A billiard hall is every mothers worst nightmare. It is a place where the scum of the earth assemble to talk dirty, smoke, drink and gamble. yet it is a place where many of my heroes had been baptized. snooker was my poison of choice and like most people who play it i was addicted. Like a lot of drugs, it inspires euphoria and depression in a span of ten minutes. many people consider snooker as a youth mispent, and for 99 % of its patrons it is.
My quest for glory started in a small time billiard hall in chennai located in mylapore. Buddys billiards it was called. The owner was a friendly old man, Who exuded happiness, except when it came time to collect. This was it. this small cozy snooker parlour was my finishing school. I had been there 8 years, since i was a scrawly teenager, learning the nuances of pool, the angles, a touch of side and eventually the elusive perfect screw back.
As in any school, there were grades at mine. Buddys was a small billiard hall with four tables. two french snooker tables, one slightly larger table and an english pool table. The owner wanted to put in a standard table, but the constraints on the area available to him made him opt for two french ones instead. Two tables earn more than one he said. economics you have to love it.
Grade one was the pool table. The pockets were wide and the cushion high. This was where most if not all the patrons start out. We played, and played till we were able to pot balls with growing consistancy. the pockets were big, and this made the shots easier to pot, and the high cushion made the beginiers perfect their cue action. and when it was time to graduate, we played Losers pay LP as we called it. Race to five racks, loser pays the table charge.
Once you got good enough, the pool players would not play you and it was time to go to the second grade. The slightly bigger table was our class room. Snooker the game of choice. Snooker is intricately different from pool. Pool was a game where you either choose solids or stripes. The object of the game is to pot either all the solids, or all the stripes and then finally pot the eight ball by calling a pocket. If you fluked it you loose. There are fifteen different balls, with numbers on them. One to fifteen. one to eight were solids, nine to fifteen stripes. The eight ball was the money ball and no player is allowed to pot it till all seven of his chosen balls are potted. the one who pots the eight wins.
Snooker was a game of statergy. It involved math. there are fifteen red balls each worth one point. six colour balls yellow worth two points, green worth three points, brown worth four points, blue worth five points, pink worth six points and finally the black worth seven points. Like all cue sports snooker is played by using a white cue ball. The player has to pot a red ball and follow by potting a colour. the colour comes back to the table till all the red balls are potted, after which the player has to pot the colours in ascending order of points. a player scores points for every pot and loses points for fouls. snooker was a term coined by the british army officers serving in india who invented the game in the latter part of the 19th century.
I have always maintained that snooker should be our national sport, since it was invented here, but i guess our politicians are too busy fighting the evil british occupiers 60 years post independece, renaming cities and train stations and eradicating all traces of British occupation. I predict that in next five years, some crazy politician will push to rename India, Hindustan and that the pledge should read Hundustan is my country, all hindustanis are my brothers and sisters. Double standards and hypocracy are the order of the day, and no one goes against the establishment. I wonder if our politicians will ever oppose Cricket, india's biggest sport boasting of a billion followers, a sport invented by the british. The national sport of england. But when our politicians worry that the newly formed IPL will hurt election turn out and make up excuses about security to postpone it, says a lot about the power of Money and indian cricket.
snooker has a miniscule but vigorous following. In chennai there are a handful of snooker clubs and an official body, The TNBSA located in reyapettah high road.
Once you mastered the nuances of snooker and honed your cue skills it was time to graduate to the third grade. Table two it is called. One of the french tables, that has slighlty big pockets, and offers almost no friction. table two is where you show off your skills, to the big money players of table three, the other french table, reserved for the regulars, people with mad cue skills and deep pockets. the ocasional bored regular will walk over to table two and challenge an up and coming player, testing his skill with small money games. some of the better players offer a handicap to even the playing field, but often it is a hustle, making the lesser experianced player think he has a chance. A player will only offer half the points the other player needs to win as a handicap. a player offering you 20 points actually means that he can beat you with forty.
Once you start winning against the sharks that come to prey to table two, you graduate to table three. This table is the best maitained table in the whole place. Pockets are tight, the baize is ironed and brushed regularly and the marker is always at beck and call.
Like every good story, there are good guys and bad guys. There are no handicaps on table three, you either put up or shut up., unlike good stories however, the good guys don't always win. snooker is a game of stratergy, but a lot also depends on luck. one good fluke can make or break you.
so i leave you with this.
Sometimes in life you have to make your own luck, and that is a skill truly worth having.
Pictures coming soon !!!