The HyperTexts

"St. Louie" Louie Roberts: Pool God and Immortal Shotmaker

by Mike Burch, with quotes and anecdotes by pool insiders

I am currently editing the book Have Pool Cue Will Travel by Mark C. O'Brien aka "Mark the Shark." The book is primarily about the exploits of the incomparable St. Louie Louie Roberts, but it also involves other colorful pool characters. If you have anything to share, or see anything here that seems incorrect, please let me know by emailing me at mikerburch@gmail.com. One thing we are trying to get right, or as correct as possible, is what happened the night Louie died. There have been serious doubts about it being a suicide, for reasons explained on this page. If you have anything to share, please feel free to email me. Mark, a retired police officer, has obtained a copy of the official police report and will disclose its contents in the book.

"During an era of many dynamic personalities in the sport of pool, none were larger than St. Louie Louie aka Louie Roberts. His billiards exploits are legendary and by far the most interesting of the last 50 years, without question."—Mark Wilson, a top pool instructor and three-time captain of the US Mosconi Cup pool team



"St. Louie" Louie Roberts was the best shotmaker I've ever seen, and I've seen many top-notch pool players in my day, including Johnny Archer, Buddy Hall, Allen Hopkins, David Howard, Keith McCready, Steve Mizerak, Alex Pagulayan, Jose Parica, Efren Reyes, Mike Sigel, Earl Strickland and Nick Varner. I even saw Steve Davis score the first televised perfect 147 in snooker history. (I was vacationing in England when he hit the magical number, in a match televised by the BBC.) But the most charismatic, audacious, exciting, crowd-pleasing pool player that I have seen personally was Louie Roberts. He was an incredible, fearless shot-maker. There was something otherworldly about his game, when he was in stroke. He had a higher gear than ordinary mortals. 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, Louie had lost his opening round match in the double-elimination tournament, and then almost lost his second match to a little-known local player, Nat Green. In that match, there was a controversy about someone breaking out of turn and the referee not catching it, so that Louie ended up breaking the last two games despite an alternating break format. Louie took advantage and won the "double hill" game. After that, he seemed to freewheel, drinking openly (or pretending to), bantering with fans, and disdaining safeties. If his opponent made a ball out of turn, so that two balls were lined up evenly on the spot, Louie would hit the head ball with so much spin that he banked the second ball in "long rail" ... a shot I have never seen anyone else attempt in a major tournament. Roberts went on to defeat a perplexed Buddy Hall, who just shook his head at Louie's crowd-riling antics and incredible shotmaking. It had been a longtime dream of Louie's to beat Buddy, who was the world's best 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 delighted cheers that included my own.—Mike Burch

Pool's Prince Charming
by Michael R. Burch

this is my tribute poem, written on the behalf of his fellow pool sharks, for the legendary Saint Louie Louie Roberts

Louie, Louie, Prince of Pool,
making all the ladies drool ...
Take the “nuts”? I'd be a fool!
Louie, Louie, Prince of Pool.

Louie, Louie, pretty as Elvis,
owner of (ahem) a similar pelvis ...
Compared to you, the books will shelve us.
Louie, Louie, pretty as Elvis.

Louie, Louie, fearless gambler,
ladies' man and constant rambler,
but such a sweet, loquacious ambler!
Louie, Louie, fearless gambler.

Louie, Louie, angelic, chthonic,
pool's charming hero, but tragic, Byronic,
winning the Open drinking gin and tonic?
Louie, Louie, angelic, chthonic.

NOTE: I used poetic license about what Louie Roberts was or wasn't drinking at the 1981 U. S. Open Nine-Ball Championship. Was Louie drinking hard liquor as he came charging back through the losers' bracket to win the whole shebang? Or was he pretending to drink for gamesmanship or some other reason? I honestly don't know. As for the word “chthonic,” it’s pronounced “thonic” and means “subterranean” or “of the underworld.” And the pool world can be very dark indeed, as Louie’s tragic demise suggests. But everyone who knew Louie seemed to like him, if not love him dearly, and many sharks have spoken of Louie in glowing terms, as a bringer of light to that underworld.

If you like my tribute you are welcome to share it, but please credit me as the author, which you can do by copying the title and subheading.

Louie Roberts Pool Player

At the time I created this page, I seemed to remember Louie beating Buddy Hall in the semifinals, then Willie Munson in the finals of the 1981 US Open, but I wasn't 100% sure. Fortunately, Mike "Tennessee Tarzan" Massey was later able to confirm to Mark "The Shark" O'Brien that it was Willie "Monsoon" Munson who played Louie in the finals. But Massey misspelled Willie's last name in his email, giving him a new nickname! Here are the facts related by Massey in his email to Mark, which he forwarded to me:

Louie was a dear friend of mine also, and always treated me with respect.
When I first met Louie we were both in good shape physically, I remember. He could walk on his hands really good and I could run for hrs.
I think everyone loved Louie and wanted the best for him.
The tournament was named the Mike Massey US Open because Barry Berman didn't have a US Open that year.
I remember Louie beating Willie Monsoon [Munson] in the finals, but I don't remember who he beat in the semi finals.
Louie lost his first match and won eleven matches in a row.
We had a very strong field. Most of the top players were there like Buddy Hall, Mike Segal [Sigel], Larry Hubbert [Hubbart], David Howard, Allen Hopkins, and I think Steve Mizerak was also there.
I will talk to Steve Lillis and see if he knows. He directed the tournament.

Mark the Shark later talked to Leapin' Steve Lillis, who confirmed my memory about the last break controversy. In fact, it was Lillis who overruled the referee and awarded the final break to Louie! Lillis told Mark there was a period of three to four years when no one could beat Louie at nine-ball and he was gambling for huge sums of money. Lillis also told Mark that Buddy Hall had called the 1981 tournament "the best of the best" in terms of player quality. So on that magical night, according to the Rifleman, Louie beat the best field ever assembled for a nine-ball tournament by winning eleven straight matches. And Lillis said that he believed it was a true double-elimination tournament, meaning Louie would have had to beat Munson twice.

According to pool historian Michael I. Shamos, the player who beat Louie in the opening round of the tournament was the poetically named Roy McCoy of Ohio. I did not see that game myself, although I did see Louie's other matches. Unfortunately, time has blurred some of my memories and the only players I remember Louie playing in that tournament were Nat Green, Buddy Hall and Willie Munson. According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article dated September 29, 1981, Willie Munson was the three-time champion of Wisconsin and Roy McCoy was the champion of Ohio. According to the article, Louie beat McCoy in a rematch on his way through the losers' bracket. However, there may be a question about "the real McCoy" here. Some sources insist the player who beat Louie was Don McCoy of Iowa. I am leaning toward the pool historian and the newspaper, but if anyone can shed light on this puzzle, please clue me in!—MRB

Some of the US Open contestants stopped to practice and/or hustle in Nashville, on their way to Chatanooga for the tournament. I remember my friend Doug "Preacher" Almy playing nine-ball for $20 per game with a bearded guy named "John" who had a quirky, twitchy stroke. Doug got ahead a few games and I thought he'd have a chance because John's stroke looked like it would give him trouble under pressure. But when John got even, Doug quit, mumbling, "That guy's a player!" Later in Chatanooga we realized that he had been playing Allen Hopkins but didn't recognize him because of the beard! At that time Hopkins was appearing regularly on TV as an announcer, but he had altered his appearance considerably in order to hustle.

