Gareth Potts Interview

Gareth Potts
With the lack of events to report on at the moment, we are teaming with the Supr Charged Agency to feature interviews with various European and American players. Hopefully this will give all of the readers a chance to get to know these players better. 
This time, we have Chinese 8-Ball Star, Gareth Potts.
You mainly play English and Chinese pool. 
What is the main differences from American pool when it comes to the tables, rules, balls and cue?
I started my career playing English 8-ball where I won 4 world titles. These, along with numerous other tournaments, meant I was the most successful English 8-ball pool player ever at the time when I finished in 2014 to pursue a new career in China.
The small ball game is run by two different governing bodies that play by two very different rule sets. One being more chess like and the other being a more attacking rule set. I am still currently the only player to win world titles at both World rules and Blackball rules respectively. 
My English 8-ball career was relatively short due to Chinese 8-ball bursting into the scene and into my life in 2013. 
I won the first ever Joy Chinese 8-ball final masters in 2013, also in 2014 and 2017. Off the back of winning the first masters in 2013, I fell in love with Chinese pool and I signed a long term contract with Joy Billiards that has allowed me to focus solely on Chinese 8-ball. Stephen Hendry, Shane Van Boening, Chris Melling and Zhang KunPeng are a few that are currently signed with Joy billiards. 
The 3 main Cue sport disciplines around the world are American Pool, English pool and snooker. They are all obviously very different in every way. Balls, tables, cloth rules and equipment all vary, but Chinese 8-ball is basically where they all meet in the middle. 
There are so many different forms of Pool across the world and this for me is one of the problems.  I personally believe that Chinese pool is the perfect hybrid cue sport that appeals to all cue sport players from every discipline, wherever you play and wherever you're from - it’s the middle ground of them all! 
It’s played on almost the same size table as American pool, with the same size and weight balls with almost the same rule set as the American BCA rules. 
The table aesthetically looks like a snooker table. The pockets are a similar cut and nap Strachan6811 cloth is used. 
Predominantly it’s 8-ball that is played. 
This is backed up even more so by the fact that players use different cues to play Chinese pool. For example, the American players feel as though an American type cue is the right equipment to use. Some Chinese players use a snooker type cue with a 10mm tip. Some English players even use their English 8-ball cue. And others use something in the middle of all those. 
I personally believe that none of these cues are perfect for Chinese pool. You wouldn’t play tennis with a badminton racket or you wouldn’t play squash with a ping pong bat. Obviously, using the right equipment is vital. I Have my own cue range out on the market (Potts Cue), which is effectively a hybrid cue for a hybrid cue sport.... 
But either way my point being is that if you were going to abolish all cue sports and just keep one, it would surely have to be Chinese pool as a compromise to every cue sport player or fan around the world, because it’s simply right in the middle of them all! 
The prize money for pool in China is the highest anywhere in the world. The two biggest Chinese 8-ball tournaments now are the Joy Masters at $150,000 to the winner and the Star World Championships which is $100,000 to the winner. These are snooker type first prizes, but there needs to be more events and more of these types of events outside of China. This then would make Chinese 8-ball more accessible to the world! 
Who was your inspiration/idol when you were younger? 
Definitely my father, who passed away when I was 21. 
Regarding players I grew up watching, Stephen Hendry. A lot of people naturally don’t like winners but I personally do, and he was the ultimate winner! 
Who do you admire amongst today's players?
There are a lot of very good players around the world from all different forms of cue sport and all have their own great traits. You have to be at the top of any sport. But when It comes to pure talent, Ronnie o Sullivan is the daddy. 
What are your greatest accomplishments? Tell us about the feeling of those wins.
Winning my first major junior title at 13 years old, which was the European championships in France, with my father there watching. 
My first world title age 21, 3 months after my father had passed away. 
All the world titles and masters titles at Chinese pool have all been special in their own way. 
I think what defines special is the timing of that particular win to that individual. 
I don’t really think too much about what I have won, I think it’s important to not live off the back of previous wins and achievements. Maybe the time for that is at retirement! 
How often did you practice at an early age and how often now?
I’ve always worked hard at my game from an early early age. 
I have always practiced hard. I believe you only get out what you put in - nothing comes for free - you have to earn it. 
I’ve been lucky over the years to have had a lot of top players to practice with, which is important. Mark Selby is my brother in law so I’ve spent many hours picking balls out, lol. Growing up I had a lot of top players around me to learn from. This is invaluable! 
I’m lucky that I always enjoyed the practice and I think when that day comes that I stop enjoying, it will be the day when I hang my cue up. 
Do you use drills when you practice? - Which drills?
Yes I use drills, they are important. A combination of solo work and practice with other top players. Finding that balance is important. 
As for what drills; there are loads. You can look on YouTube or on my social media. I have posted loads over the years at English pool and Chinese pool. 
What should newcomers practice most? - What are newcomers doing wrong?
The most important thing is constructive practice. Just hitting the balls around the table is pointless. There needs to be routine and structure to what you're doing. Adding pressure even in solo practice is important,  if you're doing a routine or drill, set yourself a target. So for example - I would say I’m not stopping for lunch until I’ve completed it 5 times in a row. ( Many days I went hungry. lol) This adds pressure and purpose to what you're doing! 
What is the strongest part of your game?
I play 8 ball and always have done so. So I would say the strongest party of my game is my patterns and my finishing. Taking the balls in the correct order is the most important part of 8-ball.
