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A Game of Pool (1961): Wikis


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"A Game of Pool"
The Twilight Zone episode
A Game of Pool.jpg
Jonathan Winters and Jack Klugman in
A Game of Pool
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 70
Written by George Clayton Johnson
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Featured music Stock
Production no. 4815
Original airdate October 13, 1961
Guest stars

Jack Klugman: Jesse Cardiff
Jonathan Winters: Fats Brown

Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"The Passersby" "The Mirror"
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"A Game of Pool" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. According to Serling, it's "the story of the best pool player living and the best pool player dead."


Opening narration

Jesse Cardiff, pool shark, the best on Randolph Street, who will soon learn that trying to be the best at anything carries its own special risks, in or out of the Twilight Zone.


It is after hours at Lister's Pool Room in Chicago, and once more pool shark Jesse Cardiff is alone, polishing his pool game. Jesse bitterly muses that he would be considered the greatest pool player of all time, if it were not for the memory of the late Fats Brown overshadowing him. "I'd give anything, anything to play him one game!" he declares aloud.

"At your service!" comes a sudden voice from the corner of the room. It is indeed James Howard Brown — "known to his friends as Fats" — who has been dead for fifteen years, but who has come from the afterlife to answer Jesse's challenge. Fats tells Jesse it is time for him to put his money where his mouth is and play a game of pool to see who the best truly is. But Fats ups the stakes: If Jesse wins, he will indeed be acknowledged as the greatest. If he loses, it means his life.

Jesse is undaunted, and the ultimate high stakes pool game begins. All throughout the game, Fats subtly tries to warn Jesse; he laments that Jesse has done nothing with his life but play pool. Jesse ignores Fats' comments, convinced that he is just trying to get his mind off the game. When it comes down to one final, easy shot for Jesse to win the title, Fats again warns him that he does not understand the burdens that come with being the best ever. Jesse ignores him and sinks the shot. He exults in his victory; he is now the best ever.

Fats' only response is to thank Jesse for beating him. Jesse is angered, declaring that Fats is a sore loser. Only years later, after he has died, does Jesse finally realize Fats' warnings. Jesse, as the new pool champion, is obliged to spend his afterlife defending his title, going from pool room to lonely pool room (his next destination: Mason's Pool Hall, Sandusky, Ohio), to play against challenger after challenger, just as Fats had to do until he finally lost.

Closing narration

Mr. Jesse Cardiff, who became a legend by beating one, but who has found out after his funeral that being the best of anything carries with it a special obligation to keep proving it. Mr. Fats Brown, on the other hand, having relinquished the champion's mantle, has gone fishing. These are the ground rules, in the Twilight Zone.

Preview for next week's story

Announcer: "And now, Mr. Serling."

We've had some performances of great depth on The Twilight Zone, and next week is no exception. A distinguished and incredibly talented young man lends us his services when Peter Falk stars in "The Mirror." This is the story of a tyrant and his assassins, a shattered dream and the death of a cause. Next week on The Twilight Zone, "The Mirror".

Alternate ending

Johnson's script originally featured an alternate ending in which Jesse loses the game. Seeing that Jesse is bedazzled that he has lost a life-or-death game and is still alive, Fats explains that he will die "as all second raters die: you'll be buried and forgotten without me touching you. If you'd beaten me, you'd have lived forever." This ending was eventually filmed when this episode was remade in 1989, during the first revival of The Twilight Zone. It also featured a different closing narration:

Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime...and departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time, on the Earth, as we know it, the Twilight Zone.


  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090

External links



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