October 1st, 2015
Point Of View Pool Media – Los Angeles
Article by: Geraldine Thibodeau and Daniel Busch
NOTE: Since posting this article, a follow up interview with world renowned artistic billiard player, Abram Diaz was conducted by Mark Cantrill of American Billiard Radio and is available to everyone at the following link: www.americanbilliardradio.com
In almost any arena, when one stands alone in this day and age, creating any sort of change or impact can be a tough nut to crack. In the recent weeks, a small amount of artistic pool players have decided to take a stand against the World Pool Association’s, Artistic Pool Division (WPA-APD). On September 9th, 2015 a somewhat brash demand letter went out to Mark Dimick, President of the WPA-APD, and all the other board members (Jim Sommer, Javier Gomez, Arkadiy Loshakov, Dan Hosier, Tim Chin, Jamie Moody, Buddy Eick, Stefano Pelinga, Jeremiah Owens, Curtis Robertson) stating that there were issues that a majority of the top players in the world (13 total) would like to see change for the better of the sport. These terms came with a two-week deadline for response, or else a boycott on future events would take place.
Seeking change for the betterment of artistic pool, as a sport, was what Nick Nikolaidis and his ‘Player’s Board’ were seeking. In the midst of the recent World Championships that took place in Atlanta, Georgia, many issues within the industry were magnified and several players decided it was time to change the status-quo. Instead of having a continual gripe session, Nikolaidis, helped to fascilitate an impromptu meeting. Among his constituents, were top ranked, Andy Segal, world champion Gabi Visoiu, viral sensation, Florian Kohler, Dave Nangle, Abram Diaz, Steve Markle, Gordon Hedges, Adam Nickels, Jim Glanville, Jamey Gray and Sebastian Giumelli. In this initial meeting, they decided it would be an open discussion of all issues, and these issues would be taken to a vote and would be presented to the WPA-APD.
It seems that with the manifestation of such a notice of demands, the communication gap between the artistic players and it’s governing body has existed for quite some time. The players have felt that there were problems with the format of events, money allocation, and WPA-APD board elections, among other issues. In this recent letter to the WPA-APD, the ‘Player’s Board’, as they call themselves, itemized this letter into seven categories, with included subcategories. The first category is “Player Quality.” Because there was a live-stream of the World Championship, the player quality was on spotlight when it came to how artistic pool was portrayed. This being the case there were five players that scored under 100 points out of a possible 320 points. There were two players that scored 20 points or less. As a professional world championship, the playing field is expected to be of a high caliber, especially those playing on the stream table. This essentially effects how the tournament is set up with regards to which players are in which flights, which is also addressed within the letter. Upon interviewing Nick Nikolaidis, Abram Diaz and Gabi Visoiu, they all discussed that they wanted Artistic Pool to be represented in the best fashion with the highest ranked and skilled players showcased, especially on a broadcast. Not for themselves, but for the presentation for the world to see.
Click on here to download and read the letter to the WPA-APD: Dear WPA
The second category brought up within the letter to the WPA-APD is a topic most often brought up in pool and billiard tournaments: the pay-outs and purse. The first issue brought up was paying out the entire field, which essentially means the tournament is simply reimbursing all players for part of the entry fee. In a recent interview with current World Champion, Gabi Visoiu, he stated, “it is simply a lowered entry fee.” Unless it is an invitational event, it is quite unheard of to pay out the entire field. Visoiu also has a unique perspective as an international player, wiring his entry is an additional cost, as well as cashing a check from the Bank of Oklahoma in Transylvania, Romania becomes a bit of a challenge. For Sebastian Giumelli, cashing a check in Argentina is even more of a problem. Although, the demand for traveler’s checks for international winners was in the letter, upon realizing that there was a problem for Visoiu this year, the WPA-APD did tell Visoiu they would switch to an international bank for future events. Among other points was how much to pay or not pay the tournament director and referees.
Tournament format, the shot program itself, and the awards ceremony are addressed in categories three, four and five. It has been three years that the World Championships and other tournaments have not been played with a play-off format. For the players and perhaps even the presentation of broadcast, it would be beneficial to reinstate the play-off format for the top qualifying players in the tournament going into the final day. In regards to the shot program, the Player’s Board is seeking that they get to at least review the shot program to identify any mistakes that may be apart of it. Finally, the awards ceremony is discussed in the letter, as these players have shown disapproval in the time and manner in which it is conducted. This once again, addresses the issue of the best representation of the artistic pool in the mainstream media.
The sixth category within the letter from the Player’s Board, discusses ranking and the ranking system. This is a smaller category, but can be the most impactful to the other categories because the rankings will effect those that play in world or national tournaments in the future. The ranking system that is proposed, states the players would like to have a minimum number of events for a player to be ranked. Also the Player’s board is asking that only overall finishes be counted towards ranking points and not highest individual discipline finishers.
The final category addressed is the general changes that the Player’s Board would like to see with the WPA-APD. These changes include financial records to be opened up for players to see, Tom Rossman no longer being an influential part of the process, no religious material at events, board elections opened up to players and finally, the player’s voice to be heard, instead of silence through the code of conduct.
What began as thirteen players who wanted change, has now become an eighteen player coalition, with a small board to represent everyone. Nick Nikolaidis was elected as intern President by his fellow rebels, with Andy Segal nominated as intern Vice President of the ‘Player’s Union’. Like any union dispute, when demands are not met or even compromised there is a strike. These rebelling players are now on strike, from a simple response memo from the WPA-APD as, “Thank you for your feedback… Attached, please find the latest entry form for our next event”. In an interview with Player’s Board Member, Abram Diaz, he stated that, “although fearful of possibly not having another opportunity to capture a world title,” he would still boycott the next event. The next event being the Master’s Artistic Pool Championship being held in December at Jamaica Joe’s in Oklahoma. What then becomes of the WPA-APD if a majority of the top ranked players in the world decide not to play in future events? Nick Nikolaidis stated that if need be they would notify the World Pool Association and start their own division.
Although, the Player’s Board sent a demand letter, Abram Diaz commented that they were “ready and willing to negotiate all terms.” This being said, the WPA-APD might be under the impression that the Player’s Board was all or nothing. Stefano Pelinga, current board member of the WPA-APD, was contacted for an interview, but in his most professional manner, declined to make a statement, as he thought he was not the appropriate person to speak on behalf of the WPA-APD board, but that Mark Dimick, the president and spokesman, should if they decide to. Unfortunately, we at Point Of View Pool Media were unable to reach Mark Dimick for a statement prior to publishing this article. In defense of the WPA-APD, they are a volunteered, unpaid board members ranging from different parts of the country, so gathering together to discuss all these topics in their spare time might be a bit difficult.
Hopefully, for all of those involved, the sport of artistic billiards still has a bright future. It seems that with or without the WPA-APD some of these top players are willing to risk it all for the advancement of competition and its presentation in the mainstream media. We know that, without some of its founding members and veteran players the advancement artistic pool might be non-existent in our minds today. However, it seems that there is a new generation of talent knocking loudly at the door wanting their voices to be heard.