Darren Appleton was born August 2, 1976, in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England.
He had a simple childhood and he grew up a “normal” kid. Although his parents didn’t have much money they always got by. Darren’s dad was a handy man—mostly a mechanic. He was the guy everyone came to when something needed to be fixed, so he had many different jobs. His mother worked in a sewing factory for years. Both are retired now and they spend a lot of time with their grandkids and keeping up on Darren’s worldwide adventures via the internet and TV. They are very proud of all that Darren has done.
When I asked Darren who had been the biggest influence in his life, with no hesitation, he told me: “I always looked up to my brothers and especially my dad. He knew everything and I learned so much from him.”
Band of Brothers
Darren has two brothers, Craig and Shane. Growing up, Darren was close to them and I am confident his ambition in life stemmed from being raised in a highly competitive relationship with his brothers. According to Darren, Craig was always very athletic. As a youth, he was a very good boxer but a broken hand early in his career, ended his boxing dreams. For the past few years he has been competing in triathlons comparable to the Iron Man. Darren admires his brother’s physical prowess.
“He’s so fit, it’s sick,” were Darren’s words.
Shane is Darren’s oldest brother. Like Darren, Shane was also a professional pool player at English 8 Ball and briefly tried American pool but now he does not really play. Darren’s first exposure to the pool league environment was with Shane at a pub called Frog and Firkin in Knottingley, Pontefract. They even won the doubles championship together in 1992 when Darren was only 16 years of age.
Growing up, Darren has many fond memories of his family, including going camping and enjoying holidays away from school. Like many kids, Darren didn’t really enjoy school, except for physical education. He absolutely loved competitive sports, primarily soccer, but then followed in his brother’s footsteps and got involved with boxing. They have a big boxing background in their family but at age 15, Darren discovered the world of billiards and got hooked. It took a couple of years, but at seventeen he stopped boxing and played less soccer due to pool tournaments and local leagues.
Darren had been exposed to snooker on family vacations and a little bit of English 8 Ball growing up. They even had a 6 foot table that belonged to his brother at home, but Darren never really took the game that seriously. At twelve years old, the table was sold, and he wouldn’t play again until he was 15.
Darren’s cousin Andy Appleton was a top professional English 8 Ball player in the UK. Really his first exposure to high level competition was all due to Andy. Darren says that “Andy was the biggest billiards influence when I was a kid and I learned a lot from him by watching him play in exhibitions and tournaments. I was a good student.” At sixteen years of age, Darren decided to leave school and take the necessary steps to become a professional pool player. Darren never had any coaching; he just jumped in with both feet and started competing.
Taking it to the next level
Darren’s biggest win in his early years was beating his cousin Andy Appleton. He was Darren’s idol, so when he beat him in tournaments locally and nationally, it gave him the belief that he could beat anybody in the world. At the time, Andy was ranked 4th in the world in English 8 Ball. In 1996, Darren turned pro and in his very first tournament he won! He was the first player in English 8 Ball history to do that. He beat the World No. 2 at the time named Rob Hill 9-8. That was the moment he believed he was going to be the best player. One year later, Darren was ranked World No. 1 in English 8 Ball.
What are your proudest moments?
Winning Junior National Title first attempt
1992 winning national amateur championships with over 1000 entries at 18, first attempt
Winning my first professional title, Hilton Professional Championship
Becoming World No. 1 within 2 years
Winning first television tournament in 1998, first time appearance on TV (Sky Sports International Masters)
Later on in my English 8 Ball career, I won over 35 major titles worldwide, was four time European Champion, ranked World No. 1 for 6-7 years, won over 200 titles, and represented the England team for 9-10 years and won six world team titles in those years.
Darren is one of the most well-known and respected competitors in the pool world. For the rest of this interview, I felt like the best way to really understand Darren’s perspective is to read his words.
Tell me about your professional career and moments that have defined you as a player.
Around 2005, I started to lose motivation for English 8 Ball, due to politics, bad organization, constant changing of the rules, and lack of prize money and TV exposure. I started to think about American pool from then. In August of 2005, I saw a flier for the IPT. I told a few guys (Mick Hill, Karl Boyes, etc.) and we decided to apply to join the tour. A few months later we were accepted into this multi-million dollar tour.
After that it was 90% American pool 10% English 8 Ball for me. IPT was the best memory. It was a dream even though it was short lived. I made about $60,000 from two events and we felt like we were treated like royalty. That made me who I am today, and I have a lot of thanks to Mr. Trudeau. Obviously it was sick that it didn’t continue. When it folded in the winter of 2006, I decided I wanted to play 9 Ball, 10 Ball etc and traveled to the Philippines. I ended up spending about six months of the next year there playing huge money games every day against players like Kiamco, Corteza, Gomez, and De Luna.
I won more than I lost during that period and I learned so much from them. It also made me very mentally strong. After that, I went to America and spent three months on the road. I played many matches and won nearly every match. Later on, I found out I probably gave too much weight to the guys I beat but I outran the nuts and it makes me proud when I look back.
