Tuesday, 25 November 2014

W.P.A Lifts Sanctions on "Womens International Pool Championships"

By: Markus Noé

Azbillards released a bombshell article last week by Jerry Forsyth siting the World Pool Associations anger with Dragon Promotions. The issue was that they were promoting the upcoming "Women's International Pool Championship" as a continuation of the former World 10 ball Championship held in the Philippines. As I received the same promotional package as everyone else I can say that W.P.A had a legitimate concern here. The result was the W.P.A stated that anyone attending this tournament will be stripped of all their ranking points and be forced to qualify for each event in 2015.

To begin it is important to outline that the W.P.A is the governing body for pool, meaning they are the only ones who can sanction a World Championship.  This sanctioning is not given out lightly and it shouldn't be because a World Championship should be held to a high standard. The main stipulation is having an adequate prize fund which Dragon Promotions was unable to obtain to gain the sanctioning. The W.P.A outlines their policy on this subject, for those interested, on their website.

For Ian Anderson President of the W.P.A, as he expressed in his American Billiard Radio Interview
it is not fair that other World Championships are held to a higher standard. For example the World Men's 9 ball this year paid out $30,000 for first place with a prize pool of over $200,000. The Women's World 9 Ball Championships has a prize fund of $150,000 with no entry fee required.

       Here is what Dragon Promotions wanted to call a World Championship:

  •  Total advertised Prize Fund of $44,000
  •  Entry fee of $540, meaning most qualifiers were only able to send 1 player
  •  $14,000 First Prize slightly less then half of other World Championships
  •  Also it was not clear whether or not it was a guaranteed prize fund or was it dependent on a full field.

To add to the frustration for Anderson is that he has been in conversations for months with Dragon Promotions. He even strongly suggested them changing their name to an American Championships of sorts. However it was made clear in the follow up interview the next day with Dragon Promotions representative Cindy Lee, they were hell bent on advertising this as a World Championship. She might have been aloof about it, but it was made crystal clear when she constantly repeated the marketing advantages of calling it a World Championship.

In all fairness the W.P.A could and should be criticized, however in this particular circumstance they are not at fault. Dragon Promotions had every opportunity to avoid the drama of last week, however they continued to snub the W.P.A. To me the real issue is obvious, Dragon Promotions does not respect the W.P.A and feel they do not have to obey their rules.

An example of this was during the interview with Cindy Lee, Mike Howerton made it clear that the W.P.A was extending yet another olive branch. Anderson was willing to change his previous ruling as long as Dragon Promotions revamped their promotion of this tournament.  Howerton outlined this and made it painfully obvious the solution. And when  asked if they were willing to submit to the W.P.A for the sake of their own event Lee arrogantly replied,"anything could happen"

To me this demonstrates the very low regard they hold the W.P.A. Furthermore it took them until yesterday to have a public announcement stating that have met the requirements and now the sanctioning against them will be lifted. Considering that they were on the defensive with zero bargaining leverage and with players needing to make decisions on whether or not they participate, this was handled with little consideration.

Let's not forget Dragon Promotions is not a non-profit, and this is not a charity event they are hosting. They wanted to falsely promote a World Championship not unlike what they do with the World 14.1, and make a bigger profit while showing disregard to the integrity of what a World Championship is.

For a company with a public imagine who is dependent on the support of the players it would have been wiser to not blame the W.P.A. Rather to take responsibility for what they did and apologize for it and move on. However their choice was to promote a watered down World Championship for their own personal gain and defend this right up until the W.P.A had to make a ruling. Simply put, if you want the prestige of hosting a World Championship - meet the requirements.


Monday, 17 November 2014

World 10 Ball Qualifier of Sorts Held in Laval

By: Markus Noé

Once again, as has often been the case since the debut of the Billard Feminin tour, attention has been diverted from its players to its promoter. Edwidge Cavanna, player/director of the Billard Feminin tour which is a WPBA sanctioned tour, held a qualifier for Dragon Promotions upcoming Women's International Pool Championship on November 15.

Cavanna's own tour has been riddled with controversy since its inception because of her inability to work with others. At the inaugural tournament at Le Skratch Brossard I witnessed one of these "episodes" which as become a norm. It was with the owner of Billiard Québec Guy Simard, who came in support and to set up a free live stream.

There was a point in the tournament where Simard and Cavanna began to have words. What I understood from the discussion as my french is not great, is that Cavanna was attempting to dictate to Simard who would be on his stream, in a hostile manner. Simard who was obviously insulted, packed up immediately after the completion of the next match and left.

Cavanna's reaction to this was to denounce the entire Billard Québec production publicly on Facebook.  The main complaint from Cavanna was with the commentating on the stream as she found some if it insulting. However with this being an amateur event, some of the players barely play at a C level making some of the matches very difficult to commentate. Regardless of this the bridge was burned and Cavanna instantly lost one of the most valuable resources in the Québec pool scene when it comes to promoting and streaming events.

