Alfredo De Oro

The Alfredo De Oro Bladder Technique

I wrote an essay sometime back in which I listed some of the most popular sharking techniques in history. Somehow I neglected to mention one of my favorites. During the 1936 World Billiards Tournament, when Alfredo De Oro was 71 years old, the Cuban master found himself matched up against the legendary Welker Cochran. Cochran was then at the top of his game.

This is was what Cochran had to say about the encounter:

 “I knew the old man would have to take six piss breaks during the game. I couldn’t complain about it because of his age, and I wasn’t going to let it bother me if he took a lot of time. Halfway through the game he hadn’t asked for permission to leave the table and I started worrying about him. Started worrying about his bladder. After all, he still hadn’t gone to the can. Was he alright? Was he going to go in his pants? Was he in pain trying to hold it back? I got so worried about his bladder I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing. That old man did not take one piss the entire game, and that’s what beat me.”

That anecdote was included in Robert Byrne’s hilarious book, McGoorty: A Poolroom Hustler. If you haven’t read the book, you should do so immediately.  It was also from Bob Byrne that I learned about another great book, The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, by Stephen Potter. I took many of the sharking techniques listed in my earlier post from that book.

Sharking, technically, is different from hustling. A person who sharks uses psychological warfare to distract an opponent. For instance, he might intentionally blow his nose as his opponent is shooting. A hustler employs outright deceit. The most obvious example is the player who intentionally shoots poorly in order to lure the guileless into a bigger bet.

I have never come across any evidence that Alfredo De Oro hustled pool. But it’s not surprising that a man now remembered as one of the greatest in history would resort to sharking (or any other legal tactic) to win.  De Oro (1863-1948)  won more than 30 pocket billiard titles.  That’s more titles than both Willie Mosconi and Ralph Greenleaf. De Oro also held the three-cushion title ten times between 1908 and 1919.

— R.A. Dyer