Louie Roberts Timeline/History/Chronology

Francis Louis Roberts was born on September 29, 1950 in St. Louis, Missouri.
When Louie was 14, his father made a gambling score and purchased a pool table: a 4x8 A. E. Schmidt beauty.
Louie soon began to frequent Arway Billiards, owned by Harold Schmidt of the A. E. Schmidt family.
Around 1966 at age 16, Louie became a "name" player in St. Louis by beating a strong player, Frank Tullos.
By age 16, according to Mark "The Shark" O'Brien, no one in the St. Louis metro area could beat Louie at eight-ball or nine-ball.
Louie starred in cross country and gymnastics at Cleveland High School.
Louie graduated from Cleveland High School and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force with his friend Paul Bulus around 1968.
They were stationed at Chanute Air Force base in Rantoul, Illinois, just two hours from St. Louis. They took many an airman's paycheck!
Louie served as a sergeant in Vietnam, dates of duty unknown. He suffered hearing loss when a bomb exploded within 15 feet of him.
During the 1970s, Louie could be found hustling pool in St. Louis at Afton Billiards, Grand and Olive Billiards, and Cue and Cushion, among others.
Louie won his first national tournament, the 1974 Orlando Open Nine-Ball Championship, per a taped interview on YouTube.
Louie finished in the top six of the $25,000 World Nine-Ball Championship at Burlington, Iowa, in 1975.
Louie and his "motivational tape" were mentioned prominently in a 1975 Sports Illustrated article, "Easy Nine the Hard Way."
Louie won the 1976 Orlando Open Nine-Ball Championship, his second.
Louie was the runner-up in the 1976 Southeastern Open Nine-Ball Championship.
Louie was the runner-up in the 1976 World Eight-Ball Championship.
Louie won the Missouri state nine-ball championship five straight years beginning in 1977 and was barred after winning in 1981!
Louie was the runner-up in the 1978 Chicago Open Nine-Ball Championship.
Louie won the 1978 Citrus Open Nine-Ball Championship.
Louie founded the Busch National Pool League, later the APA (American Poolplayers Association) with Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart in 1979.
Louie won the 1979 U.S. Open Nine-Ball Championship, defeating David Howard, Dallas West, Mike Sigel and Steve Mizerak (the runner-up).
After the 1979 U.S. Open, Steve "the Miz" Mizerak refused to play Louie even, demanding and getting the seven ball.
With the seven ball, the Miz managed to win the $3,000 first prize back from Louie!
In 1979, Louie went to Chicago, gave everyone the nuts, went broke, stood on his head on the table, then breaks a cue he had hocked to three spectators!
Louie finished runner-up in the big Chicago Straight Pool Open in 1979, despite not being known as a straight pool player.
However, Louie told Mark "the Shark" Wilson that he could get out of bed and run 200 balls at straight pool!
Louie won the 1980 Miami Open Nine-Ball Championship.
Louie won the 1981 U.S. Open Nine-Ball Championship sponsored by Mike Massey in Chattanooga, defeating Buddy Hall and Willie Munson.
Louie was the most photogenic of the pool stars at the 1982 Dayton Open, in riveting pictures snapped by Bill Porter.
Louie was the tournament director for the 1982 World Nine-Ball Tournament of Champions in St. Louis, MO.
During the 1983 Caesar's Tahoe Nine-Ball Championship, the first time ESPN put pool on TV, Louie adlibbed for the cameras: "Don't worry mom!"
Louie finished third at the 1983 Caesar's Tahoe Nine-Ball Championship, winning $10,000 (there are more details later on this page, search for "Tahoe").
Louie won the 1983 North Carolina State Nine-Ball Championship.
Louie won the 1984 California State Nine-Ball Championship.
Louie finished 17th at the 1984 Caesars Place Billiard Classic, tied with Ronnie Allen and Kim Davenport, among others.
Louie finished 17th at the 1984 Resorts International Nine-Ball Open in Atlantic City, tied with Earl Strickland and others.
Louie finished 13th at the 1984 U.S. Open Nine-Ball Championship at Q-Master Billiards in Norfolk, VA, tied with Jay Swanson and others.
Louie finished 9th at the 1984 Nine-Ball Classic Cup IV in Chicago, tied with Mike Sigel and Grady Matthews, among others.
Louie finished 33rd at the 1985 Sands Regent II Open Nine-Ball Tournament in Reno, tied with Jose Parica and others.
Louis finished 13th at the 1985 Sands Pro-Am, tied with three other players.
Louie had the 11th highest TPA (Total Point Average) at the Sands tournament, in a very impressive field (.838).
Louie did trick shots and acted as a technical consultant for The Color of Money with Paul Newman and Tom Cruise in 1986.
Louie had three cameos in the movie but was considered too "pretty" for the Grady Seasons role, which went to his pal Keith McCready.
Louie finished 7th at the 1986 Nine-Ball Classic Cup V tournament in Aurora, IL, defeating Steve Mizerak and Buddy Hall.
Louie finished 13th at the 1986 Last Call For 9 Ball II tournament in Atlantic City, NJ, tied with Allen Hopkins, Jimmy Reid and others.
Louie finished 13th at the 1986 3rd Annual Busch Open 9 Ball Tournament in Moline, IL, tied with Buddy Hall and others.
Louie finished 17th at the 1986 U.S. Open 9 Ball Championship at Q-Master Billiards in Norfolk, VA, tied with Earl Strickland and others.
Louie finished 17th at the 1986 Sands/Regency IV 9 Ball Open in Reno, NV, tied with Keith McCready and others.
Louie finished 49th at the 1987 McDermott Masters IV 9 Ball Tournament in Davenport, tied with Buddy Hall and others.
There is footage on YouTube of Louie playing Gary Seville in 1987. Seville was getting a huge spot and not shooting much.
The Sports Center opens for business in 1988; Louie is the house pro and also starts the St. Louie Louie pool school.
Louie starred in a trick shot video, Positions Impossible, in 1988.
Louie was featured in an instructional video that aired on the USA Network in 1988.
Louie won the Four-State Bar Table Nine-Ball Championship in 1988.
Louie had a perfect Accustat score in a match against Willie Munson during a bar table tournament.
He became the house pro at Highpockets in Memphis, around 1990.
Louie returned to St. Louis in late 1990 and was again the house pro at the Sports Center, owned by Larry Labarbera and Mark O'Brien.
Louie was also house pro at The Break in Cahokia, Illinois (although I am not sure of the dates).
Louie won his last tournament, the Pro-Tyme Pro-Warmup Open Nine-Ball Championship in Alsip, Illinois (near Chicago) in 1991, defeating Mark Jarvis in the finals.
Louie moved to Mesa, Arizona in June or July 1991, where he was reportedly the house pro at Tommy's Billiards, although that has been disputed.
It is believed that Louie married Beverly Ann Roberts in 1991, possibly in Mexico.
C. J. Wiley mentioned seeing Louie in Las Vegas around a week before his death.
Just before he died, Louie reportedly won $50,000 playing slots at the Sands Casino, but another source says it was just a $1,000 jackpot.
Louie Roberts died on December 22, 1991 and was buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in South St. Louis, since he was an Air Force veteran.
According to his obit in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch on Christmas Day, December 25, 1991, Louie Roberts was survived by his wife, Beverly Ann Roberts of Mesa; his mother, Esther Roberts; his brothers George, Robert and Tommy Roberts; and his sisters Esther Gier and Carolyn Spagnola.

Louie Roberts won the Orlando Open, the Citrus Open, the Miami Open, the Chicago Open and two U.S. Opens. He also won the state championships of Missouri, California and North Carolina. After Louie won the Missouri championship for the fifth time, the rules were changed because fewer players were entering with everyone else playing for second!

