Mike Massey

Trick-shot artist Mike Massey, center, shown during a 2011 appearance, is in the Baltimore area this weekend through Nov. 24. (Photo courtesy of Chris Berwind / April 19, 2011)

Professional pool player Mike Massey doesn't travel the country hustling players for money the way he used to.

Since being "saved" and becoming a Christian in his early 20s, Massey has won 23 major professional tournaments, including eight made-for-television trick-shot tournaments on ESPN, and was inducted into the sport's Hall of Fame in 2005.

Today, Massey, 67, travels the world, putting on shooting exhibitions, playing challenge games against awe-struck strangers and showing off his several famous trick shots. He's in the Baltimore area this weekend through Nov. 24.

Massey's most prominent shot is called "The Boot" and can be seen on YouTube.

"I had a table at home, and I started working on the shots," Massey said. "Well, the shots started coming to me, and then I started using the shots to go to prisons, detention homes, churches, whatever to give my testimony."

He mostly enjoys traveling from his home in Park City, Utah, to places such as Iraq, Egypt and the Philippines, where pool, he says, is the second-most popular sport by participation. He meets people from all over the world who tell him they got hooked to the game because they saw him on TV.

"I travel all the time, and I'm always running into people who say, 'Hey, you inspired me to play pool from watching ESPN,'" Massey said. "So [trick shots have] really brought a lot of exposure to the game."

Trick shots appeal to the average viewer, which other versions of the game simply don't do. Massey says trick-shot competitions get much better ratings on TV because they are set up to be entertaining and less serious.

It's also the reason Massey quit doing those competitions about six or seven years ago. The use of props "got a little out of hand," he said.

"Most of the top trick-shot players wouldn't be able to compete with the top half of the players [who play other types of games]," Massey said.

Terry Justice, the president of the Maryland league of the American Poolplayers Association for the past 30 years, said what makes Massey so appealing to his peers is that he can dominate any version of pool, whether it's a trick-shot competition or regular nine-ball.

"There are a few other good trick-shot artists out there. Mike, I would have to say, is the best, by far," Justice said. "Mike is a good showman, a good Christian gentleman. He signs everything. He just cares about people, and he's vibrant and friendly and outgoing and the kind of person that you can hang out with there at the show and feel comfortable with.

"[Other players] like to shoot against a pro so they can go tell their friends, 'Hey, I just shot against Mike Massey.'"

The Baltimore area is a hotbed for pool. In fact, the APA's Maryland league has about 1,300 teams that play weekly, or about 10,000 players. That makes it the largest franchise in the APA, which is the biggest pool league in the world, with about 270,000 members.

thschwartz@baltsun.com

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Massey's schedule

TRICK-SHOT EXHIBITIONS

Sunday, Nov. 17: Mango Manny's, 8712 Loch Raven Blvd., Towson, 6-9 p.m., 410-825-9800

Monday, Nov. 18: Belles, 1202 East Patrick St., Frederick, 5:30-7 p.m., 301-696-6924

Tuesday, Nov. 19: Champions, 5205 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick, 5:30-7 p.m., 301-846-0089

Wednesday, Nov. 20: Great Slates, 732 Cambridge Plaza, Cambridge, 5:30-7 p.m., 410-221-7665

Thursday, Nov. 21: Chug-A-Mugs, 121 Earls Road, White Marsh, 7-10 p.m., 410-274-0848

Friday, Nov. 22: Donna's Tavern, 6607 Pine Ave., Dundalk, 8-11 p.m., 410-633-6677

Saturday, Nov. 23: Swelly's Bar, 2213 Northwood Dr., Salisbury, 1-4 p.m., 410-742-9677

Saturday, Nov. 23: Garden Bar, 4809 Erdman Ave., 7-10 p.m., 410-563-9294

Sunday, Nov. 24: Martinsburg, W.Va., location TBA