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Johnston City Pool Hustler Tournament Winners and Player Profiles, circa 1961-1972

16 titles: Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter was the overall winner of the Johnston City tournaments, with eleven category and five all-around wins.
  6 titles: Larry "Boston Shorty" Johnson won four one-pocket championships (1965-7-8-72), one nine-ball (1972) and one overall championship (1972).
  3 titles: Harold "The Best" Worst won one nine-ball championship (1965), one straight pool championship (1965) and one overall championship (1965), in a single tournament, while playing with terminal brain cancer!
  3 titles: Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor won two one-pocket championships (1963-4) and one all-around (1964).
  2 titles: "Champagne" Eddie Kelly  won one one-pocket championship (1966) and one nine-ball championship (1966).
  2 titles: Joe "The Butcher" Balsis was the 1966 straight pool and all-around champion.
  2 titles: "Handsome" Danny Jones won the 1968 nine-ball and all-around championships.
  2 titles: Keith Thompson won the 1970 nine-ball and all-around championships.
  2 titles: Jimmy Marino won the 1971 nine-ball and all-around championships.
  2 titles: Danny DiLiberto was the 1972 straight pool and all-around champion.
   1 title: Irving "The Deacon" Crane was the 1967 straight pool champion.
   1 title: Marshall "Tuscaloosa Squirrel" Carpenter won the 1962 one-pocket tournament.
   1 title: Johnny Vives won the first Johnston City tournament, which was one-pocket only, in 1961.
   1 title: Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen won the 1970 one-pocket tournament. Her also finished second at one-pocket three times.
   1 title: Jim "King James" Rempe won the 1971 one-pocket tournament.
   1 title: Billy Incardona won the 1972 nine-ball tournament.
   1 title: Jean Balukas won the 1972 women's straight pool tournament.
   1 title: Jimmy Fusco won the 1972 one-pocket tournament.
   1 title: Al Coslosky was the 1968 straight pool champion.
   1 title: Joe Russo was the 1969 straight pool champion.

Stardust Open results are at the bottom of this page. The notes and results below are for the Johnston City tournament.

The legendary Johnston City Pool Hustler Tournaments were held at the Janscos' Showbar in Johnston City, Illinois, from 1961 to 1972. After the FBI raided the tournament in 1972, the action was moved to Nevada where gambling is legal.

Ralph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone never won a title, but he still ended up with most of the money according to insiders.
"LA" Richie Florence was one of the hottest young hustlers, but Fats still took him to the cleaners. (Ironically, Florence won the 1972 Minnesota Fats Classic!)
Cisero Murphy was a black hustler who finished second in the 1967 one-pocket tournament.
Utley (U. J.) Puckett rivaled Fats as the game's biggest talker, but he could play too.
Thomas Austin "Amarillo Slim" Preston was another champion storyteller, gambler and character.
Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya had multiple 100+ straight pool runs, but missed a straight-in shot in the clutch and almost fainted.
"Cowboy" Jimmy Moore finished second in the first Johnston City tournament, to "Connecticut" Johnny Vevis.
Peter Margo was another young ace.
Jack "Jersey Red" Breit was yet another young, up-and-coming contender.
Steve "Cookie Monster" Cook was a youthful bank and one-pocket specialist.
Billy "Cornbread Red" Burge was one of the great hustlers and money players.
Hubert "Daddy Warbucks" Cokes was a millionaire oilman and a noted gambler; he gave pointers to a 16-year-old Cecil "Buddy" Hall aka "The Rifleman."
Bill "Weenie Beenie" Staton was a one-pocket expert and the president of the Billiard Players Association of America (BPAA).
Johnny Ervolino was a top-notch player and gambler.
Don "The Duke" Tozer was a noted trick shot artist.
Al Miller was a Wisconsin state champion.
V. J. "Ugly" Prichett was a Texas state champion.
Martin "Omaha Fats" Kaiman was one of the best one-handed players of all time.
Jim Rempe was known as "King James" and also as "Harpo."
Jimmy Fusco was another young, top-notch talent.
Bill "Nine Ball Billy" Incardona was also known as "Pittsburgh Billy" and "Mustache Charlie."
Cole Dickson "shoots like the Lone Ranger" according to a tournament promo.
Al "The Plumber" Winchenbaugh was a nine-ball specialist.
Charles "Low Down Dirty Red" Jones was also known as "Preacher Red."
Norman "Hitch" Hitchcock was another fine player.
Lamar King was a one-pocket player from Kansas City, Missouri.
Charles DeValliere was a player from Alexandria, Virginia.
Bryan Houser was from nearby Centralia, Illinois.
Rocky Dee was a former professional fighter and character actor in movies.