It was reported that Louie committed suicide at age 41 by shooting himself at a motel in Phoenix in 1991, either with a shotgun or handgun. A reliable source has told me the weapon used was a .357 magnum. However, people who ran with Louie have questioned this, pointing out that he had an extreme aversion to guns and refused to touch them, much less fire them. Also, the suicide note wasn't signed, didn't look like Louie's elegant left-handed handwriting, and may have been written with the wrong hand according to various sources. And there was no GSR (gunshot residue) on his hands, according to the police report, from what I have been told by one source. Furthermore, Louie called his "home" pool hall on the night of his death and people who knew him said that he was upbeat and was talking about practicing his break for an upcoming tournament. According to Jay Helfert, he was with Louie when he made a big score at the Sands Casino the day before his death, and apparently the money never turned up. From what I have heard elsewhere, Louie won 50K on a slot machine, although another source says it was only 1K won by his wife. In any case, while some of the details are disputed there are reasons to believe foul play may have been involved. It is not my place to pass judgment, but I was able to view a clear image of the two-page suicide note, and I can confirm that it was written in block letters and was not signed. Mark O'Brien has been able to obtain a copy of the police report and will reveal its contents in his upcoming book. Any information Louie's family and friends can add would be greatly appreciated.

This is the timeline of Louie's death that I have created, based on what seem like the most credible sources to me. The Saint-Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Beverly Ann Roberts of Mesa, Arizona, was the wife of Louie Roberts. She owned a house in Mesa, Arizona, and that house (not a motel) is where Louie died. According to a family member with whom I have communicated personally, Beverly was in the house, asleep, at the time the gun discharged. It was either a .357 or .45 caliber handgun. The police arrived very quickly and another family member who lived nearby arrived within a matter of minutes (that person has been one of my primary sources). There was a two-page suicide note, written in block letters, and it was not signed. There are blood splotches on the first page. From what I understand, but cannot confirm, Louie and/or his wife hit a jackpot at the Sands Casino, but the money was apparently not recovered. Louie had called his "home" pool hall twice on the night of his death, trying to reach his best friend, Larry Labarbera. Friends of Louie's who spoke to him that evening, including Mark O'Brien and Watchez, said that he was upbeat and talking about practicing his break for an upcoming tournament. Watchez said that Louie told him personally that he had won 50K playing slot machines.

"Saint Louie" Louie Roberts" quotations and advice:

"Let me see it, I can make it."
After breaking a rack, Louie would often say, "Take your places KIDS", as the balls were rolling.
"This guy has beat everybody in St. Louis, but he won't beat me."
"Playing well and collecting the prize money, that's where it's at."
"[When hustling] try not to win eight or ten games in a row!"
"Snap that wrist!"
"Have confidence!"
"I'm more than happy to teach anyone."
"They call it 'cold cash' because it never stays in your pocket long enough to get warm."
When asked how much money he had lost in his career, Louie replied: "I have lost a sizable down payment on an aircraft carrier!"

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said: "Louie is so good he can't earn a living hustling pool!"

Greg Sullivan, founder of the Derby City Classic pool tournament, created the Louie Roberts A&E Award in 2003. The A&E stands for "Action and Entertainment." Sullivan bestows the award on the player, backer, or spectator who shows the most gamble, is involved in the most big-money action, and puts on the best show in the tournament's "action" rooms. Sullivan chose to name the award after Louie Roberts because he exemplified the willingness to gamble, action and showmanship.

"St. Louie" Louie Roberts has been described as "charismatic," "fearless and entertaining," "ridiculously talented," a "phenom," "incomparable," "one of a kind," a "pool god," a "legendary shotmaker," "the greatest shotmaker ever," a "legendary action player," "fast and loose," a "high roller," a "showman," a "leading man," an "Elvis look-alike," a "genuine star," and simply "great." He was a technical consultant and performed trick shots for The Color of Money, which starred Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. During the filming of the movie, Louie kept a large audience of extras entertained between takes with his showmanship at the table.

How good was St. Louie Louie Roberts?

Steve "the Ratman" Major, who ran with Louie Roberts and backed him against Buddy Hall, said: "When he was on his game nobody on the planet could beat him ... Without question, Louie was the most feared player in the world at the time [the late 1970s and early 1980s]. He either beat the pants off of you, or he was messed up and couldn’t compete, but nobody knew what type of game he would bring until they had to play him. And that scared the hell out of every opponent that drew his name.

Another insider agreed, saying: "I think everyone I've ever met that knew him has said the same thing about his game ... When he was on there wasn't a human alive that could beat him."

Blackjack David Sapolis concurs: "When Louie was on, nobody could be beat him. Nobody."

According to "Toupee" Jay Helfert, who lived with Louie and traveled with him for several years, "No one before or since could cut balls in like Louie. He could slice a ball that was one-eighth of an inch off the side rail all the way down into the corner, and the ball would stay one-eighth of an inch off the rail all the way to the pocket. It maintained a perfectly straight line and never touched the side rail. He could do this along the end rails from the far end of the table just as well. And he fired them in at warp speed."

Mark O'Brien: "Louie had 20/10 vision in both eyes. What we see at 20 feet, he saw at 10. Possible reason he cut balls so well."

Mark Wilson: "He would practice difficult pool shots for hours and hours every day. Shots that other top players would avoid, Louie would perfect. He had a vigor for excellence and was never afraid to take a risk, seemingly, even preferring to do so."

Keith "Earthquake" McCready: "Louie and I were very close. Me and Louie had a lot of battles gambling. I happened to be with Louie two nights before he was found dead. Last time we were together, I gave him $200, he pumped it up, and then he blew it. Louie's girlfriend was quite wealthy and was giving him money almost every night when they were in Vegas. The last couple nights before leaving Vegas to go to Arizona, chaos started about the money he was getting from her. I think he removed a couple thousand from their room, or the credit card, one or the other, while she was sleeping. That's when I gave him that $200 after he lost the other money gambling. They left Vegas together, but I don't believe they were on good terms. I don't know what kind of investigation went on in this case. I've seen Louie suicidal before, almost wanting to jump off buildings, this and that. I wouldn't put it past him. In the state of mind that he was in, he very easily could have, but on the other hand, there was a jealous brother [of his girlfriend] that wanted him out of the equation as well, and I wouldn't rule that out. We still don't know today what really happened. I miss Louie's antics. He reminded me of a little Elvis. I would have dreams about him. It's pretty hard to shake him, if you know what I mean. Love you, Lou! RIP."

"Toupee" Jay Helfert: "Louie was the most charismatic human being I ever met. He charmed EVERYONE! Girls adored him and men wanted to hang out with him. He and Keith [McCready] were the 'stars' of their era. He may have also been the greatest shotmaker who ever lived. He liked to cut balls along the rail, when they were a fraction of an inch off the rail. He could shoot that ball down the table at warp speed and it never wavered from its perfectly straight line, all the way to the pocket. And that's with the cue ball at about an 80 degree angle! He would make shots like over and over, with the object ball never touching the rail! You just had to see it to believe it. I have a couple of Louie stories in my book. I loved him but the last few years it was hard to be around him for long. He was too self-destructive. I believe he was 40 when he died. Louie was a great athlete as a young man; a champion gymnast, diver and pole vaulter. He could also do the best imitation of Elvis you ever saw. Like I said, he had Charisma with a capital C. The greatest pool matches ever and the funniest were when Keith played Louie. I'll tell you about the time they played 'mum' pool in Memphis later. Frickin' hilarious!"

How did St. Louie Louie Roberts get started?

