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Snooker in Bangkok

Joe Perry and Mark Williams

Player's Championship from the Montien Riverside Hotel. Bangkok, Thailand. 24-28 March, 2015
 
Sponsored by Sang Som, a Thai whiskey, and D88 a Chinese conglomerate. Aramith was the ball of choice.
 
Welcome to cuesports paradise. In Bangkok, pool is the amateur cueman’s game of choice as there are bar boxes in bars everywhere yet, it’s big-money snooker that gets the fan and media attention.
 
32 players of international repute including World #1 Mark Selby,  #2, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy, Mark Williams, China's Marco Fu, and the Thai local hero of the moment, Terchaiya Un-Nooh converged on Bangkok to vie for a prize fund close to half a million dollars.
 
These names may not mean much to you as snooker doesn't get much action on US TV. But there is always the Internet and hahasport.com. Pretty much any snooker that is televised can be seen there and…for free.
 
Like the US, it was also nice to see the well known players openly hanging out in the lobby signing autographs and conversing casually with the fans. It’s also interesting to note that the front row of the audience was inhabited by many attractive, well dressed, young Thai women.
 
Thais love cue sport's. Not so long ago James Wattana put Thailand on the map as he had some close finishes on the world snooker tour. There are more snooker rooms than pool rooms but virtually every bar in Bangkok's party neighborhoods has at least one pool table while the music blares in the background, Most have more. Thai women love to play and revel in their success as they disclose to their unsuspecting, mostly male, foreign competitors that this “ain’t no disco.”
 
Pool also gets its fair share on Thai national TV as the Fox Sports International Channel delivers all the events that Accu-Stats captures; The US Open 9-Ball Championship, The Derby City Classic, and their "Make It Happen" Invitational series. Matchroom airs its World event's and the ubiquitous Mosconi Cup on another network.
 
Then, there are the serious pool rooms dotted along the sois (streets, pronounced soy) on and off Sukhumvit Rd. They have an expat pool league network that spans the bars and rooms that host some kind of tournament action almost every night of the week. Bigger events are held early Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
 
Hustlers, a definite destination room near Asok Skytrain station on Sukhumvit, has a keep-em-coming-back strategy that allows competitors to accumulate points scored from finishes in their biweekly tournaments and, at season-end, the top eight share a pro-rated prize fund of 50,000 baht–about $1750.
 
Occasionally you see some "A" players pop-up but it's mostly neighboring Filipinos, on the stall, who hop on flights and sneak in under the radar.
 
Hustlers has hosted a series of 100,000 baht, about 3500 US, money games. The side action was just as heavy with the standing room only crowds.
 
Many times the likes of Mika, Shane, Darren, and Efren have stopped in and held clinics on their way to world events hosted in Asia. Even Neil Robertson has graced their blue Simonis.
 
The Sports Academy, a pool ball lob across Sukhumvit from Hustlers, has 9-Ball and 10-Ball tourneys on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively,
 
The Sportsman on Sukhumvit, soi 13, had just expanded to the second floor to include 10 new 9 footers and contribute to the aforementioned, weekly tournament schedule.
 
In the these rooms, the equipment is always world class: The balls are always Aramith; Cuetec is the house cue of choice while blue Masters Chalk matches the Simonis Cloth. Magic Racks are prevalent.
 
But it's snooker that's the flavor of the day; pool will have to wait, especially, for the £300,000 prize money the Players Championship has up for grabs. With the world Championship offering £300,000 for first, you can imagine the millions that the top snooker pros have stashed in tax havens around the world.
 
The shot-making was extraordinary as the deceptively, tight pockets accepted balls that have to be sighted perfectly. Player's leaving 12 foot, table-length safeties were in for a rude awakening as Robertson, Trump, and Williams aggressively drove the unsuspecting balls deep in the back of the pocket.
 
And, there are so many more harmonious “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience as balls rattle and hang.
 
In snooker, balls stranded, close to the cushion–thanks to the rounded, rather than straight, cut of the pockets–are almost impossible to make down the rail with any speed. More mastery is applied as these single, loose balls are “developed” by being bunted into the middle of the table.
 
The weirdest rule for a pool player to accept is that a player can simply roll the cue ball snugly behind an object ball to snooker his opponent without any ball having to hit a rail after contact.
 
The race to 4 matches, short when you consider that the world championship can be a race to 17, really puts the pressure on the top guys, because, as we all know, shorter races benefit the weaker player.
 
The events 8 “centuries”–a 100 point run that is equally as important in snooker as it as in Straight Pool–got rousing applause from the knowledgeable, mostly Thai, audience. Robertson had the highest  with 138 while Williams had the most with 2. In fact, his first was right out of the gate against local hero Un-Nooh. 
 
