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Discipline and dignity are Stefano Pelinga’s motto. A five-time World Champion in Artistic Pool, the Roman talent is now residing in Las Vegas twirling from one show to another. 2015 marked a lifetime achievement for the star who officially became a U.S citizen.
With an Italian accent and charming personality, Pelinga is also known as “Mr. Trick Shots,” or “Il Maestro.” It doesn’t come as a surprise considering his outstanding ability to perform 1000+ unique tricks, which also led him to earn a spot in ESPN’s Trick Shot Magic Hall of Fame.
Pelinga started playing pool when he was 12. Before becoming a fulltime professional pool player, Pelinga was in Rome working as a police officer for 25 years. However his commitment to serve Polizia di Stato didn’t stop him to pursue his own dream.
In fact, he kept on mastering the craft which led him to receive several titles in straight pool and nine-ball throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Though, it was the year 2012 that marked Pelinga’s professional career.
Inducted into the Chicago based National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (NIASHF,) Pelinga was the second professional pool player in history to be enlisted in the organization. He is now part of an elite group of legendary Italian Americans that include Willie Mosconi, Joe DiMaggio, Rocky Marciano and Tommy LaSorda.
There is more. Pelinga also produced best selling instructional videos and was appointed official instructor of cue sports by FIBIS (Italian Billiards Federation) and CONI (Italian Olympic Committee.) The University of Kharkov (Ukraine) also awarded him with the honorary title of Professor of Sport Games as Poolmag writes.
“Mr. Trick Shots” has more to accomplish. During our email interview, he writes that his 2016 goal is “to find enough financial backing in order to bring back Trick Shots to main stream TV with a new and appealing format.”
Between one trick and another, Pelinga is making Italian-American history.
Still, I was curious to know if he experienced a cultural shock when he moved to Sin City from Rome. “Not at all,” he writes. “I felt very comfortable right away in Las Vegas, also because I have visited Las Vegas and the USA at least 2-3 times a year since I became a professional pool player in 1990 so I got plenty of time to get acclimated and to establish many friendships.”
Still he writes he misses the food in Italy, his family and the many people he has been close to for a long time.
So, what are the differences of being a successful pool player living in Italy VS the United States, I asked Pelinga. “The only couple of differences are that in the USA there is a larger number of good players and there are more professional events to attend, therefore more competition over all,” he writes.
Digging into who Mr. Trick Shots looks up to, he says that singer and actor Dean Martin has been his idol since age 10.
“I loved his movies, his TV shows, his songs, but most of all I appreciated his style, personality and everything else about him,” Pelinga writes. “Trying to emulate him, I even boxed for a few years and I am trying to improve my golf game as well. He was one of the greatest entertainers and a very good man.”
Other role models for the artistic pool player were Paul Gerni, Mike Massey and Yoshikazu Kimura. After performing traditional shots, Pelinga started mastering his own. He shares that most of the time he found inspiration from “accidents” that happened during his practice sessions.
He became incredibly good at performing them. In certain cases he also spent up to a whole year to master some shots. Pelinga’s signature tricks “hardly any other champion can make,“ he writes.
“Bottle Shots” is the name of one of his favorite shots and the crowd agrees.