Ten green felt-topped tables and cue balls constitute the environment for 15 Davis students every Friday night. These students make up the UC Davis Billiards Club.
The Billiards Club, established two years ago, brings together pool players to compete against each other and other schools in tournaments. They get together every Friday night for an intra-club tournament in the Memorial Union games area.
“Our biggest goal is to learn it, to learn the physics behind the game and not just hit balls, but understand what’s going on,” said Anhad Singh, a UC Davis graduate student in computer science and co-president of the club.
Singh helped to start the club, along with other UC Davis students, after noticing many regular billiards players at the MU. But the idea wasn’t finalized until they found out that Sacramento State has a billiards team.
“We thought that we should go ahead with this because we had a school to play against and we had many people in our school who were really fond of the game,” Singh said.
Other than the goal to bring together fellow pool players and delve into the finer details of billiards, the club also strives to turn what is considered a “hustler’s” game into a competitive sport. They do this with the many tournaments they compete in, and are continuing to expand their competition.
“If we can reach out to other schools, that would be really satisfying,” Singh said. “It’s just that we want numbers.”
The fact that billiards has such a widespread fan base around the world is another incentive to increase club involvement. Singh, originally from India, describes it as a sport with global appeal.
“There is not a country where you can go and not find a pool table,” Singh said.
Clinton Ngan, a junior music major playing on the club team for his second year, proved this to be true. Originally from Hong Kong, Ngan played a game similar to pool, called “snooker.”
As a first-year student, Ngan saw the team playing, saw similarities to snooker and decided to try out. While snooker and billiards are different games, the thinking processes overlap.
“There are a lot of factors you have to put in,” Ngan said. “You have to know where to hit the cue ball for certain spins, which creates different shots. It’s a lot of brainpower and I’m a thinker. I like strategizing.”
While Ngan plays for the strategy of the game, Chris Fullington, the club’s co-president and a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major, said he prefers to play to get his mind off of things.
“I am taking a lot of science courses so sometimes it’s kind of nice to relax and play a game of pool with some close friends, take my mind off of it,” Fullington said.
Fullington used to play with his dad when he was a kid, and after a gap in playing, he rejoined the competitive billiards arena last year.
“At first I wasn’t nearly good enough to keep up with most of these people, but after a while, I made new friends with a lot of them helped me become the player I am today,” Fullington said. “I definitely wouldn’t have gotten this far without them.”
To give back to the club that helped him so much, Fullington and others take Friday nights to coach and give tips to the newer players, such as Daniel Torres, a sophomore biological sciences major who joined this year.
“The people are really friendly and they know the game really well,” Torres said. “Whenever amateurs like me don’t know the rules or techniques, they’ll show us and teach us.”
Along with coaching from other players, Singh and Fullington said that playing and even watching are ways to become a better player. Singh said that this drive to make their players better stems from their biannual tournaments against Sac state.
“Our tournaments with Sac state are going to happen twice every year so we don’t want to come to a point where don’t have any good people,” Singh said. “All of our senior members try and share as much knowledge as we can with newer members because we want to make them good. I have seen so many people who couldn’t hold the cue properly and now they compete at a really high level. You only need love for the game and passion to play. And a little bit of competitiveness doesn’t hurt anyone, as long as it’s healthy.”
To ensure that they continue to improve and maintain their competitive spirit, the team can always be found in the billiards hall in the MU. Gary Hom, student manager of the MU games area, has been working in the MU since the billiards club began.
“They are here every day,” Hom said. “They are here until we close at midnight or 1 a.m. They have breaks to get food, but they come right back to play pool.”
This determination exemplified by the players can be seen in the club’s future as well.
“We have a lot of juniors and new members coming in and they are really passionate,” Singh said. “They spend a lot of time practicing so I see a good future for the club. I know Sac State billiards club is going to be there for a while. So as long as they are here, we are here, and this tournament is going to keep happening twice every year. I think we have a lot of talent, without a shadow of a doubt.”
DEVON BOHART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.