In 2014, as Predator Group was celebrating its 20th anniversary as a cue maker and billiards innovator, company president Karim Belhaj was already looking ahead to the manufacturer’s silver anniversary in five years.
He wanted to do something bold. Afterall, the company’s motto is “innovate and inspire.” While Belhaj searched for methods to celebrate the milestone and to promote the game of professional pool, efforts to maintain a world 10-ball championship were stuck in the mud. The World Pool and Billiards Association’s world championship had not been staged since 2015 when Ko Pin-yi defeated Carlo Biado in the Philippines and tentative plans for a tournament in Manilla last year fell through at the last minute.
That’s when the light bulb went off for Belhaj – why not grab the reigns and produce their own world major. He reached to Ozzy Reynolds, president of Cue Sports International, and asked what was needed to put on world event while also discussing his ideas for professional pool. The two of them began working on a plan to develop not just an event, but eventually a tour.
“I shared with him my vision and Ozzy shared with me his vision for building a bridge between the amateur players, league players and pro events,” Belhaj said. “We found a synergy between CSI and Predator that was just natural.”
A partnership was reached and the Predator World 10-ball Championship was announced last December.
After five years of dreaming and the last eight months of planning, the event begins this afternoon at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The $100,000 added tournament features 64 players from 24 countries in what could be considered one of the strongest fields of any event in recent years. This five-day competition is part of a three-year agreement between Predator and CSI and will be taking place right along side of amateurs competing at the Billiard Congress of America Pool League Championships. Admission is free and the event will be streamed live for no charge on YouTube.
The Predator World 10-ball Championship will be the first world championship held in the United States since 1997 when Johnny Archer won the WPA 9-ball championship in Chicago.
The roster of players is smorgasbord of youth, experience and championships. Of the players set to compete this week, 11 of them either currently hold or previously held a WPA title – including Ko, Biado, reigning World 9-ball champion Joshua Filler, former 8-ball and 9-ball champion Ralf Souquet, 2014 World 9-ball champion Niels Feijen, three-time World 9-ball champion Earl Strickland and the winner of the inaugural World 10-ball event in 2008, Darren Appleton.
Additionally, four of the entrants have already punched their ticket to the Billiard Congress of America’s Hall of Fame – Darren Appleton, Strickland, Ralf Souquet and Alex Pagulayan, who will be inducted into the Hall this fall.
Nine of the players competing this week hail from the United States – including Shave Van Boening, one of the most decorated 10-ball players in the world. The South Dakotan has won the last three United States Open 10-ball Championships and earned top honors in the 10-ball division of the Derby City Classic in 2014 and 2015. Joining Van Boening are fellow Americans Corey Deuel, Oscar Dominguez, Hunter Lombardo, Danny Olson, Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Earl Strickland, Tyler Styer, Billy Thorpe, and reigning Derby City Classic Master of the Table Skylar Woodward
The world championship will be held in two stages. The first stage will involve all players competing in race to 8 matches within a double-elimination format until only 16 competitors remaining. Those remaining players will then compete in a single-elimination format during the second half of the event, with the races now increased to 10 games. Additionally, there will be a re-drawing of the brackets during the final phase – with competitors from the winner’s side of the bracket taking on players from the one-loss side.
The Predator World 10-ball Championship is a presentation of Cue Sports International and sponsored by Predator Group, one of the world’s premier cue makers and billiards accessory manufacturers. The event is being hosted by the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino and broadcast live on YouTube by CSI Media, a subsidiary of Cue Sports International. For more information, visitwww.world10ball.com