Even by the high standards of PokerStars player lounges, the room we have here in Dublin is pretty special. The reason is simple: this player lounge has a player in it, a real player.
In addition to the video games, basketball hoops and pinball machines, there’s a full size snooker table in the player lounge here, around which is patrolling arguably the best snooker player the world has ever seen.
Stephen Hendry, seven-time world snooker champion, is fulfilling his PokerStars ambassadorial duties here in Dublin–duties that today include teaching a man from Tennessee how to play this most subtle of table games.
“This must be the worst snooker game in the history of snooker,” that man from Tennessee said at one point, waving his stick (we call it a “cue”) around his head after watching his latest attempt at a pot skew somewhat wide of its mark.
The man from Tennessee is, of course, Chris Moneymaker. His spectacular victory in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event has presented Moneymaker with some extraordinary opportunities in the ensuing 14 years, and a personal snooker lesson from Hendry is the latest.
“That’s the easiest pot,” Hendry said at one point, pointing at the middle of three tightly-bunched red balls. “But you can’t get position.”
(In snooker, you need to pot a red ball, then a colour ball, and so it’s not enough just to rattle a ball in. You need to think about the next shot.)
Moneymaker looked at another red ball and said, “Won’t I be able to get the pink after that?”
“If you’re skilful enough to stun it, you can get position on the pink,” a dubious Hendry conceded. Dear reader: Moneymaker was not skilful enough to stun it.
They went back and forth for a while, with Hendry continuing to talk Moneymaker through the basics, and where the game differs from its American cousin pool. “This is definitely a lot more sophisticated,” Moneymaker admitted. He then rolled in a red ball…and watched the white follow it in.
Hendry, who is on a rapid learning curve around the poker tables these days, told Moneymaker that he heard Daniel Negreanu talking about snooker on a recent episode of Poker After Dark.
Canada, as a member of the British Commonwealth, has a bit more of an appetite for snooker than the United States, but the game has clearly not penetrated down to the American south.
But Moneymaker was a willing student, and listened intently to instructions. This was, it should be said, the kind of opportunity that millions of British and Irish snooker fans would gladly have paid thousands of pounds for.
“I’ve got to start getting some points here!” Moneymaker said. But actually it was his opponent who was getting all the breaks, as a red ball bounced randomly around the table before disappearing into the top-right corner pocket.
“So shit counts?” a disgruntled Moneymaker said, learning that the “fluke” was a legitimate point-scoring shot.
“That’s like a bad beat,” Hendry said.
Moneymaker soon wandered off. He was needed elsewhere: namely in the Day 1A field of the €1,000 PokerStars Festival Dublin Main Event. He bought in just as registration closed towards the end of Level 6.
The tables will be turned tonight, when Hendry will sit down to play poker in the media event, alongside Moneymaker and his old snooker rival Ken Doherty.
But Moneymaker was still bigging up his news skills, even as he collected his poker chips. “I think I’m a really good snooker player,” he said. “It just hasn’t come out yet.”
Follow Moneymaker’s progress in the Main Event with hand-by-hand tournament coverage via Poker News.