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PQQLK9
01-03-2005, 04:34 AM
Amateur leagues offer pool competition in Acadiana


By STEVEN K. LANDRY

Special to The Advocate

LAFAYETTE -- "I'm stumped, I'm stumped," says a distraught Wallace Boutin, his baseball cap askew, his cue stick in hand on a recent league night at The Wagon Wheel along Cameron Street.

He looks toward his captain, Huey Myers, who calls "time" and discusses the next move for his eight-member team, Tryin' to Make It.

On this late-December Wednesday, they're playing The Hard Eights, considered the "visiting" team.

This time, on their "home" table, Myers' advice goes unheeded, and Boutin misses his next shot. He loses to Hard Eights captain Pat Hoyem.

Myers' team would eventually win its match, three games to two.

"I was trying to look for my run," the 26-year-old Boutin sighs. "But I can't find it."

Hundreds around Acadiana find their "run," however, each week in little-known amateur pool leagues. They compete weekly on the rectangular, generally 5-by-10-foot tables for fun, but most are vying for a trip to Las Vegas four tournaments in August, when thousands of dollars are at stake.

A late-1980s Erath-Delcambre ladies team won $25,000.

About 300 teams and more than 2,500 Acadiana-area men and women are members of the American Poolplayers Association, which unites lovers of a sport that is still, in some circles, misunderstood.

Pool -- actually a form of billiards -- has historically been viewed as an endeavor played in smoky barrooms, where shady bookmakers gather and even-shadier players hustle for money.

Think of a brash, disingenuous Paul Newman in "The Hustler," or arrogant, self-absorbed Tom Cruise in "The Color Of Money."

"Well, we can't do anything about the smoky barrooms," laughs American Poolplayers Association President Renee Poehlman of St. Louis, Mo. "But we encourage sportsmanship. We expect a certain level of behavior."

Fistfights, arguments and cheating can get you kicked out of the association. "It happens, but not very often," says local franchise co-owner Lisa Granger, who quit her job to make a living with her husband, Preston, by organizing the leagues. They're known as league operators.

"There's still a little bit of that (questionable pool-playing), but a lot of that has changed through the years," Preston Granger says. "If anybody is shady, we try to stop all of that."

"If we have to, yes, we discipline," his wife says. "Cheating can get you two weeks suspension. If we hear of it again, then you're out the whole session."

The American Poolplayers Association, founded by professional pool players Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart in 1979 as the National Pool League, changed its name in 1981.

The Grangers have had their business, as franchisees for a multiparish area under American Poolplayers Association guidelines, for 15 years.

At the national level, the association guarantees more than $1 million in national tournament prize money, including the $500,000 APA 8-Ball National Team Championships, the $200,000 APA 8-Ball Classic, the $100,000 APA 9-Ball National Team Championship and the $100,000 APA 9-Ball Shootout.

Locally, Lisa Granger league play is geared toward slower nights at bars or lounges, to rake in business. Bar owners furnish the home players with T-shirts.

There are about 100 locations around Acadiana. The pool leagues are similar to bowling leagues or golf, in which "handicapping" -- that is, allowing less-talented players to compete against more-talented ones -- is used to even the green-felted playing field.

The American Poolplayers Association uses The Equalizer system, a registered handicapping and scoring guide.

"It allows, on any night, anyone a chance to win," she says. "If you're a better player than I am, you may have to win more games than I do."

The basic rules of pool are simple, and most everyone knows them.

In the game of "8-ball," for example, you would want to tap in every ball of your own stripe- or solid-colored hue, while avoiding hitting the black 8-ball into a pocket until the last shot.

Billiards itself morphed over centuries, probably beginning as a lawn game similar to croquet. The green felt of indoor billiard tables simulate grass.

Back at The Wagon Wheel, Lisa Granger shouts above Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" blasting out of a karaoke group on the other end of the bar.

In another moment, Chris White, a 30-year-old Hard Eights member who awaits his turn to play, tries his vocals on Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel."

Some nights, in fact, players show up but are not needed against that particular team.

"Remember," Granger says, "it's not always the best of the best who go to Vegas. Out of our nearly 3,000 members, we have maybe 50 '7s'. We have about 600 '6s'. Most of the times, people come out for fun, like their 'fun night out'. That's probably the only time they play pool."

