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 - http://realpooltalk.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-rules-messin-up-game-to-make-it_28.html) 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 PartyPoker.com 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.


Montag, 28. März 2011

New Rules messin' up the game - „to make it more even“

In the past few years I – and not only me – can see a consistent change of rules. New „technology“ led to new rules that balance a disadvantage of the latest new toy. Additional to that no federation or association took the effort to really standardize the rules and regulations.

To show you an example I want to start with this summary of a WPA website:

“(Effective November, 2001)

1. Purpose
The purpose of these specifications shall be to set standards for equipment used at all WPA World Championships, WPA World Tour events and other WPA sanctioned and/or recognized events. These specifications do not necessarily apply to tables manufactured for commercial home use. At its sole discretion, the World Pool-Billiard Association can sanction tournaments on tables not in compliance with these specifications.

20. Table Recognized by the WPA
Only tables that are recognized by the WPA can be used at a WPA-sanctioned or recognized event. “

(source: wpa-pool.com/web/WPA_Tournament_Table_Equipment_Specifications)

This “rules” show truly why our sport is still not professional. It might sound weird or abstract but what would Nadal and his companions say if the court was smaller, sometimes wider and sometimes the net is also a little lower? What would Michael Phelps have said if the lane was shorter in Santa Barbara and longer in Germany? Of course, in golf the players have to handle stuff like this all the time. But we don't play golf. We also don't swim and we also don't hold a racket – we play pool!

The difference between playing a game and execute a sport is the professionalism of the management. We are in the unfavorable position to be dependent on the pool halls and their owners. On the other hand the World Championships, European Championships and other international tournaments are played in malls and convention halls. In my point of view it is 100% necessary that we all, every player around the world, is aware of the ! exact ! regulations and specifications of a table or at least can access the documents easily. In a sport where Millimeters count it is not enough to set regulations almost in Centimeters. Let's hope we at least don't have to play on red cloth!

This was the equipment part of the sport. The real rules part is next. To give you an impression I want to tell some small stories:

In 2009 I made a trip to Florida. A friend and me took a car and visited some pool halls and tournaments. At home 10-ball ran over the “old” 9-ball a few months ago and so it was kind of a bummer that the first tournament in Ft. Pierce would be a 9-ball. But well, we were still excited and determined. The tournament was run by Tony Crosby and his wife and everything was well organized. The kitchen was good and the owner was very polite. The only mistake: Diamond tables. I know that some of you now might agree, other don't. But for Europeans the rails of the Diamond are way different to what we are used to. I even think we don't have more than a hand full of Diamonds all in all. I don't want to judge the quality of the product, I just want to mention the big difference of used materials. After the tournament I found somebody to play a cheap set after I already lost some with the other guy before. But well, we all wanna win ;). After a few racks my opponent was aiming a shot on which he could have made both, the 2 and the 10 ball. He missed both. So I kindly asked him to call the shot next time if it's not obvious which one he is going for. His reaction was amazing: why? I explained him that 10-ball is a call shot game and thought that was known. But him and everybody around didn't know what I was talking about. “We don't play call shots!”. I never thought that during the last few months, a 10-ball World Championships was already in the books, Americans and Europeans played a different game. Same same but different!

The jewel of the whole trip, the Mezz Classics in Orlando was still waiting. After the SE tour stop at Capone's it was next on the list. My friend had a flu and stayed at the motel but I was curious and headed to the location where we gonna “fight” next few days, the arena. And suddenly I realize where I am. A pool hall that has seen better days. An owner that really tries to be a good host. But to play in a tiny pool room on 3 different tables with totally different rails and pockets was not on my list. Every game was a surprise. The spectators were truly a very positive point.

My question at this point is why the heck the WPA and not all of its 1st grade members can not communicate the rules to their players properly? Why do we play on as many different equipments as pool halls we visit? Why do the federations and associations not create proper guidelines so we all know better what to expect. We all make fun of the amateurs that still have ball in hand twice after a foul or press the butt between the rail and the cueball. But are we any different? Let's play a game! Put marks for yourself:

  • if I touch any ball on the table with my shirt, is it a foul? YES ____ NO ____

  • does the 10-ball count on the break, as a win? YES ____ NO ____

  • where do you put the 2-ball in a 9-ball rack? YES ____ NO ____

  • alternate or winner break? YES ____ NO ____

  • phenolic or not? YES ____ NO ____

  • rack your own or for each other? YES ____ NO ____

  • call shot in 10-ball? YES ____ NO ____

  • is sharking normal? YES ____ NO ____

  • what happens with the 8-ball going on the break?

