Pool Hall Tony (above) said to Little Dog “I don’t even know why you’re on my table.” Little Dog replied, “Shut up sucka!” And they both fell out laughing. Watching those two bicker back and forth while sinking incredible shots is more than worth the trip down to the billiards hall. Photo by Jason Lewis
By Jason Lewis
In this sports crazed world it seems like the one that has coolness written all over it has nearly been forgotten by many.
Back in the day the thing to do was hang out at the local pool hall, watching players put the balls in the pockets all night long. But with the younger generations changing their interests, the sport has faded away to some degree. But Sportsman Family Billiards & Restaurant is keeping the sport alive in the heart of Los Angeles’ black community.
The billiard hall has been on Crenshaw blvd, just north of Exposition, since 1994, and before that it was near Western and 98th St. for about 10 years.
This billiard hall has gotten away from the negative stereotypes of the sport and they have created a fun and safe environment.
“We like to get away from pool hall, because pool hall has a certain negative stigma to it,” said Emory Ward, co-owner. “We think of ourselves as a billiards place. We don’t serve liquor here, so it is more of a family oriented vibe. So you can bring your kids, your ladies, there are a lot of couples that come in here and play. It’s probably one of the safest places you can go. Everybody is very comfortable about coming here. It’s just like any other place. You come in and have a good time, you play, you argue a little bit, and you watch the games.”
The billiard hall has 10 flat screen televisions that always has the top NBA, NFL, and college games showing, and the restaurant serves burgers, fries, chicken wings, spaghetti, sandwiches, and salads.
They also host special events, with baby showers becoming surprisingly popular. Ward believes it is because men are starting to attend baby showers, so women use the billiards hall because it gives the men something to do, while the women have most of their activities in the restaurant.
Ward and his wife Leslie, who is the co-owner, have created a friendly environment while giving pool enthusiast a place to play the game that they are passionate about.
“You have your regular guys who come in and talk their stuff and laugh and have a good time, and talk sports all day,” Ward said. “It’s a cool environment to be in.”
Ward says that the game appeals to a lot of people because nearly anybody can play it. Similar to golf, it is not a sport that takes tremendous physical ability, so anybody of any fitness level can participate, and the game is very tense and strategic.
Most of the regulars play one pocket, which is along the lines of playing chess. 9-ball is played often for people who want to play a quicker game. Most couples play the traditional 8-ball.
Pool is a game that can deliver a lot of excitement with just one stroke of the cue stick.
“It’s almost like golf,” Ward said. “You take a Tiger Woods. When he’s teeing off and he swings and hits that ball, and it feels so good coming off that stick, it’s almost the same thing. When you’re at the pool table, and you have the right stroke, and you’re popping those balls in, you’re hooked forever.”
The game has somewhat faded because the younger generation is no longer a part of it.
“Back in the ‘70s and the ‘80s pool was a very hip sport, especially in the urban community,” Ward said. “It was just a cool, urban, hip sport to play and be a part of. But it is not as popular for the newer generation. Kids aren’t outside as much. They are playing video games. Where I’m from we had an arcade and pool tables and so forth where we all hung out. But now these kids can play pool with video games.”
Anybody wanting to learn how to play pool can pay for personal instructions, and if there is a large enough group there will be a class.
The rates are $7 for a table per hour for one player. For two players the price is only $9 per hour, and for 3 or more players it is only $11 per hour. Monday through Thursdays, from 1-5 p.m., the tables are a flat rate of $6 per hour, no matter how many players are playing.
At those prices, Ward says it’s a pretty easy date.
There are monthly tournaments, and groups such as motorcycle clubs hold tournaments there. Ward is in the process of signing a deal with the American Pool Association (APA) to host leagues and tournaments.
The restaurant has theme nights. Mondays are comedy, Tuesdays karaoke, Wednesdays game night (board games), and Fridays open mic night.
The billiard hall is located at 3617 Crenshaw Blvd, and they can be reached at (323) 733-9615. Parking is in the rear.