In the last decade, the world of billiards has continued to grow and evolve, thanks mainly to the hard-working leaders in the billiards industry. From league organizations and international promotors, to iconic professional players, these leaders have all helped inspire players and fans to keep their love for the game alive.
In 2010, ABS-CBN polled a group of select individuals within the billiards world to determine who the Top Ten Most Influential People in Billiards. Read the press release from ABS-CBN to see the results…
The Top 10 Most Influential People in the Sport of Billiards
The world of billiards is full of great tournaments, shows, championships, and a multitude of diverse events. Champions in both men and women are created as well as legends in the game both on and off the pool table. A combination of media, sponsors, promoters, associations, and players work together to make the world of billiards turn.
Today sees pool as a global sport. No longer just a major force on one continent, billiards has transversed over to many countries and become a powerhouse in Asia, Europe, as well as the United States, and grows rapidly in the Middle East and Latin America. A conglomerate of prominent companies,players and people worldwide were polled to vote on who are the most instrumental in the sport today. (The full list of voters are at the bottom of this article)
The influences were strong and vast from voters in countries such as South America, Taiwan, China, England, Japan, Africa, Korea, Canada, Philippines, Finland, Austria, Singapore, Germany and the United States.
The following are the Top 10 Most Influential People in the Sport of Billiards:
#1 Matchroom Sport
Matchroom Sport (England) - Not surprisingly, a promoter tops our list as the creators of the platform in which players, sponsors, and media perform on. Matchroom Sport impacted a wide array of countries that voted for them, showing its diverse influence. Matchroom Sport was nominated from the big three pool continents of USA, Asia, Europe, and received not only the most individual votes, but also more #1′s than any other entity. President and Founder Barry Hearn started this company in snooker and evolved it into a multi-sports giant. Darts, bowling, boxing, fishing are just some of the many televised events they produce. With the help of his capable team led by Luke Riches and Sharron Tokley, Matchroom Sport has made such high profile events as the Mosconi Cup, World Pool Masters, and changed the face of world championship billiards productions with their World Pool Championship. Their recently successful World Pool Cup was a huge hit in Asia. There’s no question Matchroom Sport has raised the standard of pool event productions.
#2 Dragon Promotions
Dragon Promotions (USA/Korea) - Only one other company matched Matchroom Sport in number of different country votes, yet another promoter, Dragon Promotions. Receiving the second highest number of unique voters and points from Europe, Asia,and the USA, there’s no question this company’s global impact on the billiard world. The duo of partners Cindy Lee and Charlie Williams in 10 years time have created a promotions giant with roots in the United States, but with a far grasp into Asia including South Korea, Philippines, and now China. They have produced over one hundred events including such pinnacle productions as The Women’s World 10-Ball Championship,The World Mixed Doubles Classic, and The Predator International Championship. They also revived The World Straight Pool Championship, now the world’s oldest and longest running event. Dragon Promotions produces the most international men and women’s events with worldwide television coverage.
#3 Efren Reyes
Efren “Bata” Reyes (Philippines) – It’s no magic that the player who received the most international votes and points goes to Reyes. In a professional career spanning 30 years, Reyes has changed the way the game is played with his advanced and unorthodox skills. Winning such prestigious titles as the World Pool Championship, US Open 9-Ball, and record breaking $500,000 1st place win in the World 8-Ball Open. Reyes is also well known as an unmatched all around player in all games. Efren is a bona fide superstar in his homecountry of the Philippines, and can be seen hobnobbing in high society with such stars as World Boxing Champion Manny Paquiao and even the President of the Philippines. Most experts agree that Reyes may be the greatest human being to ever wield a cuestick.
#4 Predator Group
Predator Group (USA) – The only manufacturer to make our Top 10, Predator Cues has established itself as one of the most recognized billiard brands worldwide. With their sleek marketing and enormous sponsorship of billiard events and players, Predator has proved itself to be a staple supporter of billiards. Founded by former owner Allan McCarty, who envisioned players improving their game through advanced cue technology, Predator’s continued rise is currently spearheaded by CEO Karim Belhaj, Chairman John Forrester, and owner Paul Costain. Predator sponsors such renown events as The World Straight Pool Championship, Mosconi Cup, World 9-Ball Championship, and The Predator International Championship.
AZBilliards.com (USA) – With the majority of votes coming from US soil, this US based company still managed to receive several foreign nods. A pioneer of up to date news online for pool, AZbilliards.com has become synonymous for pool news throughout North America and even other parts of the world. Founded and created by Mike Howerton, who still runs and maintains the iconic news site, AZBilliards is a fountain of information for any pool enthusiast. AZBilliards has brought together fans, industry members, promoters, and players alike to share news and communication in the pool community.
#6 World Pool Association
World Pool Association – The WPA has helped in uniting the multitude of countries in the pool world come closer together over the years. For two decades now, the WPA has sanctioned events around the world and has made efforts to globalize the sport of pocket billiards. Founded Jorgen Sandman, its first original President, it has passed on over the years its reigns which is now led by Australia’s Ian Anderson. Today the WPA helps and sanctions events in countries such as Philippines, United States, China, Qatar, and many parts of Europe.
#7 Women’s Professional Billiards Association
Women’s Professional Billiards Association (USA)- Founded in 1976, the WPBA stands as the oldest and longest running pro pool associations in the United States today. Recognized as the most diverse and organized women’s pro tour existing in the world today, the WPBA was founded by Palmer Byrd, Madelyn Whitlow, and Larry Miller. The WPBA has kept pool on television through ESPN and helped create international stars such as Jeanette Lee and Allison Fisher. Women players worldwide still frequent US soil to test their skills on the WPBA Pro Tour.
