The Hustlers, Extreme Makeover

Making Season Two Better

Last month, I shared my feelings on the first season of TruTV’s The Hustlers. While a fairly entertaining reality TV show in its own right, it does not truly reflect the life of your typical pool player. And it is nowhere near close to what true hustling is all about. Sure, it’s easy to criticize, but what exactly can they do to improve the show?

I suppose the first question to ask is whether or not they need to change The Hustlers. In my opinion, the answer is a resounding YES, but I am one single person. My opinion may be in the minority. TruTv is in the business of making money with a show that appeals to the greatest audience. “Real” pool players might be a very small demographic for them. In any case, if I had my say, here’s what I would do:

First and foremost, rename the show. These guys are not true hustlers. Sure, there may be some level of showmanship and misleading information, but it’s very minor, and limited. Hustlers do not have their name put on lists, and they do not make consistent $500 or $1000 bets. I think it’s pretty clear that the producers are giving them to money to gamble with, and it’s always $500 or $1000.

Second, leave Steinway Billiards. I get it — it’s much easier to get one pool room to agree to a film crew, and it would be difficult to get multiple rooms to allow them. But it would be a much more compelling show if we got to follow good pool players as they travel around the world playing in various events. I am in Vegas as I type this, at the BCAPL National Championships, where I have seen Mike DeChaine, Gregg McAndrews, Jennifer Baretta, and Emily Duddy. They should be showing us what they have to go through to get there, how they do throughout the competition, and how it affects their relationships and personal lives.

Travel with Shane Van Boening, so we can see what it’s like to live like he does. Take us to China or Europe to show us some of the big competitions, and allow us to live vicariously through him. Show us that even though he is considered the best in the world, that sometimes he doesn’t win. Even he has bad days where nothing seems to roll his way. I really want to see that!

I’d love to see what goes on behind the scenes for a large event, too. What do they do to prepare? Where do they get all of the tables? How long does it take them to set them all up, and tear them all down? How are they keeping track of all of the matches? Show us this interspersed with some stories of teams from all over the country, who would absolutely love to be interviewed and have their stories told.

My third idea is to interview some old hustlers. Show some vignettes of old players, and listen to them tell tales of seedy back room parlors, guys getting their fingers broken for welshing on a bet, and stories of great pool action. Even some re-creations of amazing shots would be fun to watch, and would encourage people to get on a table to try them out themselves.

My last suggestion is to get a pool player to help edit the cuts. Stop only showing us the ball going into the pocket — we want to see the whole shot, including the path the cue ball is taking. Show these shots with an overhead camera. Don’t follow the ball with the camera, because there is no way to truly appreciate the shot that way.

And make sure that the shot they are taking is the same shot that was shown in the previous frame. Some of the editing is so bad, they are shooting a completely different ball into a completely different pocket! I realize there are always continuity errors in these types of shows. An arm in a different position or a drink that changes sizes between shots is no big deal. But when you’re showing a game of pool, continuity is of the utmost importance. You really need to be very diligent there.

What do you think? Do you agree? Would you watch a show with these types of stories? I know I would. I am tired of bickering and name-calling and all of the other petty stuff we see in typical reality shows. I want to see pool. I would love to get some feedback on this – what do you do to change The Hustlers? Do you enjoy it, or think that it detracts from our sport? Please feel free to contact me at, or reply to this article to join the discussion.

Do you have any suggestions for future articles? Drop me a line at You can also find me hanging out at various pool rooms in the East San Francisco Bay Area. Be sure to say hello if you see me!

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