Magic Rack Debate Overshadows U.S Open Bar Table Championships

2014USOpenBarTableTournamentPosterThe Grand Sierra Resort & Casino located in Reno, Nevada was the scene of this past weeks U.S Open Bar Table Championships. This has been one of my favorite events to watch since I became a fan of pool because you get to watch world beaters play local unknowns and bar table hustlers from around North America and get to enjoy the occasional upset. Every year that I watch this event and any other event that uses the “Magic Rack” a great debate takes place and this week was no exception.
Pool is one of the oldest games on the planet, and because of this its filled with purists and any kind of change is usually met with negative reaction at first. The Magic Rack is a flimsy piece of plastic with strategically made holes in it to place the balls on and when squeezed together the balls fall inwards and form a perfect rack. At first glance this seems like the greatest invention in pool in decades. The one thing that players of all levels argue about or have trouble doing properly is racking. Never again in tournament play or a money match while using the Magic Rack will a loose rack or a “shack rack” be a cause for concern, a good thing right?
That is until I have seen it mastered by the professionals. At an intermediate level I use it and I love it as do many of my peers. But after watching racking guru’s such as Corey Duel pattern rack and soft break his way deep through the 8,9, and 10 ball fields I find myself conflicted. At this level with these types of players a perfect rack while racking your own in the order you choose results in a break and run contest. Which sounds exciting but really is not.When a player goes up to the table hits the balls no harder then a common stop shot and 3 balls go in nearly every time leaving a wide open table at the mercy of a world class shooter it is hardly entertaining . As a fan I actually find this a tad boring and I have trouble appreciating the skill behind it. Safety battles are brought down to a minimum because there is hardly ever any clusters, especially in the rotation games. That means not a lot of kicking or jumping or really any kind of strategy at all besides racking the same way every time and hitting the rack at the same speed and running out the cosmos.
No other pro outlined their frustration with the Magic Rack louder then touring professional from England Lee Brett. He is or was the referee for the upstart Bonus Ball league and I had the pleasure of meeting him in Gatineau Quebec a few summers ago at a tournament. He posted on his Facebook page after a loss that soft breaking and pattern racking is not pool and this started an in depth discussing involving sponsors, directors, amateurs and other pros. For whatever reason Lee’s comments were met with harsh criticism from the people at CSI (Cue Sports International) he was accused of sharking when he complained about the rules and he was threatened to be banned from the event and told not to play if he didn’t like the rules they had in place. Not really the kind of things one likes to hear from any promoters while bringing forth a legitimate issue however in all fairness I was not present to see Lee’s behavior for myself. However being in his presence over a long weekend and seeing how he handles himself I find him to be a very passionate player and maybe he lets that get the best of him at times. On the same note I don’t feel he or any other pro should be dealt with in such a manner when bringing an issue to the forefront. Obviously the promoters of this event committed a knee jerk reaction to Lee’s comments by threatening him, most likely because the Magic Rack is a major contributor to this event. This demonstrates a few things, that the promoters are thin skinned perhaps unprofessional and will react quickly to protect their cash cow.
This controversy outlined another issue, which is the disconnect between the touring professionals and the promoters. Long story short the promoters feel like the players want to just show up for an easy pay day and do not put anything back into the game and some of the players feel like the promoters do not organize the events properly. Case in point John Morra made his thoughts known stating after the tournament he still was not sure if pattern racking was aloud or not after two officials had different views on the matter. Also low payouts was brought up as some players suggested that tournament promoters are gouging the prize funds in order to make a years salary in a week. $6200 for first out of a field of 222 elite competitors which was the case in the 9 ball is really an embarrassing payout.
With all the debating that happened at this event it is easy to forget that a few tournament actually took place this past week. A big congratulations goes out to Brittany Bryant who won the Womens 9 ball event and followed that up with a strong showing in the Womens 8 Ball. Fellow Canadians Jason Klatt and John Morra posted some good results as well placing 4th and 5th respectively in the 10 ball division. Winning the 8 ball event was Corey Duel, the 9 and 10 ball was won by Shane Van Boening.
Contrary to what many promoters might think, to me the professionals are what makes this industry. They are the ones we pay to watch on the stream, or the one we travel miles and spend thousands to see live. They market the products they use and basically create and sustain the market that the promoters live off. It is a slippery slope if more promoters take this, “take it or leave it” stance towards the professionals. What really should happen and it has been talked about in length, is for the players to form a union and for the promoters to umbrella themselves in one organization and start a professional tour that benefits all. This should be done and quickly before all this bickering erodes the game further.

Markus Noe

Journalist graduate with a passion to write and to promote the game of Billiards. His blog Cue Sport Nation is for pool enthusiasts who are interested in everything related to Pocket Billiards. Coverage includes results from major tournaments throughout the world.

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