It's a fine ambition. But when you play a minor sport and have no agent at your beck-and-call, any time spent seeking sponsorships or building the game is time away from the craft.

And Dechaine, these days, seems torn about what to do: practice like never before in the drive to be #1 or maximize his business prospects in a game that seems stuck on the B-list.


The Turning Stone Resort and Casino in upstate New York is not the most glamorous locale.

Smokers pull at the slots. Seniors dance on an indoor patio. Seasons Harvest, the buffet-style restaurant on site, offers up orange and black carpet, hard taco shells, and pizza under a heat lamp.

It is, in other words, a fitting backdrop for a sport still yearning for the big time.

Top prize at the Turning Stone Classic XX, one of the major stops on the pro circuit, is just $8000. But that constitutes a decent payday in pool, circa 2013. And the tournament has drawn a pretty impressive assemblage of talent, including all five members of the American team that narrowly lost the Mosconi Cup last month: Dechaine and Van Boening; pool legend Johnny Archer; rising stars Dennis Hatch and Brandon Shuff.

Dechaine seems determined to approach this event a little differently. He'll take notes on his matches. Try to learn something. And he'll work to contain his emotions and focus on the table.

He's gotten better at that over the last couple of years. Even the journalists covering the sport have noticed.

But after breezing through his first couple of matches, the old Mike pokes through during a tight battle with Jeremy Sossei, of Connecticut. He challenges Sossei's break — too soft, he says — his racking, even the timing of a visit to the bathroom.

He gesticulates. Complains. Pulls the referee and even the tournament organizer into the conflict. "I let that stuff get to me," he says afterward, of his opponent's gamesmanship.

The next day, he shows a little more restraint. After blowing a 7-3 lead to Van Boening, who goes on to win the tournament, he hears a group of other players whistling in support of his opponent.

"The old me would've snapped," Dechaine says later, "probably thrown a cue ball at them. But I can't do anything, now. I have to sit back, take a deep breath."

He does. And in the end, he finishes a solid fourth in the double-elimination tournament. But holding back is hard for him.

In several interviews, Dechaine speaks with a touch of envy of Van Boening's hearing loss. "He can just shut off his hearing aid," Dechaine says. "He doesn't listen to anything, he just plays pool."

The Fireball pauses for a moment.

"I wish, when I was playing," he says, "that I could just shut off all the thoughts in my head."

David Scharfenberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @d_scharfenberg.

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