The sport of pocket billiards has been around for centuries. In recent years we have seen the birth of pool leagues. Much like bowling leagues amateurs can compete nationally towards prize money and trophies. This can entice many average everyday players to join the competition. The problem begins with players that hide their true skill level to gain an advantage. Thus the Sandbagging in the Pool World issue. The handicap method of pool leagues resulted in the art of what we call Sandbagging. Sandbagging is an extension of when hustlers hide their true skill level to win matches. It is an unfair advantage that hurts the sport. This behavior can result in people leaving the sport rather than encouraging others to join. In a nutshell it is self-defeating for our sport if left unchecked.
A popular national pool league that claims to have over 250,000 members mostly goes by innings to determine a person’s skill level. The obvious manipulation by a sandbagger is to miss shots on purpose to increase the number of innings. Midway during the match they start to make shots they missed previously and then toward the end of the match they display far better skill to close the match out. Since only innings, defense shots, and times outs for coaching are recorded this method of manipulation works for the sandbagger. It is impossible for the organization to catch what is happening on paper. A person would have to follow the player on a non-league night to see how they really play. League Operators will not waste their time doing that. Thus the sandbagging goes unchecked on a wide spread scale.
How many times have you felt that in a match a player was not the skill level they portrayed on paper? The system has them as a skill level three and you are a two. You are making shots you have been practicing on. You’re ahead in the game at the midpoint, and then out of nowhere the opponent starts making shots from every position on the table. They blow past you and win the game. You are left wondering what happened. Making matters worse they are still a skill level three next week because their amount of innings from your match with them. You complain to the local league operator, but will it ever be addressed. Our experience is that it will not be addressed in most cases. Again we believe this hurts the sport.
Those that swear by the sandbagging blame it on others doing so is why they HAVE to do it. Others believe it is impossible to win otherwise. Meanwhile some flat out don’t care about how their sandbagging hurts the sport. They only care about their winning and taking whatever prize is awarded to them. Even though they did it in a un-sportsman like conduct manner. A lot of teams encourage this to the determent of the league and sport. A player wants to prove their worth to the team so many reciprocate the request to sandbag by their team captains.
The bottom line is Houston we have a problem. Some of tried to come up with solutions to the problem. Part of it will be having more complicated algorithms to determine true skill level. There are some products in the works that we have become aware of at Alamo Billiards. Part of it will be to change the attitudes of some of the sandbaggers while removing the non-compliant ones from the leagues. The end result will be a sport where you can compete fairly with others. In order to win you will have to improve your game. However, there will not be someone blowing past you mid game leaving a bad taste in your mouth about the sport of pocket billiards. In our opinion the gamblers need to stick to gambling while the others compete in their leagues and tournaments.