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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: Twist and Pout
November 2021

The half-dozen or so close relatives that regularly read this page will attest, my leanings are almost always to advocate on behalf of the players. Woefully unorganized and inadequately represented, their survival and well being are customarily the last things taken into consideration by the billiard industry, room owners and even tournament promoters when events are being planned. “Just post the money and they’ll show up and play bumper pool,” has been a common joke amongst insiders.

That’s not to say that players don’t sometimes (all right, a lot of the time!) leave me scratching my head.

Take “The Summer of ’21,” for instance. After nearly 18 months of thumb-twiddling, ghost-playing, income-challenging inactivity, the competitive pool world suddenly found itself flush with opportunity and added money. From the World Pool Championship in June through the Predator Pro Billiard Series FargoRate Open in October, players had access to eight tournaments, which totaled more than $1 million in prize money, nearly $700,000 of which was added money.

Of course, with unbridled enthusiasm, players around the globe (at least those that could travel) rejoiced and raced to the pay window for their piece of the pie, right?

Well, not exactly.

A number of events struggled to fill fields, despite no event guaranteeing less than $25,000 added to the prize fund. That every one of those eight events didn’t pack full fields (with waiting lists) is beyond puzzling. We hear year after year about how few legitimate pro tournaments there are, and here we had a summer with the best string of events since the heydays of the Pro Billiards Tour.

Instead, not even the mighty U.S. Open filled its 256-player board, an event that filled beyond capacity months out in 2019.

What was particularly disheartening, though, was the lukewarm response the Predator Pro Billiard Series received — especially from the U.S. player base.

Nothing but kudos and support should have been afforded the U.S.-based company that dropped $200,000 of added money into five domestic tournaments in a 10-week span.

What was the response? Players — primarily American — moaned about the format and chose instead to play in smaller events or not play at all.

And just what were these egregious demands the promoter foisted on the players?

Predator unveiled a 10-ball format that took a few risks in the name of building fans. They chose short sets, unconventional rules, and sudden death shootouts to determine match winners. They allowed a pocketed 10 ball to count on the break and in combinations. Matches were two sets, races to four. Split sets resulted in spot shot shootouts, some of which went to more than 10 innings to determine a winner.

The rationale is easy to understand. Detractors of pool as a televised sport have long argued that the game — even slam-bang 9-ball — needs to be more attractive and exciting to the average sports fan. Predator opted to experiment with alternate formats that might, indeed, engage viewers and draw new fans. To coin a cringe-worthy phrase, it’s called thinking outside the box.

Is it perfect? No. But it wasn’t bumper pool. And would supporting the effort be so difficult? Top prize was at least $12,000, and eighth place earned $2,000. Not bad for a $350 entry fee in cost-friendly cities. In the meantime, players could have been working with the decision-makers at Predator to discuss changes going forward in 2021 or in 2022.

And I’m not naďve. Of course, the promoter is investing in the game as a means of building customers and developing brand recognition. Pool is not an industry of philanthropists. But without companies within the industry funding and promoting events, pool would have no events. In case you haven’t noticed, nonendemic sponsors aren’t exactly beating down the doors to have their products and services linked to the sport.

Remember too, support runs both ways. Do respectable promoters drop added money when the players don’t fill the field? Do they cancel the event and blame the players for lack of support? Nope.

If it wasn’t for the two dozen or so European players who came to the U.S. in late August and have stayed through October to avoid the travel restriction hassles of flying back and forth (thank you, COVID), the fields would have whittled away to nothing. And that would have been too bad.

Shame on players in the U.S.

Not that players in the U.S. were the only culprits here. Interestingly, the Predator Austria Open — the first $25,000-plus added tournament in continental Europe in ages — failed to fill its 64-player chart, while EuroTour events draw 200 players vying for a $4,000 top prize, a medal and a bouquet of flowers. Go figure.

Players across the globe would do well to consider the consequences of turning their backs on companies willing to invest in them. Each of these companies could find other ways — many of them smarter and more reliable —to invest their money to grow their bottom line.

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