captain who had just retired on a nice pension that he didn’t know how to spend. Wimpy Lassiter, before the tournament prizes got big enough to draw him into the limelight, dressed up like a hillbilly; with bib overalls and a piece of straw a foot long hanging off his lip. That was his hustle, pretending he just fell off a hay wagon." ― Danny McGoorty

Best Pool Nicknames

Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Ray "Cool Cat" Martin, Keith "Earthquake" McCready, Efren "The Magician" Reyes, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Larry "The Iceman" Hubbart, Albert "Peter Pan" Frey, Harold "The Best" Worst

Rudolph Luther Wanderone Jr. has his own category: "Minnesota Fats," "New York Fats," "Broadway Fats," "Brooklyn Fats," "Chicago Fats," "Fats," "Fatty," "The Fat Man," "The Fat One," "Double Smart Fats," "Triple Smart Fats," "Rudy," "The Bank Shot Bandit," "The Dean of the Green," "The Sultan of Stroke"

Johnny Cash playing pool in the movie The Baron.

"My game isn't a carnival. I am simple and consistent, but dangerous." — Jose "The Giant Killer" Parica

The best pool nickname of all time? Frank "The Inexorable Snail" Taberski gets my vote. He was also called "The Sloth." His hustle was to play so slowly and deliberately that he drove his competitors insane (or at least boiling mad). The first pool tournament shot clock was instituted because of his laggardly antics. He forfeited his world title in 1919 after officials set a one-minute time limit on shots, but he came back to win four more titles in the late 1920s. Despite his slow play (or perhaps because of it), Taberski was ranked number seven in the Billiard Digest list of the fifty greatest players of the century. And if his slow play was a psychological tactic, he might have been the greatest hustler of his era, to boot! 

Here is what my friend Doug Almy, a good player and a keen student of the game, told me about one of the great "undercover" hustlers of all time: "Mike, We are back from our trip and will have to get together soon. When I was in Tucson, AZ, I went to the pool hall that is the place to go now called 'Pockets.' I saw one person I knew 40 years ago when I lived there. I also spent some time talking to the owner who had the place since the early 1990's. We talked about road players and various pros and hustlers and the name Alfie Taylor came up. He said Alfie (or Alf as he called him) had a store in Tucson that sold Middle Eastern art and furniture. He did not know the address of the store because he said the store had recently moved. I googled Alf's name, found it, and read the 'about me' part. It would be interesting to read his book. I saw him play once or twice in Tucson when I lived there and there is no telling how good he played. He was very good at looking like anything from a beginner to a mediocre player. When I got to Nashville I found people here that knew of him, which was surprising because I had been told he went by different names: Grover being one of them. From what the owner said, Alfie does not play pool anymore or at least not any serious pool. I cannot remember ever seeing a player that made shooting various shots look so easy. I would say he was probably the most 'at ease' player I have ever seen, but then again he knew how to match up and to my knowledge he never played in any tournaments."

Move buffs may be interested to know that a number of players mentioned here appeared in the 1986 movie The Color of Money and/or served as technical advisers. Sharks with speaking roles included Steve "The Miz" Mizerak, Grady "The Professor" Mathews, and Keith "Earthquake" McCready. There were cameo appearances by Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya, Mark Jarvis, Howard Vickery and "Saint Louie" Louie Roberts. Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel was the movie's technical director. Sigel and Ewa Mataya Laurance, aka "The Striking Viking," served as technical consultants and performed shots. Paul Newman won an Oscar for his portrayal of an aging "Fast Eddie" Felson, whose cocky protégé, Vincent "Vince" Lauria, played by Tom Cruise, seemed a lot like his younger self.

Pool legend Willie "Mr. Pocket Billiards" Mosconi had a cameo in the 1961 movie The Hustler, one of the very best sports movies of all time, and one of the darkest. It starred Paul Newman as a young, reckless "Fast Eddie" Felson. Mosconi also served as a consultant and executed the movie's trick shots, except for those of fat man. Indeed, Jackie Gleason was recommended for the Minnesota Fats role by Mosconi because he was an accomplished pool shooter. Thus, a "wide angle" lens could be used on his shots (please pardon the pun). The Hustler was well-received by critics and the public. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture, Newman for best actor, Piper Laurie for best actress, and Gleason and George C. Scott for best supporting actor. The film won two Oscars, for art direction and cinematography. There is more information about both movies and the real-life sharks who helped create their cinematic magic, later on this page.

How good was Willie Mosconi? Pretty damn good. His best game was straight pool, but when he matched up with Minnesota Fats gambling at one-pocket in the early 1950s, Fats reportedly asked his backers for more money, saying: "Willie has no idea how to play this game, he just keeps running eight and out!" I've seen top road players like Buddy Hall do the same thing. When they want to win money fast, they can shorten slower games like bank and one-pocket by going on the offensive, knowing that more often than not, they can get out. And they can demoralize their opponents at the same time. Fats may have out-hustled most of the shortstops he played, but what, pray tell, is the defense against a table master's continual runs?

James Coburn and Omar Sharif played big-stake pool hustlers in the 1980 movie The Baltimore Bullet, which featured cameos by a number of real-life sharks who played themselves: "Machine Gun" Lou Butera, Irving "The Surgeon" Crane, Richie Florence, Allen "Young Hoppe" Hopkins, Pete Margo, Ray "Cool Cat" Martin, Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya, Steve "The Miz" Mizerak, Willie Mosconi, Jim "King James" Rempe, and Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel. (Mosconi received top billing, with the names of the other sharks appearing below his in alphabetic order.) The movie involves one of the Jansco brothers' legendary Johnston City "pool hustler" tournaments, which ran from 1961 to 1972 and really did attract players like Butera, Crane and company. And the movie's FBI bust actually happened in 1972, killing the action. But it's a bit anachronistic that the movie centers around straight pool. As Danny DiLiberto once pointed out, the Janscos "were the ones to really throw out straight pool," as they preferred the more entertaining gamblers' games of nine-ball and one-pocket. In The Baltimore Bullet, Coburn plays an aging "Fast Eddie" character similar to Newman's in The Color of Money, Bruce Boxleitner plays his brash protégé in a role similar to Cruise's, while Sharif plays a more suave Minnesota Fats. Since TBB came out several years before TCOM, one might suggest that TBB is the more original of the two, with both paying homage to The Hustler. And while I have seen TBB being panned here and there for not being as profound as its progenitor, it's a comedy not meant to be taken too seriously, and I found it to be both entertaining and enjoyable.

Minnesota Fats played himself in the 1971 movie The Player, which had only a limited release. While Fats was probably not the absolute best pool player (despite his many verbose assertions to the contrary), he was nonetheless a top shark, not the shortstop some revisionists have tried to turn him into. As Larry Gunninger has pointed out, when the Johnston City tournaments were in full swing, attracting the cream of the pocket billiards crop, it was Fats who ended up with most of the moolah. And as Muhammad Ali once pointed out, "It ain't braggin' if you can back it up."

Poolhall Junkies is a somewhat obscure movie starring Christopher Walken (who made his one trick shot on the first attempt). Robert "Cotton" LeBlanc served as a technical adviser, had a cameo, and performed most of the trick shots. Ironically, Mike "Tennessee Tarzan" Massey, who played "St. Louie" Louie Roberts in the movie, didn't shoot any of the movie's trick shots, even though he's probably the world's most famous trick shot artist.

Country music legend Johnny Cash, the "Man in Black," played a pool hustler in the made-for-TV movie The Baron and the Kid.

W. C. Fields starred as a hustler in the first film he made, the 1915 silent movie Pool Sharks.

While Minnesota Fats many not have been on par with run-out specialists like Ronnie Allen and Buddy Hall, when it came to money-making "propositions" he was second to none. The goal of hustling is to end up with the loot, and by that measure Fats was a world champion.

"Until you've received a spanking from Mr. Buddy Hall, you don't know what perfect pool is about." — Alfie Taylor

The most intimidating pool sharks of all time: Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, "Titanic" Thompson

The photo above is of Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall taken in 1986 by Billie Billing. Hall, the picture of intensity, seldom looked happy at a pool table, even when he was winning in a cakewalk.

"Titanic" Thompson, aka Alvin Clarence Thomas, earned his nickname because when it came to gambling, he was always sinking his opponents, whether at billiards, golf, dice, horseshoes, cards, or various other "propositions." He allegedly killed five men ... each of whom, according to him, would have admitted they got what they deserved! Minnesota Fats called him "the greatest action man of all time." Ben Hogan said that he was the best golf shotmaker he ever saw. When asked if he would become a golf professional, Titanic Thompson demurred, claiming that he couldn't afford the pay cut.

Here's an interesting story about proposition gambling, as told by Eddie Taylor: "One time with Titanic Thompson―I'm sure you've heard of him―well Ti was in town and he saw me playing a guy that was a bookmaker playing for four hundred dollars a game, playing him 8-5 one pocket and I was playing one-handed with no tip on my cue. Now what happened was, I drew the ball about 6-7 inches with no tip, one-handed. So he said 'They'll be no more of that', and he got a glass of water and I had to dip the stick in the water each time before I shot, but I still beat him out of four thousand. Well Titanic saw that and said, 'That was the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life!'"

Billy Burge - aka "Cornbread Red"

Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge, circa 1982. Several of the black-and-white pictures on this page were taken at the 1982 Dayton Nine Ball Open, at Forest Park Billiards in Dayton, Ohio. The billiard hall was owned by Joe Burns at that time. These striking photos were taken by Mike Haines; the photo editing was done by Bill Porter. My thanks to them for their excellent (and artistic) work.

Bugs -9

Leonard "Bugs" Rucker, circa 1982.

Notorious Sharks, Part I: The most notorious pool shark in history may have been John Wilkes Booth. According to Henry Hogan, after his acting performances were over, Booth would hurry down to Joe Dillon's billiard hall to play with the "best in the city." He was also said to have frequented the Miller Billiard Parlor, located on the second floor of the National Theater Building (where the Helen Hayes Gallery now resides). On April 13, 1865, Booth dropped by Grover's Theatre and asked C. D. Hess if President Lincoln was going to be invited to attend Aladdin or The Wonderful Lamp. Hess assured Booth that Lincoln would be invited. Booth then went upstairs to Deery's Billiard Saloon, located above the lobby of Grover's Theatre, where he drank whiskey until eight in the evening. Booth asked the saloon's owner, John Deery, a national pool champion, to secure him tickets for the box that adjoined the box where the Lincolns would be sitting. According to what Deery told the New York Times in an article published on October 5, 1921, Booth had been drinking all day, before he shot the president. According to another account by Ernest C. Miller, Deery said: "For a period of about ten days before the assassination, he visited my place every day, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes in the evenings. At this time he was out of an engagement and drinking quite freely, noticeably so, even for him, I thought. At times he seemed a bit crazed, apparently on account of the frequency of his potations ... During that last week at Washington he sometimes drank at my bar as much as a quart in the space of less than two hours of an evening ... I believe Booth was as much crazed by the liquor he drank as by any motive when he shot Lincoln."

Natural talents and "boy/girl wonders": Jean Balukas, Johnny Cannila, Dennis Hatch, Allen "Young Hoppe" Hopkins, Bobby Logan, Harold Worst

The best tournament players: Johnny "The Scorpion" Archer, Ralph "The Showman" Greenleaf, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Allen "Young Hoppe" Hopkins, Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter, Willie Mosconi, Steve "The Miz" Mizerak, Jim "King James" Rempe, Efren "The Magician" Reyes, Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland

Earl Strickland

The picture above is of Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, at the 1982 Dayton Nine-ball Open. That was, I believe, the first pro tournament that he won, against a loaded field which included Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge, Steve "Cookie Monster" Cook, Danny DiLiberto, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Allen "Young Hoppe" Hopkins, Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya, Grady "The Professor" Matthews, "Hippie" Jimmy Reid, "St. Louie" Louie Roberts, Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel, and various other pool gods, demigods, contenders and pretenders.

The best jump shot: Fong Pang Chao, Niels "The Terminator" Feijen, Po Chen Kuo, Alain "The Dancing Bear" Martel, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Yang Ching-Shun the "Son of Pool"

I first saw Earl Strickland at the Music City Nine-Ball Open, held at the ritzy Nashville Maxwell House Hotel, circa 1982-1983. The Pearl had bobby pins holding back his long, flowing mane, and he was giving Buddy Hall serious grief with his amazing jump shots and spectacular shotmaking. When in Nashville, if I remember correctly, the Pearl spotted all comers the seven ball. If he ever lost money giving up the seven in Nashville, I never heard about it. I believe Mike Sigel won the Music City Open in 1982, and Ray "Cool Cat" Martin won in 1983, coming out of the losers' bracket to defeat Larry Hubbart. But the player I remember best is Earl the Pearl, resplendent in bobby pins, jumping balls and running out.

