But I keep in mind my oldtime rule that tournaments aren't the real test of pool. The real test is not what the prize money is—it most always isn't very much—but how much money from your own pocket is on the game. It separates the men from the hustlers.
And now, looking back on it all, I'm not so sure I would make a real good millionaire. I mean, I have got a little old house in my home town and an old Cadillac I drive around in and a suitcase and a sturdy, shiny tuxedo and a pool cue with a $2.50 gold piece in the handle. I lack about two feet of having enough room to keep a pool table in my house—but old St. Elmo's is just 44 miles down the road, and everybody there knows me. Nobody hustles me and I don't hustle nobody in return.
For years now colleges have been trying to get me to play exhibitions, and people have been asking me to teach them how to play the game. And for years now I have been insisting that you can't just haul off and teach anybody to shoot pool. You have got to feel it inside your bones and play it a lot. But there is one thing I can do, and I'm going to do it.
I am going to assume right now that maybe you already play the game a little bit (I can't start with beginners; a beginner's got to be about 13 years old in a pair of raggedy old knickers). Then I will tell you what to do and maybe the best way to do it to improve your game, what to look for and the one, big key to the whole thing.
Now, I don't promise to turn you into an overnight shark. And especially not a hustler. Because, sure enough, you are going to hustle someone, and they are going to stumble up to that table all splayfooted like a blind cripple, and then they are going to shoot your eyes out and maybe leave you with just enough bus fare to get out of town.
But do like I say and maybe someday soon someone is going to say to you, "You kin really play this here game." And you will wait for them to maybe get some money up. And if they do....
Oh, Lordy, you're on your own.
Now for some serious shooting. But remember: this here thing is a cue, not a club—so hold on it gently and make a bridge you can work with. My Old Basic is best, the bridge for most everything—breaks, English, cutting and all. I put my little finger out like a brace and plant my hand squarely. A High Bridge is the one you'll use next most often. It's for close quarters. Just curl up your thumb and make a saddle for the cue, let your index finger become the bracer. Everybody can do the Rail Bridge, but the Fingertip, to keep from fouling, and the Masse, to curl the ball, are tough. The secret is to stand steady and never lean on your hand. If you miss, you should always blame the chalk.
"By the way, it sure can't hurt nothing to wear a tine ring on your little finger. Mine is tooled gold with three rubies. Folks get to watching that shiny old ring, and they can't learn your secret."