1961:
One-pocket winner: Johnny Vevis
Second place: Jimmy Moore
Third place: Hubert Cokes
Fourth place: Rudolph Wanderone ("Minnesota Fats")
 
1962:
One-pocket: Marshall Carpenter
Nine-ball: Luther Lassiter
Straight pool: Luther Lassiter
All-around: Luther Lassiter
 
1963:
One-pocket: Eddie Taylor
Nine-ball: Luther Lassiter
Straight pool: Luther Lassiter
All-around: Luther Lassiter
 
1964:
One-pocket: Eddie Taylor
Nine-ball: Luther Lassiter
Straight pool: Luther Lassiter
All-around: Luther Lassiter or Eddie Taylor (reports conflict)
 
1965:
One-pocket: Larry Johnson
Nine-ball: Harold Worst
Straight pool: Harold Worst
All-around: Harold Worst

Harold Worst died of terminal brain cancer at age 37, shortly after winning the overall championships at the Johnston City and Stardust tournaments in 1965. That year, he also won the three-cushion billiard championship in Belgium and an English snooker championship on a 6x12 table (despite never having played professional tournament snooker at that level before). Worst's success is all the more stunning because he didn't start playing pocket billiards seriously until his early thirties. He died at the height of his pool powers. According to knowledgeable insiders like Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen, the great Luther Lassiter dodged Worst at nine-ball, and the legendary Eddie Taylor dodged him at one-pocket. So the best players were avoiding playing Worst at their best games. Was Worst the best pool/billiards player of all time? Yes, according to people in the know like Ronnie Allen, Minnesota Fats, Jay Helfert, Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna and "Champagne" Eddie Kelly ...
 
1966:
One-pocket: Eddie Kelly
Nine-ball: Eddie Kelly
Straight pool: Joe Balsis
All-around: Joe Balsis
 
1967:
One-pocket: Larry Johnson
Nine-ball: Luther Lassiter
Straight pool: Irving Crane
All-around: Luther Lassiter
 
1968:
One-pocket: Larry Johnson
Nine-ball: Danny Jones
Straight pool: Al Coslosky
All-around: Danny Jones
 
1969:
One-pocket: Luther Lassiter
Nine-ball: Luther Lassiter
Straight pool: Joe Russo
All-around: Luther Lassiter
 
1970:
One-pocket: Ronnie Allen
Nine-ball: Keith Thompson
Straight pool: Luther Lassiter
All-around: Keith Thompson
 
1971:
One-pocket: Jim Rempe
Nine-ball: Jimmy Marino
Straight pool: Luther Lassiter
All-around: Jimmy Marino
 
1972:  Men's spring "Tournament of Champions"
One-pocket: Larry Johnson
Nine-ball: Billy Incardona
Straight pool: Danny DiLiberto
All-around: Danny DiLiberto

1972 Women:
Straight Pool: Jean Balukas
 
1972:  Men's October "All Round" without Straight Pool
One-pocket: Jimmy Fusco
Nine-ball: Larry Johnson
All-around: Larry Johnson

Stardust Open

1965: One-pocket: Harold Worst / Nine-ball: Eddie Kelly / Straight Pool: Irving Crane / All-Around: Harold Worst
1966: One-pocket: Larry Johnson / Nine-ball: Ronnie Allen / Straight Pool: Cisero Murphy
1967: One-pocket: Eddie Taylor / Nine-ball: Danny Jones / Straight Pool: Mike Eufemia
1968: One-pocket: Marvin Henderson / Nine-ball: Irving Crane / Straight Pool: Joe Balsis / All-Around: Joe Balsis
1969: One-pocket: Danny Gartner / Nine-ball: Joe Balsis / Straight Pool: Steve Mizerak
1970: One-pocket: Steve Cook / Nine-ball: Bernie Schwartz / Straight Pool: Joe Russo
1971: One-pocket: Johnny Ervolino / Nine-ball: Luther Lassiter / Straight Pool: Joe Balsis / All-Around: Luther Lassiter
1972: One-pocket: Bill Staton / Nine-ball: Jimmy Mataya / Straight Pool: Pete Margo / All-Around: Jimmy Mataya
1973: One-pocket: Johnny Ervolino / Nine-ball: Norman Hitchcock / Eight Ball: Larry Johnson

The promo for the 1973 Stardust Open set the prize money at $37,500.00, making it one of the richest American pool tournaments. But the side bets undoubtedly dwarfed the official purse.