Since then she has had a personal conflict with Hanna Kwon, the winner of the of the first two tournaments as well as several arguments with players and pool room owners. Kwon was the run away points leader on this tour which meant she was essentially denied a chance to compete for a pro tour card which this tour offers to its points leader. She was banned, along with anyone who argued her point or had any kind of disagreement with Cavanna. When asked for a comment Cavanna wished not to many one and only sited the tours code of conduct which was only made available shortly before the ban was handed down.

Last week, days before the qualifier was to be held, it was announced that anyone who was "not in good standing" with the Billiard Feminin tour was ineligible to play. This had me scratching my head in amazement as surely an amateur tour which averages 12 players an event is not comparable and should have no impact on a World Qualifier. It was this thinking that got me to send an email to Dragon Promotions detailing many of the same issues I have spoken about here, along with the following question:

"Does Dragon Promotion give full licence to the directors of their Qualifiers to openly pick and choose who can play these events? Even if the reason may be strictly personal and perhaps petty? "

After a few days I received an email from Dragon Promotions which completely neglected my previous email. Instead they chose to simply send me their promo packages of upcoming qualifiers with no reference to the issues I had brought up. Despite this I posted the press releases on our website and waited for the completion of the qualifier to respond.

In the end 8 people came to Billard des Pros to partake in the qualifier, which took place in a round robin format. Meaning everyone would play one another and the player with the most games won would win their spot at the World International Pool Championships. This event of course was not completed without instance, as in one match involving Cathy Verret a very controversial call was made by Cavanna.

It was made clear before this event that if the 10 ball is obviously going to be made in a particular pocket, calling it was unnecessary. In this particular case it has been made aware to me that the ball was well within a foot of the pocket meaning no bank shot or other option was available. Thus Verret casually went up and potted the 10 ball, immediately after her opponent asked her if she called that pocket. Cavanna's ruling, despite what was previously discussed, was that she had to call the pocket regardless and that it was her opponents shot with ball in hand on the game ball.

In frustration Verret reached into the pocket to concede the game, when she did so she was then informed that this action was forbidden and cost her an additional game. In the end she finished two racks behind the leader Natalie Chabot who won the qualifier. Taking nothing away from Chabot, who is one of the most dedicated and respectful players I have seen, Verret feels robbed and rightfully so.

I felt that it was not to much to ask that Dragon Promotions dictate to Cavanna that she has no right to ban anyone interested in participating based on personal issues, or "standing" on her tour. Their lack of interest into this issue says a few things to me. That they were unwilling to go out on a limb as they have no previous background information on Cavanna or the ongoings of her tour. It also tells me that perhaps there was a fear that if approached her, maybe she would choose not to hold a qualifier at all; not only losing one player but the money as well.

Luckily for Hanna Kwon and others who would not have been allowed to compete there is one more qualifier that has been added. This will be in Toronto at "Shooters" a six hour drive for those who were not allowed to participate from Montreal.

In conclusion even though this World International Pool Championships is not a World Pool Association (WPA) sanctioned event, Dragon promotions is promoting this as a World Championship in the same way they promote the 14.1 World Tournament. I have been a fan of theirs because as more and more events are being taken away on the international level, they are attempting to replace them. However if they want the recognition for hosting world class events there needs to be policy in place for these types of situations. Because as always, it is these types of incidents which get the discussion going on the subject that "pool is dead." When it is clearly not as tens of millions of people play throughout the world. It has been my opinion for sometime now that pool is far from dead, however its continued and prolonged mismanagement cripples its image and jades the players, resulting in poor participation.

*1 Nathalie Chabot 40

*2 Cathy Verret 38

*3 Corrine Johnson 36

*4 Rita Fortin 34

*5 Venus Belanger 32

*6 Christiane Boulay 30

*7 Marie-France Blanchette 25

*8 Stephanie Thompson 14

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Thoughts on the Canadian Women Tour and Results

By: Markus Noé

Le Spot Billiards & Lounge in Scarborough, Ontario, on October 18th played host the the second stop of the newly formed Canadian Women Tour. This tour takes place in the G.T.A (Greater Toronto Area) and is one of only two known Women's tours in the country.

Unfortunately both tours have decided to not let pro's play and cater solely to amateurs. I have always found this type of thinking counter-intuitive especially for a tour that is looking for sponsorship in order to have added money. Names like Naomi Williams and Brittany Bryant, who are from the G.T.A and are well known commodities in the Canadian pool scene, would surely bring interest to the stream which the C.W.T already has in place. From there the pool halls who are gracious enough to host these events can get the exposure they deserve as well as the players who participate.

To many the state of the game is so fragile that there is a belief that by having high caliber players in the field, would result in many amateurs or beginner players to drop out. My knee jerk reaction to this has always been to let them drop out because this not big picture thinking. In reality excluding 4-5 top players in any tournament does nothing but guarantee that the next group of 4-5 top players will dominate. In the case of the of C.W.T you can refer to the most recent top five on their latest tour stop, as there is a talent gap between them and the rest of the field. This will mostly likely result in these top 5 dominating these positions in rotating order the rest of the season.

