Based on the novel by Walter S. Tevis and directed by Robert Rossen, a pool shark can make money hustling, and he challenges the leading player to a long contest in which he gets drunk. He leaves his partner and gets to know an alcoholic woman and teams up with a gambler.
Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) parks his car and tells the service attendant to check his car and fill it up.
Eddie and Charlie Burns (Myron McCormick) go in to a bar for drinks. Eddie tells the bartender they are on the way to Pittsburgh for a sales convention. Charlie says Eddie is getting an award and is the fastest salesman in the territory. The bartender (Jake LaMotta) says they have three hours of time to spare, and Eddie talks Charlie into playing pool. Eddie continues to drink, and he misses easy shots. Two men find out from the bartender that Eddie has lost about $70, and one says it is too bad he can’t hold his liquor. Eddie makes a difficult shot and wins a game. Charlie says he was lucky. Eddie tells him to set it up again because he will bet him $20 he can make it again. He asks the other men if that is how they were before. This time he misses the shot and loses the bet. He tells Charlie to set them up again; but Charlie says he is drunk, and he will not bet him any more. The bartender watching says he will bet Eddie. He has the bartender set up the balls. Eddie says he will bet $105, and the bartender takes it out of the till. Charlie tells Eddie he will meet him in the car. Eddie makes the shot and in the car shows the money to Charlie.
A limping black man opens the blinds in Ames Billiards parlor. Eddie and Charlie come in and notice how quiet it is. Eddie says it is like a church for a good hustler. Eddie asks if he can use any table. The man says there is no bar or other distractions, just pool. Eddie checks out a table. He asks Charlie how much he will win tonight and says he will make ten grand in one night. He asks Charlie who will beat him. Charlie admits no one can beat him. Eddie asks where else he could do that. Big John (Michael Constantine) asks if he is looking for a game. Eddie asks if he wants to play. Big John says no and asks if he is Eddie Felson, and he tells him not to try to hustle him. Eddie admits who he is and asks if he has any straight pool shooters there. He would like an expensive game. Big John asks if he came there to play pool with Minnesota Fats, and Eddie says yes. Charlie asks how much it will cost, and Big John asks who he is. Eddie says he is his partner. Big John advises them to go home because Fats is the best in the country. Big John says he warned him and tells him that Fats comes in every night at eight.
At eight Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) comes in and takes off his overcoat. He sees men playing pool at all five tables. He watches Eddie and says he shoots a good stick. Eddie asks if he shoots straight pool and grins. Eddie asks if he is Minnesota Fats and says that where he comes from people say he is the best. Eddie says he comes from Oakland, California, and Fats asks if his name is Eddie Felson. Fats says he heard he was looking for him, and he asks Big John if he thinks this boy is a hustler. They laugh. Fats asks Eddie if he likes to gamble on pool games, and Eddie suggests they play a game of straight pool. Fats suggests $100, but Eddie says he shoots big-time pool and asks for $200 a game. Fats says now he knows why they call him “Fast Eddie.” He tells Sausage to rack ‘em up. Big John and others take seats to watch the match. Fats washes his hands. Charlie asks Eddie how he feels. Eddie says he feels fast and loose. Charlie asks about his gut, and Eddie says he feels tight but good. Charlie and Fats each put $200 on the table, and Fats tells Willie to hang on to it. At the same moment Fats and Eddie lag balls, and Fats says that Eddie breaks. Eddie hits a corner ball, smiles, and says he did not leave him much. Fats says he left enough and calls six in the corner. He hits the pack, and the balls scatter. He goes on calling each shot while Eddie sits down and watches with awe. He says he is great and that he moves like a dancer.
At eleven Eddie is shooting and wins another game, and spectators applaud. Later Eddie leaves Fats a pack of balls, but Fats makes the shot and continues to win. Each time Charlie pays $200. Charlie tells Eddie to quit because he is too good. Eddie says he is going to take him. Eddie asks if he missed and says he does not leave much when he misses. Fats says that is what the game is about. Eddie makes the shot and says he feels like he can’t miss. He shoots quickly and says he owns this table now.
