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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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February: This Is Gonna Be Good
February 2019

You could feel it building throughout 2018. Actual optimism and excitement around pool. Not a ton, mind you, but enough to pique your interest.

Oddly enough, the first sign revolved around the temporary cancellation of the world’s longest-running major pool event. After months of secrecy and speculation, it was learned that U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships founder Barry Behrman’s son, Brady, and daughter, Shannon, had sold their late father’s legendary event to British sports promoter Matchroom Sports.

The reaction from the pool community was overwhelmingly positive, save for the few fans that laughably protested foreign ownership of “our” event. Matchroom announced that the U.S. Open would not be staged in 2018, ending a string of 42 consecutive years. Because the promoter wished to move the event to springtime, the 43rd U.S Open would not be held until April 2019.

To be honest, the players couldn’t have cared less. With Matchroom’s already pristine reputation amongst the world’s pros and the promise of a greatly increased prize fund and live television coverage, the promoters could have said the event would be a last-minute pop-up “somewhere in the U.S. in a year to be determined,” and the players would stand waiting at their local airports with bated breath for details for as long as needed.

And in the timeslot and location normally reserved for the U.S. Open (October in Norfolk, Va.), Accu-Stats founder Pat Fleming launched a new event, the International 9-Ball Open. Run as an almost exact duplicate of the U.S. Open, the International was a huge success, drawing perhaps the year’s top field and featuring $50,000 in added money.

But it was the realization that the U.S. would now have two top-money, major international 9-ball events in the coming years that caused the most excitement. Bonus!

And then, of course, there was the massive buzz surrounding the 2018 Mosconi Cup. Pool’s piece of social media was ablaze before, during and after the event, making it clearly the most talked-about event in pool during 2018.

Excitement is contagious. And it’s already ramping up in 2019.

How much? When dates and information for the 2019 U.S. Open were released, the field limit was listed as 128 players. It was soon evident that the promoters could be more ambitious, so the field was expanded to 256.

Incredibly, the U.S. Open field is filled, three months ahead of the event! Additionally, the Open figures to be the most widely viewed open tournament in the history of pool in the U.S. The final 15 matches will be aired live throughout the U.K., and parts of Europe and Asia. Matchroom’s arrangements with American distributors has yet to be finalized but, suffice to say, American pool fans will get their fill.

The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) is even caught up in the excitement. Yes, that WPA, the one that usually can’t get out of its own way when it comes to international tournaments. In April, however, the WPA will team up with Cue Sports International to co-produce the $50,000-added WPA Players Championship as a lead-in to the U.S. Open.

And, are you sitting down? The WPA is guaranteeing the added money!

Want more?

CSI and Predator Group announced that the World 10-Ball Championship, dormant since 2010, will be staged in the U.S. for the next three years. The 2019 event will be held in Las Vegas in July and boasts a $100,000-added prize purse.

That’s four — count ’em, four! — major international tournaments in the U.S. in 2019, all with prize funds featuring $50,000 or more in added money. For a decade or more, there has been one-such tournament each year.

Of course, the excitement will hit fever pitch in late November when Team USA defends its title at the Mosconi Cup at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. No event in pool exhibits the passion and drama that defines the Mosconi Cup, and a suddenly confident American pool community should be rabid with nationalism by the time that event rolls around.

And, yes, I am well aware that the 2019 Mosconi Cup will run during Thanksgiving week, with the final day scheduled for Thanksgiving Day. It is unfortunate. If ever there was an opportunity to take the Mosconi Cup to the next level in the U.S. — one that could rival the energy of the every-other-year version in London — it was 2019, on the heels of last year’s magnificent triumph.

But, as the annoying saying goes, it is what it is. I love my family and love getting together for holidays. But if football fans can rationalize skipping Thanksgiving dinner to fill 80,000-seat stadiums, I can rationalize sitting in an arena in Las Vegas, enjoying my favorite sporting event.

Besides, I perfectly expect that our hosts, Matchroom, and the players will go to greath lengths to make this one of the most memorable Thanksgiving Days ever!

Yes, 2019 is shaping up to be a great year for pool in the U.S. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

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