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Chinese 8-ball on track to go global

Xinhua, January 16, 2017 Adjust font size:

With booming popularity and a rising profile, many observers say the game of Chinese 8-ball pool has the potential to go global in the near future.

As the fifth edition of the World Chinese 8-Ball Masters enters into its final day in Qinhuangdao, north China' s Hebei Province, organizers are upbeat about the prospects of this home-grown version of billiards.


"Chinese 8-ball is a fascinating game," Qiao Bing, president of China's JOY Billiards Group that started the Masters in 2013, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

This unique brand of Chinese-style pool, which combines a snooker style, nine-ball table size, and American 8-ball pool rules, has been common in China for decades, but has also become increasingly popular abroad in recent years.

Snooker legend Stephen Hendry now serves as global ambassador of Chinese 8-ball pool. In his view, snooker is akin to the game of chess, while Chinese 8-ball is more like checkers.

"Chinese 8-ball for me is all about a perfect breakoff," the 48-year-old Scot told Xinhua. "It' s much more aggressive."

In addition to inviting Hendry to help promote the game, JOY has worked to globalize Chinese 8-ball, and have started to see promising results. In the space of about five years, JOY' s tournaments were viewed 250 million times on TV and 400 million times online across the world.

Last year, JOY successfully held overseas series in 11 countries, including Argentina, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States, while the week-long 2017 Finals has attracted 64 contestants from 26 countries, competing for a combined prize of 120,000 U.S. dollars. This year, the prize pot has increased to 140,000 dollars.

Qiao noted that raising the standard of the game and the prize money available is an intentional effort to increase the profile of the game.

"A high-level event with a substantial prize is attractive to professional players, additionally, players can pick up Chinese 8-ball in a very short time with no need for extensive training," said Qiao.

JOY's efforts to promote Chinese 8-ball have been recognized by the World Pool-Billiard Association, the international governing body of pocket-billiard sports.

But Qiao suggests that promoting this distantly Chinese game should be about more than just involving foreign players. All players, Qiao says, should be empowered to raise the level of their play.

"Only when amateurs constantly are consistently able to come out and prove themselves capable of competing in professional games all over the world, can we say that Chinese-style billiards is a globalized sport," he stressed.


Statistics from the China Billiards Association showed that there are over 200,000 registered pool clubs in China with around 60 million fans, most of whom list the locally-originated 8-ball game as their main sport.

Qiao says he sees serious potential for World Masters from the perspective of business opportunities.

"With the momentum gathering in China, there are reasons to believe the event has the potential to become a piece of sporting intellectual property that could bring about profits on worldwide scale," Qiao said.

As China's rising economy has boosted overseas confidence in Chinese investment, most foreign organizers are taking a positive attitude toward working with their Chinese counterparts to host Chinese 8-ball tournaments.

For his part, Hendry says that given its growing media presence, Chinese 8-ball is on the right track to go global, and notes the precedent set by snooker decades earlier.

"Snooker wasn't a popular sport in the UK until late 1970s when the games began to be broadcasted on TV," noted the seven-time World Snooker Championship Winner.

"Chinese 8-ball is on the way to going out to the world. I'm happy to be part of the process," Hendry added.

Qiao says that Chinese 8-ball needs to learn from the popularity of its predecessor billiard sport on the world stage. He noted that despite the potential for competition between snooker and Chinese 8-ball, there are a lot of aspects of snooker' s experience that are worth emulating, such as commercialization, globalization, and brand operations.

To this end, his company plans expand its overseas series to 60 countries over the next five years and use live broadcasting, interactive projection, and high-tech tables to help their games reach a larger audience abroad, and to do so in better quality.

"I hope that Chinese 8-ball can become the world's largest pool game in the future, and eventually even be a part of the Olympic family," Qiao said. Endit