Steve Mizerak

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Stephen Mizerak Jr.[1] (October 12, 1944 – May 29, 2006), better known as Steve Mizerak, was an American pool player, considered one of the all-time greats, dominant during the 1970s and early 1980s, especially in the game of Straight pool and nine-ball, holding over 70 tournament victories in his career, and winning multiple world titles including a record 4 consecutive U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship titles. Nicknamed "the Miz", he has a high run of 421 balls and a record for the highest balls per inning average in the game Straight pool during his career. He was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.


Mizerak, a lefty, began playing pool under the guidance of his father, who for many years had been the New Jersey State Champion. Mizerak's father opened a pool hall in Metuchen. There, Mizerak played billiards for the first time at the age of 4. At the age of five, Mizerak trained for hours every day before doing his first exhibitions at the age of six. At the age of 11, he has already scored 50 points in one shot, and at 13, even a hundred, at the same age he won the Perth Amboy City Championship and turned professional. The next year, he was refused entry into that event; they said he was too good. Numerous observers and players predicted a golden future for Mizerak, he was already compared several times to Willie Mosconi. In 1965 when Mizerak was 20 years old he qualified for the World Pocket Billiards Championship, where he shocked the pool world by defeating top players like Irving Crane, Luther Lassiter, Joe Balsis. Although The 1960s saw a downturn for World Pocket Billiards Tournaments, and as they diminished, the era of the Johnston City Hustlers tournaments were growing. By this point in his life, Mizerak decided it would not be possible to earn a living playing and went on to attend Athens College in Athens, Alabama.[2] After a period of time at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, he graduate from Athens College, with a degree in education, history and psychology in 1967. He then took up a position as a history and geography teacher at a secondary school in Perth Amboy, New Jersey were he taught for thirteen years.

Mizerak became famous outside of pool circles after appearing in a humorous commercial for Miller Lite beer in 1978, in which he executed three complicated shots (which took more than 100 "takes"), then proclaimed that you can "really work up a thirst, even when you're just showing off". Due to his fame as a result of television advertising, in 1980 Mizerak quit his job as a teacher to further promote Miller Lite in billiards demonstrations at trade shows while continuing on the tournament circuit. He did another dozen or so Miller Lite ads over the next decade.

These advertisements gave an important publicity to the billiards, while Mizerak himself became known nationally. He was invited to exhibitions regularly. However Mizerak struggled being the dominant player he was, with his busy schedule of exhibitions promoting Miller Lite. Mizerak by this time had established himself as one of the best players in the world winning the U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship on four occasions, more that any other player. Although Mizerak once again proved his dominance when he won the U.S. Open 9-ball Championship defeating Jim Rempe in the finals and going undefeated throughout the tournament. By 1980 mizerak had won 40 professional tournament victories more that any other player that decade. Due to this Mizerak was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 1980. At the time Mizerak was then the youngest player ever to receive this honor.

In the 1980s, Mizerak was still very active as an advertising face, which is why he was able to focus on the actual game to a limited extent. In 1986 he had a guest role in the film The Color of Money. Mizerak is a winner multiple World Open titles and World Straight Pool Championships in the 70s and 80s. After that, however, in the 90s weight problems prevented him from winning other big titles, even though he continued to actively play in tournaments and winning smaller events. He reached a major final in 1989 and was his 5th final of the U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship although falling short to German champion Oliver Ortmann. In the mid 90s Mizerak had settled in Florida were he founded the senior tour for professional billiards players in 1996. He owned a Florida-based company that sold billiards equipment, ran a billiards parlor in Lake Park, Fla., and wrote instructional books, one of them titled "Just Showin' Off."


In the late 70s Mizerak first tried his hand in snooker, becoming one of the first American-born players to compete in a professional snooker event. He competed in the 1978 Canadian Open, but failed to progress beyond the first round losing to snooker professional Tony Knowles by 9 frames to 7.

