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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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October: Charlie’s Angles
October 2018

Fake news is nothing new. At least not in the pool world. Player-turned-promoter Charlie Williams has made an art out of the practice for more than a decade, most notably in the presentation of “news” surrounding his annual World Tournament of 14.1. And this year, Williams has taken his nose-thumbing tactics to a new level. Which is a shame, really, because what has become apparent is that his p.r. barrage against humanity has very little to do with making heroes of the players or glorifying the game, and everything to do with the fragile ego of an insecure promoter and his personal war against the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA). To understand the reason for this rant, one needs to go back to 2006, when Williams decided to revive the World 14.1 Championship. Straight pool has long been considered the true game of champions in pocket billiards, but the rise of 9-ball as the future of professional pool made the game all but disappear in the late 1980s and throughout the ’90s. The revival of the game, even for one tournament a year, was met with great joy by both the old guard and the new. The WPA, accepted by national pool federations around the world as the governing body and record-holder of the sport, approved of Williams’ noble motives and put its stamp on the tournament at prize money levels far below its customary minimums in an effort to support the game. And so the World 14.1 Championship, still relatively small in terms of field and prize purse, produced WPA-recognized World 14.1 Champions for five years.

In 2011, however, the event was stripped of its sanction because both prize fund and player selection had dipped far below a level that even the WPA could allow. The sanction was pulled not as punishment, but as a means of protection for the promoters who were following the guidelines for events like the World 9-Ball, World 8-Ball and World 10-Ball Championships. To his credit, Williams continued to run his event, but his ego would not allow him to simply put on a quality straight pool tournament. He deftly changed the name of the event to the World Tournament of 14.1 and, for a few years at least, tempered his claims that the winner was acknowledged as “World Champion.” Recently, however, Williams’ various websites — his own personal website, Dragon Promotions, World Tournament of 14.1 and something called the World Sports Alumni — have gone to great pains to make the event something that it most certainly is not.

Scroll through the websites (which, comically, “Like” and “Share” each other’s posts), and you will be treated to Trumpian claims like: “78th World Tournament”; “Since 1912”; and “Name etched in history.” The sites hail Thorsten Hohmann, who won the event for the fifth time, as “Five-Time World Champion,” “Chasing Mosconi,” and “One Title Behind Crane in Fourth Place.”

Here are the facts. The event is not the 78th anything. The event has run since 2006. Thorsten Hohmann, who officially has one world 14.1 title, is hardly chasing Willie Mosconi. And he is not one world title behind Irving Crane. In fact, he is only one world title ahead of Frazier Crane. Neither the Billiard Congress of America nor the WPA recognizes any straight pool world champion beyond Oliver Ortmann’s 2010 win. As a journalist, I accept them as the official record keepers. All billiard media should.

A single promoter should not unilaterally decide that his event is a legitimate world championship. It is one of the reasons the pool world got together in the 1990s and established the WPA. A legitimate sport has to have governing bodies. For all of its warts, the WPA is pool’s. (And no one, not even Charlie Williams, has taken the WPA to task for its mistakes over the years more than Billiards Digest.) Individual promoters and upstart players associations come and go. The PBT, the UPA, the IPT…all have come and gone. You know what is still here? The BCA, the WPA and the World Confederation of Billiard Sports, that’s who. As for the World Tournament of 14.1 itself? Let’s face it. It isn’t even the top straight pool tournament in America, much less the world. The 2018 event — billed as featuring “48 invited pros” — ended up with 30 players, 20 percent of whom are not by the longest stretch considered pro players. The prize fund (always conspicuously absent from any promotional material) barely topped $20,000, with the “world champion” earning a princely $5,400. Added money? Perhaps $4,500. (Again, no announced amount.) Very un-world championship-ish. By comparison, the American 14.1 Championship boasts nearly $30,000 added and a total purse of $42,000. The entry fee is half of what the World Tournament charges. It fills a 48-player field that is far tougher than Williams’ World Tournament. Ask any player.

I don’t get any joy from bashing a tournament. The World Tournament of 14.1 does a lot of things right. It produces entertaining and informative videos during the event. It stages an annual Straight Pool Hall of Fame dinner, which commendably honors 14.1 greats. It kept straight pool alive and relevant when no one else would.

But please, Charlie, dispense with the wild claims and defiant attitude. The harder you try, the sillier you look. And you do so at the expense of the players you portend to support.

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