Why Has American Pool Not Gained Traction in the UK?

American Pool - Image from WPA

Firstly I want to say a big thank you to everyone that responded to last weeks email requesting some further information from you guys and girls. There are now some filtered sections of our email list that will be used to try and give you more relevant information. [If you are not a member then you can sign up >>> HERE]

In addition it was great to see a good chunk of you respond to our potential meet-up and coaching session. Apologies if I haven't yet responded to your emails this week but we have been moving software system and that has been grabbing my time.

Why has American Pool not gained Traction in the UK?

This weeks email is quite self-explanatory and again will not suit every reader but I hope you get some value out of it.

I want to take a look at why American Pool hasn't really gained traction in the UK. These insights are my own personal take on why the game hasn't quite moved forward. These insights look at the amateur side of the game that is where the future is developed.

Of course we have had major success since the mid-2000s at professional level. Darren Appleton, Daryl Peach, Jayson Shaw, Karl Boyes and Chris Melling have all won major International titles and Mark Gray has dominated on the European Tour.

This unprecedented success at European and World level saw 3 British players compete as part of the 5-man Team Europe in the most recent Mosconi Cup, thrashing the US team once again at their own game.

Why we have this success at world level needs another article but I want to take a look at a few things below as to why I believe the game has stagnated in the UK.

1. Access to Tables

A lot of snooker halls across the UK, since the smoking ban, have seemed to fade away so a lack of tables is not just restricted to the American Tables. There are less Snooker tables and UK Pool Tables. As a direct affect of this once thriving pool leagues are now seemingly struggling to hold on.

My first reason for a lack of development of American Pool is simply down to the access of the pool tables. American Tables, in the traditional sense, are 9ft x 4.5ft so are quite large and bulky items. Only select venues have the space to have the tables on site and lets not forget that snooker still dominates in this Country. Rileys clubs used to have the vast majority of American tables in the UK, where venues have gone from over 120 at the high point to around 50 now that is a lot of opportunity gone at grassroots level.

In order for any sport to develop, be it pool, badminton or basketball, there first has to be access to the correct equipment.

Of course there are 'barbox' tables that are popular in the USA but I will explain why they haven't taken off in the UK.

2. UK Pool Table Manufacturers would want to suppress the development

We have our own version of pool in the UK and the tables are invariably made here by manufacturers that are British and have a long history. These manufacturers would not take too kindly to US style 'barbox' tables becoming popular in bars across the UK.

I am not suggesting that there is a conscious effort to suppress the game but it makes financial sense for these table makers to try and keep their monopoly within pubs and clubs where they can. There is of course nothing stopping you playing 9 Ball on a UK pool table but it just isn't quite the same.

A whole industry is built around UK pool and an influx of different tables could cause problems for UK jobs, so in one way it could be seen as important to suppress the development of the game at grassroots level.

3. Education

When you walk into a large pool or snooker club with American tables you will probably notice that most of those tables are in use.

This is of course a good thing.

However, when you delve a little deeper you realise that most of the people playing on them are just playing a version of UK 8 Ball on a larger American table. Although there is a version of 8 Ball played on American tables it is different, what should be happening is education. Clubs and more regular players should try and take an active approach to teach 9 Ball, 10 Ball and even some of the more obscure disciplines like One Pocket or Straight Pool. At the same time equipment can be discussed to give a more focussed approach to the needs of an American Pool player.

Without an understanding of why the tables are different and the different games that can be played on them then the game will continue to stagnate. Educate new and young players and maybe there would be a shift.

4. Cost can be prohibitive

When you look at buying equipment whether it be a table or a cue then you will find that there is a huge swing in price from snooker and UK pool eqipment an then American Pool equipment. 

This of course can put potential players off as some of the prices are very very high indeed. But coupled with this a lot of the time the prices are high simply due to the research and development that has gone into the technology to produce solid hitting and low deflection shafts for example. Or the cost of importing tables from the USA or Europe.

