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Billy will also arm-wrestle for $100 or match up and fight for the same price. "The one that stays out there loses," he says. "It's kind of hard on the clothes, though—skin, too." He'll run you a foot race ("I can do the 100 in 10 flat—that'll beat most bar players") or bet he can outrun any car over 50 feet—manual or automatic shift. "I make them put it in neutral," he says. "I'm in neutral when I'm standing there."
Another one of the little games Billy plays is shooting lines—also known as pitching quarters. "I'm a pretty good line shot," he says. "I won a bar off an old boy in Memphis pitching lines. We were playing shuffleboard and they closed on us. We pitched at the line in the middle of the road. When the traffic got too heavy we had to move over to the ball park. But I pitch a lot better on ground than concrete, where if they hit just right they take off. On ground when it hits it comes back at you thisaway and then bounces back on the same identical spot. We pitched for $100 a pitch for 15 hours at 30 feet, and the last six hours neither of us were over eight inches from the line. I won $1,500 cash and the bar, but I gave it back."
Nonetheless, shuffleboard is Billy's road game. He's played in every state and says that California has the most action, Virginia the least. From 1960 through 1964 Billy averaged 100,000 miles and three or four used cars a year. On a number of these trips he was accompanied by his wife, Jean, who used to ride a Harley 74 and who once managed the Oasis, a beer bar in San Bernardino. "We'd finish one town and then drive 500 miles and play the next," Jean says. "It wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't have to be chauffeur." Jean is regarded as the best woman player in the country and the superior of 98% of the men. Billy and Jean have often teamed up to play partners or doubles. They played head to head only once. Jean won.
Since Eldred Wayne, Billy's 9-year-old son, died of leukemia in 1964, the Mayses have done little traveling. Jean has a job nights printing color film for Econo-Color, and when Billy isn't working for Red Oster he is at his shop in Mesquite, Texas, where he sells and services shuffleboards for the National Shuffleboard Company. Nowadays Billy generally plays once a week at the Silver Seven out by Love Field. "I got to keep in practice," he says, "so if a road boy come to town I can beat him."
On the road Billy prefers hitting the small towns. "Those of 500 population or maybe 1,000, they got that one hero there," he says. "In those little towns the people forces the people to play me. 'We know you can beat him,' they say. 'Play him some.' You hustle the big ones, you're just lucky to run into the right spot." According to legend, the hustler is supposed to let the fish win a few games before jacking up and busting him, but Billy doesn't see it that way. "I always figure," he says, "if you let them get your money you might never get it back. I go in and say I'm the best in the world. If you tell someone that you're the best in something they always know someone who can beat you. And if you can't beat the best in town you might as well not go on the road."
Says Jean, despairingly: "He'll play for $100 a game and come out one ahead so he can have the pure glory of the game. And all those fishes there for 10 and 20 and he can't lose."
Says Billy: "I like to run across good players. When you run across good players you run across good money. If you want to run into a shark, you've got to wade in deep water. You can't be a bit scared of money. This is a game that takes a lot of guts, good steady nerves—they can start a fire behind me, I keep playing, unless I want to watch it—and you got to be brave as hell. Safe playing will beat you every time. People can't figure out why I win so many times. Because I go for it."
Says Jean: "Billy's ego won't let him play safe. It's lost him a few games. That's why many of the players won't play partners with him. He likes to be a showoff. It takes two to win and two to lose, but Billy wants to be the hero and win all the games."
Says Billy: "You go out to win but you always know there's a slight chance of losing. Over the hill there's always the next guy on his board."
The home board is a big advantage in shuffleboard. Each board has its distinctive speed, drifts and tricky spots. "There ain't a board in the world that's perfectly level," Billy says. "The straightest board I ever played on curved a half or three-quarters of an inch. Most curve five or six. Philadelphia boards are so slow it's like ice skating on concrete. A couple of years ago a player told me there was good action at Michael's Bar in Philadelphia. I wanted to play for $100. We played for $20 and I lost five in a row. I never missed a weight, lagged a one or went off the board. They wouldn't shoot at threes; they'd outlag them. The old boy I was playing against lagged 25 straight threes. That board was so slow you could throw them overhand and they wouldn't go nowhere. We done drove 1,000 miles to make all that money, but the player who told us to go there neglected to tell us they'd beat him. I finally captured them, though. I have a 72% chance of winning on a board I've played two days.