September at (not in the) Pool for Mark Selby and Judd Trump

With no snooker available for them in September, Mark Selby and Judd Trump are (re)turning to pool.

Read it here:

Judd Trump and Mark Selby swap snooker for pool as they enter September tournaments

Judd Trump and Mark Selby
Judd Trump and Mark Selby are swapping snooker cues for pool cues (Picture: Getty)

Both Judd Trump and Mark Selby will be competing in pool tournaments this month as they take advantage of a gap in their snooker calendars.

Trump will be playing at the US Open Pool Championship in Atlantic City, while Selby is teaming up with his brother-in-law Gareth Potts at the Ultimate Pool Pairs Cup.

The Ace heads to Atlantic City for the 9-ball competition which runs from 13-18 September, while the Jester from Leicester will be playing live on Freesports TV on Monday 27 September under International 8-Ball Rules.

On his American adventure Trump said: ‘I think the US Open Pool Championship has got the most heritage and prestige to it, it’s been around a long time. Everyone in the world of pool knows it’s the tournament if you are going to win one, it’s this one. For me, that’s what kind of attracted me, to go in at the deep end, going in at the biggest event and see what I can do.

I think when I get over there and step out, I don’t want to make a fool of myself, that will add pressure. But in the snooker world, I know what I am capable of and I know when I put the work in I’ve got that belief whereas, in pool, I do not know what’s going to happen. Hopefully, I can have a good run in it.”

‘It’s always been a dream of mine to try and take snooker over there into the US, it’s such a big market, it’s an aspiration of mine. It’s nice to be playing any cue sport out there. Just to be a part of it, part of the atmosphere, part of the US Open, hopefully, I can do well and one day they’ll have me back to play again and the dream would be to have a good run.

For me, there’s potential to play in front of a whole new fanbase, there’s a lot of people who watch snooker and don’t watch pool and vice versa. I think for me, it’s all about trying to find that middle ground and getting different people interested in different things, and getting people to open their eyes to see what’s going on.

‘It’s a chance for me to get on their radar and hopefully I can put on a good showing of myself and hopefully nobody hates me after the tournament! Hopefully, I can bring them b

Selby is returning to pool after winning the WEPF World 8-Ball Pool Championship in 2006 and is excited to compete with Potts, who is a four-time world 8-ball pool champion himself.

I’m really looking forward to the tournament and teaming up with Gareth – it’s going to be a unique and special challenge,’ said Selby.

It has been a long time since I’ve played 8-ball competitively but having seen what Ultimate Pool has done with its recent tv events, I can’t wait to get out into the arena and sample the atmosphere.

Trump and Selby have a clear September to take on some other opportunitites after the Turkish Masters was postponed and the month now only featuers qualifiers for the English and Scottish Opens.

Both players won’t be playing in those qualifiers as they head straight to the venues for those events and play their first round matches there, due to being in the top 16 in the world rankings.

Of course it’s not a “first”. Ronnie and Steve Davis played in the Mosconi Cup, representing Europe in the 90th. Tony Drago has played a lot of pool. Jimmy White and Alex Higgins played some as well. Mark Selby was a champion at English pool, before becoming one at snooker.  But it’s a different game and anyone expecting Judd Trump to dominate the opposition are badly deluded. I’m not saying that he won’t succeed, I’m just saying that it’s by no way guaranteed.

Interestingly WST has published an article on that subject:

Can Trump Conquer Pool?

Three cue sports experts – Steve Davis, Chris Melling and Phil Yates – have given us their opinions on how Judd Trump will fare when he competes in the US Open Pool Championship.

Matchroom Multi Sport announced on Wednesday that snooker’s 22-time ranking event winner Trump will swap green baize for blue when he plays in one of pool’s biggest tournaments at Harrah’s Resort, Atlantic City from September 13-18.

Trump said: “The US Open Pool Championship has got the most heritage and prestige, it’s been around a long time. If you are going to win one, it’s this one. That’s what attracted me, to go in at the deep end and see what I can do. I’m not going just to take part, I’m going to try and win the event.”

Here’s what the experts think:

Steve Davis
Six-time World Snooker Champion Davis competed successfully in a wide range of pool events, including 11 Mosconi Cup appearances between 1994 and 2007.

The two difficult things for Judd are going to be tactics and positional play. In snooker we often try to leave ourselves a straight pot because that makes the pot easier, and we use screw and stun to move the cue ball around. In pool it’s very different, the pots are easier and you need to leave angles to get on to the next ball. You are always playing for position on only one ball, and the table can be crowded. He won’t struggle with potting and in fact he’ll scare the life out of them with some of the shots he can pull off. But he’ll have to make sure he clears the table when he gets the chance.

He’ll be at a disadvantage when there are tactical exchanges early in a frame, and his opponent might try to exploit that by sitting back and waiting for him to make a mistake. For example, ‘kicking’ when snookered after the break – the best players are very clever at those shots. What I loved most about playing pool was embracing that challenge and trying to learn from the more experienced players. He’ll have no trouble hitting the ball hard when he breaks, but sometimes a softer break can be more effective, especially on a new cloth under the TV lights.

