There are many who don’t think of cue sports as actual sports but rather as something you do for fun. This probably has to do with how accessible it is to the general public: it doesn’t need superior fitness and stamina, only a good aim and a free table at the local pool club. The image of cue sports in popular culture doesn’t help either – it is often depicted as something done by bikers (usually the bad guys) in roadside bars, and usually for money. This doesn’t stop them from being not only a popular recreational activity but also a serious sport in Europe and the Americas, even if cue sports barely qualify for one of the most beloved sports in Canada and the US. There are, in turn, countries that may not be famous for their vivid cue sports scene but are serious about it.
Hungary is famous throughout the world for its amazing association football team – the Golden Team – that played its way to the top in the 1950s. While soccer is still the most popular sport in the country, there are many others that are played seriously in the country – and cue sports are among them. The country has an official “Billiards Association” that organizes country-wide tournaments for its members – the next National Pool Championship is set to take place this week, and its Masters Tournament will be played in December.
Estonia is perhaps better known for its thriving startup business scene than for its billiards but make no mistake, it is quite the popular sport over there. The local cue sports association – the Eesti Piljardiliit – has sections for pool, snooker, and Russian pool, perhaps better known as pyramid billiards. Pyramid is considered one of the most difficult billiard variants – it is played on a large table (similar in size to the snooker table, usually thinner) with the corner pockets only millimeters wider than the balls themselves, and sixteen numbered balls that are all white (plus a cue ball that’s even larger). The game is played with more massive cues (the tips are usually 15 millimeters wide) and the rules forbid the use of jump shots and massé shots in tournament play (which are already very difficult due to the larger and heavier balls).
Even if we don’t count that it has its own billiard variant, Russia is a big name in the world of cue sports. It not only has its world governing body regulating Pyramid but it is also hosting a major annual Ten-ball pool tournament known as the Kremlin World cup. This year’s winner was Tyler Styer, defeating two-time World Pool Masters winner David Alcaide. Russia’s own Ruslan Chinakhov has won the event the most times – twice, in 2014 and 2015, defeating Mika “The Iceman” Immonen and 2000 World Champion Evgeny Stalev.