Ultimate Pocket Billiards

THE NEXT STEP IN THE EVOLUTION OF
POCKET BILLIARD GAMES

Ultimate Pocket Billiards
 

 


Ultimate Pocket Billiards

Pool, what a great game! I am not talking about a cue-ball precision game such as "snooker" or even a finesse game such as "three cushion billiards". I am talking about pocket billiards as it was meant to be played.

What am I talking about? Have you seen the so-called pool that is being televised on American television? The 9-ball being played is not real pool. This is not how pocket billiards should be played! When is the last time you saw a player attempt a combination or carom shot? What about a difficult bank shot? When is the last time you saw a player taking a risk by attempting a difficult shot?

Let’s look at a typical telecast. Player A breaks and pockets a ball, then proceeds to run out the table pocketing relatively easy shots in the process. Or, player A breaks and fails to pocket a ball therefore player B proceeds to run out the table pocketing relatively easy shots. This is repeated until a winner is declared. Is this pool?? I don’t think so!!

What is being televised is not “pool”. What is being televised is a combination of “snooker” and “three-cushion billiards” masquerading as “pool”.

I say this because every telecast shows very talented players using their cue-ball control skill to get perfect position on the next shot, rendering the pocketing of balls very easy. I’m sorry, but this game of cue-ball control is called snooker, not pool. If producers want to show a game of cue-ball control expertise, I suggest they start televising snooker matches so that one can really appreciate cue-ball control. Of course during a televised “pool” match there are times when there is no easy shot on the table at which time the players resort to playing a “safe”. After all, why risk missing a shot if you don’t have to? These finesse safe shots are very reminiscent of “three-cushion billiards” with perfect speed and spin being of paramount importance. Again, if this is the game producers want to show, I suggest televising “three-cushion billiards” matches. The finesse level of top players is breathtaking.

But I believe most viewers are like me; they want to see “real” pool, not these other games. I believe those involved in airing television tournaments have also figured that out. They tried to raise the level of ball-pocketing difficulty by introducing 7-ball in order to eliminate “safe” play and they even resorted to televising trick-shot artists to increase difficulty and therefore excitement. With viewers being mostly men from fifteen to seventy the payoff for increasing the audience for pool telecasts could be astronomical. This is because there are many natural sponsors out there such as beer and liquor companies, manufacturers of boats and other recreational vehicles and of course golf and other sports equipment.

The International Pool Tour (IPT) tried a different formula for increasing the audience for pool on television but this also failed. The IPT had finally brought some real money into the game and therefore had given the audience a chance to see the very best players on a regular basis. Unfortunately the game of 8-ball, which the IPT had chosen to promote, was not up to the task of increasing the audience for pool telecasts. The IPT organizers thought that “pool” meant 8-ball and that the way to appeal to the potential vast pool audience was to televise 8-ball tournaments, bring in celebrity players and up the prize money. After all, this is the game that most people play and the game that they can most identify with. The only problem is that the 8-ball played by professionals is very different from the 8-ball played by most potential viewers. As a matter of fact, 8-ball as played by the pros is not much different than 9-ball as played by the pros; cue-ball control for easy shots and finesse safes. This was the opportunity to show the world how talented these top professionals really are and the only games available to them was 8-ball or 9-ball; games whose degree of difficulty can be surmounted by most avid amateur players on a regular basis.

So, what am I talking about when I say people want to see “real” pool? What makes “real” pool different from “snooker”, “three-cushion billiards” or the existing pool games being televised? The answer is “ball-pocketing ability”. Pool is all about pocketing difficult shots. That is what makes pool different, fun to play and enjoyable to watch. The ability to imagine and pocket a difficult shot at a crucial moment is unique to pool. This is what most people enjoy when they are playing and this is what I believe they would enjoy seeing on television. Unfortunately, all the pool games being shown on television these days do not reward the pocketing of difficult or imaginative shots. They reward cue ball positioning and finesse.

Now don’t get me wrong, when I talk about imaginative and difficult shots I am not talking about pre-positioned trick shots. Watching someone set-up and pocket the exact shots that they have practiced thousands of times is even more boring than watching a top player run a wide open 7-ball table, no matter that the skill level involved is exceptional.

