View Full Version : Hustler Days - Book review - a little long
Brian in VA
12-22-2003, 08:12 AM
Good morning all!
A good friend of mine gave me a copy of the new book Hustler Days by R.A. Dyer. Finished it over the weekend and have a few thoughts and opinions.
My initial impression is that it's a good book although I wouldn't call it great. For a guy that was once nominated for a Pulitzer, I expected better. The stories, although colorful, are a bit of a rehash from other articles and books over the years so those of you that are pool history buffs may be disappointed.
One unique point is that the author, quotes a sociologist's study pointing out that the "gambling days and hustler mentality" may have sprung from the Great Depression driving out-of-work men into looking for something else to do or some other way to make a living. Additionally, this phenomenon is driven by men looking for some way to make a connection with other men and show who is more powerful when most had their power (job or livelihood) taken away. The author then connects the dots to say that the pool binge of the 60's was driven by America's desire to snap out of the same old / same old state of mind and live on the edge, at least once in a while.
I, like many of you, detest the seedy history of our great game and believe that it is, to some degree, responsible for the current state of the game. I guess reading this book falls under the "those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it" category. Reading it may make you take a different look at how things in pool have gotten to where they are and, I hope, change some behaviors of yourself or others if you feel the need is there. (I'm really trying hard not to preach or cast stones here. It's caused me to look at myself, too.)
If you are a pool history buff, this book is probably a good one to add to your collection. It was useful for me to see Fats, Wimpy and Jersey Red come alive, if only for a few minutes.
Total grade - C+ / B- (If misspellings were eliminated I might have bumped this up. Are you telling me that a publishing house doesn't have spellcheck?!)
FWIW - Brian in VA
P.S. Happy holidays to all my CCB friends! Hope Santa brings you the magic stroke device you wish for and the spirit of the season lands on you and your family!
12-22-2003, 09:35 AM
Actually I stumbled across my copy in Barnes & Noble right on the front display as you walk in. I thought the book was OK but 'Playing off the Rail' was much better.
12-22-2003, 09:43 AM
"I, like many of you, detest the seedy history of our great game and believe that it is, to some degree, responsible for the current state of the game. I guess reading this book falls under the "those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it"
I would have to disagree. Although the game may have evolved, I would say, if not for the interesting, gunfighter and gambling type of history that appealed to the public, and still does. The current state of the game "Would" be different, it would be nonexistent. I personally don't detest, (a very strong word by the way), the, idea of two players matching up and testing their skills. Quite the opposite, I find it to be the most interesting aspect of the game. Tournaments are one thing, but nothing like the thrill of seeing great players match up in a sort of symbolic fight to the death. I sat for twenty hours and watched a grudge match, of course quite a bit of cash as well, between Earl Strickland and Mike Sigel. There is no tapes of this kind of stuff, but it doesn't get any better then that.
Brian in VA
12-22-2003, 10:23 AM
I was unclear about what I detest. It's not the matching up and playing to see who's the best and having a wager on that to make it interesting. I've done that, in golf to a much greater degree but also on the pool table. It's the hustling I detest (and I chose that word for a reason). Playing less than your best in an effort to get a spot or bigger spot and then suddenly "finding your game" and taking all the cash. That to me is swindling someone, pure and simple, and is no better than having someone else get my attention while you pick my pocket. I understand that it's not the same as picking a pocket because I enter into the contest willingly. But I also enter it with my best game, prepared to match up to your best game. Thoughts?
Brian in VA
12-22-2003, 11:34 AM
The reason hustling works, is simply that the mark has become convinced he is in fact the favorite, (The hustler himself), and is going to make some easy money. His loss is a direct result of his own greed and willingness to take advantage of another player. There are no innocent parties just a surprised loser.
Amen! Also in a "fair" game when someone is winning good I rarely see them keep offering more weight just so the guy can get even. Gambling is about the money, period. If it wasn't then why the need to gamble.
Brian in VA
12-22-2003, 12:46 PM
Interesting. So what you're saying then is that the "mark" also thinks of himself as a "hustler" and is going to put one over on the actual hustler. That makes both of them appear to be unscrupulous and, as a result, the loser is just as culpable for anything that happens.
