From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.
May: Upon Closer Inspection
AT FIRST, I was a little confused. (Oh, stop it!)
The posts and stories sounded pretty impressive. $75,000 prize fund in Louisiana! $20,000 first prize in Missouri! $15,000 first prize in Texas.
I thought to myself, “Geez, maybe the tournament scene in the U.S. is picking up!” For a minute, it was exciting.
For a minute.
Then I read the small print. That tournament in Louisiana with the $75,000 pot? It was called the White Diamond Bar Table 9-Ball Championship, and it featured a whopping $1,000 in added money.
The kicker, of course, was a monster Calcutta.
Calcuttas were a big thing at tournaments in the ’80s, but they seemed to fall out of fashion in the ’90s and 2000s. Not sure why. They seem to be back in full force today.
For the uninitiated, a Calcutta is an auction. Prior to the tournament, the stake horses and gamblers bid on players. A player’s name is presented…say, Shane Van Boening…and bidding begins. Shane’s final position in the tournament goes to the highest bidder, and the money is put into the Calcutta pool.
Yeah, it’s a lot like going to Christie’s or Sotheby’s. Shane is what you might classify as a Mona Lisa.
Lesser players, of course, go for significantly less, sometimes being sold in pairs or lots. It’s all based on the chances of cashing. A percentage is set for the Calcutta dispersement…typically 30-40 percent for first place, paying down 12-16 spots. At some events, a second Calcutta will be run after the field is whittled down to the final 16.
In essence, it’s a prize fund for gamblers. Players are usually afforded the opportunity to by 50 percent of themselves from the winning bidder. In the case of a player like Van Boening, that price could be pretty steep. But if a sleeper goes for a pittance in the Calcutta, buys half of himself, then wins the tournament? Payday.
The Calcutta payout for first place in Louisiana was $24,000. First prize in the event itself was $2,100…less than 10 percent.
What’s interesting to me, with social media and camera phones, is how out-in-the-open Calcuttas are. I mean, it’s gambling, right? And, yes, Calcuttas are illegal in most states. And even in the states in which “player auctions” are allowed, these room owners and tournament directors had better pray that the IRS isn’t following pool forums on the Internet.
Now, to that $20,000 top prize event. The Smokin’ Aces Bar Box 9-Ball Championship featured $0 in added money. That’s right. Zippo. Instead, a “limited” field of 16 players posted $2,000 each and played race-to-21. The prize fund breakdown was $20,000 for first, $7,000 for second and $5,000 for third. For everyone else, thanks for stopping by!
So, this is the face of tournament pool in the U.S. today. Players playing for their own money. Can it get worse?