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Tracy Frank, Published July 09 2013

Her Voice: Fargo woman a 9-ball world champion

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

FARGO – Sam Matuska’s summer involves time around the pool – but not the kind you’d expect.

The 38-year-old Fargo woman won a 9-ball pool world championship in May in Las Vegas.

Matuska started playing pool about 20 years ago, she said.

“There really wasn’t anything to do when I was younger except for go to Billiards on Broadway,” she said.

Matuska was there the first night of business and hung out there often with her friends until it closed two years ago, she said.

She bought her first pool cue when she was 19, and a couple years later she started playing more seriously.

By the time she was 25, she was playing pool six or seven nights a week and was on three different pool leagues, she said.

“To me it’s challenging,” Matuska said. “There are not a lot of ladies that play.”

In Las Vegas, she competes against all women, but at tournaments in Fargo, the Twin Cities or Duluth, she plays against men, she said.

Matuska participated in the intermediate division of the Valley National 8-Ball League Association championship in Vegas through Valley Video Games of Fargo.

The tournament is set up as a double-elimination bracket. If she loses twice, she’s out of the tournament, Matuska said. She estimates there were 60 women in her division.

Matuska was “very excited and relieved” to win because she’d lost the trophy two years ago against the woman she went on to defeat this year, she said.

“She’s a very, very, very good 9-ball player,” Matuska said. “She’s a tough opponent.”

In billiards, 9-ball is a game played with nine balls plus the cue ball. The balls are pocketed in order from lowest to highest.

This isn’t Matuska’s first win at the VNEAs. She has three other “Charlies,” the nickname given to the cougar that adorns the trophies.

She plans to go back next year to play in the masters division.

Over the years, Matsuka has faced off against some big names in the world of billiards. She took fourth place in a tournament against professional pool celebrities Jeanette Lee, also known as “The Black Widow,” and Melissa Little, who’s known as “The Viper.”

“I was so star struck,” Matuska said. “It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had.”

While Matuska would like to try participating in a pro-qualifier event, she does not plan to play professionally.

“I don’t want it to be my job. I still enjoy playing, and I like to be competitive but if I ever stopped having fun while I play, then I just wouldn’t want to play anymore,” she said.

Matuska said she’s received a lot of support from Valley Video Games and Marc and Pam Oelslager, who owned Billiards on Broadway, which they’re looking to reopen.

“Pam always tells me to breathe, and Marc always tells me to relax,” Matuska said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526