JOHNSTOWN, N.Y.- Keith O’Dell Jr. made his public debut in March, when his father, Keith Sr., posted videos on YouTube of the 23-month-old standing at a pool table making combo shots, kick shots and bank shots. The videos end with the caption: “I’M READY FOR POOL! IS POOL READY FOR ME?”

Pool was ready.

The phone hasn’t stopped ringing. In the past 50 days, Keith Jr. has been featured by three newspapers, a magazine, a local news station and a national news show. He went to New York City for a Rachael Ray show taping to be aired in July, and went to Las Vegas to do a demonstration for the American Pool Association. He is the youngest member in the history of the association, and has his own Web site,

Can a 2-year-old really be this good?

One afternoon recently, Keith Jr., his mom, Courtney, 5-month-old brother, David, and Keith Sr. walked into Patricia’s Restaurant in Johnstown, where Keith Sr. plays in a weekly pool league.

In the time since the YouTube videos were posted, Keith Jr. has graduated to a regulation-size table. His head is lower than the playing surface, so he stands on a chair to play. Keith Sr. dumped the balls onto the table and Keith Jr. began firing away. He handled the stick with the coordination of an adult and dressed in an official-looking American Pool Association shirt.

He has a soft, round face and wore Thomas the Tank Engine shoes that lit up every time he took a step. Elmo diapers poked out from the back of his jeans.

He knocked in three shots in a row.

He missed a shot. Then another. Then another. He wasn’t quite as polished as on the YouTube videos.

It all started a few weeks before Christmas. The O’Dells were in a Dollar General when Keith Jr. saw a miniature pool table. Keith Sr. and Courtney thought he was too young, but they bought it anyway. Keith Jr. opened it Christmas morning and surprised his parents when he started shooting on his own.

The O’Dells have no explanation. They say it could be the 200 racks of pool Keith Jr. used to watch his dad play every night. The family has not received a penny for Keith Jr.’s play, though the American Pool Association did pay for the trip to Las Vegas.

Should he become bored with pool, that would be fine. Not once during the afternoon at Patricia’s did the O’Dells pressure him to play.

Like most toddlers, Keith Jr. has a short attention span. He plays with cards for five minutes. Tractors keep his attention for 10 minutes. Pop in a movie and he’s good for 30 minutes.

Put him in front of a pool table and he’s busy for three hours. He plays almost every afternoon and gets a second wind around 8 p.m. He plays a little longer, then asks to watch pool videos until he falls asleep.

Keith Jr. learned colors and counting at the pool table.

At the restaurant, Keith Sr. held up a black ball.

“What ball is this?” he said.

“Eight ball.”

Keith Sr. picked up a ball with an orange stripe. “What ball is this, Keithy?”


He started shooting again and by 12:30 p.m. got antsy. He climbed on the table. Fidgeted with his stick. Pushed the ball with his hands.

Twenty minutes later he put his stick down and ran over to Courtney. She picked him up and he leaned back in a recliner made of mommy.

“You all done, Keithy?” Courtney asked.

“Yes. Pool go night-night.” He looked around for a few seconds. Then he sat up, glanced at his mom and climbed off her lap.

He ran toward the table and yelled.

“Pool awake!”

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