Itaewon pool sharks find friends and rivals in 2006For the working stiffs, party people and homesick expats who gather around the dim, smoky pool tables of Itaewon’s many bars and pubs, there’s reason to look up from the OB and cheer. It’s the start of another season for the Itaewon Pool League, the foreigner-run organization that provides competition and companionship to amateur pool players in Seoul’s signature expat neighborhood.
From its beginning in 2000 with eight teams, the league has grown to 30 teams of six players each. League President Jim Dewey says the purpose of the league is “to provide a venue for fun, competitive, organized pool.”
But the balance between fun and competition varies among the teams. For the Loft Hunters, the reigning champions for three seasons, it’s a serious game. Last week, they won their first match of the season at the Blue Frog in the alley behind Burger King. Ask Hunter Mokie Lee if he thinks his team will win another season and the only possible answer is, “Of course.”
“Last time we won the championship, and our members are the very best players in Itaewon,” he said. “Our members are more skillful and more professional. Every day, practice, sleeping, eating, practice.”
But the Hunters will have stiff competition from other top players, including the second-place Hollywood Grill team. Because individual players only face off once, Grill’s Paul calls it “a game of don’t miss.” League players often use only their first names.
Paul’s opponent, a Korean calling himself “Tad” who plays for the third-ranked Dolce Vita team, comes for the atmosphere. Others, like Mr. Dewey, come to meet fellow pool-lovers.
“It’s about one third Koreans, one third military and one third expats,” says Mr. Dewey. Members include Americans, Canadians, Finns, Swedes, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Brits, New Zealanders, Australians and more.
For more information, visit www.itaewonpool.org.
by Ben Applegate