Most couples aren’t into playing mind games, but Larry and Andrea Wilson have mastered theirs.
The Saanich couple are making a name for themselves with their accomplishments in pool, a game which both agree is just as much mental as it is physical.
The Wilsons logged their latest win in Las Vegas at the BCA Pool League National Championships, where more than 6,000 professional and amateur entrants competed.
On May 15, Larry and Andrea won the advanced Scotch doubles 8 Ball division, a pairs game in which partners alternate shot-by-shot.
Unlike most of their opponents, the Wilsons, who retired from careers in real estate and property management, are close partners away from the table.
“There’s more involved than just being a supportive spouse,” Andrea said. “It’s knowing how to mentally prepare for a match. … If we start getting stressed, we remind ourselves it’s our novelty event.”
The “novelty” event is one the amateur players, also the operators of the Vancouver Island Pool League, know their way around.
In their first attempt at playing Scotch doubles at the BCA Pool League National Championships in 2000, the Wilsons won the open category.
“It’s old hat for us now and not quite as exciting,” said Larry, who started playing pool 43 years ago in downtown Victoria.
While the couple cut their teeth at different pool rooms around town, such as Peacock Billiards and the pool hall that once occupied the lower level of the Sugar Nightclub building, they now log most of their hours at home or the Brittania branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
When they finish renovating their Cordova Bay home, they’ll have the luxury of a 1,000 square-foot pool room with three tables, two of which were used in high-level professional play, including the 2011 Mosconi Cup.
David Vandenberghe, chief operating officer of championship hosts Cue Sports International, based out of Nevada, sees the Wilsons regularly at tournaments on both sides of the border.
Beyond their value as league operators for the Island, the two are leaders in the sport, Vandenberghe said.
Though the list of Andrea and Larry’s individual accomplishments is lengthy – both are two-time Canadian national champions – they agree that Larry’s skills are slightly sharper than Andrea’s.
They don’t let their varying abilities create tension between them. Rather, Andrea, who’s been at the game for a mere 29 years, sees it as a reality most high-level players face. She attributes the variance in skill levels between the sexes to the female tendency toward nurturing and showing compassion for a wounded opponent.
“If it’s evident your opponent is struggling, there’s a risk of letting up on a tournament,” said Andrea. She later noted that every so often, she’ll host an unbridled battle, regardless of her opponent’s mental state.
“Sometimes you’ve got to remind yourself, you’re your own warrior,” she said.
Larry sees each game as puzzle, a challenge before him.
“It’s the perfect combination of physical skill and mental acuity. You need to have them both.”
Larry defines pool as the constant adjustment to a series of situations that arise when things don’t go exactly as planned. For the Wilsons, those adjustments are confined to the pool table.
“We’ve seen some couples broken down to tears,” Andrea added.