Donnerstag, 19. Januar 2012

I Need A Dollar

Today I turned on my laptop to check out the www for some pool news. And guess what: I found some very interesting one. The BCA, Billiard Congress of America, launched a call to all the industry out there to support their „send pro to pro (international) events“ program. With a $1'000 you are in and can call yourself „Official Contributors“.

So this blog is called realpooltalk and if you don't like to hear the „other“ truth you might want to exit now.

To be honest, the first thing that happened after I read the articles on AZBilliards was me having a big smile on my face. On one hand I mentioned in previous blogs the lack of activity by the BCA as the governing body of the American pool. On the other hand the details of the articles made me think of the „CEO quality“ inside the BCA itself as an organization.

Let me add the articles so everybody is updated on the topic:

2012 Official Contributor to International Competition Opportunity Overview
The Billiard Congress of America is requesting the support of association member companies who recognize the significance of supporting international competition.

As the North American representative to the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), the Billiard Congress of America is the governing body for cue sports in North America. As such, the Billiard Congress of America plays an active role in international competition, including the player selection process for international events, rules and specifications issues, supporting and overseeing international events in North America and participating in timely topics paramount to the sports and the industry.

In the future, the Billiard Congress of America would also like to identify strategies for providing American player travel stipends for international events.

Partnership Opportunity: Demonstrate your company's support of international competition by supporting the Billiard Congress of America's membership in the WPA.

(read all...)

I really think it's time that the BCA is trying to find a way to support their pros. The pros that pull junior players into the world of pool. Pros that are icons and pros that dedicate(d) themselves to a sport due to their love towards this wonderful game. They travel around the globe hoping to perform well enough to finance their next trips.

That the BCA is behind on tasks is a sure thing. The Asian countries like Japan and Taiwan, Iran and Qatar, European countries like the Netherlands, Croatia, Austria and many more send their players to the World Championships (WC), paying for their hotel expenses, airfares and sometimes even add some pocket money for the trip in the name of their countries. That big pool nations like the USA and Germany is not able to provide the same treatment for their representatives is a shame! I have to add that most European countries are also supporting their players 100% when they play under the national flag at the European Championships (EC) which usually cost each federation somewhere between $20'000-80'000 per year (all categories; girls, pupils, juniors, women, men, seniors and wheelchair). So the costs for the Wcs is just an add on the list.
“But how do they all do that” you might be wondering right now. It's not about how they do it, it's about how the BCA is NOT DOING it. The biggest pool nation in Europe is Germany with around 40'000 pool players. This includes all players that actually join any kind of competitive pool event. Other countries like Switzerland have somewhere around 200 players. They all manage it, some better than the other, to have a business concept to get the money together for the mentioned positions (WCs and EC) in the budget.

But let's do some math at this point:
An average WC per player costs around $1'500-2'000 for the airfare, $250 for the entry fee and about $500 (double rooms). There are WC in 8ball, 9ball and 10ball, so three events per year. That equals costs of $2'500 x 3 (events) = $7'500 per player. So if the BCA wants to send only three players to all events they would need to get at least 23 companies to sign up for this contribution offer because none of them will pay more than asked, that's for sure.

… CSI has also committed $1,000 towards the BCA goal.
Please see press release in news column on front page.

This compliments what CSI as been preaching for a long time.
Who else will step forward?

Mark Griffin


On one side I think: well, which company wouldn't pay 1K for that? If I was a registered company with my blog I probably would do it since it's maybe the cheapest way to be a sponsor of the pro squad of a whole pool nation! On the other side I just have to question the value of the product I am investing in. Companies invest, they don't donate money. They want exposure and ads so they can refinance their invest to at least a certain percentage. It doesn't have to be money that comes back. Sponsorships are always tough to valuate. But why would I invest in a product that is valuated so small by it's owner? Let's have Andy Roddick call a serious company asking for $5'000 in sponsorship – answer: no, thanks. Let him ask the same company for $5mio – answer: let's talk about it.
To me this action by the BCA is comparable with a guy on the intersection asking for a dollar! Some give one to feel good for the rest of the day. Most people ignore him. Some people have pity and some people think “he should have been doing his homework”!

As I did question the WPA I questioned the BCA a few times in the last 2 years. This “governing” body of the biggest pool nation in the world seems to be run by a board that tries to avoid work: “We need money to support our pros?... Let's find people that give it to us”. That's not a solution. Sponsorships money should be an add for a federation and not the base on which something is built. The BCA has so many players, pool halls and industry contacts – they should definitely be able to raise a system with which they have enough cash flow that allows them to finance the pros. But to reach anything like that you NEED TO WORK! You can not just sell your ad space, hoping for good and pat yourself on the back. You need to build up assets and a system that is stable and sustainable without being reliant on the generosity of the industry itself. Once you reached this goal the time has come to strive for more... but that's a long way to go!

Side notes:

I also wonder when the BCA is actually also posting this “great news” on their website. They must have known before AZBilliards did... right? ;)

Is the money the industry puts in the pro players restricted to the male pros? Who would get the subsidy? To which events? Do the players have a code of conduct?

Dienstag, 13. Dezember 2011

Technique matters

It's just a few hours ago that Team Europe beat Team USA in the Mosconi Cup. Both teams played well while Europe was more consistent and focused over the whole event. Many threads were opened on forums such as AZBforums and others. One post was saying that the Americans lost due to a lack of technique. This is a very interesting point and also, in my point of view, one reason why Team Europe not only won this year's Cup but also four out of the last five. Lots of comments were made that the Mosconi Cup is in European hands, also off table and therefore also favours the Europeans.

All that being said I will focus on two things in this article – the differences in the technique around the globe and the Mosconi Cup production itself.

Playing pool for over 15 years I have seen a lot, travelled the continents to compete and studied many players to find my game. I am one of those guys that wants to know what he does and where he can improve - analytical, focused and self-reflecting. On the other hand, I of course always admired Mr. Bustamante's or Mr. Ortmann's stroke. Different and still effective nevertheless! But is success an indicator for a good technique? Or let me ask this way: how high are the chances that the average player can become the best with an extravagant stroke technique? Not quite high!

I learned to play pool in the “314-era”, a time with just low deflection and and higher percentage in the the low percentage shots. Besides the just mentioned players I “learned” from pros like Mr. Souquet, Feijen, Immonen, Strickland etc.. Players with a straight shot and an ever straighter technique. To me the benefit of a standardized straight technique was always obvious, nevertheless in the early 00's I made another adjustment and tried to take over the snooker-technique into my pool game – and it worked! I shot better, beat more pros and won more tournaments. I finally had a technique that did not develop by itself but a technique that I made up consciously to be able to repeat it any time even after weeks of letting the cue rest. I didn't want a technique that I have to practice for but one that I can consciously pick up whenever needed.

In 2006 I travelled all over to Manila for my second World Championships (after Taipei in 2004). That was right about the time when Brunswick came up with their new table, the Metro. I never heard of it before but reading the ad “tournament edition” I didn't realize that this was telling you about the pocket size. They were tiny! As small as I have never seen before in pool!
Practising on the practice tables showed me a deficit and made me think: what to do now if I still want to be able to compete on the requested level? I remembered the pockets that most pool halls in Taiwan had been using and put the average Taiwanese stroke in comparison with it. The pockets were very tight and the strokes were very short and not fancy at all. They reduced the movement before the shot to a minimum. Imitating what I saw, I did better than expected. I came out first in my group with Antonio Lining, David Alcaide and Mika Immonen. Played decent pool in all three matches and then even won the first round in the last 64 against Huang from Taiwan to be finally stopped by Konstantin Stepanov, a player with one of the finest and straightest techniques ever seen.

In 2009 and 2010 I spent several months in the USA. First of all in Florida and later on in Las Vegas, LA and New York. I have seen so many good players and also had fun playing lots of them. But pool is something different in the USA than it is in Europe. While pool in the US is still a game played in smoky bars it became a sport in Europe over the last one or even two decades. You barely see players in the US practising. By that I don't talk about playing pool in general, I mean drills and technique training. I once was even told I should rather not practice because I would lose a lot of “action” doing that.
The reason for this difference is, in my opinion, the non-existence of the BCA as a true sports federation. There is no club structure, no real Championship structure and no real sports organisation in American pool. Most players play and play and if they want to improve mostly just try to play more. The analytical side with all its facts and figures is almost completely missing. If the US Mosconi Team wants to have a shot at the Cup in 10-15 years the mentality of the pool players has to change.

In the second part I want to talk about the Mosconi Cup 2011. I did not see day one of the show but tried to follow as much as possible from the very first match on day two. And one thing was clear – the Europeans were prepared better for this event. Not only four World Champions were in their team but also probably the best coach in pool these days. But in general the “Euros” seemed to be there to win this trophy while the US players were there to not lose. The determination and consistency of the “Euros” was amazing and over the top. And consistency comes with the basics being 100% right. Or have you ever seen a straight curve? I am not saying that Shane or Johnny have a crooked stroke but other team members do not have the consistent stroke that nearly every European has. Additional to this the stance of lots of US players (not talking about the US Mosconi team now in particular) is not balanced well which causes many misses. “Rocky” only won against “Drago” because it's a movie and the “good” have to win. In real life the more solid, consistent and more determined player/sportsman gets the cheese!

