Maskwacis pool player Jana Montour doesn’t believe in “sharking” or playing head games with her opponents.
She doesn’t have to.
The 46-year-old mother of five can simply study the break-away pattern of the balls on a table and plan the next seven moves that are needed to win the game.
Montour, a member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation who lives with her husband on his Samson First Nation in Maskwacis, was inducted this month into the Valley National 8-ball League Association Hall of Fame.
It’s a rare international honour, as the Michigan-based association has nearly 100,000 players in 1,400 leagues around the world.
“I don’t know if I did enough to deserve it. But I’m honoured — and I’m speechless,” said Montour.
She was once named rookie of the year and among the best 8-ball players in North America during a semi-pro tour of Oregon and Washington in 2010.
Pool became such a huge obsession, and competitions so costly to attend without sponsorship, that Montour admits she had to put her game on hold to focus on studying accounting.
“It was pool or school, I knew I couldn’t do both…”
But although her competitive play was sidelined, the bankteller by day was still mentoring junior players at the Wal-Mac Amusements league in the Edmonton area until it was put on hiatus at the onset of the pandemic.
Wal-Mac president Elmar Klapstein nominated Montour for a place in the Valley National hall of fame, not just for her talent, but for her character.
“She’s wonderful to interact with,” Klapstein recently told Edmonton media. “She’s been a true ambassador to the game.”
Montour admitted she’d do anything to promote a sport that’s introduced her to so many great people — including her husband, who is also a pool player.
Her love for the game started when Montour was 19 and her father invited her to the former Club 147 in Wetaskiwin to rescue her from an evening of bingo with her mom. (Montour says bingo is not her thing).
The high concentration needed to play appealed to the shy, young woman. Montour recalled blocking everything else out and focusing almost hypnotically on the balls on the table.
She would later meditate before tournaments, knowing that a few ultra-aggressive players resort to saying things to unnerve their opponents (called “sharking”).
Montour practised every day and feels she was able to improve by absorbing moves that worked for her opponents.
Regardless of skill level or experience, “everybody’s got their own style of playing and you can pick up a lot of things along the way…”
Her father — who was an impressive pool player himself, although he had only one arm — was a huge support.
Montour remembers her dad once eyed a banner listing hall of fame inductees.
“He said, ‘One of these years, my girl, your name will be up there too’…. and I didn’t believe him.”
But now, Montour is invited to attend an induction ceremony that will be held next spring in Las Vegas.
She admitted her dad’s death four years ago contributed to her decision to step away from competition.
“I thought, there’s no one now who will be showing off my trophies…”
But other family members — including her mom, spouse and kids — have lately been encouraging Montour to step back to the table.
And Montour, who’s received positive feedback on her induction, with some calling her a role model for kids — is seriously considering it.
Meanwhile, she wants more people to know pool is a sport everyone can play and improve at, if players are willing to put in the work.