The fan turnout was at it's highest in the opening, standing room only, rounds as everyone wanted to see the snooker superstars that they have seen mostly on TV. Maybe, it was the fact that there were so many early upsets that slightly, lessened the audience attendance as the event wound down.
 
Robertson and Selby were eliminated early by Wales’ Williams and England’s Mark Davis, respectively. Davis, incidentally, has won the last two “6 red” world titles here in Bangkok.
 
Trump, the last top ten ranked survivor, only managed to get to the semis. Plus, the tournament was also shown LIVE on Thai national TV. Altho,’ taxis are cheap, getting around Bangkok traffic can be slow going so many elected to view remotely from the comfort of their couch.
 
Finalist and 3-time World Champion Mark Williams altho,’ not quite as we’ll known, is no slouch either. Still high from leaping past fans in the lobby with “Hang Time” that would challenge Michael Jordan, Williams was exhilarated after his semi-final 4-2 trouncing of Trump. he also had eliminated World #1, Mark Selby in the second round.
 
After the dinner break, Williams entered the arena to face Londoner Joe Perry, an opponent much less exposed to the limelight. Perry’s less strenuous path had upset fellow Brits Stuart Bingham, Michael Holt, and Anthony McGill – all players he had competed against in the past in his tortuous route to becoming a champion. 
 
With a, seemingly, impenetrable 3-0 lead, Williams had led the charge. After his 3rd round comeback from down 1-3 against England’s Matthew Selt, Mark had stated, ”It's not the way you start the match, it's the way you finish," The 40 year old Williams would soon have to eat those words.
 
In, potentially, the 4th and final frame, Williams managed little when offered a jawed ball sitting in the mouth of the pocket, Perry never paused and punished Williams by taking the frame. From 1-3, it wasn’t long before the motivated, London underdog was back on the comeback trail. Williams was confined to his seat as Perry, inspired, gained power and momentum.
 
It was’t all bad, Williams had pocketed £38,000, about 60 thou US, and had guaranteed his spot in Matchroom’s 2015 World Championships in the Crucible in Sheffield, England. “I’m so happy about that because it was my main aim at the start of the season."
 
Joe Perry was jubilant with his first tournament ranking points title and, of course, the tasty £100,000, or 4 MILLION+, Thai Baht pocket money. At around 8 bucks an hour, that’ll get you a lot of pool on Sukhumvit. Of course, money like this, to Judd, is mere “Trump change.” 
 
To keep up with snooker, visit worldsnooker.com and, to watch it LIVE, hahasport.com. 
 
Our thanks to Media Manager Tai Chengzhe for his assistance in this article and P.R. Director Mullika Tongneausuk for the gracious hospitality..

Spaceman Into Orbit With Shoot-Out Triumph

Dominic Dale

Dominic Dale won the 888casino Shoot-Out in Blackpool, snooker's quick-fire one-frame knockout event, beating Stuart Bingham in the final.

 

Colourful character Dale, nicknamed the Spaceman, won six matches to take the £32,000 top prize, the third biggest pay-day of his 22-year career.

 

Cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, 42-year-old Dale rose to the challenge of the exhilarating tournament, deadly potting and quick thinking his key attributes. The Welshman, sporting a peroxide blonde hair-cut, knocked out Fergal O'Brien, Barry Hawkins, Mark Allen, Andrew Higginson and Ryan Day to reach the final before getting the better of Basilson's Bingham.

 

A superb break of 61 put Dale in control, though he missed a red to a centre pocket to gift Bingham a chance. But having made just 15, the Essex cueman missed an easy pink, allowing Dale to wrap up victory by a 77-19 scoreline.

 

"In the last few years at this event I have been a nervous wreck, I found it hard to strike the cue ball," admitted Dale, who has won two world ranking events, the 1997 Grand Prix and 2007 Shanghai Masters. "But this time I felt very calm and I potted a lot of good pressure balls.

 

"The crowd adored me because I'm an extrovert and I relish this type of occasion. It's wonderful to be popular and I wanted to win it for them. It's a fantastic venue and a one-off tournament so to win a prestigious trophy at the age of 42 is very special.

 

"I have practised harder in the last three or four years than I had done in my whole career. We have so many tournaments now and that gives me motivation to do well. I've won a big cheque today and that will keep me going for a while."

 

Dale, who sang a few lines of 'My Way' after collecting the trophy in the arena, plans to keep his hair blonde for the time being. "It must be lucky so I won’t change it until I have a bad run!" he joked.

 

The tournament, first staged in 2011, featured frames lasting a maximum of ten minutes, with a 15 second shot clock for the first five minutes and 10 seconds for the last five.