  • if I touch another ball with my cue just when I hit the cueball, is it a foul? YES ____ NO ____

Do we really know the rules? I think most do. Although I have to mention that most rules can change in a 50miles radius. It is important that a sport, that somehow tries to be one, has exact and world wide effective standardized rules. Tournaments must be played the same way all over the planet. It is the WPA's duty to realize this rule book latest by 2012.

To talk about the last point in this article I want to show you the latest Facebook post by one of Eueope's finest pool pros (source will follow):

“... just won my first match at the 14.1 EC. As the EPBF had the great idea to tap the balls. I didn't hesitate to go for the dead bank-combo in the side. I made it 5 times including the break. Didn't even played position on my break ball. Wanted to make a point as this is not the way I want to play straight pool. But I don't think it will be heard...”

For almost a decade new rules come up like mushrooms out of the ground. It all started with the tap mat. Suddenly we could rack faster and tighter – which is a funny word. Tournaments saw less arguing and ended earlier. It was a perfect for the referees on the TV table too. But did it really help? Did it really support the sport? I don't think so.

After the EPBF/IBP already had to change rules due to the new way of racking and Ronato Alcano won the World Championships in a remarkable way not using his break cue it was obvious – something had to be done. In Europe the alternate break, once 3 breaks each interval, was the solution to avoid having too many players running out whole sets. But what Alcano was in Manila was Stephan Cohen in Prague. He finished 3rd in the Euro Tour without breaking more than 3 balls to or only close to a rail. The new “kitchen”-rule was born. From now on it was common on the tour that at least 3 balls have to cross the kitchen line (break box) while every ball on the break counts as such. The side effect of a hard break was not yet known by then. It occurred that a hard break led to direct the balls to the edge of the side pockets which made them going back down table. Like this even a hard break can be judged as “illegal”. A new “trick” was also to spot the 9-ball on the spot and pull the 1 up table. Wow! Where will this take us?

But hey, we got lucky and 10-ball was the game! The corner ball is not an issue anymore and the 10 on the break doesn't count anyway. Great! But wait. What do we now do with the 2- and the 3-ball? On the corner? Everywhere but there? Break box or not? How about this:

“Break rule change:

On the kitchen line (break line) there will be 2 markers placed in an

equal distance of 420mm each rail.

At the 9-Ball events, the cue ball must be placed between the 2

markers meaning the cue ball is in the middle.

At 10-Ball events, the cue ball must be placed between either of the

markers and the rail.

This will be commonly known as 9-Ball inside and 10-Ball outside.”

(new break rule for the Euro Tour in the 2011 season)

Are you kidding me? I heard of the break box and I liked the video tape with Efren and Jimmy Wetch playing it. But “9-ball inside” and “10-ball outside”?

The first moment I got in touch with the tap mat and its impact I did not like it! It was obvious that this brings the levels closer to each other. By dawn new break styles and tricks where found. The game, in my point of view, disgraced!

The tap mat was recently followed by the magic rack. Not better than its “father”. The WPA and every other federation or association failed to specify clearly if this is an official rack. Also, when the “rack” has to be off the table or what the rule is when a ball is on the “rack” after the break? Many question and nobody that answers.

The other side effect, as already mentioned in a previous line, is the close up of the levels. When I started to play pool Francisco Bustamante and Oliver Ortmann with their hard breaks were favorites. It was astonishing how hard and at the same time controlled their opening shot was and still is. You could compare them with Andy Roddick and John Isner. But what if Roddicks and Isners serve is not as important anymore? What if the perfect 1st serve is hit with around 85mph? Would the same tennis players dominate the circuit? Every pool player can give the answer to that question! The hard 9-ball break – history. The hard 10-ball break – not required. And even straight pool got struck by the tap mat. One of the historical games, still loved by many players, has lost its spirit. No key balls, no break shots, no smart patterns – all gone! Fact is that a new “rack” led to multiple new rules and the games' philosophy changed. Germany is known for their road signs huddle. This caused a few towns and cities to re-think. They now took down a high percentage of the signs because the drivers couldn't get along with that many rules to follow. Even worse, accidents resulted from the confusions. It is very important to “take down” some rules here – in a smart way. To make it more clear for the players but, equally as important, for the spectators and fans-to-be. I already think that the “push-out” rule is tough to explain to a new crowd but how are we supposed to explain the “9-ball inside” and “10-ball outside”?

