i’ve been thinking about this for a while now, so i’ll throw this out in the air & see where it lands.
many years ago i remember the (now defunct) MPBA was doing a few things to try to clean up pool’s image. at least i think that’s the organization’s name. (there have been a few throughout the years.) i think one of the things was no gambling; if i remember correctly, the argument was that gambling hurt the image of pool. back then i just sort of accepted the argument & didn’t think about it much.
now that i have been thinking about it, i wonder if the idea that “gambling hurt the sport of pool” is valid. (of course, pool is/isn’t a sport is another topic altogether, & a fairly well-argued one at that.) i mean, poker has inundated itself across tv channels. ESPN regularly broadcasts WSOP events. other channels showcase different events. and it is nothing BUT gambling, & often for humongous sums of $$$. it seems that gambling itself is accepted as a form of legitimate pastime. during NBA/NFL/MLB playoffs, you can always find an office pool somewhere. we often hear of stories of coworkers buying a bunch of lottery tickets & split the winnings. so why not pool & billiards?
i think that it’s not so much the gambling that contributes negativity towards the image of pool. i tend to think it’s the impression that pool is filled with people that engage in cheating & underhanded tactics WHILE they bet, that’s hurting the image of pool. but poker, as a game, is also filled with cheaters & dirty dealings throughout its history. so what is different between poker & pool? why can poker be accepted by the general public & thrive in mainstream tv programming, while pool has all these poolflictions?
Poolfliction: when the sport of pool is faced with affliction
i believe it is organization, and an environment that encourages safe gambling without shady tactics, that set poker apart from pool. this is why i love what The Action Report (TAR) is doing with the heads-up matches they put together. i think that if we can have that sort of environment to gamble on pool, it would make participants feel safer about betting, since little BS are involved.
for example, i’ve friends that enjoy gambling (casino games, not pool). when i go to casinos, i won’t think twice about sitting in front of a video poker machine & go to town. occasionally i’ll play a few hands of blackjack or poker. last time my friend and i went to a casino to play some cheap poker for a few hours, we had a really good time. (a friend of mine wrote an interesting post on morality of gambling. you can read it here.)
how come i can go to a casino & gamble away, but i rarely gamble in pool? i think that when i’m in a casino, i’m mostly sure that no matter what i play, i can bet away knowing that there won’t be any shenanigans. if there is any, large security dudes with guns will rapidly come & whisk the troublemakers away. in short, casinos have provided a safe environment for gamblers, and protections are provided to keep the idiots out & players in. plus, protocols on betting and in-house behaviors are in place & strictly enforced. and i know this applies to most of the established casinos, including the tribal-owned ones all over cali & other states. (there is another reason why i don’t gamble in pool, but sharking & shady maneuvers are mostly why i don’t.)
bottom line, if a gambler knows that the place & people are upfront & safe, he or she will bet, and bet more. look at the vegas casinos if you need proof.
i’d love to see a similar environment provided for pool gambling: a governing body that will hold the bet money from players, provide a neutral referee & a safe venue, establish in-match protocols & behaviors (e.g., no sharking, remain seated when not shooting, etc.), implement some type of spectator betting (like a sports book), and hand the prize money to the winner for a small fee, a percentage of the purse, or broadcast/DVD rights to the match. the governing body does not regulate the match itself; the players will determine the format & the referee will regulate the match. the game takes place after both sides turn in the bet money. basically, the governing body is a monitoring service to keep people in line & the match flowing smoothly.
in such an environment, a player only has to provide cash, show up, & play. no BS, no arguing, no sharking, just play the match & leave. i think that’ll be beyond wonderful. this is why i think TAR has got a very good idea going. when pool gambling can be conducted in an upfront & legitimate manner, it’ll encourage more participants to play, spectators to bet, and gradually reduce the infamy that pool seems to have. perhaps one day pool & billiards can actually thrive & be considered a mainstream sport. then we can have 30 hours/week of pool matches on tv. game on.
honestly, no one likes the feeling of being had. if pool is to be legitimatized, then the players’, AND the spectators’ conducts, must first be brought to a higher level. being upfront & honest is the best policy to ensure legitimacy of pool. we can all, as players and spectators, have a good time then.
however, i fear that the image of pool has been establish over too long a time, and there is no solution we can execute short-term to remedy her visage. time will tell, perhaps.
as a side project, i got curious about whether the vegas sports books will take bets on pool & billiard matches. i called several vegas casinos books at random & conducted a highly unscientific survey. a person at each casino gave me the following responses. keep in mind the persons that gave me these answers may be wrong, since i’m not allowed to talk to the sports books directly (i think one of the casino employees said it was against the law for me to talk to the book). of course, each person’s understanding of the vegas gambling laws and/or sports books procedures vary greatly, i’m sure. read these results w/ large, boulder-sized grains of salt.
mgm grand – no
ceasars – can’t give out info; the lady that answered my call said it was against the law for her to even tell me what the sports book offered for betting
monte carlo – the rep told me she couldn’t talk to the books, but pretty sure it’s not offered
golden nugget – major sports only; no pool & billiards (& no boxing!! you can’t bet on boxing at the golden nugget!! what the . . .)
treasure island – apparently they were really busy & the lady that answered (in a hurry) said she didn’t know anything about sports books
the results: 3 no’s, 2 inconclusives
i also contacted justin c of TAR, since he’s an action man AND lives in vegas. (may be a dangerous combo there.) although i don’t know him personally, i figured he’d be the dude to ask. i emailed justin & he said that vegas currently doesn’t offer pool on their sports books (at least of this post). justin’s response coincided with the results of my unscientific survey. thanks justin for that info! for those going to casinos & curious about the subject, you can walk up to a book’s counter & ask them directly. if you do, kindly leave a comment & lemme know what you find, although i’m quite sure the answer is “no”.
if vegas casinos ever offer pool on their books, you know that pool & billiards is going mainstream. crossing my fingers now.