Beating Him at His Own Game

He breaks the pristine arrangement of red and yellow. The assortment of colors splays upon the green table with the motion of spilled Skittles. I play first and aim for a red one, succeeding in bringing it closer to the pocket just for my rival to sink it on his next turn. Immediately after, he tactfully sinks two more in a row. It’s a bleak start for me, a relative newcomer to the game of pool.

He starts to seemingly knock balls around but he is strategically placing them to give me a hard time. My rival is commanding the game’s difficulty. He coaches me how to execute some of these difficult plays, and one by one I sink the yellow balls and begin to make a comeback. Finally, I have two yellow left, while my rival has only the 8-ball.

photo by Michaella Wiss

photo by Michaella Wiss

I play for the yellow far across the table. I attempt to hit right but my hand moves and it hits left. However, now the cue is wedged behind the other yellow, obstructing the 8-ball. He is surprised by the dirty play, but his friend has taught me to do this. Sure enough he misses. I have two yellow left and two shots.

I line up my shot and sink the yellow in the corner. The cue rolls back into place and aligns perfectly with the second yellow. I sink it with ease. My rival is sweating with the realization that he could lose: a blow to his pride and his title as undefeated (by me). Unfortunately I mess up my shot with the 8-ball. The game is in his favor—until he misses the 8-ball due to overconfidence. I again have two shots.

The 8-ball is nearest to the side pocket: the most difficult pocket. It’s also in the middle of the table with the cue at a bad angle. However, I have learned to use my two shots to my advantage.

I tap the 8-ball closer to the pocket. The cue bounces off the wall and everything is now aligned.

“Don’t mess this up,” he says, trying to add pressure.

I tap the cue ball gently and the 8-ball slowly rolls in. I am overcome by a mix of pride and excitement—my friend has always managed to beat me by a very close game. Today, I have dethroned a king.

The woman who maintains our table gives a cheer—she was rooting for me to win and looks very pleased. My friend commends me for a good game; he had not expected me to win so soon. The woman resets the table to its previous perfection. We agree to play again. My friend is eager to reclaim his title and I wish to keep it. This time, I get to break—a privilege meant for those who win. The next game begins with a new intensity and higher stakes.

—Michaella Wiss

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