Pool players keep their eye on the ball

Kurt Kobayashi
Kurt Kobayashi

By Leland Kim - bio | email

MOILIILI (KHNL) - Millions of gamers around the world have made video games a multi-billion dollar industry. With jaw-dropping graphics and interactive technology, it's hard to match video games for their addictive qualities. But, there are some players who prefer a different type of game.

Video game sales in the U.S. continue to climb, jumping ten percent last month. Their high tech graphics mesmerized gamers to the tune of $1.47 billion.

But some folks prefer a low-tech approach to gaming. Meet the gamers at Hawaiian Brian's, Hawaii's largest pool hall.

"The kids love playing games, video games, but I don't know about them playing pool," said Ben Caoile, a 58-year-old pool player who lives in Salt Lake.

This game became popular during the 18th century, and has steadily kept going.

It's not only a fun way to socialize with your friends, but it's a great way to hone your hand-eye coordination.

"This game is really a game of precision," said Kurt Kobayashi, a 29-year-old pool player who lives in Kaimuki. "And millimeters can make the difference of you making the ball or missing a ball."

Kobayashi is one of Hawaii's best pool players. He got his start as a teenager.

"I would come around the pool halls and play the video arcades and stuff like that," he said. "And eventually I picked up a pool stick and started playing pool."

He had extra motivation to get good, real good.

"One of my buddies said all the good pool players get all the good looking girls," said Kobayashi, who is originally from Hilo. "So I had to give it a try."

Like many sports, pool is a metaphor for life.

"I learned about mental discipline, composure, sportsmanship, proper etiquette," said Kobayashi.

And those traits he learned helped him land a spot representing Hawaii and the U.S. at an international pool tournament in Las Vegas.

"It's great representing where you're from, all the heritage and everything, at a game I love to play," said Kobayashi. "Nothing more fun than that to me."

That's why he encouraged those who never tried it to pick up a pool stick.

"I can always find an excuse to play pool," he said. "It's either too hot or too rainy. You can do it in all weather conditions."

Just like video games. Maybe the two types of games aren't too different after all.

That tournament Kobayashi's playing in is dubbed "the greatest pool tournament in the world," with about 11,000 players internationally. It runs from May 11-16 at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.