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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.

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May: Tournaments Done Right
May 2017

As opinionated as I can be (queue worldwide head-nodding), I donít hold a candle to the average (and oftentimes below average) pool player. Virtually every pool player has an opinion about what is wrong with the professional side of the sport, who is to blame for its problems and how easily the entire sport can be saved. And when it comes to tournament formats and equipment? Stand back! Pockets should be tighter. Rack your own. Opponent racks. Referee racks. Magic Rack. Standard triangle. Break box. No break box. Winner breaks. Alternate breaks. Seeded players must wear Bermuda shorts. And on and on.

Not surprisingly, the task of saving the sport and fixing the formats usually falls on someone other than the person with the opinion.

Every so often, however, a player will try to make a difference himself, and thatís what Darren Appleton has done with the creation of the World Pool Series. Appleton has plenty of opinions himself, but he was smart enough to solicit the opinions of other players, promoters and industry insiders in designing the standards and formats for his series.

Simply getting the four-tournament 8-ball series off the ground was impressive enough but, two events in, the WPS has the look of a series that other promoters and hopefuls would be smart to emulate ó and that includes the World Pool-Billiard Association.

There is a lot to like about the World Pool Series. Is it flawless? Of course not. There have been hiccups and changes through the first two events, but it is easy to see all the things that Appleton and his cadre of production partners are doing right.

For starters, where other promoters focus on one-off events, Appleton insisted on a series of tournaments to give some continuity to the sport. And to keep his costs and workload down, he arranged to have each event played at Manny Stamakisí Steinway Billiards in New York. Of course, everyone would prefer the tournament be staged in a large dedicated arena, but Appleton was smart enough to walk before he ran. Get the system in place, ensure the tournaments are a success, produce results for the sponsors and build from there, he figured.

I donít have a problem with that. As for the format, Appleton has tinkered with it. The break box has changed and the bracket format has shifted slightly. There have been small changes in the spot-shot tie-breaker format, but the pressure-enhancing addition to the matches remains one of the truly brilliant elements Appleton added to the tournaments. The changes show that he observes and listens, which certainly doesnít mean that changes will be made every time a player has a problem with the format. But it does show a continuing effort to perfect the product. Still, there is work to do. Any format that causes top players like American Shane Van Boening to pass on the event needs to be re-evaluated. But where Appleton and the WPS really excel is in vision. There is a plan. What has always amazed me about other promoters and other events is the shortsightedness that they display. How many tournaments have you followed ó or tried to follow ó in which there was virtually zero attention to detail? Want to see the brackets and know what the upcoming matches are? If youíre lucky, a blurred photo of the handwritten flow chart might be posted online. Want to know the payouts after the event has ended? Good luck. Want to learn anything about the players in the event? No chance. How about photos, press releases and interviews. Seriously?

The World Pool Series took all of that into consideration before the first event even kicked off.

Streaming matches has become relatively commonplace for pool tournaments these days, but the WPS has upped the ante. After streaming the first event, Appleton was contacted by Internet media giant UNILAD. The U.K.-based company carried the stream for the second event on its Facebook page, which has some 12 million followers. According to Appleton, nearly four million people caught at least a portion of the April WPS event. The fledgling partnership spurred the WPS to purchase new cameras and editing equipment to enhance the programming. The potential for both partners is enormous.

The WPS also enlisted the best in the business to create more buzz around the events and the players. The brilliant Ted Lerner has been brought in to handle publicity, from daily press releases to in-match commentary and taped interviews with players and industry personalities. Those efforts are further enhanced by the presence of poolís preeminent event photographer, JP Parmentier.

Put all those pieces together and the WPS has a real chance to reach well beyond traditional pool circles and create stars. This is how you begin to move the needle. Are you paying attention here, WPA?

Donít get me wrong. The WPS isnít the second coming of Matchroom, but it should be commended on what it has accompllished on limited resources and budget. There is a chance for real growth here. To an extent, itís a shame that it took a world champion player to show the rest of the industry how to produce a tournament right.

Of course, this is all just my opinion.