OYSTER CREEK — On a mission to solidify their standing in the world of billiards, Ricky and Karol Hughes will head to Las Vegas this month to compete in the BCA Pool League World Championships.

The couple has played billiards together since they got married 32 years ago.

For Ricky Hughes, though, it started way before he met Karol.

“I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old, so that makes it 52 years that I’ve been in this game,” Ricky Hughes said. “I taught my wife to play and, at one point, she had a sponsor from a pool hall in Alvin. They paid her way around playing nine-ball tournaments in Texas. She did that for a while and got burned on it and not too long ago got back into it.”

Karol mostly was a spectator while dating Ricky, but once they married, she got tired of just watching.

“It was challenging at the start for me because I didn’t know how to play,” Karol said. “But it was the Shooters here in Lake Jackson where I started playing tournaments and just put in a lot of time on the table. That, plus also putting the time here at home, and of course, learning from my husband, who was helping me learn the game. At tournaments, I’d play better players and that is how I got better.”

In Las Vegas, the BCA World Championships will be July 17 to 27 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino and consist of singles, doubles and team events with more than 40 divisions.

Ricky and Karol Hughes will play eight-ball and nine-ball singles, scratch doubles and join other southern Brazoria County players on a team.

“I really enjoy just the competitiveness of the game,” Ricky said. “I’d rather play a tournament where everyone is good; this way, I can improve my game. There are a lot of challenges for getting better and playing against good players. But my wife and I, we go to a lot of tournaments, including some in Louisiana just to play some top players.

Karol took a break from the game after getting pretty good in 1994, which was right around the time her daughter started going to school. She returned to competition back in 2016.

“To tell you the truth, I just lost interest and it wasn’t as fun as it used to be,” Karol said. “With my daughter starting school, it was just hard to do both at the same time. But really, for me at that time, it wasn’t a big priority back then.”

Even after her daughter graduated, Karol continued tending to family and now is taking care of grandkids. But somehow she finds time to put into her game.

“I think I am ready, but I haven’t practiced enough because of the grandkids, but I will start practicing this week,” she said. “I just don’t spend enough time with the game, but I do know that if I did, my game would improve a whole lot.”

Both Ricky and Karol have won their share of tournaments, trophies and prize money. Ricky won $600 at The Philly Station in Angleton in a tournament Saturday. He takes the game pretty seriously.

“I play with all of those guys at The Philly Station, and we are all good, but I can hold my own,” Ricky said. “I have a table at the house and I work a lot on my form. A lot of it is just like in golf or tennis, it depends on the form you have. At times one can be missing some shots and some of that because they might be putting too much English on the cue ball, which affects the trajectory line of where they hit the object ball, which causes them to miss shots. I practice hard, because if I don’t, then I just feel like I am wasting my time. And I don’t like to waste my time.”

Both work in Bay City, and some day, Ricky wouldn’t mind putting more into his game once he is retired.

If there is a favorite game for Ricky, it is nine-ball.

“Mostly because you need to move the cue ball around more,” he said. “I believe you need more skill to do that.”

At this same tournament last year, Ricky placed in the Top 20 in the Platinum Division, which is the top tier of players.

Karol was seventh in 2017, but didn’t perform as well last year.

“Karol and I are competitive against each other, and she will play those tournaments on Fridays at the Philly Station and can beat anyone in there at any time, including men,” Ricky said. “But she is just not as consistent with the game as she used to be.”

Ricky and Karol will be vying for up to $5,000 in prize money against the best of the best in the world in amateur billiards.

Joel Luna is sports editor for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0160.

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