I sometimes hear people saying: “well, it's the same for both players”. This is a very interesting quote. Does it help the Red Wings' defense if the goal was double-sized? Does it help the Lakers if the 3 point shot is a 99%-shot? When your defense can not prove itself and your offense can just not be more effective than your opponent's it is a different game. Pros, semipros and amateurs get closer, from one day to the next.

It is very important that the federations and the associations take the lead, most of all the WPA. I know that the WPA didn't get too many flowers in my last article. But I can't change the fact that it is the WPA's duty to exactly do what I am asking here. It must be the leader of the sport and show us the directions, rules and regulations.

Not less important it is to create a players organization, on the continents and also for the world wide pool. While the players have to learn to think more professional the federations and associations have to start listening to the players and especially the pros.

Of course every player is as important as the other but the pros just visit more tournaments, spend usually more time in pool halls and just all their life is about pool. All I am saying is that the organizations have to cooperate with the players way better than they do now. All the Souquets, Van Boenings, Archers and Bustamantes can be very helpful to find solutions.

Sonntag, 6. März 2011


Pros and SemiPros that support this article officially:

JÖRN KAPLAN (Germany) | SANDOR TOT (Serbia) | MARTIN LARSEN (Denmark) | VILMOS FÖLDES (Hungary) | NICK VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands) | DARYL PEACH (England) | SARAH ROUSEY (USA) | ALEX LELY (Netherlands) | CHRISTIAN JOHANNESSEN (Norway) | BAHRAM LOTFY (Denmark) | STEVIE MOORE (USA) | MARCO TSCHUDI (Switzerland) | PHILIPP STOJANOVIC (Croatia) | KARL BOYES (England) | ...

Early Stages

For this article I want to start a few years ago, in the 90's when I started to play pool to be precise. In 1996 I attended the Youth European Championships for the first time although I wasn't really on the level to really compete yet. I did (mostly) what I was told by my coach and my national federation. Growing as a junior player I had more to do with the federation and its elected principals. It didn't take long to realize that not everything is in order. I was definitely not happy with the situation back then and was even part of a committee that tried to dispossess the national governing body of pool billiard. But I thought by myself: this is Switzerland. Once I am a pro I won't have to deal with stuff like that anymore.

In 2004 I started to play for a German team in the 3rd division of the German League system. Germany is well known in the pool world, not only for its World Champions but also for the huge amount high-level players, especially in straight pool. In fact this was always a dream of mine since I read about the league in pool magazines. And guess what, I even teamed up with one of these World Champions! We had a fun season, raising in the 2nd division without a doubt. Everything seemed to be just fine. But then, one year later, unbeaten in the 2nd division we had to play the play-offs to get into the premier division. And that's exactly when the fun part started to collapse. Yet again the federation decided to change rules for just unreal reasons. And this never ended. While we still won that play-off and finished in the top3 every year of the premier league after that, winning it in 2009, the German federation never seemed shy of unreal, unnecessary and stupid solutions, officially intending to do good for the sport.

At the same time I was playing several European Championships. And what shall I say?! Also the European federation is not above reproach. Many things, in my and also other players' point of view went wrong and a lot of, in my understanding, natural goals were not reached. My biggest disappointment for example was what I gained from finishing 2nd in the EC 9-ball in 2006: a spot at the BCA Open in Las Vegas. To mention, I had to pay the flight, hotel and the 500$ entry fee myself! That is what you get as “first loser”.

All of these federations know about my opinion because I was never shy to say it. And all this time I thought: once I am a pro all this won't bother me anymore because I won't have to deal with it beyond a certain point. I was wrong!

World stage and World Championships

My first appearance at a World Championship was in Taiwan in 2004. The event was managed and run by Matchroom Sport since 1999 when they herald the new-age of pool events in Cardiff, Wales. Besides my performance the event was a total success! Players knew the deal, promotional clips were already running in the national and continental TV when we arrived at the hotel and the queue in front of the WTC convention hall was about 200 people strong. And also important – I felt like a pro!

