Is League play right for you?

20,000 Leagues

Uncategorized on February 26th, 2010 No Comments

If you’re like me and you love competition but don’t want to go out and hustle pool for a living or you feel that you’re just not good enough to play in tournaments yet, then I have a great solution….Leagues! That’s right….just like in bowling there are amateur pool leagues everywhere.  The first thing I always hear when I mention pool leagues is… “I’m not good enough” Well, worry no more! The American Pooplplayers Association Pool League or APA as it is know is the largest pool league in the world.  It didn’t get that way by recruiting only good players. They are so successful because as they say “Everyone Can Play…Anyone Can Win!”  The majority of their league (75%)  is made up from average to below average skilled players. It is one of the only leagues that requires a balance of all skill levels on each team and with their Equalizer Handicap System it really is true that anyone can win.  Each player has a handicap rating from skill level 2 (Absolute beginner) to 7  (Very highly skilled) and everything in between. So for example if you are a skill level 3 and you have to play a skill level 6 you would be required to win 2 games before your opponent won 5 games. This levels the playing field dramatically. The APA also is the only league that offers over $1,000,000 in prize money at it’s National Championship events that are held several times per year in Las Vegas.  The best part about how their league is structured is the “23 rule”.  What this means is out of the 5 players that play on a given league night their total handicap (skill level ratings) cannot add up to more than 23.  This makes it impossible to stack a team with all 6’s and 7’s and requires each team to have some lower skilled players (2’s, 3’s etc.) in order to play. What this means to you is… APA League Teams need you if you are a lower skilled player.

Let’s take a minute to talk about some do’s and don’t about pool leagues.

Do: Ask your local bar or pool hall if they offer leagues and which ones.

Do: Form a team with a group of your friends. Most leagues will place you on a team if you don’t have enough friends to form your own team but it is always more fun to play on a team with people you know.

Do: Choose a league that suits you and your ability. There are many types of leagues and we will discuss some of those later.

Do: Go out to a league match and watch them play before joining to make sure you know what to expect before diving in to the deep end of the “pool”

Now for some things you shouldn’t do or worry about when considering league play.

Don’t: Worry that you are not good enough. There are many league that want and need players of every skill level. All you have to do is find the one that is right for you.

Don’t: Be concerned that people will laugh at you if you don’t play well. Even the best player in the world remembers when he or she played just as bad as you! Besides you’ll probably be having so much fun laughing at yourself that you won’t care what that [email protected] on the barstool is doing!

Don’t: Expect to win every match. Just have fun.

Don’t: Get mad if someone shows poor sportsmanship. Remember…you’re playing pool in a bar! It’s gonna happen…there are sore losers out there. Not like bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster…Really! I have seen real live sore losers with my own eyes and many of them play pool in bars and join pool leagues!

Dont: Hesitate to ask questions. There are many resources online that can help you decide which leagues offer what and if you’re reading this you probably already know someone that plays in a league.

So, now you want to know which league is right for you?

The Nationally sanctioned leagues out there are APA, Billiards Congress of America (BCA) Valley National 8-Ball Association (VNEA) and a few other smaller leagues not worth mentioning. Then there are zillions of local bar leagues that are not sanctioned and usually are ran by an individual and have no affiliation with any national organization.

The APA is clearly the largest league with over 250,000 members nation wide it has more members than all of the other national leagues combined. With their handicapping system and huge national tournaments it offers more to it’s players than the other leagues. It does however have some drawbacks… In order to play in the championship events your team must qualify by winning your local division play-offs then in some cases an end of session tournament with all of the local winners followed by a local championship that has all of the winners of each league season (3 seasons per year) playing off for the opportunity to play in the National Championship in Las Vegas. This is no easy task and many teams play in this league for years and never qualify. But, I can tell you from experience the APA Nationals are a sight to behold! 200 pool tables and 10,000 players all playing the exact same rules that you play at in your local bar on league night. It was something I will never forget even though we only won 2 matches and were promptly knocked out of the tournament!

The BCA and VNEA leagues are geared more towards the better players. They allow you to stack your team with all of the great players you can find and because of this you see the same teams winning year after year. With no handicap system it teaches you to swim with the sharks or get eaten by them. If your desire is to become a great player and pool is more than a recreational hobby for you then these are great leagues to join. You don’t have to qualify for the Nationals all you usually need to do is play 1 season with your team and you can go. Also they allow you to adjust your team roster and go to the championship with ANY players that have completed a league season. These events you just sign your team up, pay your expenses and you are in the big time!

There are several other types of leagues. Bar leagues that… you guessed it…. play in bars. Most bar leagues are travel leagues which means they travel from one bar to another depending on the schedule and which locations host teams.  Then there are In-House leagues that…no,  don’t play in your house…it means they play at one location only for the whole season. You also have money leagues that just play for the cash payout at the end of the season. Another fun type of league is the “Trip” league where everyone that participates gets to go on a fun trip to Las Vegas, Laughlin or some other fun place to hang out with your teammates at the end of the season.

A typical league night goes a little like this:

Show up at the host location walk in order a drink…. practice a little and warm up. …Have a drink…wait for your turn to play your match…have another drink while cheering for your teammates….get nervous when it’s your turn to play a match…have drink to calm your “nerves”… play your match… hang out with your teammates while the other matches finish have another drink….pay your league dues…take a cab home and go to work the next day hung over!  OK… that is a typical league match for some of my teammates but you and I would never drink before our match….right???

Next entry we’ll talk about pool gadgets…what every player should carry in their case and why.

Until next time…. Keep Your Tip Shaped, Your Balls Clean and Don’t Forget to Chalk Up!

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