Right here in River City!
With a capital 'T'
And that rhymes with 'P'
And that stands for Pool!'"
Billiards. At face value, not the most intimidating game. Despite accusations that the cueball is "possessed," "cursed," or "hates me personally," pool typically isn't what comes to mind when you say "things a bad guy would enjoy." In fact, its image has softened by now to be considered a respectable game of skill for any age, and even used in kid's Edutainment Shows like Beakman's World to illustrate rebound trajectories.
Unless, of course, you're in the movies, where if you see someone playing pool, there's a 90% chance they're planning some dastardly deed at the same time (otherwise they are just having fun). Whether it's due to negative connotations regarding the term "pool shark" (not to be confused with a Shark Pool), or possibly due to the fact that pool is associated with illegal betting rings (which also serves as a convenient motive for a cash-starved antagonist to do any feats of nastiness the story requires), the image of a group of Big Bads and thuggish Mooks shooting eight-ball seems to be engraved in the minds of filmmakers, though in these scenes, theses villains tend to be Man of Wealth and Taste varieties, due to the game's association with The Mafia or any other criminal organizations. The heroes, especially an Anti-Hero, may also play pool, to emphasize how cool, dangerous, and outside the norm they are, or just taking a challenge on it.
For the Femme Fatale and The Vamp, it's also a free excuse to get them to bend and sway in a variety of manners, showing off their body and especially their legs, and it gives them three ways to end the scene: keep on flirting and end on sexy; humiliate the mooks by beating them at their own game; or just start a Bar Brawl.
Part of the origin of this trope is in pool halls having been The New Rock & Roll once upon a time, like bowling and pinball before them and video arcades afterwards. Its continuing popularity now is likely due to a pool table's ability to fit nicely inside a Bad-Guy Bar or a family-friendly Den of Iniquity. If a Fight Scene ensues, as it inevitably will, expect the cues to be used as clubs, swords, or broken in half and used to stab people, not to mention the balls themselves are really effective to throw at (and kill!) people.
- In Black Butler, there is a scene of people playing pool. The protagonist (Who is sort of an Anti-Hero at that point, though a full-on Villain Protagonist later in the series) is among them, as well as the bad-guy for that chapter. There's also a metaphor involving getting rid of evil, being evil, and some other things involving the pool table.
- Although the Sinners of Chrono Crusade are never shown playing pool, they definitely at least have a knowledge of the game—when Viede chases after Aion during a battle to give him his sword, they have this exchange:
Aion: What did you come here for? To ruin my game?Viede: You can't play pool without a cue stick, Aion.
- Code Geass: a bunch of antagonist-ish characters play pool right after nuking Tokyo. Something of a subversion as all of them were rather put off by the guy who actually did it (who incidentally wasn't playing). This, however, wasn't so much because of the act being carried out, but rather his sudden change in behavior, when he volunteered to assassinate The Emperor.
- Possibly used in Fullmetal Alchemist; Greed was playing pool in a bar...
- One of the players in Princess Nine is recruited at a pool-hall. Yes, she's the delinquent of the group.
- The Amazoness Quartet from Sailor Moon aren't shown playing pool for fun, but their main method of retrieving someone's Dream Mirror involves shooting a ball at the victim with a pool cue.
- In Weiß Kreuz, when Omi has a nightmare about being a murderer just like his older brothers, he imagines the three of them playing pool.
- Bullseye can be seen playing pool from time to time. Since he has nearly superhuman aim, he's quite good. Also inverted as heroes who also possess superhuman aim (Hawkeye, Cyclops, etc) are also frequently seen playing pool in their spare time.
- Gotham's Willow Street Card Room, a Mafia operated hangout seen in the pages of the Robin Series, contains several pool tables.
- The villainous 8-Ball, the first supervillain battled by Sleepwalker, took this trope to its logical conclusion when he not only proved to be a master pool player, but went so far as to base his whole criminal schtick on the game.
- Wonder Woman (1942): In the Huntress sidestory in issue 301 Huntress goes to a shady pool hall when looking for a suspect, and finds him and his mob pals playing pool.
- The frat brothers in Accepted are shown playing pool during rush week.