Another angle to look at is players like Hanna Kwon, Marina Linguerri and Kayla Rolonson are top young Canadian talent. I cannot speak to the others because I am not as familiar with them. Sticking with the three mentioned, I like many am aware of their talent and their goals to be playing at a professional level. In the current state of this tour, in a few short years as they begin to realize their own goals they too will have nowhere to play. This is a major flaw not just for the C.W.T but for pool in Canada, as currently there is nothing to strive for as a competitive female player.

If the organizers of this tour want to solely cater towards amateurs and league players who play only for fun,  then perhaps renaming it something other than the Canadian Women's Tour would be appropriate. Regardless of how this tour progresses Cue Sport Nation will be happy to help promote this tour for free and any tour, as well as the pool halls in which they are played to our vastly expanding audience.

1st place Marina Linguerri, Ottawa, ON $200 + trophy

2nd place Kayla Jones, London, ON $100 + trophy

3rd place Maureen Van de Ven, London, ON $40

4th place Kayla Rolonson, London, ON

5th/6th place Hanna Kwon, Etobicoke, ON
Sylvia Hadaway, Guelph, ON

7th/8th place Marcie Dunbar, Scarborough, ON
Suzanne Peters, Stoney Creek, ON

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Amid Complaints Racking Rules Changed at U.S Open

By: Erik Hjorleifson 

Earlier this week the organizers of the upcoming U.S. Open 9 ball tournament announced that they will be changing the racking rules from the the traditional racking the 1 on the spot to racking the 9 on the spot. Fundamentally I think this is a positive change but I would like to scrutinize the fact that this change was announced less than 1 week before the start of the tournament. Of course in life and particularly in billiards, nothing is perfect and at least this is a step in the right direction.

Naturally with the announcement of the rule change the players including myself have hit the practice tables to see what kind of effective break they can use. These particular breaking stipulations have only been used in one tournament in the past which is the Mosconi Cup. 

The problem that has arisen when breaking from the box, particularly a smaller break box as is stipulated in this years U.S. Open, Is that the 9 ball receives way more action than normal. This is because the back ball in the rack is being driven to the back rail and back into the rack. This causes the nine to track towards the top pockets and sometimes the side pockets. This has been a proven fact and was shown in the 2013 Mosconi Cup, below is what Jayson Shaw had to say on facebook a few days ago.

 "Well last 2 nights I've been playing cheap sets against Jeremy Sossie. Good practice coming up to the us open just wanted to post a few things about the rules at the us open 9 ball championships so here goes.
They have changed the rules to 9 on the spot this year and I think it's a great idea to stop people cheating the rack and now trying make it a real game, so why should the 9ball count on the break?
I have played 6 sets in 2 days race to 11 and have made 9ball in the corners where you rack and also where you break from 4 or 5 times a set. Personally I think it's a joke the 9 counts on the break. Why fix one rule and still play rack your own but the 9 counts. And every set I was making the 9 ball it was consistent there was about 10 people watching each night."

Shaw's post has over 100 comments and many top players gave their opinions. The controversy has been brought forward because another stipulation is that 9 ball counts in all pockets except for the bottom two. As you can see in the post, Shaw claims that he is making multiple 9 balls each set he has played. Even though he knows this is a big edge for him he feels it is unfair and would not want to be on the receiving end of 9 ball break, or be the one to do it himself because it is not a skilled way to victory. 

The overwhelming response is that people believe the 9 should not count on the break. Eventually one of the tournament directors commented and said that the rules would not be changed. Their reasoning was that the 9 ball break is exciting for fans and needs to remain an aspect of the game. My response to that is that so are hole in ones in golf but they are so rare that they generally do not affect the overall outcome. If what Shaw is saying is correct, the frequency of the [9 ball hole in one] is way too frequent to be ignored.

Personally I have practiced the break for about 5 hours so far leading up to the tournament. I have tried a lot of different breaks, including a cut break in an attempt to make the 1 in the side. I have noticed that it is very hard to make the 1 in the side when breaking from the box as opposed to being able to break from anywhere. I think the goal of moving the 9 to the spot is to stop the wing from going in and that is accomplished. 

In my opinion though, players should still be allowed to break from anywhere and in doing so they will go to the side rail and try to make the 1 in the side. This break is relative to speed and exact angle of contact rather than making the wing ball, which is all relative to the way the balls are racked and takes a lot less skill in execution.

Appleton, Shaw and Immonen in fact all suggested that players should be able to break from anywhere and that magic racks are used. I also noticed how much harder it is to rack the balls when the 9 is on the spot. The end result of all of this is that I think you will be seeing a lot of breaks that are struck exactly how a player wants but they won't make a ball, which is a negative consequence of the new breaking rules.

I would like to add that some people may perceive that all of this talk has the undertones of whining or complaining. In reality it is only players voicing their honest opinion about what they think the fairest solution is to the break requirements in 9 ball, which has seen great evolution in the last 5 years. Finally, I would like to remind everyone that there are still lots of balls to be pocketed after the break and we are all looking forward to a great week of pool starting on the 13th of October. I will be playing this year as I usually do; stay and check in daily for updates. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Mika Immonen Raises Racking Issues for the Upcoming U.S Open

By: Erik Hjorleifson

Mika Immonen recently voiced his opinion about the racking rules at this years US Open stating that the 9 ball should be moved to the spot, taking away the wing ball being pocketed in the corner pocket. Also adding that without manipulating the rack, the wing ball can't be made when breaking square from the box. Here is the quote from Immonen for those who you have not seen it on Facebook.