The best shotmakers and thin cutters: Kim Davenport, Keith "Earthquake" McCready, Danny Medina, "St. Louie" Louie Roberts, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Harold Worst

It has been my good fortune to have seen some of the best tournament pool players, sharks and hustlers: Johnny Archer, Michael Coltrain, Buddy Hall, Truman Hogue, Allen Hopkins, David Howard, Jeanette Lee, Mike Massey, Keith McCready, Alex Pagulayan, Efren Reyes, Mike Sigel, Earl Strickland, Nick Varner, et al. I even saw Steve Davis score a perfect 147 in snooker. (I was on vacation in England when he hit the magical number, in a match televised by the BBC.) But the most charismatic, exciting and crowd-pleasing pool player that I have ever seen personally was "St. Louie" Louie Roberts. He was an incredible, fearless shot-maker. There was something magical about his game, when he was "on." I remember watching him advance through the losers' bracket at the 1981 U.S. Open Nine-ball Championship, promoted by Mike Massey at the Downtown Sheraton Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As I remember things, Roberts had lost his opening round match, and then almost lost a second time to the little-known Nat Green. In that match, there was a controversy about someone breaking out of turn and the referee not catching it, so that Roberts ended up breaking the last two games despite an alternating break format. I believe Roberts either made the nine on the break, or broke and ran out, in the "double hill" game. After that, he seemed to freewheel, drinking openly, bantering with fans, and mostly disdaining safeties. If his opponent made a ball out of turn, and two balls were lined up on the spot, Louie would hit the head ball with so much English that he banked the second ball in "long rail" ... a shot that I have never seen anyone else attempt in a major nine-ball tournament. Roberts went on to defeat a perplexed Buddy Hall, who just shook his head at Louie's crowd-pleasing antics and incredible shotmaking. I believe it had been a longtime dream of Louie's to beat Buddy Hall, who was the world's top tournament nine-ball player at the time. What Louie accomplished that day, and how he accomplished it, was magical, and I'll never forget how he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand until he was proclaimed the victor, to wildly delighted cheers that included my own.

"St. Louie" Louie Roberts

Keith McCready

Keith "Earthquake" McCready at the 1984 River City Open Nine-ball Tournament (photo by Mike Haines; photo editing by Bill Porter). I used to watch McCready play golf on a snooker table at Scott Amusement Center in Nashville. He wasn't acting in The Color of Money ... as Grady Seasons, he was just playing himself, to a T. When I saw him play, he would eye a really difficult shot, say something outrageous like "God couldn't make that ball," then pocket it. He once ran nine straight racks of nine-ball, to come from behind and defeat Larry "The Iceman" Hubbart 11-6 in the Sacramento Open Nine-Ball Championship, and I believe he has confirmed that he once ran 21 racks of nine-ball in three consecutive races to 7, on a bar table.

The best nine-ball players: Johnny "The Scorpion" Archer, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter, Keith "Earthquake" McCready, Efren "Bata" Reyes, Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Nick Varner, Don Willis

The best one-shot roll-out nine-ball players: Eddie Taylor (because of his superior banking ability) and Harold Worst (because of his superior cutting ability)

According to Luther Lassiter, George Rood and Garten Bierbower, Don Willis was the best nine-ball player of all time. Lassiter and Willis teamed up to form "arguably the most formidable road team in American history." According to Scot Lee, there was an open challenge for anyone to play Willis for $25,000 in his hometown of Canton, and it went unanswered for 25 years. Willis was famous for "lucking in" money balls that he made on purpose and for making "wing shots" with the object ball rolling. Willis was also a proposition gambler and a top poker, gin rummy, dice, checkers, chess, marbles, table tennis and horseshoe player. 

The best ten-ball players: Dennis "RoboCop" Orcullo, Shane Van Boening, Johnny "The Scorpion" Archer, Tony Drago, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Allen "Young Hoppe" Hopkins, Mika "The Ice Man" Immonen, "Hippie" Jimmy Reid, Efren "The Magician" Reyes, Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan

Johnny "The Scorpion" Archer has won more than 60 professional tournaments and was voted the best player of the 1990s by Billiard Digest. He has won the world ten-ball championship a record four times.

The best money players of all time, when the cash was on the line: Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen, Johnny Archer, Jack "Jersey Red" Breit, Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge, Fernando Bustamante aka "Busty," "Jew" Paul Brusloff, Clyde Childress, Jack Cooney, Corey "Cash Money" Deuel, Vernon "Burnie" Elliot, John "Rags" Fitzpatrick, "LA" Richie Florence, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Jimmy Garza, Danny Grossman, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter, Keith "Earthquake" McCready, Alex Pagulayan, Jose "The Giant Killer" Parica, Efren "the Magician" Reyes, Leonard "Bugs" Rucker, Alvin "Titanic" Thompson, Kenny "Romberg" Remus, "Saint Louie" Louie Roberts, Denny Searcy, Jimmy "Flyboy" Spears, Sonny Springer, Earl Strickland, Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor, Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, Don Willis, Harold Worst (was Worst the best money player ever?)

Some of the best "young guns" include Justin Bergman, Carlo Biado, Siming Chen, Joshua Filler, Jeffrey Ignacio, Eklent Kaci, Jason Klatt, John Morra, Albin Ouschan, "Eagle Eye" Jayson Shaw, Billy Thorpe, Judd "Stud" Trump, Tony Watson, Shane Winters, Skyler Woodward, Johann Chua, Zhou Long and Ko Pin Yi.

The best players you probably never heard of (unless you really follow pool) include Ronnie "Volcano" Alcano, Darren Appleton, Tony Chohan, Mike Dechaine, Ron Dooley, Niels Feijen, Thorsten "the Hitman" Hohman, Raj Hundal, Markus Juva, Warren Kiamco, Daryl Peach, Ray "Dracula" Reardon, John Schmidt, John "Omaha" Shuput and Ralf Souquet.

Who won the most money in a single tournament? Earl Strickland ran 11 consecutive racks against Nick Mannino during the first PCA tournament in 1996. There was a stipulation that anyone who could break and run 10 racks would win a million dollars. But because of a racking "glitch," Strickland had to run 11 racks. Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya, who was present at the event, witnessed Strickland's last shot, a tough nine-ball combination in which Earl showed no fear and "fired it in with authority" to win the prize. (But the insurance bean-counters declined to pay!)

Who won the biggest purse? In 1996, Efren Reyes defeated Earl Strickland in a winner-take-all "Color of Money" match for $100,000. At the IPT King of the Hill 8-Ball Shootout in December 2005 at the Orlando Convention, 42 top players competed in a round-robin format. Efren Reyes defeated Mike Sigel in the finals and pocketed $200,000. At the North American Open 8-Ball Championship in July 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Thorsten Hohmann defeated Marlon Manalo and won $350,000. At the World Open 8-Ball Championship in September 2006 in Reno, Nevada, Efren Reyes defeated Rodney Morris and won $500,000.

Who won the biggest bet playing in money games? No one knows for sure. However, it has been claimed that when Efren Reyes first came to the United States and no one knew who he was, he was making $80,000 per week.

Who has the highest earnings in a single season? Efren Reyes, with $646,000 in 2006. However, a number of British snooker players make similar sums of money; for instance Neil Robertson earned $565,750 in 2013-2014.

Who has the highest career earnings? Among pool players, probably Efren Reyes, with career revenues estimated at $1.7 million. However, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stephen Hendry top the snooker career earnings list with well over $10 million each. Ronnie O'Sullivan recently recorded his 15th perfect break of 147 points and his 1,000th century break, leaving him without a doubt the greatest snooker player of all time. Among women players, Allison Fisher has earned more than $600,000.

Who made the single biggest bet? According to legendary big stakes gambler Alex Karas, he played one-pocket for $75,000 per game, getting a 12-5 spot, and lost $700,000. According to Karas the game was witnessed by Howard Lederer and Steve Zolotow, who were betting on the rail. Karas also claimed to have lost $720,000 playing nine-ball for $40,000 per game, only to come back and win $1,200,000.

According to "Fast Larry" Guninger, who knew many of the top pros personally, in the Johnston City pool hustler tournament days the greatest hustlers were Titanic Thompson and Minnesota Fats (not their real names, as befits hustlers). But the greatest hustlers are not necessarily the best players. According to "Moves," an accomplice of Titanic Thompson, the great proposition hustler would never bet on a game unless it was rigged. Rudolph Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats, never won a major tournament and "borrowed" his name from the fictional character played by Jackie Gleason in the movie The Hustler. Was he just hustling the public? Yes, according to Danny DiLiberto, who said, "In no other sport could he possibly fool the public like that ... he couldn't play; he wouldn't play anybody good." But if that's true, was it perhaps the ultimate hustle? Ironically, the worse Fats played, the greater his ability to hustle must have been, since he is the most famous pool player of all time, in the minds of the public!

Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. — Abraham Lincoln, a self-described "billiard addict"

Was Minnesota Fats all talk, or could he really play?

Beat me? ... King Kong couldn't beat me! — Minnesota Fats, playing U. J. Puckett

I'm so intelligent, I could spot Einstein the ten ball! — Minnesota "Triple Smart" Fats

Ronnie Allen called Fats a "vaudeville act." No one, however, has accused one of his friends and fellow conspirators of being all farce: "Titanic" Thompson allegedly killed five men, all of whom would have agreed they got what they deserved (at least the way Titanic told it). Titanic once hustled Al Capone out of $500, by claiming that he could throw a lemon a seemingly impossible distance. But he had weighted the lemon with buckshot and placed it in a fruit stand well in advance of the bet.

Who were the best players, such hustles aside?

Before the major pool tournaments became integrated, could black sharks like James Evans, "Bugs" Rucker, "Cannonball" Chapman and "Marvelous" Marvin Harrison have given the best white pros a run for their money? Was "St. Louie" Louie Roberts the best shot maker of all time, or was it Keith "Earthquake" McCready? Was Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor the best banker, or was it Cannonball, Bugs, or Truman Hogue? Could Efren "The Magician" Reyes spot the world the 15 ball at rotation? These are unanswerable questions, or at best can only be answered subjectively, via human opinion. Not pretending to possess any absolute answers, I have ventured to offer my own opinions, along with some fascinating (and sometimes groin-quickening) pictures of my favorite pool sharks.

"I watch a man shoot pool for an hour. If he misses more than one shot, I know I can beat him." — Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter

Efren Reyes named Mike Sigel, Johnny Archer and Earl Strickland as his three toughest opponents. Buddy Hall said that he beat Reyes and his backers out of $10,000 despite being so hung over he had to drink three pots of coffee! Kreole Freddie confirmed this account on the website, saying that Reyes had beaten Sigel, Strickland and Wade Crane. But when Reyes played Hall, the Rifleman "crucified" him. When I saw Buddy Hall shoot in his prime, he was untouchable. So for nine-ball, for the cash, Buddy Hall is my number one player of all time. But there are other disciplines, so I have a few players ranked higher ...

The History of Pool, Part I: The game of billiards dates back at least to the 1300s, at which time it was an outdoor game similar to croquet and golf. It seems likely that wealthy people wanted to enjoy billiards when the weather was bad, and were willing to pay substantial amounts of money to have the game brought indoors. This may explain why billiard table covers were historically green, as they represented a grass playing field. The rails resembled river banks; hence the term "bank shot." The earliest versions of billiards included arches similar to croquet hoops, and maces similar to golf clubs. (In fact, the term "cue" derives from the French word "queue," which means "tail." The thinner "tail" was used when a ball was too close to the rail for the bulky mace head to engage it.) The first pool table on record, built for Louis XI by the carpenter Henry de Vigne around 1470, had a bed of stone covered with cloth and a "hole at the centre, into which the balls were driven." So the first documented billiard table sounds like a putting green! The first female shark may have been Marie Antoinette. She had an exquisite cue carved out of a single piece of ivory, which was inlaid with gold. She kept the cue in a special locking cabinet and wore the key around her neck!

Notorious Sharks, Part II: Jonathan Swift mentioned billiards along with nine-pins in "The History of John Bull," published in 1712. He was also quoted as saying, "I've always believed no matter how many shots I miss, I'm going to make the next one." At that time billiard balls were still being pushed around with maces. But the game was about to evolve. One of the most famous pool sharks was a French infantry captain, Francois Mingaud. In 1807 he introduced the leather cue tip, which provided gripping power and allowed the use of spin (ironically now called "english"). Allegedly, Mingaud developed techniques of controlled spin while playing billiards in a Paris prison, and when eligible for release, he requested further time in prison in order to improve his techniques! He has been credited with the application of extreme spin known as the massé (a French word related to "mace"). John Carr, who worked in a billiard hall in Bath as a marker, was credited with the invention of the "side stroke" which became known as "english." Carr became "England's champion billiardist" with an astonishing (for the time) run of 22 consecutive made shots. He explained his prowess as being due to a special brand of "twisting powder" which he sold to other players for considerable sums of money due to its magical properties. Little did they know that it was ordinary chalk. In any case, leather cue tips and chalk are still standard fare in pool rooms around the world today (although modern pool chalk is no longer of the blackboard variety).

