Friday, May 24, 2013

A London Bar Billiards Pub Crawl

Report from a journey to five London pubs to play the classic game of Bar Billiards.

On Saturday 18th of May Kevin ‘Booze N Cues’ Moseley led an increasingly merry band of semi-pro Minigolfers on a tour of five pubs to play the fine pub sport of Bar Billiards.

Travelling in from Bath, Newcastle, Luton, Manchester and other parts of London the intrepid group of amateur Bar Billiarders met at Cutty Sark DLR and headed for the first port of call – the Pelton Arms.

Bar Billiards in London
Kevin 'Booze N Cues' Moseley outside the first stop of the day

The original plan for the day was going to see a pair’s tournament held across the five pubs, but on the day itself it was decided to aim to play three games in each venue with teams drawn at random. This was a great approach as some players had played before, while others hadn't.

Bar Billiards in London
The barmy Bar Billiardists

Lining up at the ‘do’ were:
Brad "Flying Fists" Shepherd
John "Wipe-out" Moore
Kevin "Booze N Cues" Moseley
Oliver "Late Starter" Florence
Seth "Das Nugget" Thomas*
Emily "Trick Shot" Gottfried
Richard "The Black Peg" Gottfried
* nickname later changed to "Trafalgar"

Unable to attend this time around, but with nicknames decided were:
Trevor "Le Champignon Noir" Robertson
Martin "Middlesex Fats" Robertson

Ahead of the day out Booze N Cues had emailed, tweeted and called each of the pubs to ensure the Bar Billiards tables were in working order. The fine chaps at the Bar Billiards Online Forum and the All England Bar Billiards' Association have put together some great lists of where you can find a table (there are about 600 in total in the UK and Channel Islands).

The thoroughly mapped out and timetabled route around London saw us travel around 20 miles by DLR, Train, Tube, Bus and foot. Perhaps next time we’ll schedule in a trip on a ferry too.

The table at the Pelton Arms had recently been serviced and was good to go.

The Pelton Arms was a great pub, was doing a brisk trade and served some large portions of pub grub by the looks of it! But we weren’t interested in eating; our appetite was for Bar Billiards!

Things got off to a shaky start as one of the balls was lodged in the machine. But after getting the man he opened the table up and the ball was released ready for us to play.

The most striking thing about the table was that instead of just having one red ball and seven white balls, the table had seven reds and a lone white! This was very confusing to begin with as it’s normally the red ball that counts double, but at the Pelton Arms it was the white that was the doubler!

Bar Billiards in London
An odd coloured combination of Bar Billiards balls!?

Bar Billiards in London
Richard 'The Black Peg' Gottfried is confused by the number of red balls at the Pelton Arms

In matches from the Pelton Arms:
Richard & Kevin defeated John & Seth 770 to 680 after scoring 200 with the final (white double) ball
Brad & Emily bested Kevin & Seth 720 to 300

From the Pelton Arms we caught a bus to Deptford and the Dog & Bell pub. Located in a housing estate the Dog & Bell was a brilliant boozer, had excellent customer service (some of the best I’ve ever received in a pub) and a great Bar Billiards table.

Heading to the Dog & Bell pub in Deptford
Heading to the Dog & Bell pub in Deptford

Plenty of space was given to the Bar Billiards area (and the eighty year old table) and the spacious public house was a nice spot to spend some time in. Definitely a pub to revisit.

Bar Billiards in London
Booze N Cues in action at the Dog & Bell

In results from the Dog & Bell:
John & Kevin lost to Emily & Seth 0 to 170 after Kevin wiped-out a score of 900 on a very unnecessary shot at the 200-hole!
Richard & John lost to Seth & Kevin 370 to 1,680 with Seth sinking the last white in the 100-hole
Emily & Brad lost to Richard & Seth 0 to 480 after wiping out their score of 150 points

Bar Billiards in London
Brad 'The Flying Fist' Shepherd entertains the crowd

Bar Billiards in London
The Flying Fist shows orf his new titfer while Trick Shot lines up some sort of trick shot

We then headed (by way of a charity shop where Brad got two VHS tapes for 10p in a BOGOF offer) back to Cutty Sark and on to Stratford to catch a bus to the King William the Fourth in Leyton; quite a journey.

Bar Billiards in London
Booze N Cues schools his rivals in potting at the King William the Fourth

At the King William the Fourth the table is free to play if a charity donation is made. We happily paid, grabbed the cues and got cracking on the matches.

The scores on the doors from the King William the Fourth were:
Brad & Richard lost to Kevin & Seth 1,500 to 1,960 in one of the day’s best matches
Emily & Seth lost to John & Kevin 1,140 to 1,290 in the other of the day’s better matches

The table at the King William the Fourth was the best example that we found during the day and played really well.

Next up was a trip to Hackney and the Pembury Tavern. This bustling pub was fairly packed and as soon as we walked in some other customers started playing the Bar Billiards table! This was a first for many of us and so while we waited to play we had a nice sit down and ordered some food and a few more drinks.

With only time for one match at the Pembury Tavern the result was a win for John against Richard in a ‘breakaway’ tournament.

Bar Billiards in London
The Black Peg plays Wipe-out as latecomer Oliver Florence looks on

By the time we reached the King Charles I near Kings Cross the scoring had gone a bit out of the window, so it was a good job we weren't playing a full tournament.

However, results for the first two games were scored and counted and saw Oliver ‘Late Starter’ Florence playing for the first time in the day, having met us at the Pembury Tavern.

Scores from the King Charles I:
Ollie & Seth lost to Brad & John 210 to 570
John & Seth lost to Ollie & Brad 560 to 850
The results of the match between Brad & Richard and Seth & Kevin are lost in the ether...

Brad, Emily and I have played the King Charles I table a number of times, so were prepared for the adverse camber the table offers. It’s also the only table we’ve seen with red baize.

Bar Billiards in London
The merry bunch at the King Charles I

The King Charles I was the end of the line for Bar Billiards but the adventure continued for Brad and Seth as they headed to a Eurovision Song Contest Karaoke House Party on the Caledonian Road. Everyone else headed home. That is except for Kevin who stayed on at the pub to teach some locals the rules of the game, and where he also witnessed a couple getting engaged in a very peculiar fashion!

The best total team score of the day was 1,960 by Kevin & John at the King William IV
The worst total team score of the day (not including zeros from wipe-outs) was shot by Emily& Seth at the Dog & Bell
The highest break of the day was 1,360 set by Kevin at the King William IV
The player with the most wins across the day was Kevin with four victories
The player with the most losses across the day was Seth with five defeats
Seth played in eight games, the highest number of appearances of the group (John also played eight games, including the rebellious breakaway match at the Pembury Tavern)
Ollie only played two full matches

At each of the pubs we visited and played at it was great to see our fellow patrons taking an interest in us playing the game. While we were playing/scoring/reffing a fair few people were asking us about the game, its history and how you play it. I’m not sure we showed them the highest quality play, but I hope we inspired some other people to pop a pound in a table and give it a go.

We’re now looking ahead to another London area Bar Billiards Pub Crawl. If anyone has suggestions for places to go do let me know via the comments below.


Pub Links:
The King Charles I - no website or twitter, but here's a blog post about a previous visit

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