A "7" is the highest skill level, a "2" the lowest. Generally, a player must win one less game than his ranking. A "5," for example, may have to win four games against a "3" level. "In other words," explains Hard Eights "5" player Emile Fourcade, "I could win four straight, but it might get down to three games to two and the next game decides who wins."

As Hard Eights scorekeeper Mona Guidry says from her scorer's table a few feet away from the main table, the games are closely monitored, so suspect play is rarely successful.

"There's too many people watching," the Breaux Bridge resident says, keeping her eye on the game in front of her. "Sometimes they'll have arguments about the rules. But we've got the rule books right here. A few weeks back, on a break, the rule book was unclear, so we called Preston and Lisa to clear it up."

Lisa Granger says each team's score sheet is checked by opposing teams, then signed and turned in to "runners," who later bring the sheets to the Grangers for computer processing.

Basically, a team has three chances, summer, fall and spring, to qualify for the Vegas trip.

The Grangers hope to send five 8-ball teams in August, three 9-ball teams and one ladies team.

Last year, an Acadiana team came out 64th, competing against 600 teams. They took home about $3,000.

Poehlman, 41, says she's been with the business since 1987 and has been president since the late 1990s. "We franchise in all but four states," Poehlman says. "Alaska is coming on in January. We don't have APA in Hawaii, Utah, or North Dakota."

She says the association founders developed a set of nationally sanctioned rules and used the association as sort of a "farm system" to cull and lure great players into the professional ranks.

In 1987, the American Poolplayers Association boasted 70,000 members. It's now up to more than 250,000 across North America.

The Grangers say they do make money on the league, which requires yearly dues and a token amount each week to play, and that they've grown since the late 1980s and are now financially able to send teams to Las Vegas.

Any night in the Abbeville-Erath-Kaplan area, 30 teams may be competing in leagues, and even more nearer to Lafayette. Preston Granger -- whose brother is pro bowler Purvis Granger -- echoes his wife, in that the association is seen as an amateur league and anyone can play.

"Out of the entire league, even though there are good pool players, and some of them are really good, I don't think they'd have much of a chance in the professional league."

Yet you can't tell anything is "amateur" by the players' focused demeanors at The Wagon Wheel.

Hoyem complains about the lights flickering as he bends down to shoot. It's a psychological tactic called "sharking," meant to disrupt concentration. But that, too, is illegal in American Poolplayers Association play. "Stop that!" he says testily. "We're not doing anything," the opposing team rejoins in unison.

Satisfied, Hoyem makes his shot and grins. And what about the occasional foul player?

"They're not going to pool heaven," jokes Fourcade. "Maybe they're going to pool purgatory, where they never make the 8-ball."

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DavidMorris
01-03-2005, 06:46 AM
Wow, I'm surprised to learn that somebody can actually make a living as a league organizer. I had no idea.

[ QUOTE ]
They compete weekly on the rectangular, generally 5-by-10-foot tables for fun,<hr /></blockquote>
Don't you love it when the totally ignorant media report on something they know nothing about? /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif Not many PH's have 5x10's anymore, forget bars -- not to mention APA leagues playing on them. Oh well, maybe they were "rounding up."

&lt;~~~ figures positive but errant publicity is better than none...

PQQLK9
01-03-2005, 07:19 AM
Yep, that 5x10 really jumped out at me.

Wait untill the purists read this ... "green-felted playing field". (how dare they call it felt) /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

I understand that league operators in some markets do pretty well.

Scott Lee
01-03-2005, 08:27 PM
David &amp; Nick...You may not remember, but I was an APA League Operator for 4 years, until I started touring with my "Traveling College of Billiard Knowledge". There are MANY APA L.O.'s making six-figure (or close to) incomes from running the league, especially in the larger cities. The Grangers have around 200 teams in their franchise area, which is enough to make a very nice living (close to 6 figures)! There is one L.O. in MD who has well over 1000 teams! Now that guy is making serious cash! LOL Even though the APA is a 'for-profit' league, I was always straight up with my players. I would ask them, "Is it worth it to you, to pay me $1/week (per player, $5/team), for a fun, fair way to play competitive pool, with a legitimate chance to advance to the nationals in Las Vegas?" The answer was always a resounding "YES!

Scott Lee

DavidMorris
01-03-2005, 08:46 PM
That's really interesting to know, Scott. I knew you ran a league but had no idea it paid like that. I thought it was more a hobby thing than a living, maybe expenses being convered but that's it.

