10 Ways Not To Lose Your Shirt Running A Pool Tournament

Here's How They Soak Us Or We Soak Them

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10 ways not to get dusted in a pool tournament today. Pool tournament photo courtesy of Influx Productions/Getty Images

How To Run (And Enjoy) A Great Pool Tournament

Great pool tournament question today from a reader who is also a successful poolroom owner: "Matt, I own a billiard parlor/sports bar located in [address withheld] and I have a weekly 8-Ball pool tournament and we usually enjoy between 16 and 26 player participants.

My problem is the 8-Ball tournaments really do not generate any income for the house. The participants are quite reluctant to have any of their entry fee dollars to be applied to "green fees" for table rentals.

Their opinion is that we will make enough money from food and beverage sales to offset a pool tournament. Currently the tournament is $15 to enter, double-elimination (must lose two matches to leave the tournament), a race-to-3 on the winners' bracket and a race-to-2 on the losers.

Any suggestions?" – Poor and concerned in Middle America

Readers, if you disagree, please feel free to contact me by e-mail about how your favorite pool tournament is managed.

Our reader probably owns a great pool hall already. They certainly sound like a generous person. Many owners are skinflints by contrast, more than reluctant to give anything back to the players, charging an arm and two legs for everything from table time to talcum powder and chalk.

Having said that, steps need to be taken to tighten the ship or like so many rooms these days, this one will go under for financial reasons if the mess, like this tournament, goes unchecked.

With about 20 players shooting up to 5 games of 8-Ball per match, they either have many, many tables inside or else this tournament is going on until the wee hours of the morning (or both). Probably few others are able to get a table in their place on Saturday night. Having tables occupied during peak income hours, the players should go free?

No, the players must contribute to table rentals.

What Makes A Tournament Great - A Great Room

Again, I am a frequent advocate here at this GuideSite for top poolrooms, and such steps often involve owners shelling out dollars, (see related article on 24 things that make a poolroom great) but below are the facts of the matter, how I might (diplomatically) address them with my players in my own hall.

1. Adjust the pool tournament price, the race length, and the purse itself.

The reality is many places do give away table space with their weekly tables to buy players' loyalty. $15 is not a lot in a big city for a pool tournament, but it is for most towns. Why not experiment with the format at times? Charge $5 and make it a single game of 8-Ball for the first round or two and then a race-to-2 for the top rounds.

If you speed play and the players still have fun, they will stay to rent tables after the pool tournament ends (or leave and let your room fill with other fun-seekers who will pay to play on weekend nights).

2. It's nobody's business what you make on food and beverage sales. Refreshments are a luxury in poolrooms for the players, and are there at the owner's convenience.

No one is entitled to see your food and beverage books except you, your accountant, and the IRS.

Sales here are to help you pay line staff, cooks, bartenders, etc. and hopefully, turn a profit for your room operations. Should you give unlimited food and drinks away to every pool tournament player free of charge? Of course not, so why should the reverse be true and tables become free when the food is paid?

3. The tables themselves, on the other hand, earn you vital revenue by their rental fees. A good owner diverts much of what would be profits to table maintenance, tightening and cleaning cloth and cue sticks, lighting, powerful exhaust fans to clear smoke from the room, etc.

There are reasonable and customary rates for renting pool tables for a pool tournament. These rates ought to vary based on table size and challenge, table maintenance and peak period (like the weekend nights of your tournaments).

I'd recommend you visit local halls to see what they charge on Saturday nights with two persons per table, and then consider that you will get some amount that is less if you want tournament players with you Saturdays. The loss is made up for if they practice the rest of the week in your place to work to win tournaments on Saturday night again.

4. The problem in most halls is they need to be get back to the business of selling a great pool tournament experience as much or more than selling food and beverage items.

That great experience including a wonderful pool tournament comes at some price, and this price should be paid by the players with a smile. Although people do want some tournament action and expect a bargain on their rental fees as they get it.

The issue here is these races in 8-Ball probably make for a long tournament. Have you considered alternating with an occasional 9-Ball tournament or a fun format such as a 7-Ball tournament?

(7-Ball being far easier to runout than in 9-Ball for intermediates.)

Tournament time is also not the time to leave the jukebox pumping. Turn it way down or even off so people can chat and compete better during the tournament. The teens and college kids want to hear great music and be social on Saturday night, but this must be balanced with allowing players who want to compete to think and talk also.