That sounds like a great group of people to hang out with. I think you've answered my question on why pool won't become a mainstream sport without an awful lot of work, PR and behavioral changes.
Thanks for the discussion.
Brian in VA
12-22-2003, 01:15 PM
Are you saying, when you play someone, if you see you are the better player, you either quit or offer them a spot?
Brian in VA
12-22-2003, 03:05 PM
I'm saying I bring my best game whenever I match up with someone as I expect them to do. We agree to whatever weight will be given, stakes and we play. If I don't think I'm getting enough weight I may ask for more. I expect my opponent to do the same. While I don't typically offer more weight, I have done so when it was clear the original wasn't enough to make it a fair match. I admit this has only happened a few times over the years and never with strangers. I don't recall ever having quit unless the opponent said they wanted to keep playing but wanted credit. If they want to gamble with money they don't have, I can't enable that behavior.
Are you saying that not offering more weight when you see you're the better player would be a form of hustling? I'm not getting the connection. My contention is that hustling, not playing your full speed in order to get a lock, is a form of cheating.
Brian in VA
12-22-2003, 03:34 PM
Not at all, no more then going to the race track and letting everyone to take a look under your hood. Or handing over your play book to the other team. Would you suggest in a poker game to make a raise and then tell everyone what you have. Don't you sometimes check to the next guy you know has a good hand hoping he will raise you, ( trying to draw him into making a bigger pot) then you raise back feeling you in fact have the winning hand. It is a form gamesmanship. It is not at all cheating. Anyone who doesn't understand it, should not be gambling in the first place. I am just trying to be honest.
12-22-2003, 05:06 PM
It would seem your book review took a back seat to your
opinion about hustlers/hustling in the pool world.
I will give you your due, I say I may not agree with your
bumper sticker, but I will defend to death your right to stick it.
I believe that pool is the art of matching up and some times it is business deals - this can lead to hustling. - So be it. believe in the full scope of the world. And not some limited mealy mouth deal.
I do not like people making rules/laws inhibiting people from hustling, if it is in sales or business or pool.
A fish does not get caught if it keeps it mouth shut.
As you may guess I love the seedy History of pool. Or politics - some of the greatest hustlers of all time.
ONE POCKET GHOST
12-22-2003, 07:36 PM
Popcorn, your explanations and defining of 'hustling' and 'hustlers' as relates to gambling are absolutely, totally correct, and very well said ( i particularly liked your poker analogy )....Let me just add a bit: In gambling, possessing and retaining ones honor and sportsmanship, while still trying to win and relieve your opponent of some/all of his cash ^_^ is a matter of degree: Giving loose racks, stealing one of your opponents balls when playing one pocket, sharking - these types of behaviors step over the line and are dead wrong --- Conversely, not giving full disclosure on exactly how good you play, saying you haven't played in 2 months when actually you played the night before, saying that you're trying out a new shaft and will probably be playing bad because of it, walking in a pool hall wearing a fake ups drivers uniform ^_^ - these are examples of the acceptable lies/shading of the truth, attributed to the likeable scoundrel, and do not cross over the line - The key is, in pool and most aspects of life, knowing where the line is.....And just to name a couple of examples of acceptable 'scoundrel behavior' in other sports: stealing signs in baseball, the maniacal waving of towels at college basketball games to try to distract an opposing player when he's shooting a free throw, etc. etc.............O.P.Ghost
Ethics is an unknown quantity in some circles.
Brian in VA
12-22-2003, 08:34 PM
Excellent analogy with poker. So then not playing up to speed in order to get a better spot is a form of bluffing in reverse. Never thought of it that way. Also not sure I agree. The ability to bluff is a skill to be learned in poker in order to be successful, along with card memory and people management. If I follow you, pool is not just about the stroke, pocketing balls and playing position. It's also about negotiating and bluffing. Actually, that's wagering on pool, something completely outside the game itself. Okay, I buy it. But I think it has something to do with holding our game back and not becoming as big as it could be. Just my opinion, I could be wrong.
