We recently had a chance to sit down with Julia Gabriel, a long-time pool addict and respected competitor. She’s won countless tournaments over the years and competed in all manner of events ranging from small weekly tournaments to the big professional events around the country. The height of her career earned her a spot in the top 50 female players in the world.
SP: How did you get started playing pool? What kept you coming back?
JG: My pool journey began in 1987 when I followed my friend into Break-Time Billiards in Granite City, IL. I was 17 and immediately hooked! I've always been competitive so since I could actually strike the cue ball successfully, I couldn't stop trying. Sooner or later, I was getting an object ball to fall into a pocket. I spent every day for all the hours I could in that pool hall for a couple of years! Then I found out I could play in ladies only tournaments.....I would never rest easy again. LOL!
SP: What equipment do you currently use? Do you have any sponsors or officially endorse any products?
JG: I have played with a Terbrock Custom Cue for over 10 years. Don Crump, inventor of the EZ-Jumper, asked me to endorse his product by appearing in their first commercial video still found on YouTube.com
SP: What accomplishment are most proud of? (pool related)
JG: This is a tough question to answer because I have been proud of myself in so many events that I have played. Therefore allow me to give two categories of accomplishments: My nationwide accomplishment is my 2nd place finish in the BCA Women's Grand Masters bar table 8-ball event in 2009. The WPBA's top rated lady 9 ballplayers were in that event, but my 25 years of 8 ball league paid off. For my local accomplishments: I am really proud of my 2x winning the All Star MO 8 singles championship in both 1999 and 2008.
SP: What is your favorite pool/road/match story?
JG: I cannot narrow any thoughts down at this time. There are so many.
SP: What are your current goals with the game? (within the next year).
JG: Acquire at least 6 hours of solid practice each week. Otherwise, I feel I will lose my sense of it all and I've been planning on attending a few more events this year than the previous 4 years.
SP: Do you have any long-term goals? (Doesn’t have to be pool related).
JG: Well, in the words of Steven Wright: I intend to live forever, so far so good. And with that in mind, I mark my calendar and plan to attend ladies only events. They are both rare and really exciting to play and I will seek and destroy all that I can. (editors note: She chuckled with an evil grin at her own remark)
SP: What kind of approach do you have to playing the game? Are you more of a calculating player; weighing the pro’s and con’s of a situation before pulling the trigger? Or do you run more on instincts? Would you say you are more aggressive or conservative naturally? If/When you find your instinct and your brain are odds which one usually
JG: I am a more calculating player in 8 ball, its a puzzle and a game of war with soldiers on the battlefield. I am not typically aggressive with the life of my soldiers. If my tactic has to change mid-war, my next move will be weighed heavily and experience may be the only thing in my favor. I will run on instinct more in 9 ball because the primary goal is to achieve angles that send you towards the next angle. These visuals have repeated a lot in my 25+ years. But, as you know, you cannot always get the right angle. I will battle my brains over the defensive play vs. the offensive play from time to time. If I can leave my opponent hard now instead of me leaving myself hard now, then that's what I'm doing.
SP: What advice would you give to the novice player just starting to fall in love with the game?
JG: Find others with the same level of passion and play against them as often as possible. Play leagues forever.
SP: What advice would you give to players who are new to competition?
JG: California Bob engraved in my brain " Always put pressure on your games when you play with someone. It doesn't matter if its for the dishes or a quarter!"
SP: What are your preferences about pool in general: What’s your favorite game? Do you have any equipment preferences? (tables, balls, racks, gloves, chalk, etc)
JG: I love both 8 ball and 9 ball. I used to only love 9 ball, probably because its the easiest game to learn, but now I love the puzzles that 8 ball offers. I am still too lazy to learn more about One-Pocket. :) I have always preferred a gold crown 9 ft table until the Diamond table came out. Now I am happy to play on either. Wouldn't it be great if every table everywhere used the Magic Rack? Master chalk preferred still but I have not tried more than a couple.
SP: Who/What was/is your inspiration to keep going? Do/did you have any role models?
JG: At this point it is embedded in my soul to keep playing pool games whether those are in leagues or in my basement. I was first inspired by Gary Lutman when I was 17 years old(1987). He was super popular and could beat everyone in the world (my world). Winning my first match in a competition match was/is forever my reason for keeping it going.
SP: Do you have a favorite player to watch? Do you have a favorite competitor?
JG: Allison Fisher will always be a favorite competitor/player to watch. Watching her play keeps me focused on what, how and why I play.
SP: Do you have a favorite event? Something you look forward to and perhaps even motivates you?
JG: Up until 4 years ago, for over ten years it was the May BCA event. Now, it could be the August APA Masters Team event, which has to be qualified for so there is some pressure there! For almost 20 years I have looked forward to the March and October Midwest 9 ball events at The Break in Cahokia, IL.
SP: How do you think the local pool scene could be improved, in terms of visibility, perception or participation?
JG: My perception of a pool scene is based on never having tried to run a business. I can remember one of my favorite pool halls in the nation, now closed, The Billiard Palace in Tulsa, OK. They had hired help appear at the 9 ft or quarter op. table to brush, then wipe it off. They had only beer, wine coolers, soft drinks and a grill, no fryer even! The place was open 24 hours a day and they gave free pool to ladies from 6am till 6pm on Sundays. There were a dozen 9ft and a dozen 7ft's Then there were also many other tables designated for backgammon, dominoes and chess. A pool scene! But there is a catch, I only went there when there was a money-added event. If St. Louis rooms offered more money-added events perhaps we would see a pool scene more often. Players follow the money but perhaps the room owners do not trust they will see a return. What I do like is the rooms that offer specialty events, like doubles, and have food with a good wait staff.
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