Notorious Sharks, Part III: In 1828, opponents of President John Quincy Adams charged that he kept "gaming tables and gambling furniture" in the White House. According to Edwin A. Miles, the president's billiard table "served as the keynote" for political attacks on Adams, in what quickly became one of the dirtiest presidential campaigns in American history. His owning a billiard table was used by his enemies to portray Adams as an aristocrat, so at least he was an upper crust shark, according to them!

Notorious Sharks, Part IV: The enemies of John Quincy Adams were obviously unaware that the father of their country was a pool shark! George Washington kept detailed records of his wins and losses at billiards in his diaries. So we know that his biggest score was $1.75, a tidy sum in those pre-inflation days.

Notorious Sharks, Part V: According to the Brunswick billiard table company website, "The first real American celebrity who owned a Brunswick table was an immensely important person in American history—Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a self-confessed 'billiards addict.' He described the game as a 'health inspiring, scientific game, lending recreation to the otherwise fatigued mind.'" General George Armstrong Custer also owned a Brunswick table, and Buffalo Bill Cody bought Brunswick tables for his hotel in Cheyenne.

Earl Strickland and Mike Sigel

Earl "The Pearl" Strickland and Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel looking intense at the 1982 Dayton Nine-ball Open.

The best showmen: Ralph "The Showman" Greenleaf, Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya, Utley Jim "U.J." Puckett, "St. Louie" Louie Roberts, Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone

File:Jimmy Mataya.JPG

Jim Mataya, also known as "Pretty Boy Floyd," formed pool's first "power couple" when he married the "Striking Viking," Ewa Svensson, in 2004. They helped bring some much-needed glamour to the often-seedy sport of pocket billiards.

Ewa Mataya, "The Striking Viking"

The first female superstar of pool was Ruth McGinnis. According to newspaper reports, she beat Ralph Greenleaf twice. From 1933 to 1939, McGinnis only lost 29 out of 1,532 matches, a winning percentage of 0.976. She had a high run of 128. Reporters called her Susie Cue, and the Queen of Billiards.

The Women's Professional Billiard Alliance (WPBA) was established in 1976 and is the oldest pro player organization in the sport. The WPBA sanctions and produces the Women's Pro Billiard Tour, which features ESPN-televised events between the world's greatest women players.

The best early WPBA tour players: Dorothy Wise (she won the first five BCA straight pool titles), Jean Balukas (she won the next four), Loree Jon Ogonowski aka Loree Jon Jones (she won the next two), Robin "Bankroll" Bell aka Robin Dodson, Belinda Campos, Vicki Paski aka Vicki Frechen, Ewa "The Striking Viking" Mataya Laurance, Lori Shampo, Gloria Walker

The best women that I have seen personally: Allison Fisher aka "The Duchess of Doom," Jeanette Lee aka "The Black Widow," Jasmin Ouschan aka "Jassy," Vivian Villarreal aka "The Texas Tornado," Karen Corr

Other notable female pool players: Michelle Adams, Christina Alexander, Bonnie Arnold, Rubilen Amit, Borana Andoni aka "Killer B," Mary Avina aka "The Red Angel," Jennifer Barretta, Belinda Bearden, Nikki Bennish, Brittany Bryant, Tammy Cantoni, "Little Lightning" Yu Ram Cha, Jennifer Chen, Chezka Centeno, Diane Crane, Fran Crimi, Emily Duddy, Kelly Fisher, Liz Ford, Christina de la Garza, Mary Guarino, Olga Gashkova, Gail Glazebrook, Gerda Hofstaetter, Kerry Hartsfield, Dawn Hopkins, Lynette Horsburgh, Huang Hsin, Veronika Hubrtova, Wendy Jans, Ina Jentschura, Ho Hsin Ju, Mary Kenniston, Ga-Young Kim aka "the Little Devil Girl," Line Kjorsvik, Peg Ledman, Michelle Li, Yun-Mi Lim, Melissa Little, Shanelle Loraine, Anastasia Luppova, Linda McWhirt, Diana Mironova, Tiffany Nelson, Susie O'Connor, Nesli O'Hara, Kelly Oyama, Angelina "Angel" Paglia, Xiaoting Pan, Aileen Pippin, Liu Shasha, Nataliya Seroshtan, Kim Shaw, Laura Smith, Fraziska Stark, Shari Stauch, Darlene Stinson, Helena Thornfeldt, Patricia Tipton, Dora Valdez, Monica Webb, Pan Xiaoting aka "The Queen of Nine Ball," Chou Chieh Yu, Han Yu, Cha Yu-Ram, Pan Xiaoting

Allison Fisher, "The Duchess of Doom"

Jeanette Lee, "The Black Widow"

Vicki "Diamond Vic" Frechen (now Vicki Paski) was a top ten WPBA player during the 1980s, rising as high as number two in 1981. She was the Pool & Billiard Magazine player of the year in 1982. She is also a member of the WPBA Hall of Fame. In 1985 she was elected vice president of the WPBA. In 1987 she became ESPN's first female billiards analyst. In 1991 she was elected president of the WPBA.

Jean Balukas, the first female superstar of pool.

"The game of billiards has destroyed my naturally sweet disposition." — Mark Twain, April 24, 1906

“This is a most amusing game. When you play badly it amuses me, and when I play badly and lose my temper it certainly must amuse you.” — Mark Twain

Celebrity sharks: Jackie Gleason (as Minnesota Fats in The Hustler), Tom Cruise (as Vincent "Vince" Lauria in The Color of Money), Paul Newman (as "Fast Eddie" Felson in both movies), Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Samuel Pepys, Mozart, Shakespeare, Van Gogh, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J. P. Morgan, Mary Queen of Scots, Louis XIV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Lafayette, Napoleon, Queen Victoria, King George IV, Cap Anson, Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Ozzy Osbourne, Elvis Presley, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shoots the eleven ball behind his back!

“The poorer you play, the better I shall like it.” — Mark Twain, who was intensely devoted to the game of pool

Babe Ruth played pool. But another hall of fame baseball player was probably better ...

Famous Sharks, Part I: Baseball hall-of-famer "Cap" Anson (Captain Adrian Constantine Anson) was a strong billiards player. Anson was the first major league baseball player to get 3,000 hits, and over 100 years after his retirement, he still holds several Cubs franchise records, including most career hits, runs, doubles and runs batted in. He joins Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron as the only major league baseball players with more than 2,000 runs batted in. After his retirement from baseball, Anson opened an emporium in Chicago which was billed as having "the largest and best equipped billiard and pool rooms in the world." On December 9, 1910, in a tournament at the Union Billiard Academy, Anson gave George W. Moore, a world champion billiardist, all he could handle, losing 50 to 42 in a race that was neck-and-neck until Anson went scoreless after being up 42 to 41. According to the World Almanac and Encyclopaedia, just two days earlier, Moore had set a new three-cushion billiard record for consecutive shots made, at 15. That was in a tournament against world-class opponents such as Alfredo de Oro and John W. Daly. Moore won a world title in 1915 and had a number of wins over de Oro, who was fourth in the Billiards Digest rankings of the 50 Greatest Players of the Century. So Cap Anson was obviously no bush-leaguer at three-cushion billiards, if he was able to take Moore to the limit. According to a New York Times article published the following day, Anson showed "remarkable form" and had two runs of five billiards before he ran out of steam at the end.

Double the Irony:

Mike Massey, the great trickshot artist, has a last name that sounds like the English version of the original French trick shot, the massé.
The term now used for the magical spin invented by the French is "english."
Harold Worst may have been the best billiards/pool player of all time.

The History of Pool, Part II: By the mid-19th century, elephants were being slaughtered for their ivory at an alarming rate, primarily to keep up with the booming demand for billiard balls. Records show that in 1890 approximately 750 tons of ivory entered England via London alone. It was said that at peak demand some 12,000 elephants were slaughtered each year to supply England with billiard balls. Ivory balls became very expensive; and people began to feel a moral repulsion about such excessive slaughters. The billiard industry realized that elephants were endangered, and that ivory was dangerous to obtain (an issue of notable public concern at the time). Therefore, inventors were challenged to come up with an alternative material, with a $10,000 prize being offered by a New York supplier (around $175,000 today). John Wesley Hyatt invented such a manufacturable material in 1869, called nitrocellulose (US patent 50359, the first American patent for billiard balls). It is unclear if the cash prize was ever awarded. By 1870 nitrocellulose was commercially branded Celluloid, the first industrial plastic. Unfortunately, celluloid was volatile in production, occasionally exploding. Legend has it that celluloid billiard balls would occasionally explode during play, but no reliable sources have been found to substantiate this. Subsequently, other synthetic materials were used, such as Bakelite, Crystalite and other plastic compounds. Today most pool balls are made of phenolic resin, an extremely strong, chip-resistant plastic.

The quirkiest strokes: Willie "The King" Hoppe, Allen "Young Hoppe" Hopkins, Keith "Earthquake" McCready, James "Cisero" Murphy, Efren "Bata (The Kid)" Reyes

Some of the greatest players have had highly unusual strokes. Willie Hoppe's peculiar style of stroke was a result of his starting so young, as a child prodigy. He barely reached the table and had to stand on a box. In his book Billiards As It Should Be Played, Hoppe emphatically advised players not to copy the way he employed the cue stick. Later, Allen Hopkins was nicknamed "Young Hoppe" because he too had a quirky stroke.

Best strokes: "Marvelous" Marvin Henderson, "Champagne" Ed Kelly, Michael Coltrain, Melvin "Strawberry" Brooks, Andrew "The Gent" Gentry, "Cowboy" Jimmy Moore, Mark Tadd, T-Bone, Larry Nevel, Kim Davenport, James "The King" Rempe, Keith "Earthquake" McCready

Highest speed when in dead stroke: "Saint Louie" Louie Roberts, "Hippy" Jimmy Reid, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Keith "Earthquake McCready," Dennis Hatch, Harold Worst

Ironic trivia question: Was Harold Worst the best pool shark ever? Some keen observers who saw him play think so. And he died at age 37, at the height of his powers. Who knows how good he could have been, if he had lived? Thus, last on the alphabetical list is certainly not least.

"If I ever had to have someone else shoot pool for my life, win, lose, live or die, the man I'd want shooting for me is Don Willis." — Luther Lassiter

James "Cisero" Murphy was the first African-American professional pool player to win national and international titles. Murphy was inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame in 1995. He is the only player in the history of pocket billiards competition to win a world title on his first attempt.

The best black players during the bad old days of racial segregation when they couldn't compete in the major billiards tournaments: "Lucky Charms" aka "Sizzle" Adams, Fat Albert, Arizona Slim, Joey Barnes, "Patcheye" Basheer, Melvin "Strawberry" Brooks, Ace Brown, Eddie Brown, "Bus Driver" Ronnie, Johnny "Cannonball" Chapman, Detroit Slim, James Evans, Andrew "The Gent" Gentry, George "Rotation Slim" Hairston, "Marvelous" Marvin Henderson, Buffalo Jerry, Cliff "Spotmaster" Joyner, Henry "Lotsa Poppa" McCloud Jr., Willie Munson, James "Cisero" Murphy, Leonard "Bugs" Rucker, Ike Runnels, Mark "Tadd" Tademy, T-Bone, Cecil Tugwell, Javenly "Youngblood" Washington,  Edgar "Shake and Bake" White, Robert "Rags" Woods

According to Jay Helfert, James Evans was "one of the best pool players that ever lived. PERIOD!" Helfert ranked "Youngblood" Washington, Cisero Murphy, Marvin Henderson, Bugs Rucker and John "Cannonball" Chapman as "the great ones." Helfert's honorable mentions include Cliff Joyner, Robert "Rags" Woods, Cecil Tugwell, Mark Tadd, Black Nate, Strawberry and Gabby. Helfert also mentioned that the only player he ever saw beat Ronnie Allen even at one-pocket  was Marvin Henderson.

How good was James Evans? Well, he went after the very best when they were hot: "James grew up in an era when black players weren't invited to compete in pool tournaments but he would often show up at pool tournaments and after the tournament he would walk up to the WINNER of the tournament and ask him to gamble at high stakes. He wasn't afraid to bet it all and he almost always won. James didn't start at the bottom of the ladder and work his way up, he went straight after the winner of the pool tournament."

