Once a legend of Sydney’s murky underbelly, The Shark meets us today as a high-flying ad-man and painter. But it wasn’t so long ago that he was lurking about in Chinatown pool halls, canvassing the room for his next victim.
“There used to be this pool hall called Wembley’s in Chinatown. It was a weird place. Two floors underground and always busy,” The Shark says. “I’d wake up in the morning, have a coffee and then go play pool from 9am until God knows when,” he says. “I lost a lot of money early on. A lot of people did,” says The Shark. “I thought I was shit-hot. But losing money forces you to learn quickly.”
Over a few drinks – and a few losses too – at the pool table, we ask The Shark to share his tips for success with us. “I’ve been out of the game for years now, so I suppose that’s alright,” he says. Perhaps it’s time to bring back the office pool comp?
1. Loosen Up
You’ve probably heard alcohol referred to as a social lubricant before, but it can also help to get the cobwebs out at the snooker table. Like speed-dating – or meeting the in-laws – you play your best pool when you’re relaxed and confident, and a pint of beer is one of the oldest means to that end.
According to The Shark, just one beer will give you an edge, and if you’ve stuck around a pool table long enough there’s no doubt you’ve heard the sentiment before. But it’s all about striking a balance for The Shark – you still need to have your wits about you. “I call it the twilight zone,” he says.
And it’s not just The Shark that reckons you play better with a bit of liquid courage. The World Anti-Doping Agency prohibits alcohol as a performance enhancing drug for only six sports: archery (duh!), driving (obviously!), shooting (no shit!), golf, darts and billiards.
2. Right Place, Right Time
Form and technique are everything, and The Shark’s seen every kooky combo going. “There’s no trick to this one,” he says. “Keep it simple and make sure you’re comfortable.” Again, like dating or meeting the in-laws.
“You wanna get down and dirty, so you’re eye level with the balls” The Shark says. By this he means bend your knees, poke out your butt and keep your back straight. “Always have your chin on the cue and face the table front on. Oh, and look halfway between the white ball and the object ball (the one you want to hit).”
“And wait until the white ball’s stopped moving to take your shot. You’d be surprised how many people try to shoot a moving target.”
3. Trust Your Gut
Tuning out self-doubt is crucial to sinking the black ball in good time. “Angles mean nothing,” says The Shark. “It’s all confidence. Your brain already knows the angles. You can walk; you can throw. Physics isn’t your problem: everything else is.”
The Shark recommends planning your shot before you approach the table, and sticking with it once you’re set. According to The Shark, one of the biggest mistakes players make is trying to reset their approach after they’re in position. “If you try to correct it, you’ll probably overdo it,” says The Shark.
“Never second guess your shit. It was always the first one.”
As for the final word on etiquette around Sydney rules vs. Melbourne rules, The Shark weighs in with the code of the underworld. “It’s all bullshit. Anything goes unless you sink the black ball,” he says. “No two-shot, and no ball-in-hand: it’s way too much of an advantage,” says The Shark.
“And if someone’s playing dirty, don’t play them again.”
WHERE TO PLAY (BUT JUST FOR FUN GUYS)
Arms Bar at The Newport