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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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March: World Without End
March 2020

So, where the heck did this mad flurry of activity come from?

It seemed only yesterday (well, it kinda was) players and fans were commiserating about the dearth of major events in the U.S. and abroad, and that shortfall’s impact on American players. With few events in the U.S. that were significant enough to draw all of the country’s top players, and even fewer overseas worth fading the expense to attend, American players were resigned to feasting on mid-sized regional tournaments — many of them on bar tables.

Other than Shane Van Boening, American players were considered second-tier on the world scene. And we don’t need to be reminded about the annual drubbings the Americans were getting in the Mosconi Cup.

The outlook brightened significantly in 2019 with the staging of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship and Predator World 10-Ball Championship in Las Vegas, and the International 9-Ball Open in Norfolk, Va. Not surprisingly, the increase in serious events coincided with a handful of American players making noise in major tournaments. Raise the stakes, and they will raise their games.

And 2020 has started with a bang.

The blockbuster, of course, was Matchroom’s virtual acquisition of the World Pool-Billiard Association World 9-Ball Championship. I say “acquisition” because the WPA, in an odd but surprisingly lucid moment, granted Matchroom rights to the event “in perpetuity.” (Look up “perpetuity” in the dictionary and it says, “Eternity.”) In most cases, I would chastise the world body for relinquishing complete control of one of its events, but let’s be honest here: To whom, other than Matchroom, would you entrust the future of the sport’s most significant world championship? It was a smart move on the WPA’s part for many reasons, the most obvious being that the line of sponsors and/or nations clamoring to host, produce and fund the event was short enough to queue in a phone booth. And the event had surely run its course in Qatar, which did an admirable job for the first few years of its decade-long stewardship. The last few years saw drops in prize money, a downsizing in venue and zero effort in promotion.

The Matchroom logo alone increases the prestige and anticipation of the newly rebranded World Pool Championship. The world 9-ball title will once again mean something significant. (No offense to recent winners.)

Not to be outdone, Predator Group, perhaps the most active billiard manufacturer in promoting pool events worldwide, recently added the Predator World 8-Ball Championship to the sports calendar (as well as secondary events in Canada, Japan and Africa). Diamond Billiard Products and the WPA itself have also ponied up to run sizable coattail tournaments prior to the World 10-Ball and US Open Pool Championship events, respectively. The Kremlin Cup in Russia continues to grow in size and importance.

Suddenly, the WPA calendar is teeming with respectable opportunities for the game’s top players. Four events will feature added money in excess of $100,000 (at least two of them in excess of $200,000), with another half-dozen or more events adding $50,000 or more. Six of these tournaments will be staged in the U.S.

The women pros will also benefit in 2020, with access to both the U.S. Open and World Pool Championship tournaments, as well as the addition of the Predator Women’s World 10-Ball Championship.

I’ve always liked the phrase, “Spectators will kindly remove themselves from the playing field!” To me, that’s the message this banner year sends to the players. Update your passport, gather your entry fee money and tighten that joint on your cues, or step aside. Promoters have ponied up and have created great events that will attract the top talent from around the world. Support those efforts. And bigger opportunities are going to evolve for those who put in the work, attend the events and push their games to higher levels.

Of course, activity and excitement breed more activity and more excitement. Big turnouts and a higher level of competition could lead to increased publicity and an even bigger year in 2021.

Ride the wave.

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