shifting focus

so for many years the US has been on a downward slide in terms of pool action. with no major tournaments so speak of besides US Open (and the annual APA big bash if you count amateur action), the attention has been shifted to europe and beyond. nowadays Asia is the new hotspot if you’re looking for pool.

as a group, Asians seem to really enjoy cuesports as a competitive sport/game and a popular past time. it is treated seriously, and Asian societies have accepted cuesports as a legitimate source of entertainment, unlike the negative image it has in the US. pool, billiards, and snooker have all found enthusiastic supporters, even in the form of governments. Philippines have long embraced pool as a point of national pride. Taiwan, South Korea and Japan all have allowed pool and billiards to flourish. now China seems to be the country that’s really making a forceful push for its cuesports dominance. in recent times, we have seen a sizeable increase in the number of China’s professional women’s players. also, more professional men’s snooker players from China are now competing in European snooker circuits.

China’s latest push in pool is in the form of self-invented format known as Chinese 8-ball. i’m not super familiar with the format, but it’s basically 8-ball played on a 9-foot table with snooker cushions and snooker pockets. those rounded points on a pocket make even the simplest shots challenging; i watched orcullo missed some easy-looking shots simply because of the equipment. whatever the endgame is, China is sparing no expense at promoting Chinese 8-ball. they are organizing large events for men and women around this new format, and have lured snooker luminary stephen hendry to both play and promote the game. you can find a bunch of match videos on Chinese 8-ball; i watched several videos that featured pool champions (orcullo, appleton, pagulayan, to name a few) trying their hands at this new game. even earl dusted off his passport and played one of the tournaments in China. i’m not sure what goals China is trying to accomplish, but right now they are pouring a lot of money and effort into this project. personally, i think the game is very challenging because the equipment will punish you for every little mistake, and the pockets place a premium on accuracy and ball-pocketing ability. runouts have to be carefully planned and even more carefully executed; pool champions can easily botch a runout if they are not familiar with snooker equipment.

as for the future, who knows. if China keeps pouring money into this project, we can count on players keep showing up to play. that’s what pro players must do–they must be where the money is. my point? for those looking for pool action, go to Asia. as a pool player, you can’t find a more fertile pool ground right now.

3 comments on “shifting focus

  1. And it’s not just that they’re pouring money into Chinese 8-ball and promoting it. I mean it’s not artificial, it’s just what people are playing in China. Go into a pool hall, there’s 20 Chinese 8-ball tables and one American pool table – nobody playing on the latter (which was good for me…).

    • And I agree that Asia is the place to be. I guess it’s because people love gambling and they have so many more young people over there than USA and Europe.

  2. thanks for commenting patrick. i can see your point about Chinese 8-ball not being artificial and it’s what people in China are playing at the moment. but remember that the format didn’t even exist until roughly a year ago, and all of a sudden big tournaments start popping up. personally i’d say that there is a very deliberate push by China to popularize the format, at least in the Asian region.

    as far as gambling, i actually don’t think that’s necessarily the reason why pool is more popular in Asia. i’ve seen a good number of U.S. players who love to gamble on pool, so i don’t believe gambling is the reason for pool’s popularity in Asia. to oversimplify, i just think that there’s no support for pool in the US right now. sponsors won’ touch this game, and media is present elsewhere (football, basketball, etc.). no money, no players. but hey, Asia is hopping with cuesports right now. there’s money, people, and media behind the game, so players are making the move accordingly. pool players in Asia are having a time right now, and i’m glad the game is at least doing well somewhere.

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