The 1961 movie is in black and white and opens with a late 1950s model car slowly pulling into a gas station. Across the street is the Homestead Bar and Grill with a sign proclaiming POOL. Two men leave the car for servicing and head across the street. And so begins the trials and tribulations of Fast Eddie Felson, pool hustler, starring Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Piper Laurie and Jackie Gleason based on the book by Walter Tavis.
Much has changed in the world of the pool hall in the last sixty years. While the hole in the wall, pool hall filled with seedy characters and cigarette smoke can still be found. The modern pool hall is likely well lit, smoke free, safe, and many nights of the week filled with men and women playing in a pool league sponsored by the American Poolplayers Association (APA).
The APA is the world’s largest amateur pool league with nearly 250,000 members playing weekly eight ball and nine ball games in almost 300 leagues across the United States, Canada, and Japan. The APA was started in 1981 by two professional pool players who wanted to widen the appeal of the cue sports by creating a league where amateur players of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, would have the opportunity to play, compete, and win.
The ”secret sauce” in the APA’s success is a handicapping system called The Equalizer® which allows players of differing levels of skill to play on equal footing, similar to handicapping systems found in golf and bowling. While some of the details may vary from league to league, the basic formula is as follows. On league night, which may be several different nights of the week in larger venues, teams with eight members meet and play five matches of 8 ball and 5 matches of 9 ball. Eight ball has skill levels ranked from 2-7 and nine ball has skill levels from 2-9. If you have never held a pool cue in your life, you will not only be welcomed in the league you will be highly sought after because there is a limit of 23 total skill level points that can be used in the 5 matches. This forces the teams to mix and play both low skilled players and high skilled players on league nights. Every team is always looking for lesser skilled players to make their skill level numbers fall within the 23 point limit. The league is open to both men and women and the novice player is not only welcomed, but is also trained and advised by team members so that all can improve their skill and enjoyment. The league has strict conduct rules that must be adhered to so that everyone can enjoy their league time. League rules and game rules may be found at https://poolplayers.com/.
All of the teams and leagues are playing each week to qualify for the championships held twice a year in Las Vegas with travel and lodging costs partially or totally paid for by the league. The photo at the top is from one of the championship tournaments. At the Las Vegas tournaments there are many different categories of competition: Individual tournaments, where you are competing with players at the same skill level as yourself, Team, Scotch Doubles, Jack and Jill Doubles, Masters League, Team Captains, Ladies 8 Ball, and Wheelchair Tournaments. All of these contests have cash prizes with over two million dollars in prizes paid annually. Everybody can play and everybody can win and no one gets “hustled”.