The History of Pool, Part III: The first player recognized as the English Champion was John Carr of Bath. However, in 1824 when a deciding match for the champion's title was arranged with Edwin (Jonathan) Kentfield, Carr failed to appear. Kentfield then became known as "the first player in the world." He remained so until 1849 when John Roberts challenged Kentfield. Kentfield "pulled a Carr" and failed to arrive for the proposed match, so Roberts claimed the title of "first player in the world" by default.

The History of Pool, Part IV: During the 1850s, Michael Phelan and his associates began making a significantly different American style of billiard table. The cushions were lower in height and the pocket openings became "sharply cornered" in contrast to the gradual curvature of the English cushion (as with snooker tables to this day). Phelan became recognized as "the Father of American Pocket Billiards." Pool became so popular in the United States that during the Civil War billiards sometimes received greater press coverage than the battles. 

The History of Pool, Part V: In 1870 the first official English championship was played (finally!) between John Roberts and William Cook. This match was regarded as being of such importance that it was attended by the Prince of Wales. Cook took the title from John Roberts. Some five years John Roberts Junior took the title from William Cook and was regarded as the foremost billiard player in the world until his retirement in 1909. The term "pool room" probably became associated with pocket billiards when tables were installed in the rooms used by gamblers to pass time while betting on horse races. Eight ball was invented shortly after 1900; straight pool followed in 1910; nine-ball around 1920.

The best foreign/international pool players: Ronato "Ronnie" Alcano aka "The Volcano", Darren "Dynamite" Appleton, Karl Boyes, Francisco Bustamante, Jung Lin Chan, Lee Van Corteza, Steve Davis, Niels "The Terminator" Feijen, Che Wei Fu, Thorsten "The Hitman" Hohmann, Mika "The Ice Man" Immonen, Antonio Lining, Chris Melling, Dennis "RoboCop" Orcollo, Oliver Ortmann, Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan, Jose Parica, Efren "Bata" Reyes, John Schmidt, Huidji See, Ralf Souquet

The best straight pool players: Joe "The Meatman" Balsis, "Machine Gun" Lou Butera, Jimmy Caras, Irving "The Deacon" Crane, Ralph "The Showman" Greenleaf, Johnny "Irish" Lineen, Peter Margo, Ray "Cool Cat" Martin, Steve "The Miz" Mizerak, Willie Mosconi, Frank "The Inexorable Snail" Taberski, Dallas West

Willie Mosconi - think he made this shot?

Willie Mosconi shooting a massé (1987 photo by Mike Haines; photo editing by Bill Porter). Mosconi was second in the Billiards Digest rankings of the 50 Greatest Players of the Century, just ahead of his mentor, Ralph Greenleaf.

Ralph Greenleaf, sometimes called the "Aristocrat of Billiards," was a twenty-time World Pocket Billiards champion who who shared sports page billing with Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Red Grange. A glamorous playboy, Greenleaf was one of the most romantic figures of the Roaring Twenties. His wife, the former Amelia Ruth Parker, was a flapper (vaudeville actress) who performed as "Princess Nai Tai" and "The Oriental Thrush." I have also seen her called "The Oriental Nightingale." In The Bank Shot and Other Great Robberies, Minnesota Fats described her as "exquisite beyond belief" and said that Greenleaf was so handsome he made Rock Hudson look like Quasimodo! When Greenleaf was not competing, he toured with his wife, performing trick shots and demonstrations. Here is how a New York Times article describes their performances and lifestyle: "It was some kind of act. Greenleaf, in a form fitting tuxedo, performed trick shots under suspended mirrors that picked up the dazzling movement of the billiard balls and sent it out to the audience, a la satellite, as the princess, in a stunning, ankle length white ermine coat, narrated the action. The Greenleafs, with an income in six figures, lived in penthouses and hotel suites in those plush, carefree days ..."

Ralph Greenleaf    Clean Slate Billiards Instruction

Ralph Greenleaf lines up a shot.

Peter Margo appeared in the movie "Baltimore Bullet" and on Good Morning America and the Merv Griffin Show. He had a high run of 330 Balls in the1978 World Series of Pool, held in Arlington, Virginia.

Joe "The Butcher" Balsis, also known as "The Meatman," won the Philadelphia City Boys Championship at age 11, in 1932, then went on to win four consecutive National Junior Pocket Billiard Titles. He was so famous at the time that his picture appeared in The New York Times, alongside pool stars Ralph Greenleaf and Willie Hoppe. But Balsis retired from competitive pool for 32 years to work in his father's meat business (hence his nicknames) and raise a family. When he finally unretired to compete in professional tournaments, he took the pool world by storm. According to George Fels: “In the first 28 months of his professional pool career, Balsis competed in 10 major tournaments, wining five, second once, two fourths, two fifths. Overall, between 1965 and 1975, he may well have been the world’s best player … His peers shuddered at the thought of taking him on, just as they once had been in awe of Mosconi.” And one competitor complained that when he shook the Meatman's hand, his hand hurt for the next two days!

Steve "The Miz" Mizerak was sixth in the Billiards Digest rankings of the 50 Greatest Players of the Century. He was the John Madden of pocket billiards.

The best road players and hustlers: Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen, Danny "Kid Delicious" Basavich, Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge, Leonard "Bugs" Rucker, Vernon "Burnie" Elliot, Minnesota Fats, John "Rags" Fitzpatrick, Richard "Little Richie" Florence, Keith McCready, "St. Louie" Louie Roberts

John Joseph "Rags" Fitzpatrick looking wonderfully dapper above; his nickname was obviously ironic. But Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone may have pulled the ultimate hustle. He was known as "New York Fats" and "Brooklyn Fats," until shortly after the movie The Hustler came out. Then Wanderone began calling himself "Minnesota Fats" after the Jackie Gleason character, and pretty soon almost everyone assumed the movie had been made about him! Fats never won a major championship, and yet became the most famous pool shark of all time, at least with the public!

Minnesota Fats: Was he full of hot air, vastly overrated, or a Player?

The best pool commentators who were also strong players: Buddy Hall, Allen Hopkins, Billy Incardona, Grady Matthews, Vicki Paski

Allen Hopkins, circa the 1980s. I believe I ran into Hopkins around the time this picture was taken, due to the beard. When Hopkins was commentating for ESPN, he would shave, and when he was on the road he would wear a beard to make it less likely that people would recognize him. But he was easy to identify, once you had seen him play, because he had a very odd stroke. One night Doug "Preacher" Almy, a friend of mine who shoots good (but not world-class) nine-ball, made a game with a bearded stranger who called himself "John." Doug is a good judge of talent, and even though he was ahead for awhile, once "John" broke even with a spectacular shot, Doug walked away from the game. Doug explained his action later by saying "He's somebody," although he didn't know just who at the time. Not long thereafter, Doug saw "John" commentating for ESPN, and it was Allen Hopkins, sans the beard! Around the same time, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall showed up in the same pool hall, so I suspect they were on the road, headed for the next pro tournament ... probably the 1981 U.S. Open Nine-Ball championship in Chattanooga.

The best pool nicknames: Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen, Marshall "Tuscaloosa Squirrel" Carpenter, Steve "Cookie Monster" Cook, Larry "The Iceman" Hubbart, Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Frank "The Inexorable Snail" Taberski, "Titanic Thompson" (Alvin Clarence Thomas), Vivian "Texas Tornado" Villareal, Edgar "Shake & Bake" White

Frank Taberski was born March 15, 1889 in Amsterdam. He grew up in Schenectady, New York, and at the age of twenty-six he became the world champion, a title he would hold for seven years. He was called “The Sloth” and “The Inexorable Snail” because he played very slowly and deliberately, taking several minutes to ponder each shot, which of course annoyed his opponents. Because of his snail-like style, a three-minute "shot clock" was instituted. In 1919, he forfeited his title due to illness. He joined a vaudeville tour from 1919 to 1923, and became the Harlem Globetrotters of pool, winning all 313 games he played. In the mid-1920s, he returned to professional billiards and won four additional titles. Taberski was seventh in the Billiards Digest rankings of the 50 Greatest Players of the Century, despite the fact that few people have ever heard of “The Inexorable Snail.”

Larry Hubbart

Larry "The Iceman" Hubbart (photo by Bill Porter).

The best bank players: Donnie "The Cincinnati Kid" Anderson, Freddy "The Beard" Bentivegna, John Brumback, Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge, Marcel Camp, Johnny "Cannonball" Chapman, Clyde Childress, Wade "Boom Boom" Crane, Tony "Banks" Coleman, Shannon "The Cannon" Daulton, Vernon "Burnie" Elliot, Tony "Fargo" Ferguson, Jimmy "The Philadelphia Flash" Fusco, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Truman Hogue, Mark Jarvis, Larry "The Turtle" Price, Kenny "Romburg" Remus, Glen "Piggy Banks" Rogers, Leonard "Bugs" Rucker, Gary Spaeth, Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor, Nick Varner, "Mexican" Johnny Vasquez aka "Big Head," Javenly "Youngblood" Washington, Ron Dooley

Eddie Taylor #1

Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor is considered by many "players in the know" to have been the best bank player of all time, and unsurprisingly, one of the best one-pocket players as well.

Jimmy Fusco-1

Jimmy "The Philadelphia Flash" Fusco was one of the best bankers of the modern era, along with Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall and Nick Varner. Jimmy Fusco is the cousin of another well-regarded player, Pete Fusco.

The best one-pocket players:

(#10) Hayden Lingo
(#10) Francisco Bustamante aka "Busty"
(#10) Efren Reyes aka "The Magician"
(#9) Cliff "Spotmaster" Joyner
(#9) Justin Hall
(#8) "Champagne" Ed Kelly
(#8) Danny Smith
(#7) Gabe "The Babe" Owen
(#7) Shannon "The Cannon" Daulton
(#7) Shane van Boening
(#6) Scott "Freezer" Frost
(#6) Alex Pagulayan aka "The Lion"
(#6) Tony Chohan
(#5) Dennis Orcullo
(#4) Larry "Boston Shorty" Johnson (the winner of four Johnston City one-pocket championships)
(#4) Jack "Jersey Red" Breit
(#3) Eddie Taylor aka the "Knoxville Bear"
(#2) John "Rags" Fitzpatrick
(#1) Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen

One-pocket honorable mentions: Darren Appleton, Arthur "Artie" Bodendorfer, Melvin "Strawberry" Brooks, Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge, Marcel Camp, Marshall "Tuscaloosa Squirrel" Carpenter, Steve "Cookie Monster" Cook, Hubert "Daddy Warbucks" Cokes, Chip Compton, Jack Cooney, Don Decoy, Corey Deuel, Danny DiLiberto, Vernon "Burnie" Elliot, Johnny Ervolino, Jimmy "The Philadelphia Flash" Fusco, David Grossman, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, "Marvelous" Marvin Henderson, Allen Hopkins, Bill Incardona, Jeremy Jones, Larry Lisciotti, Grady "The Professor" Matthews, Eugene "Clem" Metz, "San Jose" Dick McMorran, Jose "Amang" Parica, U. J. Puckett, Kenny "Romberg" Remus, Bob "Big Nose" Roberts, "Monster John" Rouse, Leonard "Bugs" Rucker, Earl Schriver, Brandon Shuff, Gary Spaeth, Joey Spaeth, Jimmy "Flyboy" Spears, Bill "Weenie Beenie" Staton, Billy Thorpe, Cecil "The Left Duke" Tugwell, Nick Varner, Johnny Vives, Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, Don Willis, Glen "Eufaula Kid" Womack, Harold Worst

According to an interview with Eddie Taylor, the best one-pocket players of his era were: Earl Shriver, Erie Fats, Hubert Cokes, Johnny "Rags" Fitzpatrick, Hayden Lingo, Don Decoy, Bob Roberts, Ed Kelly, Eugene Metz, Buck Bozeman and Glen Womack. Later, Ronnie Allen became the most dominant one-pocket player in the world from the 1960s to the 1980s. Eddie Taylor confirmed that Ronnie Allen was spotting the world at one-pocket: "Of course Ronnie Allen was a tip-top player, no question about that. He was giving everybody two or three balls―well not everybody―but most everybody." Hall of Famer Eddie Kelly opined that "Ronnie Allen was the best one pocket player I ever played" and Minnesota Fats said of Ronnie Allen that "Anybody who plays him for money ain't got no chance at all."

According to the pool professor, Grady Matthews, one-pocket had its genesis in Oklahoma in the 30's, and Hayden Lingo was the first great one-pocket player. He was followed by "Big Nose" Roberts, Glen "Eufaula Kid" Womack, Marshall "Squirrel" Carpenter, Eugene "Clem" Metz, Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen, Jack "Jersey Red" Breit, Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor, "Connecticut" Johnny Vevis, and Johnny "Irish" Lineen.

