A Response to: Blackball is the Future of Small Ball Pool

Blackball Pool or World Rules?

The below is an email response I received from Jon Shapland in regards to my article Blackball is the future of small ball pool. He has given me express permission to publish the response as long as it was in it's entirety.

I agree wholeheartedly with you that more should be done by everyone to achieve unity in the game (one set of rules, one World Championship, one inter-county structure [per country], etc, etc) and those that are close to me (in pool circles) will know my feelings about that, but I'm afraid I disagree with virtually everything else you've written.

I would be interested to read a comparison between the prizemoney offered by the IPA tour against that of the EPA-endorsed UK Tour and indeed whether each is guaranteed or "subject to entries" - plus their track records at actually paying out what they said they'd pay out, post event.  Whilst I have various bits of second-hand information, I genuinely don't know the full answers to these queries.  I think your mail would come across better if it presented a fuller picture, however; the below frankly reads as nothing more than pro-blackball propaganda.

To suggest that World rules is mainly played in the UK is wrong.  I've travelled to the Republic of Ireland for pool reasons on numerous occasions (indeed, I'm off there tomorrow morning on pool business) and can assure you that World rules is the dominant and more organised set in that country.  Furthermore, what we call "World rules" were actually the Australian rules that have been played in that part of the world since long before they ever came to the UK.

I'd also like to take you to task over your claims about a Hungarian national playing in the IPA World Championships.  This player is a personal friend of mine and -whilst undoubtedly a Hungarian national- has most certainly not travelled from Hungary to England to take part in the IPA World Championships.  The player has been resident in Nottingham for literally years - I would say at least five, but probably closer to ten.  Furthermore, he actually won a qualifier to which he was the only person to enter.  I wonder how many qualifying events for the WEPF World Championships would attract only one entrant...?

I have no wish to criticise EBPF; they are frankly none of my business.  The events of the English Pool Association (recognised by Sport England as the governing body for pool in England) are positively thriving, though.  Two inter-league weekends and one "Champion of Champions" event (for local-league teams) a year are always oversubscribed, despite recent increases in the numbers of teams attending the national finals.

In my opinion pool is not like snooker in so much as pool has its roots firmly in team play.  Virtually no-one plays their first competitive pool by entering a singles competition; they start out by playing for their local pub in their local pool league and progress from there to inter-league and inter-county level.  Maybe even international level for those that are good enough.  Snooker is much more of an individual game.  Ask yourself how many snooker leagues there are in comparison to pool leagues - this despite your below assertion that the number of pool tables is pubs is on the slide.

Rules wise, consider the following situation: The eight ball lands very close to pocket off the break.  Player A is "first in" and attempts a clearance.  He misses his last red along the bottom rail though and it hangs over the corner pocket, with three yellow balls in close proximity.  Who is favourite in this frame?

Rather than blindly answering "Player A" or "Player B", I would hope that any sensible person would first ask, "What rules are they playing?"

Under World rules Player A would be a massive favourite in that frame, but under blackball rules or "old EPA" rules (or any set of rules where deliberate fouls are punished by loss of frame and where extracting any foul is rewarded with automatic lift and free table) Player B would be massive favourite.

Ask yourself who would be favourite under World rules with the blackball-style combination shot though...?

Scratching your head?  You should be!  That frame is still on an absolute knife edge: Player A has "deliberate fouls" to defend himself against snookering and other tactical play with while Player B has the combination shot to attempt to clear the blocked pocket.

When we talk about having an "open" game, this is what is meant in my opinion - a frame still being very much up for grabs rather than one person virtually having it won.  It is for this reason that I believe World rules with the blackball-style combination shot represent the best-possible set of rules.  I'd also like to see the blackball break thrown in, or, more preferably, the old BAPTO/Federation-rules break (where the breaker chose his colour regardless of what happened on the break shot).

by Jon Shapland

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kenny fraser - April 24, 2019

Having had the misfortune to be rquired to play the so-called “world”?? (Ha ha!!) Rules and had to digest the reams of instruction accompanying them ,plus explain the legality of such a “cheats charter” to less experienced players,i for one Welcome the far more approachable and simpler BLACK BALL RULES, and sincerely hope they ensure the extinction of the dinosaur that is “World” rules.

Jon Shapland - November 29, 2018

I don’t see why it’s stupid, Stephen. [My opinion is that] blackball rules < World rules < World rules with blackball-style combination shot.

Of course either player can still win from the situation I describe above, but given two players of a similar standard you’d surely not argue that under World rules Player A would be heavy favourite and under blackball rules (or “Old EPA” rules) Player B would be heavy favourite? Whereas under World rules with the blackball-style combination shot it’s a much more even frame.

Stephen whatley - February 8, 2017

So what you are saying is world rules are still the better rules but you want them to bring in the combination shot. To me that is stupid.

Referring to the situation you mentioned above where Player A has the red over the bottom picked and Player B has 3 yellows in close proximity, player b can still win from that position if he works hard at getting two shots by snookering, it also shows how good a player he is if he wins from that position

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