I walked into Jimmy’s Billiards (235 S. Milpitas Blvd.) on a Wednesday afternoon. Upon entering, I heard the din of pool players, along with the gentle, chronic crack of billiard balls. In the air was soothing soft rock, adding to the room’s overall flow. Over in the corner, setting up two new tables (to bring the total from 28 to 30, due to unexpected demand), was the owner himself, Jimmy. He preferred not to go on the record with his last name.
I mentioned the previous pool hall at this spot: Edgie’s. But Jimmy can’t speak to Edgie’s fate. Before he took over, “It was just empty…This is a brand new business, totally unaffiliated [with Edgie’s].” He went on, “As far as I know, the building was empty more than two years…”
During the pandemic, Edgie’s shut down. Said Jimmy, “I used to be a customer, and just like all the other customers, I was driving by and checking if they’re open, and I saw the For Lease sign…”
This was a problem for Jimmy, as the pool hall had become a big part of his life. But he didn’t go in for pool; he went in for carom, a European variant of billiards with a distinct mindset and format. Ironically, said the owner of Jimmy’s Billiards, “I don’t play pool.” But without carom in his life, he’d have a gap: “This was a big part of my life and I couldn’t let it go…It has quite a bit of following. In general, in the USA, it’s pretty limited.” Carom, he said, “tickles your brain.” And compared to pool, it requires more control on the cue ball. “It’s like a flow state,” he explained.
So he gave the building’s owners a call, offering to rent the space, but by then they’d already had their fill of pool halls.
About five months later, though, they called him back: “If you’re still interested, come in, let’s talk.”
Said Jimmy, “We went back and talked to them, and it happened.”
While we spoke, Jimmy was literally constructing a brand new pool table. His hall’s been open for five weeks, but the Grand Opening is coming up this weekend, January 28 and 29, complete with a special tournament for customers.
Tournaments, he explained, are a big part of the pool business. In the days ahead, Jimmy’s is hosting a carom tournament with 46 players and a pool tournament with 96 players. The pool hall has relationships with The American Poolplayers Association (APA) and The Billiard Congress of America (BCA). “We also have our own tournaments, weekly as well as monthly…” Those tournaments are not league-based; they’re open to everyone. But Jimmy made his pool hall’s main goal clear: “We just wanted to provide a player-friendly room.”
To that end, they have only Diamond brand tables, which Jimmy calls the best in the USA – the go-to for all regional and national tournaments. “They are pretty much the standard.” In addition, they stocked up on costly balls, and have only LED lighting atop the tables: emanating clear, cool white. They sought to avoid hurting players’ eyes but also provide them with ample visibility. Jimmy pointed out that at every turn, he could have gone for cheaper options, but he chose quality instead.
Speaking about pool in general, Jimmy called it “a two-dimensional game with endless possibilities.” Moreover, if someone’s looking for a social circle, they can build a community over pool pretty fast: come in, hit the ball, and meet new people.
In the afternoon, the place is quiet, but it’s certainly busy enough. Players circle tables in deep concentration, some in pairs or groups, but most of them shooting solo. Come 7PM, however, after work gets out, Jimmy expects the place to fill. Such has been the pattern. And they’re just getting started.
“In Northern California,” Jimmy said to me, “the room you’re seeing right now is pretty much the best.”
Learn more about Jimmy’s Billiards here.