The existing games being aired on television have not shown the capability of expanding the existing audience for pool. I believe that what is needed is a revolution in how “pool” is played at the highest levels so that the top pool players are those that can pocket difficult shots most consistently. What is needed is a new pocket billiards game.

BACKGROUND

Pool is one of the most, if not the most, popular game in America. It is played by thousands of people on a regular basis and enjoyed by countless more. There is definitely a ready audience for pool on television.

I am sure that ESPN assumed that the audience for its telecasts would grow steadily as more and more people were made aware of the pool telecasts. After all, the potential audience is huge. I suspect that the reality has been different. I suspect that the audience has reached a plateau and is not likely to grow much more with the existing slate of 9-ball tournaments being televised. I think the IPT, with its telecasts of 8-ball tournaments, had a similar experience.

So what is wrong? Why is the audience not growing? In one word, the games are “boring” to a large percentage of potential viewers. Even by televising only the best matches, most games are boring. Where are the combinations, the billiard shots, the bank shots? Where are the high-five moments? These are the shots that make pool exiting to play and fun to watch. These are the shots that are missing from the telecasts.

I surmise that there are four types of potential viewers for pool on television. Hypothesizing on their percentage, they break down as follows:

      a. AFICIONADOS (10%) - these are people that are fascinated by cue games. They will likely watch any cue game on television, religiously. They enjoy the games because they note all of the subtleties that can only be truly appreciated by those with intimate knowledge.

      b. AVID PLAYERS (20%) - these are people that likely play in a pool league and are apt to watch pool on television but it is not a priority for them. They will appreciate the pattern play and skill levels involved but are easily distracted to other programs because of the routine nature of the pool games being televised.

      c. RECREATIONAL PLAYERS (60%) - these are people that enjoy playing at their local bar or pool hall but are not sufficiently devoted to pool as to make a commitment to a league. They will occasionally watch pool on television but rarely for an extended period of time as they find the telecasts boring. The lack of shot creativity, the absence of difficult shots and the reluctance of top players to take even small risks are a major turn-off to these potential viewers.

      d. NOVICES (10%) - these are people that will rarely watch pool on television because it is so totally boring to them since they never see difficult shots being made and have little appreciation for pattern play and/or cue-ball control.

In order to increase the audience from 90% of the potential viewers, pool telecasts have to be more exiting. In order to achieve this, I propose a new game:

- ULTIMATE POCKET BILLIARDS -

Premise:

  1. There is a desire to expand the television fan base for pool.
  2. Existing pool games suitable for television (9 ball, 8 ball and 7 ball) have not shown the capability to expand the fan base.
  3. A new game is needed which will bring in new viewers without alienating the existing fan base.

Problems with existing games:

  1. Premium is on cue ball control and finesse rather than ball-pocketing ability, creativity and risk taking.
  2. Winner often decided by safety play or not pocketing ball on break shot. NOT VERY EXITING OR MEMORABLE.
  3. Player’s true ability is not evident because all top players routinely run out an open 9-ball, 8-ball or 7-ball table. No way of clearly establishing best player.

Goals of ULTIMATE POCKET BILLIARDS:

  1. Create a cue game that is fun to play and fun to watch.
  2. Reward ball-pocketing ability, combined with creativity and risk taking, as the primary skill.
  3. Have players use their talents to maximize rather than minimize risk. (i.e.-use ball pocketing ability to attempt more difficult shots rather than using cue-ball control ability to make the next shot as easy as possible.)
  4. Provide a progressive scoring system that will make evident one’s ability to play pool compared to others.
  5. Create a “Tiger Woods” by establishing a game with an infinite amount of difficulty so that the best player can clearly distinguish himself or herself.

BASIC RULES OF ULTIMATE POCKET BILLIARDS

OBJECTIVE – Accumulate the most points in one inning by pocketing up to one rack of balls (15 balls) in any order, without missing or scratching. The essence of the game is that each shot has a value based on a pre-determined scoring system.

SCORING SYSTEM - Points awarded based on difficulty of shot as follows:

  • a. Direct shot – 1 point
  • b. Combination/billiard – 2 points
  • c. Short side bank/kick – 3 points
  • d. Long side bank/kick – 4 points
  • e. Two or more cushions bank/kick – 5 points
  • f. Double points on MONEY ($) ball which is the number 8 ball.