- In All the King's Men, the corrupt commissioners of Konoma County all hang out at the local pool hall.
- In Bedazzled (1967), the devil himself plays pool. This borders on subversion, however, seeing as this devil isn't so bad.
- In The Boondock Saints, when ambushing a mafia hitman at his house, said hitman and his friends were playing billiards. Rocko even kills the hitman with the cue ball.
- In Brighton Beach Memoirs, Eugene's brother Stanley loses all his money in a rough pool hall, made somewhat less intimidating by the fact that the hustler is Jason Alexander.
- In The Da Vinci Code Bishop Aringarosa plays pool with one of the cardinals while discussing Silas.
- Done in The Dark Knight, where one major gangster is shown playing pool with his goons. Then the Joker comes in and kills him horribly. Then leaves a broken pool cue at the feet of his former subordinates along with a single invitation to his service and to survival which only one can claim by denying both to the other.
- The Elusive Avengers: White Russian officers hang around in a pool club in the second movie.
- When the titular Femme Fatale (2002) decides that she needs some disreputable muscle to help in her scheme which was orchestrated in the alternate reality she goes with her accomplice Nicolas Bardo to a lowly dive where the patrons spend time playing pool among other standard activities. And it doesn't even lead to an extended Bar Brawl but rather to an altercation between Bardo and a hoodlum who takes too many liberties with what she wishes to offer him. Pool plays a central role there, with the cue as a weapon and the pool table as the pedestal both for a striptease gone wrong and where the reward-sex takes place.
- Shown in Four Brothers with the corrupt cop, shortly before he kills the good one.
- In the Korean teen action/drama film Gangster High, the final confrontation takes place at the pool hall the villain frequent. Pool cues are of course used as weapons.
- Steven Seagal whallops a bunch of the crooked senator's Mooks in the mansion's billiard room in Hard to Kill.
- Of course, The Hustler (and the sequel, The Color of Money) was about "Fast Eddie" Felson, a Con Artist whose gig was hustling pool.
- The Boiler Room, the Bad-Guy Bar in Kid Detective (2020), is full of biker-looking guys playing pool.
- In Miss Sloane, the evil lobbyist plays the U.S. Senator at snooker, not pool, to convey the highbrow backroom-deal atmosphere, and he doesn't break off, but pots the final four colors. He plays the pink ball as a double to emphasize how the NRA will be going after the Senator indirectly - by running an extremely well-funded candidate not against the Senator (who is pretty much unbeatable) but against his son, who is just starting out in politics.
- The idiot redneck Joe Pesci fights in My Cousin Vinny hangs out in a bar playing pool. The reason for the fight was that the redneck refused to pay up after Marisa Tomei's character hustled him, indicating that she's no stranger to the game, either.
- The pool hall where Jackie Chan makes his famously ill-advised attempt to learn Afro-American slang in Rush Hour is a pretty rough place, if not actually criminal (in most cases).
- Inspector Clouseau does this with Benjamin Ballon (the "bad guy" in this case) in A Shot in the Dark, interrogating Ballon, innocent at the time but eventually one of the four murderers in the case he is on, in the process.
- The gang members at the evil bar in Steel.
- Superman Returns, although this is slightly played with since the pool table is on Lex Luthor's yacht.
- Taking a cue from Pinocchio, below, the headquarters for the Foot Clan in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a huge game room filled with typical '80s/'90s delinquent kid activities to keep their underage Ninja Mooks pacified, including a series of pool tables.
- Not a villain, but Heath Ledger's character in 10 Things I Hate About You hangs out in a bar playing pool to emphasize his mysteriousness and show how outside the norm he is compared to the other students.
- The famous bar scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
- In That Was Then... This Is Now, there's no fight scene in the bar/pool hall itself, but the protagonist and his friend end up getting mugged by a couple of thugs outside, after winning a considerable amount of money off of them playing pool. The bartender shows up, shotgun in hand, to drive the goons off, and the boys walk away unharmed. The bartender himself, however, gets a bullet in the head for his troubles.
