I've always believed that every man born has something that he can do better than anyone in the whole wide world," says Billy Wayne Mays, a 31-year-old Dallas carpenter, his shoelaces untied, a pack of cigarettes rolled into a sleeve of his T shirt, eyes bigger than life back of his glasses. "But not many men ever discover what that something is. I'm lucky. I found the one thing I can do better than anyone. I can shoot hell out of that shuffleboard."
W. G. (Red) Oster, a contractor for whom Mays sometimes works, says, "Billy will climb a tree to tell a lie when he could sit on the ground and tell the truth," but it is generally conceded that he is the finest shuffleboard player going. Some hustlers maintain that the legendary Granville Humphrey, who in 1964 was sentenced to two years for unlawful sale of stimulants and possession of amphetamines, is the best man that ever walked up to a shuffleboard table.
"He went to the penitentiary to play," a hustler was saying the other day.
"He heard there was a table there," said another.
"And they locked the door."
"Granville Humphrey owes me $1,800," says Billy Mays.
Billy doesn't confine himself to shuffleboard action. By his own admission, he's not half bad at the other games hustlers play in the beer bars and cocktail lounges where the customers drink tomato beer and Seven high. As he says: "Any man in the land. Any amount he can count. Any game he can name." This doesn't include pool—which he won't shoot unless he's spotted a ball or two—or cards or dice. "That's gambling," says Billy. "I don't like to gamble. Another man has a pretty good chance of winning. I don't like to play anyone that has a pretty good chance of winning."
Billy considers himself one, two or three in the country in Shuffle Alley, the coin-operated bowling machine played with pucks or weights. "I shot 68 perfect games in a row against this old boy in the Flamingo Club in Houston," he says, "and got beat out of $400. They called him King, and he proved it. But then we went to another machine and I captured him for $1,400."
Billy also says he's right up at the top on the Bowler, the coin-operated bowling machine played with balls. "Bob Miles—they called him Mr. Shuffleboard Himself—bet me $10 I couldn't break 100 with a sack over my head," Billy says. "I had 106 on the fourth frame and a strike working in the fifth." Billy is fifth or sixth in the U.S. in bumper or peg pool and 10th or 12th in chugalugging. However, he admits that in the latter Suicide Ray of El Monte, Calif. is in a class by himself. "He don't drink it," says Billy, "he throws it down. He can't miss. He's got a mouth from ear to ear. He drinks a keg of beer between 8 a.m. and midnight. Draw him a large glass and he'll let you set a shot of whiskey on the bar with your hand four inches away and he'll bet you $100 he'll beat you before you can throw it over your shoulder and set it back down. Then there's Tex. He takes a dime, sets it on a table and blows it in a beer glass. I'll take a little bit of action on that. Bubba, out of Winslow, Ariz., he picks up a four-by-eight-foot table with his teeth and walks around the room with it. He walks off with it. I lost $10 on that, but it was worth it to see it. Tinkerbell sticks a knife in the ceiling and lines up a beer bottle so it'll drop in. He won't do it for less than five or 10, though. He's just a typical hustler. Everyone has some kind of gimmick to promote money on the side."
Billy's is his five trick shuffleboard shots. "Not a player in the world can do all five of them," he says. "Trick shooting is something you can make a little money on when players aren't around or when they won't play no more."