According to R. A. Dyer, the author of Hustler Days, two of the all-time great one-pocket players called John Joseph "Rags" Fitzpatrick the best of the best. Eddie Taylor told Dyer that Rags was the best one-pocket player he’d ever seen. Bill “Weenie Beenie” Staton, who played Rags, said “He was the best one-pocket player during his era ... there wasn’t anybody close to him ... the closest to him was Eddie Taylor, and he was a ball under him.”

According to Frank "Bananas" Rodriguez, before Rags the best one-pocket players were Eddie Taylor and Don Decoy. But Rags beat Decoy out of $2,000 and after that, Rags was the best as long as he lived. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack on March 6, 1960, just before the movie The Hustler and the glory days of the Johnston City pool hustler tournaments. When Rags Fitzpatrick was playing his best, pool was seen as a seedy business and one-pocket was the seediest game of all. So Rags missed out on pool's renaissance and the elevation of one-pocket to a game of champions. But people in the know say that Rags was the best one-pocket player, in his day, and by a considerable margin.

Ronnie Allen once spotted Buddy Hall, giving him 9-7 at one pocket. According to Allen, at the time Buddy Hall was, without a doubt, the best nine-ball player on the planet, but was not as great at one-pocket. So Fast Eddie agreed to give The Rifleman two balls. But Hall had improved his one-pocket game, and jumped out to a lead of 9-2. Allen came back to win 11-9. According to "Toupee" Jay Helfert, top pros like Eddie "Champagne" Kelly and Jersey Red were asking Allen for 10-8 spots. So it seems safe to say that Ronnie Allen became the best one-pocket player when he was in his heyday.

Best shot selection: Allen Hopkins, Mike Sigel, Nick Varner

Jack Breit shooting in the dark.

Jack "Jersey Red" Breit (1987 photo by Mike Haines; photo editing by Bill Porter).

Ronnie Allen - rescanned

Ronnie Allen during his psychedelic days, or was it a psychedelic haze? (1980 photo by Mike Haines/Bill Porter). According to "Hippie" Jimmy Reid, Walter Tevis, the author of The Hustler and The Color of Money confirmed in a tape-recorded interview (while they were playing chess in a suite at the Holiday Inn in Dayton, Ohio) that "Fast Eddie" Felson was based on Ronnie Allen. According to Reid, "At one point during this interview, I became the interviewer instead of interviewee, I flat out asked Mr. Tevis who he based Fast Eddie Felson on? His reply went something like this: I went to Corcoran’s Pool Room in Frisco and saw a young, brash player by the name of Ronnie Allen who was a worldbeater, got the idea for the book and the rest is fiction and history."

According to an online post on the subject by Jay Helfert, "Ronnie Allen did have more title to the claim, based on several occurrences. He was running around San Francisco around 1959-60 and calling himself Eddie. He was prone to raise the bet so fast that someone (Jack Perkins maybe) started calling him Fast Eddie. Jack told me that when he saw Ronnie come in the poolroom he called out, 'Here comes that Fast Eddie again!' Word of his exploits reached all across the country. Even in the Midwest, word was out on this brash young kid, who was hustling and beating the best hustlers in San Francisco. Whether Tevis ever went out there or not I do not know. What I do know was that he was a keen observer of the pool scene, mostly hanging in the pool rooms in Louisville and Lexington. As far as Fats is concerned, Eddie Taylor probably had more influence on Tevis than anyone else. Walter definitely watched Taylor in action on more than one occasion. Eddie was a portly man who dressed immaculately and was always a gentleman at (and away from) the table. And he was a GREAT player, the best around, and certainly the best Tevis witnessed at that time. Any of this sound familiar? So if we are going to give credit, let's give it where it is due."

Per a June 2, 1987 article in the Los Angeles Times, "In those days, Minnesota Fats said of Allen: 'Anybody who plays him for money ain't go no chance at all. I'm the only guy in the whole world who can beat him.' (Allen contends that he has beaten Fats. He has lost to him, as well.) It was also in those days, as Allen tells it, that writer Walter Tevis was hanging around pool halls, collecting material for his book, The Hustler. Allen and others in the world of pool say that Tevis based his book on the Oklahoma City player."

Ronnie Allen, Jack Breit, and Ed Kelly - anyone for some one-pocket? If you could beat all three of them at one-hole, you should be in the Hall of Fame.

Ronnie Allen, Jack Breit and "Champagne" Ed Kelly (circa 1983-1984; photo by Mike Haines/Bill Porter).

Bill Incardona once said while commentating on a one-pocket match that nobody shoots billiards, caroms, and combos better than Steve Cook. The Cookie Monster ran out from everywhere, and had a high straight pool run of 189, but his weak break handicapped him at nine-ball. Allen Hopkins said in "Shots, Moves and Strategies" that from the mid 70's through the entire 80's, Steve Cook was the best one-pocket player in the world.

"I was lucky everywhere." — Bill "Weenie Beenie" Staton, who used his pool winnings to make millions from his hot dog stand business

The best pool stroke: Michael "Train" Coltrain, Andrew "The Gent" Gentry, "Marvelous" Marvin Henderson, "Champagne" Ed Kelly, Johnny "Irish" Lineen, "Cowboy" Jimmy Moore, Denny Searcy, Harold Worst, Alton "Babyface" Whitlow

Andrew "The Gent" Gentry was the best player in Nashville when I was running there; he would take on even the best pros at his specialty, bank. I saw him play Buddy Hall, Truman Hogue, "Little" David Howard, and other top-notch road players. Gentry had the most amazing slip stroke: he would pull the stick completely out of his bridge hand with a long, elegant, fluid backstroke, then bring it back through effortlessly. He could also play amazing safeties, sending the cue ball the length of the table to "feather" an object ball, then bring the cue back down to the opposite end of the table. While Gentry was not the best "money" player, he was a joy to watch and a real gentleman (and a gentle man) to boot.

"Cowboy" Jimmy Moore

"Cowboy" Jimmy Moore either shooting a trick shot or recovering from incredibly bad shape (1987 photo by Mike Haines; photo editing by Bill Porter).

The best "shape," position or cue ball control: Ronnie Alcano, Johnny Archer, Marshall "Tuscaloosa Squirrel" Carpenter, Allison "Always in Line" Fisher, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Allen Hopkins, Willie Mosconi, Jim "King James" Rempe, Efren "Bata" Reyes, Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel, Ralf Souquet, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Toby Sweet, Nick Varner, Harold Worst, Krzysztof Wróbel

The History of Pool, Part VI: Neville Chamberlain, a future prime minister of England, helped invent the modern game we call snooker around 1875 by introducing numbered balls in addition to the black. When billiards champion John Roberts met Chamberlain in India in 1885, he elected to help popularize the new game. The first professional snooker championship was held in Birmingham, England in 1927. Joe Davis, the first snooker superstar and the winner of 15 consecutive snooker championships from 1927-1946, was one of the organizers.

To illustrate the prestige with which the game of billiards was held, when Walter Lindrum toured England, on February 19, 1931 he met the English Prime Minister and was summoned for a Royal Command Performance before King George V. But snooker was the more exciting game and over the next thirty years its popularity skyrocketed. In 1930, Joe Davis had the first official snooker century break. In 1955, after 30 years of trying, Davis had snooker's first perfect 147 break. In 1962, Davis had the first televised century. In 1969 with the advent of the "Pot Black" colour television broadcasts, snooker became England's most popular indoor game. In 1977 the first World Championship was held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. Colorful snooker artists like Alex "Hurricane" Higgins, Ray "Dracula" Reardon, John "The Wizard of Wishaw" Higgins, Steve "The Nugget" Davis, Jimmy "The Whirlwind" White, Mark "The Jester from Leicester" Selby, Stephen "The Golden Boy" Hendry and Ronnie "the Rocket" O'Sullivan would help ensure the game's enduring popularity.

The History of Pool, Part VII: Did TV kill straight pool? The 1973 U.S. Open, held in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton-Chicago Hotel, may have spelled the end of straight pool as a spectator sport, thanks to TV. The finals that year featured Steve "the Miz" Mizerak, the affable John Madden of pool, against the notorious North Carolina hustler Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter. At that time, Mizerak and Lassiter were the cream of the straight pool crop. Mizerak had won the three previous U.S. Opens. Lassiter had won a slew of major tournaments during the 1960s. Both players appear in Billiard Digest's list of the top ten players of the century. The stage was perfectly set for an epic battle, and ABC's cameras were there to transmit it electronically to the viewing public's couch potatoes. It was like pool's Babe Ruth squaring off against its Ty Cobb, with everything on the line. But there was a major problem: time, compounded by booringness. According to the New York Times, "Mizerak, unbeaten in the double-elimination tourney, lost a marathon match that started last night and lasted more than 4 hours, 150-110, in 22 innings." Matt Racki of the Billiard Revue said that Mizerak played the first game "like his cue had been in a deep freeze for a few years." And because Lassiter won, a second game was required to determine the champion. Unfortunately, it wasn't much better for spectators. Mizerak, usually the picture of joviality and optimism, later said that the double marathon "just took too long to film." Pool historian Charles Ursitti pointed out that a long stretch of safety play made for "wretched" television. According to Ursitti, "They used to televise the U.S. Open on ABC for years ... it was straight pool and only straight pool. For the die-hard fan, that's what you want to see. But it can get boring, and in 1973, they got into about 18 minutes of safety play. And of course, 18 minutes of playing safe is extremely hard to edit. What people want to see is offense. They want to see a lot of downtown shots. And so [the TV networks] abandoned it. CBS and ABC said, 'That's that. We're done.'" Within a few years, by 1978, the BCA (Billiard Congress of America) had also abandoned straight pool for nine-ball. The fledgling PPPA (Professional Pool Players Association) soon followed suit. Thus the prediction of the legendary Jansco brothers, the first great promoters of pool, that straight pool would lose out to nine-ball, had come to pass. Why? Primarily because nine-ball is faster and more entertaining. Another important factor, no doubt, was the booming popularity of coin-operated bar tables, which make it troublesome and expensive to spot balls. Soon millions of pool enthusiasts were playing on tables that didn't lend themselves to games like straight pool and one-pocket, and of course most amateurs would much rather take wildly exciting offensive risks than play safety after mind-numbing safety. (In many bars today, playing safe is just above pedophilia and incest on the list of "thou shalt nots.") But the original "kiss" of death, if you'll pardon the pun, for straight pool was time's.

The best trick shot artists: Chef Anton, Paul Gerni, Mike "Tennessee Tarzan" Massey, Stefano Pelinga, Tom Rossman, Andy Segal, Ron Dooley

Mike Massey

Mike "Tennessee Tarzan" Massey (circa 1983-1984 photo by Mike Haines/Bill Porter).

The best all-round modern players (good at everything): Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, Jim "King James" Rempe, Efren "Bata" Reyes, Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Nick Varner

Jim Rempe - Did they level this table?

Jim "King James" Rempe won more than 100 tournaments, with multiple major championships in all the major disciplines

Efren Reyes posed as "Caesar Morales" at his first American pool tournament victory in 1985. Like Julius Caesar, he came, he saw, he conquered.

The best bar table "big ball" players: Dave Matlock (#1, with a high run of 28 racks), Wade Crane, "Surfer" Rod Curry, Buddy "The Rifleman" Hall, "Little" David Howard, "Boston" Joey Kiley, "Omaha" John Shuput, Three-Fingered Ronnie Sypher, Shane Van Boening, Jesse Bowman, Corey "Cash Money" Deuel, Keith "Earthquake" McCready, "St. Louie" Louie Roberts, Larry "The Ice Man" Hubbart, Calvin Harcrow, "Good Time" Charlie Owens, Eugene Browning, Brian Atchley, Jesse Bowman, Jeff Street

Jay Helfert reminisces about Dave Matlock and other greats of the game: "There's been a lot of good bar table players over the years. A LOT! I must have seen fifty guys that I would call top speed, including Jesse Bowman, Shane [van Boening] and some other current players. In the old days there were also many great players, like Joe Salazar, Big Sergio, Cannela, Buddy [Hall] and Keith [McCready], Bakersfield Bobby and Weldon Rogers. Peter Gunn was up there too. I loved Buddy's steady play and perfect cue ball. It seemed like he would never miss a ball. And Keith had such finesse and never saw a hard shot. He made everything look so easy. But David Matlock had a quality I never saw in anyone else. He could simply overpower the table, making the balls do as he commanded them. He created position where there was none, and manufactured shots to suit the occasion. Everyone else played fairly standard run-outs, but not David. He could take a bad layout and turn it around with an overpowering shot or two. He made "bigger" shots than anyone else, and made them with confidence. If you were his opponent, you quickly realized that this guy had a higher speed than you. Believe me that's intimidating. I don't know how else to describe it, but Matlock played a little different game on a bar table than anyone else I ever saw. He made that table and those balls submit to his will! There's a few guys that really stand out in my memory that way. The way Ceulemans controlled the balls and the game on a billiard table; Worst playing on a big table always seemed so sure of himself, so much in command; Earl playing tournament 9-Ball and making the big box look like a bar table, and then there was Matlock totally dominating a bar table. I'd add Parica playing for money to the above list. He was just unbeatable and you knew he was going to win no matter what the game. One more who stands out in my mind was a young Steve Mizerak playing Straight Pool. When he showed up, everyone else was playing for second. He was a speed above the world!"

