MPs' hidden talents: Finance Minister Steven Joyce does the numbers on the pool table
Finance Minister Steven Joyce leans over the table, brow furrowed as he tries to make sense of the numbers in front of him.
Calculations done, he makes his move and waits to see the ripple effect of his action.
He's not in Cabinet, however, but in Wellington's Green Man pub, showing off his surprise skills with a pool cue.
Joyce is quick to dismiss the description of him as a pool shark, but talks enthusiastically about honing his skills as a teenager on the Kapiti Coast.
"I used to go to Kapiti College, there were a bunch of us that used to play a bit of pool around the place. My parents had a pool table downstairs… [and] we had a lot of fun with it."
Joyce picked up the secrets to success from his dad, who taught him how to play the game with some no-nonsense advice.
"He had two tips: keep your chin on the cue, and no need to bash the hell out of it!"
While he only plays once or twice a year these days, the pool table was a regular sight during his university days and even while building up his RadioWorks broadcasting empire.
"It's a notoriously convivial business, and we used to go out and shoot a few pool cues after a couple of quiets."
Fittingly for a man now tasked with handling the nation's books, Joyce says the calculations required within the game are a large part of its appeal.
"I've always been a geometry sort of guy, so the angles, working the angles, that's important, and the strategy side of it, trying to be two or three shots ahead - which I only manage occasionally these days."
Asked for any memorable pool games over the years, National's campaign manager replies, "Just the ones I win."
"We had the office get-together the other night and it wasn't a very successful night, so I won't remember that one, but a couple of years ago I managed to clear the table and that's a very fond memory."
He initially talks down the chances of a repeat, claiming to be "incredibly rusty and very worried about doing this in front of the camera".
Yet he warms to his task against Stuff political reporter Vernon Small, at one point proclaiming "Watch this" before sending a ball into the corner pocket.
After fortuitously sinking the eight ball, Joyce has indeed cleared the table again. However, in the spirit of the holidays, a mandatory "down-trou" is forgiven - perhaps best for all involved.