At 2:30 Eddie wins another game. He keeps winning. Eddie tells Fats to pay the man again. During a break at four Eddie asks Charlie how much he is ahead. Charlie says $1,000. Eddie asks Fats to play for $1,000 a game. Fats tells Preacher (Stefan Gierasch) to get him some whiskey, a glass, and some ice. Eddie tells Preach to get him some bourbon, no ice, no glass. Fats tells him to get it at Johnny’s, and he tells Eddie he has a bet. They both stand up and take off their jackets.
Preach whispers to Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) while he is sitting at a poker game. Bert is drinking milk and tells them to cash him in.
Fats is calling his shots, and Eddie is drinking. Fats misses, and Eddie shoots while Fats drinks. Time passes. When the black man opens the blinds, Fats tells him to cut the sunshine out. Eddie is looking at a shot and speaks to Bert as “Mister” and tells him to move from that spot. Bert stands up and sits down again. Eddie wins another game, and Fats pays. Eddie drinks some water and finds out from Charlie that they have $11,400. Eddie tells Preacher to bring him some breakfast; but Charlie says he is going with him to eat breakfast at the hotel because the pool game is over. Eddie says it is over when Fats says so. Charlie says he wanted $10,000, and he got it. Eddie tells him to get with it. Eddie says he came after him and that he is going to get him. He is going with him all the way. Eddie asks Fats if it is over, and Fats looks at Bert who looks at Eddie who says he is going to beat him. He beat him all night, and he will beat him all day. Eddie tells Fats he is the best even if Fats beats him. Bert tells Fats to stay with it because this kid is a loser.
Charlie says they have been playing for 25 hours. Eddie asks for a drink, but Charlie says he does not need one. Eddie tells him to shut up and give him a drink. Charlie hands the bottle to Eddie. Fats is combing his hair and washing his hands while Eddie is drinking. Charlie tells Eddie that they are ahead 18,000. Bert says he thought he said the game was over when Fats said it was over. Charlie says it is over now. Fats puts on his jacket and puts talcum powder on his hands. Fats invites Fast Eddie to play some pool. Eddie says he looks beautiful like a baby. Charlie asks Eddie what he is trying to do; he beat him bad. Eddie asks Charlie if he is chicken. Eddie demands that Charlie give him his money, and Charlie does so and says he is a fool. Eddie laughs and says he will break.
Fats is shooting and wins another game. He sits down, and Charlie tells Eddie to wake up because he lost again. Eddie staggers over to Fats and asks if the money in his hands is all they have left. Fats asks Willie for the stake money. Eddie is drunk and says he has $200, but Fats says the game is over. Eddie says he can’t run out on him, and Fats tells him to watch him. Eddie begs Fats as he goes out. Eddie falls on the floor, and Charlie tries to wake him up. Bert and Big John leave.
Eddie is lying on a bed in a hotel room while Charlie sleeps in the other bed. Eddie gets up and looks out the window at Ames Billiards. He puts some money on the table and says he is sorry to Charlie who is still asleep.
Eddie carries clothes in plastic bags and a suitcase in a bus station. He asks for a towel. Eddie puts his suitcase and clothes in a locker and sees Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie) in the coffee shop. He sits near her and asks how long she has been waiting for a bus. She says since four. He orders black coffee and orders another cup for her. He finds out her bus leaves at eight. She says it wouldn’t give them much time. He smiles and agrees. He says hello and goodbye. He tells her to have a nice trip, and she thanks him. Later she asks for the check. While his eyes are closed, she stands up and leaves. A waitress wakes up Eddie and tells him it was paid for by the lady.
Eddie walks into a bar and orders bourbon. He sees Sarah in a booth and goes over and asks if she had a nice trip. He asks if he can sit down, and she says they already know each other’s secrets. He thanks her for the breakfast. She says they are two ships passing in the night, and he buys her another drink. He says she looks more relaxed. He asks what happened to her bus, and she says she went there for the same reason he did. She says at that time one does not have much choice. She lives three blocks from the bus station. She knows he lives in a locker in a bus station and asks what it is like. He says it is cramped. He asks if she always drinks this much so early in the morning, and she asks if he always asks so many questions. She asks if the bartender Max trust her, and he confirms it. When she is not broke, she has a bottle in her room and sleeps very well. He says she talks funny, but he likes it. She says she was an actress and is a college girl two days a week. He says she does not look like a college girl. She says she is emancipated. He asks what she does on the other days, and she says she drinks. She says she is getting sleepy, and he tells her his name is Eddie. She tells him her name is Sarah, a Biblical name. He says he could get them a bottle, but she says no. She asks if he wants her to step out in the alley, but he says he will take her home. She says all right, and he pays the bill. He helps her walk. She tells him she is not drunk but lame.
