Some of my fondest childhood memories involve shooting pool in our neighbor Betsy's basement. On rainy days we'd be entertained for hours playing eight ball and re-creating Minnesota Fats and Willie Mosconi trick shots until her mom chased us home.
So it was with much excitement the Sig Other and I met our good friends Ann and Bruce at Pocketeer Billiards & Bar, at the corner of Clinton and Harlem, for a night out that promised to test long-forgotten skills. Under new ownership for about four years now, the site has been a pool hall for more than 30 years. Last year it added a full bar.
With cooler weather, a unique joint like the Pocketeer hits a high note on the Club Watch scale, offering entertainment that's not a live band, blaring music or packed crowd.
The place is expansive with lots of tables – seven smaller "bar" style and 25 regulation. Bartender Jason told us the bar style is the type used by the American Poolplayers Association for competition. Leagues that play at the Pocketeer (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays) use both types. A single, teeny-tiny bumper pool table sits under a Genny Light fixture.
For a basic bar setup, the Pocketeer is well-stocked. On tap are the usual domestic beers – Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Labatt – along with better selections like Yuengling, Rusty Chain, Magic Hat #9, Blue Moon, Murphy's Stout and a Sam Adams Seasonal.
Bottles include the usual domestics plus Flying Bison, Heineken, Red Stripe, Killian's, Guinness, Harp, Magic Hat Blind Faith, a Saranac Pumpkin and Mike's Hard Lemonade selections.
There's a full complement of liquor, and Jason says they can whip up a few unusual treats, like a Huggie Bomb (yes, a Little Hug fruit drink emptied somewhat to accommodate added vodka). For teetotalers, there are the usual fountain drinks plus Boylan's Soda for that retro feel.
The Pocketeer has a great vibe. Young bucks shooting with old guys. Couples out for a night of pool and conversation. Pool cronies going at it – friendly banter and teasing mixed with a few pool stick/air guitar moves.
Pool rates are cheap – $10 an hour for four; $9 for three; $8 for two; $4 for one. All pool time is purchased at the bar. After pouring our drinks, Jason opened a table for us.
Oh, the memories – especially of how mediocre a pool player I really am. C'est la vie! It was pure laughs from the minute we broke each new game of eight ball. We had just as much fun watching the cronies next to us as we did with each other.
A digital jukebox kept the merriment rolling. We novice shooters selected Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Buddy Guy mixed with Muddy Waters. What else but classics for a classic game?
Non-pool players will find plenty to do. Darts, air hockey, video games, football/basketball tosses, foosball, electronic bowling, pinball and skee-ball, or in this case "beer-ball." Patrons racking up 450 points win a free beer; 600-plus wins a pitcher.
Nine flat-screen televisions are scattered around, including seven 52-inchers. The Pocketeer has the NFL Ticket, but always shows the Bills games, and Sabres as well.
If Texas Hold'em is your bag, the Pocketeer hosts tournaments at 7 and 10 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays. Players compete for points throughout the year. The top 40 players will compete for a trip to Vegas and entry into the World Series of Poker. Dart players can compete in quarterly tourneys for cash.
The Bankshot Café serves finger foods, wings, hot dogs, hamburgers and homemade pizza.
Party packages are available. We could envision the place for a get-together.
With early morning plans calling, we reluctantly headed out. Jason waved goodbye as he belted out Johnny Cash.
Sig Other and I left it at two games apiece versus Ann and Bruce. We'll be heading back sooner than later to break the pool balls, and to break the tie.
Pocketeer Billiards & Bar
Where: 2444 Clinton St., West Seneca (822-7665, www.pocketeerbilliardsandbar.com)
Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday (later if there's a crowd), 12:30 to ?10 p.m. Sunday.
The scene: "The Hustler" minus Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. Trendy in an old school way. Dress is casual, pool-friendly couture.
Specials: Monday, half-price pool for two or more. Thursday from 5-6 p.m., discount pool for wheelchair patrons. Thursday Ladies Night, half-off pool for women. Sundays, half-price pool during Bills games, drink specials and a pizza buffet at halftime.
Extras: Ample parking, ATM, photo booth.Special event: "Shooting Pool for a Cure," to benefit Roswell Park, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 10.