When he’s having a good round, Asher Le can stand over the billiards table and point to the hole where he will sink each ball. But a momentary loss of focus can cost him the hoped-for shot.
“It’s very challenging at first—you’re hitting one round object to another round object and trying to pocket it,” says Le (CAS’17), president of the BU Billiards Club, who started playing the game when he was 10. “I’ve learned making balls is the easy part; controlling everything else is the hard part.”
As Le rattles off the “everything else,” it becomes clear just how challenging the game really is: it’s all about anticipating the right shots, knowing where the cue ball will land on the next shot, controlling the speed of the cue ball and how hard you hit it, avoiding hitting other balls.
Billiards—an umbrella term for cue sports, which include pool—is a game that many think they can play, but to be really good requires accuracy, mathematical thinking, and yes, some measure of luck. The BU Billiards Club teaches how to strategize and play the classic game.
The student-led group, comprising mostly beginner and intermediate players, meets every Friday in the George Sherman Union’s BU Central for three hours of practice. On any given week, 30 to 50 students turn out to play different games on three tables: scotch doubles, where players alternate each turn, eight-ball, the traditional form most people think of when they think of the game, and nine-ball, where you try to sink the balls in ascending numerical order.
Along with teammate Barry Wu (ENG’18), Le created the Massachusetts Intercollegiate Billiards League last year. Students at member schools—BU, Harvard, Northeastern, and Wentworth Institute of Technology—play biweekly matches against one another, both on campus and off.
In March, Billiards Club members traveled to the famous Steinway Cafe & Billiards pool hall in Queens, N.Y., to learn from one of the game’s greats, Earl Strickland, considered one of the best nine-ball players in the country. “I played him once when I was 14,” Le says. “I was beating up on him, but then he started whipping out his pro moves, stuck me behind balls, and turned it on.”
That match transformed the way Le approaches the game, making him change his strategy to be more defensive. Billiards, he says, is often compared to chess and golf, because thinking ahead to the next move is the only way to win. “Anyone can go up and try to make balls, but if you’d don’t think ahead, you are stuck and you can’t make a move,” he says. “You end up missing and compromising and then losing the match.”
For more information about the BU Billiards Club, email Asher Le at firstname.lastname@example.org.