Dallas West new owner of downtown pool hall

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-110857178024375.jpg’, ‘Photo by Melissa Wangall’, ‘Dallas West’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-110857183124374.jpg’, ‘Photo by Melissa Wangall’, ‘Dallas West, owner of Dallas's at State & Madison in the downtown River District, lines up a shot using the pool cue he used to win the 1982 U.S. Open.’);

Five-time world champ returns to State & Madison pool hall where he first learned the game

There’s a set of stairs in Rockford leading down to another world, a world containing billiards, drinks, and a feel-good chummy atmosphere, and held up by an internationally known professional billiards player who happens to be a Rockford-born native.

Dallas West, born in 1941, has been playing pool since the age of 12. His eyes glint mischievously as he tells of his beginnings. He was walking past a pool hall when he heard the clink of balls coming together. He peered in, and fell in love.

Young as he was, he was not allowed in the building. After sneaking in— and being kicked out about 35 times—he recalls that the owner relented, allowing the persistent youth in, on the condition that he was to not ever pick up a cue stick. But love cannot be kept down easily, and Dallas snuck in some rounds when the owner wasn’t looking.

He instinctively took to the game, and within six months was showing up the regulars by sinking 97 balls in a row, calling every pocket he would conquer, a game called 14.1 Straight Pool. Dallas continued on, but notes that it wasn’t just his natural ability that turned him into a pro. He practiced 10-12 hours a day. His talent became evidently clear, and improved even more when fellow professional billiards player, Joe Diehl, took West under his wing and mentored him on his game for three years, at the same billiards hall that West now owns. West laughs as he remembers Diehl telling him to move on before Diehl became the one racking billiards balls, and West became the teacher.

West ran with this advice and now has five world championships and 150 tournament wins under his belt. In 1996, he was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame. West is known for three-cushion pool, a game where one must hit three of the four rails surrounding the table before a ball can be hit legally, and then hopefully pocketed. West is also known, as demonstrated famously in his youth, for 14.1 Straight Pool.

West retired from his professional run 16 months ago, and along with his son, Joe West, purchased and is now running Dallas’s at State and Madison, the pool hall he used to play at in his 20s, bringing his professional career in an astounding full circle.

The environment is great. There’s a feel of getting the old gang together to reconnect. West is a fantastic storyteller, as well. He reminisces of old times when pool halls were places of gambling, and women weren’t eager to fraternize with the curse-filled, spittoon-ridden establishments. These stories are fun to hear, but rest assured, West runs a clean business. His billiards hall is free of spittoons, cursing, and gambling. Women are encouraged to play.

West offers a multitude of events at his new enterprise. There’s music, a bar area (with a variety of foods available), video games, darts, cue sales and repairs, and soon-to-be pool tables for sale, and, of course, the game of billiards. The prices aren’t bad, either. For pool purposes, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., it’s $6 an hour; from 6 p.m. to close (2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; midnight all other nights), it’s $8 an hour. (Close is midnight, 2 a.m. Fri. & Sat.) Prices vary depending on the number of players and coin-operated tables are also available.

West isn’t in this business to make a lot of money. He loves the game. He wants to give people a place to go where they can socialize, have a good time, and get in a few games of pool. It’s also nice picking up a few pointers from a professional, which West eagerly gives out, also offering actual lessons for $100 per hour. High quality doesn’t come cheap.

West also offers something few other pool halls in Rockford do–regulation-sized professional pool tables, 4.5 feet x 9 feet. He also has the standard bar-size tables, 3.5 feet x 7 feet, but it’s nice to be able to play as a true professional, even though most aren’t quite up to par yet.

League sessions and mini-tournaments will be available soon. You don’t have to be a professional to play. Most are familiar with 8-ball pool, the sort played with each player designated as either solids or stripes, which marks which balls you try to sink, ending with the 8 ball. This game is readily played here.

The game of pool is a remarkable outlet for people of all ages and abilities. It offers improved hand-eye coordination, works the back muscles, and can be played all year. No need to worry about overheating on the golf course, or having to deal with the cold. West takes all of this into account and makes the game even better with his offered expertise.

Tips for beginners:

Stand with feet 12 inches apart;

Stroke off the elbow, not the shoulder;

Look down cue stick when aiming; and

Look at your object ball, not the cue ball (white ball), last when aiming.

More info: Dallas’ at State and Madison, One Madison St. (lower level), 815-965-RACK (7225).

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