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Pool halls have felt changes

Old images don’t match reality in 21st century


Decades ago, pool halls were identified as a place for men to escape for smoking, drinking, betting and fighting.

Perception was reality.

Denver-area people involved in the pool — or pocket billiards — industry say times have changed. Women and youths are starting to play more. Leagues and tournaments are becoming more popular. And a handicap system allows less-skilled folks to compete with elite players.

While alcohol and wagering still can be found in pool halls, many facilities are intent on emphasizing the game itself.

“The game has evolved and it is very popular, especially since we haven’t had a (pool-themed) movie out lately,” said Melissa Little, a professional player from Denver with the nickname Viper. “‘The Color of Money’ really sparked a lot of interest. We need a new movie out. That one is kind of outdated and doesn’t connect with the new millennium.”

In 1961, Paul Newman starred in the movie, “The Hustler,” which delivered attention to pool, but the interest declined until Newman and Tom Cruise gave the game a boost with the 1986 movie “The Color of Money.”

While Hollywood hasn’t delivered another recent big break, the internet is having an impact.

Greg Kingsbury, manager of Mile High Billiards, 11651 W. 64th Ave., Arvada, noted that there’s no smoking and less gambling in today’s pool halls. You’re more likely to find a player holding a smartphone than a cigarette or a wad of cash.

“There used to be a tendency that there was more hustling,” he said. “Nowdays, there’s not a much hustling because the information around is exchanged so freely. You know who the good players are. You can just get on the internet and see who anybody is.”

One place that attracts top talent is Rocky Mountain Billiards Training Center, 4111 S. Natches Court in Sheridan.

“All the best players in town pretty much come to train before they go to pro events,” owner Dave Hughes said. “My place is just about pool. There is no alcohol and no pinball machines ... It’s all about training and equipment.

“I have all the guys you would call hustlers and they all come to my place and play one another. I have leagues but mine are advanced games with advanced players.”

Felt Billiards, 101 W. Floyd Ave. in Englewood, has 23 pool tables and a bar, restaurant and arcade. It accepts pool players of all ages.

“We get new people every day,” general manager Audra Wasson said. “We have some great players here. We’ve had up to 32 kids in here for a junior tournament. We had a young kid who is a 7-year-old playing (a game) with his dad in a league. He brings a little stool to stand on.”


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