Sterling native Karsyn Hopkins has been playing pool for about a year. The game has already taken him to nationals.
The 12-year-old spent part of last month testing his skills against some of the best in Las Vegas.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said. “There are some good players out there, so it’s good competition.”
He has played in a handful of smaller local tournaments, but recently jumped into a pair of bigger tournaments: the state tournament in St. Charles, and the Billiards Education Foundation’s Junior National 9-ball tournament at the South Point Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas last month.
The Billiards Education Foundation was founded in 1994 to help promote the game to younger players, and has been running the Junior Nationals since 1999. This year’s tournament drew 163 players over eight age groups.
In Las Vegas, Hopkins was part of a 54-player bracket. He won his first match and won another via forfeit, then lost the next two.
The nationals showcased his skill in 9-ball, but he also plays 8-ball and 10-ball. He prefers 10-ball, a game in which the object is to sink the 10-ball, but the cue ball has to hit the lowest numbered ball on the table and all shots must be called.
“It makes you get a lot better because you have to focus on one ball,” he said. “Plus, you can’t just hit it and hope you make it, you have to actually try to make it where you want to make it.
“In 9-ball, you can just shoot it and hit it and if you make it, you make it. I like 10-ball because you have to call your shot and you have to focus on getting to one ball, not seven other balls on the table. You get better.”
Hopkins’ first major tournament was in March at Pheasant Run in St. Charles for the state tournament. In a field of 32 players, he took third.
“I played 9-ball the first day and lost the first two times,” he said. “And then me and my friend Jeremiah [Easley] said ‘Oh, that’s just a warm-up,’ and played in 8-ball and I won.”
Hopkins took up the game just last year.
“One of my dad’s friends asked me if I wanted to play and I said yeah,” he said. “I liked doing it, so I kept doing it, and got better and better.”
He plays around town at places like the Wagon Wheel and Froggy’s. His family got a table, so soon he’ll be able to play at home as well.
He hopes to be back in Las Vegas next year, and said that to make it farther in the tournament, he will have to “focus on not worrying about the other player, even if he’s better than me.”
Along with pool, he wrestles and plays football and baseball. Pool and wrestling are his favorites.