Tom Ferry: "I think I can safely say I knew Louie longer & better than anyone in the pool world other than a fellow named Roger Reel. I've known Louie since he was 15 and hadn't even gone into a poolroom or the U.S. Air Force yet. He had learned to play on a 4x8 in his father's Rathskeller and alcohol was always prevalent. At 16 he came onto the St. Louis pool scene by beating a decent straight pool player named Frank Tullous [Tullos]. He went into the Air Force a year later and when he got out he played even better. His ability rapidly grew & grew. He teamed up with Roger and they were good friends and road companions for years. This all started in the early 70's. Buddy [Hall] was the best 9-ball player on earth and Louie became fixated on beating him. It cost him dearly but he never gave up. He spent years building a bankroll on the road and loosing it to Buddy. But he got better & better every time and at some point decided to dedicate his life to playing pool forever. Now you have to remember this was now the mid to late '70's and drugs were everywhere, especially in the pool world. The players would be introduced to the uppers and play longer and better so many, many of them began to rely and depend on them. With the road life Louie was leading, I can easily understand, not condone. My personal belief is that we don't have complete control over our drug or alcohol dependency as our genes and environment predetermine it. I personally have tried uppers, downers, cocaine, and marijuana. All of these, I had one time and one time only. Just never liked the idea of not being in complete control so never did any of them again except uppers and that was only to drive long distances when absolutely necessary (like having to drive straight from Miami to Albuquerque to take off a $7K score). Louie had a lot going for himand Louie had a lot going against him. Louie was one of the best-looking men I've ever known. I always thought he looked somewhat like Elvis only better. I say this because he had many female admirers and they always kept his ego inflated. He played so well and was such a great shot-maker that backers and bystanders fed his ego as well or more. Many don't know what a great gymnast Louie was. He could stand flat-footed alongside a Gold Crown and jump straight up and come down on the top rail on his hands. Then walk on his hands completely around the table. His tumbling acrobats were phenomenal and he had a personality to match all of this. I have always felt Louie could have made a fortune in sales, BUT. [Ferry goes on to describe how he took Louie on a road trip, around 1980, on which they won $4,500.]

Competition with Buddy Hall

Buddy Hall, aka "the Rifleman," said that Louie was one of the hardest players he ever faced with cash on the line.

Teacherman: "No better shot maker ever lived. He would make shots others wouldn't try. I'll never forget a match between him and Mike Carella at Tournament Billiards in St. Louis. Played two shot roll out back then. Louie would roll to ridiculous spots, and then make the ball ... Quite a showman also. Quite a personality. Didn't win as much as he should've. Wanted to play so bad he'd make bad games. As far as Buddy was concerned, the story I've heard was, Buddy tortured him when they first played, but Louie kept coming back and it got to where Buddy didn't want to gamble with him. My experience is limited but I can't imagine a better shot maker in the history of pool."

Mark Wilson: "During the late 1970’s, Buddy Hall was living in Shreveport, Louisiana and was considered the best 9-Ball player in the world. Louie would travel there to play Buddy despite previously losing multiple times. Every time that he made some money around St. Louis, he left the same night to go play Buddy again. This particular detail was what separates those who leave no impact in the sport and others who create legends."

Tom Ferry: "For about a 2- or 3-year period, every time Louie got ANY meaningful cash, he would go to Shreveport and play Buddy. During these times he was on the road with a fellow from St. Louis named Roger Reel. If anyone ever does anything on Louie's life, IT MUST INCLUDE ROGER'S INPUT. Buddy started out giving Louie the seven. Always on a perfect GC [Brunswick Gold Crown billiards table]. Busted Louie many, many times that way, but all the time Louie was progressing and Buddy could see it getting harder & harder. Many people in this forum ask what does it take OR how do you become a top player. I'm not saying Louie's way is recommended or the only way, but this is what made Louie GREAT. He was so focused on beating Buddy (because he was The Best) that he didn't care about the money at all. ALL of his talents and suffering were devoted to that ONE THING."

And, as I mentioned in my introduction, Louie did come through the losers' bracket at the 1981 U.S. Open to beat Buddy Hall on his way to becoming the world champion at nine-ball for the second time.

Competition with Keith McCready

When Keith "Earthquake" McCready was 18 years old and still a relative unknown, he showed up at a tournament in Burlington, Iowa, where there was a lot of side action. Louie Roberts heard the kid was playing great and beating everyone in sight, so he rose to the challenge. Louie was also playing lights-out and they put on a helluva show for the crowd. The marathon session lasted more than 10 hours, with Keith steadily pulling ahead. Finally, Louie had lost all his money. But he wasn't ready to admit defeat and began hawking his exotic $100 silk shirts to the audience for $20 each, in an effort to continue the game! That's the kind of heart and gamble Louie had.

Crazy Spots

Harley Bryan was a road player who refused to play Louie Roberts even. He would demand the wild seven ball, Louie would give it to him, and Harley would take his money. This happened at least twice, in Saint Louis and Little Rock, within the space of three month. Then a tournament in Akron around nine months later, Louie spotted Harley and offered him the seven ball again, despite having lost twice in the recent past. But Harley now demanded the six ball! How many players would give the six ball to someone who had been beating them with the seven? But Louie had that kind of heart and gamble, and he won giving up the six.

Watchez: "Louie was the greatest 9 ball player that I ever saw. He was still playing great and making shots that no one else could at the time of his death. A year before he died I saw him give Joe Woolford (probably rated the best 9 ball player besides Louie in St Louis at the time) the 6 ball and rob him out of 3 sets. It was a joke and the best 9 ball that I ever saw played - even til this day. Joe's backer got up on a chair, hooting and hollering at one point while Louie was shooting. Louie turned to him and said, 'Dave - I don't care what you do. You can yell, scream, jump up and down, just don't touch me or the table. I am hypnotized and can't be sharked.' Dave proceeded to get up on a chair screaming and waving his arms then ran around the table like a mad man as Louie ran out. Louie didn't need clean balls or perfect conditions to play good."

More quotes and anecdotes

In his book Running the Table, L. Jon Wertheim called Louie the "exemplar" of high-rolling pool players and a "legendary shotmaker" whose "appetite for action" remains the standard by whom all other players must be judged. Wertheim also compared Louie to Elvis and called him "a character of the first order."

In the book Poker Players and Wannabes, James Woods said that Louie was the second best-looking man he had ever seen, next to Elvis. According to Woods there was only one "glitch" in Roberts' pool game: his drinking.

In an interesting side-note, Jay Helfert has claimed that Louie was a better Elvis impersonator than any of the professionals! In his book Pool Wars, Helfert called Louie the most charismatic pool player he ever met, and said that he attracted crowds wherever he went, with the girls going "gaga" over him. In an online post Helfert said: "He was one of a kind, with more charisma in his little finger than any other pool player had in their whole body." Helfert also mentioned Roberts' "inner demons," which included drinking, drugs, and wanting to play so badly that he often gave up what another observer called "the mortal nuts." Sometimes Roberts' wonderful abilities couldn't overcome his not-so-great game-making and lifestyle.

Thinking of those demons, I am reminded of a quote I found on the Internet about Louie: "He made Keith McCready look like an altar boy."

But Louie could be charming, as Helfert remembers: "It's 1983, Caesars Tahoe Nine-Ball Championship, the first time ESPN put pool on TV. Louie is playing the opening match against Brian Hashimoto. He comes to the table for the first time with an open rack and starts running balls the only way he knows how, fast and loose. (He had been up all night in the casino, that was how he prepared for a big match.) The camera is following Louie around the table and he realizes it. Louie stops and stares into the camera and says, "Don't worry mom, I'll be home to cut the grass as soon as I get done here!" I had a head set on and could hear the producer and director in the truck. They both broke up laughing. Louie lost the match, but he won the day for himself and for pool on TV. Thanks buddy!"

Louie finished third in the 1983 Caesars Tahoe Nine-Ball Championship, winning $10,000.

