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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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November: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
November 2018

Unless you’ve been locked up in 21-ahead sets of rotation for the past few weeks, you are probably aware of the Mega Millions lottery jackpot that, at last report, had topped the $1 billion mark.

Chances are you’ve plunked down a few bucks for tickets or have pooled some money with co-workers or friends to buy a ton of tickets and (insert laugh) increase your chances of winning!

It’s all good fun, really. And, like they say, eventually somebody is going to win.

And, if you’re honest about it, you’ve likely spent at least a little time letting your mind wander to the impact that kind of life-changing money would have on you and on how you would handle it.

I will admit that I let my mind drift in that direction last week while riding home after work. I started with all of the obvious questions — like how much to give my parents and siblings without completely ruining their lives, in what cities around the world I would own homes or apartments, and whether it would be better to get a Gulfstream G650 ($70 million, but it sleeps 10 and has a range of 8,600 miles!) or the more practical Bombardier Challenger 350 (a steal at $26 million, but only has a range of 3,700 miles, so, you know, we’d have to stop for gas more often, which would be kind of annoying).

Those decisions carefully weighed, I moved on to the deeper questions. Surely, I would have many, many more millions of dollars than I could ever spend. Would I become a philanthropist? Would I invest in a business? Or start a business?

Not surprisingly, my attention shifted to the billiard industry. After all, this industry has been good to me and has been the focus of my business life (and, in large part, my personal life) for nearly 40 years. Could my money, alone, move the needle for the sport and/or industry? What part(s) of the business would I choose to help first?

That got me thinking. (Not ideal, I realize.) What would it take to develop a string of pro tournaments in the U.S.? That would be fun. I’m still a firm believer that the players who devote their lives to the sport deserve an opportunity to make something of a living doing so. I’d like to see American players become great again, and consistent opportunities to play for meaningful money would go a long way to achieving that goal.

I immediately decided that I wouldn’t take a wildly unrealistic money-burning approach like, oh, Kevin Trudeau. To a player, the IPT, for all its faults, was a fantasy come true. But it made zero sense, unless your goal is to simply throw away millions of dollars. No, this plan would surely lose money for a period of time, but it would be set up for the long haul and at least have a chance of becoming self-sustaining. After all, I wouldn’t plan to fund and babysit this project forever. Remember, I’ve got houses in St. Moritz and Malibu that require my attention.

I figured I’d launch a 12-tournament “season,” with tour stops several weeks apart, moving across the nation. Each event would feature a $200,000 prize purse and a top prize of, say, $40,000. Field size, entry fees and formats aren’t relevant at this point.

To do this right, of course, there is much, much more involved. There is full-time staffing, marketing costs, equipment, a sales force, an IT department, a social media department, etc. (Trust me, your head really spins when you look at things in a perfect-world scenario.) Let’s start with staging. I like the idea of a traveling tournament setup. The same tables, TV arena, monitors, scoring system, etc. at every event. Essentially, load the arena in a truck and go from venue to venue. To an extent, the Euro Tour operates this way, which makes sense. Consistency and control are essential.

With money not really an object, garnering a TV deal wouldn’t be difficult at the start. Since my “company” would pay for production, etc., I would think some cable outlet would sell you the time. But it would be critical to have a “live” slot for every final. Key matches leading up to the final would be streamed. But, pool fans, don’t expect a free stream. Time for you to ante up.

Of course, the chances of me winning the Mega Millions and “saving” pool are as likely as the chances of me outlasting Shane Van Boeing in a 10-ball race-to-100.

But that doesn’t mean the dream has to die with my lottery ticket. Is it conceivable that the billiard industry could launch a series of pro events on a smaller scale? This isn’t a new idea. I know the Billiard Congress of America has tossed around the idea of helping create something like the Euro Tour in the U.S. Even a series of six or seven identical events, with $15,000-$20,000 to the winner of each. It would go a long way to bringing “professional sports” back to billiards. The proliferation of 16- and 32-player bar table events, one-pocket events and gimmick events in which formats and rules are plucked out of a hat have combined to turn competitive pool in the U.S. into a carnival and the players into bearded ladies.

If I can dream about winning the lottery, I think the players should be able to dream about having some semblance of a tour in the U.S.

A job like this takes leadership just to get all the ideas formulated and the associated costs tallied up. This industry has leaders. Let’s get them together and see if we can’t hit our own lottery.