Sea of sharks4/2/2014
Is it better to be lucky? Or, is it better to be skilled? Many might argue it’s better to be skilled at something, because that’s a better reflection of a person’s talent. Others could argue that luck is a devastating trump card that’s always in play but impossible to anticipate. The smart man chooses skills while the wise man accepts both.
Like in all sports, a successful pool player relies on the camaraderie of luck and skill to achieve greatness. Sure, an understanding of mathematics — algebra, geometry, trigonometry — would come in handy for figuring out the angle at which to shoot or the proper speed and spin to set up a future shot, but accidently blocking a pocket with one of your balls feels just as good.
“I’d say that 90 percent of the time, skill prevails,” said Julie Guzman, co-chair of the Iowa State Pool Association (ISPA) tournament committee. “Over the course of a longer race — say racing to five games instead of three games — the more skilled player is almost always going to win. However, in a short race — maybe to two games — even the best player can get beaten by a lesser skilled player due to Lady Luck.”
The ISPA is now in its 10th year as an independent association, though it was formed nearly 20 years ago. Last year marked an exciting new time for the ISPA when it moved its yearly tournament to Hy-Vee Hall from previous locations in Waterloo and Davenport.
“As of 2014, we have 39 member leagues supporting over 4,500 sanctioned players,” Guzman said. “The ISPA tournament is now the largest independent state-level tournament run in the United States.”
The tournament features multiple divisions — entry level to elite — of play within Nine-Ball Singles, Eight-Ball Singles, Eight-Ball-mixed Scotch Doubles and Eight-Ball team events. This year the ISPA has 160 pool tables set up for play, and spectators are more than welcome to take in the matches and maybe even learn a few tricks.
“The Frideres Speed Break Contest will be going on all weekend. They do several fun and exciting mini-games, which is open to the public to stop by and give it a try,” said Jamie Courtney, co-chair of the ISPA tournament committee. “There will also be a trick shot artist Mark Wilson doing performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He will be doing lessons as well for those who would like to work on their game.”
At the end of the day, pool is a sport that embraces people from all ages, classes and backgrounds. Even severely handicapped people can play pool, a few of which are playing in the ISPA tournament. That’s because it’s more of a mental game than a physical one. Every single game of pool is like a new puzzle, waiting to be solved.
“We believe in treating the game with respect. It’s a gentleman’s game played by some great men and women from all over the state,” Courtney said. “We’re a competitive bunch, but sportsmanship and respect for the game is the normal M.O. of today’s player.” CV
David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.2014 ISPA Tournament WHERE: Hy-Vee Hall WHEN: April 2-6, play begins at 9 a.m. PRICE: Free to spectators