David Matlock

Dave Matlock (1984 photo by Mike Haines; photo editing by Bill Porter). If there is any consensus in the pool world, it may be that Dave Matlock was the best "bar box" player with the "big ball."

The best three cushion billiard players: Torbjörn Blomdahl, Robert L. Cannefax, Raymond Ceulemans (#1), John W. Daly, Tiff Denton, Ludo Dielis, Jack "Scarface" Foreaker, Roland Forthomme, Willie "The King" Hoppe, Thomas Hueston, Dick Jaspers, Augie Kieckhefer, Johnny Layton, Sang Chun Lee, Alfredo de Oro, Harold Worst, Jake "The Wizard" Schaefer Sr., Jake Schaefer Jr., Otto Reiselt, Semih Sayginer

Willie "The King" Hoppe, circa 1910. Hoppe held the record for consecutive billiards made, 26, for fifty years. He won 51 world titles in three-cushion billiards, four variations of balkline billiards, and cushion caroms. Hoppe was the only pocket billiards player to ever put on an exhibition in the White House, where he performed for President William Taft in 1911. Hoppe was first in the Billiards Digest rankings of the 50 Greatest Players of the Century.

Alfredo de Oro won world titles in three-cushion billiards and straight pool/continuous pool, and sometimes held them simultaneously. De Oro was fourth in the Billiards Digest rankings of the 50 Greatest Players of the Century.

The best snooker players: Mark Allen, Stuart Bingham, Marcel Camp, Ali Carter, Joe "Mr. Snooker" Davis, Steve Davis, Peter Ebdon, Marco Fu, Barry Hawkins, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy, Ronnie "the Rocket" O'Sullivan, John Pulman, Ray "Dracula" Reardon, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, John Spencer, Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn, Judd Trump, Jimmy "The Whirlwind" White, Mark Williams, Krzysztof Wróbel

Alex "Hurricane" Higgins

The best eight ball players: Darren "Dynamite" Appleton, Johnny "The Scorpion" Archer, Shane Van Boening, Rodney Morris, Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan, Efren "Bata" Reyes, Ralf Souquet

Johnny "The Scorpion" Archer

The best break: Shane Van Boening, Paul Brienza, Wade "Boom Boom" Crane, "Hurricane" Tony Ellin, "Little" David Howard, Chuck Morgan, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Nick "Kentucky Colonel" Varner

Wade Crane was voted by his peers to have had the best nine-ball break in history.

The best safeties/defense: Allen Hopkins, Eugene "Clem" Metz, Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel, Efren "Bata" Reyes

Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel was fifth in the Billiards Digest rankings of the 50 Greatest Players of the Century, and highest among modern nine-ball players.

The best kickers (kick shot artists): Shannon "The Cannon" Daulton, Jose Parica, Efren "Bata" Reyes, Danny "High Heels" Tator, Glen "The Eufaula Kid" Womack

Efren "Bata" Reyes, eying a shot intensely.

The best one-handed players: Michael "Geese" Gerace, Goosatay/Gusatay, Little Miami, Don Willis, Eddie "Knoxville Bear" Taylor, Ronnie Allen, Jesse Allred, Bucktooth, Cornbread Red, Mike Massey, Efren Reyes, Keith McCready, Earl Shriver, Artie Bodendorfer, Jesse "The One-Handed Hustler" James, Martin "Omaha Fats" Kaiman, George Breedlove, Chris Raftis, Richard T. Riggie, Sergio Vargas aka "Little Sergio," Flaco, Weldon Rogers, Scott Simonetti, John Hasci, "Nubby" Ernest/Ernie Morgan aka "The One Armed Bandit," Clarence Bell aka "Bucky Bell," Gary Lutman, Smokey Bartlett, Al Hogue, Tim Heath, Tucker Shepherd

Eddie Taylor would routinely run six or seven balls playing bank one-handed.

The best ambidextrous players: Wade "Boom Boom" Crane, Buddy "the Rifleman" Hall, Jack "Scarface" Foreaker, Dick Leonard, Dan Louie, Keith "Earthquake" McCready, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jose "the Giant Killer" Parica, Efren "the Magician" Reyes, "Little" Al Romero, Mark Strain, Cecil Tugwell, Ron Wyatt

The best "undercover" hustlers and players (the ones the general public still hasn't heard about): Richie Ambrose, Glenn Atwell, Smokey Bartlett, Jafar Basheer aka "Patch Eye," Jerry Brock, Eugene Browning, Jack Cooney, Warren "The Monk" Costanzo, Vernon "Burnie" Elliot, Ricky Gracyk, Peter Gunn, Horace Harper, Bingo Harrison, Dennis Hatch, Larry "Gabby" Hill, Norman "Hitch" Hitchcock, Bud Hype, Tom Jennings, Bill Lawson, Dan Louie, Dick Lane, Frank Lively, Henry "LotsaPoppa" McCloud Jr., Peter Margo, Jimmy Matz, Chuck Morgan, Johnny Morrow, Willie Munson, Gary "The Bushwhacker" Nolan, Reed Pierce, Gary Serville, Sam Soto, Gary Spaeth, Sonny Springer, Roy "The Cook" Stanzioni, "Hippie" Jimmy Reid, David Rhodes, Weldon Rogers, George Rood, Denny Searcy, Ray Schultz, Bernie Schwartz, Randy "The Exterminator" Smith, Greg Stevens, Jay Swanson, Toby Sweet, Mark Tadd, Danny "High Heels" Tator, Cheyenne Pete Trujillo, Cecil Tugwell, Howard Vickery, Nick "the Indian" Vlahos,  C. J. Wiley, Don Willis, Rob "Roadplayer" Wolfe, Harold "The Best" Worst, Mike Zuglan

In the decades since its release, The Hustler has cemented its reputation as a classic movie. Roger Ebert, echoing earlier praise for the performances, direction, and cinematography and adding laurels for editor Dede Allen, cites the film as "one of those films where scenes have such psychic weight that they grow in our memories." He further cites Fast Eddie Felson as one of "only a handful of movie characters so real that the audience refers to them as touchstones." TV Guide called the film a "dark stunner" offering "a grim world whose only bright spot is the top of the pool table, yet [with] characters [who] maintain a shabby nobility and grace." The four leads are again lavishly praised for their performances and the film is summed up as "not to be missed."

Paul Newman reprised his role as Fast Eddie Felson in the 1986 film The Color of Money, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. A number of observers and critics have suggested that this Oscar was in belated recognition for his performance in The Hustler. In 1997, the Library of Congress selected The Hustler for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Carroll and Rossen's screenplay was selected by the Writers Guild of America in 2006 as the 96th best motion picture screenplay of all time. In June 2008, AFI released its "Ten top Ten" (the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres) after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. The Hustler was rated the sixth best film in the sports genre.

The Hustler is also credited with sparking a resurgence in the popularity of pool in the United States, which had been on the decline for decades prior to 1961. The film also brought recognition to Mosconi, who, despite having won multiple world championships, was virtually unknown to the general public. Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the film's popularity was a real-life pool hustler named Rudolf Wanderone. Mosconi claimed in an interview at the time of the film's release that the character of Minnesota Fats was based on Wanderone, who at the time was known as "New York Fatty." Wanderone immediately adopted the Minnesota Fats nickname and parlayed his association with the film into book and television deals and other ventures. Author Walter Tevis denied for the rest of his life that Wanderone had played any role in the creation of the character. Other players would claim, with greater or lesser degrees of credibility, to have served as models for Fast Eddie, including Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen, Ed "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor, Ed Parker, and Eddie Pelkey. (The first two were world-class players; the latter two may have just happened to have been named Edward by their parents.)

Notoriously slow pool players and "stallers": Greg Fix, Gabe Owen, Jeremy Jones, Ralf Soquet, Frank "The Inexorable Snail" Taberski, Nick Varner, Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone

If Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone was getting the worst of a game, he might call "time out" because of an appointment with the "mayor" or some other celebrity. The first pool tournament shot clock was instituted because of the stalling tactics of Frank "The Inexorable Snail" Taberski.

Best unknown "monster" players: Mike Carella, Vernon "Burnie" Elliot, Walter Glass, Dick Hunzicker, Bud Hype, Jack "Frisco" Cooney, Lotsapoppa, Weldon "Jr." Rogers (one-handed), Denny Searcy, Craig "Greg" Stevens aka "Big Train," Toby Sweet, Cecil Tugwell, Don "Cincinnati Kid" Willis

According to "Toupee" Jay Helfert, Keith McCready went looking for "monster" players!

Unknown "monster" players who could play with anyone on a given day: Eddie Adams, Richie Ambrose, Glen Atwell, Mike Bandy, Smokey Bartlett, Danny Barouty, Mike Blevins, Terry Boucher, Donny Branson, Larry "Gabby" Brown, Eugene Browning (bar box), George Brunt, Clyde Childress, Dan "Clarkie" Clark, Warren "The Monk" Costanzo, "Baltimore" Buddy Dennis, "Fat" Harold Dollar, Don "Water Dog" Edwards, Ed Eversole, Vadis "Meathead" Eversole, Brian Ezell, Sebastian "Chino" Franco, Roy Futternick, Leil "JR" Gay, Rich "The Hat" Geiler, Mike "Geese" Gerace, Wayne Giles, Junior Goff, Ricky Gracyk, Billy Graves, Steve "The Gump/Gumpster" Gumphries, Peter Gunn (real name Len Wesson), Horace Harper, "Bakersfield" Bobby Hernandez (bar box), Pete Horne, Dick Hunzicker, Tommy Kennedy, "Chicken" George Kieselat, Bobby Logan, Dan Louie, "Marlboro," Mike McClain aka "Little Mikey" and "The Dwarf" and "Pittsburg Mike," Kenny McCoy, Chuck Morgan, Johnny Morrow, Leo Newberry, Gary "The Bushwacker" Nolan, Curtis "The Mountain Man" Payne (also "King Curtis), Richard Peck, David "Dough Boy" Rhodes, Charlie "The Ape" Romanis, George Rood, John Rouse, Johnny Ross, Joe Salazar, Ray Schultz, Bernie Schwartz, Brad "Bullwinkle" Schwartz, "Navy" Gary Serville, "Omaha" John Shuput, Randy "The Exterminator" Smith, Sam Soto, Roy "The Cook" Stanzioni, Chris Szuter, Mark "Tadd" Tademy, Danny Tator, Brian Tidwell, Cheyenne Pete Trujillo, "Cigar" Tom Vanover, Sebastian "Vera Cruz" Villaneuva, Nick "The Indian" Vlahos, James Walden, Don Watson, Sparky Webb, Billy Weir

Best promoters of pool and billiards: C. J Wylie, Grady "The Professor" Matthews, "LA" Richie Florence, the legendary Jansco brothers, Michael Phelan "the father of American pool"

Pool/Billiards Nickname Index

"Oil Can" Larry Lisciotti's nickname has been attributed to Jimmy Mataya, who called him a "handsome, high-living, high-rolling pool hustler, lidded eyes, slightly lascivious grin—a wasted sharpshooter, a well oiled gunslinger of the 70's."

I believe I coined and was the first person to use two nicknames on this list. As I was working on my article about the best pool players of all time, I came to the conclusion that Harold Worst was the best player of all time, which seemed ironic. So I started calling him Harold "The Best" Worst. Then as I worked on my article about the superstars of pool's distant past, I came to the conclusion that Albert Frey was the first superstar of pocket billiards. He seemed like one of those magical players who just "has it." He was called "The Boy Wonder" because he started winning as a boy, and never lost his youthful looks. Then I found a card with his picture on it, and he looked like Peter Pan, the most magical of boys! So I started calling him Albert "Peter Pan" Frey and "The Magical Boy."

Not all pool nicknames are highly original. For instance, if you hail from Cincinnati and can chalk a tip without putting your eye out, you're destined to have someone call you "The Cincinnati Kid." And if you live in the sticks and have the guts to play road players on your home table, you're bound to be called "Country."

Since there are so many colorful pool nicknames; I have bolded my favorites below to make the best ones quicker and easier to find ...


