Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pool & Gambling: The Debate Continues

I notice a lot of give and take from PoolSynergy writers and readers this month on the issue of pool and gambling.

Justin Collett, founder of The Action Report, praises the drama of one-on-one action featuring top players. "It really is no secret it is as old as time -- people want the drama of a contest," Mr. Collett writes in comments at the bottom of my PoolSynergy post, which is just below this one.

John Biddle, founder of the PoolSynergy project, argues that gambling is bad for the sport's image. "Pool has a very active gambling culture that harms the sport and many of its players, limits it audience and turns off potential sponsors," writes Biddle in his PoolSynergy post. You can read it here.

I write in my post that the opposite might be true -- at least with regards to Biddle's assertion that gambling has limited our sport's audience. It was, after all, the public's fascination with pool gambling that helped propel the popularity of The Hustler, the 1960s film starring Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman. That film ushered in a decade-long renaissance for the sport. I would also argue that the public's fascination with pool gambling helps explain the astronomical TV ratings of the Great Shoot-Out, which pitted Minnesota Fats against Willie Mosconi. The challenge match was the most watched pool event in American history.

One other observation: Mr. Collett notes that while his website "is about the action side of the game," it's also much more than that. "No one has done as much coverage of the high end custom cue scene as us as well as streaming traditional events like the WPBA, US Bar Table Championships, and the upcoming US Open 10 Ball," he writes. Again, you can read Mr. Collett's comments at the bottom of my PoolSynergy post, which is right below this one.

And by way of background, PoolSynergy is an online collaborative effort between pool writers who post essays each month about a common theme. You can read more about PoolSynergy here. You can also cast your vote on the issue of pool and gambling at the online poll, which I've posted up in the right-hand margin of this blog.

-- R.A. Dyer


Michael McCafferty said...

Mr. Collett's assertion that no one has done as much coverage of pool as TAR is missing the point.

It's not about quantity, it's about QUALITY of coverage.

jbiddle said...

I'm not at all opposed to mano-a-mano contests. As Mr Collett notes, they are exciting, and generate an audience. What bothers me about them is that the contestants are putting up their own money, often lots of it, and the result is more like gladiators than a sporting event.

Losers in tournaments or sponsored exhibition matches live to fight another day, but in gambling, losers are hurt, and can sometimes have a tough time coming back.

But TAR matches aren't the problem. I've been linking to the TAR site off my blog for a long time. It's the less controlled gambling that takes place all across the country, where the hustling and cheating take place regularly that are hurting pool's reputation, not TAR.

It's certainly true that many non-pool players are fascinated by this underworld of nefarious and unscrupulous hustlers. But the show the same interest in TV or movie criminals like Tony Soprano, without having any real interest in the actual mob. Fast Eddie Felson may be a romantic character to some, during a movie or even for a little while after, but then they go back to thinking he's just a dishonorable bum who can shoot pool.