The Sport of Pool Isn’t Dead – Here’s Why
One common question surrounds the pool world today – is pool a dying sport?
While it is true that pool is not as popular as it was a few decades ago, it is far from being a dying sport.
The glory days of pool might be long gone, but the game is here to stay. It is still quite a popular recreational and casual sport, and still among the most pressure-packed sports to play professionally.
In this article, we’ll explain why some people think pool is dead. We will also explain why it is still a great game for both casual and professional players.
The Glory Days of Pool
The sport of pool has been around since the 15th century, but it became more popular in the 19th century. Billiards used to be so popular in the US that during the Civil War, billiards matches and tournament results got more media coverage than the war.
The surge in the popularity of pool can be attributed to several factors.
For starters, pool halls and leisure centers where people could go and socialize were opening all over. It was not uncommon to have up to 5 pool halls on one street.
The period between the 1870s and 1950s saw different pool championships and tournaments being held annually. There were also several highly publicized one-on-one matches all year round.
Pool was also quite popular during both the First and Second World Wars. It was a popular recreational sport for motivating soldiers. Professional pool players would even visit military camps to play exhibition matches.
The Fall and Rise in Pool’s Popularity Post World War II
Pool’s popularity dropped post World War II. Soldiers coming from the war were opting to focus on other things, such as building their careers and starting families.
Spending afternoons in pool halls was no longer at the front of peoples’ minds. Many pool halls closed down, and by the end of the 1950s, it looked like the game might be dying.
The sport would, however, get a new lease on life in 1961, when 20th Century Fox film released the movie, “The Hustler”. The movie raised interest in pool by showing the dark world of pool hustling.
Pool got another boost in the 70s when more and more matches were being televised. One of those matches was the 1978 game between Willie Mosconi and Minnesota Fats, which became the most-watched billiards match in US cue sports history.
Another high during pool’s glory days was the 1986 release of “The Color of Money”. The movie was a sequel to “The Hustler” and featured Tom Cruise in a lead role.
This movie introduced the sport to a new generation of players and made it more socially accepted. New pool rooms with a more upscale look started emerging all over the USA.
Is Pool Less Popular These Days?
The glory days of pool are likely gone. The sport does not seem as popular as it was half a century ago, and the novelty of the game has worn off. But, there are many places in the US, the UK, and the Philippines, where the game is still quite popular.
Here are 6 reasons pool seems less popular today:
1. Pool Is Expensive
Pool is an expensive sport for players and pool establishments. As a casual player, you may need to pay up to $10/hour to play in a pool hall.
If you are more serious about the game, you’ll likely need to pay at least $200 to get a solid playing cue, $10 or more to play in tournaments, and much more.
Running a pool establishment comes with even heftier costs. Everything from paying for licenses and rent, to buying pool tables and other accessories can set you back thousands of dollars.
Some pool halls die out because the business just isn’t profitable enough to cover all these costs.
2. Negative Stigma Around Pool
There have been negative stereotypes surrounding pool and pool halls for quite awhile. Many people have always associated pool with shady activities and personalities like hustlers.
Gamblers and other rebellious characters also frequented pool halls, which created a negative perception.
Some pool halls have historically been unwelcoming environments that were too rough around the edges. All this helped create a negative attitude toward the sport, and many people lost interest.
3. Rise of Other Forms of Entertainment
People now have more forms of entertainment than they did in the 60s or 70s. You no longer need to go to a bar or pool hall for entertainment.
The internet also provides endless entertainment options. You can even play all kinds of pool virtually on your computer or smartphone.
4. Pool Takes Patience to Learn and Master
Pool is not the most complex game to learn, but it takes a lot of patience to learn and master how to play it right. Many people just don’t have the patience for this nowadays.
It is easier to play pool online, where the game guides you on where to place the cue or even what spin to apply. Also, you do not have to master the different rules of a particular game when playing virtually.
Playing pool in the virtual world is also free or has very little expense tied to it.
5. More Social Gathering Spaces Exist
There are now more spaces for social gatherings. You do not have to go to a pool hall or bar to socialize with friends.
People nowadays meet in malls, theaters, parks, restaurants and many other places. Unlike a pool hall, these spaces accommodate everyone and offer more entertainment options.
6. Drop in Advertising Spending
Nowadays, pool no longer gets as much airtime on TV as it used to. Because of this fact, less advertising money is coming into the sport.
Less advertising spending can make it harder to grow the game, because less potential players and fans are being reached.
Back in the day, cigarette companies were even selling cards featuring famous pool players. Those days are long gone.
Pool Isn’t Really Dead
It is true the popularity of pool has been on the decline in some places, but the fact is that the sport is not dead. Pool is still a popular leisure activity that many enjoy and use to relax or have fun with friends.
Many people will often play a few rounds of pool in a bar when out with friends. Bars and pubs still use pool to attract patrons and keep them entertained as they enjoy quality time, food, and drinks with one another.
The flexibility and versatility of pool has also helped keep it alive. The game can be played by people of all ages and with different skill sets.
Pool can be played in other settings besides bars and pool halls. For instance, many people have pool tables at their homes and enjoy a few games while having barbeque or watching the big game.
Most pool halls are no longer the shabby, underground places that many people thought they were back in the day. Lots of them are neat and upscale gathering places for people of different ages. This makes them more socially acceptable, even for the younger generation.
Pool halls also have many other amenities like ping pong, darts and foosball. The added amenities draw more people to the halls, and some end up getting hooked to the sport of pool.
Popular Pool Tournaments Keeping the Game Alive
1. The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) World 9-ball Championship
The WPA World 9-ball Championship is one of the oldest pool competitions. The annual tournament has been held since 1990. It draws professional players from around the world, and many people consider it the most prestigious tournament in the sport.
2. American 14.1 Straight Pool Championship
This competition is now in its 17th year. It is one of the biggest tournaments for straight pool, and it is held annually in the US.
3. US Open Nine-ball Championship
This long-running pool championship began in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1976. It has been held annually since then. Although US players dominated it in its early days, it now attracts professional players from around the world.
Winners in the last 4 events have been non-US players. You can see a list of all the winners here.
4. The Mosconi Cup
The Mosconi Cup is an annual 9-ball pool competition. It is also one of the older tournaments in the sport. The first edition was held in 1994.
The event is usually a competition between teams representing the US and Europe. You can compare it to the Ryder Cup (in golf).
5. Junior Events
Besides these professional pool tournaments, some well-known junior-level tournaments have also promoted the game for years.
One such tournament is The Junior National Nine-ball Championships which has been held in the US since 1995.The Junior World Nine-ball Championship held annually by the WPA is also quite prominent.
Pool is Still a Great Game
Pool is still a fun sport, and there are many benefits to playing the game. For starters, pool is excellent exercise and keeps you moving, but does not require much physical exertion. It requires more hand-eye coordination, but will still work several muscles like your legs, arms and hips.
Playing pool is also an excellent way to improve your cognitive skills. It helps enhance your decision-making and concentration. Also, it can improve spatial awareness and both problem-solving and visualization skills.
Pool is still a great social activity. It’s a great way to have fun and interact with friends. Pool halls still make a perfect place to gather and socialize.
Finally, pool is a great indoor activity you can engage in all year round. It’s fun for friends and family, especially in the colder months when there is not much to do outdoors.
It is true the sport of pool has been in decline. This has resulted from factors such as the sport being quite expensive to play and the rise of other forms of entertainment. But pool is not dead.
There are still many people around the world that enjoy playing the sport both casually and professionally. There are also many championships and tournaments that have helped keep the game alive.
If you love pool, keep working on your skills, as there will always be interest in the sport.
As always, Happy Shooting!