"St. Louie" Louie Roberts: Pool God and Immortal Shotmaker
by Mike Burch, with quotes and anecdotes by pool insiders
"St Louie" Louis Roberts was the best shotmaker I've ever seen, and I've watched
a lot of top-notch pool players in my day.
I've seen the best modern-day tournament pool
players, sharks and hustlers: Johnny Archer, Buddy Hall,
Allen Hopkins, David Howard, Keith McCready, Steve Mizerak, Alex Pagulayan, Jose
Parica, Efren Reyes, Mike Sigel, Earl Strickland, Nick
Varner. 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, 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, 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.
Roberts took advantage and won the "double hill"
game. After that, he seemed
to freewheel, drinking openly, bantering with fans, and disdaining
safeties. If his opponent made a ball out of turn, and two balls
were lined up evenly 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-riling antics and incredible
shotmaking. It had been a longtime dream of
Louie's to beat Buddy Hall, 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.
It was reported that Roberts committed suicide at age 40 by shooting himself at
a motel in Phoenix (the year may have been 1990). However, people who ran
with Roberts have questioned this, pointing out that he had an extreme
aversion to guns and refused to touch them, much less fire them.
There are links to rare video footage of Louie Roberts in action, at the bottom
of this page.
"Saint Louie" Louie Roberts" quotations and advice:
"Let me see it, I can make it."
"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!"
"I'm more than happy to teach anyone."
"St. Louie" Louie Roberts has been described as "charismatic," "fearless
"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 won his first national tournament in 1974 at the Orlando Open. He
was a two-time world champion at nine-ball, winning the U.S. Open in 1979 and
1981. He also had a cameo in The Color of Money, which starred Tom
Cruise and Paul Newman. In the movie, playing himself, he was introduced as "the
incomparable 'Saint Louie-Louie' Louis Roberts." During the filming of the
movie, Roberts kept a large audience of extras entertained between takes with
his showmanship at the table. And he was a marvelous teacher and ambassador of the
game during his stint as house pro at Highpocket's in Memphis.
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.
According to "Toupee" Jay Helfert, who lived with Roberts 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."
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. 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 him—and 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 Roberts on a road trip, around 1980, on which they won
Competition with Buddy Hall
Buddy Hall, aka "the Rifleman," said that Roberts 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."
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, Roberts 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.
More quotes and anecdotes
In his book Running the Table, L. Jon Wertheim called Roberts 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 Roberts to Elvis and called him "a character
of the first order."
In the book Poker Players and Wannabes, James Woods said that Roberts
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 Roberts was a better
Elvis impersonator than any of the professionals!
In his book Pool Wars, Helfert called Roberts 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
Thinking of those demons, I am reminded of a quote I found on the Internet about
Roberts: "He made Keith McCready look like an altar boy."
But Roberts 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!"
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
Steve "The Miz" Mizerak, a top pro, commented after losing to Roberts in a
tournament: "I have no excuse, you just can't do much when someone shoots that
good against you!"
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."
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
players—EVER. 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 Roberts exemplified as a
player. Attendees of the Derby City Classic vote, and the player who displays
the most action and entertainment, a la Roberts, 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
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).
"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 ...
Rare video footage of Louie Roberts as the house pro at High Pocket's ...
In this compilation, Louie Roberts appears at 1:35, talking to Buddy "the
Rifleman" Hall, who is on the left ... Roberts also appears at 3:03 ...
Louie Roberts vs. Gary Serville, with Louie spotting the 7, 8 and 9 ...
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."
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
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. He was
drunk, 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."
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."
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
Mark Twain, Was
Minnesota Fats Overrated?,
A Brief History of Billiards,
Pool/Billiards Record High
Runs, The Sexiest Sharks,
Johnston City Sharks,
Louie Roberts, Earl "The
was the best nine-ball player?