The game of pool is growing in popularity thanks to the setting up of pool tables in some open spaces around town and in many high density suburbs, signaling more demand for the game.
In the past, pool tables were mostly found in beer drinking spots and only open to club members. Now men of all ages and a few adventurous women are enjoying the game at the open sites, which are attracting sizeable crowds.
It is the possibility of earning a quick buck that is making the game more popular. At most of the tables, betting is the order of the day as people look for ways of generating income. Some people are now renowned for going around the city making rich pickings from the game and they have quite a following.
To play a game, one has to buy a token costing R5 or 50 cents. The amounts betted vary from single digits to double and even to triple figures. Not only those playing the game bet, onlookers are heavily involved in the game as well. They bet amongst themselves on those who are playing, with bets made either for a single shot or on the whole game.
The pool tables are owned by individuals. One owner who operates two tables at a busy spot in town revealed to Harare News that more than 100 games are played at his tables each day. He said he is proud to be providing a chance to everyone who wanted to enjoy the game.
“The tables are open to everyone who wants to play the game and we even teach those interested in learning. Betting is a problem in pool but here we do not encourage betting because our setup is illegal and we do not want to attract attention from the authorities,” said the table owner.
Pool is also played professionally in Harare with clubs from different suburbs competing in their respective area leagues. However, lack of sponsorship is hampering the growth of the game. One popular professional player said that the lack of rewarding competitions was driving professional players into gambling.
“At one point I reached the semi-finals in the national competition but lack of lucrative rewards in the game locally leaves me with no option other than to gamble. I am happy that at least I am now enjoying fruits from my talent as I am guaranteed of $20 from pool per day,” he said.
The erection of pool tables in open spaces also comes as a relief to Harare residents who have limited public entertainment facilities, as most community centres are now dysfunctional. Eddington Chinyani (44) from Mbare said pool provides cheap entertainment and should be adopted as a way of building the community.
“Pool is now providing entertainment to low income earners and I believe it can be used effectively to fight drug abuse as it seems to be attracting the attention of many youths,” said Chinyani.
Pool is not yet an Olympics game but it is already part of the World Games and with the rate at which it is growing here in the city and the talent exhibited at the open space pool tables, Harare has got potential to produce a world champion.