I had been considering trying to start up an APA league around here. The nearest is in Chattanooga which is just a tad too far for me and most of my pool-playing friends with families to drive 2-3 nights a week. I had no idea that one actually made money doing it, I was figuring it would just be a hobby-type thing. Our only issue here in Dalton of course is venues -- not many decent pool-playing establishments here, just a few bars and a Playtime arcade-type place with coin tables. I don't think there's an 8' much less a 9' anywhere in town besides our homes. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif Still, a bar league would be fun if I could gather enough interest from players and owners.

What kind of time commitments are there on a L.O. running just a few teams, assuming APA lets him do it? Is it a full-time job for a small league?

Wally_in_Cincy
01-04-2005, 07:41 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DavidMorris:</font><hr> What kind of time commitments are there on a L.O. running just a few teams, assuming APA lets him do it? Is it a full-time job for a small league? <hr /></blockquote>

You could contact them.

http://www.poolplayers.com/

I doubt they are interested in a small league. I think you have to buy the territory from them initially so you would have to have a few dozen teams just to break even.

DavidMorris
01-04-2005, 09:17 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Wally_in_Cincy:</font><hr>I doubt they are interested in a small league. I think you have to buy the territory from them initially so you would have to have a few dozen teams just to break even. <hr /></blockquote>
I've thought about contacting them, but if you have to "buy" territory, I'll pass. Besides, I'm far more interesting in playing than running one, I just figured I'd get the ball rolling. I'd probably have better luck getting the Chattanooga L.O. to expand his territory to cover us, assuming APA allows an L.O. to cross state lines. I seriously doubt there's another league between here and Marietta/Atlanta, almost 100 miles away. Chattanooga is 35 miles away.

Another approach would always be to just form a local non-sanctioned league. I may look into that, and if it takes off, persue some sort of affiliation or sanction. The time committment is what I'd be most concerned about, as my job and family consume most of what I have.

Wally_in_Cincy
01-04-2005, 10:01 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DavidMorris:</font><hr> Another approach would always be to just form a local non-sanctioned league. <hr /></blockquote>

The good thing about that is you can return all the money, whereas with APA 58% (around here) of the dues go either to the local LO or the national office.

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DavidMorris:</font><hr> The time committment is what I'd be most concerned about, as my job and family consume most of what I have. <hr /></blockquote>

I'm sure it could be quite time consuming, especially if you use a handicap system.

Rich R.
01-04-2005, 10:02 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DavidMorris:</font><hr> I've thought about contacting them, but if you have to "buy" territory, I'll pass. <hr /></blockquote>

You definitely have to buy a franchise for an area and your area would be protected, from other APA operators.

Using the link Wally gave you,
http://www.poolplayers.com/index.html
you will able to find information regarding franchises.

On the Home page, on the left hand side, you will find a convenient way to "find a league near you." It will give you the name of the LO in your area.

BTW, chances are very good that someone already owns your area and you wouldn't be able to start an APA league if you wanted to. However, under the current LO, you could start a league, or join an existing league, if you have a new location. I'm sure the LO would welcome some new teams, or a league, to his area.

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DavidMorris:</font><hr> assuming APA allows a L.O. to cross state lines. <hr /></blockquote>
Many territories cross state lines.

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DavidMorris:</font><hr>I seriously doubt there's another league between here and Marietta/Atlanta, almost 100 miles away. Chattanooga is 35 miles away. <hr /></blockquote>
Although there may not be any leagues, it is very possible that someone already owns the territory and just hasn't developed it, yet. You would have to check with the APA.

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DavidMorris:</font><hr>Another approach would always be to just form a local non-sanctioned league. I may look into that, and if it takes off, persue some sort of affiliation or sanction. <hr /></blockquote>
In seeking the sanctioning, you would still have to "buy" the territory/franchise, or join an existing area.

All the comments above pertain to the APA. There is also another league system available, called The Association for Pool, or TAP. However, there system for LO's is very similar to the APA. Since TAP is much newer than the APA, I'm sure they have more areas still available.
http://www.tapleague.com/

BTW, the TAP leagues play "call your shot" 8-ball, where the APA allows slop.
As far as I know, TAP does not have 9-ball leagues, but that could have changed.

