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. “


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.


  1. I like this conversation that you have started. As an American living in Germany I can relate to what you are talking about. One of the things I have tried to explain to other pool players here is that in the United States Pool is not played at all like it is here. Everywhere you go, you can run into a different set of rules. As you experienced with you 10 ball match, not everyone knows or cares to play by WPA rules. You can watch TAR matches where the rules are different in every match. Call shot, Call safety, 10 on the break counts or only counts in the bottom 4 pockets or no early 10 balls. The game has always been like this in the United States. Unlike here in germany where there is one governing body of pool(which is just as corrupt as the WPA). Leagues in the states make money based on there rules. Some players want to play APA rules others want BCA others want TAP. This encourages more than one way to play the game. Pool still is a bar room sport where each bar/poolhall may have their own house rules and players that never venture out from this room may not know any other rules of the game exhist. I agree that a proffessional game requires a standardization of the rules and equipment but on the other hand by changing rules for tournaments it constantly puts the players on edge and requires there game to be well rounded so they can adapt. Certain things to consider when using certain rules is whether or not a referee is being used. I personally hate playing all balls foul here in Germany becuase is my opponent really a fair and un-bias person to be judging whether or not my shirt touched a ball when i bent over the table? I think not. I like cue ball fouls only when a referee is not present and if one ball is touched or moved the opponent can leave it or put it back and if 2 balls are touched it is foul. I also do like the vagueness of some WPA rules. I recently miss cued on a break shot and missed the rack completely playing 10 ball. By WPA rules this shot is foul. But when you look at the list of standard fouls given ball in-hand an illegal break shot is not listed. I have been accustomed to the opponent having the option to have me rebreak or he can break himself but here my opponent proceeded to place the ball right in front of the one and play safe behing the rack. She said German rules allow for this. I can find no clarification anywhere on the matter with WPA rules.

    All in all keep up the blog posts. Good stuff that stirs up the pot!!

  2. @Adam Derham:

    It's quite easy... the WPA 10-ball rules say:

    9.3 Legal Break Shot
    The following rules apply to the break shot:
    (a) the cue ball begins in hand behind the head string; and
    (b) if no ball is pocketed, at least four object balls must be driven to one or more rails, or the shot is a foul.

    Any shot deemed a foul in 10-ball gives ball in hand over the whole table.

    Your described situation refers to situation 9.3b, where no balls were pocketed and no four balls were driven to any rails (as the entire rack was missed and the missing of the entire rack does not have to be handled separately in the rules as 9.3b covers it). This means that your opponent was right according to WPA-rules.

    @Marco Tschudi:
    Like your blog, gives an interesting view on things in the world of pool. Keep up the good work.