Underground Games of Skill

At last – I have found a tiny corner of Stockholm where they play proper pool. None of your rubbish rules where you can pick up the white ball and put it anywhere on the table that you want (shiver…) or where you can touch another colour ball before your own, or even that blasphemous European rule where you can…I can barely bring myself to say it…where you can move the white ball an inch out from the cushion if it ends up there!

Figure 1: Harald demonstrates proper pool

No, all this nonsense is now just a faded memory, because O’ Connells Irish bar in Gamla Stan (the Old Town) has a proper, full-sized, small-pocket English table. It is also located in a moody stone dungeon, which is a plus for the aesthetes among us. And they have a list of rules on the wall displaying – thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster – the proper rules of pool (“proper” meaning, of course, the ones I grew up with).

However I think I am justified in calling them the “proper” rules as they treat the position of the balls as absolute. Wherever the balls stop, that’s how you play them, and all other rules respect this point. As it bloody well should be.

As well as this, O’ Connells must be the only Irish bar in Stockholm where, instead of Guinness, they serve Beamish. Beamish, for the squeamish Swedes among my readership, is basically the same thick, frothy, engine-oil substance as Guinness. And, of course, they even have Salt and Vinegar chips, a prerequisite for any Irish bar.

I played twice, and lost both times, but that didn’t matter as the game was conducted with the usual politeness and ceremony integral to games in pubs. Lots of nods and grunts and strange phrases uttered at the correct time with a brisk handshake at the end. And other pool traditions were also recognised, such as the one where, if playing against attractive women, you try to give them long shots so they lean over the table a lot. Hey, I didn’t invent it, I’m just reporting on it, that’s all.

Wow – I got through the whole article without a single pun about “balls” – I must be losing it…

And speaking of losing it: I am slated to host the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival here at Swedish Extravaganza on September 24.


This carnival concerns itself with archaeology and anthropology, be it socio-cultural, bio-physical or linguistic. If anybody has any articles in this area they would like to include (even other people’s articles or from online press), please comment here or send me a mail without a second’s hesitation! Because I really have no idea what I am doing…

The mail you will be needing is: mrPaddyK[a.t]gmail[d.o.t]com

/ paddy


10 thoughts on “Underground Games of Skill

  1. I do love me some pool even though I’m rubbish at it. Sounds like Swedish people don’t quite understand how the game is supposed to work… where’s the skill if you can move the cue ball and hit any other ball in the process of your shot?

  2. I don´t think I could handle a cue, it´s so long and scary. In the early eightys I played darts with a Bass in my left but playing at the local pub was way more easy than the competition thing, when it got serious I was totally unable to hit bull´s eye and then came the restrictions, no beer thank you very much. A friend of mine was a fantastic player, even abroad, but the lack of beer was fatal so he, and loads of others, used beta-adrenergic receptor-blockings instead. I tried once but it felt likeI couldn´t get enough of oxygen in my lungs, everybody told me to take it easy but I am a quick and fast person and didn´t fancy moving in slowmotion.

  3. 029: Well its true, your balls are pretty funny…

    earthpal: Thanks, I’ll have a gander.

    Alex Foster: Exactly! The game should be painfully difficult and only then will the skill be important!

    Blackout: Cool, I didn’t realise there was doping in the world of darts. I must look into this more!

  4. I suppose many of the players had a doctors certificat…heartdiseases or gallopping nerves, who knows. This was more than 20 years ago, perhaps an extraordinary fast evolution did sort out all the beer-and betablock prefering players :-)
    But I doubt.

  5. I thought beer was a performance enhancing drug in pub games. I certainly always play both pool and darts better after a couple (and during a couple more). Or maybe I just don’t care about losing so much!!

  6. Yes, two to three beer is definitely “the zone” for pool. I will attest that my stick aims better when I have some juice in me, hahaha. But if you’re drinking more than that and playing darts… I’m thinkin’ that somebody is going to lose an eye. I’m just guessing. But then again, without fun things like drunken darting/piloting/skydiving, how could Charles Darwin have made a living?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s