- In The Walking Dead (1936), the racketeers who control The Syndicate are shooting pool while they discuss their plan to assassinate Judge Shaw. Professional Killer Trigger Smith underlines his claim to never miss by making a particularly difficult trick shot.
- They never get around to actually playing in the movie, but the young ladies who play hostess to The Warriors have a pool table in their hangout. And a Bar Brawl does break out, including a fine display of shooting.
- In Horatio Alger, Jr.'s The Erie Train Boy, the hero Fred is sent into a seedy bar in Canada where he plays pool with a robber to endear himself to him and get access to his stolen loot.
- Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "We Real Cool", subtitled "The Pool Players: 7 at the Golden Shovel".
We real cool. WeLeft school. WeLurk late. WeStrike straight. WeSing sin. WeThin gin. WeJazz June. WeDie soon.
- Brooks—during a reading at the Guggenheim—said the poem has been "...banned here and there because of the word 'Jazz'," the line frequently having been interpreted as a euphemism for sex. Not intentional, she averred: but also remarked, "I have no objection if it helps anybody."
- Criminal turned Private Detective Burke is a pool player, so naturally this trope turns up. In one book he has to slip a file to his Friend on the Force, so tells him to take off his coat and leave it hung up nearby. "You're not the only man in this room carrying a gun."
- In Hush, Hush, several characters say that Patch, is a bad person simply because he plays pool.
- In Donna Tartt's The Little Friend, Harriet, believing a local boy is responsible for the death of her brother, sends her friend to spy on him in the pool hall.
- In Time Scout, Kit Carson has been trying for years to beat Goldie Moran at pool.
- Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire is depicted playing pool in about half of his appearances on the show. Beyond simply playing the game, Rothstein also tells a particularly chilling anecdote about a man and a billiard ball trick...
- In Boy Meets World, Frankie "The Enforcer" is a noted pool champion at Chubbies. Subverted in that so is Eric.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In "Fool for Love", Spike shoots pool while telling Buffy how he killed two other Slayers, later using the cue to spar with Buffy outside.
- Willy's Bar.
- The billiard table at The Bronze is usually an indicator that someone's up to no good. Xander is angrily playing a game by himself when Faith approaches him with a plan to dust Angel in "Revelations".
- Percy, the basketball jock who exploits Willow to pass his tests, is cockily shooting pool when Vampire Willow (from the Wishverse) strolls in in "Doppelgangland".
- In "The Wish", the Wishverse Bronze also has a pool table, but a hapless human victim is strapped to it.
- In Cluedo, games or pool or snooker often featured in the billiard room. On at least two occasions, the murder victim was taking a shot, and the murderer sneaked up behind them.
- CSI: Very prominent in "Dead Rails", where the CSI team investigates the murder of a pool hustler.
- Daredevil (2015): In the season 2 premiere, Foggy goes into a Dogs of Hell biker gang clubhouse to get info on a Punisher attack that Matt had overheard cops at the scene of the Kitchen Irish shooting talking about. He ends up encountering a particularly nasty bunch at the pool table and only narrowly manages to escape without injury.
- Several episodes of El Chapulín Colorado show the different villains like El Cuajinais, Chory, Rascabuches and Pocastrancas playing pool.
- Family Matters featured an episode where eldest son Eddie Winslow and his friend Rodney get victimized by a pool shark. The enlist Steve Urkel to get their money back, and he's surprisingly good at the game, given his expertise in mathematics, forcing the bad guys to cheat to win. Fortunately for the boys, Carl Winslow persuaded the owner of the pool hall this was not in her best interest and Mother Winslow proved every bit as good at pool as the shark.
- One episode of Firefly starts with the discussion of slave-trading over a game of holographic billiards. Mal even tells Inara to get out, since there's a thief about. Mal Reynolds, of course. Once the slaver victim finds out, cue Bar Brawl. Note that as far as Mal's concerned, his presence is playing the trope straight.
- In the Frasier episode "You Can't Tell a Crook by His Cover", Frasier and Niles are horrified that Daphne is dating an ex-con, and has gone to a pool hall called the Topaz Room, about which the barista at Cafe Nervosa says "I thought the cops shut that place down after the last shooting". Subverted when it turns out Daphne used to play in a very respectable amateur pool league.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has an episode where Philip has to go up against a villainous pool shark. And completely kicks ass.
