by: Brad Gowin

(August Issue 2001)

Throughout the years of my going into pool rooms, I have continuously remained amazed at the lack of utilization between the pool room owners and players. This issue has been going on for many years and has never been dealt with. Now is the time. The room owners complain about top players not spending any money. They view the top players as predators. The owners feel the top players come into their room to steal money from the regular customers and spend a little as possible. They think the good players are taking money out of their pockets and always complaining about anything and everything. The owners believe the top players are a bunch of cry baby prima donna's. Even at the BCA trade show, the poolroom owners have a meeting every year and discuss this problem. The solution they come up with is to get rid of the good players. After all, good players are more trouble than they are worth.

The players complain about owners not doing anything to help support them. There are no, or very few tournaments for them to play in, while the B players have tournaments all the time. Where is the reward for becoming a good player? What is going to happen to the game if, once you become a good player, you are shelved to collect dust, like a trophy on a shelf? In all other sporting events, the top players are put on a pedestal. These top players are treated with respect. They receive rewards and privileges where ever they go! In pool, top players in each city usually end up taking jobs and quit playing altogether.

There you go! We have defined a problem. In order to remedy a problem, you need to look for solutions. Sometimes there can be more than one solution to a problem. In other situations, there may be only one solution. There is always an answer to every problem. A correct solution needs to satisfy both parties. Both must give a little, in order to receive the benefits and respect deserved from one another. An ideal situation would be a win-win, rewarding both sides.

My proposal would be for the top 6 players. These players would receive discounts on their pool time, but would be required to earn it. The first three players would receive free pool time. These players could be numbered 1,2,and 3. The next three players would receive pool time at a 50 percent discount. These players could be numbered 4,5, and 6.

In order for these players to receive such benefits, they would have to maintain their status on a month-to-month basis. The top three players would need to play each other a minimum of once a month. These matches would be a $50 entry, tournament match, race to 9, with $100 going to the winner. The format would be...

Player 1 vs. Player 2 - Player 1 vs. Player 3 - Player 2 vs. Player 3

The next three players would also play each other a minimum of once a month. These matches would also be $50 entry, tournament matches, race to 9, with $100 going to the winner. The format would be...
Player 4 vs. Player 5 - Player 4 vs. Player 6 - Player 5 vs. Player 6

Accurate records of each match would be kept. Players would earn their spots according to win-loss records. The first three players would also play the next three players once per month, with the same format...
Player 1 vs. Player 4 - Player 2 vs. Player 5 - Player 3 vs. Player 6

If any of the three lower rated players win a match against their higher level player, they would exchange places with that player. Also, players 4,5, and 6 must be prepared to defend their status against challenges during that month. These matches would be along the same format. If beaten, the new player would receive said benefits for the remainder of that month, with the responsibility of finishing his opponents matches(if needed). A chart would be visible, showing each player's name in their designated position, along with their designated discount.

Each one of these players must present themselves in such a way as to enhance the game. They must act like gentlemen and present a positive image. They must also be aware, if there is a waiting list and people are willing to pay pool time, they have the option to pay full price or give up the table. If they are playing another individual, that's another story. Ground rules could be different from one poolroom to another.

The poolroom owners would receive nine higher level pool matches per month. These matches would draw customers and give them a chance to see a higher level of the game. It would act as an inspiration for people to improve their games. If a young player knew, if I improve enough he could get a 100 percent discount, he would surely be inspired to practice more diligently! The poolroom would be filled with more people watching these matches. They would buy drinks and later become inspired to practice. The more they come in, the more that pool room becomes their home court. In a short time the poolroom would have more regular customers. That means more money to the room owner for a small sacrifice. The player is also sacrificing his time to play these matches, thus becoming a regular customer himself.

The good players need to be given some kind of reward. Most of them are older and have supported the game during many of the low points in the history of poolrooms. With the lack of tournaments for many good players, why would anyone want to become one? We have to create a situation where a new player would think, "Gee, I would sure like to be like him!". If you have that, you can guarantee the game of pool to survive. Without it, who knows?

There you have it. This is only one solution, something I have been thinking about for some time. I would appreciate some feedback. If you can think of something better, I'd like to hear it.

An Answer to Brad Gowin

(September Issue 2001)

By Charles H Tupper, Seattle, WA

I have been involved in the sport of pocket billiards for about a half century in the northwest and have always managed to get my table time paid for. I have done this by going to work in every pool hall that I have frequented. In my adult life I have done this on top of working other, better paying, jobs. At this time I work at Dr Cue Billiards in Seattle as tournament director, desk clerk, and janitor. I have worked in bowling alleys, taverns, and other pool halls doing all types of jobs, including management, over these years.

In my youth I was taught to play properly by caring WW I veterans who would play and critique my play for no more than the table time. Every one of these men who helped me was capable of running at least a hundred balls at straight pool. They realized that they were not the future of the sport and wished to give something back. These men were polite, well mannered, and a credit to the game.

Those of these players whose financial circumstances were tight were sometimes accorded table time and other perks by the room owners because they took of their knowledge and time to help the future of the game. I seldom see this happen in recent times as the players do not seem to think that they owe the sport anything but think the sport owes them everything. This, I think, comes from the attitudes of a modern society which thinks that it is owed something simply for living.

"Utilization between the pool room owners and players" is, in your opinion, desirable but there are many problems with allowing this from the poolroom owner's point of view.

Not the least of these problems is the player whose break isn't working. He comes to the room and practices for several hours on his break shot. When he is finished the cloth is also finished. There is a break divot, a permanent break line to the rack, and divots where the balls have been set. Massive damage to the cloth also occurs when a player decides to practice jump shots or any number of other shots which require an extreme stroke. These types of damage cannot be removed except by recovering the table.