#8 American Poolplayers Association
American Poolplayers Association (USA) – Though the name states “American Poolplayers”, the APA still managed to wrangle some international votes to make the Top 10 list. Founded by visionaries Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart, the APA is currently run by its President Renee Lyle. The APA has grown into the largest amateur league of poolplayers in the world today. Actually, it’s the largest organized body of any kind in the billiard industry (so kudos twice). It’s membership boasts over 250,000 players. The APA also sponsors billiards events outside its own including the WPBA and pro player Jeanette Lee.
ESPN (USA) : The leader in USA sports coverage, ESPN still brings pool to the masses through its coverage of billiards. With coverage of pool events such as The Challenge of Champions, Trickshot Magic, and all the WPBA women’s events, ESPN is still one of the pool world’s best and direct links to the mainstream masses.
#10 Allison Fisher & Jeanette Lee (Tie)
Allison Fisher (England) - Only two other players made it to our Top 10, and both women. The beloved Duchess of Doom, Allison Fisher’s impact on the billiard world is unquestioned. She received votes from the three major pool continents of USA, Asia, and Europe, surpassing any other women in international votes. Fisher was a national heroine in England through her world dominance in snooker, and then again a household name in pool through her unchallenged record of tournament wins (over 50 majors to date). She became a staple pool figure on ESPN, and set a new standard for women’s pool. Considered as their favorite role model by many pro women worldwide, the iconic Allison Fisher is widely regarded as simply the greatest woman’s player ever.
Jeanette Lee(USA) – While one dominated on the table, this one dominated off the table. Argubaly the most vibrant personality of the sport, Jeanette Lee continues to be the top celebrity of pool in America. Lee is not just a pretty face, but has major titles to back up her resume including a Player of the Year honors and has maintained a Top 10 ranking on the WPBA Tour for most of her career till present day. Lee has been one of very few players to cross over successfully into mainstream US markets, making frequent appearances for mediums such as MTV, ESPN, HBO, and magazines such as Maxim and Sports Illustrated. Garnering a large amount of unique votes and points from the United States, Lee is still going on strong after 20 years of keeping the Black Widow in the mainstream.
*Note: Pool is truly a globalized sport today as half of The Top 10(including the top 3 spots) above were outside the US.
The Next Six – Most below had significant votes but mostly only in one country
#11 Aristeo Puyat (Philippines) : Known as The Godfather of Pool, Puyat manages World Champions Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, and Rubilen Amit and is credited as the pioneer of the sport there
#12 – Mika Immonen (Finland) : Finland’s lone billiard star blew out the poolworld at the end of the decade and easily kept a #1 World Ranking for 2 years
#13 -Billiard Congress of America (USA): The 40 year old association still runs and maintains guidance in the USA pool industry with CEO Rob Johnson at the helm
#14 – Cue Sports Intenational (USA) : Six years after taking over the BCA Leagues, Mark Grifin’s CSI has kept the league healthy and growing in North America
#15 - ESPN STAR Sports (Singapore) : With 40 countries and a billion viewers, ESPN Star has given pool an adrenaline shot in the arm and helped it grow in the Far East
#16 – Francisco Bustamante (Philippines) : The colorful and deadly Filipino World Champion was only the third Asian ever voted into the Hall of Fame and hailed as a national hero
Honorable Mention (Alphabetical order)
Allen Hopkins Productions (USA)
Diamond Billiard Products (USA)
European Pocket Billiard Federation (EUR)
Michael Panozzo,Billiards Digest (USA)
Simonis Cloth (USA/Belgium)
Thank you to the voters who participated :
- Johnny Archer (Men’s World Champion) - USA
- Womens Pro Billiard Association – USA
- Tai Chengze , Top147.com – Asia
- Jasmin Ouschan (Ladies World Champion)- EUR
- Renee Lyle, American Poolplayers Association- USA
- United King Tables – Africa
- Jeanette Lee (Top Ladies Pro) - USA
- Asia Pocket Billiard Union – Asia
- Luke Riches, Matchroom Sport – EUR
- Caribbean Billiards Union – S.America
- Allison Fisher (Ladies World Champion) - EUR
- Seminole Tribe -USA
- Mika Immonen (World Champion) – EUR
- Ivan Lee, Simonis Cloth – USA
- Yen Mackebenta, Raya Sport – Asia
- Greg Sullivan, Diamond Billiard Products- USA
- Kaz Miki, Mezz Cues – Asia
- Cindy Lee, Dragon Promotions – USA
- Ralf Souquet (Men’s World Champion) - EUR
- Allen Hopkins, Allen Hopkins Productions- USA
- Mike Zuglan, Joss Northeast Tour – USA
- Melvynn Eh (Billiards Media)- Asia
- Mark Grifin, Cue Sports International – USA
- Karim Belhaj, Predator Group – USA
- Mike Panozzo, Billiards Digest – USA
- Ronnie, Nathanielsz, Viva Sports – Asia
- Jim Wych (TV Announcer) - CAN
- Jay Helfert (Author/Analyst) – USA
- Korea Billiards Association – Asia
- Stu Mattana (Billiards Expert) - USA
- Tom George ,Octagon Mgmt - USA
- Emille Biboy Soriano (TV Announcer)- Asia
- Kamui Tips – Asia
- Pool Dawg – USA
- Yalin Billiards – Asia
- Verna Mariano, Bugsy Promotions – Asia
- Flamingo Tour – USA
- Canadian Womens Tour – CAN
- Marco Tschudi (Swiss Men’s Champion) - EUR
- Shari Stauch, Pool & Billiard Magazine – USA