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"Fast Eddie" Felson (Newman) is a talented but overconfident and undisciplined pool hustler who tries to prove himself by challenging legendary pool player "Minnesota Fats" (Gleason). After Felson loses to Fats, he takes up with the heavy drinking Sarah Packard (Laurie) and starts a relationship with unscrupulous manager Bert Gordon (Scott) that ultimately proves costly both professionally and personally.
Newman played "Fast Eddie" Felson again in the 1986 sequel, The Color of Money.
- The Alcoholic: Sarah.
- Always Someone Better: "Minnesota Fats"
- Broken Bird: Sarah. She even walks with a slight limp.
- Driven to Suicide: Sarah after sleeping with Bert.
- Hustler: Eddie
- Manipulative Bastard: Bert
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: After more than 24 hours of straight pool playing against Minnesota Fats, Eddie is exhausted and rather drunk. Then Fats, well-groomed and smiling, says, "Eddie, let's play pool." Fats proceeds to utterly destroy him at the table.
- Sell Out: What Eddie does when he agrees to let Bert to manage him.
- The Teetotaler: even though he frequents bars and pool halls, Bert's beverage of choice is milk.
- World of Cardboard Speech