Ronato "Ronnie" Alcano aka "The Volcano" and "Calamba"
Ronnie Allen: "Fast Eddie" and "Buddy Hackett"
"No Penny" Benny Allen
Doug "Preacher" Almy (he didn't look like a pool shark, hence the nickname; we ran together for years, so I know him best of all the players on this list)
Yukio Akagariyama: "Curly"
Richie "from the Bronx" Ambrose
Leonardo "Dadong" Andam
Donny "The Cincinnati Kid" Anderson
Darren "Dynamite" Appleton
Johnny "The Scorpion" Archer (he had a scorpion amulet that he carried for good luck, not that he needed it!)
Lewis "Blackie" Ardell
Terry Ashton: "Massus Dragon"
Richie Austin: "The Memphis Flash"
Ken "Sarge" Aylesworth


Joe Balsis: "The Butcher," "Meatman" (his family owned a meat-packing business)
William "Sailor" Barge
Paul "Tall Paul" Barros
Chris Bartrum: "Smooth Criminal"
Danny Basavich: "Kid Delicious"
Henry Chapman Basheer: "Jaffar," "Patch Eye," "One-Eyed Henry"
Eddie "Detroit Whitey" Beauchene
Bob "Bristol" Begey
Clarence "Bucky" Bell
Robin "Bankroll" Bell
"Terrible" Terry Bell
William "Dollar Bill" Bell
Robert "Lefty" Bennett
Freddie Bentivegna: "The Beard" and "Freddie the Hippie"
Jerry "The California Kid" Bento
Nick van den Berg: "El Nino"
Justin Bergman: "Iceberg"
Carlo Biado: "Lucky Luke" and "Black Tiger"
Emmett "Blank" Blankenship
"Snooker" Sam Blumenthal; also "Jacksonville"
"Smartie" Artie Bodendorfer
Albert Bonife: Al, New York Blackie
Don "Sneaky Pete" Bothwell
Karl "Gwapo" Boyes (gwapo means "handsome" and Boyes has been accused of making up his nickname!)
Louis "Little Hand" Bramlett
"Rusty" Brandymeyer
George "Flamethrower" Breedlove
Jack Breit: Jersey Red, The Ayatollah of One Hola, The Red Raider
Jason "Jaybird" Breland
"Tough" Tony Brewer
Paul "Doc" Brienza
Charlie "Straight Arrow" Brinson
Tommie "Cisco" Briscoe aka T. R. "Bass" Briscoe
Bob "Bogey" Bristol
Melvin "Strawberry" Brooks
James Brown: Youngblood, Texas Blood
"Little Rock" Brown; also "Capitol City" Brown
"Jew" Paul Brusloff
Charles "Hillbilly" Bryant
Mike "The Locksmith" Burch (I seldom lost money and never lost big, hence the not-so-flattering nickname!)
Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge
Robert "Georgia Slim" Burrell
Eddie "The Hat" Burton
Francisco "Django" Bustamante
"Machine Gun" Lou Butera (he got his nickname from the rapidity with which he took shots)


"Houn' Dog" Calhoun
Marcel "Campy" Camp
Rex "Keno King" Cannon
Vince "Pancho" Carelli
Guy "Carolina Slim" Carney
Marshall "Tuscaloosa Squirrel" Carpenter (as a boy he sold peanuts at pool halls: hence, "squirrel")
"Port Chester" Mickey Carpinello
 Jeff "The Monster from the Midwest" Carter
"Brooklyn" Jimmy Cassas
Gene Catron: "The Glove" and "The Mighty Glove" (he played with a black army glove on his bridge hand)
Yu Ram Cha: "Little Lightning"
Marcus "Little Napolean" Chamat
Jung Lin Chang: the "Pool Demon" and "Pool Devil"
Johnny Chapman: "Cannonball" and "Lefty" (a famous master of the bank shot)
Bernardo "King Kong" Chavez
Ignacio "Nacho" Chavez
Robert "Blood" Cherry
Tony "T-Rex" Chohan
Artie "Mountain Man" Clements
Ben "Kid Irish" Cohen
The Coin Box Kid
Hubert "Daddy Warbucks" Cokes
"Benton Harbour" Tony Banks Coleman
Michael "Bricktop" Collins
Michael "Train" Coltrain
Benny "The Goose" Conway Sr.; also "The Pear" because of his rotundity
Benny "Little Goose" Conway Jr.
"Shipwreck" Conway
"Whitey" Conway
Charles Richard "Bucktooth" Cook
Steve "Cookie Monster" Cook
George "Spin-the-Ball" Cook
"Frisco" Jack Cooney
Gene "The Machine" Cooper
"Sleepy" Joe Cosgrove
Al "Coz" Coslosky
Karen "The Irish Invader" Corr
Lee "Vann Vann" Corteza
Warren "Monk" Costanza
Jimmy "Catfish" Court
Tommy "The Sailor" Cramer
Irving "The Deacon" Crane
Wade "Boom Boom" Crane (he got his nickname from his powerful stroke and break)
Arthur "Babe" Cranfield (he used to tag after Babe Ruth when Ruth played pool)
"Crazy" Charlie
"Diamond" Bill Cress
"Okie" Sam Crotzer; also "Nashville"
Tony da Cucumber
"Surfer" Rod Curry aka "Pool Playin' Jesus"


Danny D.
Andrew "Ponzi" D'Alessandro
Maurice "The Teacher" Daly
Robert "Detroit Bob" Dancer
Alphonso "Fonzi" Daniels
Mike "Mad Dog" Danner
Shannon "The Cannon" Daulton aka "Doughboy"
Kim "Kimmer" Davenport; also "The California Kid"
Joe Davis: "Mr. Snooker," "The Sultan of Snooker"
Steve Davis: "The Nugget," "The Ginger Magician," "The Ginger Mushroom," "Master Cueman," "Romford Slim"
Mike Dechaine: "Fireball" and "The Pain"
"Oakland" Don Decoy
Jeffrey de Luna: "The Bull"
Robert "Red Dog" Denham
"Baltimore" Buddy Dennis; also "Baltimore Bullet"
Corey Deuel: "Cash Money" and "The Prince of Pool"
Danny "Buffalo Kid" DiLiberto; also "Deadly Danny" and "Buffalo Dan"
"Hippie" Cole Dickson
Steve "Stevie Wonder" Dobrowolski
Robin "Bank Roll" Bell-Dobson
"Fat" Harold Dollar
Ernesto "Chihuahua" Dominguez
Ron Dooley: "Just Like That Dooley"
John "Duke" Dowell
Tony Drago: "The Dragon," "The Tornado," "The Maltese Falcon," "The Maltese Whippet," "The Boss"
Gary "The Driller" Drennan
Delmar Henry "Harrisburg Whitey" Dubbs; also "Delmar Stanton"
Bill "Chicken Man" Dunsmore


Peter Ebdon: "Psycho," "Mr. Intensity," "The Force," "Ebdo," "The Ebdonator"
Don "Waterdog" Edwards
Nick "The Greek" Ekonomopoulos
"Hurricane" Tony Ellin
Thomas "The Lean Machine" Engert
Johnny "Velvet Foghorn" Ervolino aka "Brooklyn Johnny"
Roger "Road Warrior" Estelle


Jamie "Red Rifle" Farrell
Sam "One Poke" Fauver
Don "Preacher" Feeney
Niels "The Terminator" Feijen
Tony "Fargo" Ferguson
Samuel "Sparky" Ferrell
Joshua "Joshi" Filler
Allison "The Duchess of Doom" Fisher
John Joseph "Rags" Fitzpatrick; also "Washington Rags" (ironic because he was a very dapper dresser)
"LA" Richie Florence
Jack "Scarface" Foreaker
Mark "Donut Man" Ford
Fritz "Scarface" Fournier
"Neptune" Joe Frady
Milborn "Gar" Frazier
Scott "Freezer" Frost
Albert Frey: Peter Pan, Boy Wonder, The Magical Boy, Blonde Boy, Boy Expert, Little Fellow, The Crown Prince of American Pool

Clair "Corky" Fry
Marco Fu: "Cue-Man-Fu," "Hong Kong Fuey"
Jimmy "The Philly Flash" Fusco


Natalie "Hollywood Jack" Gabriel
Ramil Gallego: "Bebeng"
Mike "Shoes" Gamboni
Dan "Young Greenleaf" Gartner (aka Danny)
Al "Silver Fox" Gassner
Rich "The Hat" Geiler
Andrew "The Gent" Gentry
Michael "Geese" Gerace
Horace "Groundhog" Godwin
Lewis Goff; Junior, Lefty
Morton "Boston Shorty" Goldberg
Roberto Gomez: "Superman"
Isaac "Miami" Gonzales
Paul "Detroit Slim" Graham
Ralph Greenleaf: The Showman, The Aristocrat of the Billiards Table, The King of Billiards, Magic, Ole Boogie
James "Atlantic Danny" Greer
Marc "Mags" Gregory
Roger "The Rocket" Griffis
Mike "Babyface" Gulyassy
"Fast" Larry Guninger


Mark "The Snake" Haddad
John "Drew" Hagar
George "Rotation Slim" Hairston
"Hollywood" Hal
Cecil "Buddy" Hall; also "The Rifleman"
"Staten Island" Tommy; also "Doc Halliday"
Calvin "Country" Hargrove; also "Crazy Calvin"
Ralph "Go Boy" Harrelson
Danny Harriman: "The Springfield Rifle"
"Hawaiian" Brian Hashimoto
Dennis Hatch: "The Hatchet," "The Hatchet Man"
Bobby "The Locksmith" Headrick
Earl "Roadmaster" Heisler; also "Pistachio"
"Toupee" Jay Helfert; also "What the Helfert?"
John Henderson: "Class," "The Gentleman," "Gentleman John"
Marvin "Pittsburg Flash" Henderson
Stephen Hendry: "The Golden Boy," "The Golden Bairn," "The Maestro," "The Great One," "The Ice Man," "The King of the Crucible"
John "Cornflakes" Hennigan
"Cadillac" Ed Herrmann
Alex "Hurricane" Higgins
John Higgins: "The Wizard of Wishaw," "The Kid"
Norman "Hitch" Hitchcock
Erik "Big Red" Hjorleifson
Thanh "Tang" Hoa
Thorsten "The Hitman" Hohmann
Allen "Young Hoppe" Hopkins
Willie "The King" Hoppe aka "Boy Wonder"
John "The Banker" Horgan
Harry da Horse
Charles "Norfolk Whitey" Howard
"Little" David Howard; also "The Giant Killer"
Norman "The Jockey" Howard
"One-Eyed" Tony Howard
Larry "The Iceman" Hubbart
Eddie "Mountain Man" Hubble
John "Willie" Humbert (high run 155)
Raj "The Hitman" Hundal
Tommy Hueston
"One Eyed" Hank Hurst
Roman Hybler: "Czech Attack"
Buford "Bud" Hypes; also "The Tiger"


Jeffrey Ignacio: "Jeff Pilar," "Jeff Diaz" and "Jeff Las Piñas"
Mika "The Ice Man" Immonen
Bill "Nine Ball Billy" Incardona aka "Pittsburgh Billy" and "Mustache Charlie"
Bob "Ingie" Ingersol; also "Soldier"
Frank "Napoleon" Ives


Larry "Boston Shorty" Johnson
"Handsome" Danny Jones; also "Kennesaw"
"Jumpin'" Sammy Jones
"Chicago" Paul Jones
Jeremy Jones: "Double J"
Charles "Low Down Dirty Red" Jones aka "Preacher Red"
Cliff "Spotmaster" Joyner


Martin "Omaha Fats" Kaiman
"Gypsy" George Kalman
Ellis "Tres" Kane III
"Big Nose" Kate
Satoshi Kawabata: "Dynamite Lefty"
Bill "Tex" Kelleher; also "Calhoun"
Joe "Joker" Kerr
"Champagne" Eddie Kelly
Warren Kiamco: "The Warrior"
Eddie "Cannonball" Kienowski
Joe "Boston Joey" Kiley
Bert "The Rip-Off Artist" Kinister
"Fat" Glen Knowles
Florian "Venom" Kohler
Roy "Kilroy" Kosmolski
Tony "Whitey" Krzyzaniak
Toru Kuribayashi: "Choujin" ("Superman" in Japanese)
Po-Cheng Kuo: the "Little Monster"
Line "Eye Chart" Kvoersvik


"Fast" Eddie La Pasota
Robert "Cotton" LeBlanc
Billy "The Kid" Lanna
Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter (he ate lots of hamburgers and drank lots of sodas, like the cartoon character)
"Canadian" Joe Lawrence
Irving "Bill" Lawson
Chris Scarfish Lawton
Calvin "Rushout Red" Lawton
Johnny Layton: The Diamond King
"Spanish" Mike LeBron
Jeanette "The Black Widow" Lee
Alex "Little Napoleon" Lely
Derek "Chew" Leonard
Ardell "Blackie" LeSieur (or LeSeur)
Willie "the Wop" Lewis
Steve "Leapin'" Lillis aka "The Pastor of Pool"
Walter "Wally" Lindrum
Johnny "Irish" Lineen
Peter "Rabbit" Linhard
Antonio "Nikoy" Lining
Larry Lisciotti: "The Prince of Pool" and "Oil Can" because he was so slick
Rudolfo "Boy Sampson" Luat