But this all changed, starting in the very same year 2004. The World 8-ball Championships were given to Fujairah, a city just 90 minutes away from Dubai. Lots of people/players thought that this was promising considering the latest upraising of the emirates. Although the total purse was way too small for such an event most international top players made their way to the desert. I also took part in the 2005 event. And this time it was the other way around. Besides my performance, everything else was ridiculous. We played in a tent somewhere in the back of the hotels, off of everything, with referees that didn't know anything about pool, a time management that made me playing 5 hours late to play for a seat in the elimination round at 3.30am and even an official WC banner over an entrance telling us that we are still in 2004.

I was not only shocked but also sure that this won't happen again because the head of our sport, WPA president Ian Anderson was on location. He must have seen what I had seen and take his consequences out of this experience. But I was wrong again! Since 2004 the WC 8-ball have been given to Fujairah again in 2007, 2008, 2010 as well as 2011. Did it improve? I can't tell because I was never willing to go there again. But the latest blog of former 9-ball World Champion Daryl Peach tells you this:

World 8ball Championships

Well, could you really call this tournament that? To be honest, it's one of the worst events I have played in for a long time! I hate to say that because the UAE people are great and I wish the tournament was a big success, but in truth, the organisation was well below par, and the format was terrible. The referees were terrible apart from the odd one, and to be honest ALL the players said the same.
I had what was probably the toughest group, every player in the group was capable of beating the others in the group. But I played some solid stuff and came through on the winners side by beating firstly Joven B
ustamante and then Francisco Bustamante, both by a score line of 7-6.
Because of the strange format that they decided to use, there were 56 qualifiers for the straight KO stage, but they decided to give 8 byes to the 8players who had lost the least racks in the group stages....all this meant was that the players who had easy groups got rewarded for it, and players who had tough groups like myself were penalised because it was so hard to win heavily against world class players!
So I drew Vilmos Foldes in the last 56 and had 4 dry breaks from my first 4breaks! I was 7-1 down and got it back to 7-5, but made the mistake of asking the ref to remove the breaking template (magic rack)....he mark the 2 balls that were near the rack but then proceeded to drop one and moved the marker on the other! This messed the whole layout up of the balls. This eventually hindered me in runn
ing the balls out and I lost the rack, and eventually lost 9-6.

To be honest, the only reason I was disappointed in losing was because this event carried Mosconi cup points. I was glad to get outta there and get home, and now I look forward to my next event......”
- by Daryl Peach (source: http://darylpeachpool.blogspot.com )

And if you ask yourself now if “our” president was on location or not – pictures tell you more than words:

Ian Anderson (white shirt) filling out the draw (with a pen!) on a Championship pool table, placing his drink just next to him, also ON the pool table

Also to mention is the amount of wild cards and local qualifiers for this year's WC 8-ball:

  • 9 organizer wildcards (of which at least 3 are doubtful choices due to no possible serious reasoning)
  • 6 UAE players
  • 3 wildcards
  • 9 qualifiers

That means that 27 of the 112 players are either wildcards or qualifiers. I think there are more than enough players around the world that would have earned their spot more than many of these 27 players! My assumption is that there was "a deal" made or the organizer just was authorized to do what he wants.

Another funny fact is the system they used this year. Daryl describes already most of it. Which promoter would do a tournament with 14! groups?

In 2008 the WPA decided to give the World 10-Ball Championships to Raya Sports of the Philippines, run by Yen Makabenta. Matchroom Sport was kept outside. And it was a disaster! The main squad of Philippine players boycotted the event due to a reigning fight between the Federation, run by Yen Makabenta, and the other stall which promotes the players such as Reyes, Bustamante, Gomez, Orcullo etc.. Spectators didn't arrive, I never received an informational email about the opening ceremony or the opening dinner. Just by accident me and my room mate found out about these happenings just 30 minutes after the first and 30 minutes before the second event. The referees were not trained well! During two of my friends' matches the referee called a foul although everything was 100% okay. During one of my games I had to ask the referee to switch off his cell phone three times in a 3 minutes interval after it didn't stop ringing. Only when I got a little offensive he finally agreed to turn it off. Additionally, players had to wait for their prize money somewhere between 3 and 11 months! You might think now that Ian Anderson and the WPA would not sanction the event again if organized by Raya Sports in the following year?! Wrong! Same old same old in the following year and even worse!