"At the US Open, the 9 ball should be racked on the spot. Otherwise it's a bunch of cheaters lining up the wing ball. What a joke.

For example, if it was a solid rack with with the 1-ball on the spot, there is no way the wing ball would go in with a head-on break even from the corner of the "box". Yet these guys blatantly line it up and carry on as it took some real talent.

That's not the way I won my us opens.

Just tired of the mockery."

My initial response to this post is that yes I agree, the 9 ball should be moved to the spot in the US Open tournament and should be a consideration for all major 9 ball events. The US Open has been played with the 9 ball on the spot before at least once around the year 2004 and I believe there was also a few other years around that time when the 1 ball was on the spot.

I do agree with Immonen's statement that the balls have to be racked a certain way for the wing ball to go in when hitting the head ball square from the box. He brought this point up in his comments because that's what Shane Van Boening has been doing for the last two years in most of his matches along his way to victory.

When Immonen had his victories he was using a cut break which simulates breaking from the side rail which is the best angle to make the wing ball from. Immonen infers that what he was doing was in some way better than what Van Boening and a few other players have been doing as of late and I think that's going a little too far. But this is all a matter of opinion and I concede there are counter arguments to all discussions involving the rack.

Here are some of my other opinions about fair solutions involving the 9 ball rack:

The biggest thing that people notice about the nine ball rack with the 1 ball on the spot is that if the balls are racked a certain way the wing ball will always go in the corner. The wing ball is so consistent that there is not much skill in how you hit the rack, when the players are forced to break from the box there is a little more skill but not much.

However with the 9 ball on the spot, the wing ball will not go directly in the corner anymore and the players are forced to try to make the 1 ball in the side.  The 1 ball being pocketed in the side is relative to speed and exact angle of contact on the one, now the break becomes a skill shot again much like 10 ball. I don't think it would make it that much easier if you used a magic rack in this case it would just give a consistent fair rack to both players.

Currently the US Open is a rack your own format with the 1 on the spot. As it stands racking the balls is one of the most important skills leading up to this tournament, something that I think is fundamentally wrong when playing the game in a professional setting.  I agree that it could be included as a skill set in pool but the value of it is so large and the fact that you're not even using your cue to do it tells me that the format has to be changed to a tapped ball or magic rack method of racking.

In fact all W.P.A. (World Pool Association) events are played with a magic rack, exluding the U.S. Open and I would challenge the organizers to ask themselves why.  I also challenge the WPA to ask themselves why they would allow inconsistencies in the rules among tournaments that they promote.

In the end, and coming back to what Immonen said, I think Match-Room Sport is ahead of the curve on this one as they are with most everything else in the industry, in choosing to rack the 9 ball on the spot. This seems to be the only way proven to make the break in a 9 ball a skill shot, not a racking contest or a simple unskilled smashing of the balls.

What The World Cup Means to Me and What Pool Can Take From It

By: Markus Noé

This past Sunday at 3 pm the world came to a crashing halt for me as the Germany vs. Argentina World Cup Final was set to begin. This game was of particular interest to me for many reasons. My story begins in 1966  as my then 18 year old father, with his entire family, immigrated to Canada from Germany. In the mid 20th century Canada really was the "new world."

Even in the 60's Germany was nowhere near where it is today as a world leader in environment, health, economic and human rights issues. The rebuild in Germany after WWII was painfully slow and at the time there were whole city blocks of bombed out buildings yet to be demolished and cleaned up. In 1953 my father, only 6 years old, was playing in one of these building with a large group of friends when it collapsed. Fortunately for the rest, he was the only one hurt as a support beam came crashing in on him, taking his leg off at the hip. 

With a past such as this, it very clear to me why my family sought out a fresh start here in the very neutral and beautiful nation of Canada. It took a few years but the entire family ended up thriving; doing very well personally and financially. However, even with all these positive things that happened here for them, their German roots held strong. They were passed down to me the same way they where passed down to the entire Noé clan, through soccer. All of us played at a high level, and whenever a Euro Cup or a World Cup would commence we collectively bleed black, red and yellow.  

Some of my earliest and fondest memories are gathering with my family to sweat these games out. Living and dying with each missed or successful opportunity. The most passionate and the loudest fan was always my Opa (Grandfather), Eugene Noé. He was a WWII veteran and always very sensitive of the image he thought he had being a German who fought in this war. With his broken English he would tell anyone who would listen that he was just a regular soldier and  not a part of Hitler's genocidal subculture.

It is this sensitivity that would cause him to yell out "deutsch-hasser" (German hater) on every questionable call that would occur in the game. This would be to the comic relief of my cousins and I who would often poke a loving jab at Opa, getting an immediate rise out of him. When I gathered with my German relatives to watch these games it not only instilled the importance of the success of the national team, but more importantly instilled a sense of family and togetherness that has stayed with me to this day. With my father having me late in life, my cousins and most of my family are considerably older then me. However soccer and the German national team bridged this gap for us and gave us all something of common interest to bond on. 

