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The Billiards Congress of America has put together some fun facts about the game of pool on its website, bca-pool.com. Here are some of those:
• Billiards champions have the highest average age of any sport at 35.6 years.
• Tom Cruise did his own trick shots in the film “The Color of Money,” except for one where he had to jump two balls to sink a third. Director Martin Scorsese wanted Cruise to learn the shot, but it would have taken him two days to learn and the stalled production would have cost thousands of dollars. So the shot was done by professional Mike Sigel.
• The first coin-operated billiards table was patented in 1902 and cost a penny to play.
• Most chalk used today is made of fine abrasives and does not contain a speck of chalk.
• In A.D. 1765, the first billiards room was built in England. Played there was One-Pocket, which was a table with one pocket and four balls.
It turns out that spending time playing pool can be a good teaching tool for mathematics.
“Pool is geometry, physics and calculus,” said Melissa Little, of Denver, who is the world’s sixth ranked professional women’s player.
Little has helped show groups of between 10 and 50 students from area school districts, including Denver, Cherry Creek and Jefferson County, how pool relates to math.
“We do a credited school program where kids actually get math credit,” Little said. “When I go to the schools, they’ll tell me what they are working on whether its geometry, physics or calculus, and then the teacher and I get together and come up with some kind of lesson for them.
“The kids come from all over the metro area and are usually high school and middle school students. I also did a lot of things with the Boys and Girls clubs. I even did a couple classes for the University of Colorado.”
Little educates students on how math principles can help a pool shot.
“As far as geometry goes, that would be the angles, the different angles for shots,” Little said. “If you have spin, that would be physics and when you have speed and spin, that creates calculus. Of course, there is probability and that is statistics.
“It’s hands on. I’ll teach them. I’ll show them, give them instructions and I might set up different shots for them to try. Depending on what we are working on, I print out some sheets and they will tell me which shots have an acute angle and I’ll quiz them at the end. They get extra credit if they get them all right. So there really is a whole curriculum that we could do.”
The pool halls donate the time for the school excursions.
“It’s really about having fun,” Little said. “You bring kids into a pool room and they are like, ‘wow this is really cool’ and then they actually understand math a little better.
“I don’t get paid. It’s like a contribution back to the game.”
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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