The story of Richard Wepner, the greatest pool
player to ever play in England
Richard Wepner, A Legend.
by Nick Bond
_Richard_ _Wep__ner__, a Legend.___
Richard Wepner was a master pool player, a man in a league of his own. He
had won many major titles in his time and frightened some of the worlds
most feared players, incidentally one of those great players is here
today, in London, to challenge Richard. But that match begins later.
He once told me of the time he defended the world championship by winning
the final game on the black, not that the black was a simple pot of
course. His opponent had tucked the white ball between one of his and the
cushion. I remember when Richard was telling me this story; he was doing
all actions and expressing the mood really well, using a nearby pool table
to re-enact the moment precisely how he remembered it. It turned out that
Richard managed to pot that black and win, using 6 cushions to align the
ball in such a way that it clipped the black in.
Richard had many stories like this from his days as a professional, I ve
known the guy for a few weeks now and he still surprises me even to this
day, some of the stories seem unbelievable, but then they seem to fit
because this guy really is a legend and if you met him you would
His skills are not only restricted to the pool table though, he is a dab
hand at snooker. In fact he started off as a professional snooker player,
but as the hype and money poured into the game Richard pulled out. After
all he did not want a life where he is recognised and mobbed every day by
adoring fans. Pool offered a place where he could utilise his skills and
still earn really well without the exposure.
Things, however, were never always good for Richard. I remember one time
when Richard told me and a couple of the guys the time he lost his world
title, in the summer of '96. His father had just past away and Richard
could only remember sitting their in that great arena, thinking about his
dad whilst his opponent won game after game, finally winning the match.
Richard said that he didn't care; something terrible had happened to him,
he didn't really want to know pool anymore, so he stayed away from the
game for a few months. When he did return Richard told us that he went on
such an unbelievable winning streak, notching many wins over big time
players. He recalls that at the time these opponents were feeling the
force of his passion, his passion to succeed as a tribute to his father.
His father was always a big influence on his life. He had inspired Richard
to take up pool in the wake of his mothers death, both would practice for
hours down his father's local pub. I'll never forget the time when Richard
explained the moment when he broke down in a flood of tears, moments after
winning his first mayor title. He recalls a tirade of emotion flowing
through his body triggered by the realization that he had finally made
something with his life, against seemingly all the odds. You see it was
because of the death of his mother and his father finding it hard to get
work, Richard never had the best childhood, now he could look to a life he
always felt he deserved. The world was his oyster.
Richard always maintains that he was unlucky in childhood, he may never
have had the things other children had, or the love. But he says he is not
bitter and never looks back. What does make him angry though is when he is
unlucky on the pool table.
He recalls one time when he was playing in the British final, a few years
back, in front of five hundred spectators, it was late in the evening,
past midnight in fact and the game was balanced, evenly poised, and it had
been long. It was the final black and quite easy for Richard under normal
circumstance, yet he missed.
I'll try and explain how Richard explained to me. You see over a long game
the true talent will always come through and luck will never be on the
side of the weaker player. However on a short match, say a best of 5
games, luck can be on the weaker player's side and the true talent could
be vulnerable to defeat. Well during the British final, Richard had
suffered a dose of horrendous bad luck, he was truly unlucky, he knew it
and the press knew it. This game had a television audience of millions and
they knew it.
Its funny, Richard explained after that it was the one and only time he had
been on television. He was a member of two national pool organisations at
the time and the one he was a member had collapsed, largely because they
could no longer find sponsorship money to run the tournaments.
Consequently all record of his tournament wins had been wiped out; the
rival pool organisation had taken over the tournament circuit.
Apparently they offered Richard a place on the circuit, understandable
since he was the current world champion after all! But he turned them
down; he would never play for them. You see Richard has a great heart and
tremendous loyalty, to this day he is a member of his old organisation and
they still survive, largely because Richard has ploughed in the money to
keep them going on a modest, regional basis.
Richards's pool organisation is doing well, and he has come here to start
it up around here also. Starting in the local pubs he plans to expand and
put pool back on the map as a nationally recognised sport.
Im proud that Richard has asked me to be part of his plan, im not the
greatest pool player. Although I have beaten Richard a few times and won a
tidy sum from him. But I know he is letting me win, he says that. And I
fully understand, he makes me feel good.
He makes everyone feel good, the land lord even allows Richard to have a
tab. Sometimes I pay off the tab as a mark of respect for Richard, and
I'll always buy the man a pint. He is a legend after all. It's a strange
feeling best described as being in the presence of an unrecognisable
So back to the match. His opponent has arrived from up the road, ive never
seen him before, he's a big fella with a shaved head and bulldog looks.
Although I never took notice of pool much before, Richard assures me that
he is one of the top players in the game. I lay down the £500 needed for
the challenge on behalf of Richard. After all it's not Richards's fault
that he lost his bank card last night and the game had been arranged days
ago. I offer him another pint before they begin; it's to be a long affair,
best of 17 games. It's mid Monday morning and the game should go into late
afternoon. Easy money for me Richard stands to make £1000 and has promised
to give me my stake and half his winnings! The game commences.
The game abruptly ends half way through when Richard accuses this guy of
cheating, of course there is no referee, in fact it was just me, the bar
maid and a few of his opponents friends. Of course later Richard assures
me that if there had been a referee he would have noticed. Richard seemed
vague in what the man had supposed to have done. But that is
understandable since Richard had been unlucky to miss a lot of key shots
which meant he was 8-0 down, his frustration had made him incoherent.
The man had swiped the money; it was not much of an argument. The men had
over powered us both, but this is part of the game, Richard later assures
me, you got to take the rough with the smooth.
We both drank into the night. Richard spoke of his past adventures; he also
listened to the small things I had to say. I think it was that night that
we both discovered a close friendship between us, something unbreakable.
Richard assured me that he would return to the glory days and that I would
share the spoils.
Right now though I think he deserves another drink.
Copyright © by Nick Bond
All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.