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Pooldawg / BD Power Index


by Mike Panozzo

(Note: Be warned! The following explanation of the BD Power Index pro ranking formula is perhaps the most complex article ever published in Billiards Digest. We simply felt the need to fully explain the formula at least once.)

With no organized men's professional tour, and a collection of wildly disparate tournament formats facing the men pros, rating their overall performance throughout the year has become as difficult as finding a corporate sponsor.

One thing, however, is certain. The current ranking system - the Billiard Congress of America Men's Pro Rankings - is not the answer.

This became painfully apparent recently when the BCA announced that Jon Kucharo and Buddy Hall would represent the U.S. at the World Games in August in Akita, Japan. For an acronym primer, the BCA is the North American affiliate to the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA). The WPA, in turn, is the pocket billiard arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized World Confederation of Billiard Sports (WCBS). Because of its position in the global hierarchy, the BCA is empowered to select American players for WPA-sanctioned international competitions. This includes not only the World Games (an important international sports festival in which cue sports will be making its maiden appearance), but also the WPA World 9-Ball Championships. For Akita, the BCA based its selection on a ranking system it developed in 2000, which rated Kucharo No. 2, behind Finland's Mika Immonen. Hall was No. 3.

No offense to Hall of Famer Hall and the talented young Kucharo, but their rating as America's top two players in 2000 should be enough to tell you that the BCA system is flawed. How? The ranking points awarded to a player for his final placement in a tournament were doled out equally for each of 10 pro events in 2000. (The rationale for which 10 events were selected was not explained.) Using the same points system for each event means that a respect-challenged, 56-player, $6,300-top-prize Billiard Channel Challenger Series event carried the same weight as the 25th annual, 286-player, $200,000-plus prize purse, $50,000 top prize U.S. Open. Flawed? I think so. The $250,000, 96-player World 9-Ball Championship wasn't even included in the ranking, yet the 64-player, mostly invitational, international player-laden BCA Open was. In the BCA's system, everyone's Player of the Year, Earl Strickland, was ranked fourth. Johnny Archer, 14th.

In truth, the BCA can choose to send anyone it wants to international competitions, and other ranking systems may well suggest that Immonen, Kucharo and Hall were, indeed, the best players in America in 2000. Regardless, the men pros deserve a more analytical system for awarding points throughout the year.

So, in an effort to develop a more equitable solution to the men's ranking dilemma, the staff of Billiards Digest (with the assistance of several players, statistical geniuses, and writers who cover other professional sports) has devised the BD Power Index, a copyrighted tournament-rating formula. Whether any other billiard entity, or even the players themselves, adopt this Index is immaterial. Until there exists an organized men's tour, replete with its own tour-recognized ranking system, the BD Power Index will be the only ranking system used in the pages of Billiards Digest. (The official Women's Professional Billiard Association rankings will continue to be used for the ladies pro tour.)

What makes the men pros so much more difficult to rank than the women is the simple reason that there is no standard tournament format. With the WPBA Classic Tour, every tournament (except the BCA Open and WPBA Nationals) features identical fields (both in terms of size and strength), identical prize funds, identical top prizes and identical tournament formats. No such standard exists with the men. They play 9-ball, 8-ball, one-pocket - even straight pool. Fields range from 48 to nearly 300. Some events are seeded, some not. Some double-elimination, some single. Races range from seven to 17. And the same top players rarely play in each event throughout the year, so the strength of the field varies. Prize purses range from $50,000 to $250,000.

In short, the variances in men's tournaments are far too dramatic to accurately rate with an overly simplistic points system.

The chore, then, was to devise a system for rating the tournament first, and then plugging the players' finishes into that particular tournament's given points structure. It was determined that the way to accomplish that was to begin with "standards."

Ranking the players is relatively easy. Since the points system used in the Camel Pro Billiards Series was developed by a panel of tournament officials, tournament directors, and top pro players, and the events in the Series were relatively standardized, the BD Power Index adopted the Camel Series points breakdown. The winner of a tournament that fit the "standard" range as defined by the BD Power Index will earn 140 points. The second-place finisher gets 120 points, third earns 100 points, etc. (See chart)

The problem, then, is rating the tournaments. The BD Power Index uses four major elements in determining a "Tournament Factor" by which the event is judged: Strength of field at the top, overall strength of the field (size), format and purse. By taking into consideration those four major elements, each tournament gets a "Tournament Factor." If it is a "standard" tournament, the Tournament Factor would be 1. We then multiply the established points system (listed as "Raw Points" in the chart), by that factor. Again, in a "standard" tournament, the winner will receive 140 points (140 x 1 = 140). Events that fall short of standard may have a ranking factor of 0.9. In that event, the winner would only receive 126 points (140 x 0.9 = 126). Conversely, a tournament that exceeds the definition of "standard" may have a Tournament Factor of 1.25, meaning the champion would earn 175 points (140 x 1.25 = 175).