On the other side mistakes were made in the line up. Why would you have Shawn Putnam playing a re-match of the US Open finals that he lost? And also the teaming up of the Dechaine and Putnam was way too early in the event. The US coach missed to go for the “save” points which made it even tougher for them when the gap got bigger. The US team is also less experienced. By this I mean the international experience: Dechaine and Putnam have hardly been outside US soil while Archer is not really playing much abroad either. The American pool players leave themselves behind by not updating to the actual needs of a pool pro these days – international competition in pool seen as a sport!

Montag, 28. November 2011

The Color of Money

For all of those that now think I am going to be talking about the pool players‘ all time favorite movie – no I won’t talk about those great times of pool and how that movie made up so much in the world of pool billiards.

On the other hand, it was exactly this movie that inspired so many people around the world and one of these people is the promoter of the annual “The Color of Money” tournament in Zurich, Switzerland. Just a week ago the 24th edition took place in downtown Zurich at the Billiardino, one of the biggest poolhalls in Europe and around the globe. This fact offers the opportunity of doing almost every kind of format. And after the number of registrants decreased steadily in the past four years something had to be done. In this situation, you either just watch a legendary tournament die, or you go for it and try to come up with something new, something for everybody, something different. And that is exactly what happened, a new format was created. On the one hand to still attract the top players, on the other hand to attract more amateurs to attend again. And this is what was done:

  • 64 player field
  • 8 groups of 8 players in the first stage
  • 1st stage:
    • round robin
    • 45 minute play time max or best of 17 games
    • just the games won and not the match won counted
    • “Magic Rack” in use
  • 2nd stage:
    • single knockout last 16
The following thoughts were made:

  • the promoter/poolhall can follow an exact time schedule
  • players also have an exact time schedule
  • the Amateurs can play at least 7 matches
  • slow play doesn’t punish the average players that would have to wait but will punish the slow player himself.
  • “Magic Rack” to avoid loss of time
  • every game counts – never a reason to give up
It was instantly obvious that small fixes had to be done for another event like this:

  • race to 7 max in the group stages to avoid the hectic atmosphere of rushing your play
  • a match won is 3 extra points, while a draw match is 1 extra point for each player
I did not only take part in forming this format but also played in the tournament. Additionally I had several friends playing in the event too. Like this it was more or less “easy” for me to see what worked and what has to be fixed or changed.
As an analyzing type of guy it is normal for me to check the status quo and move from here with ideas to optimize the process. Unfortunately, most players don’t seem to do it just like this. Lots of bad talk and criticism was going on all day during and after the tournament: “This is not good”, “Why only 45 minutes?”, “Why does a win not count?”, etc. etc. We heard a lot that day, but again, as it usually happens when you play a new format in pool, players are usually just complaining instead of naming the problem and coming up with one or even two possible solutions. Instead of looking at the new picture, going with it and coming up with opinions that are actually helping to improve, players are just grumbling and, as a reaction, just don’t play that event anymore. Almost no player really takes the time to think about it in a constructive way and address their opinions, worries and thoughts to the promoters. And again, by constructive, I don’t talk about telling what was not good…It’s about improvement and that involved suggestions, thoughts and ideas. This of course doesn’t mean that all thoughts will be heard and that the final format will please every player. But the pool family needs to learn to “play” and grow together. Next time when you don’t like something about an event, go to the promoter and don’t just grumble, but also tell him or her WHAT and HOW you would change things.
Also companies like “Microsoft” and “Apple” have to release additional or modified versions of their products so it shouldn’t be to everybody’s surprise that small once-in-a-year promoters will have to adjust their system. We are playing an amateur sport – so why should the “CEO”s of tournaments make less mistakes that the CEO’s of global players like the companies mentioned above?

On another note, I really do think that this format is very interesting and might be a good step out of the boring tournament jungle that we have now. Every 9, or every 8 shall count and together with the time limit pool would actually join major sports like soccer, Formula 1, basket ball, ice hockey and many more. Only tennis, golf and baseball are sports that don't really have a time limit. If pool wants to become attractive for TV stations I am 100% sure that we need this or another defined time limit so everybody can plan his/her schedule – the promoters, the players, the spectators, the venues, the media etc.

Freitag, 8. Juli 2011

Back to the Roots!

 An article by Ralph Eckert

I am proud to announce this new article written by realpooltalk's first "guest writer". First I knew him as one of Europe's finest players, then as the pool instructor that changed so many people's game with "Modern Pool" and the PAT-system. And now Ralph Eckert came together with realpooltalk to release this article. At this point I'd like to thank Mr. Eckert for his interest and support for this blog but also for the pool world. Enjoy it!
Should you be interested in Mr. Eckert's books you can contact him directly by visiting his webiste. Some cover example:

only available in German

Tremendous changes in table size specifications were made in 1949! How about going back to those roots?

Hasn’t it just been announced in the January 2008 edition of the Billiards Digest that 9-Ball had died? Soft-breaks, rack machines, break zones, tapping and alternate break, all being cited as reasons for declaring the fall of this discipline, are only causes to some extent.
Now I would just like to iterate once more what already has been published in detail. Tournament hosts wanted the hard breaks, but due to new triangles or the tapping of the tables, the hard breaks were not necessary any more. Of course, the players immediately switched to soft breaks. No need to say that the professional players, training on a good (hard) break over years, complained about losing this advantage they had worked on for such a long time!
Then the first reactions were rule-modifications to enforce the hard break. So the break box was established (mostly in the USA), the triangle was moved up a bit above the spot (WC 2001 and Euro Tour 2008) and the rule of how many balls must cross the headline after the break (Euro Tour 2007) was modified. Not to mention the decrease of the actual intended pocket size, that organizers initiated (WC 2005)! As a result of that, the WPA specifications were re-mediated afterwards. All these changes ought to make the break (like above) along with the game (tight pockets) more challenging.
More challenges, also to avoid the shoot-out of whole matches, were significant for the increase of the playing abilities. It probably would have looked too easy in handling and too boring in TV, just watching one player at the table, leaving no chance for the opponent to show his competence.
Accordingly, the change of break had been put to test. Not the winner of a game was able to make the next break, but the player who's turn it was – either after each or after three games.
In any case this is actually not my subject here. The point is, that after all these years of modifying and messing around with the rules of the game obviously no satisfying results have been achieved. We will have to look forward to even more changes and additional rules in the future. A new discipline called 10-ball has already become common enough to arrange a world championship of its own. Why not?
So we’re not just talking about 9-ball here. Finally, the world championship in the almost forgotten classical straight pool is back. It had gone lost, because the play-off to 150 balls was no more a goal that was unable to reach in one inning. Already in 1966 Irving Crane needed only one take (150) to win the US-Open final match against his opponent Joe Balsis. Before the second world-war, a goal of playing up to 300, mostly even 600 balls and more was standard!
Is it advisable to play up to 150 balls at a world championship, when almost every attendee has already made a run of over 200 balls and more? No wonder that players turned to more “complicated” disciplines like 9-ball and one-pocket in the 70’s and 80’s. The outcome of this is the question, if pool billiard in general has become too “simple”?
Probably not, but it was made “easier” in 1949. Until then the standard pool table had a size of 10 ft! The change to a size of 9 ft was an action to make pool (at that time stagnated) more common again. Now, 60 years later, this goal has been reached: Pool billiard has become international and more popular than ever.
As we all know – the more common a sport gets, the higher the level rises. And exactly this is happening at the moment in pool. And it’s going to rise on, although we are already moving at the top level worldwide, very close to perfection.

In some countries temporary perfection is meanwhile reached by quite unknown players.
Instead of constant modifications in rules, disciplines, tournament regulations and specifications the decision of 1949 should just be cancelled! “Impossible” is what I’ve often heard when suggesting this. And this was also the first comment on my mind…

Let’s go through it: At first, the WPA should readmit 10 ft tables – also for tournaments! Imagine the next world championship host ordering 10 ft tables: Setting up or aligning the rack in the known position (not above), no break box or any other rule to make 9-ball “more complicated”. Play the game on a “normal” table like before 1949 and you will see: the game is tough enough! Straight pool would also be more interesting. Would you believe that the highest tournament-run before 1947 was 127 balls (held by Jimmy Caras and Willie Mosconi) on the 10 ft table?
Secondary effect: Pool wouldn’t look so cute compared to snooker on TV! Every layman can see how “easy” the game is on this much smaller table.

That’s exactly how it was, as I first entered the new pool café of Tobias Kim in Ludwigshafen (Germany) in 1982 – I saw this tremendous 12 ft snooker table and thought: “That’s the table the pro’s play on” . Until they gave me the rack with the snooker balls… that was the moment when I realized my mistake. A mistake that wasn’t so capacious, if you compare the income relationship between pool and snooker pros nowadays.

Pool billiard on a 10 ft table would not only look more superior – it would be superior! Just think that pool and snooker had been one and the same until 1857 – both were declared as billiard and nor separated by rules or specifications. At that time the standard measurement of a table was 12 ft! This also counts for carom. The game was played with 4 balls – reaching points by pocketing the balls and also by collision of the balls.