1982 Caesars Tahoe Billiard Classic at Caesars Tahoe Casino/Hotel in Lake Tahoe, NV, September 8-12.
Game: Nine-Ball best 9 of 17 games
Field: 106 players with a $1,500 entry fee; players were guaranteed $500 back
Format: Double Elimination
Prizes: $170,500 with $13,000 added
Table: 4x9 by REBCO of Fresno
Produced by: Richard D. Florence Productions with co-sponsor Budweiser Beer
Televised by: ESPN
Prizes: 1-Buddy Hall $33,000 2-Allen Hopkins $15,000 3-Louie Roberts $10,000 4-Brian Hashimoto $8,000 5-Bill Stigall 6-Tom Spencer $6,000 7-Jimmy Fusco $4,500 8-Danny Medina $4,500 9-Bob Vanover $3,000 10-J. V. Junior Harris $3,000 11-Gary Nolan $3,000 12-Earl Strickland $3,000 13-Jim Mataya $2,000 14-Jack Steiner $2,000 15-Cole Dickson $2,000 16-Tom Cry $2,000

Bob Jewett remembers: "Terry Stonier used to have great tournaments at either the Jointed Cue or at a hotel in Sacramento. At one of them, Louie and Mike Sigel were matched up playing [a race] to 11. Sigel got to the hill first, but Louie caught up. At that point they had missed one shot between them in 20 games: Sigel had missed one ball and Louie none. Louie broke in the match nine ball."

Steve "The Miz" Mizerak, a top pro, commented after losing to Louie in a tournament: "I have no excuse, you just can't do much when someone shoots that good against you!"

Later, the Miz would refuse to play Louie even, demanding the seven ball and getting it.



ALSTL: "If you want to hear stories about Louie Roberts, walk into any pool room in St Louis. I don't care which one, black neighborhood, rural area, doesn't matter. Ask an older guy about Louie. Some of the stories seem unbelievable except you hear them from a wide cross-section of people. One thing for sure about Louie, he made an impression wherever he went."

ALSTL also related that a former St. Louis pool hall owner told him that "even when half loaded Louie played tough, [but] when sober he was the best shotmaker he had ever personally seen."

Deeman: "He was what he was. I never really saw what some might see as a 'dark side' to him. We were friends, he was a remarkable player and a nice guy that was really fun to hang out with. He had a smile that would infect you when you were down and was pretty optimistic even in the bad times. I can say he would not mind a few stories about him going around, good or bad. He liked being the center of attention and that's part of what made him a competitor."

Tom Ferry: "Roger [Reel] & Louie were like Abbott & Costello "On The Road." They could keep a poolroom in stitches for hours telling Road Stories. A local fellow (and good old friend of Sonny's, Vernon) always says Louie & Roger could be telling a story about sleeping (BROKE) on a bus station bench and they made it sound like so much fun that you kinda wish you would have been with them."

Mark Wilson: "Whenever Louie walked into the poolroom, the energy and happiness levels soared with everyone, and this fact was evident with the smiles from many of the generally negative and crusty patrons. Even today, after he has been gone for many years, he is frequently spoken of with a happiness and beloved sense that he must have been there yesterday."

Tommy-D: "I never formally met him, and only saw him play twice, but those two times I NEVER saw him miss a ball. The first time was also the first or second time I ever went to High Pockets in Memphis. He took a table, close to where I was sitting, and ran full racks of nine-ball for over an hour, and never came close to hooking himself or missing. He would periodically bank the whole rack out. This went on for almost 90 minutes, and I asked someone who he was shortly before we left. He said that's easy look at the wall, and there was a large black and white poster sized pic of Louie posing with a Meucci, and generally looking like a young Elvis."

Blackjack David Sapolis: "Louie Roberts was one of the most talented pool playersEVER. He won The US Open, as well as many other tournaments. As a teenager I idolized Louie Roberts and made it a point to meet him and become his friend. Some of the times I spent with Louie are some of the wildest, craziest, funniest, saddest and angriest points in my life. That says a lot all by itself. Louie had a very challenging personality (LOL) and he also struggled with many demons. There are many colorful stories about Louie Roberts, but what needs to be said is that he loved the game of pool and sadly towards the end, that love was not enough to save his life. To those that knew him best, St. Louie-Louie was a great guy, though somewhat difficult, we loved him anyway. You cannot compare Louie to anybody.



Roberts is memorialized by the annual Louie Roberts A/E Award, awarded by the Horseshoe Southern Indiana casino during its annual Derby City Classic billiards event. A&E stands for "action and entertainment," which Louie exemplified as a player. Attendees of the Derby City Classic vote, and the player who displays the most action and entertainment, a la Louie, wins the award. According to the onepocket.org website: "The A/E Award is named after the late Louie Roberts, who embodied the kind of high-rolling free-spirited and talented player that crowds have always loved to gather and watch. Louie was a rare talent and genuine star in the action/entertainment side of pool. Whether he was flat broke or flush with cash didn’t seem to make a difference; Louie would find a game, and the crowd would find Louie. Whatever cash he held, he might wager on one match, on one game, or even on one shot; Louie had the confidence to bet it all."

Winners of the Louie Roberts A/E Award include: Alex Pagulayan (2003), Tony Watson (2004), Scott Frost (2005), Cliff Joyner (2006), Chris Bartram (2007), Shane Van Boening (2008), Scooter Goodman (2009), Jeanette Lee (2010), David Peat (2011), Tony Coleman (2012), Chris Gentile (2013), Richie Richeson (2014).

Louie Roberts - "Saint Louie Louie"

"St. Louie" Louie Roberts (above, at the 1982 Dayton Open)

A video montage of High Pocket's, the Memphis home poolroom of Louie Roberts, with a picture of an ever-youthful Louie at :33 ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVqIXgcEUCk 

Rare video footage of Louie Roberts as the house pro at High Pocket's ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5G13l_W_UI4

In this compilation, Louie Roberts appears at 1:35, talking to Buddy "the Rifleman" Hall, who is on the left ... Louie also appears at 3:03 ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9hIhAuk7Qw

Louie Roberts vs. Gary Serville, with Louie spotting the 7, 8 and 9 ...

http://vimeo.com/album/1726428/video/28806145
http://vimeo.com/album/1726428/video/29239831
http://vimeo.com/album/1726428/video/30840164

In the videos above, "Navy" Gary Serville hits the pool balls pretty sporty, but is no match for the Elvis Presley of pool, "Saint Louie" Louie Roberts.

Jay Helfert: "Yes, he was unique. Intelligent, handsome (the girls adored him), personable and extremely talented (he was a great athlete in high school). He could do a better Elvis impersonation than any of these clowns out there today, believe me. His death was a loss for pool, but he was lost to us long before he finally passed. I hope he is in a better place now. I loved Louie."

Amen

Jay Helfert: "Let me just say that he was absolutely the best shotmaker I ever saw! And that includes present day players. If he could see it, he could make it. And the object ball went in on a line, never touching anything. PURE POCKET all the way! He would shoot extremely difficult cut shots at warp speed. And make them over and over again! Louie was handsome, personable and had a good sense of humor about life, pool, girls, everything. The women LOVED him! And he loved them back. :-) The hours and days I spent around Louie and Keith [McCready] are full of priceless memories for me. They are both American originals, none like them before or since. Only Alex [Pagulayan] among the current crop of players comes close to having the charisma these two had. I loved Louie and yet sometimes I hated him. He was a severe alcoholic and could be more than a handful at times. My last physical fight was with Louie and it was a doozy, lasting maybe 20 minutes before he finally gave up and fell asleep in my arms. I had him pinned down on a bed in a hotel room. Thank God because I was exhausted too. True story!"

Freddy "The Beard" Bentivegna: "While living with hypochondriac Chicago cue maker, Joe Gold, Louie once emptied Gold's well stocked medicine cabinet. The cue maker routinely had shelves of assorted medicines that could bring you up, take you down, make you totally rummy, or eliminate all pain. Louie (no pharmacist he), would just take potluck and play Pill-Russian–Roulette. He'd say, 'I'll try two of those white ones with three of those pinkies, and then seal the deal with one of those red babies. I'll save these brown stripers for later.' Louie would chase them all down with a few six–packs of beer, then play for days and never miss a ball. I put Louie at or near the top of pool players that could consume inordinate amounts of various chemical combinations and still play a monster speed of pool."