Again, thanks for the discussion. Very enlightening.
Brian in VA
The matching up thing is a completly different thing and outside the game itself but it gets so connected to the game that it's hard to find the line between. I don't like it, I'm not good at it..don't want to be, it makes me upset..pisses me off, messes up my head and gives me a stomach ache so I don't do it. I just play pool.
The new BD came yesterday and George Fels really likes this book..devoted his entire column to it. I have it, loaned it to a friend, who returned it half-read and with a poor review so I havn't read it yet.
12-23-2003, 05:51 AM
IMO the only thing about the hustling, gamesmanship and gambling that is holding pool back is actually the US pool industry itself -- hard to believe that the very industry that stands to gain the most has largely been putting a near fatal squeeze on the best practitioners (the professional players) of the very sport those corporations make their money from. Those corporate tightwads either use the Music Man mentality as an excuse not to promote the pros, or they are still caught up in that kind of narrow thinking -- ala Brunswick. /ccboard/images/graemlins/frown.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/frown.gif
I've said it before, but repeat it again here -- the two big surges of pool popularity over the last 50 years can be directly attibuted to the two hit movies that featured the very sort of hustling and gambling that you denigrate. It's the larger good guy/bad guy battles -- and of course the psychological bad impulse/good impulse internal battles invlolving the main characters -- that we identify with that make the great theatre that draws us in. For the life of me I can't understand why the BCA acts like a bunch of nuns. /ccboard/images/graemlins/confused.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/confused.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/confused.gif
Now along comes televised poker, making a huge splash and drawing away pool players all over the country -- and tell me, poker isn't about gambling, careful deception about how strong you are, and of course psychological warfare -- not to mention the occassional bankrupcy, divorce, knife fights etc. Those friggin BCA 'nits' better wake up soon, or they WILL be stuck selling card tables, poker chips and playing cards themselves...
--> my apologies to nuns /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif
--> and huge kudos to the companies like Diamond, Joss, Simonis, etc that buck the Brunswick trend of starving the pros, by being VERY supportive
12-23-2003, 07:23 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote ONE POCKET GHOST:</font><hr> Conversely, not giving full disclosure on exactly how good you play, saying you haven't played in 2 months when actually you played the night before, saying that you're trying out a new shaft and will probably be playing bad because of it, walking in a pool hall wearing a fake ups drivers uniform ^_^ - these are examples of the acceptable lies/shading of the truth, attributed to the likeable scoundrel, and do not cross over the line - The key is, in pool and most aspects of life, knowing where the line is.....And just to name a couple of examples of acceptable 'scoundrel behavior' in other sports: stealing signs in baseball, the maniacal waving of towels at college basketball games to try to distract an opposing player when he's shooting a free throw, etc. etc.............O.P.Ghost <hr /></blockquote>
I have done that, said I am shooting bad, am real tired or just getting over the flu /ccboard/images/graemlins/smirk.gif, havent been playing much when it was an exaggeration at best.
LOL. I have not gambled but I think I did something like this to a player once. She was 2 sl above me in APa AND was a real B**** and I wanted to beat her in the worst way. This was a matchup. In between shooting, and we were shooting fairly even, with her shooting slightly better, I asked her if she had noticed that I had been shooting off handed the whole time (I was shooting lots of leftie shots). This rattled her confidence,she started watching me,getting off concentration on her own game. She crumpled and I won.
I have at times said after they did their shooting, 'I guess you dont like to shoot off handed or I guess you dont like to climb all over the table, ' after they shot with their bridge. Sometimes even an apparent compliment like I like your grip, how do you do that or the worst one of all asking them how they breathe /ccboard/images/graemlins/smirk.gif can do the trick. Then sometimes, they start thinking,lose focus or they get intimidated, and once I can get them thinking instead of just playing, often I would win.
Underhanded, yeah, but I did this for fun in matchups. Any comments in league play were done right before the match or in between games so I could not be called a shark. It becomes a mind thing and I am not so sure this is much different than some of the tactics talked about here. /ccboard/images/graemlins/tongue.gif
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