Published on October 15th, 2015 | by Bryce Smith


Playing pool in Tacoma

I don’t know much about pool, yet I play it (terribly) often all throughout the area and wherever else I happen to be.

Playing badly and often

Pool is an obsessive pastime for me; I practice relentlessly with players of all skill levels. The only facet of the game that interests me is playing it. I have performed the cracks, snaps, banks, and massés  innumerable times across a variety of circumstances, angles, table leans, and levels of inebriation.

Dawson's on South Tacoma Way

Dawson’s on South Tacoma Way

I’ve gone through two pool cues: the first, a Helmstetter, and the second, a Dale Perry—both stolen.

I’ve played on pool league teams for three separate bars for a total of five seasons: O’Malleys Pub immediately after turning 21, Dawson’s Bar and Grill for an unanticipated 2-season stint, and The Unicorn via an Anthony’s Restaurant coworker who shared my affinity.

Even so, I’m unaware of who the best player in the country is and seldom watch tournament play on ESPN (but would choose to watch a movie concerning pool every time). I never bother with online videos and have never been in audience for the finals—the matches deciding who continues on to Las Vegas—at Malarkeys.

I’m not certain where my pool fascination comes from—I vaguely remember a pool table in my barbershop growing up—but during the months approaching my 21st birthday, a storm of zeal built and galvanized toward pool as a new fixation.  

Perhaps what I love most about the game, why I cannot go without it, is how it reveals character. You can just tell from the way someone approaches the table whether or not they are sporting a good stick.. I’ll leave the classifying to behavioral specialists, but when I see someone rotate their cue back and forth with the arch of their shoe to “chalk up,” their game will amount to half what their showmanship professes.

For the love of free pool

Pool is a people-watcher’s happy hunting ground, and I am a certifiable character-studying character – who is also a miserly spendthrift. As such, I had to acquire knowledge of where to play for free and on which day.

And here I share my findings, taking into consideration public transportation accessibility and the bar’s specials.

Tacomas free pool

[Parkway Tavern, in admittance that their facilities are to shit, has permanently unlocked their table for all to use freely]

Add snacks and drinks

The pool tables at DOA on 6th Avenue

The pool tables at DOA on 6th Avenue

As a poor pool player, bars that offer weekly specials will keep me coming back and giving up my hard earned cash:

  • Malarkeys’ Monday offers 50% off burgers and 25% off drinks.
  • The Loose Wheel charges “Happy Hour” prices from 9-close on Sundays: (I’ll get well/beer etc. prices).
  • The facilities and atmosphere of the Swiss, Monday through Thursday, vary in appeal; afternoons are reminiscent of your best mate’s garage and evenings offer a plethora of attractions—all of which are posted here on their calendar.
  • The competition’s worth the wait at Slappy’s on Thursdays and Sundays. Put your name up on the board, be mindful of everyone’s cues and cases as you do, order a brew (no liquor sold), and prepare a good stick for your match.
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays you’ll find Darrell at The Unicorn Sports Bar (King 5’s Best Bartender of 2013 winner). Aside from the laurels, he is just a damn good cat. Catch him on the right night and he may even play a game or two with you – and he gives a tough game.

I could detail each and every one of these places withholding not an idiosyncrasy,but I’d much rather you find them for yourselves.

If you have the slightest interest in pool, peruse this list because opportunities abound to play freely, improve technique, and meet amicable adversaries through the course of it.

If there are any “free pool” specials I’ve missed, add it in the comments below and—as a future commitment—I look forward to checking it out. Get on the town and go play pool, Tacomans.

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About the Author

Intrepid and ambitious, Bryce Smith is a Tacoma writer and actor with an insatiable interest in all varieties of experience.

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