The HyperTexts

"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 some of the very 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, Louie 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 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, 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, 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. (I can't remember if Louie beat Buddy in the finals. I think he may have beaten Buddy in the semifinals, then Willie Munson in the finals, but I'm not 100% sure.)

It was reported that Louie committed suicide at age 41 by shooting himself at a motel in Phoenix in 1991. 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 didn't look anything like Robert's handwriting and it was written with the wrong hand. Also there was no GSR (gunshot residue) on his hands, according to the police report, from what I have been told by an ex-policeman familiar with the case. So there is reason to believe foul play was involved.

There are links to rare video footage of Louie Roberts in action, at the bottom of this page.

Louie Roberts Mini-Timeline/History/Chronology

Born: September 29, 1950
Joined the U.S. Air Force around 1968
Won his first national tournament, the 1974 Orlando Open
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says "Louie is so good he can't earn a living hustling pool!"
Founded the National Pool League, later the APA (American Poolplayers Association) with Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart in 1979
Won the 1979 U.S. Open Nine-Ball Championship, defeating David Howard, Dallas West, Mike Sigel, Steve Mizerak (runner-up)
Won the 1981 U.S. Open Nine-Ball Championship sponsored by Mike Massey in Chattanooga, defeating Nat Green, Buddy Hall and Willie Munson
In the 1983 Caesars Tahoe Nine-Ball Championship, the first time ESPN put pool on TV, Louie adlibs for the cameras: "Don't worry mom!"
Had a cameo in The Color of Money with Paul Newman and Tom Cruise in 1986
Died: December 22, 1991 and buried at the Jefferson Barracks in South St. Louis, since he was an Air Force veteran

"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!"
"Have confidence!"
"I'm more than happy to teach anyone."

"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 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, Louie 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 HighPockets 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. 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."

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 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."

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.

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!"

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!"

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 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 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 ... 

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 ... Louie 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 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."

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."

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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