Island Drive (Bill Meachem): "He was a reckless man living off great talent. He was like a pool player James Dean, or Steve McQueen during that era ... He held and moved/wielded' his cue around like a great Violinist and at times soft/antagonist. He was NOT afraid to back up his words with dough, and could smooth talk ya into a game, like Ronnie Allen ... Being from Southern Illinois and Johnston City during the 60's and early 70's, and being somewhat close to St. Louis, I got to see Louie and his swagger quite a few times, though it was rarely in Illinois. My favorite was at Weeine Beenie's place in Virginia (Guys & Dolls?). I'd say around 1971, he owned the place with Devallie (not sure of the spelling, but he could play). Anyhow, Louie and Mike Carella of Florida hooked up, probably for a good 20+ hours of play. Mike had Louie busted, down to his gold jewelry. Louie put up his hardware and in doing so, Mike was nice enough to lower the bet to accommodate the supposed last set. Well, Louie won that set, and turned it around and emptied out Mike. Louie was our Paul Newman of pool. He had a little Elvis in him, a slight touch of James Dean and the ways of Steve McQueen all in one, plus he could play, and the women swooned over him. I can still hear his tone of voice, which was never in your face, but his game was. And like Freddy, the chemical warfare was always lurking, you just never knew if or how it would show up when you gambled with him."

Danny Harriman: "My first Louie Roberts experience, I was at the State tournament in Columbia before it all became a popularity contest ... the room became silent and when I looked up there was a man in a silk jogging suit. With each step he said, "Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!" repeating this each time and gradually in a louder voice. He was one of my favorite players to watch play nine-ball, even if he was a little overbearing at times. Louie was an entertainer as much as he was a champion nine-ball player. I have many fond memories of watching Louie hit a major gear. I can assure you that even though he loved action (maybe a little too much), his love for the game showed while competing. He gave one of the best players there the seven ball and out-ran the spot that day. He did not win playing Underclocked snooker however."

Danny Harriman: "Yes, I played Louie and held my own when I was fifteen, however at the end of the battle we eventually raised the stakes and Louie started to hit a [higher] gear. Needless to say, I began to realize before it cost me too much that I should live to fight another day. Oh and yes, Louie was referring to the players in the State tournament as Lions and Tigers and Bears. However, even as a youngster I knew he was being a little facecious (I know I spelled it wrong, so scalp me). There will never be another Louie Roberts and I admired his outgoing flamboyant style as I never had that personality. Simply put, he was the best entertainer/nine-ball player I ever had the pleasure to watch compete. I have many stories of Louie on and off the table. He was a bit like James Dean, who was before my time. But I heard he was too fast to live and too young to die. Well,  that was the Louie I knew in a few words. Once I saw him competing for $20.00 a game and giving up a lot of weight. A group of kids came in and Louie told the fellow he was playing that he had to take a break. Louie proceeded to go over and shoot some trick shots for the group of kids. He was a Master of showmanship and very generous when it came to giving out a free lesson clinic. I once had him sign a twenty and he told me to make it a dollar as I would spend the twenty. He was right."

This account comes from Garan McCuskey: "This memo is written with no ill intent. It's a memory/gift from my dad―to me―who says he played and beat one of the best. In the early 70's (my dad thinks 1972), Louie came to Kirksville, Missouri to play my dad, Gary 'Hack' McCuskey. They played at Leisure World Bowling Alley just right outside of town. They played on three different occasions, each time my dad getting the best of Louie. My dad says they played 9 ball for hours and hours. Each trip, my dad recalls Louie having some nice-looking women by his side. In fact, he remembers them coming in under each of his arms. HA! They were all dressed really nice he says. On Louie's last visit to Kirksville, my dad recalls them playing for even more money. He remembers Louie would occasionally take some long bathroom breaks―probably to 'chalk up' a bit. By the end of the night, Louie was broke so he offered to play my dad for his pool cue. In the end, my dad won the race, and Louie graciously gave up his stick. My dad believes it to be one of the first Viking pool cues made; if not that, he thinks it has to be pretty close. Probably lots more to this, my dad is very humble so I am sure there are far more details that he could talk about. I do know that he also played C.J. Wiley way back when as well. He says C.J. was real young back then. Side comments: Shortly after the Vietnam War my dad quit shooting for many many years. I'm gonna guess 20 or so years, maybe more. After his retirement he started shooting again. I recall a tournament where I was at in Columbia, MO where he shot and beat Danny Harriman (Springfield Danny). This was probably in 2010. Funny story to this one as well ... my girlfriend was with me at the time and Danny was lighting them up. On the hill game, Danny ran them out with a ball to go and then scratched. My girlfriend knew nothing about the game except that a scratch meant it was my dad's shot. Well, when the ball went in, she cheered and clapped really loud. Oh my gosh! So embarrassing. Danny was a professional about it. He did give her a small glare, but it was clear that she didn't know what she was doing. The whole place was silent! HA!"

The Kirkwood Kid: "Louie was a great guy. He used to come in to one of the pool halls in St. Louis I used to go to as a kid. He was always good for a laugh and helped me and tons of other young punks like me with their game. He was our hero and we all miss him dearly. Some of the demons got a hold of him and he couldn't shake them off and the world lost a truly great player because of them."

Lunchmoney: "I remember the first time I met Louie, when he walked into the pool room it was as if a major Hollywood celebrity had walked in. Everyone dropped what they were doing and stared. Later on, Louie was standing at a table BS'ing with a some friends and every few seconds he would lean over the table, stroke once and then fire in unbelievable shots. I had to use the rest room and he followed me in and asked if I wanted to play some. I told him that he was way out of my league. His response was, "We can work out a spot." I still declined. That same night he matched up with a local. Louie got the breaks and his opponent was spotted every ball on the table. It was an incredible display, he hit high gear and didn't miss. The match didn't last too long. I had also heard that he was listening to some self-hypnosis tapes at night while sleeping. Rumor had it, the tapes made him such a feared nine-ball player that eventually someone stole them." 

One Pocket John: "Man, Louie Roberts was the real deal. All he would say is, "Let me see it, I can make it." And that's no BS. I watched him play a few times at the Sports Center and Cue and Cushion in Saint Louis."

Sam Waltz: "There's a reason the Derby City Classic has an award titled after Roberts and it's absolutely deserved! Every player who ever speaks of him and knew him personally in my area always says the same thing, 'He was one of, if not the best that ever played.' What a showman and entertainer!"

Axle: "He was always in bad games when I saw him play at the Golden Eight Ball in Phoenix ... He got on the microphone and said anybody in the building had the 6-7-8 for five hundred. If nobody didn't want it, he would just burn it. So he lit the hundreds on fire. It was funny, watching him wave them around burning in the air. He put them out in time to save them, but i will never forget it ... They didn't lie, he could make anything from anywhere. It was amazing ... he was in action all the time. He would just force people to play him with the crazy spots he would give."

JoeyA: "Louie Roberts LOVED coming to New Orleans. With his habits, how could he not like it. We had the infamous Sport Palace; they and all of the bars are open 24/7 and back then, we didn't have video poker or casinos so the pool room was the place to get your gambling fix. He would stay with different locals and was as entertaining as they come.  Like everyone said, he was handsome, a real ladies man but I only saw him in the pool room where there were few women (LOL) playing lights out, talking non-stop and missing very few balls. The few women in the pool room would swoon when he walked through the door. He would make one particular back cut with the object ball frozen on the rail and no one wanted to shoot that shot against him. Louie had to give up the nuts to get action. It must be hell to be a great pool player who likes to gamble..."

