Sunday, October 10th, 2021 -- Jason Jones is a friend of mine; he is around a 700 Fargo ranking; many amateurs may see him play and believe that's pro level play, and I would argue that's professional level, but he tells me about qualifying for APA (American Poolplayers Association) National Championships that run out in Vegas each year, how they have many players well above 700 Fargo ranking, and how what many dub "amateur pool" is actually the cream of the crop in many circles.
To put the Fargo ranking into perspective, of the top 100 ranked Fargo rated players in the world, Mosconi Cup player Billy Thorpe for team USA is a 773 Fargo; he is ranked 98th in the world. Joshua Filler, the worlds #1 ranked Fargo player is an 831, so that is to say that a 58 point difference in the case from 773 to 831 is a vast difference. So, therefore, it would appear the higher the ranking, the bigger the distinction point by point. Check out the top 100 Fargo rankings here: https://www.fargorate.com/top-ten-lists
And the Fargo ranking has a "robustness" factor that plays in -- essentially how many matches a player has played to establish their ranking. The more matches played, the more accurate the Fargo ranking.
"This APA is supposed to be an Amateur pool league. It gets really ridiculously tough at the top. Listen to these Fargo ratings: there were some players in the APA National Championships (held in Vegas) that had a Fargo ranking over 740...how is that amateur?" -- Jason said.
740 is just 33 points below world number 98 ranked Billy Thorpe; keep that in mind here: several players in the APA National Championships within 33 points or better of one of the best of the best in the world, and one of team USA's top players -- the USA having lost ground exponentially, the level of play other countries players maintain well above their US counterparts in so many cases.
Jason tells me to qualify for the Vegas individual tournaments at the APA National Championships, players must be active in the APA on a team, then qualify locally in a qualifying round, then a second round at some location in their home state or nearby region, then if they qualify at the state level, players make it to Vegas. So there appears to be three stages to making it.
"First of all, you've got to be in the APA active for that year, on a team playing actively. Then, you have to play an eight man qualifying tournament in your area. Now, you've got to play the qualifier (first round) 4 months before you play the regional (second round). So, I played down at Starcade (Ft Walton Beach, Florida) for my regional. I had to play in June to qualify for the regionals in October. So, look how far in advance you've got to be paying attention to this...you've got to qualify a long time before you play in the regionals. Then, when you qualify in the regionals, then you go to Vegas." -- Jones tells me of the winding road that leads to Vegas APA style.
Out in Vegas the APA yearly National Championships cover a span of about 9-12 days Jones tells me. He also informed me that Jeremy Seaman was in the event, ranked a 762 Fargo, and 13th in the USA, and above pro player Tyler Styer, who is a 761 Fargo, ranked 15th in the US, and has represented team USA in the Mosconi Cup as well.
Even with all the competition at the APA National Championships in Vegas, Jones placed 17th just last year, which is substantial considering the level of competition out there. "I was two matches away from the final four," Jones informed me. "If you're one of the top amateur players, you can get in tournaments, make money playing pool, and still hold a regular job. You can still hold a 9 to 5 job, an actual job, and play pool on the side, and as long as you don't make more playing pool than your regular job, then you are considered 'amateur.'" -- Jones informed me. "There's so many like me that are like a 700 Fargo," he explains of the "amateur" level he means.
Of his early introduction to the game of billiards, Jones informed me that -- for a time -- he had a a 9ft Brunswick table to play upon as a child. So, from a very young age, Jones was playing pool. He is one of several players now that I heard began standing on milk crates to be able to reach the table to hit balls. The results of this type of introduction to pool speak for themselves. (I think Ralf Souquet also told me he began playing in this same manner.)
As he got older, he got to where he'd win against tougher players. Then, his game progressed from there, to where it resides today, a 700 Fargo "amateur," stuck somewhere in the middle between amateur and pro -- perhaps we can call it "Pro Am," but man! I've seen Jason play, and to me that's all pro.
Thanks again to Jones for taking time to talk with me, break down the amateur pool scene in the APA, and to highlight the nuanced distinction between what is considered "amateur," and what is considered "professional" pool.
Play on players. Keep on hitting them balls!