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Rack ’em up: Bristol’s bustling pub pool culture in pictures

Photography

In this photo essay, the Cable captures the unique spirit of amateur pool at a series of boozers in pockets of the city where the pub sport culture has been alive and well for decades.

“What rules?” Seasoned regular B, who’s been on the table undefeated for hours, puts the question to a nervous newcomer, as he scores off the name of his previous opponent on the chalkboard next to the pool table in the Plough Inn, Easton.

The new player shrugs, before the regulars baffle him with the rules of the house. Two shots don’t carry here, you can move the white ball on a foul, but only to behind the break line. A ball has to touch a cushion on every shot. 

Winner breaks, and B – a longtime player known for dominating the table – is chalking his cue, expressionless, as his next victim racks up. He gives his mate, a cheerful bloke supping a Nigerian-import Guinness, a side glance as if to say, ‘easy prey’.

The Plough is just one of dozens of pubs in pockets of Bristol where pool culture has been alive and well for as long as players can remember. Some regulars, like B, have been playing there for decades.

Whether it’s a tense winner-stays-on match at the Jolly Cobblers in Kingswood, home to the Wednesday night pool league champions, or a drunken game of doubles with friends in the Masonic in Bedminster, there’s a spot for everyone.

The clientele around the table differs from pub to pub – just like pints, some are livelier than others – and so does the quality of the cues. The same goes for the tables themselves – they can’t all be pristine green and freshly brushed.

But that’s all part of it. The shit ones are for practicing chip shots because they’re already ripped up; the good ones for finessing technique, as the balls will actually travel in the direction you mean them to on a quality table.

Photographer Gökçe Yeniev has been capturing the unique spirit of the pub sport, and the spectrum of atmospheres that come with following it across the city from north to south of the river, in black and white. 

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