A waft of stale Coors Banquet and Camel cigarette smoke smacks you like a schoolyard sucker punch, temporarily clouding your vision and watering your eyes. A generic blend of 1970s Americana shuffles through the jukebox as 40-something-year-old divorcee waitresses deliver greasy baskets of cheese burgers and french fries to high-top tables lining the wood-paneled walls of such-and-such Billiards.
Whether you're in Homestead, Louisville, Toledo, or Vegas, the genetic makeup of a billiards hall is relatively standard -- a seedy place seemingly stuck in time and largely comprised of degenerate gamblers, hustlers, and bruisers.
The underground world of high-stakes pool can be both terrifying and entertaining, but for Blair Thein, it's the inspiration behind Pool, Poker and Pain.
Pool, Poker and Pain is a reality television concept show that combines high-stakes billiards, big money poker, and mixed martial arts, and for nearly a decade, Thein's been trying to push it.
"I have $300,000 of my own money and a couple $100,000 of my friends' money invested in the show," he says.
Thein recently teamed up with Deadliest Catch producer Doug Stanley, and together the they're hoping to sell the show to a network.
"Pool's never really had a reality show, we're tapping into high stakes gambling -- we already know what's going on with poker, and MMA's off the charts, "Thein says. "I feel like I've got a tiger by the tail with this show."
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In a nutshell, 16 contestants, including Thein, will travel from Melbourne, Florida, to Las Vegas, competing in pool tournaments along the way. They'll also be dropping serious loot on poker games and fighting mano-a-mano in the "Circle of Truth," a 32-foot "combat cage" where the guys will settle their debts.
"We're gonna start filming in about 60 days right here in Melbourne," Thein says. "I've got some really tough guys lined up. The MMA world and the pool world are going be surprised just how tough."
A few years ago, Thein says a he hustled a dude out of $3,700 playing pool. "He wasn't a good loser and said, 'I'll fight you for that money.' He broke my jaw and busted my lip, but I ended up beating him after six minutes. I'm not saying I'm the toughest fighter, I'm the toughest pool player."