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Hustle & Flow

The International Pool Tour hopes to do for pool what the World Poker Tour did for poker
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
David Caruso, Jan/Feb 2007

(continued from page 2)

Whether or not Sigel can pull it off—or even if Trudeau can—has yet to be proven. Less questionable is the appropriateness of the IPT's first champion. For an organization that wants to erase the seedy aura of its game and remake pool as a kind of clean-cut tabletop version of golf, bookish-looking Thorsten Hohmann is the perfect poster boy. Minutes after he wins, somebody asks the German pro what he plans on doing to celebrate. Not one to swill Cristal in a high-limit blackjack pit, the lean and intense and somewhat robotic Hohmann replies, "I haven't seen the sunlight in a week. What I want to do is go out and see sunshine."

Ten days after he narrowly wins the Venetian event, I catch up with Hohmann at a pool hall on Manhattan's Upper West Side. He's warming up for an invitational tournament at Mohegan Sun Casino and I wonder if he might be seeking out a cash game tonight. "The pool world knows that I don't gamble," he says, sounding like a scold but looking like a shark in pointy-toed boots and a baggy black suit. "If you want to play for $1 or $1 million, it doesn't matter to me. I tell people that we should play for fun."

The consummate pool professional, Hohmann's won prestigious tournaments across Europe and has never had to hustle (he honed his game during a stretch in the military, serving in a sports unit for pool players). He's garnered endorsement deals, adopted a rigorous exercise regimen and developed a confident game that centers around making no mistakes (just one bad shot can destroy your tournament hopes; in a cash game you can always put up more money to try to make up for it). "The game is changing," he says, sipping a tropical fruit smoothie. "Young players are stepping up. Asians and Europeans are dominating the tournaments and viewing it as a sport rather than as a gambling game. And now, without ever gambling, I've made $350,000 at one tournament. Before taxes, I can make $1 million or more this year."

Hohmann's last statement reminds me of something that Mike Sigel said in Las Vegas. At the time, I doubted it. Now, discounting his unrealistically bloated self-touting, I'm inclined to agree. "There was a time when you learned how to play golf, play cards, play pool, and you could make a lot of money," Sigel told me. "Now I can make money by being Mike Sigel, the greatest pool player in the world. I am not interested in all this other stupid stuff. It's ridiculous. You have $100,000 in your pocket one day and the next day you're broke. All gamblers die broke. I walk around looking good and getting paid. So does every top man in his field. The money is no longer in hustling pool. That is over."

Michael Kaplan is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.

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