Whether you’re a pool shark, a mark, or a stakehorse, Brooklyn’s pool halls are the best place to play a couple rounds. The stereotypes of the past — think Minnesota Fats playing in haze of cigarette smoke and spilled beer — are gone, replaced by people that may not know the rules, but are having fun.
It’s still the same game of geometry, concentration, angles, and good aim in a dimly lit place, but now, billiards’ reputation has a clean slate.
“Thirty years ago, my dad never let me go into pool halls alone,” said Ross Banfield, who runs the largest amateur pool league in Brooklyn. “Now, it’s my full-time job.”
Banfield spends almost every night of the year pushing a cue across felt somewhere in Brooklyn. Through his the American Poolplayers Association, with its 1,500 members, Banfield has played on every respectable (and, let’s face it, unrespectable) table from Greenpoint to Gravesend.
With his help, The Brooklyn Paper created a list of the six best places to pot some balls.
Brooklyn has many mega-pool halls, but Platinum Café and Billiards in Sunset Park is the biggest of them all, with thousands of square feet of space, 36 tables, a bar, a full kitchen, and a roof deck.
But Platinum also offers that bastardization of good ol’ American pool: snooker. That’s the high-class British cousin of billiards, featuring 15 red balls, six balls of different colors and a very specific order for potting them all. (It’s a fun game — if you’re feeling Cockney.)
“We are the biggest hall in Brooklyn, that’s all we have to say,” said James Lee, a manager. “If you’re British, American, or a Brooklynite, this place is for you.”
Platinum Café and Billiards [225 47th St. near Third Avenue in Sunset Park, (718) 439-7122]. Rates: Monday–Thursday, $5 per person per hour; Friday–Sunday, $6.
Midwesterners will feel right at home at Status Q Billiards — that rare pool hall that offers both tavern- and regulation-sized tables. Apparently, that’s a big Midwestern thing.
In the case of this Bay Ridge haunt, Status Q has 10 of the regulation nine-foot tables and two seven-footers.
In keeping with the Midwestern bar feel of the place, there are big TVs that play every football game and is the only pool hall in Bay Ridge with a full bar.
“Status Q is a true blend of the two best things in the pool world,” said Mike Trig, a frequent player at the hall. “It is an original pool hall and a sports bar at the same time.”
Status Q Billiards [8218 Third Ave. at 83rd Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 836-0805]. Rates: Noon–8 pm, $8 for one table per hour; 8 pm–closing, $10.
If you’re playing pool to drink, Skyline Billiards is not your place.
This Bensonhurst pool hall is the real deal for real players. Its 17 tables are not only spaced far apart (eliminating the inevitable poke), but a handful are reserved for high-stakes games.
Pros like Liz Ford, Caroline Pao, Mika Immonen, and Mark Vidal are there almost every week — but before you think of taking them on, consider that the professional tables have smaller pockets.
And it takes a full wallet to get into a game with the likes of those pros.
Skyline Billiards [2515 McDonald Ave. between Avenues W and X in Bensonhurst, (718) 627-3407]. Rates: Monday–Thursday, $5.50 per person per hour; Friday–Sunday, $6.50.
Pool skills as beautiful as yours deserve a pretty table.
Gotham City Billiards has it — a decades-old, hand crafted Vitalie that’s so beautiful that no one even wants to play on it.
“People are scared of the table,” said co-owner Isabella Buckley. “You have to be very, very good.”
If you’re not as good, take a regular table — and thanks to Gotham City’s 1,000 instructional books, you can get ready for the big time.
Gotham City Billiards [93 Avenue U between W. Ninth and W. 10th streets in Gravesend, (718) 714-1002]. Rates: Before 6 pm, $4.50 per person per hour; after 6 pm, $5.
You can’t talk about pool in Brooklyn unless you talk about Hall of Fame Billiards.
Not only is it one of the oldest pool halls in the city, but it’s owned by the best female pool player ever — the Brooklyn native, Jean Balukas (see interview).
Sure, Balukas won the US Open at age 13 and later became a five-time Player of the Year — but she got her start right here, playing at age 4 at the 45-year-old pool hall owned by her dad.
Today, Balukas still presides over its 42 pool tables and six Ping Pong tables — and maintains the no booze rule.
Hall of Fame Billiards [505 Ovington Ave. at Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, (718) 921-2694]. Rates: Monday–Thursday, $10 per table per hour. Friday-Sunday, $12.
Ocean’s 8 in Park Slope fully demonstrates the transformation of the sport that followed the release of “The Color of Money” in 1986. As a result of Tom Cruise and Paul Newman shooting rack after rack (and always getting the girl, by the way), pool took a huge leap in popularity that encouraged old-style pool halls to get with the smoke-free times.
At Ocean’s 8, that means a full sports bar, plus 27 pool tables, six Ping Pong tables, three air hockey tables, and two bowling lanes.
This place has a lively social scene even without the table games.
Formerly Brownstone Billiards, owner Frank Violante grew up with pool.
“I remember the real pool hall; if you talked, you were thrown out,” he said. “But the game has changed and we had to change with the times or pack up. You can bring four people here and every one of them can play a different sport, eat, and drink. In golf, they call it a hole-in-one, but here I call it an all-in-one.”
To celebrate the joint’s 20th anniversary, everything from billiards to burgers is 20 percent off on Tuesdays for the rest of the year.
Ocean’s 8 [308 Flatbush Ave. near Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, (718) 857-5555]. Rates: $6 per person per hour.
©2009 Community News Group
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