"Little" John Macias; also "Lil Jon"
Johnny "Get Back Jack" Madden
Bobby "The El Paso Kid" Madrid
"Florida" Bob Maidhoff
"Hippie" Jimmy Marino aka "Sir Lancelot"
Marco "The Snake" Marquez
Bill "Willie Jopling" Marshall
Alain Martel: "The Dancing Bear"
Ray "Cool Cat" Martin
"Little" Al Mason
Mike "Tennessee Tarzan" Massey
Ewa "The Striking Viking" Mataya
Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya
Pablo "The Tarantula" Matheu
Grady Mathews: "The Professor"
Ronnie "The Hat" Mayes; also "Bald Eagle"
Steve "The Mechanic" McAninch
Henry "Lotsapoppa" McCloud Jr.
Harry "The Horse" McConnell
Keith McCready: "Earthquake," "Keither with the Ether" and "Grady Seasons" (his character in "The Color of Money")
Gary "Hack" McCuskey
Ryan "Genie Man" McCreash
Edward "Chris" McGeahan
Ruth McGinnis: "Susie Cue" and "The Queen of Billiards"
Danny McGoorty
Frank "Skippy" McGown
Bobby "The Kid" McGrath
John "Henry" McHenry
"San Jose" Dick McMoran aka "San Methuselah Dick" 
"Big" Bill Meacham
Howard "The Coward" Meacham/Meachum
Chris Melling: "The Magician" and "Cueboy"
Steve "The Whale" Melnyk
Norman "Silverlake" Menichelli; also "The Bear"
Eugene "Clem" Metz
George Michaels: "Tacoma Whitey"
George "Trickshooter" Middleditch
"Racine" Al Miller
Johnny "Popcorn" Miller
Donnie Mills: "Carlot"
Chu Hong Ming: "Peter Pan"
Steve "The Miz" Mizerak
"Jersey" Mel Mlotok
"Mole" (a one-eyed shortstop)
Charles "Country" Monroe
"New York" Hank Montague
Antonio "Aguzate" Montalvo
"Cowboy" Jimmy Moore
Bill "Cash" Moore
N.M. "Junior" Moore
Ernest "Nubby" Morgan; also "The One Armed Bandit"
Orlando "Ora" Morningstar
John Morra: "Mr. Smooth"
Rodney "The Rocket" Morris
Don "Tire Man" Morrison
William "Jackie Robinson" Morton
Willie "Mr. Pocket Billiards" Mosconi
Willie "Weekend Warrior" Munson
James "Sisero" Murphy; also "Cisero" and "The Brooklyn Kid" (the Jackie Robinson of pool, he was the first African-American to win a world championship)
Bob "The Destroyer" Myers


"California" Mike Najadin
John "Henry" Neil
Larry Nevel: "The Truth"
Gary "Bushwacker" Nolan
James "Junior" Norris
Johnny "Sugar Shack" Novak


Sylvester "Sylver" Ochoa
Orville Oddie Jr. (his real name!)
"Virginia" Bob Ogburn; also "Black Bart"
Naoyuki Oi: "Shotgun"
Jerry "The Actor" Orbach
Dennis "RoboCop" Orcollo
Elihu "Alley-Oop" O'Rear
Sandy "The Sandman" Orlikoff
Oliver "The Machine" Ortmann
Bob "Black Bart" Osbourne; also "Bud"
Ronnie "The Rocket" O'Sullivan aka "The Magician," "The Essex Exocet," "The Master Potter"
Albin Ouschan
Jasmin Ouschan: "Jassy"
Gabe Owen: "Big Bird"
Charles "Good Time Charlie" Owens
Larry "Lettuce" Oyler


Alex "The Lion" Paguyalan
Ismael "The Jumping Bean" Paez; also "Morro"
George "The Polish Prince" Pawelski
Billy "Embalmer" Palmer
Mark "Gypsy" Pantovic
Jose "Amang" Parica; also "The Little Giant," "The Giant Killer" and "Le Mon" ("The Man" )
"Fast" Eddie Parker
James "Meathead" Parks
Daryl Peach: "The Dazzler"
Cecil "Will Pay" Peay
Stefano "Il Maestro" Pelinga
Randy "Pooky" Pelton; also "Pookie"
Morris "Snooks" Perlstein
Charlie Peterson: the "Missionary of Billiards"
Verne "The Slide Rule" Peterson
Reed "The Kid" Pierce
Jonathan "Hennessee" Pinegar
"Cadillac" Dave Piona
Gareth "Golden Boy" Potts
Richard "Baby Brother" Powell
Thomas Austin Preston Jr. aka "Amarillo Slim"
Larry "The Turtle" Price
"Iron" Joe Procita
Utley Jim "U. J." Puckett
Maurice "Gabby" Puncy
Shawn "Bubba the Love Sponge" Putnam


"Hippie" Jimmy Reid
Jimmy "The Springfield Rifle" Relihan
Ray "Dracula" Reardon (because of his hair, not his teeth)
Jim "King James" Rempe aka "Harpo"
Kenny "Romburg" Remus; also "Romboogie"
Efren "Bata (The Kid)" Reyes; also "The Magician" and "Cesar Morales"
J. R. "Magnolia Red" Richardson
"St. Louie" Louie Roberts
Neil Robertson: "Thunder from Down Under," "The Melbourne Machine"
Tony "The Silent Assassin" Robles
Robert "Big Nose Roberts" Rodman
Tony "Flaco" Rodrigues
Frank "Bananas" Rodriguiz
Glen "Piggy Banks" Rogers
Bernard "Bunny" Rogoff; also "Pots and Pans"
"Little" Al Romero
George "The Trapper" Rood
Isadore "Pony" Rosen
Charles "Rosie" Rosenblatt
"Kokomo" Joe Ross
Tom "Dr. Cue" Rossman
"Monster" John Rouse
Bill "Memphis" Rousey
Leonard "Bugs" Rucker; also "Chicago Bugs"
Bob "Memo" Rugnao


"Mexican" Joe Salazar
Luc "Machine Gun" Salvas
"San Francisco" Jack
"Blackjack" David Sapolis
George Edward San Souci Jr. aka "Ginky"
John "The Oklahoma Kid" Saunders
Sam da Sausage
Semih "Mr. Magic" Sayginer aka "The Turkish Prince"
Jacob "The Wizard" Schaefer Sr. aka "Jake"
Jacob "The Prodigy" Schaefer Jr. aka "Jake"
John Schmidt: Mr. 400
Earl "Fagin" Schriver
Bernie "The Hawk" Schwartz
Joe Sebastian
Mark Selby: "The Jester from Leicester" (the English pronounce the city "Lester")
Harry "Poochie" Sexton
Jayson "Eagle Eye" Shaw
Brandon Shuff: "Sure enough/Sho' enuff/Sho'nuff/Shonuff"
"Omaha" John Shuput
Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel; also "The Mouth" and "Motor Mouth"
Gene "Fullerton Kid" Skinner
George F. "The Student" Slosson
Richard "Rocketman" Slupik
Scott "The Shot" Smith
Steve "Lizard" Smith
"Max Society" or "Society Max"
"Fast" Eddie Sontag
Jeremy Sossei: "The Giant Killer"
Ralf Souquet: "The Kaiser"
Joey "Cincinnati Kid" Spaeth
Jimmy "Flyboy" Spears
Vernon "Brier" Spivey
Jean "Sonny" Springer; also "Tex"
Andrew "The Saint" St. Jean; also "The Lowell Kid" and "The Masked Marvel"
Louie "Magic Man" St. Pierre
Bill "High Class" Stack
Evgenij "The Russian" Stalev
"Pittsburgh" John Stapoli
Bill "Weenie Beenie" Staton (he owned a hot dog stand)
Konstantin Stepanov: "Kosta"
Greg "Big Train" Stevens
Bill Stigall: "Dollar Bill" and "Joe the Truck Driver"
Ledford "Red" Stigall
Earl "The Pearl" Strickland; also "Little Earl" and "the John McEnroe of pool"
Ray "Surfer" Suden
"Biloxi" Mike Surber
Jay "Sewanee" Swanson
Bernie "The Hawk" Swartz
"Three-Fingered" Ronnie Sypher; also "Ocean City" Ronnie


Frank "The Inexorable Snail" Taberski; also "the Sloth" and "the Gray Fox"
Mark "Tadd" Tademy
Masaaki Tanaka: "Macha"
Dennis "Elton" Taylor (because of his oversized Elton-John-like glasses)
Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor
Lonnie "Lucedale" Taylor
Alvin Clarence Thomas: "Titanic Thompson" because he sank his opponents
Frank "Bird" Thompson
Keith "Young Squirrel" Thompson
Rod "Babe" Thompson
"Champagne" Cliff Thorburn aka "The Grinder"
Willie Thorne: "Mr. Maximum"
Helena "The Sledgehammer" Thornfeldt
Billy "Thorpedo" Thorpe
Don "Duke" Tozier
Samuel "Seattle Sam" Trivett; also "Fat Sam"
Judd "Stud" Trump aka "Judd Triumph," "The Juddernaut," "Haircut 100," "The Ace in the Pack," "Danny the Boy"
Cecil Tugwell: "The Left Duke" and "The Serpent"
"Mad Dog" Tuscanno (or Toscano)
"Two Buck" Chuck


Jose "Cuban Joe" Valdez; also "Chico"
Felipe "Mexican Phil" Valdez
Shane Van Boening: "The South Dakota Kid," "Van Van," "D'Slayer" and "Van Boner/Vanboner"
"Cigar" Tom Vanover
Nick "The Kentucky Colonel" Varner
John "Mexican Johnny" Vasquez
Joe "Philadelphia Joey" Veasey
"Poker" Paul Vecherilli
"Filipino" Gene Ventura
"Connecticut" Johnny Vevis
Mark Vidal: "Spain"
Vivian Villareal: "The Texas Tornado"
Vito da Blade
Nick "The Indian" Vlahos


Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone; also New York Fats, Brooklyn Fats, Chicago Fats, Kansas City Fats, Fats, Fatty, Double Smart Fats, Triple Smart Fats, The Fat Man, Roodle and Rudy
Sterling "Buttermilk" Ward
Javanly "Youngblood" Washington
"Portland" Don Watson; also "Tippy Toes" and "Soft Shoes"
"Little" John Watson
Tony "Shrimp Boat" Watson
Gerry "The Ghost" Watson
Norm "Farmer" Webber
Fu Che Wei: "The Draw Shot King"
Dallas "Big D" West
Jimmy "The Kid" Wetch
Maurice "Tugboat" Whaley (he would dress in slickers and claim to be a tugboat captain)
Edgar "Shake and Bake" White
"Major" White
Alton "Baby Face" Whitlow
"Pittsburgh" Jack White
Jimmy "The Whirlwind" White
Al "The Plumber" Wichenbaugh
Carson "BB Eyes" Wiley, Jr.; also "CJ"
Shaun Wilkie: "The Shirt" and "Get Some"
Mark Williams: "Sprog," "The Welsh Potting Machine," "The Welsh Wonder"
Ronnie "Bus Driver" Williams
Charlie "The Dragon" Williams; also "The Korean Dragon"
Don Willis: "Wingshot Willie" and "The Cincinnati Kid"
James "Fountain Inn Red" Willis
Tom "Tom-Tom" Wirth
Cliff "The Whirlwind" Wilson
Rob "Roadplayer" Wolfe
Glenn "Eufaula Kid" Womack
Billy "Ray The Painter" Woodham
Robert "Rags" Woods; also "Black Rags"
Harold "Boola" Worst; also Harold "The Best" Worst, coined, to my knowledge, by Mike Burch
Jiaqing Wu: "The Little Genius"


Pan Xiaoting: "Queen of Nine Ball" and "The Best Shot Queen"
Ching-Shun Yang: the "Son of Pool"
Fred T. Yates: "Creole" Freddie; also "Kreole" Freddie
Donald "Ears" Yingling
Carl "Cue Ball Kelly" Zingale

Mark Twain, Was Minnesota Fats Overrated?, A Brief History of Billiards, Pool/Billiards Record High Runs, The Sexiest Sharks, Johnston City Sharks, Nashville Sharks, Dick Hunzicker, "Saint Louie" Louie Roberts, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Who was the best nine-ball player?, The Best NFL Players by Position, Famous Hustlers, Famous Rogues, Famous Forgers and Frauds, Famous Flops, Famous Geniuses, Famous Firsts, Weird Sports Trivia, Famous Confessionals

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