This January 2015 I went to Yushan, China to play in the first annual China Billiard World Championship, the game is known as Chinese 8-Ball and its basically 8-Ball on a 9 foot snooker table. It was truly a world class event sponsored by STAR Tables out of Bejing. There were over 300 volunteers, mostly college kids from Yushan, to help run things smoothly and take care of all the visiting players needs.
I flew in to Shanghai from Seattle with my friends and top Canadian pros Stan Tarangau, Paul Potier, Simon Pickering, and Kevin Beskal and also my old friend american legend and former world champion Dan Louie, buy lamisil, all who arrived from Vancouver after practicing at our friend and guide, Michael Ma’s pool room named Top147 in Vancouver.
Traveling with cool friends like these made for a great trip. Michael Ma who speaks Chinese, with the help of Henry from the sponsor Star Tables, made sure we got to the location alright without getting lost in Shanghai or along the route there.
The Chinese Billiard table is basically a 9 foot snooker table on which you play with regular size 2.25 inch diameter pool balls, in this case Cyclop brand. The rails are snooker rails and the pockets are small snooker pockets that fit about a ball and a half going straight into the opening, down the rail requires tremendous precision and is one of the things that make the game unpredictable and exciting, as even top ranked players are subject to miss a ball at any moment if they are slightly off or have a lapse in concentration.
The STAR brand Chinese Billiard table is incredibly beautiful and well constructed, and it’s surprising how true and level they roll.
The tournament consisted of stage one and two with maybe 16 players out of at least 64 qualifying from stage one to play with the invited players in the final stage 2 of 64 players.
I had to qualify which meant needing to win 4 matches in a single day with 3 chances or days to win a spot, each day starting fresh.
The final 64 would consist of about 48 invited players and 16 qualifiers who would have to battle it out over three days of qualifying rounds in which one would have to win 4 matches in one day to get in. All of us USA and Canadian players had to play in the qualifying rounds and most of us had little to zero experience on these super tough Chinese Billiard Tables.
My preparation for the tough pockets consisted of playing on tight Diamonds and the 12 foot regulation snooker table at Goodtimez Billiards in Las Vegas. Thanks to the owners Teddy Garrahan and Gary Onomura for giving me the chance to prepare.
The tightness of the Chinese Billiard tables when you are shooting a ball on or near the rail, literally makes all the tight tables in the USA seem like buckets in comparison. This adds an element of strategy to the game where pushing your opponents balls near the rails actually prevents them from running out much of the time.
However, after the break with the magic rack, many of the tables had great spreads without balls by the rails and this meant the ability to run out was paramount, and therefore the break is still a huge factor in who wins the most games and matches.
I won 4 matches during the 3 qualifying events but needed those all in one day to get in. Considering it was my first time playing these tables, I was happy with having several matches in which I performed very well, and the matches I lost were close. I know next time I’ll do better. I went one and one on the TV table they put me on, so it was cool getting some exposure there in China.
Here’s a few photos from Alison Chang, the top asian billiard photographer from Taiwan, and all around great person. Check out her site at alison-chang.com
American pro Corey Deuel, also a recent USA National Snooker Champion, qualified on his last day and won a match in the top 64. Canada’s Stan Tourangeau was the sole Canadian and guy from our group to qualify, where he barely lost a close match in the round of 64. Americans Oscar Dominguez and Greg Harada were also playing. Oscar looked like a favorite to qualify but barely missed getting in. Greg who now lives in Shanghai and knows all the spots was looking strong but missed qualifying as well.
Corey Deuel practicing during practice time in one of the tournament rooms
Kevin Beskal, Jeanette Lee, BaiGe, Simon Pickering
The eventually Champion was Darren Appleton who has played in 15 of these events and came close several times to winning, with this being his first title with his win over current Snooker World Champion Mark Selby in the finals, 21-19. Darren picked up nearly $100,000 US for his win, and yet another much coveted world title.
Men’s China Billiard 8-Ball World Champion 2015 Darren Appleton with Japanese lady pro “Leopard Woman” Akiko Kitayama and many of the friendly volunteers
On the women’s side, America’s “Black Widow” Jeanette Lee who was also new to the game, had her ups and downs while showing promise for the future. As always she was charming and fun to hang out with, and a usual fan favorite.
Jeanette Lee’s friend Bai Ge from China took the women’s title down, her first after making four semi finals in the last four major events of Chinese Billiards. This may push her China #3 ranking up to number #1, congrats Bai Ge!
Snooker and Pool Collide
It was very cool to meet several of the top snooker players and see their strict fundamentals, and hear how they enjoy the game of Chinese Billiards or Chinese 8-Ball. It’s very cool to have this game that brings together players of all cuesport disciplines to one field where they can all compete and have a chance. The future is very bright for Chinese Billiards.
With player, coach, and billiard blogger Boris Vidakovic from Serbia
Boris on Youtube:
Boris on SPM: http://www.sneakypetemafia.com/author/bvidakovic/
Boris on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Poolcoach
See you soon…Max Eberle