- Thoroughly subverted in Full House as the goodest of good guys Danny hustles Jesse before Joey reveals that Danny went to college on a billiards scholarship.
- The Get Smart episode, "The Dead Spy Scrawls," had Smart learning to play pool to get close to a KAOS agent in his pool hall. Unfortunately, Smart is so hopelessly clumsy at the game that 99 has to use a special remote control cue ball to help him play.
- Comically subverted on Gossip Girl where Chuck Bass owns a pool table, but the only person who ever uses it is his goody-two-shoes best friend Nate.
- The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries episode "Campus Terror" — how do we know that Wendy aka "Gwen", a psychotic multiple personality, is actually a bad girl? She hangs out in pool halls with unwashed biker dudes and women who play pinball.
- In the classic Hawaii Five-O, a few Mooks are scrambling to cover up when they hear Five-O coming. Before our heroes leave, Danno quips, "One of you sank the cue ball."
- On Intelligence (2006), the Disciples biker gang operates out of a poolhall.
- In Kamen Rider Double, one scene has The Dragon use pool to illustrate a metaphor to the Second Rider. It also works as an alternative to Chess Motifs that's more appropriate to the hard-boiled detective story feel of the series.
- An episode of Law & Order played with this trope. Lenny Briscoe posed as a guy asking for a hit while playing pool with a Mafioso. The Mafia guy was dumbfounded that the guy who could play pool that well was a cop.
- On the pilot of Leverage, Nate and Eliot play pool while discussing being the bad guys for a change.
- Kilo, a gangster in the Season One episode "Confidence Man" of Lost, threatens Sawyer who borrowed money from him while playing pool.
- Seen a couple of times in MacGyver (1985), with Nicholas Helman in "Halloween Knights", and a gang of mooks in "The Wasteland".
- The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed: Val'ka the Smoked (a thief) plays billiards with Gleb Zheglov (a cop). Also, with Graying Morality of the series, Zheglov himself can be considered as an example.
- Mission: Impossible: "Break!" is all about this as Jim poses as a pool shark in order to locate microfilm in a dead agent's wristwatch.
- The Aryan Brotherhood from Oz (at least, the members residing in Unit B) will often be seen playing pool during their scenes.
- Merrick Baliton of Power Rangers Wild Force plays pool as a way of practicing his special attack. While not a bad guy by the time he picked up the habit, he's certainly a bad ass.
- In Smallville, Lex Luthor is either doing this, playing the piano or drinking whiskey. If he does all three within the space of a single episode then he's being particularly evil.
- The Sopranos crew are often found shooting pool in the Bing's back room.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "A Piece of the Action," Bela Okmyx, the first Boss that Kirk and company deal with, has a pool table in his meeting room. Since the Iotians are imitating the Gangs of Chicago based on a single reference book, he doesn't quite get the rules. He is constantly picking up the cue ball and setting up easy shots for himself. Later, Kirk uses the pool table as a platform when he talks to all the Bosses on the planet.
- The Twilight Zone episode "A Game of Pool" was about a guy who was so obsessed with becoming the world's greatest pool player he'd given up everything else in his life. Then he ends up being challenged by the ghost of a legendary player in a life-or-death match. He wins, but now he'll have to spend the rest of his life and beyond defending his title as the greatest pool player who ever lived.
- "The Pool Shark," a country song from 1970 and the only No. 1 hit in the career of truck driving country singer Dave Dudley. Although the titular antagonist isn't all that bad, he does hustle a young, hard-luck truck driver (the song's protagonist) out of $187 and his wedding band through a series of pool games, then reveals he had gotten rich off of hustling others when he is seen leaving in a Cadillac with a beautiful young blonde.
- The video for AC/DC's "Sink The Pink" deals with a hot female pool shark named Suzy Cue.
- The 1980's hit Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce features the line: "Mama used to say don't stay out-a late with the bad-a boys, always shoot-a pool, Giuseppe going to flunk-a school."
