Sam is a Sport Science master's candidate focusing on the Performance Analysis of South African Football who occasionally flirts with the social science aspect of sport. Sport specific research interests include transformation, corruption, match-fixing, and doping.
Apart from that, Sam is an avid (and arguably competent) pool player and literary satirist. Sam spends evenings pool club hopping and in constant engagement with pool players of varying abilities, as well as the hustlers that have made pool halls their cash cows. In the long-term, Sam hopes to be a major contributor to the narratives and bodies of knowledge of South African sport.
Hustling for Bread? A look into South Africa’s Lucrative Pool Underworld
To the uninitiated eye, pool in South African townships is nothing more than a recreational sport. Visits to taverns and shebeens allow one to witness friendly matches between players of varying skill level. As the sun sets, the hustlers come out to pit their wits and skills for money. Bets range from as little as R5 to R20000, with the occasional outlier. Clubs such as Timeout in Midrand regularly host money matches which pit two players against each other, with each player bringing half of the money to the table in a winner-takes-all format. In order to maximise returns, hustlers employ antics such as deception, intimidation, and ridicule. With the professional side of the game well-established, it is interesting to find provincial, national, and even world champions engaged in the gambling side of the game. This was typified when 2015 SA Blackball champion Aden Joseph faced off against former World Blackball champion Wetsi Morake in May 2015. It is also not uncommon to find gambling games between knockout matches at provincial championships.
As an avid pool player with access to professional pool leagues and amateur matches, I visit taverns, night clubs, and specialist pool clubs to investigate the motivations behind the art of hustling, both for the professionals and the amateurs.