 I am going to be 28 next month a lot of these memories have come nearly two decades ago. Our collective passion has made these memories remain prevalent. Like any family we have our dysfunctions, however despite distance or disagreement the unity lives on knowing we are all glued to a the T.V at kick-off time whenever Germany plays. With Germany winning their fourth World Cup and first as a unified nation, the emotions that ran through me Sunday got me thinking about pool. 

For the most part all cue-sports take place in an individual format, which is fine and should not  be disregarded. However there are very few things for cue-sport fans to cheer about for national pride. There is the World Scotch Doubles and World Team Champions which are successful but take place mostly overseas and Canada and many other nations are not always able to participate. I always thought extending on the Mosconi Cup would be the best idea. 

They are already very successful and are doing something that Soccer has done for generations, which is transcend the game itself. Like Soccer, the Mosconi Cup has fans who only watch their sport during major international events where players from their country or continent are in the mix for a major title. It is this type of nationalist pride that helps transcend all sports and is grossly lacking in cue-sports. Pool has been out of the mainstream for so long I believe it needs a World Cup type of event in order to rebound. In our current state, the game will not thrive unless it transcends itself like other major sports have and gain the awareness of others besides the die hard billiard junkies like myself. Look what is has done for sports like soccer and hockey. 

At present time countries like Canada, Taiwan, Philippines, China and many more could easily be added to a new Mosconi Cup format. In the future I hope something like this becomes a possibility, especially for the Asian countries where pool is widely considered a national sport. By pool or any cue-sport having more international team events it should encourage the governments of countries such as Canada and the U.S to properly finance our game. 

The positive side of more international team events and government funding, as it would leave shady promoters and other benefactors who keep most of the money for themselves and never do anything to grow the game right out of the picture. Which then will then create the environment for our sport to gain legitimacy and give countries who don't play other  major "world sports" a chance to experience the same nurturing feelings that the German national team has given me. 

Why Will Canada Not be at The World Team Championships ?

Jason Klatt and Erik Hjorleifson  Photo by Markus Hofstaeter
By: Markus Noé

Recently, as I have been trolling the Billiard related forums and Facebook pages as I frequently do, I have noticed a recurring theme. Canadian pool junkies are starting to ask themselves and their counterparts why Canada will have no representation in China at the upcoming World Team Championships (WTC) 28 JUL - 3 AUG 2014.

By looking at the surface of the issue, it can be simply explained as a lack of funding. However it is important to dig a little deeper so that the average cue-sport enthusiast understands the current state of our beloved sport in Canada. As well as get a perspective of the hurdles Canadian Pros have to deal with as they pursue their professional dreams, as any top athlete would.

First we will look at the prize fund for this upcoming W.T.C. The payouts will be as follows per player: 1-$16000, 2-$8000, 3/4th $4000. This is a good payout compared to other tournaments around the world, however this tournament is in China. Without proper funding in place the players are forced to use private backers, which is fine however they want a sizable return on their money, making this tournament basically not worth it financially speaking after travel expenses. That being said 4 players did agree to go play and the majority of the team secured the funding, all except one player. The missing expense money for this player would have been in the neighborhood of $1500.

With the confirmation date closing in, the Canadian Billiardand Snooker Association (CBSA) was approached to bridge the gap in funding. Unfortunately for Team Canada, they were told that the $1500 needed was unavailable at the present time. Despite there being a 2 month delay from the confirmation date and the payment date, they were still told that this year would not be possible.  The last time Team Canada was able to participate in the W.T.C was 2011, where they lost in the quarter-finals.

In funding terms and not participation, Billiards is a minority sport. It is the responsibility of organizations, like the one I am forming, to change this. Change comes through information which leads to action. With this in mind, when the new website is up and viable, I will be looking for new and innovative ways of raising the funds necessary so Canada can be represented internationally in the future.

Canadian Amateur Championships

On a more positive note the CBSA has recently held their Amateur Canadian Championships at Fairville Shooters in New Brunswick. Congratulations to all the winners for their hard fought victories. The names will be posted below.

The CBSA was also able to raise $900 by raffling off an OB cue, as well as renew and expand their friends of the CBSA subscription package which costs $20 annually. More information on the mandate of the “friends of the CBSA” can be found by clicking here.

Mike Henderson Amateur- Men’s 9 Ball Champion (NB)
Theresa Hunter- Amateur Women’s 9 and 8 Ball Champion (NB)
Stuart MacTaggart- Junior 9 Ball Champion (ON)

Adrian Fragoso- Men’s Amateur 8 Ball Champion (ON)

Shane Van Boening Eyeing First World Title

By: Markus Noé

For nearly a decade now, Shane Van Boening has been the top player in the U.S. Since winning his first U.S Open in 2007, he has added two more to his resume along with countless other major tournament wins. These include multiple Master of The Table winner at Derby City, as well as a Steve Mizerak and a Turning Stone Classic Champion.

