The psychology behind the ability to win

The snooker is back tomorrow with Group 3 of the 2021/22 Championship League. Group1 has been won by Liang Wenbo, Group 2 by Graeme Dott. Both have struggled in recent yers, but both are ranking events winners.

Today WST has published this interesting interview with Chris Henry:

Jumping The First Hurdle

Winning a first professional title is a moment that a snooker player remembers for a lifetime. Many, of course, never get to experience that sense of relief and elation, to be the last man standing at a tournament and lift the trophy.

The closer a player gets to crossing that barrier, the more the pressure intensifies. How often have we heard the expression: “If he wins one title, he’ll go on to win a lot more.”? In any sport, there are players with enormous talent who never make that breakthrough.

Top coach Chris Henry has worked in snooker for many years and has helped some of the sport’s biggest names – in fact both of this year’s World Championship finalists, Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy, had him in their corner.

Henry’s approach is grounded in neural science: repetition and habit help the brain to normalise potentially difficult situations. He believes that the most stressful competitive scenarios can be simulated in practice conditions, which can be a key to success.

Henry explained: “A lot of it is subconscious. There is something in the brain called a PCM – Psycho Cybernetic Mechanism. It is basically like a performance thermostat. If you imagine you are in a room and you want it to be warmer and you turn the thermostat to 22 degrees, the heat comes on. However, once you reach 22 degrees the thermostat recognises that and cuts out the heating. Our subconscious has a certain level of performance and achievement wired into it and if we start to outperform our self image and self belief, it is very difficult to get beyond that level.

“For example, if someone is about to make their first century break, they start to get very nervous. The brain doesn’t recognise that level of performance. That’s when a part of the brain called the amygdala kicks in. Its job is to protect the person from potential danger, or something it doesn’t recognise.

“What we have to do is create memory files to bypass that. We can do that when practising, because the subconscious doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what isn’t. I was working with Peter Ebdon when he beat Stephen Hendry in the 2002 World Championship final. We used to do sessions in his mother in law’s garage, with visualisation and role play about winning the World Championship. Because he had lost to Stephen previously at the Crucible, he used to visualise beating him specifically in the final. Incredibly, we looked at the draw and saw he was in a different half. It was amazing that it transpired to be Stephen in the final and Peter managed to achieve his all-time goal.”

Henry was also working with Mark King when he clinched his maiden title at the 2016 Northern Ireland Open. Essex cueman King had previously spent 25 years as a professional in pursuit of silverware, before he defeated Barry Hawkins 9-8 in a dramatic final to realise his dream.

King said: “There was a lot of visual preparation before the win in Belfast and for a long time it involved my family being there. For me, that was the be all and end all. For everyone to be there was magical. That is what you strive for. I’d seen people like Mark Selby and John Higgins with their family at the table after collecting the trophy. I said that I wanted a piece of that joy. For that week, I was the best. I won it, got the trophy and all of the feelings. There was no disappointment and I didn’t need to go back to the drawing board. It was just great

“I am still playing because I want to win again. I don’t want to just pick up the money. There are a lot of people who will think that I will never win another trophy. They will think that was my week and that I’ll never do it again. I want to shut them up, do it again and show that it wasn’t a one off.

Anthony Hamilton had a similar experience to King, chasing a maiden title for 26 years. In conversations on the best players never to win a ranking title, his name was always among the first to be mentioned, But that changed at the 2017 German Masters, when he beat Ali Carter 9-6 in the final in Berlin.

In fact in 2016, Hamilton almost reached the final of the tournament won by King. Up against Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals, he accidentally feathered the cue ball at a critical moment of the deciding frame and lost 6-5.

“A good ten years before Germany, I’d actually come to terms with not winning one,” Hamilton reflects. “I wasn’t even considering it. I’ve had a back injury since I was at 35 years old and I realised that I wasn’t going to win tournaments. I stopped worrying about it.

“The semi-final with Barry in Belfast was the first time in ten years that I hadn’t felt completely useless. I wasn’t just some old dude fudging the other players around, like I am now. Everything clicked at that point and I was a proper snooker player again. I was in control. Yes, I touched the white and lost to Barry, but I felt I could have carried on playing snooker for another 24 hours straight at that point. That is an amazing feeling. It felt great and it manifested itself in Berlin.

“To win that tournament, with my parents in the crowd, was an absolute fairy tale. It is something I can take to my grave with me. If I saw it in a sports film, I would think it was too cheesy. I was in a real vein of form and I carried it through. With confidence and sharpness, it is amazing what a snooker player can do.”

David Gilbert was another whose name would spring up in the ‘best player never to…’ debate, especially after he had suffered a series of gut-wrenching results, including a17-16 defeat at the hands of John Higgins in the 2019 World Championship semi-finals and a 10-9 loss to Mark Williams, having led 9-5, in the 2018 World Open final.

So a landmark triumph at the Championship League ranking event at the start of the current season, beating Mark Allen in the final, was particularly sweet for the Tamworth cueman

“I just finally smiled I guess, which is quite rare playing snooker,” Gilbert recalls. “It is a nice feeling to finally be able to go back to the snooker club and not have to listen to the local guys, who have hammered me for years. They can’t really say anything. It is there in black and white. I am a winner.

“It didn’t matter if it was the Championship League, the Shoot Out or the UK Championship. A win is a win. I won’t get carried away and start talking like I’ve read every self help book going. I want to win another one now. Whether that will happen I don’t know. I will keep putting the effort in and keep trying to improve.”

Gateshead’s Elliott Slessor is still searching for a first appearance in a ranking final. He went on a fine run to the semi-finals of this year’s British Open and also reached the last four of the 2017 Northern Ireland Open. He doesn’t believe that the maiden title barrier is as daunting, if you set your sights beyond it.

Slessor said: “If you are trying to win multiple events then it shouldn’t really matter. That pressure is always going to be there. If you look at the multiple winners like Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan, whether they win one or ten, it doesn’t matter. They are greedy for success and always want more.

“They are the best set of players that have lived, but underpinning that is the mentality of greed and always wanting more. You have to shoot for the stars. If you miss, then you miss. I think a lot of people cut their goals off too short though. They are just content with winning one or getting to the final. If you don’t aim for the very top, then I don’t understand why you are playing.”

Another thing your hear frequently is “winning is a habit”. There is a lot of truth in it, and you can see why reading Chris explanations above. When winning becomes a familiar territory, the stress generated  by “seeing the winning line” is considerably lowered. “Been there, done it, can do it again”. And it also explains why it’s so hard to come back after a bare spell or a string of  “Final’s defeats”. The brain has to be re-wired, the confidence restored.

Chris mentions the amygdala. The amygdala, and the hypothalamus play in important part in the way we respond to perceived danger and/or agression. They are at the root of two important emotions possibly triggered by perceived danger: fear and anger and our response to them: flee or fight.

The effects of fear are well known: in snooker, at its most extreme it can “block” a player to the point they can’t deliver the shot. For those who remember him, Liu Song suffered from such “mental block” to the point it ended his career as a player. He was still fantastic in practice but literally “froze” in match situation.

The effects of anger are less obvious, but I would say that they aren’t positive most of the time. We had an example of an “angry” match in Group 2, it wasn’t pretty. Anger and clarity of thoughs aren’t exactly compatible. Someone like Elliot Slessor might need help in that respect for instance.

 

 

 

About Valentino and Stephen

Today, in Valencia, Valentino Rossi bid farewell to MotoGP. At 42, with 115 wins and 9 World Titles to his name, the famous nr 46 put an end to his extraordinary career. He finished 10th in the competition, and this season, his last, has been disappointing, but his very last lap was pure Valentino Rossi celebration. There was a lot of emotion … in the paddocks, in the “yellow” tribunes … and amongst his rivals who gathered around him at the end. He went out as a celebrated champion.

All the best for the future Vale, and thank you!

In stark contrast, Stephen Hendry’s farewell to snooker was very low key. On May 1, 2012, Stephen Hendry, aged 43, lost by 13-2 to Stephen Maguire, sat calmly in the media room and simply said “I have played my last professional match”, a sentence met by stunned silence in the room. Stephen had made a 147 in the first round, beaten the defending champion, John Higgins, in the second round, but this last match was an abdication. He went out with a session to spare. There was no fight, no panache at all. After a few errors early in the match, he gave up. This is not how a great champion should go out. There was a tribute at the Crucible on the next day, but Stephen looked quite shy out there, almost uneasy.

Since his return to the professional tour, Stephen Hendry hasn’t been pulling any trees. Most recently, he was beaten 4-0 by Chris Wakelin (who played very well).

