Shooting pool the popular choice around the Valley

February 11, 2002|By RICHARD MYERS

Sports Editor

Rack 'em up.

Pool reigns supreme in the Imperial Valley, while the game of darts continues to make headway as the choice of sports enthusiasts looking to pass the time.

"People are more serious about playing darts," said Denise Morris as she tended bar at the Esquire in downtown El Centro.

That's why there aren't as many dart throwers as pool players, because pool is more a social activity. Friends get together to have some fun and relax by playing pool, she noted.


Dart throwers, meanwhile, are competitive, Morris said. In fact, there are dart leagues throughout the Valley, with competition on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

"There are even leagues in Ocotillo and Seeley," Morris said.

There are no pool leagues. But that hasn't stopped people from playing pool or billiards.

"People play a lot of pool in here," said Erma Taylor as she relaxed at a table at Erma's Place in El Centro. "The pool tables are always busy here.

"We get some dart throwers, but not a lot," she added.

"We get a lot more dart throwers," said June Williams, talking about the Drifters Saloon in Imperial as she chatted with Taylor. "People used to play a lot of pool there, but now they play darts more."

Workers at the Blue Melon Sports Bar in El Centro agree with Taylor that pool is the preferred choice of sport.

"It's rare that we get dart throwers in here," said the Blue Melon's Luisa Alcantar. "It was really packed for pool here last night but there were only two people throwing darts."

People like to play pool at the Blue Melon, bartender Albert Hensley said, because the tables are brand new. Sometimes people line up to play pool. "We never have any lines at the dart boards, though."

Those who do come in to throw darts at the Blue Melon are basically there to practice, Hensley added.

The Esquire's Morris knows a little something about that herself.

"I just started throwing darts this year," she said, "and I love it."

It's a really competitive sport, she said, adding, "We're constantly practicing, practicing, practicing."

Maybe dart throwers practice more at home than they do in bars.

Carlos Weir of Brawley Family Billiards pointed out it's a lot cheaper to have a dart board in one's home than a pool table. So maybe people go out to shoot a rack and stay home to shoot darts.

Whatever they do, Weir noted his business caters to a nice mix of pool players and dart throwers.

"I was really surprised at the number of dart throwers there are," Weir said. "I just never really thought that many people would like playing darts."

In 1997 Weir started with just one dart board. Now he has five soft-tip boards and three steel-tip boards.

He noted there are more than a dozen dart league teams that play Tuesdays and more than a dozen more that play Thursdays in the Valley.

"They are a lot of fun and very well-organized," Weir said.

While there are no pool leagues in the Valley, there are a lot of pool tournaments that draw good crowds.

Weir also likes to stage dart tournaments.

"People of all ages play darts," he said, but because most of the dart games take place in bars, it keeps youngsters from throwing.

Brawley's Family Billiards does cater to persons of all ages, including children. Weir noted one of its most popular dart tournaments is one that teams an adult with a child.

"We basically run them for the kids," he said. "The kids love it and so do their parents."

While pool is popular and darts is catching on, the interest pales in comparison to yesteryear.

"Fifteen or 20 years ago there were a lot of players," said Scott Jackson as he sat in The Office in El Centro, "both pool and darts.

"The bar-hopping days are gone now though," Jackson continued. "Cigarettes (and no smoking ordinances) have seen to that.

"Places used to be hopping then," he added.

Maybe someday in the future they might be again, with dart throwers taking their place right alongside pool shooters.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles