Stick Shift. 5 tips on doing the hustle

As if club-hopping weren’t sport enough, many chic night spots are inviting their patrons to put down their drinks and chalk up their cue sticks. At N.Y.C.’s trendy Hudson hotel, a baroque pool table graces the Library Bar where Tom Cruise, Will Smith and Paul McCartney have all racked ’em up. In Miami Beach’s Club 320, site of Puff Daddy’s birthday party and hangout of Tori Spelling, Vince Vaughn and Rod Stewart, the second-floor cue rack attracts plenty of VIPs. And in Las Vegas, the Hard Rock Hotel’s pool table has been seeing more celebrity action (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and friends) than the blackjack one. Soon L.A. royalty will have their own hip place to play. When the West Coast outpost of New York’s Moomba opens this month, it will feature a downstairs lounge with–you guessed it–a pool table. Says owner Jeff Gossett, hanging out in the low-ceilinged space “will remind people of growing up in the seventies when everyone had basement game rooms.” But it’s not just Yanks into bank shots. Across the Atlantic, the craze for baize has hit London’s posh Sanderson hotel, where you might even spot local Elizabeth Hurley. “I love playing pool although I’m quite a bad player,” says the star, who brought Brendan Fraser to his knees while sinking a few balls in Bedazzled. “For some reason, I’m way better after two glasses of wine. Make that three and I’m terrible again.” But then, it’s not how you play the game, but where (and with whom) you’re playing it.

5  TIPS ON DOING THE HUSTLE

1. Find out if others are ahead of you, and wait your turn.

2. To see if your cue stick is straight, roll it on the table (a warped stick will roll bumpily).

3. After each shot, gently twist the chalk against the stick’s tip.

4. Move quietly out of sight when it’s your opponent’s turn.

5. Get the lingo down pat. A few terms to help you pass:

barrage: a series of made shots

digging a hole: amateurishly grinding chalk against the stick

icing: psyching out a player

giving no air: not giving opponents a chance to play

rail bird: an annoying spectator

sharking: distracting a player

sweat this: watch the action

the table is leaking: when too many balls go in on a break

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