Also, don't think that the LO's are in the league business as a hobby. Many areas are very large and generate a lot of income for the LO.
I happen to live near the boundary between two different APA areas. IIRC, one of the areas has over 700 teams and the other one is over 500 teams.
At approximately $25 per team, per week, you can do the math. /ccboard/images/graemlins/blush.gif

Barbara
01-04-2005, 10:29 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Rich R.:</font><hr> I happen to live near the boundary between two different APA areas. IIRC, one of the areas has over 700 teams and the other one is over 500 teams.
At approximately $25 per team, per week, you can do the math. /ccboard/images/graemlins/blush.gif <hr /></blockquote>

Are you kidding me?? That's $17,500 a week!!

So what expenses to the LO's have to deal with?

Barbara~~~knows nothing about APA...

Wally_in_Cincy
01-04-2005, 10:44 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Barbara:</font><hr> Are you kidding me?? That's $17,500 a week!!

So what expenses to the LO's have to deal with?

Barbara~~~knows nothing about APA... <hr /></blockquote>

First of all about half of the money goes back to the players.

The guy has to have employees with that many teams.

Then the session-ending tourneys must be paid for.

Then he probably pays a 10 or 15% franchise fee.

Then he probably pays for team trips to Vegas.

But you're right. It's still a lot of money. But most LO's don't have that many teams.

Scott Lee
01-04-2005, 11:35 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Wally_in_Cincy:</font><hr> <blockquote><font class="small">Quote Barbara:</font><hr> Are you kidding me?? That's $17,500 a week!!

So what expenses to the LO's have to deal with?

Barbara~~~knows nothing about APA... <hr /></blockquote>

First of all about half of the money goes back to the players.

The guy has to have employees with that many teams.

Then the session-ending tourneys must be paid for.

Then he probably pays a 10 or 15% franchise fee.

Then he probably pays for team trips to Vegas.

But you're right. It's still a lot of money. But most LO's don't have that many teams. <hr /></blockquote>

Wally &amp; Barbara...The weekly royalty paid to APA/St. Louis is 20% of all fees (including tournament fees). Yes, there are expenses, which are not negligible, including salaries, printing, data input, gas &amp; travel, postage, plus costs associated with end of session tournaments (cash prizes, trophies &amp; other prizes, travel fund for paid trips to Vegas, banquets, etc). The L.O. is basically making a net of about 20%, which if you have a couple of hundred teams or more, is a pretty nice income! Tough to make a decent, full-time living on less than 100 teams. Many smaller L.O.'s run the league as a part-time business.

David...It WAS more of a hobby for me. I never had more than 60 teams, and they were spread out in five towns across 30,000 sq. miles, in MT &amp; ID! LOL The franchise areas are sold by county, and based on population (appx. $.10 per person). It's certainly logical that the Chattanooga L.O. might own your area, or could 'add' it to his existing franchise, if there was warranted interest. The League is played MOSTLY on 7' bar tables...very few 8' or 9' (and I think the newspaper reporter got it wrong in Louisiana, because I have good friend who plays in the Lafayette league, and it's on 9' tables! I don't know of ANYWHERE in the U.S., with a bunch of 5 x 10 tables! LOL).

Scott Lee

Rich R.
01-04-2005, 11:49 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Wally_in_Cincy:</font><hr> But most LO's don't have that many teams. <hr /></blockquote>
Your right Wally. I don't know how true it is, but I have been told that this is one of the largest, regarding number of teams, APA areas in the country. Also, at one time, the two franchises I mentioned, were just one. It was split sometime ago.

The TAP leagues are also growing, in this area, however, BCA leagues are few and far between. /ccboard/images/graemlins/confused.gif

As far as the other points, I think you answered them as good as I could have. Scott also provided more information and he is a good source. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

DavidMorris
01-04-2005, 12:11 PM
Thanks for all the info, folks, it's definitely something I'll keep in mind. I knew of TAP but hadn't heard or seen of any around here. I personally would prefer call-pocket 8-ball, but the lack of 9-ball would be a downer if true, as 9B is my preferred game.

Scott, the Chattanooga APA league plays on a mixture of 7, 8 and 9 footers, depending on where they're playing. Much of it is certainly 7' bar boxes, but when they hit places like CCB or anywhere else that has larger tables, they move up to at least 8 footers.

I may get in touch with the Chattanooga L.O. and feel him out about my area.