But there are still a few things that can spoil a game quickly. The highest on the list is a shark. Almost everyone knows how to shoot pool, but there isn’t much of a difference between a capable player and a lucky beginner. Watch out for the girl who says she’s only played once – “at her uncle’s house” – and then proceeds to sink two balls off a combination shot in her second turn. These people should stick to their own kind – the pasty-faced Velvet drinkers who lurk at the far edge of the bar and speak to their wristwatches.
The next thing to look out for is bad equipment. It’s no big thing if a cue is a bit warped or a ball faintly scarred, but there are some things to look out for. Always put your chosen cue in the center of the table and roll it a bit. If the tip flips all over the place you’ve chosen a very warped cue that will make the game frustrating, so pick another. Check the table to make sure it isn’t uneven. If you go into a busy pool hall and find one table unoccupied when the others have people lined up to play, it’s either reserved or the table is bad and everyone but you knows it.
Finally, you have location. The following list, while by no means complete, covers most of the city. We list the price per hour when available, but there is often a surcharge for more than two players. Reserving a table is important, especially on the weekends, so use the phone numbers provided or expect to wait.
Pill Pool Picks:
Malá Strana, Šatlava, Saska 3 (P1), This place is Malá Strana’s secret weapon and deserves to be famous on the merits of the pirate mural alone (see picture). 60 kč/hr, don’t bother calling, they won’t pick up.
Narodni Trida, Café Louvre, Narodni 20 (P1), Despite being as snooty as the day is long, the Louvre has all the sophistication of a Brett Easton Ellis novel. 100kc/hr, 02/ 249 309 49
Národní Třída, DBC (above Laser Game), Národni 25 (P1), Cheap beer, a discreet location and Merle Haggard on the radio equals an afternoon well-spent. 90 kč/hr, 02/ 210 852 11.
Nusle, Sport Restaurant at the Podolí swimming complex, Podolská 74 (P4), Try to hold your cue steady while watching the women’s diving team warm up. 45-60 kč/hr (depending on how good your Czech is), no phone and closes at 9.
Palmovka, The Blue Point, Zenklová 68/10 (P8), Spacious, comfortable and friendly, Blue Point’s decent Czech menu and 6 clean tables make it worth the trek. 60 kč/hr, 02/ 663 167 53 (or reserve online at: www.bluepoint.cz)
Haje, Galaxie Multiplex, Arkalycká 4 (P10), The place not to be seen, Galaxie is what you’d expect from a muti-screen cinema complex, but the tables are good and you can catch a movie afterwards. 60 kč/hr, 02/ 679 106 14
Vinohrady, Harlequin, Vinohradská 25 (P2). Legend has it that the folks who own this old hajnovka (a place for dancing lessons in the old days) dug a secret tunnel to the UKDZ on Náměstí Míru two years ago, which serves as a smuggling route for something or other. 10 well-kept tables and a healthy supply of herna machines keep business hopping upstairs too though, and if you’re serious about the game, this is the place to bring your daddy’s cue. 80 kč/hr, half price until 6 pm. 02/ 242 172 40.
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