The US-immigrants wanted to play billiards like in their homeland. At first they brought single tables or imported them. Later they were built by their own billiard manufacturers. So the change of the, anyway not established, specifications began. It was Michael Phelan in 1857, who formed the round pockets (like still used in Snooker nowadays) angular – so the “English” and “American” Billiard were born. At this point, in my opinion, the technical borderline to snooker was set. But that’s an article of its own!
About 1871 the first 11 ft table was in use and from 1890 on, the first 10 ft tables had been established until about 1949! It was Jimmy Caras who liked to say that HE would be the last unbeaten champion (1949 against Mosconi) at the 10 ft table. Meanwhile he has unfortunately passed away – but unbeaten!

I know the “homicide argument” well, which says that large tables aren’t commercial and that no pool room owner would swap his beloved 9 ft to a 10 ft table. Well – he doesn't have to! But he can! Why are there so many pool halls with 9 ft tables? Why not even 8 ft? Are they also not in the WPA specifications? In the US there are enough! Or maybe 7 ft tables? Oh sorry, we’re drifting to “coin-tables”.

What would happen if a pool room would open up with only 10 ft tables? I would do so! It would be quite a paradox – I wouldn’t be able to arrange championships, because the playing materials wouldn’t match the concept of the WPA. Isn’t that delicate? True – it wouldn’t match the requirement – it would be much better!
I can only assume… but at least the billiard manufacturers would surely be for it. They could sell a few more and new tables. Certainly the 10 ft table is more expensive. But if championships were held on 10 ft tables, the players would surely convince the room owners to buy at least one “big” table for training... and one thing leads to the other…
Many officials, players and pool hall owners don’t even know about the existence of 10 ft tables in the past. Not to speak of 11 or 12 ft before 1890! This is reason enough we should not miss to mention these facts and bring them to mind. Especially when the WCBS tries to sell the three games (snooker, carom and pool) as three different disciplines to the IOC. Just think about the fact, that the material in the past was almost unified.
Not to emulate snooker – then we could directly start playing pool on 12 ft tables like before 1871. Pool doesn’t need that. After all pool is the most popular billiard discipline! Of course also for the fact that pool is played on smaller tables. That’s the reason 9 ft tables should stay in use – but why additionally make 10 ft tables official?

Oh - there was once a very popular top player and world champion, who answered to this discussion that the game itself would change – the whole entire character of the game. Would it be possible to play 8-ball and 9-ball like we do right now?
Well, the same complaint could have been given by Willie Mosconi in 1949, for they had changed and simplified “his” game!

I really don’t want to seem emphatic in this article. But I would like to ask you to talk about it! Just for the fact that much has been forgotten or never known – because nobody talks about the alternatives…

Best regards,
Ralph Eckert,
Mannheim (Germany)


The Billiard Encyclopedia” by Victor Stein & Paul Rubino (from 1994)
“The new illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards” by Mike Shamos (from 1999)
“Pocket Billiard fundamentals & Trick Shots made easy” by Jimmy Caras (from 1969)

Donnerstag, 16. Juni 2011

Pool - what a sport

„What a sport“ - that's the question. Due to my recently started blog I had a lot of nice discussions lately. In some of these discussions we talked about the one or the other topic in my blog, about stories and things that happened a long time ago and also about how to change this or that in the game/sport we play/do. After all these conversations I still struggle to know what people and, even more important, the pool players think what sport pool is. But what do I mean by that? Let me start with this:

In the past few years we can observe steady changes in our sport. For me personally it started with the changes in 9-ball when we were welcoming the “Texas Express” rules in the early and mid 90's. Some “huge” stuff happened back then. Everybody that already played pool at that time knows what I mean: push-outs were allowed and balls pocketed on a foul stayed in the pockets and ball in hand was restricted to the “kitchen”! I still have a video tape “Jim Rampe versus Johnny Archer” in a best-of-five (sets) match which was recorded before the induction of the new rules. It looks so funny when they make three balls and the cueball on the break! In my point of view this was a healthy change in the game of 9-ball which of course also effected 10-ball later on.
This was enough to handle for a while and no other changes have been made – until a decade later. In the early 2000's a “fabulous” feature called “tap mat” came up. In fact a product that my private pool club sold for 5 dollars already couple of years before that. A regular item in some catalogues from overseas. Well, nevertheless, it was HERE! Introduced at the Euro Tour it was on the fast lane to the World Championships. Of course, the referees on the TV-table are happy to have a tight rack every time without really racking – saves some abashments. Also lots of participants in the Euro Tour liked the new “rack”. But why? A questions which answer is obvious: it makes it easier to break successfully. The wing ball is not only a high percentage ball anymore, it got promoted to an almost guaranteed, dead-in hit on the opening shot. The best example was sent in the Euro Tour Prague at the Top Hotel by French player Stephan Cohen. He “invented” the softbreak. And how soft it was is clear when I say that the 1-ball usually even didn't touch the side rail. In fact no other ball than the wing ball and the ball in the back of the rack did reach a rail (or pocket of course). It was successful, taking him to 3rd place in the mentioned event. At the same time the officials of the Euro Tour realized that something has to happen because that didn't look like pool at all anymore. The hard break times of Bustamante and Strickland are over – at least one of many opinions at that time. As a reaction on this issue the promoter decided to implement a new rule: the “3-balls kitchen line” rule. So how does this work? It sounds funny and is funny! It meant that now three balls have to cross the kitchen line on the break while each pocketed ball counts as a such. Sounds easy. Suddenly I personally made the experience that this rule is not quite good. During a Euro Tour in Italy I broke (hard of course) eight times and had a “illegal break” because two balls hit the side pocket and bounced back up table. My opponent now had the choice to play or give the layout back to me. An involuntary push-out on the break. But this was not the only effect of the “tap mat”. Realizing that the wing ball is still too easy to make the 9 was now on the spot when racked. Yeah, the whole rack was almost two balls higher, made to prevent this guaranteed hit. Needless to say that it took just a few rounds until the “cutbreak” was thing to do. The control of the cueball was now secondary. Only the 1 in the side was important because the hard and controlled break we trained for the last 10 years was worth nothing at this point. The physical coordination in connection with the elasticity was left at home and some players even didn't use their break cue anymore. The latest consequences were the (already mentioned in an earlier blog - 10-ball outside and the 9-ball inside rule. Why all this was made? To make it more fair for all participants. But let me ask why it is more fair when a new rule disadvantages the player that trained harder and more for his break? This weapon is not relevant any longer. As I like to compare: let's give all Tennis players a 250km/h serve, whether they are actually able to do it like Goran Ivanisevic or not. Or let's limit each Golf course to a length of 300 feet – what would long drivers like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson say? What is fair about that?

Onother thing that changed was the turn away from the winner break to the alternate break. A change that divides the players in their opinion. Of course a pro player, by average running out more racks in a row, likes the winner break. Also the “free-stroke players” like it better of course because they can get a better start into the match. On the other side, the slow playing “doctors” like the alternate break. But it is not the question what is better, my question is why did we do that? Some people tell me: “...well, there is no sport in which you can lose without interacting in the game at all. It is more fair.” Interesting point for sure. But why is something more fair that disadvantages the better prepared player? The player that invested more in his game.

So let me come back to the headline of this article. In this headline I didn't put a exclamation mark. In fact it should be a question mark. I heard so often “look how the guys from Snooker do it, we should do it the same way...” or as written earlier “... there is no sport in which you can lose without interacting in the game at all”. So my question after being part of the Olympic family for 15 years: what sport are we? I know we are not Tennis, not Golf and also no Bowling or Chess. We even have a attribute that makes us unique as a sport. But I know it is time to define our game/sport before we go on changing rules, implementing now feature which lead to other new rules etc. Are we still a game or already a sport? And if we are a sport, should the best win?

I know that I already asked you earlier to give me your opinion but this time would really love to get as many as possible. Discuss it with your mates and write me a comment how you think about the latest development of our game/sport. This is not about “who's right and who's wrong” - I want to hear your voices!

Here a funny link to close out: Poolball

Samstag, 21. Mai 2011

Dog Eat Dog

The latest news of the 10ball U.S. Open in Las Vegas this week prompted me to write this new post. First of all I checked out my facebook and read that Ralf Souquet lost 8-0 against Corey Deuel. We all know what Corey is capable of this since he beat Mika Immonen 11-0 in the U.S. Open 9ball years ago when he also won that tournament. And although I just read about Mike Dechaine and Alex Pagulayan running out the whole set against their opponents I still wondered if that was the case. Checking out the AzBilliards forum I found this thread:
Reading through it I had to admit to myself that my post “Where it smells funny” was not totally fair in the meaning of showing both sides. I was talking about the issues of the pool world in that article and never really took the pen in my hand to write also about the issues created, implemented and not dealt with by the pro players. To balance this I decided to also take a close look at the pro players' behaviour and professionalism.
Edit: and this is what Ralf's Facebook page says: "On Friday I was involved in a minor car accident which made it impossible for me to be on time for my winners bracket match against Deuel. I informed the tournament director 2 hours before match time but the match wasn't pushed back. Came 2 minutes late and lost the match by forfeit. I am ok except a little ding on my forehead and finished the event in 7th place. Now on my way back to Germany"

First of all, I really do have to agree with some posts that say Corey should never have been given the choice by the tournament director if he wanted to wait on Ralf or not, that's for sure. On the other hand he could have made a statement by choosing different than he did. Another post says:

”I think this post is the bottom line.
Corey was forfeited under much worse circumstances...
..his match was changed after he checked...
..that was the time he threw a punch at CW.
He had showed well before the time posted.