With his impressive resume, talks of him being one of the best players in the world, if not the best, have swirled around him for sometime. However to a lot of die hard pool fans, especially ones outside the U.S, SVB is not even in the top 5 for discussion. This harsh criticism stems from one glaring exclusion on his resume, which is a major win overseas.

In his defense SVB has not traveled overseas a great deal outside of his Mosconi Cup duties. As well most international events are 9 ball and when you look overall at his record a great deal of his wins have been 10 ball.  When SVB does travel he does not look like the same unbeatable player. Often he is visibly uncomfortable and out of sync, but when he plays in the States against comparable competition he wins all the time. That is why year after year he is the top earner on the Azbilliards money list.

In all sports once you have been declared "the best" or a "prodigy" there are certain expectations that come with those labels, and most of them unfair. The best example I can think of is the flack Lebron James received for his early comparison to Michael Jordan. Lebron was taunted for years about not being anywhere close to what M.J was, that is until he won his first title and solidified who he was, the best player in the game. Then almost overnight all the criticism he faced about being compared to the greatest of all time vanished.
SVB playing Lin in final 64
Now SVB, who has seemingly flown quietly under the radar in this tournament, has his chance just like Lebron to permanently silence his critics. He has been playing well, as he plowed through the group stage winning 9-4 against Hamzaa M. Saeed Ali (ERI) then 9-5 against Daniele Corrier (ITA). Today he had a close call in his final 64 match against Change Jung Lin (TPE) 11-9. It was 9-6 for SVB when he broke a beautiful rack like he so often does and began to pick off the balls. However an uncharacteristic mistake on the 4 ball let Lin back into the match. It was 9-9 then at 10-9 for SVB when he got out of shape on the 5 ball with only the 7 ball and the 9 ball left. He played a very good hook down table forcing Lin to jump. Lin jumped to the far side of the 5 ball to try and cut it into the corner however he hit it too thin, which caused him to carom off the 5 ball and scratch in the corner. Disgusted with his miscalculation Lin conceded the rack from there, putting SVB through to the final 32.

In this single elimination format Shane Van Boening is now only a few more well played matches away from his first World Championship final. I for one am rooting for him for a several reasons. He is a pleasure to watch and I believe one of the best in the world, and I think he deserves it. I also believe a North American World Champion would bring a much needed boost here. However all that being said if he draws into the last Canadian standing, Jason Klatt, all bets are off. Go Canada!

Is Pocket Billiards Dead in Canada?

By: Markus Noé

Over the past week and half as the Canadian Championships have been playing out, the conversation that pool is dead in Canada has been happening in local pool rooms and forums around the country. As  negative as this mindset might seem it is understandable when one notices that 20 players played the Mens 8 ball, then 21 and 19 in the Mens 9 and 10 ball. Unfortunately the Women's  division was an even sadder affair with 6 players in the 9 ball and 7 in the 10 ball.

Take nothing Away from Brittany Bryant, John Morra, Jason Klatt  or Erik Hjorleifson who are our Canadian Champions. These are all well known names in Canada and would be in the thick of any championships regardless how many show up. Also having to beat out players like former World Champion Alex Pagulayan then Paul Potier, Mario Morra, Andy Aupin to win these titles you cant say their titles were not earned. However the issue is not quality it is quantity. How is it possible that these tournaments had such a low turn out?

In my opinion it all starts with the Canadian Billiard and Snooker Association (CBSA) webpage. For fans and players outside of Toronto it is our sole way of being informed about the Canadian Championships. Within seconds of being on their site I found myself frustrated, as it is about as user friendly as a website from the mid 90's. However in the 90's people understood the purpose of a website was to get information out to the masses, something the CBSA site does not do well. It boggled my mind that I could not find out player registration fee's on this site for any division including the Amateurs, which I just inquired about for myself. All that is available is the venue and the dates of each event. Not to have the entry fee's and registration fee's readily available on their website creates  an unnecessary barrier. Furthermore the only reason I was able to get in contact with someone from the CBSA was through my friend Tino Barbieri who had the contact info I should have been able to get from their website. However when I went to click on the Email option on their website nothing happened.

After getting the information I needed I went back to spend more time on the site, admittedly just to critique it. Then I came across a section I didn't notice the first time, dubbed "Friends of the CBSA." After clicking on this option I quickly realized why there was so little information on their actual website. That is because they would like you to pay an annual fee of $20 to have all this information emailed directly to you via newsletters. Asking people to pay for this information is completely counter-intuitive as the whole purpose of an organization such as is this one is to get the word out too as many as possible. I am sure many people left that site with the same bad taste that I had in my mouth as this looks like nothing more than a cheap money grab.

We live in the age of social media, so it is not unfair to say it is unacceptable that the CBSA has no Facebook or Twitter presence. These are two of the most valuable tools today in any kind of marketing. It is free or relatively cheap to participate in and nearly everyone on this planet, pool players included, are associated to one or both of these social media platforms. But when the CBSA wants us to pay for their information updates it essentially nullifies those two valuable resources.

