Today, tournaments worldwide provide a profitable income for any professional pool player but during earlier decades in the USA, the hustling lifestyle was a much more profitable income for gifted pool players. These pool players, or pool sharks, of a particular caliber in their game would lure players of lesser ability into gambling, by performing a series of pool tricks. All the while, the more experienced of the two would keep their skills and tricks under wraps from any of the other players, in order to make the stakes higher. Who were the Greatest Pool Hustlers of all time?
Popular tactics for pool sharks included deliberately playing with low quality cues, acting drunk or unintelligent, missing ‘easy’ shots and generally giving the impression of being at novice level, to make their opponent think they have a winning chance. While it is clearly a recognized sport today, it’s not hard to see how pool is, and has, often been argued as being a bar room game. As with other forms of gambling, deception and misdirection are the key factors of being a successful hustler, as well as being a hell of a good actor. Here are ten of the greatest pool hustlers in history.
10. Cowboy Jimmy Moore
Cowboy Jimmy Moore was a world class American pocket billiards player originating from Troup County Georgia. Known for his diverse form of stroke, Moore employed a slip stroke shooting technique in which a player releases his gripping hand briefly before hitting the cue ball. The legend lived in Albuquerque New Mexico for most of his life and it was a known fact that other hustlers would purposely avoid Albuquerque, fearing they would get involved in a money game with Moore.
9. Don Willis
Don Willis is known to many within the sport as a road legend, and was coined with the nickname, the ‘Cincinnati kid’. Considered by many as one of the deadliest players alive; in his prime he shunned the low money pool tournaments, instead playing for high stakes hustling around the United States. Because Willis never turned professional his talent has never truly been recognized by the Billiards community.
8. Larry Lisciotti
Larry Lisciotti was a well-known road hustler donned as ‘the prince of pool’. Lisciotti was hustling from a young age; as soon as he graduated from high school he turned his attention to making money from playing pool. During the 1970’s he reportedly earned thousands of dollars in local taverns, where once he even got shot at by an enraged opponent. The prince of pool is recognised amongst his peers as a great pool hustler.
7. Keith McCready
Born in Illinois, Keith McCready realized he had a talent for pool as early as nine years old. During the 1970’s and 1980’s he traveled throughout the United States as a tournament competitor and a hustler. For McCready, tournaments were merely a place to hustle with most of the main action going on outside the tournament. Professional Pool Player Grady Mathews spoke fondly of the man: ‘Nobody beat Keith. He was a terrific young player… The most perfect pool you ever saw.’ One source has Keith McCready’s Net Worth at $700,000 while others estimate $30,000,000 based on his role in movies.
6. Danny Basavich
Basavich is something of a new school pool hustler. Brought up in New Jersey and nicknamed ‘Kid Delicious’, he is a notorious road player, hustling all over the USA and is often regarded as the last great American hustler. However, his success as a hustler has resulted in him becoming too well known to hustle so he decided to compete professionally.
5. Chef Anton
Something of a hustler/magician, Chef Anton was born and raised in The Bronx, New York. He is an assured expert in hustling tricks with a cue, and because of his unique style he was the first ever billiard trick shot artist to do a special performance at the Magic Castle venue in Hollywood California.
4. Titanic Thompson (Alvin Clarence Thomas)
An American gambler and hustler who embodied the free spirit, associated with a traveling hustler. Blessed with an extraordinary eyesight and hand eye co-ordination he became an underground legend by winning at all costs. He was even involved in the killing of five men, although it was in self-defense. His partner in ‘the hustling game’, Minnesota Fats, considered Titanic a genius calling him ‘The greatest action man of all time.’
3. Cornbread Red (Billy Burge)
Born in Mayfield Kentucky, Cornbread Red is remembered as one of the legends of the road. In an era where gambling was considered the norm in American pool, Red is acknowledged as one of the great money players of all time. He was also renowned as a high stakes hustler recalling that he once played for a race to 6 for $100,000.
2. Luther Lassiter
Another one known for his incredible hand eye co-ordination, Luther Lassiter is considered one of the true greats of pool hustling. He was the ‘undisputed king’ of the pool hustlers during the 1940’s, along with the icon Minnesota Fats. Their town of preference was Norfolk, Virginia. Between 1942 and 1948 he reportedly won $300,000 from gambling on pool games, including $15,000 in one week. He was also known for accepting money games involving extraordinary sums of money; often around $1,000 per game.
1. Minnesota Fats (Rudolf Wanderone)
Probably the most publicly recognizable pool hustler in the USA and was an entertainer as much as a player known for his charisma. Known for his showmanship he began his days as a traveling hustler from a young age. His life is well documented in the film The Hustler with which he adopted the name ‘Minnesota Fats‘. He was regarded by many as the greatest hustler, as well as a regular on chat shows. His personality and take on the game placed him in the heart of the public mind set. Minnesota Fats embodied the view that pool was a rough and tumble gambling game, and the American public love him for that.
This article was produced on behalf of Home Leisure Direct – suppliers of pool tables for hustlers at any level in their game.