Okay, letís get this straight (pun intended) once and for all: The reigning World Straight Pool Champion isÖ?
What, you say? Ortmann wasnít even in New York last month?
Maybe not, but Ortmann was in Clifton, N.J., in 2010 and won what remains the last World Pool-Billiard Association-sanctioned World Straight Pool Championship.
I bring this up not to disparage Mika Immonen or his win at the recent 76th World Tournament of 14.1 at Steinway Billiards in New York. I am one of the transplanted Finnís biggest fans, and he knows it. Immonenís playing record is already among the best of the 2000s, with a pair of WPA-sanctioned world titles ó 2001 World 9-Ball Championship and 2009 World 10-Ball Championship. And the tournament he recently won in New York was big.
But the barrage of social media posts claiming his N.Y. win ďanother world titleĒ are misplaced. Despite the word juggling and subtle innuendo that the promoters of that event dish out, the winners of the last six iterations of the World Tournament of 14.1 are no more world champions than the winners of the World Pool Masters or World Cup of Pool. The word ďWorldĒ in the title is a handy marketing tool. But abuse of the word makes the sport look silly.
Again, this is no slight at Mika Immonen. My point is he doesnít need to pad his resume with non-existent titles. In fact, heís doing a disservice to his other titles if he does. He won a terrific tournament and played phenomenal straight pool in doing so. But it wasnít the 76th anything, and it wasnít a world championship.
Now, I know all the arguments: Youíre splitting hairs; itís semantics; it was a world championship field; and who says the WPA determines world titles anyhow?
Itís not splitting hairs and itís not semantics. And I donít care how tough the field was.
Hereís the deal. For better or worse, the WPA is the holder of the keys to world championship tournaments. Who says so? The recognized national pool federations from around the world say so. I have plenty of issues with the WPA and its members, but pool needs an organized world body if the sport hopes to someday be taken seriously on an international level. And the WPA has set guidelines for the rights to call an event a world championship. The World Tournament doesnít meet those guidelines. The event featured an anyone-can-play field and virtually zero added prize money. Thatís what players and fans want to call a world championship? Iím delighted that the event serves as an annual pilgrimage for old straight pool fans. But, heck, itís not even the toughest straight pool tournament in the U.S. The field at the American Straight Pool Championship just prior to the U.S. Open is far superior. But even that isnít the main point here.
Why is this clarification important?
There are sponsors and promoters who put up $200,000 and more to stage WPA World Championship tournaments in large arenas. The fields are limited to players from around the world who have earned their shot at immortality. Obviously, pool desperately needs these sponsors and promoters. But why would they continue to contribute that kind of money and effort into these events if a $10,000-added poolroom tournament can be considered a world championship? Easy. They wonít.
So, letís stop this silly name game before someone gets hurt. And congratulations to Mika on his latest title.