Johnston City Notes

The FBI raided the Johnston City pool hustler tournament in 1972, arresting some of the top hustlers for gambling. This raid was the basis of the climactic scene in the movie The Baltimore Bullet. After the raid, the Jansco brothers decided to move the tournament to Las Vegas, where gambling is legal. According to Jimmy Reid, here's what happened ...

Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone was a huge celebrity, with his own TV show in the late 60′s. While being interviewed by Midwest television and radio reporters about the upcoming tournament, in an effort to promote the tournament, Fats said there would be a ton of after-hours action for spectators to enjoy. Then while being interviewed, Fats went on to say: "Jimmy Reid is here from LA and wants to play any man from any land, any game he can name, for any amount he can count, anything he can bring." Hearing this the FBI's "antennae" went up, and the raid was planned. Since the tournament was in Illinois, the FBI decided they could charge any pros gambling during the tournament that werenít from Illinois under the Interstate Gambling Act. This would allow them to arrest out-of-state players that had come to gamble, and more importantly would allow them to confiscate and keep their money. They took over $200,000, which was eventually returned to the twelve indicted players.

Here's what happened after the raid, in Jimmy Reid's own words: "When Larry Lisciotti, who rode with me and was my road partner for two months prior to the tournament, and I returned to LA and after both of us telling John Brascia what had happened to me and the tournament, John said 'It sounds like a good book.' Six years later he started the filming of The Baltimore Bullet with Omar Sharif and James Coburn both playing my part. Then in the end James Coburn was playing the great Jimmy Fusco's part. On a lighter note and the main reason we all got our money back in the next two years following the raid. During the Grand Jury hearing, Fats showed up late and insisted on testifying immediately. When he finished the entire Grand Jury were laughing while Fats, who never stopped talking, was talking. They had filed out to get his autograph. Two days later, Fats took me to dinner in the back of the Show Bar in Johnston City. Eating a 16 oz. steak while he ate two complete steak dinners, baked potatoes and veggies included, I asked Fats what heíd said to get the Grand Jury to follow him out of the courtroom to get his autograph. Iím now quoting Fats to the best of my memory. 'When I took the stand, the first thing I did was show them my Honorary Colonel on the Governor's staff of Illinois ID. Then I just told them the truth, that you pool players werenít harming anyone and that it was such a travesty of justice to hassle these players who were entertaining the public with their skills in a game where the rewards were so few, to make a living at it the players were forced to gamble. I told them by the time I was four years old, I beat the King of Belgium for two million, which gave them all a laugh. Then I hired a chauffeur and bought a Deusenburg. It was so long that I parked it on 6th street and had to put a nickel in the meter on 8th. Reid, they all started laughing so hard I went for the knockout. Then I said, 'Do you people on the Grand Jury really want to hear from two players youíve subpoenaed, Dirty Low Down Red and Omaha Fats. Both of them are two dollar players, and if you gave them a blood test youíd find it was 90% hot dog and 10% coffee.'  This is where I started laughing and couldnít stop. Thatís got to be the funniest thing ever said to a Grand Jury. 'Then I got up and walked out of court with the US Attorney dumbfounded and the Grand Jury followed me out. Thatís all there was to it.' Fats apologized to me for using my name and ruining the tournament, but it wasnít him. It was the Government: they needed to look like they were really trying to fight crime. To this day Fats is the greatest talker Iíve ever seen or heard; Ronnie Allen is second. We (Fats and I) got together a few more times where we laughed and talked quite a bit about his and my, our eras. He always had witnesses from the old days he wanted me to meet that would testify to his pool playing and eating feats. Fats was a riot and a good friend. I loved Fatty, as Puckett and the old timers called him. Thanks to him everyone charged in the Johnston City raid eventually got their money back. Living in Nashville where Fats also resided, I sent his favorite flower, two dozen white carnations to his wake. I was on my way to a tournament when he passed and would prefer to remember him alive anyway. There'll never be another like him. Thank you Lord for putting Minnesota Fats in my life, simply the greatest character that ever graced a pool room."

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?

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