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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Rack-N-Cue boasts a competitive spirit and tight-knit community

Students aim to become straight shooters at on-campus pool hall
Luke Cramer
Students play pool at Rack-n-Cue, San Francisco State University’s resident billiards and pool hall, on March 19, 2024. (Luke Cramer / Golden Gate Xpress)

Surrounding blue-felted tables, students and staff alike hone their skills among familiar faces, many of whom are seen daily. Billiard balls are lined up, forming a triangle as players prepare to break with their cue sticks.


The striped and solid-colored balls aggressively bounce off the four walls of the table, beginning the game. Regulars lean over tables to give tips and tricks to billiard players, new and old, creating friendly competition in a semi-competitive atmosphere. 

Sportsmanlike focus can be heard in competitive banter between players and reveals itself in smiles of satisfaction accrued from pocketing difficult shots. Yet, Rack-N-Cue provides access to the game and the opportunity to enjoy another accolade: community.

Billard players congregate on the bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center in the popular on-campus pool hall, which commonly experiences wait times above an hour. Synergetically located a stairwell away from San Francisco State University’s bar, “The Pub,” and a myriad of restaurants, Rack-N-Cue capitalizes on the foot traffic.

The pool hall provides students with five high-quality Brunswick pool tables, cues, balls, and an assortment of video games and consoles, allowing them to connect with their peers and unwind after an academic day.

“I feel like we are more than just a community. We know each other, we compete, we learn, even if you are new here and to the game, we are more than happy to help,” said Yu-Ming Chen, a computer science major. “I’m here every single day.”

Maria Dimalanta, a computer science major, received her share of help and said of her time before and after coming to Rack-N-Cue.

“I didn’t play that frequently, but now I play every day,” Dimalanta said. “People here have helped me improve; I see the same 20 people here pretty much every day.”

The bonding between the age-old hobby is a display that can be noticed after a few sessions of play, as familiar faces become a part of a routine.

Primo Estillomo plays pool at Rack-N-Cue on March 21, 2024. (Neal Wong / Golden Gate Xpress) (Neal Wong)

“It helps me learn new skills and make new relationships. Newer students usually stick to their own thing, but many of the people who come here more often will come to the people who are more skillful and ask questions,” said Isaiah Lacayo, an art major.

Employees have noticed this pattern as well.

“When I first started here, they told me, ‘You’re gonna learn who the regulars are,’” said Josue Duran, an employee at Rack-N-Cue who majors in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts. “There’s been an increase in regulars. Some people who weren’t here last year are here now.”

A few like-minded students founded a Discord-operated billiards club known as Really Nice Cues. As a club member, Chen can compete for rank among other club members.

A selection of these top-tier members will often compete with clubs at other schools, such as Sacramento State. Rack-N-Cue gives him ample room to practice for such occasions and the community to help them along. 

Members of the Really Nice Cues Pool Club are now training for their upcoming match against Sacramento State University on March 23..

“More than technical skills, the mental game gets better the more you play pool. For technique, there’s a cap, but the mental game can keep improving,” Chen said.

To improve their technical skills, players ask advice from Primo Estillomo, an SFSU IT staff member who is a regular at Rack-N-Cue.

“I’ve been teaching people who approach me. I teach them anything, stroke, eye alignment, using the ghost ball, aiming, everything. I’ve learned more, especially from teaching,” Estillomo said.

For centuries, people have navigated their cues around pool tables all across the globe and the popularity of Rack-N-Cue hints at its growing popularity among bar-aged students.

“Where I come from — in Taiwan — everyone plays pool. I believe it’s a very popular game and it’s been growing. Especially since COVID-19, it just popped up,” Chen said. “I would say it’s because of the rise of the competitive pool. I started watching competitive pool. It got me really into it.”

Lacayo disagrees with Chen.

“Pool, in general, [is] a very niche type of sport, and many people are just in it for the fun of it. or people that do take it seriously, it’s a very small community,” Lacayo said. “People associate pool with drinking but it’s become more than that, especially for me. It’s become more of a bonding opportunity.”

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About the Contributors
Luke Cramer
Luke Cramer, Staff Reporter
Luke Cramer is a reporter for the Golden Gate Express. He is majoring in Journalism and Political Science. He is from Santa Monica California and now lives in San Francisco. During his free time, he enjoys playing golf and the guitar.
Neal Wong
Neal Wong, Co-Copy Editor
Neal Wong (he/him) is a third-year journalism student and minoring in urban studies and planning. He was born and raised in San Francisco and attended Washington High School. He has photographed and written for Golden Gate Xpress first as a contributor, then as a photographer, and now as a copy editor. His photos have also been published by the San Francisco Bay ViewSan Francisco Public Press, Mission Local, and Xpress Magazine. Neal has also created and taught four SFSU Experimental College courses. His hobbies include traveling, cooking, and reading.

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