In 2009 the Qatar Snooker and Billiards Federation organized the Qatar Open for the first time. All players were looking forward to a new event, held by an ambitious federation. The hotel was nice, the venue was convenient and the people very nice and courteous. The only mistakes they did is the choice of tournament directors. Their biggest mistake was the draw! You would think that the head of our sport would know how to do a draw but again – wrong! While I played and lost against Darren Appleton, Marcus Chamat beat Yi-Ko Pin. So Yi-Ko Pin and me both won the following match in the loser round and then... guess what: we played the same players again. Darren and Marcus lost their next match and were sent “west” where the exact same players were waiting that they just beat the match before. Not conform with the situation I knocked on the tournament directors office a few hours before the upcoming matches to call their attention on this circumstance. After a internal meeting of the tournament director and Ian Anderson himself they told me that everything is just the way it has to be. There was no mistake in the draw! After losing to Darren again I was waiting outside (I was a smoker at that time) for the bus to leave to the hotel. While the bus driver of this 30 year old bus with a damaged AC let us wait almost 3 hours in a heat of 45°C because that was the way it was scheduled, Ian Anderson was given a ride back on demand by a chauffeur in a Cadillac, just as he did all week!

The WPA and Ian Anderson

In Germany I learned the saying (translation): “the fish starts smelling first at the head!”. And while it is the BCA (Billiard Congress of America) not doing the right things or anything at all for the US pool scene it is the WPA not doing what it is meant for to do for the world wide pool scene.

While the via smear campaign re-elected president of the WPA, Ian Anderson, jets around the world in Business and first class, nothing has been done in the past 10 years to improve the world stage for pro pool players. Not to mention that the president in a sport mainly played and promoted in the USA, Europe and Asia should not be from Australia. That just costs way too much money and is inefficient.

While 5% of the players' prize money is conducted at the WPA sanctioned events the WPA itself does not guarantee any of the prize money (as it officially used to be). We even had to sign a paper right before the 2008 WC in Manila which told us that the WPA is not responsible for guaranteeing the prize money! Almost as if they would have know what's going to happen! Besides the Youth World Championships and the maintenance of the official website I can not spot what else the WPA is spending that money on except airfare tickets.

Another huge failure of the WPA is the scheduling of sanctioned events. Of course it is not the WPA scheduling the events but only sanctioning them. Of course?! Why? Unfortunately the top pros of our sport are not in the lucky position like the drivers of Formula 1 cars. They fly first class to every race, their team takes care of everything else like the equipment etc., their own physiotherapist takes care of their body so they can handle the jet lag better and last but not least they earn real money! Today's top professional pool players have a tough life getting along with the little money they can win. To win money they first of all have to pay flights and hotels, they have to pay taxes and the y have to build up a “pillow” for the time after the career. How much do you think is left for the daily life?! So in my understanding it is the most obvious thing that the WPA has to overtake the responsibility of planning “the tour”. What do I mean by that?

Taking a look at previous, recent and upcoming events makes clear how badly organized everything is. On one hand big events are clashing every now and then, like the Gstaad Swiss Open and the Predator Tour in Manila last September or, just last week, “the Masters” in Chesapeake/USA and the World 8-ball Championships in Fujairah. On the other hand, a European pro player for example has to travel to Valley Forge/USA in the second week of March 2011. Before March 24th he has to back in Europe to play the European Championships. Two days later the Philippine Open is calling before he can fly back to Italy just to make it on time for the Euro Tour. Five days later he should be in Dallas/USA to compete in the Ultimate 10 Ball, leaving right after the closing ceremony to make it not even on time for the Beijing Open in China. All of this in just 7 weeks!

So what is the solution? I guess one obvious possibility would be to do “time and zone areas”. To be more precise, it is necessary to sanction major events on the different continents only in certain time frames. Let's say the major events in Asia are from February till April, in the USA from June till August (nearly every pool hall has AC, in contrast to Europe), in Europe from September/October till November/December. Like this the touring pros could save a ton of money on airfare, the promoters can count with more top players per event and the branding of the players and the tour would be easier: spectators have to take the chance to see the pros, otherwise they have to wait a year.

