A Weekend at GB9

March 31, 2017 16:08

GB9 Ball Tour LogoThis article (written back at the beginning of March 2017) is about my weekend trip to the GB9 Ball Tour in Telford. Yes, it is geared towards American Pool again but I want to try and continue to send these articles out to everyone as the responses I have been getting have been excellent.

It was the first time I had played in a GB 9 Ball Tour event, although I had been involved in the tour providing recorded and live video streaming since it started in 2008 to around 2011. It was great for me to be back playing a game that I really love.

Below I am going to give my personal take on what was good or could be improved about the event from a terrible amateur players perspective!

What makes the tour great?

There are a number of things which make GB9 a great event to participate in. 

You get a start time in advance of the event but to stop any hassles or potential no shows the draw is not published until you arrive. It is also held in a hotel which gives the tournaments a bit more prestige.

The events are extremely well organised and run by a small group of dedicated people, and although some matches will always run over they try their very hardest to stick to a schedule. What helps with the organisation is computerised results. Every table in the match arena has a computer hooked up to the system that then means there is instant live scoring and results. This is both for the website and the tournament director, as well as being outputted onto a monitor at the tournament desk so other players can have a look.

Having the computerised results also means there is no need for pens or paper anywhere in the arena, players simply hit F1 or F12 to advance the score.

The second thing I must mention is the equipment. The tables are excellent even though they are a fair few years old now they have been stored well and for this event had all been newly covered in tournament blue Simonis cloth. This is coupled with use of the Aramith Duramith Pro Cup TV ball sets on every table.

The equipment means that the playing conditions are excellent. The tables are lightning quick and take a fair bit of adjustment for someone like me who is used to playing on poor quality club tables.

The layout of the main match arena means there is plenty of space for spectators as well as players to move about comfortably.

GB9 also has a very good atmosphere amongst the player base. From the whole time there I didn't see or hear about any trouble at all, everyone just really gets on and treats it for what it is. A well organised weekend of pool.

Talking about the pool it was good to get quite a fair bit of table time. The way the tournament is structured means that you are guranteed at least three matches. The main, or open, event is for all players and is a double eliminator to the last 16. There are races to 9 on the winners side and races to 7 on the losers side. It gives plenty of pool and what can be quite a back-to-back schedule.

In addition the field are then split into three further tiers, a 16 player pro event (8 players at this one) and then two 40 player 'Challenge' tiers. The pro event is again double elimination and the Challenge are single elimination with quite long races again meaning plenty of value for the entry. Each of the tiered events has it's own prize money structure which means there is more potential for any player to go home with a bit of cash. Format details.

The slight downsides 

There are only a few things that I found a little bit annoying or could do with tweaking in my opinion.

The hotel venue means you are tied in to stay there as part of the sponsorship deal, the room rate when I booked was not too bad but can be a lot higher making the weekend very expensive.

Everything else about the hotel was expensive, the food prices were extortionate, bar prices and even bottled water were too high in my opinion. To be fair to the tour they have negotiated a 20% discount for players and you really need to use it. With the match schedule being quite full on it is not always easy to escape to another restaurant to find cheaper food.

A small bottle of mineral water was £2.70 and throughout a weekend a lot of players have a bottle of water at the table (no alcohol is allowed of course). The hotel, not really GB9, could try and do something more for GB9 players. They have around 100 people staying at the hotel already, they don't need to charge extortionate prices even though I understand why they do.

The speed pool was a great idea for an added bit of fun in the weekend but in my opinion would have been better done at night rather than break the flow of the schedule on a Saturday. That being said everyone that took part enjoyed it.

I like the way that prize money is split into essentially 4 tournaments. However, for an 8 player pro event even with the extra entry they pay it did seem odd to be paying £900 to the winner and paying down to the last 4.

The Challenge events are designed to give value to the amateur players but my opinion is that a full double elimination event is the way forward. This would mean the tournament could start later on a Friday (I had a 15:30 session after a 5 hour drive). Everyone should want to test themselves against the best. If you still want to guarantee three matches then maybe keep aside a small percentage of prize money and run a plate competition for those that have gone two and out.

Lastly, although the tables, cloth and balls are all of the highest quality some of the tables could now do with some fresh rubber. A number of times I got some inconsistent bounce across the weekend so is something they should perhaps look at. In addition the state of some of the balls in terms of cleanliness was a bit poor. It is a nightmare task to clean 16 sets of balls each session or even each day but perhaps a quick clean of the white balls would be easier to manage?

Conclusion

It is a great little series of events (I feel odd calling it a tour as each event is now in the same venue). We have to treat it for what it is, a very well organised tournament series mainly for amateur pool enthusiasts, some of them can of course play a bit but essentially we have to treat it as an amateur series with a lot of oopportunity to play some pool on some good quality equipment.

Linked with this is the fact that there is great banter and cameraderie amongst the players meaning it is actually a nice weekend and is something different to do as a form of enjoyment, even if, like me, you beat yourself up over so many missed balls.

If you played in the event let me know your thoughts. Sadly it will be my first and last time but that is a completely different story.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

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