After such heavy defeat, this is what Stephen had to say to Eurosport:

Hendry admits his ultimate dream is to return to the Crucible Theatre by qualifying for the World Championship, scene of his greatest victories in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1999 – and will accept another World Snooker wildcard in future if he feels like there is room for improvement.

I’m enjoying the process, my game is improving all the time on the practice table,” said the seven-times world champion, who is competing on the second year of a two-year invitational wildcard with White extending his golden 41-year career via similar playing privileges.

I know that kind of means nothing, but when I first started with (my coach) Stephen Feeney, I wanted to get back to enjoying playing snooker again even if it was on the practice table.

THE ULTIMATE GOAL IS TO PLAY ONE MORE MATCH AT THE CRUCIBLE. TO QUALIFY FOR THAT WOULD BE INCREDIBLE. ALL THESE MATCHES ARE PART OF THE PROCESS, AND GETTING ME COMFORTABLE IN ARENAS AGAIN.

 

I know that many fans believe that there is no point to this, that he’s just embarrassing himself, that the focus should be on the young ones. I agree with this last part, but, I believe that there is room for both the young guns and the older legends.

I wasn’t into snooker when Stephen was winning everything, I wasn’t a fan of him, in the last 8 years of his career, but I sincerely wish him to fulfill his dream to play (at least) another match at the Crucible, that the last one is one he can be proud of, one he fights through to the last ball and comes out of with his head high, saluted by a standing ovation. He’s a great, great Champion, he deserves to take farewell of the Crucible on a high.

News from the “Cues” planet – 17.09.2021

Snooker is back for us today as the 2021 English Open gets underway…

Meanwhile, this is (some of) what happened yesterday in our cuesports universe:

Judd Trump bowed out of 2021 US Open Pool Championship (report by WST)

Trump Bows Out Of US Open

Snooker’s world number two Judd Trump is out of the US Open 9-ball after an 11-10 defeat at the hands of South Africa’s Jason Theron.

Trump was making his 9-ball debut this week and started promisingly with comfortable wins in the first two rounds, before an 11-5 defeat of Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al-Shammari set up a clash with former US Open champion Jason Shaw. Scotland’s Shaw showed his class and highlighted that Trump still has much to learn in the discipline, charging to an 11-1 victory to send Trump to the loser’s side of the draw.

The Ace in the Pack put up a strong showing against Theron, but it wasn’t enough to avert the deciding frame defeat. Theron now progresses to face Japan’s Naoyuki Oi.

Trump said: “I think I will do it again, as a sport it is on the up. I like travelling to America anyway, and it is good to play a sport in another country.

I had a lot more support from fans than I was expecting, and there were enough positives to make me do it again. A week’s practice and I’d still be in the tournament.

I honestly think I was at about five per cent of the level I could reach so that gives you hope, and it was nice to play Jayson Shaw, one of the real top pool players.

You see the level in a match like that, and he could go close to winning it. But other top players who have won events recently went out in the same round I did.

5%? one week practice? Humble as usual… 😉 OK.

Judd will do it again, surely, if only because Emily Frazer, from Matchroom, announced that they will organise a similar tournament in London next year: the UK Open Pool Championship. If I got it correctly (*), this tournament will have a huge prize money and is provisionally scheduled to be played next May.

One thing I like about this tournament is the double elimination format and I would love to see this tried in snooker. Of course it’s only realistically possible with short formats and it requires more tables and a different, more complex, organisation. On the other hand, it would guarantee two matches for everybody and, the early rounds losers are bound to get easier, more winnable matches in the “losers” draw. This, I believe, would benefit the younger players massively: it’s an additional earning opportunity, even if it’s a modest one, some ranking points for the grabs, and another opportunity to play competitive snooker and learn. What’s your view?

Pankaj Advani won the 2021 Asian Championship

Pankaj Advani defends Asian Snooker Championship title in first tournament since 2019

Pankaj Advani had won the title in 2019 before the 2020 edition got scrapped due to the pandemic.

Press Trust of India  – September 16, 2021 
Pankaj Advani defends Asian Snooker Championship title in first tournament since 2019

Pankaj Advani poses with the winner’s trophy after he defended his Asian Snooker Championship title. Image courtesy: Twitter/@PankajAdvani247

Doha: India’s ace cueist Pankaj Advani on Thursday defended his Asian Snooker Championship title defeating Amir Sarkhosh of Iran here.

