Hustler Days: Minnesota Fats, Wimpy Lassiter, Jersey Red, and America's Great Age of Pool

Wimpy Lasiter making a shot

photo courtesy of
Lyons Press

Hustler Days, originally published in 2001, was revised, updated, and republished in 2006.


Hustlers & Players

Minnesota Fats was a brilliant pool player, but he was even better at lying about his past. Wimpy Lassiter, the gentlemen hustler, started playing at age seven and for the rest of his life lived for the rush of victory and high stakes. Violent and determined, Jersey Red made and lost a fortune at the table.

With a passion for the game evident on every page, R. A. Dyer takes us through smoky bars and late nights where a win was just as dangerous as a loss. He captures the game's popularity in the Thirties, its dark days in the Fifties, and its renaissance and apex in the Sixties, fueled by the smashing success of Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason going face-to-face in The Hustler. It was an era that culminated in the legendary, nationally televised tournaments in Little Egypt, Illinois, where Jersey Red and Wimpy Lassiter went at it for hours. And it was an era that ended in perhaps the most dramatic scene in all of pool. Just as Jersey Red beat Wimpy Lassiter in 1969, after a decade of bitter rivalry, the police shut down the tournament. Cameras in tow, they arrested eighty hustlers—including the new champion.

Dyer offers fascinating insight into the game of pool, as it parallels the economy of our country and its trends. Readers will embrace Fats, Wimpy, and Red—the fool, the poor-boy-done-good, and the hustler with a heart of gold—as their stars rise and fall. Complete with a glossary of pool terms, a list of tournaments, and profiles of other top players, this is the definitive book on a time when pool was king and those three player, its princes. From Fat's first showdown—in Brooklyn, with a Texas-style gunslinger in cowboy boots and revolvers—to world championship clashes, Hustler Days is a rollicking portrait of America's most roguish sport.

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