Monday, July 22, 2013

McKinlay Books Place at Ladbrokes UK Open

If you are a regular customer of Billiards Boutique or receive our email newsletter or follow us on this blog and other social networks you will know that on Sunday we hosted a qualifier for the Ladbrokes UK Open Pool Championships. The qualifier was held at Snookes, Weymouth.

I have to be honest and say that is was a very disappointing turnout with only 8 entries and only 7 players actually making it on the day. This didn't detract from some good action though as 6 out of the 7 participants play for the Dorset Blackball Pool Team and the other player plays for the World Rules equivalent!

In the first round I managed to catch the bye! I even did the draw to cries of "Fix!!" Bt I can assure you it was all above board.

So the actual matches meant that England International Mark Cottingham played England Trialist Keith Taylor. Cottingham coming through easily with a 5-0 victory.

In the other matches Charlie McKinlay progressed with a 5-2 win and Jason Raybould beat Lee Todd by the same scoreline.

There was one spot available in the eventual Ladbrokes UK Open [link to Facebook page], an event that carries over £13,000 prize money, so the last four players were looking for that entry.

The semi's saw the following results:

Charlie McKinlay 5-4 Mark Cottingham
Jason Raybould 5-3 Pete Williams (I was robbed!)

The final was extended to a best of 11 frame affair and these two behemoths of Weymouth pool locked horns desparate to get into the 128 in Scotland.

It was McKinlay that came out the victor with a 6-4 win and will now represent Weymouth in the main event in September where a number of world class players will be in attendance. We will keep a watchful eye on Charlie during the tournament as he will also be flying the flag for Billiards Boutique.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

7 Things to Consider When Buying a Snooker Cue

After years of selling snooker related items I have come across some very regular questions from potential customers. So, with that in mind I thought I would put together a short guide.

Read below for my 7 Things to Consider When Buying a Snooker Cue.

1. Materials

A good quality snooker cue will generally be made from two basic materials, ash for the shaft section and then Ebony (or in some cases Rosewood) for the butt section. But there are other options like a maple shaft and exotic woods in the butt section. Also be aware that many cheaper cues on the market will not have a spliced butt section but will have overlays or decals to create the look of proper ebony or rosewood.

2. Joint Position

There are three main types of snooker cue. 1 piece snooker cues are simply that, 1 solid piece of cue with no joint at all. The other two types are both in effect 2 piece cues as they have a joint positioned somewhere along the cue. 2 piece cues are centre-jointed and have the joint across the shaft section. 3/4 cues have the joint positioned across the butt section. The three main joint positions do tend to offer a different hit or feel so try before you buy if feel is important.

3. The Tip

Most snooker cues come supplied with a brass ferrule (the metal ring at the top) and stick-on leather cue tip at 9.5mm-10mm diametre. This is a standard size opted for by most players and cue makers. Smaller and larger sizes are available and again offer different performance but in most cases would carry an additional charge. Try to steer clear of screw-in tips because they do not offer the consistency or flexibility of a stick on tip. Stick-on tips are available in a wide variety of styles, hardness grades and price brackets which can make a big difference to your performance.

4. The Design

To many of our customers design is a very important factor to consider when buying a snooker cue. I always like to make it clear however that the design of the butt section will not affect the playing characteristics of the cue, it is simply decoration. The only other point I would make is that this is relevant to both solid wood cues and cues with a decal design. The design will affect the cost, the more intricate those inlays or exotic those woods are the more money you will pay.

5. The Splice

The splice is the way that the butt wood is fitted, or spliced, onto the shaft section. There are two distinct ways. By machine is the first and results in slightly cheaper cues, a machine spliced cue will have very sharp points at the top of the butt wood. the second way is by hand, hand spliced snooker cues are more expensive simply because of the workmanship and specialist skills required to do the job. Hand spliced snooker cues will have a more rounded point on the four sections of the splice.

6. Protection

Snooker cues are made from a natural product, wood, so can be damaged if not protected effectively. I think it is very important to consider buying a snooker cue case with any cue at the time of purchase if you do not already own one. One reason is because you can generally get a better deal on a case when purchased at the same time as a snooker cue, there are also often available many snooker cue and case sets that also bring the price down further. Secondly, when buying over the Internet or Telephone your cue has to be delivered, now whilst every attempt is made to protect a cue in transit the job is easier if it is inside a cue case.

7. Your Playing Level

You need to consider this when buying a snooker cue as a recreational player or beginner will have different requirements to a tournament player or professional. How much use are you as a beginner going to get out of a £200 snooker cue? Whatever you buy they will be built to last if treated in the right manner so go with something that is comfortable on the pocket as well as comfortable on the table.

I hope you have enjoyed this article if you have any points or comments or additions please let me know in the comments.

Written by Peter Williams

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Restoring My Faith in Humanity (or at Least some of it!)

