If Fast Eddie Felson, Paul Newman's character in The Hustler, had been looking for some action in San Francisco, Hollywood Billiards is where he would have gone. It's the kind of pool hall you don't find much anymore, a place with real atmosphere and genuine characters. It is said to be the oldest pool hall in San Francisco, dating from the '50s, and climbing the rickety stairs to the second floor, above the porn shops on Market, is like entering some kind of time warp. The large, open room is imbued with a vague and mellow seediness; all it's missing is a cloud of cigar smoke hovering against the ceiling. Some of the best players in the Bay Area hang out here, and there's plenty of action, if that's what you're looking for, but the place also welcomes hackers. With more than 30 tables, there is room for all, and no one ever waits for a game. Prices are a reasonable $8 for two on weekdays, $12 on Friday and Saturday, or $10 for three hours on Sunday. On Wednesdays, ladies play for free. Drop by some night and learn how the real game is played. If you're good — really good — you can try your luck against the regulars like Mark the Snake, Philippine Jean, and Poker Paul.
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