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Carlo's Table

You haven’t lived !

I remember the first time I went to Las Vegas for the BCA Nationals, more accurately called the BCA North American Eightball Championships, more accurately the BCA Intergalactic Championships.

My team has played in a Dallas off-brand pool league (still BCA sanctioned) called ABL and had been victorious.  It had been a wild tournament, and it came down to a game where we were on the hill, with me shooting.

I ran it out, only making two serious attempts at scratching, but I missed the side pocket by fractions of an inch and the ball stayed up and the 8-ball fell and a trophy and free trip was ours.

Giddy as a schoolgirl with her first bra, we went to the Sahara, two to a room, and began our manly chatter about “taking-it-all!”

We had not yet even seen the playroom, the ballroom filled with coin-ops.  We were the team to take it all!  YEAH!  Look out Las Vegas!  As soon as we send all these doofus pool players home in tears, we’d get around to slapping the poo (and a few grand) out of the Las Vegas gaming industry.  YEAH!

You just have to love the naïve male ego.  It is capable of incredible misfires and story building.

We attacked the bar, told our stories, and called it a night.  We assembled for breakfast, still fuzzy around the brain stems, and made our way to the play area, expecting all the players already there to turn, go silent, murmur to each other, and point “There they are!”  We will strut over, drill a few teams and collect trophies and a barrel of moolaa. 

We came to an abrupt halt just as we started our saunter into the play area and inevitable stardom.  “Holy S**t!” erupted from all our brains as we viewed acres of pool tables and acres of players. 

A teammate's astute observation of “Gee, I wonder if any of them won tournaments, too?” slammed us back to reality. 

They won last year?  They over there won the year before?  He won the Open?  She won Masters?  They all placed top 20?  You mean 1000 players play in the Open?  600 teams?  Geez, our tournament win was over 32 teams and if one guy hadn’t scratched after sinking the winning shot, we wouldn’t be here.  Those 3 guys are pros? 

Uhhh.  Reality check.  Crap.  Champions are EVERYWHERE!

One teammate dropped his cue, twice.  Another ordered a beer at noon and didn’t stop drinking for 3 days.  Another’s voice changed.  Another thought it would be a good time to change his stroke to something he saw in a movie.  Another started talking to the balls in baby talk.

I believe by the time we finished that we had won four matches and lost two matches.  The teams who beat us just blew us off the court in minutes and faded into the night.  The teams we beat made nervous mistakes, just like us, only lots more of them.  To win the tournament we would have had to win 7 or 8 more matches against increasingly skilled and experienced teams.

That was many years ago.  Sitting at the bar, all of us considerably more mature than a few days earlier, we vowed to return and “take it all!” 

In retrospect, you could see in the eyes of some that this was not their cup of tea.  They liked being a big fish in a tiny little pond and did not want to see this big pond ever again.  They would not return, their ego would not permit it.  Any excuse would do.

I’ve been every year since, save one when business kept me away, and I am already making plans for next year.

The tournament moved to bigger facilities at the Riviera years ago, out grew it but rather than lose the business the Riviera doubled the size of its ballroom capacity by adding another one! 

Sheesh!  Warning!  Big Dogs are everywhere!  You want action?  Any game, any amount, it is there.  9-ball races for $1,000?  $10,000?  Barbox 1-pocket for $500 a game?  Somebody will step up and cover it.

Each year they have a Pro event held at the same time.  The Penthouse is set up with 9-footers, and the Pros do their 9-ball thing up there. 

Guess what?  Some of the Pros playing up there were just lil ol players in the BCA tournaments just years earlier.  You know, the ones my team was going to crush and send home in body bags of assorted colors?  If you have never watched a Pro event at a Las Vegas penthouse with stands for spectators, shame on you.

Over the years I’ve had some tournaments where the balls rolled well for me and I and/or my teams did quite well, but nary a 1st place, however.  I have been on teams (different) that have finished 2nd (Masters) and 8th, 12th and 17th in the Open.   

I have also had some tournaments where my tournament draw included pool monsters that did’t have day jobs and lived in pool halls actually having their mail sent there.  As you might expect, they play pretty good.

