The Pool Ref's Blog
This section of the website is for those of you REALLY into your pool. It will include updates from myself about recent tournaments I have been involved in as both referee and a player as well as occasional thoughts on the general state of the game and other such events.
May 2021 - Champions Cup Preview
The IPA Champions Cup returns on Monday, 24th May in a similar format to previous years. However, unlike previous tournaments, instead of one group of 4 players playing in a week, this year will see the Tournament played to a finish in only 8 weeks, with 6 sessions of pool on live TV each week! The Champions Cup will be played each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 3pm & 10pm on Sporty Stuff TV (Sky 437, FreeSat 250 on online at sportystuff.tv).
Four players will be reduced to two in the 3pm session, with the two winners meeting each other in the group final the same evening at 10pm. With a brutal straight KO format, it's difficult to pick a winner from the incredible depth of quality field in the IPA.
Also for the first time ever, BetFred are offering betting on the IPA starting with outright betting on the Champions Cup (Match Betting / group winner betting will also be available for each day).
The matches will take place in a purpose made TV studio and will be phenomenal - make sure you tune in!
May 2021 - First Event after Lockdown complete!
Well, what a first event that was!
The inaugural IPA Pay-Per-View event, the first Pro Super Series, was an incredible way to kick off the new season. An 8 man, straight KO tournament with long format matches (minimum best of 25 frames) involving top IPA professionals and cue sports legend Jimmy White. Jade Slusarczyk hosted and Jim Wych, the voice of pool, provided the commentary alongside our very own Dan Fairway.
Bridlington Spa was the venue - familiar with many pool players. However, where you would normally see 24+ pool tables, the large arena was the focus of just one table, allowing the players to shine. Every shot was broadcast live from start to finish. The incredible arena allowed the IPA to produce one of the best spectacles ever seen in English pool, with a large walk-on area, music and players being announced with gusto by Scott Ryan (of "The 8 Ball Podcast").
I was genuinely nervous racking the balls for the first frame, which is very unusual but I think was simply due to the length of time since the last event (14 months!). The players however showed no sign of rustiness, and Ben Davies in particular played incredibly consistent pool and came out the worthy winner and took home the £10,000.00 first prize.
Which snooker legends will be invited to play in the next event?.....
March 2021 - Pool on the way back!
Have you missed it? I know I have.
Covid caught us all sleeping and little did I know that when I was refereeing the professional final of the IPA tour in Bournemouth 12 months ago, that would be the last time I wore a pair of gloves or touched a cue for over a year. I'm sure many of you are the same - if you are lucky enough to own your own table at home I'm very jealous!
But as you can see there is now light at the end of the tunnel. The lockdown easing measures are set which means we can all start planning on getting back to normal - the IPA has wasted no time in reorganising a full 5 tour schedule as normal (with the Grand Finals just pushed into the beginning of 2022) which is an incredible achievement in such a short time, and more event dates such as the Pro Super Series featuring Jimmy White will be rescheduled soon. Even better, if you book any hotels for your stays during IPA events before the end of March, the room rate is discounted by up to £56 per tour weekend (depending on room type and number of days you are staying), meaning you could save up to a massive £280 on your costs by booking up as early as possible! All the details are on the IPA website as usual - link below.
I'll see you all soon!!
Aug/Sept 2019 - Huge Update!
So, a big update this time as there's lots to talk about - especially with regards to the IPA. I'm so happy I'm actually able to speak about things now, I was finding it really difficult to keep quiet about the new developments and I nearly spoiled the surprises!
Before all that though, let's go back to the end of August and the Pigeon Pool Promotions Money Match Day in Essex. Legends Sports Bar served up one of the best kept pool tables I've reffed on, they really look after them. Two long money matches (you can view here and here) made for a tiring day for myself, with exceptional performances by Shaun "Bedtime" Storry (great nickname but he hates it!) and Aiden Owens. Aiden in particular played better than I've ever seen anyone play over such a long distance, his opponent didn't stand a chance and I don't think it would have mattered who he was playing. I was asked to use the Shark Rack for the first match and I still have the same issue with it - whilst it undoubtedly provides a rack where all the balls are touching which is great for breaking, it is still my opinion that having a piece of plastic on the playing surface negates years of research into cloth technology, and also throws balls off line if they run into it at a slow speed. If you have a decent ref, you rarely get issues with "bad" racks anyway so it's completely unnecessary. And marking two or three balls just to remove the rack? I just think the rack solves a problem that isn't really there, while causing more issues that should never happen. Give me a decent triangle like a Racker any day. I've watched parts of both matches back and I can't see any differences in splits from using the Shark rack and the RackRight (which I used for the second game).
Anyway, rant over. I also want to give a quick nod to the IPA Premier League fans in Nottingham.I went to referee week 8 and the amount of people that came out to watch pool on a Monday night is incredible. It was easily one of the biggest Premier League audiences, and it made for an amazing night of pool. The crowd were so supportive of the sport in the right way - applauding good shots, getting behind their favourite players - I have no doubt that it will be chosen as a venue for the second league stage in October/November and we'll be back very soon!
On to the big changes then - Tour event 4 (the International Open) in Tynemouth was almost a "reboot" for the IPA. We saw the introduction of a couple of major developments - the first (and easily the most talked about) being the newly revealed IPA Championship Pool Table. These have been in development for around a year, with prototypes coming to our events every so often (which we've had to hide somewhere - normally in plain sight but not many people noticed!). From these prototypes the team have been making improvements, and finally the finished article was put out for everyone to try. Now, I personally LOVE a Supreme table - they've been the standard bearers for years and we know that they are value, quality tables that can be relied upon. But it is frustrating when the same issues crop up year after year and nothing seems to be done about them. Tables sagging in the middle where there's no support (ever noticed a table will roll away from both side cushions? This is why). Balls bouncing out of pockets. The insistence of putting a metal bead between frame and cushion (which is only there to cover the huge gaps between them and the result is that you can't see when the cushion isn't fitted correctly).
The IPA table has been designed to not just play as well as the competition, but is available at a lower price whilst also addressing these issues levelled at other tables. The full list of features can be found here.
So, we had 20 IPA tables all set up in the venue and, although we liked them, we were all anxious to find out what the verdict was from the most important people - the players.
The overwhelming majority of responses were hugely positive. Certainly, everyone praised the removal of the bead between frame and cushion. Players can now hit the cue ball with a straighter cue in most situations. There was also praise that the pockets played slightly tighter meaning players had to be more accurate - hitting the near cushion now means balls are more likely to sit in the jaws of the pocket rather than drop in - if you miss, you miss. On a similar theme, jaws won't "spit out" a perfect pot just because you've played it too hard - so you can hammer balls in down the rail for example. This gives players more positional choice on shots such as these, and we saw the top players adapting to it very quickly. Bounce outs also seem to be minimised - I heard of one bounce out all weekend which isnt bad for over 1,000 hours of tournament play.
The other major development may not have even been noticed by many, but the IPA and 24/7 TV team made huge efforts to turn the broadcast product into a complete "programme" rather than just a succession of pool matches. The new studio area gave the team a more relaxed environment to interview players between matches, build up to major finals, analyse shots etc. Watching some of it back (see here) I think it was a huge success and something to really build on in the future - even though we're rapidly approaching the tour finals there is still a lot of IPA pool to be broadcast live before the World Championships in February (Weekly Premier League, Masters (December), World Team Trophy (January) etc.).
And finally (phew!) a note about another great new product development from IPA referee sponsor, The Racker. I have been puzzled forever really as to why very slippery ball markers have no ridge to grip them - I can't imagine anything worse than trying to pick up a marker on live TV wearing gloves, only for it to slip and move a ball (it nearly happened to me in the World Championships, but luckily the marker fell short of the table!). Therefore I've been modifying my ball markers for a while now, like this:
The drilled holes create a ridge to pick up the marker - but they don't look very professional.
Enter The Racker! The new, simple design has a ridge to grip the marker. It is big and heavy enough that you can comfortably press down on it when replacing balls, which is essential. It is simply the best ball marker I have ever used, and it will soon be available to buy from the Racker website!
I think that's it! Don't forget the BitcoinSV IPA Premier League is on Mondays at 7pm on FreeSports.
19/07/2019 - GB9 UK Open
I was very pleased and humbled to be invited back to the GB9 ball tour for a second time - and the pressure was on at this event as it carried all important Mosconi Cup ranking points!
The event ran smoothly as ever - it really is a massive credit to the team how there are practically no complaints from players or staff about the events. I even managed to get my cue out at this event in the midnight flyer! Safe to say I will be sticking to English 8 ball after my performance though.
Three refereeing highlights for me at this event - those of you that know me well will know that I am as much of a fan as anyone, so it really is an absolute pleasure when I'm asked to referee World Champions, Mosconi Cup Winners etc. On this occasion, I had the pleasure of refereeing "The Siberian Express" Ruslan Chinahov, the eventual winner of the event and top professional. He even took the time to have a discussion with me about racking techniques and tips and tricks he's learned over the years, for which I'm extremely grateful.
As well as this, I was asked to referee one of the main event Semi Finals. As an event with such prestige, that is a massive honour. Hopefully soon I will be lucky enough to be chosen to referee the final of one of these events (fingers crossed!).
Finally, I have to mention the Challenge 2 Final. Once again I was given the appointment to referee this, and it was an absolute cracker of a match between Kinga Rauk and Ryan Wissett. You can watch it on Facebook via this link (just go to 51 minutes in as it's straight after the first match) - I'm not going to spoil it, it's well worth the watch and was a great way to end the weekend!
01/07/2019 - A new sponsor approaches!
At the beginning of July, the IPA referees agreed a sponsorship deal with one of the most dynamic companies producing pool equipment around at the moment - The Racker
At the IPA we've been using the Racker equipment for several years - mainly the unique triangles which are constantly evolving and changing based on feedback from players and referees. The latest design is a return to basics and an absolute pleasure to use - The pool Pro Racker. A sturdy construction which is really easy to use, the Pro Racker has a single long roller on the bottom of the triangle which means that if you place it against the bottom cushion when racking the balls, it will always be straight when you move the triangle up to the black spot to lift it off. In addition, the Pro Racker has a guide at the top, meaning you can place a mark on the table, line up the mark, and the rack will always be exactly in the correct place without having to lift up the black and check. I am massively impressed with it - no complicated extras, just a well made triangle that's easier than anything else to rack the balls up tight, straight and in the correct position. I will be using the new Pro Racker at the next event in Coventry in August.
In addition to triangles, the Racker also produces ball markers, tip shapers, and many other things. They're the only ball markers I've ever used that have two different size sides to use depending on if you are marking an object ball or a cue ball - an important detail as the cue ball is a different size but one left out by every other manufacturer of these products.
In addition, Joshua from The Racker has been using my feedback to help with design and development of a new ball marker to assist with marking balls when removing template racks. Joshua has already designed an excellent marker for this situation, with a base smaller than the top so that it can reach over a template rack - and hopefully soon he will complete development of a marker to use when the referee has no option but to use a marker inside the template - I just keep causing him problems!
Please take a look at the website at www.theracker.co.uk - you'll find great products at really good prices.
09/06/2019 - Local Finals Day!
This was the date of my local league finals day, and if yours is anything like mine it's always a fun time - instead of refereeing I actually get to play! As per usual the setup at this day was fantastic - Matt Harvey produced the walk-on videos (first time I've never had to do them!) and did an amazing job. I was privileged to also be asked to commentate on a few matches and do the winner interviews. I have said for a long time that Barnstaple and District Pool League is the best local league in the country because of the amount of effort that goes in to make it feel like the players are superstars - I still stand by that, everyone looks forward to this day and they even get the matches professionally live-streamed.
Beard Productions (go and subscribe to them on youTube!) covered the day for us for the third year in a row. There are some amazing streaming companies out there but Beard have set the bar for what is possible - I think their output for an extremely small team is actually better than what the majority of professional TV broadcasts produce.
I was involved in a couple of finals that day - if you haven't seen them I wont spoil the results but you can see them below. If you've ever wondered if referees can play the game now is the chance to find out!