They walk on the street, and he goes into a liquor store and comes out with a bottle. They walk down the street. She leads him to her apartment and unlocks it. She asks why her, and he kisses her. After a while she says no. He backs off and gives her the bottle, saying it is hers.
Eddie rents a room for $1.50 a night. He gets his stuff from the locker and sees no one in the coffee shop but a man cleaning.
Eddie goes into a liquor store and then into his room with a bottle. He sits on the bed and sees how little money he has.
Eddie goes into a pool hall and orders a bottle of beer. He asks if he can grab a cue, and the man says he is Eddie Felson and says he saw him at Ames. Eddie offers to play with one hand, and the guy says he is way out of their league.
Eddie wins some money and buys drinks for the losers. The man says he shoots good and lucky.
Eddie is in the coffee shop alone when Sarah comes in. They look at each other. He stands up, grabs his bottle, and puts his arm around her as they walk out.
In her room Eddie opens the shutter on the window to see what kind of day it is. She asks what time it is, and he says it is eleven. He kisses her, and she tells him there is a razor he can use. She asks why he calls her Sarah and says she lies when she is drunk. She says they both have troubles, and maybe it would be better if they left each other alone. He says he has his things at the hotel and that he will bring them over later.
Sarah is buying some food at a store, and she carries the box back to her room. Eddie opens the door and asks where she was all day. She was at school because it is Thursday. He says he went out for a couple hours. She gives him a cigarette lighter as a present. She says she is telling people that she has a fella. He thanks her. She asks where he goes when he is out. He says he goes to museums, art galleries, and concerts. He asks if she goes to school, and she asks if he wants to go with her. He asks if she has read all those books. She says yes, but they get mixed up when she is drunk. He suggests she go to a clinic for treatment. She says she is getting treatments there. He says he is hungry, and she tells him to take his choice. She has enough to last until Tuesday. He asks how much it costs, and he wants her to keep track. She says the bills are there. He asks if she cooks, and she says eggs; but he says he likes them raw. He goes to get something from his suitcase. She asks what is in the smaller case, and he says it is a machine gun. He asks where she gets the money for the groceries and the rent. She says from a rich old man who was her lover, and she kisses him.
They hear a knock, and Charlie says hello to Eddie who introduces him to his girl. Eddie says he looked all over for him. She asks if he wants her to go, and Eddie says no. Eddie offers him coffee, and Charlie admits he is broke and asks for a drink. He asks why he walked out on him when they were partners. Eddie says he was like a son. Charlie says he knew he was a talented boy. He wants Eddie to come back on the road with him. He asks if he is going to go back to play Fats again. Eddie says he is going to beat him. Charlie says he is crazy because they beat him. Eddie says he will get his money back. Charlie says he cares about him. He says Eddie gave him the car and $100. Charlie says he is best pool hustler ever, and they did well on the road and had money to burn. Charlie says he can take her along. He says they can go to Miami first. Eddie asks with what, and Charlie says he will raise the money. Charlie asks for another drink. Eddie asks Charlie if he held out on him and how much. Charlie says it was his 25%, $1,500. Eddie gets angry and says he could have beat him with that. Eddie tells him to give him the money and admits that he wants to play Fats again. Charlie says they can go on the road, but he will not use it to play Minnesota Fats. Eddie says he does not see it because he is a small-time Charlie. He says maybe he could get enough to buy a pool hall. Charlie admits that is what he wants. Eddie tells him to lay down and die by himself. Charlie asks if that is it, and Eddie says it is. Charlie thanks Eddie’s girl for the drink and goes out. Eddie asks her for another drink. He says everybody wants a piece of him. She hands him a drink, and she pours one for herself. He asks why he had to come back there. He tells her to come to him, and they kiss.