Now and then I wonder what draws me to the BCA games?  Why do I parcel out my precious vacation time, rent rooms, cars, airline tickets, tournament fees, and place myself at the whim of that slut called Lady Luck? 

Why do I mount a coin-op table, jamming tons of coins into its innards, to jam pool balls into relatively sloppy pockets?  Why do I match up with players who haven’t missed any shot in weeks?  

Why do I step to the table and place myself in high-pressure status (and maybe blow out a brain cell or trillion) and breed butterflies by the millions?

Because you haven’t lived (as a pool player) until you have been to the BCA Nationals and walked into a room with two hundred plus tables, thousands of players and dozens of vendors.

Fair young damsels (and a few lean young bucks) hawk chances to win cues.  Every bit of pool paraphernalia known to mankind is available, in all sizes, shapes and colors.  Tournaments (many) and mini-tournaments (for those who can’t get enough or were knocked from the big tournaments) and side games are everywhere, 24 hours a day.  Amazing.

Steps away are gaming tables, craps is my favorite, where you convert your hard earned money into colored play money.  Chips.  Non-money.  Then you flail away at the game or games of your choice betting wisely like the “How-To” books or betting purely on gut feel and relying on your Lucky Socks to carry the day.  When done, you convert the baubles back into US Currency and see how you did.

If in normal life you walk around with $40 on you.  In Las Vegas, that’s $400.  Do you carry $200 in normal life?  Then you’ll probable have $1,000 or $1,500 based on how Lady Luck got out of bed that afternoon (she sleeps late.)

According to Bank of America (far and away the main bank of Las Vegas) over 95% of ALL of the $100 bills printed are in Las Vegas.  In Dallas, if you pay a coffee shop tab with a $100 bill, they might give you a dirty look and have to go to the office for change. 

In Las Vegas they refer to a C-Note as the “Las Vegas Ten Dollar Bill.”  I bought a hot dog from a hot-dog-stan-on-wheels and they broke a Franklin without a whimper.  The Las Vegas cash drawer had extra slots for $50s and $100s.

Now let me summarize.  First I assume you are a pool player, you certainly wouldn’t have made it this far in my ramblings without being one.  Ok, so far so good.

Check list for BCA Nationals:

1.  A complete set of tournaments – Open, Masters, Trophy, Scotch, Individuals, teams, artistic, target, etc.

2.  More tourneys for those losing on (1) above.

3.  All the pool playing your body and mind can handle for as long as you can handle it.

4.  Vendors with all kind of neat pool poop.  You could easily go there without any clothing and live from clothing bought at various vendors.  You might want to bring undies and a toothbrush, however.  Cues range from $25 to $25,000.

5.  “People watching” in Las Vegas is rich.  Add 9000 pool players and it is hysterical.  And ALL female pool players look like this!

6.        Gaming of all sorts is close at hand.

7.        It is fully operational 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

8.        Shows are great.

9.        Lady Luck is going to go home with somebody, maybe even ugly ol’ you!  You can bet on it!

10.     Enough food, drink, and music to quench even the biggest appetites.

11.     Other forms of sin abound.

12.     Rooms and airfare are cheap or at least reasonable.

13.     High Roller?  Life is good in Las Vegas if you are a HR. 

14.     Low Roller?  Nickel slots are everywhere, and a 99-cent hot dog is a foot long!  Life is good in Las Vegas if you are a LR. 

15.     No-Roller?  Are you SURE you are a pool player?  Ok, ok, sit back and watch life go by, and wave at it as it flies by.


You haven’t lived until you have attacked Las Vegas and the BCA North American Eightball Championships.  Be sure to stop up and watch the Pros play. 

After depression sets in comparing their skill level to yours and after suffering a week’s abuse on the pool tables, don’t throw that cue in the trash!  Send it to me, Carlo.  I’ll make sure it gets to a worthy soul.  I promise!

And if you run out of $$$, pawnshops are everywhere.

See you next year!


Nobody paid me any money to put these links here, I just thought they deserved it.  Tell them Carlo sent you, maybe they'll buy me a beer.

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