The back end of 06-07 was my learning/gambling period. My stake horse and I went 50/50 on all my matches and sometimes we let other guys bet if the money was huge. It was a great time and we made good money. In that time, I must’ve played around 100 matches and won about 75. At English 8 Ball, I was regarded as the greatest money player of all time by my peers. So 2008 was my time to start playing tournaments full time. I played the GB9 tour, Euro Tour, Derby City Classic, BCA, US Open, WPA events, etc. I did play some tournaments but not enough to gain a ranking because I missed too many due to my time on the road in Manila and the States.
2008 was my first full year focused on tournaments and I felt ready to win. I won my first straight pool title at Derby City Classic in January. A few months later I won the US Bar Table Championships 10 Ball Division. The month after that, I won the Euro Tour in Italy which was a big one. In the UK, I got to 6-7 consecutive finals on the GB9 Tour, winning 4 back to back. It’s still a record now.
In October the same year, I went back to Manila for the World 10 Ball Championships, the first one to have $100k to the winner, so the field was full of champions. Amazingly, I won it. I fulfilled my childhood dream so it was very emotional for me and my family because it was my first world title. Previous to this, I lost in 2 world finals in English 8 Ball. So this World 10 Ball title was 10 times bigger and more important.
It was a huge weight off my shoulders, but more importantly, it gave me the belief and confidence to go on and win more titles and be one of the best in the world. Out of all the titles I won, looking back I would have to say the World 10 Ball title has been my greatest achievement. My other proud moments of course would be the back to back US Open titles, back to back Challenge of Champions titles, World 9 Ball Champion, winning World Pool Masters, my first Matchroom tournaments, and now my fifth consecutive Mosconi appearance this December, winning three of the last four. Also, being named Mosconi MVP 2010, 2010 Player of the year and 3x World Ranked No. 1. World Games champion… it’s all been a dream in such a short space of time.”
Tell me about your goals & dreams for the future.
“My goals are to improve and get better. I want to stay at the top for at least another 10 years and win more world titles and play in at least 10 Mosconi Cups. I would like to get inducted into the Hall of Fame and later start coaching and doing more exhibitions. Maybe one day I would like to promote tournaments or build my own stable of players and start a company or open pool rooms. I don’t know for sure, but I will definitely always be involved in pool. It’s in my blood and I love the game.”
Tell me your thoughts on Bonus Ball.
“Ok, I’ll be honest because I like to speak my mind. Early days, I was excited and I could see the potential. I like the game and the concept, they invested so much money, but there were a lot of road blocks before it got started.
So much money spent but nothing on marketing and the stream was poor and done cheap which didn’t make sense with all money spent on the venue. And very bad management, hence why it come tumbling down so quick and so many players out of pocket.
Personally, I lost about 10-15k with apartment and furniture and traveling expenses and not once did I receive an apology and they told us lot of lies and false promises and didn’t communicate with the players enough. So I decided to leave.
Now, they have got new investor so the league will resume next month but the season cut short to nine matches per team with probably no play offs and less money for the players than originally planned. So early November, we go to finish the season. Hoping to make good film and sell to networks, that’s the only chance. For it to be success they need to employ the right people to run the show and plan better.
Do I see a future? I hope so, but they got a lot to do to earn my trust back and I would want guarantees to be interested. But I don’t hold much hope for a bright future. Around 2 million dollars wasted so far we could’ve done great things with that money…shame.
Like I said, the league, concept, and the game are great. But good for TV and spectators? Doubtful, I guess…”
Tell me about you and Angie: How did you meet? How did you propose? How did you know that she was the one?
Angie and I initially saw each other early 2010 and were introduced by a mutual friend. We started speaking at the US Open 2010, after that we kept in touch. I came back to America afterwards and we met up, it just clicked from there and we’ve been together ever since.
I proposed in Las Vegas in a quiet setting with our puppy Pixie. I put the ring on Pixie’s collar and got on one knee and asked the question. Pixie lifted her head at the right moment and Angie saw the ring. It was pretty emotional. I’m so glad I involved Pixie because Angie loved that dog more than anything and she sadly passed away two weeks later at 10 months old.
I just had an overwhelming feeling about her, that’s how I knew she was the one… the rest is a secret 🙂
A special note from Angie Tran
I had the opportunity to chat with Darren’s fiancé, Angie and I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sharing a little bit of her feelings toward Darren.Here is her response:
With that said, I knew from the start that he was a keeper. Darren is very generous, funny, loyal, he’s so good to me and he makes me feel like I can achieve anything… I could go on and on. He’s one in a million. I love him to pieces and I’m so thankful to have him in my life. I would do anything for him!”
I wish Darren success in all things and am hopeful that you have enjoyed this interview as much as I have. Here are a few other pieces of information for readers to check out.
Thanks again and we will see you next issue! Check out Darren’s website! He is open to sponsorship and can be contacted there. Darren’s sponsors are Predator Cues. He has played with predator since starting in 2006, and loves the people. “They been amazing to me!”
Also, thanks to them Darren endorses the see system aiming system.
Photo: WPBL and Lee Rigby Editor: Edith Lazenby