Inside America’s Pool Rooms

Str8 Shooters Cleveland Mississippi

By: Tracy Lerma

On the road again, where you may ask? As you all recall, the last story covered was in Huntsville, Alabama, so let us just take this on the road to find those locations that the locals find interesting. You never know what you will find while in search of a local pool tournament.  Arriving in Cleveland, Mississippi we stumble upon a room called Str8 Shooters.  The first question that crossed my mind, do they have a Starbucks? Sadly, no, but it is a pool room I am looking for and not the local coffee chain. What brings me to this specific little town? Armed with social media, the SOS asking all my greatest local players to send me flyers about tournaments they would love for me to attend, I got extremely excited about the results. After sorting through many flyers, one flyer caught my attention, which brings me to this host location and one local favorite Robert “AJ” Jones, had competed in Huntsville Alabama weeks before and had taken second place at Bumpers Billiards. This would be worth checking out. This guy was a fierce competitor on my home turf.

Str8 Shooters is located right off highway 278 at 219 North St. This room is a cozy extended man cave type vibe with a welcoming atmosphere, hosting 4 Valley Bar Boxes, one 9-foot table.  A beverage station bar and a nonsmoking room means clean tables to play on but gives its players a secluded area for those who smoke, it is all about pool here. They lined the walls with photos of the greats like Jackie Gleason playing pool. Also, covering the walls with some large TV’s so you do not miss a sports game. I asked room owner, Chris Yarborough, what made him want to put in a room here? “I wanted to have a place where we could play, everything is about an hour from here” This room has only been open a few weeks but there have been some top players associated with this room. I have associated Billiard Champion Dennis Orcollo, and his fellow player Roland Garcia, and Tennessee’s very own Johnathan “Hennessee” Pinegar. These are just a few of the big-names that grace the list of players stopping in for action.  For Chris Yarborough’s first hosted tournament it went very well, the players and I were all cared for by him and his wife Taylor, with beverages and snacks from the bar

Robert “AJ” Jones                 Photo by : Tracy Lerma

William “Buster” Merchant               Photo by : Tracy Lerma

The venue hosted twenty players on September 5, 2020, with top local players ranging from William “Buster” Merchant, Jonathan Martin and Robert “AJ” Jones. The opportunity presented itself to sit down with both AJ and Buster, just to see how they adjusted after being locked down because of the health crisis. Buster replies, “You just got to be smart and as far as pool, I always say, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”  Merchant never failed to bring the comical side of pool into the conversation.  AJ had this to say, “You just have to love the game. Sometimes I can just walk away but something brings me right back, as far as the virus I have had it and we need to stay safe” Wise words coming from this Short Stop who works a 9 to 5 in his own business.  As the bracket winds down the unexpected happens, AJ loses the Hot Seat match to Buster then places third in the tournament. Not a bad cash day, if you ask me.  Jonathan Martin walks through the loser’s side, to face Buster Merchant in the finals, with Martin having to win twice to claim the title and big cash. Merchant, humbly defeating Martin, which places him with first place and Martin second. Both players earned their money that night!  If you are in the area, this is a perfect place to hang out and see what kind of action is going on here. It absolutely lives up to the name.  Will Chris and Taylor put on another event? Will it be bigger and better than the last one with those big-name champions seeking the added cash?  This article is about players in a small town, and a room owner in Southern America trying to stay open.  This tournament is on a list of places on my radar to attend for Inside Pool Magazine and its readers.

Where will my next venue be? Who has a venue that needs to be on this road map of places to find the next Skylar Woodward or Billy Thorpe? Where is she going next week, with her camera and note pad? Will it be your hometown?  You will want to watch for our next article and follow us on or on The  Billiard Channel (TBC), to find out about Inside America’s Pool Rooms.

Jonathan Martin                Photo by : Tracy Lerma