Tommy-D: "I saw Louie play exactly twice. The first time, he came in High Pockets in Memphis and ran out nine-ball for over an hour, never missing a ball. The second time I walked into The Rack, and only saw him hit one ball that time, but he made it. Never saw him miss a ball, EVER. The strangest thing I ever saw out of him was walking into the bathroom there, and Louie was sitting in the floor, back turned up against the wall in the corner, reading something off a piece of notebook paper. As soon as he saw he wasn't alone, he wadded that paper up real quick and got up, like he was worried I might steal it. He was said to remind himself of how great he was, either with stuff he wrote down, or some kind of hypnosis tape.

Watchez: "Louie was the greatest nine-ball player I ever saw play, period. I am not saying he IS the greatest, just the greatest I saw. He could make hard to impossible shots consistently, not after taking several attempts. He had a great personality when sober and was difficult to be around when he was not. He could stand up and cite scenes for 10 to 15 minutes of Scarface better than Al Pacino. He simply loved to entertain. I didn't spend a whole lot of time with him but saw him play enough. Took him to a handicap tournament once and they wouldn't let him play no matter what rating he would get. When he couldn't get into the tournament, we went to another pool room and played the poker machines. Louie was quickly out of money and asked to borrow $50. I was warned enough times about loaning Louie money, but decided I would. He put it in the machine, soon hit four of a kind, and I said to him, 'Ok, cash out and give me my $50 back.' Louie attempted to stall and I said to him, 'Louie give me my money or I will go to the car and get a baseball bat.' I was kidding but it was enough for him to quickly pay me ...  Louie was not a violent person at all. Well, one time when he was drunk, he got into it with the pool room owner and Louie said he was ready to fight. He got out some duct tape and starting to tape up his hands. We were all laughing. Louie was serious. Nothing happened, Louie would have gotten his a$$ beat and he knew it and so did the pool room owner. Louie did not kill himself. He was many things, but I don't see him having the ability to do it. I talked to him that night he died. He called the pool room [the Sportscenter in St. Louis] ... He was walking around the street in his neighborhood [in Arizona] on a cordless phone. He had just got back from a tournament and hit a slot machine for $50K. Everyone was at the pool room here in St. Louis that night, as Mark Jarvis was playing Cliff Joyner one-pocket. A few hours later, the call came in that Louie was dead. The story of what happened changed a few times from the people 'involved' and no gun powder was ever found on Louie's hands, but it was ruled a suicide.  A movie about his life would be something that would be successful in Hollywood."

NOTE: I have spoken to an ex-policeman familiar with the Louie Roberts case, and he told me about suspicious evidence. First, Louie Roberts was not drunk or high the night of his death. He called and talked to other pool players twice, shortly before he died, and he was sober, in good spirits, and talking about practicing to improve his break before an upcoming tournament. Second, there was no GSR (gunshot residue) on Louie's hands, which would have been present if he had fired the gun himself. Third, the suicide note did not match Louie's handwriting. Louie was left-handed and his penmanship was elegant. The suicide note was written by someone right-handed with far less style. The owner of the St. Louis pool room that Louie called told me that he spoke to Louie himself that night, and reports that he was drunk were totally wrong.—Michael R. Burch

Watchez: NO WAY did Louie kill himself. He wouldn't have had the guts to do it, no matter how messed up he was at the time. It was a [hand] gun not a shot gun. I was told that there were no powder burns on his hands, meaning he could not have fired the gun. He was found in a house, I believe dining room, of the house in Arizona that he was staying at - owned by his girlfriend at the time who was a rich, older lady. I am not sure what really happened with any investigation. Louie called The Sportscenter the night he died a few times. Cliff Joyner was playing Mark Jarvis one pocket on the pit table. I talked to him. He was on a cordless phone, walking in the street outside his house where he was staying. He was not drunk, he was not on anything. He was relaying how he just got back from the tournament, tried to gamble after the tournament and no one would play him. He burned $200 in fifty dollar bills trying to get a game. He had hit a slot machine for $50K or something like that. A few hours later, the call came in that Louie was dead. 


Watchez: "Louie loved the attention, always had a pen clipped to his shirt ready to give out an autograph. Would do trick shots for an hour if someone new came into the pool room or if nothing else was going on.  He would freeze five balls on the bottom rail, spaced apart equally and cut them all in to the right pocket with the cue ball in the kitchen. Then he would line them up again and cut them all in to the left pocket. The last ball was going almost the entire length of the rail. I think I saw him miss one of these balls one time when doing this and most of the time, he was talking when he was shooting."

Watchez: "The first time I saw Louie was 1987. I went to the pool room as a customer that knew nothing about pool but banging balls with my friends. I saw the roped off pit table, Louie wearing some World Championship 9 ball hoodie, drilling some guy and beating him out of his cash and his pool stick. Afterwards, Louie turned to a guy to pay him $10 for a ride home. I had no idea what I was actually watching or how good Louie was compared to the rest of the world but was thinking, this guy plays this good and has to pay for a ride home. Louie was the greatest 9 ball player that I ever saw. He was still playing great and making shots that no one else could at the time of his death. A year before he died I saw him give Joe Woolford (probably rated the best 9 ball player besides Louie in St Louis at the time) the 6 ball and rob him out of 3 sets. It was a joke and the best 9 ball that I ever saw played - even til this day. Joe's backer got up on a chair, hooting and hollering at one point while Louie was shooting. Louie turned to him and said, 'Dave - I don't care what you do. You can yell, scream, jump up and down, just don't touch me or the table. I am hypnotized and can't be sharked'. Dave proceeded to get up on a chair screaming and waving his arms then ran around the table like a mad man as Louie ran out. Louie didn't need clean balls or perfect conditions to play good. Louie's main hang outs in St Louis in the early years were Affton Billiards, Grand and Olive Billiards (the big pool room that Manwon mentioned) and Saratoga Bowling lanes (also mentioned). Later on he was the house pro at both what is now The Break in Cahokia Il and the Sportscenter in South County. The Sportscenter was owned by Mark Obrien and Larry Labarbera at the time. Larry is still one of the owners. Larry was Louie's best friend. There was no other best friend - Larry was it. Larry still has his US Open trophy, pictures and posters signed by Louie are hung up in his pool room, and has a few of Louie's cues. He mainly played with a Meucci, as far as I know. I never heard of Louie ever running with Danny Harriman. Not saying that this is 100% not true, but I again have never heard of this. And if he did, I would think it would have been for one short trip. Louie ran with Rusty Brandemeier, Tom 'OldHasBeen' Ferry, Jimmy Brooks, Roger Reel (sp?), Larry Labarbera, and Lil Ricky Van Uum. Louie was also an 'owner' with Larry Hubbard and Terry Bell in what is now the APA. They bought Louie out for some small sum - like less than $5000 and Louie was in the process of trying to sue the APA at the time of his death. He was claiming that he wasn't given all the facts of the league/business. Louie had his issues. As many of the pool rooms back then were no alcohol, he would hide bottles under the tables up in the workings of the table. He would pretend to go to sleep and get the bottle to take a swig. Louie could do a flawless impression of Al Pacino in Scarface. He would do a whole scene, reciting the words exactly for 10 minutes. It was hilarious and good. Louie was scared of his own shadow and never a tough guy or fighter. The first time I ever went anywhere with Louie, Larry warned me not to give him any money. Of course Louie talked me into giving him $60 to play a poker machine. When he was up $200, I asked him for my $60 back (at the time $60 was about 10% of my bank roll), and Louie started to stall. I told Louie (and wasn't serious) that I would go to my car, get a baseball bat and take my money back. Louie broked down in almost tears and gave me the money. This is what makes me say - NO WAY did Louie kill himself. He wouldn't have had the guts to do it, no matter how messed up he was at the time. It was a gun not a shot gun. I was told that there were no powder burns on his hands, meaning he could not have fired the gun. He was found in a house, I believe dining room, of the house in Arizona that he was staying at - owned by his girlfriend at the time who was a rich, older lady. I am not sure what really happened with any investigation. Louie called The Sportscenter the night he died a few times. Cliff Joyner was playing Mark Jarvis one pocket on the pit table. I talked to him. He was on a cordless phone, walking in the street outside his house where he was staying. He was not drunk, he was not on anything. He was relaying how he just got back from the tournament, tried to gamble after the tournament and no one would play him. He burned $200 in fifty dollar bills trying to get a game. He had hit a slot machine for $50K or something like that. A few hours later, the call came in that Louie was dead. Louie is buried in Jefferson Baracks in South St Louis, as he was an Air Force veteran. It is a shame that Louie left us so early. If he was still around, I think I would have even better stories to tell."