Sarah is drunk and is trying to type. Eddie throws out beer cans. She asks if he is going out, and he says he is for a little while. She knocks over the bottle, and he picks it up for her. She is lying on the bed and dials the phone. He asks what she is writing, and she says it is a story. He takes the paper out of the typewriter and asks what it means. She tells him to give it back to her. He asks what she means by “a contract with depravity.” He rips it up and tells her to write another story. She says they never talk about anything. They drink and make love. She asks what will happen to them. Will he tell her to lay down and die like he did to Charlie? He tells her to find herself another rich, old lover. She says he will help her, and he slaps her. She asks if he is waiting for her to cry. She calls him a pool-room bum.
Eddie goes into a pool-room and orders beer at the bar. He hears about a poker game that is open and goes into another room and is invited to join the game. He sits next to Bert and gets $20 in chips. Bert deals.
Later Eddie orders bourbon, and Bert makes it two and says he is buying. Eddie says he thought he only drank milk, but Bert says that is when he works. He says drinking while he is gambling is an excuse for losing. He asks how he did in the poker game, and Eddie admits he lost $20. Bert says poker is not his game, but pool is. He says Eddie played better than anyone he ever saw. He has talent. Eddie asks what beat him, and Bert says character. He asks if he can play pool for forty hours in a row on just talent. He says Minnesota Fats is not the best just because he has talent; he has much more character. Eddie says he got drunk, but Bert says Fats drank as much whiskey as he did. He asks if Fats was born knowing how to drink. Eddie asks what he is supposed to do now. Bert says that is his problem. Eddie says he will stay until he can hustle up enough to play Fats again. Maybe by then he will develop himself some character. Bert asks how much he thinks he will need, and Eddie says $1,000; but Bert says $3,000 at least. He says he will start him off at $500 a game and will beat the pants off him. Bert says that is the way he plays when he knows someone can play the game. He says he might be a little scared of him, which could change things, but he would not count on it. Eddie says no one could be that smart. Bert asks if he saw the big car outside and says he buys a new one every year because he makes it his business to know what people like Fats and he are going to do. He says he made enough off him the other night to pay for it twice. Eddie asks for another drink. Bert tells Eddie he is a born loser. He says that was the first time he ever saw Fats on the hook, but he let him off. Eddie says he got drunk. Bert says he will drop that load and start feeling sorry for himself, which he calls the best indoor sport enjoyed by all, especially born losers. Eddie thanks him for the drink and starts to leave, but Bert tells him to wait. He says he may be able to help get the $3,000 to play Fats. Eddie asks why, and Bert says he wants 75%. Eddie laughs and says that is a big slice. He asks if he thinks he is General Motors. Bert laughs and says Eddie has nothing, and he gets 75% if he wins. Eddie asks if he thinks he will lose, and Bert says he never saw him do anything else. Eddie says he was ahead by $18,000, but Bert says he doesn’t get paid for yardage like in football. You count up your money at the end of the game to see who won. Eddie asks why he wants to back him. Bert says he likes action, and Eddie has talent. Eddie asks him to cut his slice down, but Bert says he won’t change that. Eddie starts to leave, and Bert asks him where he is going to get the money. Eddie says he will scuffle around. Bert says if he walks into the wrong kind of place, they will eat him alive. Eddie asks him when he adopted him. Bert says he does not know, and Eddie leaves.
Eddie walks across the street and into Arthur’s pool hall. A man playing pool asks if he wants in. Eddie has won a few bucks, and two other players quit. The guy who asked him says it is just the two of them. He asks Eddie if he wants to raise the bet. Eddie says the guy is a hustler, and they agree to play. Eddie says to cut out the small stuff and suggests they play for $10 a game. The guy agrees and tells him not to miss. Eddie says he does not rattle, and because of that he will beat him flat. Eddie wins ten games in a row and tells the punk to pay him $100. The guy says he is quitting. Eddie looks at the three men. A bully says he is a real pool shark. Eddie says the other guy is too, but the bully says he is better. He asks him to pick up his money and says they have no use for pool sharks around there. When Eddie tries to take the money, three men grab him and take him in the back and hold him. Eddie shouts in pain.
Sarah hears a knock, and Eddie says it is him. She opens the door and asks him what happened. He says he got beat up, and they broke his thumbs. She embraces him.
