Balabushka also loved to play pool for fun. He loved to hang around the pros, or the equivalent of pros in the days before professional pool. He especially like to play and watch straight pool, competing in or attending nearly every competition in the New York City area. Something about seeing ball after ball after ball fall into the pocket hypnotized him. And then in 1959, he bought a local Brooklyn pool hall with his friend Frank McGown. While running the pool hall he began to repair cues and then make cues for friends as gifts. This was the first intersection of his gift of carpentry and his love of pool. Soon, other regulars began asking him to make cues for them. Then, at some point in the early sixties, his name, and his cues, began circulating around the professional billiards community.
By 1964, Balabushka was making cue full time, which he continued to do until his death in 1975. His cues departed from the ornate pieces of art that were just becoming popular and instead focused on making high performance hand-crafted cues. He pioneered the use of Irish linen wraps, using straight grain maple instead of curly or birdseye maple in the butt, and checkered rings just above the wrap now known as Balabushka rings, as well as many other cue features nearly universally used today.
George Balabushka died in 1975, a tragic loss not just to his family and friends but to the billiards community as a whole. But his legend lives on in the many improvements he made to cue manufacturing as well as many other places. The famous scene in the 1986 sequel to The Hustler, The Color of Money where Tom Cruise is given a beautiful cue by Paul Newman and told, “It’s a Balabushka,” made the name Balabushka synonymous with top quality pool cues. And David Forman, founder of Adam Custom Cues, licensed the name Balabushka from George’s family and now manufactures a line of cues under the Balabushka name as a memorial to one of the greatest figures in modern billiards.