So, just what is "standard?" For starters, the four elements used to determine the ranking factor are not equally weighted. In discussions with tournament officials and players, the strength of the field (at the top, and relative to its overall size) was overwhelmingly considered the most important factor. Simplified, they're saying that there is more credibility in winning a lower payout, 64-player tournament at which each of the top 24 ranked players attend, than a high-payout, 64-player tournament at which only half of the top 24-ranked pros played. Makes sense. Regardless of the money, making it through the tougher field is more impressive, and should receive greater value in a rating system that focuses on performance.

So, in the BD Power Index, will a player get more points for winning a larger-than-standard top prize? Yes. But not as many extra as a player who wins against a stronger-than-standard field. In fact, the two elements that determine the Total Strength of Field (strength of field, and strength of entire field) comprise 70 percent of the formula that determines the ranking factor. The format and purse each comprise 15 percent of the formula.

Total Strength of Field: Made up of the strength of the field relative to the top 24-ranked players, and the overall strength relative to the size of the field. How many of the top players participated? Players in the top 24 each have a value of .05. That means that 20 of the top 24 players (a reasonable number for a top pro tournament) should be present for "standard," which would make the Top 24 factor 1 (20 x .05 = 1). A tournament must feature at least 12 of the top 24-ranked players to be considered. To assess the strength of the rest of the field, the number of players entered who are ranked 25-64 would earn the tournament 0.03 each, with the remaining players in the field earning the tournament 0.015 each. It was determined that 96 players would be the cutoff, with the rationale being that above 96 players the strength of the field doesn't actually improve. (A field must be at least 48 players to be considered.)

To account for events that draw top foreign players not ranked in the BD Power Index Top 24, players ranked in the top 10 of their WPA-recognized continental ranking system (European Pocket Billiard Federation, Asian Pocket Billiard Union, etc.) earn an automatic .05.

An example of a standard tournament might be a 64-player event in which 20 of the top 24 players compete. The factor for the top echelon players (20 x .05) is 1. If half of the remaining 44 spots were taken by players ranked 25-56 (22 x .03 = .66) and the other 22 spots were assigned the minimum points (22 x .015 = .33), the strength of the rest of the field is also 1. We add the two strengths, and divide by two to reach our Total Strength of Field - 1. That's an acceptable standard.

Tournament Format: The tournament formula is based on two factors - the elimination process, and games required for a win. Since double elimination (seeded) is the norm in pool tournaments, that is the standard. Single elimination can also be a standard, provided it is seeded through at least the top 32 players. Unconventional double-elimination formats, and single elimination without seeding reduces a tournament's format factor by .20.

To be considered standard, the total number of games required for a win is also weighed. In 9-ball, total games required to win must be between 9 and 11. Less than 9 pulls the format factor to 0.8. Races exceeding 11 earns tournaments a bonus factor of .20. Standard for one-pocket is 4-5 games. Standard for 8-ball is 7-9. Standard for straight pool is 100-150.

Prize Fund: Finally, prize funds. The standard for prize funds ranges from $70,000 to $125,000, and stipulates that at least 50 percent of the prize fund be in the form of added money. Prize funds that fall short of the standard are penalized .10. Prize funds between $126,000 and $199,000 earn an increase of .10, and prize funds of $200,000 and up earn and extra .20 above the standard.

Based on the weighted averages of the four elements, the Total Strength of Field is multiplied by .70 (70 percent of the formula), the Format quotient is multiplied by .15 (15 percent), and the Purse quotient is multiplied by .15 (15 percent) to yield the total tournament factor. The Tournament Factor is what is used to determine the points allotted to each finisher.

Like all formulas, the concepts are much easier to understand when applied to an example. Below are two 2000 tournaments rated against the "standard:" the BCA Open 9-Ball Championship, and the WPA World Pool Championship. The rankings list used to determine the strength of field was the final rankings from the 1999 Camel Pro Billiards Series.