Make us your home page
Instagram

Rack up cheap drinks, quality pool at Clearwater's Crooked Cue

One of my favorite books is Jon Bradshaw's criminally overlooked 1975 masterpiece Fast Company. In it, Bradshaw explores the sometimes seedy but always colorful world of the professional gambler, a vocation that has gained some legitimacy through the popularity of televised poker and the cinematic rendering of a famous blackjack card-counting team's exploits.

In Bradshaw's day, this was the realm of the hustler — fast-talking and even faster-thinking gamblers who used their wits, and sometimes outright cheating, to make a profit off squares in card games, proposition bets or, most famously, pool halls.

While the days of Minnesota Fats and Titanic Thompson are long gone, there remains a gritty mystique associated with that era that can still be found in modern pool halls. If you'd like to bet a round of drinks on a game of 8-ball, you'd better get to practicing, and I know just the place: the Crooked Cue.

This Clearwater pool hall is friendly and doesn't intimidate the novice, but it's got gear serious enough for skilled players — the local APA and CPPA leagues shoot pool there, as well as other amateur leagues.

There are 11 tables at the Crooked Cue, eight 9-foot regulation Gandy tables and three high-end Diamond tables. The Diamonds have slightly tighter pockets, and thus require a little more skill to play on. Either way, these aren't the beat-up, ratty tables you put quarters into at your local dive; these are full-sized, well-maintained tables that you rent by the hour.

This hourly fee — $4 per player, per hour — allows you to really get some work done if you aim to build up your chops, but it's also a good price for you and a friend to get some serious play in. And should you really want to invest in your playing, the Crooked Cue's pro shop sells a variety of professional cues and accessories.

In terms of atmosphere, this is a classic pool hall, if a bit more well-lit and clean than most. The interior is a large and wide open, populated by rows of pool tables, a few high-top tables and little else. Near the entrance is a long bar, and this is where the Crooked Cue has a selling point away from the tables — the drinks here are inexpensive, and the selection isn't bad. The advertised special, which I recommend, is for a pitcher of Cuba Libre for just $8.50. A pitcher!

While pool is undoubtedly the name of the game here, the Crooked Cue also offers a few classic games, such as darts, cribbage and my favorite, backgammon. One of the chapters in Fast Company focuses on Tim Holland, widely considered the world's best backgammon player in the '70s, when playing for money was fairly common. Backgammon pros are rarer than pool hustlers these days, but a good game can still be played for drinks among friends.

You aren't likely to find any old-school hustlers at the Crooked Cue, but if you want to hone your game on well-maintained, quality tables in a smoky dive where pool is more than just an afterthought, then this is your place. And if you happen to enjoy a stiff drink or cold beer with your game, then you'll find the Crooked Cue to be a good bet, indeed.

[email protected]

The Crooked Cue

14100 U.S. 19, Clearwater; (727) 539-7665 thecrookedcue.us.

The vibe: A classic pool hall and bar, with cheap drinks and quality equipment.

Booze: Beer, $2-5; wine, $4; liquor, $2.75-6. Happy hour is noon to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, with $2 Miller and Coors bottles, $1.50 Yuengling drafts and $4 per pool player until 6 p.m.

Specialty: Everything is extremely affordable here, so it really boils down to what you're in the mood for. Still, it's hard to beat the Cuba Libre special: a pitcher (!) of 4 shots of Bacardi Gold rum topped off with Coca-Cola and served in a single vessel with two straws for a mere $8.50. That's a paltry $2.13 per serving, and it prevents you from having to go back to the bar after each drink, so you can focus on your game instead.

Hours: Noon to 2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 3 a.m. Friday-Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday.

Rack up cheap drinks, quality pool at Clearwater's Crooked Cue 07/25/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 25, 2013 12:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Fast-paced 'Seven Brides' is pure entertainment at Show Palace

    Stage

    Try not to blink if you go see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, playing through Nov. 12 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson. If you close your eyes even for a second, you may miss something terrific in this fast-paced, lively and delightfully entertaining show.

    "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" opens Oct. 14 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson. [The LightBox]
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 17

    Events

    Insane Clown Posse: The hip-hop duo is known for their supernatural and horror themed lyrics. 6 p.m., State Theatre, 687 Central Avenue North, St. Petersburg. $25. (727) 895-3045.

    The Insane Clown Posse attends the 2003 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena December 10, 2003 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 14th annual ceremony airs live tonight on FOX 8:00-10:00 PM ET Live/PT. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
  3. Restaurant review: Noble Crust's second location is a boon to booming Wesley Chapel

    Food & Dining

    WESLEY CHAPEL

    Wesley Chapel is said to be one of the fastest growing areas in the country, due to the perfect cocktail of available and affordable land, broad but upwardly mobile demographics and easy access to other parts of Tampa Bay. And while malls and brick-and-mortar retail centers have taken a big hit in …

    The pizzas could use some refining at this location. Crusts struggled to stay crisp under toppings that were too heavy.
  4. This recipe for Meatless Meatballs and Spaghetti Squash is perfect for Meatless Monday

    Cooking

    This meal is so healthy, I am not even sure how it's so delicious. It's a perfect plate for Meatless Monday: filling yet fun, with "meatballs" made out of crushed nuts and strands of spaghetti squash. The whole thing freezes surprisingly well, too, just note that the squash will be a little watery upon defrost.

    Meatless Meatballs and Spaghetti Squash. Photos by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  5. Reviews: Beck's 'Colors,' St. Vincent's 'Masseduction' thrive in vibrant, alternative pop worlds

    Music & Concerts

    Flash back, if you will, to Aug. 25, 2015, and one of the more unusual stops on Taylor Swift's 1989 Tour. That night in Los Angeles, Swift brought out guests St. Vincent and Beck to perform the latter's single Dreams.

    St. Vincent attends the Special Escape Room Experience created by Spotify for St Vincent and their biggest fans to celebrate forthcoming album "Masseduction" on Oct. 4 in New York City.  (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Spotify)