Performing on cues

Saturday, June 4, 2005

After almost 50 years of playing pool, 61-year-old Larry "Hambone" Richmond of Advance, Mo., is pretty sure he has the game down. "Hambone" said the members of his pool team in Advance call him the "ace in the hole."

"I even taught some of them how to play," Richmond said.

Richmond's team is one of 102 that started play Friday night in the American Poolplayers Association local team championship tournament.

Teams from throughout Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri will shoot it out today and Sunday at the Arena Building in Cape Girardeau, with the final five teams -- winners of the tournament's five brackets -- winning a berth in the national championship in Las Vegas.

Teams were chosen by winning qualifying tournaments in their home areas.

The game they play is eight-ball, and players are given a skill rating from two to seven. Five players make up a team, and the total skill rating can't exceed 23.

Richmond carries a six rating.

"It takes lots of practice and lots of dedication," Richmond said. "You have to be willing to play."

The tournament was started 17 years ago, when Rick Brown of Cape Girardeau decided to start an APA league in the area.

"It started with six teams in Cape Girardeau," Brown said. "By the next session we had 54 teams."

The local APA franchise has continued to grow, and now boasts a field of 226 teams.

Organizing the billiards league has turned into a family affair for Brown. Now his daughter and son-in-law, Brandi and Matt Bass, take most of the responsibility for overseeing the league.

"It's a full-time job," Brandi Bass said.

Like Brown's family, there are many at the tournament for whom the game is something of a family tradition. Richmond learned how to play from his father.

"My dad was one of the best to ever come out of Advance," he said. "He showed me how to shoot easy."

Jackie Krueger of Murphysboro, Ill., has been playing for years, even though this is the first year she has played in the tournament. She taught her son, Guy, how to play. He's also playing in the tournament.

"He's much better than mom," Krueger said. "He may have got the interest in playing from me, but I didn't teach him how to play."

Friendships have sprung up around the tournament, Bass said, and many of those who come to play also relish the chance to catch up with old friends.

"A lot of these people have been here all 17 years," Bass said. "For some, this is the only time they get to see each other all year long."

And while many have their eyes set on the prize trip to Las Vegas and the national tournament, others just come to have fun.

"It's a great game and a good night out," Krueger said.

The tournament will resume at 9 a.m. today and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Next weekend the nine-ball championships will be held at The Billiard Center in Cape Girardeau.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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