So, it’s not exactly like the rule of Fight Club (you do not talk about Fight Club) but it is all dudes competing under the radar. Chances are if you’ve walked into a neighborhood bar like the Buckhorn Tavern on a Wednesday night you’ve seen these guys in action – but instead of wielding fists, it’s pool cues and now matter how bad you’re beat, there’s a collegiate handshake and maybe even some barbecue waiting for you at the end.

Yet, you will be hard-pressed to find evidence of this weekly ritual online, or on social media, or anywhere other than the 24.5 square feet of green felt where it actually counts. The gents in question operate on a strictly a first name basis (at least when talking to the local press) and just as often prefer nicknames. Such is the case with Jimbo, a bearded, 50-something gentleman, who looks like he might be as comfortable with a motorcycle throttle as a pool cue.

“I’ve been in 20-something years,” says Jimbo of the league, which represents players from Petaluma, Penngrove and Cotati (the “PPC”) culled from local watering holes. In conversation, Jimbo proves quite disarming. Curious as to why this reporter’s nose is crooked, he asked “How did a big guy like you let that happen?” with an expletive-eating grin. It’s easy to see why he’s so respected amongst his peers, though bringing the aforementioned barbecue every week certainly helps.

“Unless I’m out of town, I try to bring food for everybody I play,” says Jimbo. “At the end of the season we have a nice party. That’s what we play for – to have fun. Some people go for the trophies and everything else but this is for fun.”

Joe, who drolly summarizes his personal routine as “work, eat, play pool, sleep,” concurs with Jimbo.

“It’s more casual compared to other leagues. We’re just here to have a good time and play pool,” says Joe, who says he honed his estimable pool skills in this environment.

“That’s the goal – always strive to get better at everything you do. I enjoy playing pool, it’s a strategically-minded game, and just like any other game I’ve played, I put my all into it and see where it goes,” says Joe, who is likewise a fan of chess and similar games of strategy, though this Petaluma pool table seems to be his present passion.

“Everybody is real happy. We’re not here to play crappy pool, we’re here to have fun. And it’s still competitive,” says Dennis, a 15-year veteran of the league, who plays for Buffalo Billiards on the north end of Petaluma Boulevard. “It’s a great league.”

Gather Around the Petaluma Pool Table

In May, the league will convene a celebration at Herzog Hall at the Sonoma Marin Fairgrounds and Event Center with what Dennis describes as “a big blow out with tri-tip, shrimp and salmon. They give away pool cues and there’s an open bar – it’s just a great, fun league.”

“You don’t have to be good,” laughs Jimbo, pointing out that there are four divisions with variations in skill level represented. “I’m not that great, I’ve been playing forever but I don’t get that much better,” he says – though it’s hard to believe him. “Some nights I shoot good, some nights I don’t.”

But Jimbo always brings something to the table.

Buckhorn Tavern is located at 615 Petaluma Blvd S., Petaluma. For more information, call (707) 763-0365 or visit buckhorntavern.com.

Daedalus Howell is the author of Quantum Deadline, a darkly comic sci-fi crime novel, set in Lumaville. Also, you’ll never believe the strange goings-on at DaedalusHowell.com.