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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 understand.

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 A-list celebrity!

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.

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