Definitions

money player

Hustling

[huhs-uhl]
Hustling is the deceptive act of disguising one's skill in a sport or game with the intent of luring someone of probably lesser skill into gambling (or gambling for higher than current stakes) with the hustler, as a form of confidence trick. It is most commonly associated with pool (and to an extent other billiards-family games), but also can be performed with regard to other sports and gambling activities. Hustlers may also engage in "" – distracting, disheartening, enraging or even threatening their opponents, to throw them off. Hustlers are thus often called "pool sharks" (compare "card shark"). Professional and semi-pro hustlers sometimes work with a "" — a person who provides the money for the hustler to bet with (and who may assist in the hustling) — in exchange for a substantial portion of all winnings. Another form of hustling (often engaged in by the same hustlers who use the skill-disguising technique) is challenging (swindle targets) to bet on trick shots that seem near-impossible but at which the hustler is exceptionally skilled.

Pool hustling techniques

Pool hustlers use deception and misdirection in order to win cash from inexperienced players (or skilled players inexperienced with the world of hustling). A skilled hustler:

  • Will usually play with a low-quality "house" cue stick provided by the pool hall, or an unadorned but high-quality personal cue that looks like one, known as a "" (or, with the nascence of local competitive league play in recent years, may play with a flashy-looking but self-evidently low-end personal cue, to give the impression that the hustler is a beginner league player)
  • Will typically play a game or two for "fun" or for low bets (a beer or equivalent amount of cash, for example) in order to check out the opponent and give the impression that money can easily be won, often losing on purpose (known as "" or "") – with the intent of winning a much larger wager later against a predictably overconfident opponent
  • Will pocket some difficult and impressive shots or make surprisingly secure safety shots (ones crucial for winning), while missing many simple ones, thus making early victories appear to be sheer luck (a variant being the theatrical almost-making of shots that inexperienced players may think of as crucial mistakes, but which really give away very little advantage)
  • May pretend to be intoxicated, unintelligent, or otherwise impaired (that is, until it is time to run the table or make a game-winning shot)
  • When betting on trick shots, may intentionally miss the first or several times and lose a small amount, then raise the bet to an amount well beyond the loss and succeed at the well-practiced feat

Many of these ploys can easily be mistaken for the honest faults of a less-than-exceptional player. The engendered doubt and uncertainty is what allows hustling to succeed, with the "faults" being dropped when a significant amount of money is at stake.

In popular culture

Pool hustling was the subject of very well-received films such as The Hustler (1961) and The Color of Money (1986) (both adapted from earlier novels, see "Books", below), and a few less-acclaimed pictures (see "Films", below). It was also the principal subject of episodes of the television programs The Steve Harvey Show, Drake and Josh and the The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Notable real-life hustlers

Notable books about and/or by hustlers

  • The Hustler (1959), a novel by Walter Tevis, ISBN 0-380008-60-2, ISBN 1-568490-44-5, ISBN 1-560254-73-4
  • The Color of Money (1984), the sequel by Walter Tevis, ISBN 0-446323-53-5, ISBN 0-44634-419-2, ISBN 0-349101-50-7, ISBN 1-568496-89-3, ISBN 1-560254-85-8
  • McGoorty: A Billiard Hustler's Life, also published as McGoorty: A Pool Room Hustler (1984/2003), nonfiction by Robert Byrne and Danny McGoorty, ISBN 0-806509-25-2; ISBN 1-894963-12-1, ISBN 0-767916-31-X
  • Playing off the Rail: A Pool Hustler's Journey (1996), nonfiction by David McCumber, ISBN 0-679423-74-5, ISBN 0-517307-10-3, ISBN 0-380-72923-7
  • Hustler Days: Minnesota Fats, Wimpy Lassiter, Jersey Red, and America's Great Age of Pool (2003), nonfiction by R.A. Dyer, ISBN 1-592281-04-4, ISBN 1-592286-46-1
  • Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (1978), a novel by William J. Kennedy, ISBN 0-670166-67-7, ISBN 0-140063-40-4 (audio-book: ISBN 1-578151-87-2)
  • Cornbread Red: Pool's Greatest Money Player (1995), nonfiction by Bob Henning, ISBN 1-887956-34-4

Notable films about hustlers and hustling

Notable fictional hustlers

  • "Minnesota Fats" in The Hustler (played by Jackie Gleason in the film version) – the smooth character whose moniker Wanderone (above) lifted after publication of Tevis's novel
  • "Edward 'Fast Eddie' Felson" in The Hustler and The Color of Money (played by Paul Newman in the film version)
  • "Vincent (Vince) Lauria" in The Color of Money (played by Tom Cruise in the film version)
  • "Grady Seasons", said to be "the best money player in the world", in The Color of Money (played by McCready [above] in the film version)
  • "Johnny Doyle" (played by Mars Callahan) and "Brad" (played by Ricky Schroder) in Poolhall Junkies.
  • "'Cue Ball' Carl" (played by Ving Rhames) and "Jericho Hudson" (played by Freddie Prinze, Jr.) in Shooting Gallery

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