- The video for Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" has a bunch of gangsters paying pool in the back of the bar, before being interrupted by Jackson snatching up the cue ball and crushing it in his bare hand. The players are understandably annoyed.
- Shooting pool is among the unproper things Eartha Kitt sings about wanting to do in "I Want To Be Evil."
- The music video for "Bad to the Bone" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers has George in a pool match against Bo Diddley.
- The lead up to April Cruel's Day showed pool houses among the locals Vendetta Pro's Vampire Billy Blade frequents when not wrestling.
- When the CHIKARA tag team 2.0 went under the Paper-Thin Disguise of the Badd Boyz, they cut a promo proclaiming their toughness in the most stereotypical way possible. Of course, they were shooting pool the entire time.
- The Mercury Theatre on the Air: In the Mercury adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps, Richard Hannay has chased down the trio of bad guys, but can't be sure that they're actually the right people. While they all sit in the seaside house in a standoff, they all play a game of billiards—until the three men are in fact revealed to be the bad guys. This is a change from the novel where they play bridge in the climactic scene.
- The "Scum and Villainy" card in Sentinels of the Multiverse, which gives the bad guy a free card play and causes some damage if not destroyed, depicts bad guys Char, Friction, Proletariat and the Radioactivist shooting pool in a Bad-Guy Bar.
- Additionally, theres a villain named Cueball whos entire gimmick is pool. He has one power for each of the 15 pool balls and while that is ridiculous its also really awesome and Cueball is a really awesome villain if you ignore the pool theme.
- In The Music Man, Harold Hill gets River City riled up over the idea that pool, just recently introduced to the town, will corrupt their children. He makes excuses for billiards, which River City already has, saying that it's the pockets in a pool table "that mark the difference between a gentleman and a bum."
- Cuphead: In the case of Mangosteen, the giant eight ball and one of the members of the court of King Dice, bad guys are pool.
- The Pool minigame in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto IV. You can place bets- and if you lose, simply mug the winner and take your stuff back.
- Venom from Guilty Gear takes this to extremes, being the head of a guild of assassins who uses a fighting style based on pool, having a cue and balls as his signature weapons. That said, he's a pretty decent guy, and most of his villainy comes from his Undying Loyalty to his late master Zato-ONE, which puts him at odds with the rebel Millia Rage. They bury the hatchet by the end of Accent Core +, and by the time of Xrd, he and the now resurrected Zato have fully turned face, making this now a Subverted Trope.
- Left 4 Dead: Nick isn't evil, but he's had a very troublesome past and really isn't a nice guy. He's even got a line in there "God I love pool."
- Luigi's Mansion: Slim Bankshot, one of the escaped ghosts, is a billiards prodigy. Subverted, as he is an optional ghost and does not attack Luigi unless Luigi attacks first.
- Michael Jackson's Moonwalker: The same angry pool player from the Smooth Criminal music video shows up as an enemy at pool tables in Club 30 who breaks his cue in half over his knee and tries to stab Michael Jackson with the broken cue.
- Homestuck's Midnight Crew intermission features The Felt, a pool-themed gang of villainous Time Masters who have made a game based on their hats called "Table Stickball". For what it's worth, Diamonds Droog, the Midnight Crew's second-in-command, uses a pool cue as his Weapon of Choice.
- Taken further as time goes on, where the Devil of paradox space is Doc Scratch, a dapper, hyperintelligent mastermind whose head resembles a giant cue ball, and he is only the forerunner of the story's ultimate villain and the leader of the Felt, Lord English, where "English" is a term for putting a powerful spin on a ball. Our first clear look at him is a close-up of his eyes, which are rapidly-flashing pool balls. That's without getting into increasingly clear evidence that overall, ranging from the overt to the subtle, villainous and otherwise, Andrew Hussie really likes his cosmic pool metaphors.
- Act 6 reveals that the "path of conquest" of a dead session involves a game of pool played with planets.
- There's a Lackadaisy episode where Mordecai meets Gracie and his men at a speakeasy, where they're playing pool. The speakeasy itself is hidden in a pool hall.
