8 Ball is stripes and solids. We get that. Basic. Elegant. Walk before we can run. Within 8-Ball resides the building blocks of the great pocket-billiard games; position play, shot-making, strategy and the killer safety. We slam in a bank and stop the rock for a straight in 8 ball. Until the next rack is broken, we soar. An initiation into the rite. A gateway drug.
9-Ball is lost in a fog of instant gratification, mindless rule changes, silly vests and ESPN. This still bad-ass game, like life, is structurally unfair. It strains the heart, taxes the mind and is over before we know it. 9-Ball demands that we unpack our stroke, play shape all over the table and fire the balls in. Hang the 9—we lose. A dark Art. The sleep of reason begets monsters.
Straight Pool is the highest examination of the cue Arts. It is Paris, New York, Florence and Constantinople. It is a lamp in the darkness and a stem for the onrushing tide. Straight pool harkens to the immutable laws of physics. It quells the mind and exalts the spirit. It is the order chaos fears. In an eternal present we run balls like mad men and never allow our opponent a shot. It is our stage, our aria, unbound we... aw, f**k it. Check it out. It’s a blast.
One Pocket is too slow, too subtle. It can never be shown on ESPN. One-pocket has long been called the “chess” of pool. That is insulting— it is much harder than chess. In chess, once the master divines the killer closing move, all he has to do is lift his hand and place a piece on a board. In one-pocket, the difficulty of the divining is the same but we must finish with a virtuoso physical performance. The brain trust of pool lives in one-pocket. It is all experience, imagination and creativity on the fly. A game for old men with fire in their hearts and cash in their pockets. A true hustler’s game. The best game.