Photo Credit M. Gifford via Flickr
A couple of things this month have happened that have really made me feel great, and instilled in me that there really are some trustworthy and honest people in the world.

We are not talking huge amounts of money in either case but both stories show that good customer service can win through!

The first story is regarding a customer in Brazil who purchased an Extenda Push-on Telescopic Snooker Cue Extension, this was originally ordered and dispatched in April of this year. After two weeks of waiting the extension never arrived so in this case I refunded the customer straight away.

Out of the blue the same customer emailed this week to say that they had finally received the extension and that it had been held in customs, firstly wow for coming clean, but secondly, and this is the amazing part, that customer then offered to pay the full price and the shipping cost they would have originally incurred. I was astounded as there is no way in the world I could enforce such a request. Ultimately I was prepared to let him have it for free, the refund had been made of course. True to his word the customer logged onto the website and made the payment.

The second story involved a number of pool cue ferrules. The customer, from the UK, contacted me to say that the ferrules were not the correct size when he had measured them with calipers. So I instantly sent him some more after making sure ours were the correct size.

The customer then rang and made an apology that his calipers were not working correctly and offered to pay for the second batch of ferrules.

Two stories where I think good customer service along with trustworthy and honest customers has meant that a small bit of karma has been restored to the world!

Do you have any similar stories?

Friday, July 05, 2013

11 Snooker or Pool Events to Look Forward to in the Second Half of 2013

We have now reached the second half of 2013, I know I don't quite know where the first half went either! With it now being the run downhill to the start of yet another new year I thought I would put together a list of 10 snooker or pool events to look forward to in the second half of 2013.

  1. Saturday July 13th - World Snooker Championship Tickets go on sale! Not an event in itself, although some might regard it as such, but at 10am on the 13th of this month the tickets go on sale for the 2014 World Snooker Championships at the Crucible. Tickets generally sell out very quickly so get on the phone on 0844 65 65 147.
  2. July 25th - August 4th - The World Games. This is the second tier of multi sports gaming after the Olympics and where some sports can make the breakthrough to fully-fledged Olympic events. Good news for us is that 3-Cushion Billiards, 9-Ball Pool and Snooker are all represented at the event being held in Cali Colombia.
  3. August 6th - 12th - WPA Women's World 9-Ball Pool Championships. The top women professionals including Britains Kelly Fisher and Korean star Ga-Young Kim compete to become the 2013 World Champion in Shenyang, China.
  4. September 2nd - 7th - 6 Reds Snooker World Championships, Bangkok Thailand.
  5. September 2nd - 13th - WPA Men's World 9-Ball Pool Championships, Doha, Qatar. Expect British stars like Chris Melling and World Number 1, Darren Appleton to feature strongly at this official World championship and World ranking event.
  6. September 13th - 15th - IPA Tour Stop #4, the top players of the Blackball pool game descend on the Hilton Hotel in Warwick for the fourth stop on the rejuvenated IPA Tour. Gareth Potts, Ben Davies, Lee Clough and Adam Davis will all be looking to win the cash and take the trophy.
  7. October 15th - 20th - World 3-Cushion Billiards Championships from Antwerp, Belgium. European players will feature heavily in this event. If you haven't seen this game (that uses a table without pockets) before then get across to Eurosport for this one.
  8. October 25th-27th World Pool Masters - One of 9-Ball's longest running invitational events, this time returning to the UK and the Metrodome Leisure Complex in Barnsley.
  9. October 31st - November 25th - WPBL Bonus Ball Play-offs. If you haven't seen this game yet then watch a complete game embedded below. Some of the top players see this team format as the future of professional pool.
  10. 27th November - 8th December - UK Championship Snooker. Regarded as snooker's second most prestigious event this year back at the Barbican Centre in York.
  11. 2nd - 5th December - One of the greatest shows in Billiards as teams from the USA and Europe do battle for the coveted Mosconi Cup. Pool's equivalent of the Ryder Cup with Europe expected to be the favourites.
There are of course 100's if not 1000's of events across the world in the next 6 months if you think I have missed anything big then let me know in the comments.

Bonus Ball - Outlaws vs Fire

Asking me for Sponsorship

At least once every two weeks I get an unsolicited email in my inbox from a pool or snooker player, or tournament, or charitable organisation, asking me for sponsorship.

In most cases I believe that the person asking for support really does think that there is a good fit for their respective project, but in the majority of these numerous contacts nobody ever really offers value.

Sponsorship is a two-way arrangement the person or organisation receives the money and the sponsor receives something in return - not rocket science, however, just offering a space on a waistcoat these days is simply not enough.