To Conclude

Whilst American Pool hasn't quite gained the traction at grassroots level that our International success would suggest it probably isn't a bad thing. Maybe the number of players accessing the game now is the right number for the UK. Maybe I would be wrong in suggesting that players should move from what are our essentially traditional games of UK pool and snooker.

American Pool does not really have the prize money at professional level as that of snooker and that could also be another factor. Any aspiring cueist may see snooker as the way to riches.

There is also a very good chance that a number of players dabble across all games and that once they get to a certain level they will try and access tournaments and look to develop their game.

That's my thoughts anyway. I look forward to reading your thoughts via email, maybe there is something I have glaringly missed or something you do or do not agree with. Please let me know.

Until next week.

Pete Williams - Billiards Boutique

Please note that these articles are originally sent to our email members list on a Wednesday.

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Geffish - October 9, 2018

I don’t live in the UK but rather Australia. Personally, I think the size and shape of American pool table pockets is another reason. They are massive. Any discerning pool player would have to agree. I think it spoils the game when you watch someone pot balls they shouldn’t have. The pockets are so forgiving. I do prefer the cloth on American tables though because they are faster. Overall Americans tend to like easy and high scoring games, where as in UK and most other places we prefer better competition.

Les Church - July 26, 2017

Interesting read, however the main reason we struggle with big table pool is simply the table size! In the uk most people can get access to a uk small table pool within say a mile of their house! Pubs today either do food or pool and darts.
I don’t know of any pubs that have the room for a big table set up….. as you said Riley’s have all but disappeared and they were the main instigators of getting big 9 ball tables into the uk. I was reliably informed that it always kept students busy in the clubs. They never promoted any of the big table games so everyone plays a bastardised set of rules they make up and probably don’t know the various disciplines.
The best example I can give for lack of tables is….if you take the “Medway Towns” in Kent between Sittingbourne, Rainham, Gillingham, Chatham, Rochester and Strood literally 100s of uk small pool tables and only 2 or 3 big pool tables!
I honestly don’t think there is the space or the Knowledge or even enough tables left for its popularity to come back!
Just my opinion!

Old School Jo - April 12, 2017

A good read and I agree with the points raised. I have been playing American pool for about 8 years now having previously played UK pool and snooker since an early age. What I have noticed during this time is a decline in its popularity and access to equipment.

My own research into the game shows that popularity around it peaked when the 9-ball world championships were managed by Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Sports and played over here during the early 2000s with a first prize of $65000 dollars. Later, this increased to $100000 when another great UK player, Daryl Peach, won it in the Philippines in 2007. Since then, there has been a correlation between dwindling prize funds and declining overall popularity and player participation particularly over here.

Access to tables has become more and more difficult and the quality cloth etc. is very poor at some of the places I have played. But then I suppose this is due to a lack of interest in the sport in the first place, so why should club owners bother renewing cloth and such like when the real interest is in snooker and UK pool. This too tends to add to the negative vibe around US pool and, as you have already mentioned, the majority of players are actually just playing UK 8-ball on an American table, I always chuckle when a player exclaims ‘two shots’ after a foul.

It’s good to see a tour like GB9 still out there, however, I hear even they are struggling at times to find the numbers. I guess if the grass roots of the sport aren’t being nurtured it is worrying to think what will happen to such tours in the future. There is also the Euro Tour that seems to have lot of interest from pool players and on an international scale at times but for some reason it has never had a tour stop in the UK despite some wonderful world class talent here.

I think it might be great if say Barry Hearn and his Matchroom Sport’s division got involved again with US pool as they have with snooker. Maybe trial it on these shores for 2-3 years and see if interest perks again. You hear there are very few characters in snooker let alone UK pool, but in American pool they practically invented the idea, and the nicknames are so memorable such as Earl ‘the pearl’ Strickland or Darren ‘dynamite’ Appleton. It would be great to see a major event like this here again with the prize money to match but I fear there are just too many factors acting against it at this moment in time.

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