The Indian great was competing in his first assignment in almost two years due to COVID-19 .

Advani had won the title in 2019 before the 2020 edition got scrapped due to the pandemic.

His tally of Asian titles across both snooker and billiards now stands at 11, apart from the two Asian Games golds in 2006 and 2010.

I’m glad to defend this title and pick up from where I left off before the onset of the pandemic. The gap only increased the drive and hunger to compete and do well on return,” said Advani.

In the best-of-eleven final, Advani was up against former winner and a seasoned campaigner Amir who was in formidable form.

It was the Indian though who dictated most of the final in his 6-3 victory. Advani drew first blood by winning the first frame with a 55 break. After that a 50 break in the second and some fine potting in the third made the ultimate winner enjoy a 3-0 lead before the Iranian pulled one back.

At 3-1, the Indian employed his billiards knowledge to give his opponent limited scoring opportunity and capitalised on every opening he got to go 4-1 up. The next two frames were shared by the finalists with a remarkable display of quality potting from both players.

However, just when the Indian was one frame away from getting his hands on the coveted trophy, Amir found his touch and bridged the gap to 5-3.

A fine break of 43 gave Amir the lead in the ninth frame but the crowd got to witness a perfect climax from the 23-time world champion as he pieced together an exquisite championship-winning clearance break of 63 to end the match and a two-year wait for an international title.

Advani will stay back to compete in the IBSF 6-Red Snooker World Cup starting on Friday.

 

Pankaj competed on the main tour a few years back but wasn’t happy: he was home sick and he missed playing billiards, his favourite cuesport. He made the right decision for himself. As a person, he’s a quiet, friendly and very humble character despite a remarkable career. He’s a sporting hero in his country, India.

(*) Those who know me will know that my hearing isn’t the best and I rely on reading lips. This isn’t always easy …

Judd Trump surfing to victory on his pool debut

Judd Trump made the best possible start in Antlantic City (report WST)

Trump Scores Whitewash Victory

Snooker’s world number two Judd Trump stormed to an impressive 9-0 defeat of the USA’s Joe Magee in his 9-ball pool debut at the US Open in Atlantic City.

The Ace in the Pack is following in the footsteps of fellow snooker legends Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis, Jimmy White and Alex Higgins in switching cue sport codes and trying their hand at 9-ball pool.

Trump came into the match concerned that the break could be a problem area of his game. However, after winning the lag, he potted from his first break off and impressed in that department throughout.

Magee offered little resistance and failed to capitalise on any errors made by Trump, who eased to victory. Next up he’ll face Dhruvalkumar Patel in round two tomorrow.

“I was quite nervous in the first couple of racks, but as soon as I knew he wasn’t a top player it helped me get my confidence,” said 2019 World Snooker Champion Trump. “My break off was pretty good as well, I was potting a lot of balls and getting chances, which I was worried about before it started.

“I’ll go away and have a quick chat with Karl Boyes, my newfound pool coach, to try to get some feedback. I’ve got no idea where I went wrong and if I was too attacking or anything like that.

“It is good because it gets me out of my comfort zone. It is a different type of pressure when I get here, because I am so confident of myself in snooker. I get to the pool world and everyone is expecting me to clear up every time. I hope I can take the experience back to snooker and learn from it.”

Joe Magee isn’t a top player indeed, he’s a local guy. If I understood correctly, this event is really an “open” as anyone wanting to pay the entry fees can actually enter. Judd Trump will certainly face much stronger opposition in the coming rounds.

That said, he was impressive. Being a top snooker player, he was expected to dominate his opponent in the potting department, and he certainly did. The table is much smaller and the pockets are big. That said, the balls are heavier, the cloth, and cushions are quite different anf the cut of the pockets is different as well; a snooker player may still need a bit of time to fully adapt to the competitive pool conditions. Judd worked with a coach ahead of the event and he certainly proved to be a quick learner.

The real “test” comes when the snooker player is faced with a type of shot that is not played in snooker. The very first “challenge” is the break. Ronnie played in the Mosconi Cup in the 90th, and he tried himself a bit at pool in the US in 2006; the break is a shot he struggled with a bit: “You break like a girl” was the verdict of one of his pool friends 😉. Judd didn’t struggle: he only came “dry” once. Maybe we should have expected that though as Judd has tremendous cue power, and I would class him as a “power player”, whilst Ronnie or Ding, for instance, are typically “touch players”.