But all this can only be done by the WPA as the reigning body of the world pool scene! And as long as amateur managers like Ian Anderson are leading us this will for sure not happen! If you are asking yourself if I want to appeal for the discharge of the WPA president Ian Anderson – yes I am! If we want to keep the chance to have touring pros, huge international events and to see them playing live there has a change to be done. And this change must start with “the head of the fish”!

To all the pros out there: if you feel like me and want to support this article please drop me a line which authorizes me to add your name right here as one of the supporters of this writing

Pros and SemiPros that support this article officially:

JÖRN KAPLAN (Germany) | SANDOR TOT (Serbia) | MARTIN LARSEN (Denmark) | VILMOS FÖLDES (Hungary) | NICK VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands) | DARYL PEACH (England) | SARAH ROUSEY (USA) | ALEX LELY (Netherlands) | CHRISTIAN JOHANNESSEN (Norway) | BAHRAM LOTFY (Denmark) | STEVIE MOORE (USA) | MARCO TSCHUDI (Switzerland) | PHILIPP STOJANOVIC (Croatia) | KARL BOYES (England) | ...

Are that many amateur events good for the sport or... why the US have less pros than ever

In the past few months and years we have experienced an evolution in the tournaments scene. Meant by that is the increasing number of amateur events. That was a foreseeable evolution though. Due to less and less tournaments with a decent amount of added money in the $1000s many top players suddenly showed up more and more on small weekend tournaments. They are even seen regularly at weekly tournaments, trying to collect the 50 bucks here and there. Although top players are not supposed to play these types of competitions, grabbing even those bucks, nobody can blame them for doing it. They also “need” to make some money, just as they used to before when there were many more well added events.

As an expected reaction the amateur events inflated – at first for a good reason! Amateur players could finally play a tournament again with competitors of their speed or at least around their speed. They eventually could win some prize money again. Some of them took that money to buy new shoes or have a nice dinner with their beloved. Others used it to attend so called “pro events”. This was good for these events. After the number of players at these events decreased for a while there were more players again to participate which resulted in more prize money for the top players. The “food chain” was intact again.

All together: mid- and low-level players could win some dollars at weekly tournaments, some of them then invested this extra money in a major event like a U.S. Open where, usually, the top and pro players get their piece of the cake and don't have a reason to take home the prize money of those tournaments that are made for non-pros. But then the following happened:

Amateurs events became too lucrative...

  1. for amateur players, so they don't want to risk a pro classification by attending a pro event.

  2. so pro events decreased (and still are) due to less players attending them

The first point also indicated the circumstance that hustling is more popular than ever. But this time it isn't a gambling-thing. Players try to stay under the radar to avoid a new, maybe so called “pro status”. Why should a player show all his skills if this means less opportunity to win money? Why should a player try to improve if you get punished for getting better? Why should one try to reach excellence in our sport?

The second point makes it nowadays almost impossible for master players to win any money at all. While they might not be good enough or just not able to invest more time and/or money to beat the heavy guys in tournaments like the Seminole Pro Tour, the Derby City or the U.S. Open they are also not allowed to play most of the other tournaments because they are called “a pro”

This poses the question: what is a pro player? Where is the line? A common declaration is: “somebody that plays on the pro tour”, “somebody that is rank on the pro tour ranking”. But there is one important fact – there is NO pro tour. Unlike the WPBA tour, for which you have to qualify over regional tours etc., there is NO men's pro tour! Although tours like the Seminole Pro Tour contain the word “pro”, although the Euro Tour and the San Miguel Tour in Europe and Asia might be the toughest tours world wide, everybody, from your co-worker to your grandparents, from your nephew to your nurse is eligible to pay the entry-fee for these tours, play in it and can get ranked in these “pro” tour rankings. The common sense that a player ranked in any of these tours is a pro player is then obviously false.

To solve this awkward situation for all involved parties either the BCA, as the governing body of the American pool scene, or a committee composed especially for this issue should determine a universal, easy to understand/use guide line. If this does not happen somewhere in the near future the USA will run out of pros as it is actually already doing. While Europe and Asia are rising and hold 95% of all world titles over the last decade there are only a few new rising stars in the US. If the country of pool's origin wants to keep pace with the international competitors something has to happen in the very near future to stop the vicious circle and the increasing gap between amateurs and pros, between the amateur and pro events!