Before leaving California for Puerto Rico, I did a little homework. I contacted Harold Acosta, president of the Puerto Rican Billiard Federation, to ask his advice on playing billiards on the western coast of Puerto Rico. Harold provided a wealth of information, including recommendations on a couple places that I should visit while on the island. The first place he recommended I check out was Eggy’s Pool Room in Aguadilla, since it is located on State Road 2 only a few miles from where I am working. The second location to check out is La Gran Via de Aguada, located at the intersection of State Roads 416 and 417 in Aguada, several miles south of Aguadilla.
After I arrived in Puerto Rico, one of the first things I did was drive around and check out the locations Harold recommended. I prefer to do scouting runs during my lunch break, as no serious pool player would be caught dead in a pool room during lunch time. Why? Because he probably just got to bed after shooting pool all night! (Notice I said “he”? I use the male gender simply because over 90% of all pool players are male. Why is that? I haven’t the faintest clue. When it comes to pool, males have absolutely no physical or mental advantage over females. It’s a mystery to me, but alas, I digress.) First on my agenda was Eggy’s Pool Room. Eggy’s is a quaint little place on State Road 2. The room was open for business when I arrived, but it was completely empty except for a woman behind the counter. After entering the room and saying, “Hola,” I walked around to check out the equipment. The condition of the tables and house cue sticks will tell you a lot about a room; whether it is a serious players room, or just a place where people like to get drunk and start fights. The room had seven eight-foot coin operated pool tables in good to fair condition and a snack counter with chips, drinks, etc. The lady behind the counter was very nice. Even though she spoke absolutely no English, and I spoke almost no Spanish, we were still able to communicate the key information of interest, such as when they open, when they close, how much the tables cost, and when most people show up to play. As I walked around the room, I paid special attention to the wall decorations. You can learn an awful lot about a place just by looking at what the owners and patrons place on the walls; it indicates what they value. It’s interesting how much information you can pick up. On one wall, I found a huge display board that was filled with pictures of patrons smiling, laughing, hugging, and having a great time. I could tell this place had a good natured clientele, mostly aged 20-35. My synopsis was that this is a great place to meet, greet, and court members of the opposite sex while downing a few cervezas and acting cool with a group of your friends. In my book, this place gets an “A” for socialization and an “F” for serious play. Not my kind of place…LOL!! After wandering around for ten minutes, I said my goodbyes, got back in my car, and peeled out of the parking lot….eeeeerrrrrrrrggggggg! On to my next stop, La Gran Via de Aguada.
La Gran Via de Aguada (I still haven’t deciphered the meaning of the name) is the type of place your mother warned you about. When I pulled into the parking lot, my hands instinctively shot out for the door locks just to make sure they were still engaged. Just take a look at the outside of this place. What is that on the bottom floor anyway, an auto body shop? This place looks like the type of establishment where you rent rooms by the hour. Hummmm… I hate to admit it, but from a pool playing perspective, this place looks promising! I muster up some courage, then jump from the car and quickly bound up the stairway. I’m moving as fast as possible to avoid any potential stray bullets from the neighborhood. After successfully traversing an open doorway, I step into the room and appear to have been transported to some alternate reality. On the inside, the place is actually quite nice. The room has eight eight-foot coin operated pool tables in good condition, and five nine-foot tournament tables also in good condition. There’s even a very large bar area with adequate seating in the back. I make eye contact with a gentleman who is cleaning the floor, but he doesn’t speak any English, and I…well, you know. I pulled out my camera and the gentleman smiled and waved me on. After a quick five minute tour, I’ve discerned that this is a place for serious players. Yes, there are some instances of the standard bad pool room art, but there’s also something of interest on the walls. There are photos of some professional players here, and the bar seating is well designed to allow patrons in the bar to observe matches at the tables. Yes, someone here has a good knowledge and appreciation for the game, and where there is one, there are usually others. Yes, this is the place I want to come back to. I make a move to leave, but decide to stop at the doorway and take one last look. I move my head slowly from side to side, taking in the ambiance. As I make eye contact with the cleaning guy again, I slide my sunglasses down over my eyes, and say in a monotone voice, “I’ll be back!”