The next issue is that these championships took over a week to play. This means players who wanted to participate from outside the GTA needed to take a significant amount of time off work, then cough up the travel and food expenses for 10 days on top of the $600 plus  in entry fees, if one wanted to play all three events. As everyone knows paydays of $10,000 at the Canadians is a thing of the past. However the organizers expect players from the west and east coasts to absorb thousands of dollars in expenses to come to Toronto to barely break even if they win. Also I never heard of the CBSA holding any qualifiers to help players with the cost and to gain exposure. The best way to promote the Canadians is have the best shooters from each region in the field. Not only to boost participation and money in the actual event but to get people watching and interested in the Canadians again. Everybody loves a feel good story and what better than a local shooter taking on some of the best in the nation.

Then there was the issue with the live stream. Which was free but it seemed like every time we were about to be treated with a Klatt/Morra match-up the stream would go offline. Then throughout the few minutes that it would be on at a time it was choppy and basically not watchable. Now with people like Guy Simard from Billard Quebec or Daniel Robichaud from Pool Stream TV who have the experience and capability to put on great streams just hours down the road, why were they not approached to be there to ensure a quality stream?

There is a reality in pool, and that is that it is not at the height it once was. It's not "cool" like it was when The Hustler and the Color of Money was popular. So the big time sponsorship and added money is hard to come by, but by no means impossible. Perhaps the people at the CBSA need to take a lesson from the promoters in Quebec who are not only finding the money but actually growing the game. For instance, the upcoming Richler Cup hosted by Snooker Canada boast a stellar field and $20,000 added. Then there is Le Classique de Billiard Appalaches that takes place in Tetford Mines each year which has $62,000 prize pool throughout all their divisions.

 In conclusion it is my opinion that pocket billiards is not dead in Canada despite recent perception, it is just not being promoted and managed adequately. Die hard pool players and fans like myself, which there are many of, will show up and support events when they are worth supporting, and for the time being for players outside of the GTA it isn't. The issues I have brought forth are not new as these Championships have been on the decline for years now. After last year when Jared Amyot brought these concerns to the World Pool Association, this year was supposed to be different. Thus perhaps it is time for the people at CBSA either to gracefully step aside and let others take over, or reach out to their Canadian colleagues and put on a Championship we can all be proud of.

Erik Hjorleifson receiving his 10 ball trophy and cash

The Man With The Plan: Kevin Trudeau Sentenced to 10 Years

By: Markus Noé

There was a time in the not too distant past, when many believed the savior of pool had arrived. He was a smooth talking T.V pitchman named Kevin Trudeau who was seemingly stacked with cash from his success with "The Weight Lose Cure 'They' Don't Want You To Know About" and promised record breaking pay outs with his newly created International Pool Tour (IPT). He formed a friendship with the legendary Mike Sigel, who played a challenge match against Loree Jon Jones in the first ever IPT event. Sigel, the winner, received $150,000 while Jones received $75,000. This of course got everyone talking as these two payouts were higher than any top finish in any of the major tournaments at the time and would still be true today.

Once his legitimacy was secured among the professionals they became his first supporters. As they began to buy up all sorts of IPT products such as racks, shirts and so on to help get the tour off the ground, our own Gerry "The Ghost" Watson even bought a Diamond table to put in his apartment at the time, which was the same table used on the tour, so he could practice. Some of these tables are worth $6,000 and more which is a major investment, however with promised payouts of $8 million in the first year, followed by $18 million and $28 million the following two years, Watson and many others were investing in themselves for a chance at a payday.

Trudeau also knew exactly what to say to pull on the heartstrings of the people in the pool community. In past interviews he tells the tales of a nostalgic man who once worked in a bowling alley which had a few tables and how he enjoyed the action matches between the local hustlers. Then he goes on to talk about how he befriends one of his idols Mike Sigel and gets to witness first hand what struggles the pro's are going through and how he wants to bring pool to the forefront where it belongs. He was a real snake oil salesman when you look back at all Trudeau promised and how he falsely presented himself. In reality his promotion of the IPT tour was just another way to promote his weight loss book as the majority of commercial ads was his infomercial. I suppose it was kind of a ponzi scheme the idea being he would make even more millions with the new platform he had for selling his product and that would be able to cover the large pay outs he promised.

However this was not to be, because shortly after the inception of  the IPT  Trudeau was getting in trouble for what the Federal Courts called "dubious sales tactics" and was ordered to pay a $37 Million dollar fine. He treated the Feds the same way he treated the professional pool players, with a very callus and unapologetic attitude refusing payment which is the reason why he was sentenced to 10 years in jail yesterday. With Trudeau getting in trouble with the law at the time his funds quickly dried up and payments for the players came in at 11% of what they earned one month at a time. This only lasted a few months until no payments came at all. Trudeau's response to the players who were counting on this money that they were never going to get was, "Even if we stopped paying the players right now, they'd make more money then they ever have before." Trudeau, of course, was referring to the poverty line payouts of before which is true but hardly a classy way to handle the issue, and it gives us a glimpse of who he really is.