5. Great tournaments do include some incentives from the local hall.

With the rental fee/tournament entry price, free practice time is always welcome. I personally need only to take my cue from my case and hit about three shots on an unfamiliar table before I feel ready to compete in a pool tournament.

The average player, however, wants a solid half-hour to an hour for practice, fellowship with teammates and competitors, and to warm their stroke.

Only the smart room owners provide this hour.

If you start your tournament at 8 PM, register players who pay starting at 6:45 PM and open certain tables to paid players only for free at 7 PM. Now is also an easier time to sell food and drinks before the tournament begins and people grow too tense for eating or relaxation.

The 7 to 8 hour could thus become a great hour for 2-for-1 drink specials or something that keeps players happy and at your tournaments each and every week.

6. A great pool tournament returns a maximal amount of money to participants.

What are your weekly payouts? With 20 playing at $15 per person, I would encourage you to pay at least the top 5 places. Is first place $100 or more?

I played last night in a $5 8-Ball tournament with about 20 participants. Third place paid $25 or 5 times my entry fee, to give you some idea.

7. Negotiate with your top players and they will reward you with a popular, ongoing pool tournament.

You need to chat with the better players, especially those who win your tournaments on a frequent basis. Sit down with them separately and ask why they play at your hall, what they are getting out of the tournaments, and what improvements they'd like to see.

If their only positive is "you pay the biggest percentage of cash back" because of your current pay structure (zero for table rental in the case of our concerned room owner) you need to do serious thinking about improving your room in general.

I'd be happy to help personally with some ideas and please review my related article on what exactly makes for a great pool tournament room.

Less skilled players are made happy in more general terms, by offering back a percentage of table rentals to the prize purse (a cash added tournament), and by disallowing tournament winners to compete for the top prize again (or play at all) in the one, two or three tournaments following, to give other players a chance to win.

8. Spice your regular pool tournament with action and you'll keep more table rental dollars.

Add flavor to your weekly tournaments by hosting challenges for cash or fun that have nothing to do with the tournament. For example, have everyone put in $1 per drawing ticket. The winning ticket holder, who must be present at the 8-Ball tournament that night, gets to break and run a table of 10-Ball.

Use a table somewhere prominent in your hall where people can watch the action sometime after the tournament starts.

Of course, while they await the drawing each week they can rent a table to play if they were eliminated from the tournament or buy more food and beverages from you, room owner, as they sit!

Payout for the lucky player is 10% of the pot per ball sunk, including balls made on a legal break. Only rarely will someone break and run all ten balls, so money carries over to next week and the pot grows quickly.

For added excitement, allow players who win the drawing to elect to have a friend break for them, run balls for them, or even auction this possibility off from player to player.

With only 20 players weekly, the pot can quickly grow to $500 or $1,000 or more. Someone who has been to your tournaments for a while may certainly visit to try for the big pot soon during another week.

Your goal with a fun incentive like this one is to fill your place weekly with excited players, who must at some point pay money or have some of the tournament purse pay for some of your table rental time.

In any case, some clever but simple adjustments here, and now you have players in all week to practice Ten-Ball, too!

9. Use a "buy-back feature" to hoist pool tournament income, yours and the players' income, too.

Charge eliminated players $5 or $10 (depending on round when they were eliminated) to get back into the tournament for one more try from the losers' bracket. Some of the money can go to you, some or all to the tournament, it depends on what mix will make everyone happy.

10. Call their bluff and alter the pool tournament payout (or threaten to do so in creative ways).

If you have a good pool experience overall, and people are not just there for the big "cash back" tournament, you are on solid ground and can charge a small percentage of the purse for rentals. You might also move the tournament to another night if you're missing Saturday crowds of fun-seekers for some skinflint tournament competitors.

You can also bargain collectively with the group. If they really insist that food and beverage will pay their way, make it $25 that night, keep the purse the same, and offer dinner or hors d'oeuvres and one beverage to every tournament player each week.

When you make this offer and they refuse, you've called their bluff and proven you will not be earning food and beverage dollars enough to give out free tables.

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Your Citation
Sherman, Matthew. "10 Ways Not To Lose Your Shirt Running A Pool Tournament." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2016, thoughtco.com/how-to-run-great-pool-tournament-368785. Sherman, Matthew. (2016, August 25). 10 Ways Not To Lose Your Shirt Running A Pool Tournament. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-run-great-pool-tournament-368785 Sherman, Matthew. "10 Ways Not To Lose Your Shirt Running A Pool Tournament." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-run-great-pool-tournament-368785 (accessed November 24, 2017).