Eddie has both arms in casts and is lying on her bed as she comforts him and says it is all right. Later they are eating at a table, and he drops the cup of coffee on the floor. He gets up, and she cleans it up. Later she is typing and says he can read it if he wants to. She asks if he wants to go out to the movies. He asks if she wants a drink, and she says no. He asks why it is so hot in there and opens a window. She goes to him, but he pushes her away. He opens his arms, and she unbuttons his shirt. He kisses her.
Sarah and Eddie go on a picnic with a basket and sit on a blanket. He asks if she thinks he is a loser. He says Bert called him a born loser. He says some people always are looking for an excuse to lose. She asks if Bert wins, and he says he has things. She asks if it bothers him what he said. Eddie says he had to show the punks what the game is like when it is great. He says when he is really going, he feels like a jockey on a fast horse who knows when to let it go and how much. Everything is working for him. He says it is a great feeling when you are right, and you know you are right. He says a pool cue has nerves in it. He says you just know and make shots no one ever made before. Sarah says he is not a loser but a winner. She says some men never feel that way about anything. She loves him. He says some day she will settle down and marry a college professor and write a book, maybe about him. She says she loves him again, and he asks if she needs the words. She says she does; if he ever says them, she will never let him take them back.
Eddie knocks on the door and shows Sarah his hands without the casts. She says she is glad.
Eddie is practicing pool, and Bert comes in and says hello. Bert asks why he is using the open-hand bridge, and Eddie says he had an accident at Arthur’s. He says his game is off about 20%. Bert asks what happened, and Eddie says a creep broke his thumbs. Bert knows who did it, and Eddie says he knows everybody. Bert says he knows who can help him and who can hurt him. Eddie says maybe he could give him lessons, and Bert tells him to sign up. Bert says the first place he has for him is in Louisville, Kentucky. Eddie says he will be there. Bert asks what happened, and Eddie says he is not a high-class property now and that 25% of something big is better than 100% of nothing. Bert orders a couple drinks.
Eddie and Sarah go into a nice restaurant. Sarah orders sherry, and Eddie asks for two. He says she looks pretty, and she says she feels pretty and laughs. She never saw him in a tie before. Eddie approves the wine. She drinks to him. Later the waiter brings the bill. He asks if she wants another drink, and she asks what he wants to tell her. He says he is leaving town for a little while. She asks for how long, and he says for about a week. She says sure and walks out by herself. It is raining, and he comes out and calls for a taxi. She says she will walk, and they do.
They come into her room, and he tells her to get some drying things on. She admits she wants to know why he is leaving. He says he is going to Louisville to make some money. He says he is leaving in the morning. She tells him to leave now, and he tells her to grow up. He says he is going to play pool. She says he hustled her, and he denies it. She says when he feels like it, he will come back. She asks if that is his idea of love, and he admits he has no idea of love and says she doesn’t either. She says she does and that she loves him. He asks if her idea of love is chains. She says she made him up and that he is not real. She says she had polio when she was a child. She was never an actress. The rich old man was her father who walked out on her when she was seven. He bought his way out of her life. She says the men in her life were not real; she made them up. She wanted him to be real. She admits she is scared.
Bert is waiting by his car. Eddie comes with Sarah and introduces her to him.
On the train Bert asks Sarah if she is going to be comfortable, and she says she is fine. He asks if she has ever been to Louisville during Derby week. He says it is lots of action.
While dining on the train Bert tells Eddie about James Findley, a gentleman gambler. He has a mansion with a pool table in the basement. Eddie asks how good he is, and Bert says he never saw him play; but they say he is one of the best. Sarah appears and says she is ready. Eddie says he must have a lot of confidence in him. Bert says he does not, but he has confidence in Findley, that he is a loser all the way while Eddie is only a half loser. Bert says he is finished and pays the bill, saying that when he plays for him, he picks up all the tabs.
