COLUMBIA — Bill Gholson leaned on the billiard table, looked up and noticed the intricate brickwork on the inside of Billiards on Broadway.
“Boy, this is a weird building, but I like it,” he said.
Darrell Swafford, a 61-year-old from Ferguson, had been knocked out of the Friday afternoon pool tournament, part of the 2008 Missouri State Senior Games. He sat against the wall with his wife, Jan, watching the remaining men.
“It’s our song, honey,” he said. “This is my kind of music. Etta James. You can play to this, you can concentrate to it.”
Gholson and Swafford participated in the Senior Games pool tournament. It was the first time the business has hosted the event. Jazz played through the speakers in a building boasting a classic brick-wall interior and wood-panel flooring.
The seniors were looking at a new tournament compared to previous years. It used to be held at Rack ‘n’ Roll in Columbia, but the business closed in 2007, so Senior Games coordinator Ross Stott contacted Billiards on Broadway owner Les Wagner about a new location. Once it was determined that Billiards would be the place, Wagner and Stott began discussing what form of pool should be played for the Senior Games. They chose 9-ball as the game, a switch from the more common 8-ball that had been played in past years.
Wagner and Stott thought 9-ball would best fit the Senior Games because it is a game that will speed up match-play, which can be critical if there is a large turnout.
The difference in the games is that in 9-ball, only the balls numbered 1-9 are used, and the two competitors take turns hitting each ball sequentially until the 9-ball is pocketed. In 8-ball, all 15 pool balls are used and the balls are divided into the solid and striped colors, with the exception of the black 8-ball. Whoever hits in all of their balls can then shoot the 8-ball as the final step to victory.
Gholson, a 65-year-old from Ironton, doesn’t mind the switch. He said it “doesn’t make any difference really” because the principles of pool are the same: block other people’s shots and make your own.
This year there were only 13 competitors, less than half of last year’s entries. The field was small, but each contestant could choose to buy his way back into the tournament at the same cost as the initial fee.
“Double elimination is better than single elimination, because anybody can have a bad set,” Gholson said.
Swafford of Ferguson was unhappy with the new rules for the 2008 games. He hadn’t practiced 9-ball before the tournament and thought the game was still going to be the traditional 8-ball game he has played for the last six years. Paying parking meters downtown was a problem that he hadn’t experienced with past years either. Swafford is also a smoker, and the citywide smoking ban added to his frustration. Despite this year’s troubles, he already looks forward to next year’s games, though his future attendance “depends on the price of gas.”