DTL: "It was 1985, I had just gotten out of the Air Force and was kinda bumming around playing pool enjoying my freedom. I was hanging around Shreveport (my last duty station was Barksdale AFB) at Mike Jame's poolroom, where I had the pleasure of playing partner one-hole occasionally with Billy Schick, Mike, and Eddie Taylor. A couple guys and I decided to go down to Austin to watch the River City Open. The poolroom where everybody was hanging out was called More Yours. Anyway, one night Louie matched up with a very strong road player giving him the 7, 8 and 9 ... I think they called him Atlanta Danny. I watched him play for a few hours and let me tell you I've never seen anything so beautiful. I'd always heard stories about how perfect he played ... that night I saw it with my own eyes.  He busted the guy's stake horse and afterwards we talked some. Found out he had also been in the Air Force ... his commanding officer let him out early to pursue his pool career. Later that week I made a decent score playing a guy named Jimmy King from Alabama. Louie was busted and I ended up paying for his plane ticket, back to L.A., I think." 

DRW remembers: "I saw Louie play many times over the years. I'll recount a couple of those that are crystal clear in my memory. I met Louie for the first time in Indianapolis in 1976 at a tournament. I had been playing for two years at that time and still got extremely nervous when I gambled. I approached Louie between matches and asked how he had dealt with that or if he ever did get nervous. He talked with me and suggested that I get hypnotized. My friends all laughed, as did I. I later looked in the yellow pages and found a 'Sports Hypnotherapist' in Tinley Park, IL. His advertisement said he had worked with a few White Sox players. I drove over from Hammond, Indiana and saw the guy three times over two weeks and he recorded the third session on audio tape. The whole deal only cost me $65 bucks. Cheap even back then. I listened to the tape every day for six months and it definitely helped. Saw Louie in Alabama by accident in the late seventies or early 1980's. I went there for my grandfather's funeral and saw in the local paper that there was a pro pool tournament in Birmingham, AL that week. A cousin and I went several nights and watched matches and action. Louie went broke and was walking the bleachers asking everyone for a twenty to get up enough for another set. I gave him a twenty and thanked him for his earlier suggestion. This tournament was put on by a local funeral director named Gaston. He split with the money on the last day. Steve Cook had won, don't remember second place, but Billy Weir was trying to sell his third place, as he had gotten wind about the money not being there. It made the nightly news and later some players got a lawyer and got paid. Never saw Louie again until 1984. I had joined the army and my first duty station was Ft. Bragg, NC. The bar scene there at that time was great. Can't remember if it was the Strac lounge or the one next to it, but Louie came walking in one Saturday while I was hitting balls on a four-by-eight with a big cue ball. Louie never tried to hustle anyone. He asked me if I gambled and I said I sometimes did. He announced that he was Louie Roberts, one of the best pool players in the world. I never told him that I knew him very well, as I was curious about what may happen next. He asked if I was in the service and I told him I was in the army. He told me he had been in the air force. It was a military pay week at the end of the month and we were still going to the gym for pay call getting cash. Salute the Captain and leave with your money. Louie offered up the 4/5 and the breaks playing 6 ball. I'm sure he expected the table to be like most where it was hard to make a ball on the break. It wasn't the case and I won six in a row for $50 a game. Louie smiled, shook my hand and went out the door. Saw him later in the week at Ricks and he was having a good time. I was stationed at Yuma Proving Ground when Louie killed (?) himself. Don't think anyone has come along with his charisma since. Sorry for the length, could have went on much longer.

Buff the Stuff: "I hung out with Louie in New Orleans a bit. One very late night we were both "wired" up at the house and Louie took to the telephone and I swear I never laughed so hard over the people he called. I started to write them all down and later read them all back to him ... He called Jim Rempe to arrange a $10,000 set ... called a stakehorse "Jake" to arrange the financing ... called Bob Meucci, then Julie Meucci I think ... called the Kansas City police department to get George Brett's phone number because he had staked him before ... called Paramount pictures to get Tom Cruise's number and/or Omar Sharif's number ... then when someone refused him for a $200 bite he decided not to call a leg breaker ... "I'll wait till he refuses me for a bigger amount" was his reasoning ... I can also testify to Louie hocking his cue to quite a few people at a tournament in Birmingham, Alabama, and when it was over he pretended to be pissed off and broke it ... Pretty good move."

NOTE: Louie knew Tom Cruise and Paul Newman from working with them on The Color of Money. I have heard through the grapevine that Tom Cruise has a picture of Louie on a wall in his house, but have no way of knowing if it's true. Louie may have known Omar Sharif from The Baltimore Bullet, although that's speculation. In any case, the phone calls sound credible. 

Buff the Stuff: "I liked Louie a lot but he was a handful ... We had a weekly tournament ... and somehow Louie talked me into paying him the first place money in advance ... "You know I'm gonna win it!" ... So he bought drinks for everyone with the money and then proceeded to get me off the hook by winning the tourney just like he said he would."

Buff the Stuff: "If I am remembering right, I think Louie told me he was one of the original owners of the Busch League. I believe he told me something like 15 or 18 percent. Whether that is true or not, I don't know, but I know that's what he told me. And that he sold out in a moment of weakness for a not-so-great amount."

Race Track Phil Guagliardo: "I owned north shore billiards with freddy the beard and bobby wilkinson. here's a little story about louie roberts. he called me up in 1979 and said would I stake him if he came to chicago. I told him I'm no stake horse but I would put him in a little action to get started if he came. I blinked and he was walking in the door. boston joey was in town a tremendous player on a bar table at the time. so I let louie play him a set for 500 hundred. louie got lucky and won because the bar closed. so I gave louie 300 and said you can sleep in the office and I'll let you eat for free. well louie gives the nuts to everybody he plays and ends up broke, but a friend of his comes in and starts to back him. so he decides he's going to beat the houseman. ME ! he says you got 2 hit and the pic and can spot another ball. I'm no great player but I know I have the nuts with that game. so the backer says 50 a game. I would have bet a 1000. so we play and I'm 3 games ahead and louie puts me in a real tough spot, but I get lucky and make a tough shot and get out. the backer tells louie thats all! louie rants and says one more game! the backer says no way! louie is standing at the head of the table and throws the cueball in disgust, it hits the backer right dead square in the forehead. louie then stars smashing his cue on the side of the table. broke it in ten pieces. as he's breaking the cue I noticed 3 guys jump out of their chairs. the wind up was louie hocked his cue to all 3 guys. each guy wanted to kill him! the moral of the story is dont bite the hand that feeds you! I really like louie! he was all action! and if he would have lived longer, no telling how good he may have played with some seasoning. he could cut the paint off the ball. I'll always miss louie! a real classic pool character!

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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