: Liz Ford
Playing Without Balls: The Woman's Guide to the Poolroom
If I had a nickel for every time I've heard, "you shoot good for a girl," I'd have enough coins to fill a sock. A sock which I could then use to bludgeon the next person who uttered those words. For 17 years, I have been camped out in the competitive, and mostly male, environment of the poolroom. Granted, if I didn't like the atmosphere, I wouldn't have stuck with the game, but I've had to acquire a certain temperament over the years in order to survive ball-less in the land of balls. These are my top 10 personal tips:
1. Toughen up, Cupcake.
Sadly, skin doesn't thicken on its own. It takes repeated injury to produce a nice, calloused hide. You have chosen a brutal, sometimes heartbreaking, game played by people who don't care about your feelings. It hurts, get used to it.
2. Work on your game.
To a large extent, respect in the poolroom hinges on how well you play. Work hard and let your game speak for itself.
3. Go with your gut.
Trust your instincts when choosing a coach, agreeing to play with someone, or determining whether you are comfortable hanging out in a room. If it makes you feel bad - stay away.
4. Learn to say "no."
It's sad, but a large part of being a woman in the poolroom is learning to say "no." No to dates. No to uninvited lessons. No to strangers asking you to play when you are trying to practice.
5. Learn to say "yes."
There is an upside to being a female player: People are generally more ready to offer you useful information about the game than they are to male players. As long as your gut agrees, be open to help.
6. Keep your sense of humor at the ready.
Most guys in the poolroom have spent the bulk of their lives around other guys and might not know how to act around you. Cut them some slack unless they do something that completely violates your boundaries.
7. Stand up for yourself.
Pool folks spend an inordinate amount of time trying to psychologically one-up each other. Don't let anybody dictate your place in the world or in the poolroom. Live up to your own potential and tell them where they can stick it.
8. Buy an iPod.
It will become your best friend.
9. Don't feel bad about the things you can't do.
Everybody's game has limitations. Don't worry if you can't yet draw your rock the length of the table or break like a cannon. While improving these skills focus on exploiting the things that you do better than other players,
10. Chivalry isn't dead and you don't need to euthanize it.
You are not selling out if you let a guy in the poolroom buy you a drink or open the door for you. Just let the niceties stop there and beat the snot out of him when you play.
Liz Ford is a professional pool player on the WPBA tour and a teacher in New York City. Liz has been playing pool for 15 years and has represented the United States in tournaments around the world. In addition, Liz has appeared on TV nationally as a billiards expert including an episode of "Time Warp" on The Discovery Channel.