These are all things he’ll have to get used to quickly. I wouldn’t want to predict how far he’ll go because it depends to what extent he will prepare by practising with experienced pool players he can learn from. One thing is for sure – when he can see the next ball to pot, he’ll be dangerous.

Chris Melling
Melling has played five seasons as a snooker pro but most of his success has come on the smaller table, as a former eight-ball world number one and Most Valuable Player at the 2012 Mosconi Cup.

Chris MellingIt’s great to have Judd battling on the pool table and I think he will take to it really well. It’s great for 9-ball and Matchroom Pool. There’s always a perception from snooker players that if you can play snooker then you can play pool. It’s true to a certain point because the pockets are bigger, but there’s a lot of skill involved in 9-ball. The game is all about spinning the ball, pattern play, cannons and jump shots. There will be shots that Judd won’t be used to but it’s magnificent to have him involved, and obviously he’s going to bring a lot of attention to the sport.

He’ll really enjoy it, the set up that Matchroom have got is second to none. He’s a born winner and he’s won a lot of snooker titles, so he’s got a winning mindset. But with pool, it’s a different mindset because you may go into a match and not even play a shot. It’s not like snooker where you are definitely going to break off every other frame; in pool you might be sitting in your chair for 40 minutes.

When he comes up against the top boys from the Philippines, the USA and some from Europe, he’s going to find out how high their skill level is. They’re going to try and pray on his weaknesses, but if it comes to out-and-out potting there will be only one or two who can match him, players like Joshua Filler and Jayson Shaw.

He could go all the way because the nature of the game allows somebody who doesn’t play all the time to do that, as long as he gets a little bit of luck. If he gets a decent draw and gets two or three matches under his belt, which he can do, then he’s going to be a contender.

Phil Yates

Commentator and journalist Yates has worked on both pool and snooker for decades.

There have been lots of male crossovers from snooker to pool who have done well, including Steve Davis and Tony Drago. Then of course you have the female crossovers. For many years, in women’s pool, the leading players were all former snooker players: Alison Fisher, Kelly Fisher and Karen Corr. You need time to acclimatise and Judd doesn’t have that, but I certainly think he could win some matches.

The problem will be discerning, from watching previous matches, what sort of break is best. He won’t have that experience. Pool professionals actually go into the arena to watch to see which sort of break is the most effective. The table can break differently from session to session, depending on the atmospherics. All those little subtleties need to be taken into account. In terms of potting the balls he is going to be excellent. The one mindset that snooker players need to overcome is that they don’t have to be as precise with position. Sometimes they fall down by trying to be too precise when it isn’t necessary.

I never fail to marvel at how good pool players are at kicking or getting out of snookers. They don’t just get out of them, they do it in a way which enables them to get the ball safe. They are brilliant at that. Judd also won’t be used to the jump shot. I remember speaking to Alison Fisher and she said that was the thing she really struggled to get used to in the 90s when she went over to the USA.

Judd playing in the US Open will be fantastic for both pool and snooker. There have been some fleeting introductions of snooker to the US, but in terms of big-name players going out there it hasn’t really happened. This might be the best way to do it. Somebody who has an obvious skill level might just pique their interest.

He’s got to be respectful of the game. They are good these guys, they play pool for a living, and he must be respectful of them. It is a different game. You need a wide ability to think laterally and to think differently. Having said that, a good snooker technique will be one of his advantages, and so will his pure potting ability.

As for Judd himself and Matchroom’s take on that croos-over, here you go:

Trump To Compete At US Open Pool Championship

Snooker’s 22-time ranking event winner Judd Trump will compete at the upcoming US Open Pool Championship at Harrah’s Resort, Atlantic City September 13-18, in partnership with Caesars Entertainment and the Atlantic City Sports Commission.

Trump will not be the first snooker player to cross disciplines, with Ronnie O’Sullivan having represented Europe at the Mosconi Cup in the early 90s and the likes of Jimmy White, Alex Higgins, Mark Williams and Steve Davis all taking on the challenge.

Trump with Matchroom Multi Sport Managing Director Emily Frazer

The Ace in the Pack is heading in at the peak of his powers. He said: “I think the US Open Pool Championship has got the most heritage and prestige, it’s been around a long time. Everyone in the world of pool knows it’s thetournament. If you are going to win one, it’s this one. For me, that’s what kind of attracted me, to go in at the deep end, going in at the biggest event and see what I can do.

I think when I get over there and step out, I don’t want to make a fool of myself, that will add pressure. But in the snooker world, I know what I am capable of and I know when I put the work in I’ve got that belief whereas, in pool, I do not know what’s going to happen. Hopefully, I can have a good run in it.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to try and take snooker over there into the US, it’s such a big market, it’s an aspiration of mine. It’s nice to be playing any cue sport out there. Just to be a part of it, part of the atmosphere, part of the US Open, hopefully, I can do well and one day they’ll have me back to play again and the dream would be to have a good run.

“There’s potential to play in front of a whole new fanbase, there’s a lot of people who watch snooker and don’t watch pool and vice versa. It’s all about getting people to open their eyes to see what’s going on. It’s a chance for me to get on their radar and hopefully I can put on a good show and hopefully nobody hates me after the tournament! Hopefully, I can bring them back across to snooker and hopefully in the future make them both as big as possible.”

Trump has won 14 ranking titles over the past three years

The 2019 World Champion gave us an idea of what fans can expect: “I’m excited for the US Pool fans to get a glimpse of me playing, I will bring a lot more freedom and energy to the game because it isn’t the be-all and end-all on it for me at the moment, my whole life isn’t depending on it. I will be one of the players who can play with a smile on my face with a lot more freedom and enjoyment. Hopefully, they will take to that, they will see I am having fun with what I am doing, I try to get that across in everything I do. I think people respect that and hopefully, I can get as many people as possible playing pool.

Trump says he isn’t there just to make up the numbers. He added: “At the US Open, I’ve not come to take part, I’ve come to try and win the event. I’ve come to give it my absolute all and to see what I can do with myself, it’s something I’ve always felt I wanted to do, and see how good I can be at pool. I am not under the illusion that I will go there and blow everyone away. I know the breaking off and tactical side of things is going to be tricky for me. I know there’s a lot of things that can go wrong. Hopefully, I can just enjoy myself and pot all the balls on the table and not get into that problem.”

Emily Frazer, Matchroom Multi Sport Managing Director, said: “This is huge news for Matchroom Pool – what a player. Judd is very current with our times right now; he’s forward-thinking, he’s young, modern, and fresh. It’s exactly what Matchroom Multi Sport is about and the direction we’re heading in for our Matchroom Pool Series. To get Judd on board for the US Open is major and positive news for the growth of the sport, Matchroom Pool, and Judd himself in his own profile and career.”

Frazer added: “The US Open is a real big chance for Judd to step over into Pool, take on a new challenge, and in turn gain a different style of audience. It feels like he’s the perfect person for it and why we didn’t stop until he was on board! Judd’s arguably the best and strongest snooker player in the world right now and for someone of his stature and social presence to step into pool is major news for players in our industry and the overall viewership of the sport in areas it may currently be lacking. Seeing Judd’s appreciation for the game, respect for the players in it, and potentially the challenges the event may produce shows his character and I’m excited to see how the pool fans warm to him!

The part I put in blue is a cause of worry for me. Barry Hearn loves snooker, but his son, who is now at the head of Matchroom is mainly into boxing. I’m not sure that he cares about snooker at all. Judd has recently expressed the opinion that snooker should evolve towards shorter formats because that’s what suits “the people in his age group” according to him. Neils views on the World Championship also push towards shorter formats.  Reading the above it seems to me that this is also the direction Matchroom wants to take and it may not ne coincidence that a lot has been made on social media of the fact that snooker has topped the charts on ITV4 during the short-format British Open.

6 thoughts on “September at (not in the) Pool for Mark Selby and Judd Trump

  1. Yes I’ve been saying for several years that snooker is in a precarious position. Not so much because of shorter formats, but because of the lack of development of future players. It’s the players that make the game, not the format.

    Indeed, one of the reasons why we are seeing shorter formats and ‘variants’ (like 6-reds and the Shoot-out) is because it’s the same old players who are dominating all the regular tournaments. Crossovers like pool perhaps comes under that category, but so far it’s really just a publicity initiative, driven by agents. But if snooker were to decline, like billiards did, then 9-ball pool disciplines would be in an ideal position to take advantage and become the dominant cue-sport in the world.

    Quite a few of the Chinese players have played pool. There is a lucrative series in China, which seems to be isolated from the US tour. Indeed, Lyu Haotian played 9-ball as part of his rehabilitation and won a gold medal in the Asian Games before his snooker comeback in 2017. Unfortunately Yu Delu has had quite a lot of success since being banned from snooker.

    • I agree with you that those things are symptoms, not causes of the decline. The old players are still dominating because they are still the best. It’s that simple really. There are many reasons why young players don’t come through: the structure of the tour, the shrinking of the amateur/pro-am circuit, the brutal flat draw, the ranking system combined with a far too top-heavy repartition of the prize money to name a few. There are societal/cultural factors as well plus a ferocious competition for television and media coverage that results into the boadcasters keeping them off the limeligths unless they play a top guy, and then unfortunately, they get battered more often than not. . I agree with you that it’s very hard for the young players and I’m not sure what should be done. One thing I’m convinced about though – maybe because I survived a completely unforgiving type of education – is that keeping them deluded about where they stand, and “protecting” them is not going to help. When Jamie Wilson told the media that he was going to make Ronnie “eat his words” my reaction was not “the kid is arrogant” it was “the kid has no idea what kind of level he will need to produce”. If the latter is true – and I believe it is for many youngsters – it’s a major issue, because many are mentally unprepared for what they will have to cope with, they get discouraged, depressed and they give up. The current education system over-protects young persons: they are no more learning to stand-up and fight in a system where conflicts are “avoided” rather than adressed, and where harsh truths can’t be told. But real life isn’t like that and when it hits those young persons, most don’t have the mental weapons to respond adequately.

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