There are two primary types of Ultimate Pocket Billiards games. They are:
1.   Ultimate Pocket Billiards – Match Play
2.   Ultimate Pocket Billiards – Stroke Play

Details to the above two games are described under the link to "Rules of Ultimate Pocket Billiards" of this web site. NOTE: This link also describes Ultimate Pocket Billiards variations to most popular pool games.

HANDICAPPING

In order for a game to be popular with the average player there must be a handicapping system so that all players can experience the thrill of competition.

The game of Ultimate Pocket Billiards is easily handicapped by allowing any number of misses/scratches per inning.

Ability to play Ultimate Pocket Billiards compares favorably with the ability to play Straight Pool (also known as points). By knowing one’s high run in Straight Pool (SP) an Ultimate Pocket Billiards (UPB) handicap can be determined. Guidance showing the relationship follows:

SP - High run of 14 balls or less
SP - High run of 15 to 29 balls
SP - High run of 30 to 49 balls
SP - High run of 50 to 99 balls
SP - High run of 100 balls or more

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UPB - 4 misses/scratches per inning
UPB - 3 misses/scratches per inning
UPB - 2 misses/scratches per inning
UPB - 1 miss/scratch per inning
UPB - No handicap

BUILDING A TELEVISION AUDIENCE

In order for a sport/game to be economically successful, it must be able to generate a television audience. Television viewers like excitement and suspense. Here are some viewer pleasing situations that are likely to occur during televised Ultimate Pocket Billiard matches:

1.    The pocketing of many combination/billiard shots.
2.    Adding risk by attempting “easy” bank shots in the early stages of an inning.
3.    Kicking at balls hanging in the jaws of pockets to increase score.
4.    Saving the $ ball (8 ball) and attempting a three cushion bank to gain 10 points on one shot.
(You can shoot the $ ball at any time but strategically it is better to leave it until the end.)
5.    The players feeding off the roar of the crowd that will be inevitable after the pocketing of difficult shots in critical situations.
6.    Besting opponent score by POCKETING last shot on the table. This is especially exiting if last shot HAS TO BE a two or three-rail bank.
7.    Telecasting “great shots” to publicize both the game and each competitor. There will be plenty to choose from.
8.    Commentary based on historical performance. (i.e. Player X has surpassed 40 points in an inning twice this year therefore he has the potential to win!)
9.    Commentary on strategy needed to surpass opponents’ point total based on number of balls left to be pocketed and their location on the table.
10.  Celebration of players that reach difficult milestones such as 30 points in an inning! 40 points!! 50 (almost impossible) points!!! Theoretically, there is a maximum of 80 points possible in each inning.

BUILDING A FAN FOLLOWING

In order to have people interested in the game, meaningful statistics must be kept. Fan-engaging statistics are crucial to maintaining fan interest in any sport or game. I am sure there are more, but some that are unique to Ultimate Pocket Billiards are:

1.    Highest point total in an inning.
2.    Highest average point total in an inning.
3.    Percentage of times with at least 25 points in an inning. 30 points. 35 points. 40 points etc...
4.    Player averaging most points on initial break.
5.    Player averaging most combination/billiard shots, short side banks/kicks, long side banks/kicks, etc...
6.    Player averaging most points with $ ball.

For Ultimate Pocket Billiards – Match Play these additional statistics are relevant:

7.    Percentage of times that a player bests opponents’ score.
8.    Percentage of times that a player bests opponents’ score on inning that would result in loss of game. (clutch performance)
9.    Percentage of times that a player posts a shutout. (Opponent does not surpass initial post with his two innings.)

FUTURE OF POCKET BILLIARDS (POOL)

I believe that in order for the game of pool to grow it will need to transition from a match play format to a stroke play format, just like golf. What is also needed is a visionary to do for cue games what Bernie Ecclestone did for car races; establish the undisputed best tour in the world. The best car drivers in the world compete in Formula 1 (F1) because the cars in F1 are built to provide unmatched performance provided that the driver is good enough to extract that performance from the car. Similarly, Ultimate Pocket Billiards is designed to challenge the player in all aspects of their craft provided that the player is good enough to exploit it. The best cue-sport players in the world, whether they are now playing pool, snooker, three cushion billiards, straight pool, one-pocket, or any other cue-sport, will surely migrate to Ultimate Pocket Billiards as this will be the cue-sport that will determine the BEST cue-sport player in the world.