Judd didn’t really need to play any other “typically pool” type of shot: Basically once he was in, he cleared. Joe couldn’t take any of the rare opportunities he had, and that in turn removed any kind of pressure Judd might have felt.

Here are the match and post-match interview:

I don’t watch a lot of pool: a bit of the mosconi cup is my usual annual pool regime. I did however enjoy what I saw yesterday. The dress code is casual but none of the  players I watched looked shabby. The setup is interesting although I can’t really see that beeing used in snooker. There were other familiar faces and voices around as well: Marcel Eckardt was the referee in Judd’s match and Phil Yates was in commentary.

I think that it would be interesting to have a competition mixing different cuesports. Maybe a team event, with “three players” teams, a snooker player, a 9-balls pool player and a 3-cushions player, with all players competing in all three disciplines. Such event would probably broaden the horizon of most fans. It might also encourage the various federations to collaborate, which in turn might help the cuesports “bid” for the Olympics. I’m not entirely convinced that cue sports are well suited for the Olympics, but IF they became Olympics sports, it would definitely help their exponents to be recognised as “true” sportspersons in the various countries and that in turn will help with funding, broadcasting and exposure.

 

 

About a comeback and a debut

Comeback

Speaking to Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe on their podcast, Stuart Bingham explained why he isn’t “a fan” of Stephen Hendry return  to competition.

Phil Haigh summarised it here

Stuart Bingham ‘not a fan’ of Stephen Hendry’s snooker comeback: ‘He’s going to have more bad days than good days’

Stuart Bingham
Stephen Hendry is continuing his comeback to the main snooker tour (Picture: WST)

Stuart Bingham says he is ‘not a fan’ of Stephen Hendry’s return to snooker, and although the seven-time world champion is fully deserving of the invite to play on the main tour, he will ‘have more bad days than good days now’.

Hendry was offered a two-year tour card by then WST chairman Barry Hearn in 2020 and played for the first time in nine years at the 2021 Gibraltar Open.

He was won a couple of matches since then, beating Jimmy White in the World Championship qualifiers before edging out Chris Wakelin at the British Open last month.

With two wins under his belt and the 52-year-old believing he is fast improving after nine years away from top level competition his return to the baize has not been a failure and he intends to keep playing for some time to come.

However, Bingham is not sure what the legend of the sport will get out of the comeback, thinking it is going to be something of a painful task for the Scot.

Asked about Hendry’s return on the Talking Snooker podcast, Bingham said: ‘Each to their own. I’m probably not a fan.

What he’s done in the game, he deserves a wildcard whenever he wants, same as Jimmy White and most probably Ken Doherty.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Ten
Stuart Bingham feels Hendry has given himself a very tall task (Picture: Getty Images)

I dunno, Stephen’s taken nine years away from the game, even though he’s played a handful in the Seniors, he’s lost that edge. Only really Stephen himself can answer how good he thinks he can get back to.

He gave up the game because he didn’t like losing and I’m not sure how long he’s going to play for. I can see him losing a fair bit the way he’s playing at the moment.

He might have a good match but having that time off, nine years off, he’s going to have more bad days than good days now, I think. As harsh as that may seem, but that’s how I think

Hendry has picked up those two wins and looked good in his first match back, which ended in defeat to Matt Selt who was in superb form at the Gibraltar Open, however, he has struggled in a couple of his other matches.

Bingham isn’t particularly impressed with what he has seen, but he would love to see Hendry rediscover some of his old magic and create more memories on the snooker table.

I watch him but you can see him struggling with himself,’ said the 2015 world champion. ‘He throws in a few snatchy cue actions and you can see why he give up.

He said he had a bit of “cueitis” [or the yips], he couldn’t let go of the cue and things like that and you can still see it’s there. Everything’s very deliberate and when it gets to the crunch, a pressure situation, you see it appear.

Hopefully he can get out of it and get back to some sort of level and it’ll be good for the game.’

I agree with Stuart here, but that doesn’t mean that I think that Stephen Hendry shouldn’t play, that he should have stayed in retirement. He simply has to do what he feels is right for himself. He isn’t proud of his last match at the Crucible and badly wants to return there, if only just once, to play and fight for every ball, no matter the outcome of the match. I fully understand that. Can he do it? I’m not sure.