The cost is about three hundred dollars to recover a single table with Simonis cloth. Casual players, who outnumber serious ones by many times, do not do these things and the tables do not have to be recovered at nearly the rate that is required for the practicing excellent ones. I have yet to see any player offer to pay to recover a table after abusing it.

Many other things also get between the players and the room owners. Watching an excellent player sit on his duff and plainly state that any opponent must play for three hundred dollars or more or he won't pick up a stick is guaranteed to leave a bad taste in the mouth of any room owner. It leaves the same taste when one watches professional quality players fleece lesser players day after day without giving anything back. Also, two players playing for thousands of dollars for many hours and then complaining about paying the table time is not conducive to making friends among room owners. I have seen these things happen time and time again.

Over the past thirty, or so, years, demanding players and bad attitudes have also hampered any usage agreements. There are enough ego driven players with bad attitudes who argue fouls, payoffs, and just about anything else to make it difficult for people to enjoy playing anywhere in the room. This has a tendency to drive business away from rooms and makes room owners and managers reluctant to cater to any of the semi-pro and professional quality players.

Also, these are the same players who have a circuit of tournaments that they follow day by day. They never seem to stay in any room for any steady period of time. The only time a room owner sees these players is when there is a tournament for them to play. When they do stay in a room they are usually looking for any pigeon with money in their pocket to pluck.

This causes hard feelings among the lesser players who are capable of beating their friends and come to the room to play those friends. Many may think they are a lot better player than the reality and the lesson taught when they are caught by the shark is a hard one to swallow. This causes steady customers to quit frequenting the room and the cost to the room is a lost customer.

I try to give back what has been given to me and would like to see more players with more skill that I do the same. This doesn't seem to happen as today's players attitude seems to be that it cost them to learn and it should cost at least as much to teach someone else. In other words if you want to learn from them you put up your money and take your beating. All that is learned by the pigeon is what can be picked up by watching and how to dig into a wallet to pay the shark.

Respect is something that must be earned by each and every player. In individual cases many players do have the respect of the rooms and owners and many have agreements whereby the room sponsors the player. The room I work in sponsors three players at this time: one female and two male. Only one of these three is a recognizable name (Dan Louie). The female is a high school student who works very hard to become proficient at the game. The other player is an a/semi- pro player and is working hard to improve that last step to the top flight professional level.

All three of these players are good people who earn the respect of those around them. All are willing to play just about anyone for little or no money and are willing to help others learn the game when they are free from other obligations. They are also careful to take excellent care of the room's equipment.

Until players remember that they owe something to the game, and work to pay what they owe, they will not find too many receptive ears. This can be in the form of being willing to help lesser players learn the game without remuneration. By conducting themselves in a decent professional manner. By helping out in the room they frequent when needed. By remembering that they are emissaries of the sport and by working hard to earn the respect of all who frequent their chosen room.

Players in many sports are put on pedestals but these sports have the things that make them marketable and these sports have garnered many corporate sponsors. The hard work of those who have built these empires have made it so their players are available to the media, are marketable, and are under contract. The holders of the contracts have control over the major items that make the public end of the sports visible. This puts the marketing aspect in the hands of third parties who can concentrate on making the players and the sports popular with the public. Pool has none of these things.

When I began playing the game in the fifties professional level players were manipulated and underpaid by the corporate entities that controlled the sport. When they finally rebelled and began their own tour infighting took over. Any time players did not like some aspect of the way things were run they would try to begin their own tour. The latest product of this is that there is no tour in place. The "me first" attitude of the players has made it so there is no clear venue to allow the best players to earn a decent living.

There is no conduct code. No method of giving the public a look at the lives of the players. No method of marketing the personalities present at the professional level. And no way of controlling the sport. Until the professional players come to some type of accord that will work there is little hope of the sport ever becoming popular as a skill event. The public will not pay the players who have devoted their lives to becoming the best until the players get their own house in order. Until this happens there is little reason for any room owner to make any concession to players as there is nothing for the owner to gain. Like it or not, rooms exist to make money. In order for the rooms to make money from the best players the players must become marketable.

Players must remember that the majority of those who play the game do not do so to become proficient or to be able to beat all who would play. Most play to meet those of the opposite sex in a setting which will make an avenue to easy conversation and to socialize with friends. These are the people who actually pay the bills in any pool hall today.

The idea of having some method of determining who is actually the best player in any given pool room and giving them perks to be able to improve is a good one but it doesn't go far enough. Personal dress, conduct, and many other things that will help and enhance the business of the poolroom must be taken into account. Just being an excellent player isn't nearly enough.

There must be things in the mix that actually benefit the room owner. After all, he is a business person and could care less if you are a serious player. Players do not bring enough business to any room over the long term to actually warrant any type of consideration. Most of those who are drawn by the player are attending as railbirds. Railbirds do not pay the bills. They just trade money among themselves by betting on the action, mess the room up, take up space, and generally interrupt the normal flow of business. Few of them ever play in a room for any extended period of time.

Not a day goes by when I do not hear players complain about the cost of playing or the condition of the equipment they have abused. They do nothing but utilize the room when pool is half price, leave immediately when the price goes to full time, and never help or clean up after themselves. I have spent about a half century watching the game and those who play it. If you wonder why I take many room owners point of view it is because I have spent my life playing and actually working to be able to play. I realized when I was twelve years old that I had to earn my time in a way that actually benefited the room owner. Simply being an excellent player was, and is, not that way.

Return to Brad's Index of Articles

Return to Home Page

Copyright 2004 The Break

All right reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher.