“Behind The Rock Tour” Beginning to Turn Heads

It started as an idea less than a year and a half ago.  The first Behind The Rock Tour tournament attracted four players to a small pool room in Bremerton in the winter of 2010.  Since then, the tour organizers have been actively recruiting members and today, their weekly tournament claims 195 members playing in four rooms across the state of Washington.  The intention of the BTRT is to attract tens of thousands of participants across the country in hundreds of pool rooms each week playing a variety of games vying for big purses.  

Sound ambitious?  According to the president of BTRT, Deby Welfinger, it is the tip of the iceberg.  "Our goal is to elevate the sport of pool to a level that is on par with any of the current televised sports," she says, "including televising interesting matches."  She continues, "We want novices through pros to be playing in any one of our divisions, in any of our scored games, whether in handicapped play or open competitions.  We believe that with our format and with the technology offered by the internet, we will change the sport of billiards for everyone."

Currently, the matches played are a scored match called "211" which is based on 10-Ball vs. The Ghost.  Essentially, players play eleven games using a score sheet.  Each game consists of a break, scoring a point for each ball dropped, then a second chance for players, starting with ball in hand, to attempt to run out the remaining rack also scoring a point for each pocketed ball.  Bonus points are available from the subsequent game if a rack is run-out.  It is pure, challenging, unadulterated offensive play that teaches position and control.

BTRT got its start with the realization that the current business for professional players is not sustainable.  Between travel, lodging, meals, and fees, working the tournament circuit only made money for a small handful of players.  With a tag of "Play locally, Compete nationally" the BTRT offers weekly competition for any ability of player in certified rooms.  And with purses paid out to the top third of the field each week, players need to have their "A-Game" to earn some cash.  BTRT contends that properly managed and with the appropriate sponsorship, pro players can make a fair living playing in this format.

The tour developers also believed that the sport was underappreciated for its deceptive difficulty.  The offensive-based scoring games have been developed for all the standard pool room games such as 8-Ball, 9-Ball, 10-Ball, One Pocket, 14.1 and others.  The games certainly teach pocketing skills, but also cue ball control, sometimes a key skill overlooked when playing in games that reward defense in traditional league or tournament play.  The bottom line, according to many players, is that these games significantly improve any player's ability.

For players who want to compete equally with others, a handicapping system is employed for every player regardless of their level.  Because the handicaps are based on actual scores averaged out, direct comparisons of ability can be made yielding a ranking of players.  No assessment of ability is needed as compared to league play.

We talked to a number of current members of the tour and all of them expressed a real affection for the tour in spite of the evident challenge.  Says Tacoma's Justin McCrory playing out of the Malarkeys room, "My goal is to improve enough to make a living at this sport.  I'm not sure I would have advanced toward this dream as fast as I have without this format.  It's just that challenging and so addicting!"

The BTRT has applied for a patent on the unique tournament system and with a fully developed website, they seem to be on a track to capture a big part of the pool-playing market with their tournament system.  According to them dozens of rooms in at least twenty states are waiting for enough players to get involved with the Tour.  Their website at www.behindtherocktour.com provides a solid basis for understanding the tour, the games, rankings, and so on.  Any interested player should start there.

The BTR tour may have started small, but according to their feisty founder, Ms. Welfringer, "The interest in the BTRT is growing.  Our growth rate is such that we expect to have a thousand players in another six months, and by this time next year, we hope to have almost three thousand members participating.  We're ready for them and we're going to turn this sport around!"  

Hmmm.  According to their website, 10,000 players means a weekly payout pot of $80,000.  Can you imagine when BTRT goes worldwide?  You might want to check them out.