Mizerak later played in a series of snooker and pool challenge matches in 1987 and 1988 – rare televised examples of Mizerak playing snooker – against two of the top snooker players in the world, Steve Davis (a World Snooker Champion) and Jimmy White. The format, which was a best of three legs out of straight pool (14.1), nine-ball, and snooker, meant that Mizerak was the heavy favorite due to his opponents' unfamiliarity with pool. Although, predictably, he lost the snooker legs heavily, he won both pool legs, and so his record includes wins over Davis and White.[3]

In the 1987 event, Mizerak lost more frames at both straight pool and nine-ball than Davis did at snooker, but due to the "best of three" format, Mizerak was the overall winner, despite losing heavily to Davis by 5 frames to 1 in the snooker leg, with Mizerak winning the one frame after Davis went in-off on the final pink, which made it numerically impossible for him to win that frame.

Mizerak repeated his overall win the following years, continuing to play snooker players in exhibitions with the likes of Jimmy White, Joe Johnson and Stephen Hendry winning in the pool divisions, but again losing in snooker.

Mizerak stated in the post-tournament interview after the match with Davis that he intended to enter the World Snooker Championship, and said he would "keep entering until I win."[4] He duly competed in the event in 1988 and 1989, but failed to progress beyond the first round of qualifying on both occasions, losing to low-ranked snooker professionals. In 1988, he was whitewashed 10 frames to 0, and the following year was beaten by 10 frames to 1, before giving up on his snooker ambitions.[5][6]

Later life[edit]

Mizerak owned and operated pool halls in the West Palm Beach-Lake Park, Florida area during the 1990s and 2000s. He founded the Senior Tour in 1996 for players over 50, which held around 5 or 6 tournaments a year, and offered guaranteed prize money of $25,000 to $50,000. The tour's home was at a billiard hall he opened in Lake Park called Steve Mizerak's Billiards.

Mizerak suffered from obesity for the later part of his adult life, weighing over 400 lbs by the end of his career. Mizerak suffered a stroke in 2001 at the age of 56 which left him with physical challenges that prevented him from playing pool competitively, subsequently retiring in 2001.

in 2000 he was ranked number 6 among the Billiards Digest "50 Greatest Players of the Century" and ranked 2nd "Greatest Living Player of the Century".[7]


Mizerak died on May 29, 2006, at the age of 61 due to complications stemming from gall bladder surgery. He is survived by his wife Karen, two sons, and two grandchildren.

Career titles[edit]

  • 1966 Indiana State Championship
  • 1967 New Jersey State Championship
  • 1968 New Jersey State Championship
  • 1968 Empire Billiards Association Cavalcade of Stars
  • 1968 Invitational Championship, Norfolk
  • 1969 Invitational Championship, Norfolk
  • 1969 Salt Lake City Open
  • 1970 U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship
  • 1970 Stardust Open Straight Pool Championship
  • 1970 New Jersey State Championship
  • 1970 U.S. Master's Straight Pool Tournament
  • 1971 Michigan Open Championship
  • 1971 U.S. Masters 9-Ball Championship, Norfolk
  • 1971 U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship
  • 1972 Michigan Open Championship
  • 1972 U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship
  • 1973 New Jersey State Championship
  • 1973 Michigan Open
  • 1973 Eastern States Classic, New York
  • 1973 Kingston Invitational
  • 1973 U.S. Invitational 9-Ball, Norfolk
  • 1973 Kentucky Classic
  • 1973 U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship
  • 1974 New Jersey State Championship
  • 1974 Billiard News Open 14.1
  • 1974 U.S. Master's Straight Pool Tournament
  • 1974 Pabst-Brunswick Classic
  • 1974 Florida State University Open
  • 1974 University of Tennessee Open
  • 1974 Penn State University Open
  • 1974 Ohio State University Open
  • 1974 Norwick Union Cup, England
  • 1975 U.S. Master's Straight Pool Tournament
  • 1975 Pabst-Brunswick Classic
  • 1975 BCA Empire State Open, New York
  • 1975 International Snooker and Pool Challenge
  • 1976 U.S. Master's Straight Pool Tournament
  • 1976 World Open, Asbury Park, New Jersey
  • 1976 Empire 9-Ball Classic
  • 1976 Hi-Cue Straight Pool Open
  • 1977 St Louis Open Championship
  • 1977 World Series of Pool, Asbury Park
  • 1977 New Jersey State 9-Ball Championship
  • 1977 New York State Straight Pool Championship
  • 1978 World Nine-ball Tournament, New York City
  • 1978 Trick and Tough Shot Championship, Las Vegas
  • 1978 St Louis Open Championship
  • 1979 Tournament of Champions
  • 1979 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship
  • 1980 Breaker Pool 14.1 Challenge Cup, England
  • 1980 Eastern State 9-Ball
  • 1980 CBS Sports Team Championship, Lake Tahoe
  • 1980 CBS Sports 8-Ball World Invitational, Lake Tahoe
  • 1980 Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame
  • 1981 CBS Sports Team Championship, Las Vegas
  • 1982 PPPA World Straight Pool Championship
  • 1982 Eastern State Straight Pool
  • 1982 CBS Sports Legends vs Legends, Atlantic City
  • 1982 CBS Sports Team Championship, Atlantic City
  • 1982 Florida Open 9-Ball Tour Championship
  • 1982 World Series of Pool
  • 1983 Billiard Shootout Championship
  • 1983 CBS Sports Legends vs Legends, Atlantic City
  • 1983 CBS Sports World Pocket Billiards - 7-ball, 8-ball, 9-ball
  • 1983 PPPA World Straight Pool Championship
  • 1983 Houston Red's 9-Ball Open
  • 1983 Billiards Digest Players of the Year
  • 1984 CBS Sports World Pocket Billiards - 8-ball, 9-ball
  • 1984 CBS Sports Trick Shot Competition
  • 1986 Cue Garden 9-Ball Open
  • 1987 Snooker-Pool Challenge Match vs Steve Davis
  • 1988 Snooker-Pool Challenge Match vs Jimmy White
  • 1988 PBA U.S. Invitational 14.1
  • 1989 Snooker-Pool Challenge Match vs Joe Johnson
  • 1990 Snooker-Pool Challenge Match vs Stephen Hendry
  • 1991 Southern California Open 9-Ball
  • 1991 Cue Room 9-Ball Tournament, Florida
  • 1991 Shriner's Tour 9-Ball Tournament, Florida
  • 1992 Florida 9-Ball Tour
  • 1993 Kiss Shot 9-Ball Tournament, Florida
  • 1995 Florida 9-Ball Tour
  • 1995 New Wave 9-Ball Tournament, Florida
  • 1996 Florida 9-Ball Tour
  • 1997 Senior Tour Grand Casino Classic
  • 1998 Playboy Billiards One Pocket
  • 1999 Camel 9-Ball Shoot Out Scotch Doubles
  • 2000 Playboy Billiards One Pocket
  • 2000 Billiards Digest 2nd Greatest Living Player of the Century[8]
  • 2017 Straight Pool Hall of Fame



  1. ^ Richard Goldstein (May 31, 2006). "Steve Mizerak, National Pool Champion, Is Dead at 61". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  2. ^ "Steve Mizerak", page 7, The National Billiard News, November 1980. Retrieved May 20, 2007
  3. ^ New York Times - Snooker Debut Won by U.S.
  4. ^ Post-straight-pool and post-tournament interviews with Steve Mizerak and Steve Davis, on The Fiat Snooker Pool Challenge, 1987, VHS home video.
  5. ^ "Steve Mizerak". CueTracker - Snooker Database. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  6. ^ Guinness Book Of Snooker World Championship Qualifying rounds Match Results
  7. ^ "Billiards Digest 50 Greatest Players of the Century".
  8. ^ "Billiards Digest 50 Greatest Players of the Century".

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Allen Hopkins
US Open Nine-ball Champion
Succeeded by
Jim Rempe