What is your weakest part of the game?
Probably doubles ( Or bank shots in America). On English tables and Chinese tables, there is not a marked diamond system and the cloth is nap. So judging the slide off the cushions isn’t easy, that's my excuse anyway. Or maybe I’m just generally rubbish at them. lol 
What is your favorite game(s) and why?
Chinese pool without a doubt. It’s the toughest form of Pool in the world. 
The pockets are extremely tight (3.35 inches) 
Any sport in the world that is at the top of the ladder always has the highest degree of difficulty. Golf, tennis, football, basketball, motor racing just to name a few. 
So the high skill level required combined with the relatively simplicity of the rules is the reason it can be, by far, the biggest pool game in the world, with the biggest prize money. 
Is fitness important for pool players?
Fitness is something I have been into since an early age, and is without doubt massively important. I go to the gym most days and work to a strict training and diet plan. 
In some tournaments, you play a lot of matches over a lot of days over big races. Going to the gym isn’t about being just physically fit, it’s about being mentally fit too. 
Cue sports is evolving all the time and the standard is getting higher all the time. Anything that gives you even a 1% edge can be the difference between winning and losing.
Also, cue sports aside, why wouldn’t you want to keep fit and healthy. 
What are the 3 most important factors? Who has the best stroke in pool today?
This is a tough question because all cue sports are different and they require different strokes and hits on the cue ball, which in turn requires different cue actions. 
American pool players tend to be very loose and loopy. Most don’t even hold the cue tight to their chest. Everything is played with a lot of spin and the cue ball does a lot of travelling. 
Chinese pool is very different, your cue action needs to be straight. The cue needs to be firm on the chest and you need to be very accurate. Your fundamentals and being ‘textbook’ technically is much more important.
Also playing on nap cloth as opposed to Simonis is also very different, which also makes the strike on the cue ball different. 
There are a lot of variants in techniques, stances and cue actions from cue sport to cue sport. So what is right for one doesn’t necessarily mean it is right for another! 
How is your mental strength? Do you have any advice/tricks?
I think my mental strength is also one of the strongest parts of my game. I have won a lot of matches from behind. But it’s not only about this; it goes much deeper. 
Having the ability to deal with making mistakes. We all make mistakes during matches. It's how you mentally deal with it and limiting what that mistake costs you. 
If you make a mistake, it can’t cost you any more than that one rack. You see so many players make a mistake and it affects them for the next 1,2,3  4 frames, which in turns ends up costing you the match, because you never mentally recovered from that first initial mistake. I’m sure a lot of players can relate to that. 
Then there is the side of if you draw a player that you think is better than you. (In some cases you’ve lost before you’ve even took your cue out of its case) 
The mental side of the game is just as, if not more important, than any other. 
How important is the equipment and why do you use the equipment that you do? 
Using the correct equipment is vital. If you're using the wrong gear, then you're never going to play to your full potential. 
As stated above I have endorsed my own cue range for Chinese pool and that’s what I use 
The other vital thing you get right is the tip and chalk. I understand with tips, it’s personal preference among top players. Some prefer harder tips some prefer softer, some prefer the tips higher, some lower. Some have them over hanging some prefer them flush to the ferrule. So it’s what works for you regarding tips.
I personally use a Soft pro Taom tip. 
This brings me into chalk. - Now this is one thing that should not be about personal preference. You have to use Taom chalk.. FACT! 
Almost all of the top snooker players use it and so do almost all of the top English 8-ball players.
Gone are the days of chalk making a mess of the table, transferring onto the cue ball and object balls and causing bad contacts, big bounces, kicks and skids. 
Taom chalk is a complete game changer and has in many ways revolutionised cue sports. Why would you not use chalk that stops all of the above? So if you miss or make a mistake it’s because you did it not your chalk. Cue sports is hard enough workout fighting against certain equipment that don’t do their job properly. 
Chalk is abrasive so therefore wears the cloth more easily. 
It is without doubt the best thing to happen to cue sports for a long time. 
The thing that needs to happen now is it should be made mandatory that everyone has to use it! 
What should the billiard industry in general do to get more recognition outside the industry?
There are players out there that are also marketable away from the table, and as pool grows with tv etc, there will become opportunities that come along for players. 
In my opinion it’s all about TV, endorsements and viewing figures. 
Tournaments and organisations need professionals in charge that know what they are doing and that run it as a business.
I suppose the more events that are on tv for higher prize money makes people sit up and take note 
What are you goals for 2020?
I set myself the goal to win the Chinese Pool International Masters again this year, which was held in China in January. I finished 5th losing to Chu Bingjie, who went on to win. So, not the result I was after, but for 95% of it I played pretty good. This was the last tournament I played and the last Chinese pool tournament  due to the Coronavirus.
Your thoughts on the Covid-19 situation and what should players do?
The situation with Covid-19 has not only stopped cue sports but it has stopped the whole world. These are unprecedented times which certainly puts things into perspective for all of us. 
Winning or losing a pool match is not so important anymore. Things that once seemed important to us no longer do or are. 
I would like to wish all fellow players, amateur or professional, from every cue sport discipline from around the world, all the best during these uncertain times. 
We can all get through this and cue sports will come out the other side of it, stronger I’m sure. 
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my sponsors for their continued support  
The most important thing above all right now is staying safe 
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones