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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: What’s the ROI?
May 2018

I try to not question pool players’ decisions on when and where to play, or why. Given the current status of professional pool (particularly in the United States), I understand that players have to make decisions that are as fiscally sound as possible. Because so many players have to (or opt to) stake themselves in events, thus being able to keep whatever payout they earn, they need to carefully weigh the cost of travel, entry and daily expenses against the field and payout. Some events, regardless of status or “ranking points,” just don’t make financial sense when the player can go to a smaller, regional event where their odds of coming out ahead are greatly increased. Pool is a living for many of these players, and, more than ever, they are focusing on ROI (Return On Investment).

I get that.

Still, it was painful to watch entries of American players dwindle with each of the four World Pool Series events promoted and produced in 2017 by pro Darren Appleton. And it was even more painful to see the first WPS event of 2018 top out at a measly 32 players — almost entirely foreign players.

Full disclosure: Darren Appleton writes a monthly column for BD. But this really is not about Darren, although it is, at least in part, about a top professional player attempting to create opportunities for fellow players.

My take on the World Pool Series was that it was a carefully thought out string of tournaments that was put together by a player and was done so with input from other players. The conditions were challenging, the format and rules were intended to eliminate as much luck as possible from the equation, and the payouts were good. There was even an inexpensive, decent-payout second chance event for those who were eliminated from the main event early. And it isn’t a one-off event. It is a series of four tournaments. It is something to build on.

On the face of it, the WPS appears to be a players’ series.

Is it perfect? Of course not. For starters, it has, to date, been staged in New York City. The costs are higher than most pro events. Hotel prices are higher. Players aren’t going to be driving around town. (The cost of parking alone will break most budgets.) Tournaments like the WPS, staged in bigger cities, present challenges. Again, I get it.

But the lack of support for the WPS from American players has been a real head-scratcher. The inaugural 2018 event drew exactly one American player from west of Philadelphia, young Chris Robinson from California.

The rest of this country’s top players — Shane Van Boening, Sky Woodward, Billy Thorpe, Corey Deuel, Justin Bergman, Oscar Dominguez, etc.? Nowhere to be seen. Woodward won one of the events in 2017, and Thorpe earned national attention with his performance at the first WPS event last year.

The primary reason seems to be the cost of playing in New York City versus the payout. Rationalization for being absent also included format and equipment.

And the field of 32 that did show up in New York? A who’s who of top talent from Europe — Klenti Kaci, Ralf Souquet, Joshua Filler, Fedor Gorst, Ruslan Chinahov and more. Transplanted Europeans Thorsten Hohmann, Jayson Shaw and Mika Immonen were there. Filipinos Lee Vann Corteza and Dennis Orcollo were there. Canadians John Morra, Alex Pagulayan and Jason Klatt were there.

Team USA? Mostly at a bar table tournament in North Dakota.

Again — and I can’t stress this enough — players make their own decisions based on a lot of factors. I don’t begrudge any of them that right. But if this is what “professional” pool in America has become, then I really don’t want to hear any more complaining about the lack of decent tournaments. When promoters try to create events that treat the game like a professional sport and get no support in return, I guess we just have to shrug our collective shoulders and concede.

I guess I can’t blame the Americans. It truly is tough to justify the expense of a tournament against all those foreign aces in New York when you are likely playing for fifth place.

And I can’t help but wonder why American players and fans don’t understand why Team USA is getting manhandled every year in international competition and in the Mosconi Cup. International players don’t shy away from tough events because of expense. They want to play against the best in challenging tournaments.

I guess the international players are just foolish.

It will be interesting to see what American players’ take will be on the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship. Promoter Matchroom Multi Sport recently announced that the 43rd edition of America’s biggest tournament will be staged at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in April 2018. (See “Wing Shots,” pg. 12.) On this one, I will side with the players.

Personally, I think Barry Hearn made a mistake in choosing Mandalay Bay. With a $1,000 entry fee and close to $200 a night lodging, players will be footing a hefty bill. And staying off site will be a logistical nightmare.

Still, with a guaranteed $300,000 prize fund it will likely draw the toughest international field ever assembled.

I sure hope all that bar table training comes in handy.