In The Money

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Tulsan Carrie Williams can make the shot. A single mother with two jobs, Williams finds time to pursue her passion: pool. Highly competitive, she plays to win, and she plays against the best of the best. Williams recently placed 33rd out of 64 players in the Women’s Professional Billiards U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship, held at Tulsa’s River Spirit Casino.

An operations service manager at Level 3 Telecommunications, Williams services the top one percent of the company’s clients. On the felt she plays the top one percent of the game’s competitors. She excels at both.

Unlike many of her competitors, this 30-year-old pool shark has only been in the game for 10 years. And she found her way into the sport in an unusual way. After a bad break-up with a boyfriend, she wandered around Tulsa looking for a distraction. She landed at the now defunct Tulsa Billiard Palace, where she spent 12 hours watching professional pool players play game after game. It was love at first sight.

“I walked in, and I’d never picked up a pool cue, didn’t even know much about the game and that night there were two guys playing and gambling. I was mesmerized by it. I sat there and watched for 12 hours. I’d never seen anything like it,” says Williams.

“My first goal, which sounds silly now, was to be able to beat all the guys at the bar by the time I was 21.”

Enthralled by the game, Williams kept coming back. Even with her busy schedule, Williams worked in 10 hours of practice a week. Within four months of her introduction to the game, she was playing in the hall’s weekly tournaments. Over the years she improved her game, learning from and playing against the hall’s regular professional players.

In 2012 she got a lucky break, a brush with fate that put her in the pro league. When two players dropped out of the U.S. Open, a last-minute qualifier was held to fill the spots. Williams won a place in the bracket. She won one match – no easy feat at that level – and earned a ranking in the pro world of women’s billiards.

Williams has reached a level where her professional pool forays pay for themselves. Her performance has attracted sponsors. High-end pool halls such as Tulsa’s Magoo’s, Midwest City’s Jamaica Joe’s and Muskogee’s O’Dannon’s all have a stake in William’s success.

“The players at the pool hall are family to me. My first goal, which sounds silly now, was to be able to beat all the guys at the bar by the time I was 21,” she says. “When I started, I learned a lot from the professionals that hung around the hall. My competitive drive was there from the start. When I started playing well enough to enter local tournaments, I realized it was going to be more than just a hobby for me. It was something that would pay for itself eventually.” She eagerly pays it forward, happy to give tips and advice to newbies that show up at her favorite hall, Magoo’s.

Williams intends to continue competing at the professional level. She’s been completely pulled in by the game. She watches her mailbox closely for the next invitation to a pro tournament. “What keeps me coming back is the rush of hitting the perfect shot or winning a match,” she says. “It’s an addiction. I just try forever to replicate that feeling. And there’s so much gratification in the game.

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