The Trudeau era was overall an unfortunate one for pool. I started playing 9 ball in 2007 while I was in college and it was when I really began being a die hard fan, and I remember all the damage the failure of the IPT caused the game. It jaded fans, promoters and players to such an extent that it has almost became faux pas to mention the creation of a world tour again which is what the game really needs. Trudeau's intentions were not pure and he did not have the best interest of the game or the players at heart, however his big picture thinking and his confidence is something promoters are lacking today. We need more risk takers as promoters because what Trudeau was trying to do is possible. If you go back and look at the ratings for the televised IPT events they were fantastic, he generated lots of hype and he had a great platform to build off, if it was managed properly.

What we need to remember is pool itself did not fail to break into the mainstream, it had the support and interest of many, however it was run by a crook. There has been so many "failures" when it comes to the promotion of pool that promoters think it cannot be done. However it can, its just needs a little unity between the players and the promoters, standardized rules and something worth playing for. The buzz that the IPT caused when it was first announced is proof of this. Players started working out so they could handle the grueling schedule practicing 8-10 hours a day to get into form, which benefited the audience because it made the product better. Lets not kid ourselves with the current state of the game outside the the top 20 players in the world they are not travelling all over the place  or practicing nonstop, they are at home giving lesson for next to nothing and many working jobs. Because its not feasible to put that much time and effort for 1 or 2 thousand dollars which is the average payout for a top finish outside one of the majors. Thus the promoters must ban together and figure out a way to have a proper international tour.

Should the IOC Add Pool to the Olympics

By: Markus Noé

Myself like millions of other Canadians this past Sunday woke up in the wee hours of the morning to cheer on our Men's hockey team in the Gold medal game against Sweden. As a patriot you could not keep me away from watching this game even though its a tournament filled with professionals when the the theme of the Olympics is Amateur sport. The combined pay roll for our Gold medal champs is around 150 million, not an amateurish pay grade at all. However like many Canadian who just want to see our best compete against the worlds best I give it a pass. When it comes to hockey in the Olympics there is great hypocrisy as the IOC makes a killing off showcasing the best pro players from around the world for free, while earning T.V revenue and ticket sales. So I would like to begin my argument for allowing professional pool players to participate by outlining this point.

Pool whether it be Billiards, Snooker or any of the rotation games is truly a world sport played by millions of people. To me the same cannot be said for sports such as Curling, Nordic Ski Cross, Ski Jumping or even Hockey for that matter. These are sports that are enjoyed and dominated by a few western countries which is fine, but it is hardly inclusive which is another theme of the Olympics.

In my opinion Curling can draw the closest comparison to the sport of pool. Most of their professionals have other jobs outside of their sport to support themselves because the few major tournaments that are held each year is not enough. Pool players know all about low payouts as the two most popular Major 9 ball tournaments pay under $50,000 each, the U.S Open and the World Championships. However Curling has the coveted Olympic exposure that Pool does not and they are benefiting from it. The youth movement in Curling is the example of this as Curling historically is dubbed as an "old man" sport. That myth was shattered as both the Men's and Women's divisions boast many teams filled with young new talent. I never watch Curling, actually I have no interest at all in it, however during the two gold medal games for the Men and Women I was watching to see how our Canucks did and I am sure there were others similar to me. This might not get me to my nearest curling rink however the exposure is great for their sport and I am sure it inspired many young Canadians to take up the sport as what would happen if Pool was introduced to the Olympics.

In countries such as the Philippines, Japan, China and basically all of Asia boast millions of pool players and fans. They have well  established tours and and championships and in many of these countries Pool is the main sport. However none of these countries have the opportunity to watch their hero's compete for a gold medal in Pool. Not to mention most of these Asian countries are either not included or do not have a great deal of success in either the Summer or Winter Olympics in part I am sure because these popular western sports are not as big in their countries. So again their is an exclusion here.

Furthermore Pool can be a great addition to the Olympics for several reasons. It is a true 1-1 sport with world standardize rules where there is a clear winner or loser. It is not one of these judged sports that comes with controversy such as Ice Skating. Its a sport that everyone in the world has participated in at one point or another in their own life-time. Which means the average person if given the opportunity could become a real fan and admirer because it takes exactly 30 seconds to find out how difficult pool really is. Earl Strickland multiple World and U.S Open winner outlined this in his recent documentary when he said, "the only thing I know harder then learning to play pool is dying."

Pool has all the requirements to be an Olympic sport. Even in its professional state it has an amateur feel as the leading money winner each year hovers around $100, 000 an amount that the lowest ranked golfer makes on the PGA tour in a few tournaments. The players as a whole are not or barely sponsored footing most of the expenses themselves as they travel the world tournament to tournament.

With our sport being so bogged down with promoters just trying to make a quick buck, and little or no promotion we could really benefit from the exposure the Olympics brings. At the very least all these players from around the world who dedicate tens of thousands of dollars and hours into this sport deserve to be recognized at the Olympics level.

Just in Canada I have been around and talked with Erik Hjorleifson, Jason Klatt, John Morra, Alain Martel, Danny Hewitt and seen their pain. These are world class champions who struggle to make ends meet but who continue to grind out a living year after year hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel and the Olympics should be that light. As a Canadian pool fan I dream of the day I get to watch one of these guys compete for my country in the sport I love on the grandest of all stages.