- Paradigm Shift: The protagonists walk into a pool hall that's popular with the footsoldiers of a local Triad looking for a suspect, and Mike takes the opportunity to demonstrate he spent a lot of of his misspent youth hanging around these places himself. Then they take exception to being shaken down for the whereabouts of their buddy and he gets to show off his Wing Chun skills when he and Kate beat the crap out of everyone in the room. The Rant below the final page in the scene admits to the cliche'd nature of the scene, but the author had too much fun writing it to leave it out.
- Averted in The Return of Jafar; Genie and Carpet play pool, as part of a Running Gag that no matter what game they play, Carpet will always win.
Genie: Pool's a man's game, so being a rug he'll be at a disadvan...
[Carpet breaks and sinks all the balls at once, finishing with the eight-ball]
Genie: ... eh, pool's a dumb game anyway.
- Well, the Genie technically isn't a "man" either so that must be the reason...
- Alfred J. Kwak: Teenaged Dolf is seen playing pool with his henchmen Hannes and Wannes. He's also shown playing pool once as an adult (with only Hannes) while plotting a fascist coup. Dolf seems to then update to gambling.
- In Batman: The Animated Series:
- In episode "Almost Got'im" the Bad-Guy Bar that has the villains Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Ivy and Killer Croc playing pocker has a bunch of gangster-looking clients playing pool.
- In "Beware of the Creepr" the three main mooks of the Joker; Curly, Larry and Moe play pool when Harley gives them the night off.
- Our first (and, for all intents and purposes, last) look at the Ts' lair in Batman Beyond is of their leader playing some kind of futuristic pool that involves the ball exploding when it lands in the corner pocket. Then Batman drops in, at which point Fat T promptly attacks him with the cue. It doesn't take.
- There's also a pool table in the villain's club in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, surrounded by very colourful and very silly villains, though they're actually playing billiards. Someone in the DC animation team must like this trope.
- An episode of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids involved Rudy encountering a pool shark at the pool table of the local bowling alley, which led to a lesson about avoiding gambling.
- An episode of Gargoyles had Elisa playing pool with some gangsters in an attempt to convince them she had gone crooked.
- There's a pool table in the Bad-Guy Bar for Flash villains in Justice League Unlimited. The players flee when Batman enters the bar and it's later melted by a deflected shot from Trickster's snot gun.
- In the Looney Tunes short "The Dover Boys", a spoof of turn of the 20th Century "Mellerdramas", bad guy Dan Backslide "that coward, bully, cad and thief of Roquefort Hall" is first seen playing pool in "a tavern of unsavory repute" so vile that the Boys and their lady love have to avert their eyes as they bicycle past.
- In the 2018 "ReAnimated" collaboration, Backslide lines up a shot and then hits the ball with his nose.
- In the Mr. Bogus episode "Bogus Private Eye", the Wicked Weasel mobster pair that Bogus and Brattus are after are briefly seen playing pool in the Billiard Hall.
- School House Rock and Naughty Number Niiiiiine
- The Spectacular Spider-Man has a pool hall (the "Big Sky Billiard Room") that, other than the bar, is quite literally nothing but at least a dozen pool tables. Some rather unsavory characters hang out here. Gamblers frequently are seen here, too, as Blackie Gackston works from this hall. It's explicitly noted that the bar belongs to Montana (aka Shocker), leader of one of the show's two Quirky Miniboss Squads. (It was later destroyed in the fight between Spider-Man and Molten Man.) His superior, Tombstone also has a pool table in his office, and is seen playing. Green Goblin also plays pool when he crashes the Big Sky, getting every ball in the pocket but one, and he blows up the one remaining.
- Featured in the bar Puff and Onyx hang out at in the Static Shock episode "Consequences".
- Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: Dr. Maelstrom is stated to be a fantastic pool player, but this is only an Informed Attribute (it was brought up as the justification for leaving a billiards-based clue).
- Back in the early 1990s, when London's Slimelight was a Hell's Angels hangout, they could usually be found playing pool on the top floor. When there were drug dealers about, they would also pick that spot. These days, the pool tables are situated on the ground and first floor seating areas and not the exclusive domains of "bad guys".