WEST RIDGE — At Cary’s Lounge on Devon Avenue, when members of The Apocalypsticks walk in they are treated like celebrities.
Bar regulars are happy to buy them a drink or take a picture with them. The owner pours them a round of tequila shots, gratis.
They are champions, after all.
The pool team, with nearly every member from the neighborhood, just won the American Poolplayers Association Ladies 8-Ball Championship in Las Vegas.
They’ve been playing for decades. And when they came together to travel to Vegas, they showed no fear and brought the APA title back to Chicago.
They call themselves the Apocalypsticks and joke that someday, when they are “old and gray,” they will be playing in pool halls under the name the “ApocaHIPsticks” when they may need a hip replacement.
With the exception of team captain Darlene Dantes, who has been playing for four years, most of the women have been playing pool for decades. And most of them have been in bars since well before they were tall enough to see above the counter.
Team member Courtney Glascoe said she has been playing for more than 20 years.
While intimidating from a distance, members of the Apocalypsticks are friendly and quick to offer up a shot of Malort or an extra smoke. They also aren’t afraid to poke fun at each other, or anyone else they interact with.
“Not only are we smart, we are smart asses,” Dantes said.
Team member Nicole Riggio — who tends bar at Cary’s while also working as a real estate broker — said the Apocalypsticks brought their personality and attitude with them to the tournament in Las Vegas.
The team loves to have a good time, are unapologetic about who they are and rip shots before some of their biggest matches “to help calm the nerves.”
Riggio was sometimes strategically played later in the day to help her stave off any lingering hangover effects, Dantes said.
“There’s no crying in pool,” Riggio said.
When Dantes was given the honor of selecting a women’s team to represent their area of Chicago, she aimed to assemble a dream team. Instead of selecting players she regularly played with, she tapped players she would often compete against. Magic was made.
“We had the right team chemistry,” team member Crystal Banks said.
“You know how hard it is to find five women who can get along?” asked Dantes.
The national tournament in Vegas was double elimination and The Apocalypsticks lost their very first match, so the pressure was on. The team knew it was “lose and go home.”
From there on out, the days were long and grueling, with matches starting as early as 8 a.m. and continuing until as late as 10 p.m.
But the team persevered, winning every remaining match to ultimately beat the Femmes Fatales of Brentwood, N.Y. in a nailbiter. (You can watch the match here.)
Coming from Chicago brings a certain intimidation factor, the ladies said, as Chicago has long been known as a place with great pool halls.
“People are scared to play us,” Dantes said. “Chicago has a certain reputation.”
It’s easy to see why The Apocalypsticks could have an intimidating reputation. When asked how they spent their $10,000 prize money, team member Silva McDermott joked she spent it on “hookers and blow.”
“But you have to make sure to tell them we are joking,” Riggio said. “My dad’s a cop and he’d be pissed.”
But winning is about so much more than money, they said.
“Sure, it’s about the money,” Dantes said. “But the bragging rights is what it is really all about.”
And the bragging rights are real. While talking up their victory, the group stopped to pose for photos with an admiring bar patron.
“You have brought so much pride to this neighborhood,” he said. “We are so grateful to all of you.”
Cary’s Lounge, one of the team sponsors, hosted a viewing party where regulars packed the house to watch the team play. The atmosphere was said to be electric.
Landstar Realty, where Banks works, and Dantes’ consulting company, The Prophetz Group, also sponsored the team.
Until they reassemble to take on the tournament again next year, the women will likely go back to their regular pool teams and leagues, competing across the North Side.
You can find them playing pool at Cary’s Lounge, 2252 W. Devon Ave., The Black Sheep (a bar owned by team member Silva McDermott), 2535 W. Peterson Ave., and Ten Cat, 3931 N. Ashland Ave.
Fans can celebrate the Apocalypsticks’ win at party at 8 p.m. Sept. 7 at Cary’s Lounge.
“All are welcome,” Dantes said. “But buy us drinks.”
Those who want to get involved with a pool league at any skill level can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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