Inevitably, when a great in sport shows signs of decline, and the wins don’t come anymore, you hear fans saying that they should retire. The usual excuse is that it “damages their legacy”. It doesn’t, none of their achievements will be erased ever. What it does though is “damage” their image in the mind of the said fans, who can’t accept that, no matter how great a sportsperson is/was at their peak, decline comes eventually. They can’t cope with it.

I remember the reactions when Hendry came back on the Seniors tour: he was going to wipe the floor with everyone … allegedly. Actually, he struggled badly, as he had struggled badly in the last years of his (first) career. But somehow it was as if his faithful fans had erased those last years from their memory, remembering only the “peak Hendry”.

I hope that Stephen manages to get back to the Crucible, and that he can do himself justice. He reigned supreme at the Crucible for years. His last match there – there is always a last one – should be a match he’s proud of.

Debut

Tomorrow, Judd Trump will make his debut in competitive pool:

US Open Pool Championship Draw Complete

US Open Pool Championship Draw Complete

The draw for the 2021 US Open Pool Championship has been made with 2019 champion Joshua Filler starting his defense against America’s Joseph Byler in the opening match of the tournament at Harrah’s Resort, Atlantic City on Monday, September 13.

The draw, brackets, and match schedule can be viewed now on CueScore.

Shane Van Boening and Earl Strickland will start their hunts for a sixth US Open title against Francesco Candela of Italy and the USA’s Adam Martin respectively. Matchroom Pool World Rankings No.1 Albin Ouschan begins against Scott Haas. 22-time World Snooker ranking title winner Judd Trump makes his bow in pool against Joe Magee.

Players were seeded based on the combination of World Ranking and Performance in Major Events. Click here for the full seeding breakdown.

Live rack-by-rack scoring will be available throughout the event at www.matchroompool.com thanks to our partners CueScore. Broadcast details for the tournament in full can be found here with coverage on DAZN for those in the USA, Canada, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, and Brazil with UK coverage available on Sky Sports throughout.

The 2021 US Open Pool Championship will be partnered by Diamond, who supply the Official Table; the cloth is supplied by Iwan Simonis and the Official Balls are ARAMITH Tournament BLACK pool ball set with Duramith™ Technology by Saluc. Predator is the Official Cue of the event and Kamui are the Official Chalk and Tip. The US Open Pool Championship is sanctioned by the WPA.

Quite incredibly the bookies make him favourite for the title. This probably simply means that they believe that enough punters will fall for the bait because Trump himself admitted that deep down he knows that he can’t win it, that he would be happy to just win a match. It’s a different game, with many aspects, and shots, that are not present in snooker.  If he were to win it, it would be truly extraordinary.

 

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.

Ronnie at the races & Willo’s views

Last week-end Ronnie went to support the Venturi at the races in London.

RonnieROKITERace-7

He, and Nicolas Hamilton, were there as a ROKIT embassadors. Ronnie even had the honor/pleasure to take Toto Wolf’s seat in the safety car for the hot lap.

By all accounts, he totally enjoyed the experience.

He shared some images on his social media

And a short video of the hot lap

During the same week-end Mark Williams reacted to WST announcement that Ronnie has withdrawn from the 2021 British Open with this:

WilloreactionRosBritishOpen Withdrawal

It says it all about how the top players who started in the 90th, and are still at the top, feel about the current trends in snooker. It’s increasingly about shortening formats and being lucky. Making the sport more random will suit the bookies and excite the gamblers but not the true snooker fans. It will not help the sport in the long term, quite the opposite.

Even the young players with a brain see it: the excellent Davild Caulfield has been talking to Peter Devlin. Please do read the full interwiew, it’s very interesting.

This is only a very short excerpt with Peter’s quotes relevant to the above:

“I’ve seen the rankings and learned a lot about how it works this year in the rankings – consistency is not rewarded,” says the world number 114.

“The only reward is for deep runs in tournaments, and not all tournaments that you have deep runs in give you any reward. My goal is just to be lucky.”

“I know I’m good enough to have deep runs, but it just has to be the right tournament. Stuart Carrington got to the semi-final of Gibraltar, beating five top players on the way, and he won £6,000 for that.

“Then another player drew Anthony Hamilton in the UK Championship – Anthony had COVID – so the other guy got a walkover and got £6,500. What does that say?