If I am going to sponsor an event or individual then I am looking for some very important factors you can see these listed below:

  1. Professionalism - if you want money off me then you have to show a certain level of professionalism, this does not mean you have to be a professional player but that you conduct yourself in a respectable manner and approach me either via email or phone in a courteous and respectful way.
  2. Offer Value - What am I going to get in return for handing over my hard-earned cash? You need to think long and hard about this and how you can bring value to any proposition. If you can't see how I will make my money back then you are unlikely to receive any support.
  3. Detailed Information - I want to know as much about you, your organisation or your playing background as possible, think about it as almost applying for a job. Provide a CV with your tournament history. Tell me about what you want to achieve short-term and long-term but be realistic.
  4. Research - This is more about finding out what my business does, I don't expect you to remember every price or to have visited every web page but I do expect a certain level of knowledge about what   my brand does and how it is positioned in the market place.
  5. Return on Investment - Marketing these days is much more about metrics, measuring everything and seeing how if I spend X will it return Y. If you have a clear idea about how sponsoring you will make me money then this is a proposition which is going to be more appealing to me, but it has to be measurable, I have to be able to see in black and white the return I have made.
For me anyone wanting money off me has to earn it, money does not come for free I have to work hard to generate it and I would expect you to do the same. Do your background work, put a professional proposition together and by all means let me have a look at it. If you can't be bothered to do the leg work then there is no chance that you will receive any support.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Snooker Twitter Lists

Twitter is a great tool as I am sure many are aware. There has always been (for as long as I can remember anyway) the ability to create and follow lists as well as individual accounts.

This morning I decided to set up some Twitter lists related to snooker to make it easier for me to track what is going on in the professional world of snooker but also for you guys to follow and do the same - if you so wish.

Thus far these are the lists I have created:

Check out the lists, have a browse and feel free to let me know of anything I have missed, I am in no way suggesting that it is a comprehensive list and will of course be added to over time. This can also be with help from you guys.

Over the next few weeks I will be adding additional lists for other elements of snooker and for followers of the pool games. Once again any input would be appreciated.

If you are on Twitter and want to follow Billiards Boutique then this is the link @billiardsboutiq

Monday, June 24, 2013

Which Pool Table Light is Right for My Pool Table?

Brass Bar with Black shades
It is often a very subjective thing buying a pool table light and is often down to a matter of taste, however, whatever style of lighting you opt for there are certain things you need to look out for when purchasing:

1. Table Size

This is by far and away the most important factor as it will affect the playing area of your pool table, you don't want dark areas and likewise you don't want glare or light surpassing the edges of the pool table.
  • For a 6ft or 7ft Table a 3 Shade lamp will give you plenty enough coverage
  • For an 8ft or 9ft table a 4 shade lamp will be most suitable
For snooker tables that are then available in sizes of 10ft or 12ft you would need a full size lamp set, if it has shades this will generally be in 6 shade configuration.

2. Price

As with most products price is important but more so when it comes to electrical equipment we need to consider the price as a very good deal on the wallet can cause a very bad deal on the pool table. It is also very important to consider safety certification as part of the price.

3. Lighting Style

I don't mean from a design and aesthetic point of view here. What I am talking about is how the light does it's job. There are three main ways of lighting the table.
  • Traditional canopy style light. Inside the large canopy are a number of light fittings to accept standard bulbs (can use energy saving bulbs as well). The inside of the canopy is normally white so that the bulbs light reflects evenly over the table. These lights can cause shadowy areas if installed incorrectly and too close to the table, they are also very bulky and in my opinion unsightly.
  • Bar and Shade Style. The pool table lights that we sell at Billiards Boutique all currently come in this style
  • Luminaire style. These lights tend to be much more expensive but utilise tube lighting to give a very even spread of light, due to the tube bulbs they can be much flatter in profile than the other lighting types.
Hopefully this article has given you some insight into both the types of lighting available and what you need to look for when purchasing. One last point to make, due to safety laws always buy from a recognised UK seller.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Snookers All-time Top 10 Century Makers

Stephen Hendry - Snooker's Top Century Break maker in history
The snooker season is well and truly already in full swing but this week see's the first full ranking event of the year out in China, the Wuxi Classic. It started Monday and already the defending champion, Ricky Walden, has been eliminated by a resurgent Jimmy White.

With the new flat draw structure whereby the top 16 are no longer protected until the Last 32 stage we could see a vast number of results not going the way of the more recognised professionals.

Whilst I was having my coffee the other morning it got me thinking though who the top 10 professional players are if you consider century breaks made in professional tournaments.

I have done a bit of research and thanks to @CueTracker_Ron came up with the answers.

The top 10 (currently) all time century break makers are listed below:

  1. Stephen Hendry - 768
  2. Ronnie O'Sullivan - 691
  3. John Higgins - 514
  4. Steve Davis - 345
  5. Jimmy White - 318
  6. Ken Doherty - 315
  7. Peter Ebdon - 303
  8. Ding Junhui - 301
  9. Mark Williams - 293
  10. Mark Selby - 292
It is probably not surprising to find 7 out of the 10 have all been World Champion on at least one occasion. Are there any surprise names on that list for you? Let us know in the comments.