Later on the train Bert tells Eddie to play that game in his head again to learn something. Bert tells Sarah how Fats went into the John, washed his face and hands, combed his hair, made his mind a blank, and came back ready to go. Eddie was through; he saw how Fats looked, clean and all set to start all over again. He says Eddie was waiting to get beat, swimming around in glory and whiskey, probably deciding how to lose. Sarah asks how Bert knows what Eddie was thinking. He says he knows because he has been there himself. He says they all have been there and asks her. Bert asks Eddie to light his cigarette and how his hand is, and he says it is fine. Bert says he does not want to think he is putting his money on a cripple. Sarah tells Eddie it is all right because she is sure that Mr. Gordon meant no offense with his figure of speech. She says a fact is a fact, and Bert tells Eddie she is a smart girl.
Eddie, Sarah, and Bert in a crowded hotel go to register. Bert says he reserved two adjoining suites, but the clerk says no until he takes some money from Bert. Eddie sees the billiard room and smiles. Eddie says he can smell the money. Billy sees Eddie and says this is like a hustler’s convention. He tells him to come in because the guys will be glad to see him. Eddie asks what room they are in and goes with Billy.
Sarah goes into a room and looks around and closes the door to Bert’s room. He says he wants to talk to her. He says they could cut each other up, but that would be bad for all of them, especially for Eddie. She says he knows what is good for him. He says to win, and she asks for whom and for what. He says for money and glory. He says today for him and tomorrow for himself. She says there is no tomorrow because he owns them all. He buys them today when they are cheap. He says nobody has to sell. She calls him a bastard. He says she is there on a rain check hanging on by her nails. She is a horse that finished last. He tells her not to make trouble, but live and let live while you can. He says he will make it up to her. She asks how, and he asks her to tell him. He goes into his room, and she closes the door.
At the horse races Eddie collects his winnings and goes back to Sarah and tells her he has $540. Bert sits down and says that Findley is there by the bar. Bert says he will come over. Findley (Murray Hamilton) says hello and says he has not seen Bert for a long time. Bert introduces Eddie and Sarah. Findley says he has heard of Felson and asks if he plays pocket billiards. Eddie admits he does now and then. Findley admits he plays a little but says he generally loses. Bert says Eddie does too. Findley says he bets he does, and Eddie asks how much. Findley tells Bert that Eddie is making a proposition, and he invites Eddie to come out to his place some evening for a game of billiards. Eddie asks when. Findley invites them all to come over after the races with others, and then at nine or ten they can play. Bert says they will be there. Findley says good and walks away. Sarah says she does not want to go. Bert encourages her to come and meet interesting people.
A jazz band is playing as Sarah comes down stairs and takes another drink. She walks alone at the crowded party and takes another drink. Bert whispers to her, and she throws her glass at him and starts crying. Eddie comes over and asks what is the matter. He holds her as Bert says she had too much to drink. The music resumes.
A woman comes into a bedroom and has to move Sarah to get her coat from the bed.
In the basement Findley offers Bert and Eddie a drink, but Eddie says he wants to play. Eddie says he came to play pool, but Findley says it is his house and his game. Bert does not want him to play billiards, but Eddie persuades him he has played it. Findley suggests a $100 bet. Findley puts three balls on the billiard table. Eddie makes a good shot, and Bert says they are about even. Eddie suggests they raise the stakes, and Findley suggests $500. Bert asks Eddie if he will beat him, and Eddie says he can beat him. Bert says okay. Findley wins another game, and Eddie says he will beat him in the next game. Bert tells him they are leaving because they have lost $2,000. Eddie says he suckered him, but he says he can beat him. He says he will play him with his own money.
Eddie goes and gets money from his room, and Sarah sees him come and go.
Eddie tells Findley to play. Later Eddie admits he is broke. Eddie tells Bert that he only beat him by one point and begs him not to get off him now. Bert says he knows when to quit and that Eddie doesn’t. Eddie pleads with him as Sarah comes in and tells him not to beg him. He tells her to go back to the hotel. She asks Eddie if this does not get through to him, the man, the place, the people, and the masks they wear. She says under the masks they are perverted, twisted, and crippled. She tells Eddie not to wear a mask because he doesn’t have to. She asks him to ask Turk who broke his thumbs, but this man will not break his thumbs but his heart and for the same reason because of what he is. Eddie asks her to get off his back, and he gets angry. Bert tells Eddie to play him for $1,000 a game. Sarah stands up and goes up the stairs.
