Billiards trick shot master Massey shows his repertoire
With the balls racked on a table Saturday afternoon at the Brass Rail Bar and Grill, John Carroll drew his pink-trimmed cue stick back, then quickly struck the white cue ball to start a game of 8-ball.
But unlike most games played at the Brass Rail, the break was the only shot the Grand Junction pool player took.
The rest of the game, he watched as his opponent methodically knocked in ball after ball until the game was over.
“If I broke and made one, I might have stood a chance, but it was all over after that,” Carroll said.
Carroll’s opponent on the felt wasn’t just anybody.
He was facing world renowned billiards player Mike Massey, who was at the bar showing his trick shots and later opened the table to all comers.
Massey, 64, is as well known as it gets when it comes to billiards.
Since he started shooting pool at age 13, billiards has taken Massey all over the world.
He’s won 23 major championships, traveled more than 3 million miles, visited 40 countries and in 2005 was inducted into the Billiards Congress of America Hall of Fame.
His resume includes appearances on national television, including ESPN’s “Trick Shot Magic” series and “Live with Regis and Kelly.”
He’s been in movies with the likes of Johnny Cash, contributed commentary for the DVD release of “The Hustler” and in 2003 released his book “Mike Massey’s World of Trick Shots” with Phillip Capelle.
“When I first started playing, it’s just like I knew what I was doing,” Massey said. “I could see the angles and everything.”
As a teenager, he hustled pool throughout the United States, living a life of drinking and gambling, but stopped in his 20s after a religious experience.
He settled down with a full-time job, but kept playing. He took up trick shooting on top of the usual 8-ball and 9-ball games.
“I had a table at home and it was like (I had) visions — all these shots started coming to me that I didn’t even believe were possible,” Massey said.
He worked on shots and developed skills that impressed some of the sport’s biggest names. At one point he was hired to help design and set up shots for a video made by Rudolf “Minnesota Fats” Wanderone.
“I got on a table and I started doing all these shots that they couldn’t even believe, even Minnesota Fats, Steve Mizerak, all the top players then, they were amazed at what I was doing,” he said.
In the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s, he competed in numerous tournaments nationally and internationally.
He won the World Artistic Pool Championship in 2002 and 2003, and the Trick Shot Magic title in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004.
Now Massey spends most of his time making appearances for the American Poolplayers Association but also contributes to Gospel Trick Shot Ministries, which uses the sport to help spread a religious message.
These days, he prefers exhibitions to playing in tournaments.
“You see what happened here — everybody’s smiling, having a good time,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about, is making people happy. There’s a lot of problems in this world and it’s good to see people laughing at times and bring a little joy here and there.”
One of his shots Saturday he called “Parting the Red Sea.”
The nine-ball shot involves one strike of the cue ball, but sends eight balls in different directions as the ninth rolls down the middle into the pocket.
“When I do a show, I do a lot of shots that are skillful where I have to have a good shot ... or (do) something with the cue ball, but a lot of setup shots are basically how you place the ball,” he said.
Another shot was a variation on the “Boot Shot,” which involved Grand Junction resident Derek Buford, who volunteered his hat for the trick.
Buford stood about 10 feet from the edge of the table and held his black baseball cap at ankle height. Massey made the cue ball jump off the table into Buford’s hat.
Buford wasn’t surprised.
“I guess I just expected him to make it,” Buford said. “I’ve watched him on TV before. He doesn’t miss very often.”