For a sport/game to have a true following, the best players in the world have to be ranked and recognized as such by both competitors and fans. The best way to achieve this is by establishing a points system to reward overall performance, not just the results of one tournament. One of the primary purpose for holding tournaments as part of a tour is to continuously update this ranking.

Although it is possible to have world rankings in a sport/game whose events are based on match play (i.e. tennis), I think that rankings from stroke play (i.e. golf) have much more credibility since they are less dependent on an opponent’s performance. The reason for this is that the best player is more apt to finish lower in a match play tournament than with a stroke play tournament because of the many factors that can come into play in match play. The most obvious is the seating, luck of the draw and being eliminated by a “hot” player just to see them fade back to their usual level of play (or worse) in the next match.

Ultimate Pocket Billiards can easily be adapted to stroke play since it has a scoring system that can be applied to all players at all times and the score that a player obtains is not at all dependent on the performance of the opponent, just like in golf.

Here is one scenario that I believe would go a long way to generating interest in the game of Ultimate Pocket Billiards in the long term:

Schedule:

  1. Establish a playing season for an Ultimate Pocket Billiards Tour.
  2. Sanction Tours all over the world. Have a “West Coast Tour”, “Midwest Tour”, “Southern Tour”, East Coast Tour”, “European Tour”, “Asian Tour”, etc...
  3. Better yet, have the “Coors Tour”, “Bud Tour”, “Jack Daniels Tour”, etc...
  4. Schedule tournaments that will be part of the tour.
  5. Have format be the same at every stop.
  6. Schedule marquee events at the middle and end of the season that will bring in the best players from different tours.

Format:
The format is similar to what is now being used for golf. Similar to the holes in a golf course, you would set up a pool room so that players would move to successive tables once they had posted a score on a particular table.

1.    On Friday night each player is to play nine games (much like nine holes in golf) of Ultimate Pocket Billiards – Stroke Play. For each game the player records his highest inning score. To further strengthen the similarities to holes in golf these games may be referred to as tables. Therefore you would record your score for play on "table 1, table 2, table 3, etc..." This format will benefit the best player in that it rewards consistency.
2.    Add the highest scores of each of the nine games (tables) to establish a total for a “round”, again similar to golf.
3.    Establish criteria to limit number of players that will play the weekend (i.e. top 36 players).
4.    Play another round of nine games (tables) on Saturday and again on Sunday.
5.    Set up game room so that players with the highest scores start playing last. (similar to tee times in golf).

The audience will be able to follow their favorite player as he/she progresses through the round, compare overall position to the rest of the field and still catch a high scoring inning from any of the players whenever it occurs.

Scoring:
1.    Keep a running total of the points earned in each game (table) as each round progresses.
2.    Highest score at the end of three rounds, 27 games (tables), wins.
3.    Typical scores for a match at each event will range from 500 points to 1000 points. It will be interesting to compare final scores to see what constitutes a threshold score for a round or a match, such as a “59” or “259” in golf.

I have made numerous references to the game of golf in this article. As a matter of fact I think a perfect slogan for Ultimate Pocket Billiards is "GOLF PLAYED INDOORS".

I think the two games are very similar in that the goal of every recreational player, as well as the professionals, is to be able to judge your performance at the end of play to a previously established standard. In other words, the enjoyment you get as an individual is based on your level of play for that session (whether that means having a 40 point inning for a professional or a 20 point inning for the average player).

With Ultimate Pocket Billiards you can go to your local pool hall and challenge yourself at whatever level you happen to play and monitor your improvement over time. The only other pocket billiards game that affords this endless possibility for improvement is straight pool. One of the reasons that straight pool is not more popular with top players or a TV audience is that it gets boring to shoot or watch easy shots being pocketed. By comparison, Ultimate Pocket Billiards provides immediate feedback and a yardstick that can be used to see how good you really are compared to the top players in the world. Just as in golf there is a great disparity between the pros and the average player, I think there will be a great disparity in Ultimate Pocket Billiards where the pros will likely be shooting innings in the 30s on a regular basis and the average player will be happy to be in the 20s.

Ultimate Pocket Billiards will put an end to the illusion that many players have that since they can routinely run out an 8-ball or 9-ball table, they are just as good as Efren Reyes.

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