Completely honed in on his target, the constant clanking of balls smashing into each other, the roaring conversations bouncing around the dining area and the noise of nearby arcade games fade into the background. Juan Cheung slides the cue stick back and forth a few times and then second-guesses his shot.
Cheung, 24, an SF State computer engineering major, walks around the table carefully weighing his options before lining up for a perfect opportunity. He pulls the trigger, sending the ball flying into the corner pocket.
Rack-N-Cue open house
- Video games
- Ike’s Place Sandwiches
When: Sept. 19
Cheung is playing at Rack-N-Cue, the pool hall and arcade that offers students cheap pool games, air hockey and several arcade games.
The lower-than-average price and convenient location of Rack-N-Cue has helped it to foster a community of student players. Some, like Cheung, find themselves at the basement pool hall almost every day building their skills in hopes of winning the Association of College Unions International collegiate 9-ball tournament in Las Vegas.
“I hadn’t played for the past few years, so I was kind of nervous when I went there and started playing, because there was this one guy who beat everyone else,” Cheung said, as he explained his experience at last year’s competition.
“I saw that if I won the next two rounds I had to play the guy,” he said.
Cheung did end up winning the next two rounds, in fact, he beat out the defending champion in an early match. He described it as his most tense moment of the tournament, saying he feels like his opponent lost that match more than he won it.
“He made a mistake; that’s why I won,” Cheung said.
In the end, Cheung took second place in last year’s ACUI tournament, but he still cherishes the memories he gained from the opportunity created by Rac-N-Cue. He lost in the finals to his friend and fellow Rack-N-Cue regular Victor Lo.
Others, like Victor Layton, 23, a health education major, explained why he stops by Rack-N-Cue from time to time instead of other places on campus.
“It’s a better way to progressively cope with the stress I’m dealing with,” Layton said. “(I) just come over here, hit some balls, check out a couple different angles. Helps me think a little better than sitting at a bar.”
Gallen Wong, who works at Rack-N-Cue will be trying to qualify for this year’s ACUI tournament, but is also excited for a different tournament — Rack-N-Cue’s intramural — which is a free, open to the public tournament designed to attract new patrons into Rack-N-Cue. Wong won’t be playing the intramural, but will be watching by the sidelines.
“I can’t wait to see the new faces,” Wong said.
Last time Cheung competed in intramural tournaments, he felt like there was too much of a gap between him and newcomers. But like Wong, he is also excited to see the influx of rookie players.
“I actually won, but I didn’t feel good because there were a lot of new players. That wasn’t a good feeling,” Cheung said.
Nonetheless, the billiards room attracts a variety of people. Jimmy Liu, a frequent pool hall junkie, explained that he spends all of his time at Rac-N-Cue between classes.
“This is the cheapest place you can come to play pool,” he said.
The price drops even lower if you sign up for the Billards Club, a Rack-N-Cue program that gives you a discount every time you play — after a $20 upfront payment.
Pool is just one aspect of Rack-N-Cue. The long line of players looking to dethrone the current master of a street fighter game, or the would-be rockstar banging on the electronic drumming simulator or the guy proving he’s got the “moves like Jagger” on “Dance Dance Revolution” hardly ever even turn their heads around to look at the pool hall. Thoroughly engaged in their games, and getting lost in the action is one of the reasons they find the underground recreation center such a release.
Cheung and the Rack-N-Cue regulars are excited for both the intramural and the ACUI tournament. Particularly, they are excited to compete against other schools in ACUI and put up another good showing for SF State.
“When you play pool, you forget everything!” Cheung said. “You just want to have fun with your friends. Playing pool could be a hobby for anyone who wants to have a good time.”
Students interested in signing up for the intramural tournament can click here for the registration form. The league games are free to play every Thursday and officially start Oct. 25, with team entry forms due by Oct. 12 to the Student Services Building in Room 105.
There is also a free open house on Sept. 19 at Rack-N-Cue. There will be free pool games, Ike’s and arcade game play. This is a chance for newcomers to mingle and become part of this vibrant, literally underground, community.