Hustling

the hustler

Hustling is the deceptive act of disguising one’s skill in a sport or game with the intent of luring someone of lesser skill into gambling (or gambling for higher than current stakes) with the hustler, as a form of confidence trick. It is most commonly associated with pool, but also can be performed with regard to other sports and gambling activities. Hustlers may also engage in ‘sharking’ – distracting, disheartening, enraging or even threatening their opponents, to throw them off. Hustlers are thus often called ‘pool sharks.’

Professional and semi-pro hustlers sometimes work with a ‘stakehorse’ — a person who provides the money for the hustler to bet with (and who may assist in the hustling) — in exchange for a substantial portion of all winnings. Another form of hustling (often engaged in by the same hustlers who use the skill-disguising technique) is challenging ‘marks’ (swindle targets) to bet on trick shots that seem near-impossible but at which the hustler is exceptionally skilled.

Pool hustlers use deception and misdirection in order to win cash from inexperienced players. A skilled hustler: will usually play with a low-quality cue stick provided by the pool hall, or an unadorned but high-quality personal cue that looks like one, known as a ‘sneaky pete.’ They will typically play a game or two for ‘fun’ or for low bets in order to check out the opponent and give the impression that money can easily be won, often losing on purpose (known as ‘sandbagging’ or ‘dumping’). They will pocket some difficult and impressive shots or make surprisingly secure safety shots (ones crucial for winning), while missing many simple ones, thus making early victories appear to be sheer luck.

Some pretend to be intoxicated, unintelligent, or otherwise impaired. When betting on trick shots, they may intentionally miss the first or several times and lose a small amount, then raise the bet to an amount well beyond the loss and succeed at the well-practiced feat. Many of these ploys can easily be mistaken for the honest faults of a less-than-exceptional player. The engendered doubt and uncertainty is what allows hustling to succeed, with the ‘faults’ being dropped when a significant amount of money is at stake.

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