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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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December: The Investors
December 2022

Energy.

Iíve gotten to spend a fair amount of time at professional events this summer and fall, and Iíve got to say, Iíve never been more energized by what I see.

And as crazy-good as the level of play is in 2022, Iím not even talking about competition here. (Well, at least not in the sense of match competition.)

What has energized me is the level of money, time, commitment, vision, and creativity I see in the production of the top-tier events these days. Iím not sure the sport has ever enjoyed so many events produced at such a professional level. (The short-lived International Pool Tour elicited similar enthusiasm and energy when it was launched, but its sustainability was unlikely from the start.)

In recent months, I was able to attend a Predator Pro Billiard Series event, the U.S. Open Pool Championship and the International Open. I spent a lot of my time hanging out behind the scenes to soak in the machinations of producing the events. What I have seen is ingenuity, relentless attention to detail, flexibility to change/fix things on the fly, excruciatingly long workdays, and no shortage of chaos.

Now, I know event production in billiards has always entailed too few people working too many hours for not enough pay. And everyone in pool knows, if you could make money putting on an event, everyone would be doing it. Tournament producers and their staffs have long been selfless promoters of the sport. They did it (and still do it) because they love it.

In some ways, todayís events are no different. The time and effort to put on tournaments is exhausting and the payoff is generally marginal.

But in the past year the stakes have been raised and the results are inspiring. Matchroom and Predator may appear to be going toe-to-toe in a battle for pool supremacy, but the truth is that both promoters are simply executing disparate business plans (using different metrics to assess success) with the same goal ó growing the base of people who play and follow pool and creating an aspirational and lucrative tournament system for professional players.

The result?

The result is next level in terms of production and presentation. The recent Predator events staged in Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Open events for men and women, as well as the World Junior 9-Ball Championships and the World 8-Ball Championship) were clearly the most ambitious (and by all accounts the most successful) event produced to date by the billiard equipment manufacturer. Players and fans alike gushed about the location, hospitality and professionalism.

The U.S. Open in Atlantic City was every bit as ambitious, glitzy and glamorous, following the promoterís penchant for upping the ante with each and every new event.

The International Open, playing to the sportís long and rich history in the Norfolk, Va., area, continues to add bells and whistles to make the player and fan experiences better.

It wasnít long ago that pro pool had two, maybe three events that were canít-miss in both quality of competition and production value. Today, there are at least a dozen.

Why?

Itís certainly not because the outside world has suddenly fallen in love with pool and corporate sponsors are lining up with barrels of cash to throw at the sportís players and fans.

Itís because companies within are quaint little circle are investing in the sport like never before. They understand that next-level effort and next-level vision are required to generate next-level success for the sport.

And so, dear friends, the onus falls on us to rally behind these companies and these events and all pull in the same directionÖfor a change! Donít like the format? Donít want to pay for live match content? I suggest you reconsider your alleged allegiance and switch, perhaps, to the Professional Pickleball Association Pro Tour. Or start following the American Cornhole League. (But youíd better brush up on ďBagGate,Ē a real life cornhole scandal rocking the sport!)

Find another sport because a smart pool world will support the bold efforts that are driving pool today without reservation. We owe it to the companies and leaders who are banking that the game can, indeed, reach (and sustain) the next level. Why? Because the pros win. Because youth wins. Because the industry wins. Unbridled support will let these promoters know that their efforts and investments are noticed and appreciated. And donít for a minute think that visible appreciation isnít important.

And if these companies make money or reach sales goals on the backs of their efforts, applaud that, too. Theyíve already shown that they are likely to reinvest that money into the sport and drive further growth.

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