Why should he take the worst of it both ways?”
Exactly, why should he try to do something else than the guy did that he punched in the face?! Of course I understand that these are two different situations but Corey could have set a margin for pros' behaviour nevertheless.
But it is a “dog eat dog” world when it comes down to pool! Players, even the top 10, have to fight for the money/salary hard and they have to take every bone they get to make a living. There are just a few pros making around the 100K a year, which might seem like a nice amount. But we have to consider that the average pro player “life” is over around the age of 45 or 50, just whenever eyes and concentration gets worse every month. That means that they have to built up enough savings to live off of it for another 20-40 years. Also considering the few sponsors and the little money the industry is giving to the top players as well as all the flights, hotel rooms and restaurant dinners there is not too much left of this “nice” 100K. And as we all now, missing money doesn't bring out the best in us. That makes players do whatever it takes to get the 100 bucks they can see “on the floor”. It causes them to lose manners and change their behaviour – or is it the players choosing to go that way?!
A huge problem of today's pro pool is the fact that most players don't see the long term possibilities, benefits and consequences of their actions. They are only concerned with the direct money they can make, right now, without looking right or left and even sticking their elbows out. That's also a reason why Mr. Souquet is recognized as one of the top ambassadors of the sport. Not because he has an extraordinary way of behaviour but because of the bad behaviour of most of the other players.
Everybody that has been to the BCA Championships in Las Vegas over the past years and was determined to take the chance to take part in the “challenge the pros” charity event can tell that while almost all WPBA players show up to support it just a few male pros show up for it. Why? Because they don't get a direct benefit of it. They don't see it as a promotion of their own name and sports personality. A similar example is a experience I had in Cardiff in 2003. Matchroom Sports was producing the World Championships and fans could buy poker cards with a few top pros on them. When my friend and me met Earl Strickland outside on the side walk we took the chance and asked him to sign “his” card, which he did. In the same moment he said: “I didn't know they do these cards. I should get a cut of it!”. So he in fact wanted to get a cut from the money MatchroomSports made selling these cards although he played in a $400'000-total-purse event for free (!) organized by the same company. So my question is: how many pros would sign posters (using their picture) which sales benefit an eventual pro player organisation? I wouldn't count too high!
Talking about behaviour of the players I also have to mention some pro players manners at the table towards the crowd and the opponents. I guess I don't really have to mention “the pearl's” behaviour and manners. On one hand he is funny to watch and always surprising with a new meltdown. On the other hand he is probably the worst “business card” for professional pool. It is questionable why the BCA and the WPA didn't ban him more often and/or longer than they did anyway!
But I also want to talk about a personal experience I had. Just a month ago I played Robb Saez, a well know top player in the US. The moment I read his name under mine I thought about our first clash a few years ago in Las Vegas during the Open. Winning 11-5 I had to deal with any kind of name-calling and also getting asked multiple time if I want to gamble high stakes after the match and, after denying, why we Europeans are so P***ys when it comes down to playing money matches. And guess what – the same player did not change at all just five years later. I was called motherf***er, faggot, ass***le and etc. during the match. Sometimes even, and that makes it worse, loud enough for the paying spectators to hear it. A less aggressive way of sharking his opponent is the winner's (of that tournament), Mike Dechaine, style. He constantly keeps talking to his opponents so I had was forced to tell him in our clash a year ago at the U.S. Open 10ball in Las Vegas to stop talking to me all the time during our game. But every effort was wasted!
If the pros keep treating their opponents like that why should any amateur player keep playing and paying pro events? Why should amateur players keep supporting the pros although they don't treat them with the right respect? And why do pros still wonder why there are less and less (amateur) players in the pro events?
I know that some readers now might say/think that these names should not be written down here. I have to disagree! Any governing body of pool has to start a “black list” with players that do not act properly and do not represent the sport in the best way they can. And because no one of the existing bodies, federations and associations intends to do so it is very important to create a players association that handles issues like that itself!
To go over to my next and last main point of this article I want to insert a short chapter about tournaments and their promoters.
There are a lot of promoters everywhere in the world. Some of them organize an event because they love the sport, others because the want to make money etc. Reading through the forums, thinking about the state of pool and writing articles like this I also thought about the “state of prize money”. It is nice to have “added money” events. The players – as a group – receive more money than what they have invested. Lets say the entry fee is 100.- and the added money is 1000.-. This means that with 20 players the input of the players is 2000.- and the output for the players is 3000.-. That sounds great. We all know that most of the time a player gets more or less the same piece of the cake. The better you are the bigger size the piece is. And that's all fine if we talk about regional tournaments. If we are talking about pro events we have to change our view. The “pro player group” has different expenses, goals and duties and has to treat itself not as a “hobby player” but as a business. At the moment we are far from that! But why?
Let me make an example:
  • entry fee: 500.-
  • added money: 50'000.-
  • field: 128
  • total purse: 114'000.-
  • average invest: 500.-
  • average profit: 890.-
That is great! … at least from one angle. But let's say the “pro player group” is a business:
  • entry fee: 500.-
  • added money: 50'000.-
  • field: 128
  • total purse: 114'000.-
  • average accommodation costs: 250.-
  • average travel costs: 500.-
  • food and drinks: 100.-
  • average invest: 1350.-
  • average loss: 460.-
So in fact the players are not only shifting their money around in their group, they are even losing money as a collective. Maybe the airline, the hotel or a restaurant made a profit but for sure not the business group “pro players”. But why should any promoter make a bigger effort to not only make money for himself but also create money for this group? Because they don't have to. The players just follow their own personal interest and never come up with binding rules, requirements and contracts as a business would and should do. The just go where ever somebody throws out a bone. And again the question: why?
The answer is simple: players organisation/association! That is what is needed desperately. A voice that talks for the players and the collective interest of the pro players around the world that try to make their life off of pool.
This organisation would be able to sell the group as a product, guide the promoters and work together with them to increase the levels of the events. The organisation can also negotiate deals with hotels, airlines etc. which benefits the players through discounts, upgrades and special treatments. The whole strength of all the pros together can be sold to companies. The players could be brought together in one strong voice to set standards in rules and for events. It could handle black sheeps and raise money for the collective.
But again – the players just don't see far enough to make that happen. Just a few years ago we, Vincent Facquet, Oliver Ortmann and myself tried to build such a organisation in Europe. Already dedicating our time we asked the interested players during a meeting in Holland for a €100.- annual membership so we can run things, send mails, do calls and get a legal status without also dedicating our own money. The reaction was as it could have been expected – most players didn't trust us and/or didn't want to afford €100.- to initiate this organisation.
“Dog eat dog” and as long as we, the players, behave like one nothing will change. It is not only the federations, the association, the WPA and the BCA that has to change and go in a different direction. It is also the players that have to re-think their attitude, their goals and behaviour! And most important: they have to UNITE!