Later Findley goes to his desk and asks Bert if he takes a check. Bert says cash, and he owes him $12,000. Findley gives the money to Bert and says it was an interesting evening. Findley has someone call a cab for them and says he is tired. Eddie says he is beat. Bert gives Eddie the $3,000 that is his share. Eddie says he will walk. Bert asks Eddie if he wants him to tell her for him. Eddie asks what, and Bert says he has to be hard. Eddie walks away.
In his room Bert takes off his overcoat and pours himself a drink. He knocks and opens the door and sees Sarah sitting on the bed. He goes to her and asks when she is leaving. She says in a little while and asks if that is what he wants. He says it is what Eddie wants. He says Eddie told him to give her some money, and she tells him to put it on the bed. He says that is the way it is done. She asks if the way he is looking at her is the way he looks at a man he has just beaten, as if he has taken his money, and now he wants his pride. He says all he wants is the money. She says the aristocratic pleasure is seeing him fall apart; he is a Roman and has to win them all. He picks her up and kisses her, then lets her go, and walks out of the room. She walks after him to his room and asks him for a drink.
Later Sarah in her slip leaves Bert sleeping on his bed and walks into his bathroom. She writes with lipstick on the mirror “Perverted twisted crippled.”
Eddie asks for his key to 57 and goes up the elevator. He comes in 57 and finds the money on the bed. He sees a policeman and other men in the other suite. Bert tells the officer to let him come in. A photographer takes a picture, and Eddie finds her dead body on the bathroom floor. Bert says she came in there and asked him for a drink. He gave her one, and she asked him for more. Eddie assaults Bert by grabbing his throat, and two policeman pull him off him as he tries to fight them.
Minnesota Fats is reading a newspaper in Ames as Bert plays with dice in a cup. Eddie comes in slowly and tells Fats that he came to play pool. Fats asks for how much, and Eddie says for $3,000 which is his bankroll. All he has to do is beat him in the first game. Eddie tells Bert go get on him because he can’t lose. They toss a coin, and Fats does a soft break that leaves the cue ball in a corner. Eddie puts powder on his hands and asks Bert if he should play it safe. Eddie says he will play it fast and loose. He calls the ball and makes the shot. He asks how he can lose. He calls his shots. He says Bert was right that you need character as well as talent. He says he has character now because he picked it up in a hotel room in Louisville. Fats tells him to shoot pool. Eddie says he is shooting; when he misses, Fats can shoot. Eddie wins the game. He makes extraordinary shots.
Later Fats is shooting, but he misses. Eddie keeps winning. At six o’clock Fats tells Eddie he quits because he can’t beat him. Eddie puts his money away and asks Preacher for his coat. Bert asks him where he thinks he is going. Bert shouts that he owes him money. Eddie asks how he figures that and asks what he figures he owes him. Bert says half. Eddie asks what happens if he does not pay him. Bert says he may get his thumbs and fingers broken. He says if he wants them to, they will break his arm. Fats tells Eddie to pay him. Eddie asks Bert if he thinks he is still his manager. Bert says they will make a lot of money. Eddie asks if it will be 50%, but Bert says 30 or 25%. Eddie says they really gave it to her good. Bert says if it didn’t happen in Louisville, it would have happened somewhere else because that is the kind of a dame she was. Eddie says they twisted. He asks if that sticks in his throat because he spits it out like he spits out everything else. Eddie says it sticks in his throat because he loved her. He traded her in on a pool game, but that would not mean anything to Bert. He asks who he ever cared about. He just said win; that is what is important. He says Bert does not know what winning is because he is a loser. He is dead inside, and he can’t live because he makes everything else dead around him. He says the price is too high. If he takes it, she never lived and never died; but they both know that she lived and died. He better tell his boys to kill him because if they just bust him up, he will put the pieces together again and come back and kill him. Bert raises his hand and says no, and he nods to Eddie. Bert tells him not to walk into a big-time pool hall again. Eddie tells the fat man that he plays a good game of pool. Fats raises his glass and says Eddie does too. Eddie walks out, and Fats puts on his coats and leaves.
This drama depicts a young man with a talent and ambition to be the best even though his method of hustling is somewhat shady. He loses to a master after he gets drunk on his winning. By getting to know an alcoholic woman he learns more about himself and life, and his teaming up with a gambler makes him realize that there are much more important things than winning.