Fats with Straight Talk

Minnesota Fats

Probably the best known pool player on earth is Rudolph Wanderone “AKA” Minnesota Fats”. His feats are legendary whether real or imagined. He has done more to increase interest in the pool game than any other person on earth.

There probably isn’t a charity he hasn’t helped. Most of his time now a days is spent helping others who are less fortunate.

We got a chance to sit down and get some straight answers from this Legendary talker at the Shoot-out on the Boardwalk at the Caesars Boardwalk Regency. And here’s what he had to say:

NBN: Pool has come a long way since the Hustler hasn’t it? 

Fats: Back in the late 1920’s there were 5,500 pool rooms in New York City alone. In 1930 they closed 5,000 of them. It went downhill from there. In 1960, the World Championship at the Waldorf Astoria the 1st prize was $100.00. There were three tournaments a year; The World Straight Pool, The World 3-Cushion, and Freddie Whalen’s in California. Look at them now.

NBN: What do you think of the new game they are using for TV, 7-Ball?

Fats: It’s out of this world if it’s played right. I think they need to change some of the rules though.

NBN: Like what?

Fats: Picking the side. If you want it to be really fair, flip for choice of side, before the balls are broke. That way nobody’s got the edge.

NBN: How about some winning tips for playing 7-ball?

Fats: You must break the balls well. If you don’t, you’re deader than a mackerel.

NBN: How do you set up the break? What ball do you shoot at?

Fats: The head ball (one-ball) just to the right or left of center. You hit 3/4 of the whole ball.

NBN: How about the cue ball, where do you set it?

Fats: Two inches to the right or left of the spot. If you don’t make a ball, you move it more to the right or left 1/4 of an inch or so at a time. Tonight when Allen Hopkins and I were playing Willie and Steve, he never made a ball on the break. But he didn’t move the white rock over either. If it don’t work, you gotta shift it around.

NBN: Where do you stroke the cue ball?

Fats: You hit whitey dead center or just a touch below. This pops the whitey out to the center of the table. You know who really breaks the balls well is U. J. Puckett. He pops that ball dead center between the side pockets and makes it sit, every time.

NBN: When the opponent breaks, how do you determine which side of the table to take for pocketing the 7-ball?

Fats: That’s decided for ya, you take the side the 7-ball is closest to.

NBN: Now that we’ve talked about the new game, what is your favorite game?

Fats: I like them all. I’ve played them all. Three cushion, pool, snooker, everything. I lived in all kinds of neighborhoods; Jewish, Polish, German, Italian, you name it and I’ve lived there. And in each one they play a different game. New York, it’s all straight pool, below Washington D.C., it’s 9-ball, etc. 8-Ball is the most widely played game in the world. I used to play lots of snooker, but one day Joe Stone told me that if I continued it, it would ruin my stroke for pool and 3-Cushion, so I quit.

NBN: Do you ever practice between TV matches?

Fats: Never hit a ball.

NBN: Why not?

Fats: I never did practice. I used to play long sessions and it keeps you in stroke. Today nobody plays the long sessions. That was one of my strong points. I could play for days and never get tired.

This article originally appeared in the January 1984 issue of the National Billiard News and is reprinted with permission.