How to Run a Pool Tournament
I often get email asking how to run tournaments.
Good question! I have been playing in tournaments
for over 20 years now and have seen the best and the worst out
there. I have also had the privilege of running several
tournaments over the years and have learned from my own mistakes.
I would like to thank James Doran of Side Pockets,
, for his assistance in this article.
Name the game:
First things first, what kind of tournament do you want to
have? For the first few weeks or even months you might
try a simple 8 or 9-ball, $5 entry tournament. Which game
you choose should depend on the popularity in your area.
If you get a split preference, do both, 8-ball one night and
9-ball the next. The more you get your actual clientele involved
in the decision making the more likely they'll come and play and
tell others about it. Will you be adding money to the payout?
Some pool halls match the pot, some add a set amount, it's
entirely up to you.
Keep the race small enough so it doesn't keep people in
your pool hall after closing time. A race to 3 works
nicely usually for both 8-ball and 9-ball. However; if you
make the race too short, you may run off some players
because it's too easy for a player to luck into a game or
two. Try keeping it a race to 3 at the very minimum.
If you find the tournament runs too late you can make
adjustments. One possibility is having a chart posted
showing what the race will be depending on number
|Race to:||Number of players:|
|2||more than 16|
|4||less than 7|
This table is open for adjustment, of course.
Have the tournament start on a weeknight at 7:00 or
8:00 pm. Those times seem the most popular. If you're
having a Saturday or Sunday tournament, starting
times of Noon or 1:00 work very well.
You will want to get the word out that you have tournaments.
You can create flyers, advertise it here on pool4u.com
or simply use word of mouth. It's also helpful to keep a tournament flyer, or anything with information,
close to the phone for employees to reference when perspective players
call in for information.
Running the tournament:
Does your tournament director know the rules of the game?
Which rules will you use? You might decide to find out what
leagues are most popular in your area and use their rules.
For 8-ball, I highly recommend the modified BCA (Billiard Congress of America) rules
of open after the break, ball in hand on all fouls, call your
pocket (not the shot). "Modifed" meaning when a player
makes the 8-ball on the break it is a win (or a loss if the
Do you have a double elimination bracket printed off to run it
with? Do you know where to place the byes if you need them?
You can find that information here: www.pool4u.com/Brackets.aspx
How will you divide the tournament winnings? I recommend
paying back one fourth of the field. So if you have 8 players, have
the top two finishers get money back.
|Number of players|
|4th|| || ||10%||7.5%||10%||10%||8%|
|5th-6th|| || || ||5% each||5% each||5% each||6% each|
|7th-8th|| || || || ||2.5% each||3.5% each||5% each|
|9th-12th|| || || || || ||2% each||3% each|
|13th-16th|| || || || || || ||2% each|
This table is open for adjustment, of course.
It's all in the details:
There are a few notes I'd like to make regarding often
overlooked details when running a tournament. Many
players find these to be as important as what rules
you use for your tournament.
- Limit Obstructions: Are the tables too close
together? Are you letting your non-tournament
clientele play on a table next to a tournament
table? Do your servers understand the importance
of not walking through where people are playing?
- Keep the Equipment in Good Shape: Are the
pool balls clean? Are the tables working correctly?
Is the felt clean and free of rips? Are the rails set
to the correct height?
- Try to Keep the Noise Down: I don't mean
hushing the bar during a shot, but keep the juke
box at a respectable level. Players don't care if a regular
just put $5 into the machine and wants to hear
Layla at max volume. If you turn it up, you'll turn
off the players.
- Food: Most pool halls have some sort of food,
but if nothing is available you will want to provide
something for the longer running tournaments. I
have played many tournaments at an old haunt
"Northside Lounge" in Missouri where BBQ brisket
sandwiches were provided at a very good price.
How many players did you get? How late did it run? Did the
pool hall make money? Did people have fun and want to come
back? Did the rules work well for most of the players? Keep
in mind you will undoubtedly have someone who doesn't like
the rules, the race, the game, the tables, the chalk, the money
added, the payout percentages, or any combination of the
above. Don't let this discourage you from having future
tournaments. Take these complaints with a grain of salt
and move on.
When you get the hang of running tournaments, try your hand
at a bigger tournament on a weekend. A good Saturday
tournament would include a bigger entry fee, say $25 - $40, and
a longer race. Take the most popular tournament you're having
and make it a race to 5 for 8-ball and race to 7 for 9-ball. Try
having one tournament for the women and one for the men. Usually
the race is less for the women. Many tournaments are co-ed and the
women get a game or two on the wire (1 game for race to 5, 2 for
race to 7).
You can also try a Scotch Doubles tournament to get couples
involved. Again, check to see what's popular for the rules, but
keep it in mind that if you allow coaching, this will make the
tournament last much longer.
You could add a calcutta at this point. A calcutta is basically an
auction of the players. People bet on the player they think will win
the tournament. The player then has the option of buying half
of themselves back from the winning bidder. If you're not
familiar with a calcutta it can be a little confusing at first,
but you'll get the hang of it. The calcutta pays back
to about one fourth or fifth of the field.
If you have a large room with many tables, you may want to
consider sponsoring a tour stop. There are several tours across
the country looking for stops. You can see a list of tours here at