Sonntag, 8. Mai 2011

Dress-Up and play

Having played many tournaments in Europe and also in the US I have realized a huge difference in the appearance of the players at tournaments. While in Europe you have to be dressed in black trousers (no jeans), black shoes and a shirt with a collar for most tournaments. However, even in regional tournaments you can play in shorts, flip-flops and a tank top in the US. And to be honest – I like both sides. On one hand it is kind of cool to be dressed-up nicely and representing the sport as serious and clean. On the other hand it is also not only nice but especially comfortable to wear whatever you want to do your hobby. So as a player I have two opinions about whether I should be able to feel comfortable only or if I also want to represent my sport to the, sometimes only a hand full, spectators.

A very interesting observation is that people that are dressed-up for the competition not only play more serious but are also more successful. In my opinion this has a lot to do with the subconsciousness of the players, the dressed-up one as well as his opponent. “Clothes make the man” and this is also the case in sports. When Rafael Nadal came up he suddenly had that huge left biceps and of course also showed it. And it is even the same with cars – you can see the front light of a Porsche 911 in your rear mirror for just a part of a second and you instinctively get out of his way. And I strongly believe it is quite the same in pool.

Secondly it gives you as a player an extra boost because you feel better and more confident! By this the effect doubles and increases the gap between you and your competitor. And hey, if this is what it takes to have your rival missing one or two extra shots – I definitely will go with that! Or as one of the pool industry's slogan says: “looks can kill!”

The reason why I brought up with this subject right now is the recent tournament in Dallas, the Ultimate 10 Ball Championship. The promoter decided that the dress code is more strict than 99% of all the other events. With the vest added to the DC it all came close to the snooker style. While some players complained “that is soo European!” other players told me their experience over the tournament as following: “I never had that many compliments about my outfit during a pool tournament in my whole life as in the last two days of the competition.”

This leads me to the last part of this post: representing our sport!

The times of pool in a smoky back-door pool hall are close to being over, there is less gambling than ever and pool players around the world took the “game” a level up and made it a “sport” over the last decade. I really call out to everyone out there – let's enjoy our sport, let's enjoy the game and let's dress up. It is our duty to give our sport this new image and also represent it to the spectators and public. Of course it is comfortable to wear a loose shirt with baggy pants but this will never make anyone from other industries, neither TV channels nor producers, really investing money in pool.