College pool, how it works and how to get involved

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A pub classic; pool – usually accompanied by a pint or two, is one of the world’s most popular casual sports. It’s no different at universities, and that’s perhaps why it isn’t always taken too seriously.

Here at Durham however, competitive pool is thriving; this academic year will see 54 teams from 14 colleges compete across three divisions for a knock-out trophy.

So, even though pool is thriving, knowledge of it is limited among those not involved. While interviewing Tom Wasiuk, the President of the Durham University Pool League, I got the lowdown on pool at Durham University.

He was very clear on why the game is so attractive to people: “Pool’s a simple game really, you use a wooden stick to hit balls into holes on a cloth-covered table.”

All matches in the Durham University Pool League are played under ‘World Rules’. These regulations are set out by the World Eightball Pool Federation, the governing body for Eightball pool.

These rules may be different to what many casual pool players are used to in their own ‘pub rules’. For instance, every shot must either pot a ball or cause a ball to hit the cushion. They are easy to get to grips with though and encourage a positive flow to games as well.

“Pool’s a simple game really, you use a wooden stick to hit balls into holes on a cloth-covered table.”

This is another reason, perhaps, why pool attracts such a large body of players, there is always scope to develop your own unique take on the sport, if you feel so inclined.

“In terms of League matches, there has been a big change to the Premiership this year,” Tom States. “The format of matches in previous years was teams of six, playing six singles games, three doubles games and a round of speed pool.”

Premiership matches now consist of five players contesting five frames, a speed pool round and five more singles.

The rest of the divisions, however, will continue to follow the old format. For anyone wondering what a ‘speed pool round’ is, it is a contest to see which team can pot all the balls on the table the quick- est. A player stays on the table until they miss.

Play then moves to the next player on their team until all the balls are potted. It is a bit of fun in the middle of each fixture, but you never want to lose!

When Team Durham play they use the five-person format which the Prem has taken inspiration from. Team Durham and the League also use the ‘World Rules’. However, when Team Durham play, each match will have their own referee.

“At college-level,” we are told, “the rules are less strictly enforced and up to the will of each team captain.” So perhaps for those who don’t quite want such a serious evening, but that still sticks to what pool is about, the college leagues are the place for you!

One rule that doesn’t come up often is the Foul Jaw Snooker rule. It stipulates that “if an opponent fouls and the Cue Ball comes to rest on or near a Jaw (curved part of a cushion), and that Jaw is preventing the player from playing the finest cut possible on both sides of any of that player’s own Colour by way of a ‘straight-line’ shot, the player is deemed to be Foul Snookered and all the rules pertaining to Foul Snookers will apply.”

This is possibly the biggest domination of any Durham sports league that has been seen in the past few years.

It sounds complex because it is and causes many heated debates amongst players we are told! So there will be no attempt to fully explain it here!

So, how to get involved? Tom tells us “Each college has numerous pool teams ranging from A’s to G’s. These teams are divided into three divisions of 18, known as the Prem, Div. 1 and Div. 2. “

Each team will play all the others in the league once over the season with promotion and relegation on offer at the end for the top and bottom two.

Close runners-up will also be given the opportunity to get promoted via the play-offs which include the team which finishes third from bottom in the higher division.

There is also a more casual feeder league to these known as the Friendly Ladder. In the ladder, teams can ‘challenge’ each other to games, rather than having specific fixtures set out for them.

At the end of the season, the teams that have the most points are promoted into Div. 2. In the future, we hope to keep developing the Friendly ladder into a fourth division.

Moreover, the League also runs a cup competition called the Trophy and a lesser competition called the Plate for teams knocked out of the Trophy.

After giving us the low-down on how the league works, Tom was asked about the history of the leagues, who are the team to watch for?

“In recent years, Ustinov A have been the dominant force in Durham pool. Winners of the Premiership in 2016 and 2017, they managed to win an unprecedented seventeen games out of a possible seventeen last season and storm to the title for the third time.

In the future, we hope to keep developing the Friendly ladder into a fourth division.

They have also won the Trophy in each of the last three years. This is possibly the biggest domination of any Durham sports league that has been seen in the past few years.

It seemed then that going into the new season that Ustinov A would be an unstoppable force. Seemingly this has been the case, as they have started their title defence winning their first two matches 9-1 against Aidan’s B and Ustinov B to sit at the top of the premiership table.

In contrast, Div. 1 is looking competitive this year with many teams in with a chance of promotion. Tom Wasiuk backed Cuth’s B, Stephenson B and current Plateholders Grey A to have good seasons. Lower down, he tipped the St. Mary’s teams be a success.

So if college pool is something that you haven’t yet tipped your hand at, now seems like the perfect time to try.

Photograph: Christopher Sessums via Flickr

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