Cover Story - All-star bar pongers
Atlanta's unofficial bar pong circuit is filled with colorful and diverse personalities who've got some serious ping-pong game. We're not saying it's impossible to beat these dudes. But you're probably gonna have a hard time beating these dudes, OK?
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If you want to play the best on the bar pong circuit, go the Albert on a Tuesday night. Bulger's the reigning champ and has won the tournament more than anyone. He's been playing for years on the table tennis circuit, even working with a coach. Surly in demeanor and relentlessly competitive, between matches you'll find him sitting at a table with arms folded. During games, he's known to punctuate crazy forehand and backhand winners with a simple, dark stare.
Founder of the King of Pops
Carse first played ping-pong when he was barely able to see over the table. In college, he brought a pong table with him and played for hours every day with his roommates. His dedication shows in a game that features an underhanded forehand, lots of crazy spin and a love for smashing home winners. Carse is the organizer of Church's Monday night tournament, and every once in a while he wins the thing. That would make him - at least temporarily - the King of Pong.
Construction business owner
Heisman first started playing when he was 12, but hip surgery for a growth plate condition put him in a wheelchair for some of his teenage years and he stopped playing. A year ago, he picked up a paddle again, and he's a regular at the Chinese Culture Center. He's also one of the few at the Albert who can take down Bulger and Bradley.
Artist/Owner of Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping-Pong Emporium
Henry happily accepts all ping-pong challenges through his Facebook page. Playing with an illegal sandpaper paddle and relying on speedy returns, difficult angles, sporadic paddle-slapping and random shouting, Henry pretends to be having a good time. His in-rally grimace gives away the truth: He really just wants to kick your ass.
Commercial real estate agent
Kodesh grew up playing USTA tennis in Atlanta. At one point, he was ranked one of the top 30 junior players in the state. Now, with a tennis-like, well-rounded game, he's one of the top bar pongers, having won the Albert tournament a half-dozen times in the pre-Bradley and Bulger era.
Waiter at the Albert, recent GSU grad
You do not want to face Losee's backhand. Dude just stands there with his 6-foot-5-inch frame like he's thinking about vacation, all while you're launching your best forehand to his left side. And then - like a rattlesnake strike - Losee unleashes. Trust us, you're better off hitting it to his forehand. Losee spent some time playing ping-pong in China, and he deserves credit for starting and promoting the bar pong scene at the Albert and beyond.
Real estate investor
If a team was assembled representing the Atlanta bar pong circuit, Midgette would get our vote to be the captain. Perennially upbeat, a fan of competition, and a dedicated student to pong, Midgette is a former North Carolina state champ in ping-pong. His game is fun to watch, in part because it's so theatrical in movement and power. Watch him strut from side to side after smashing a winner. But listen for tips: He's constantly talking about the game and how one can improve.
On the bar pong circuit, he has earned single-name status: Mohan. There are few players who are more talented or polite. Raised in the small town of Velur, India, he first played the game at a boarding school when he was 13. Apparently the school teaches them well, because he's so good that Church owner Grant Henry once banned him from the bar's weekly tournament for winning too much. Other Mohan accomplishments: He has an MBA from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.
You can probably guess his nickname, but Naish is pretty far from the snake-type. A lefty with spin, control and outstanding reflex, Naish is one of only two known players in the entire world that have won both tournaments at the Albert and Church, beating Bulger, Bradley and Mohan in the process.
One of the friendliest and fiercest competitors on the bar pong scene, Bradley at one point in his life considered himself the best ping-pong player in Atlanta. Then he went to Decatur Table Tennis and was dismantled by a 95-year-old competitor. Since then, with guidance and competition from Bulger, as well as regular practice at local table tennis clubs, he's become one of the best in Atlanta bar pong.