I had the honor today (and I do mean honor) to interview Mr. John Bertone, the American and Canadian rep for Kamui Tips and products.
Let me start by stating that I have known John personally for a number of years, commentated streaming matches with him, been to his house and dined on cuisine lovingly prepared to perfection by him and his beautiful wife, Elisa! And oh boy, can he cook!
But today’s interview gave me an even greater respect and admiration for him as we dug deep into the world of pool and the Kamui mindset.
Barb: So John, how did you become a rep for Kamui?
John: Masato Hiraoka, the Japan manufacturer contacted my local cue maker and friend of mine, Kerry Zeiler and wanted him to be the Kamui Rep here in the U.S. Kerry said no, but told him “I know who you should have—John Bertone.” Since I was wrapping up a prior business selling billiards supplies, the timing just worked. After meeting with Masato and realizing our vision for the industry was the same, and seeing his high quality products, I jumped on board. One of the great things about the Kamui family is that Masato is a pool player as is EVERYONE at the factory!
Barb: So you were there early on then, yes?
John: Yes. They had first created some hard tips, then started experimenting and testing because the consistency is what they were going for—to give the players a consistent tip that they will KNOW already how it’s going to hit. One of my favorite things about them is that they are never satisfied with their products. They constantly want to improve. We now have four browns, four blacks, and the newest “clear” line. My personal favorites are the Black Super Soft and Brown Soft, depending on my mood of course lol!
Barb: What has your pool career been like?
John: (Laughing) Meager! I fell in love with pool at five years old. My Uncle had a Brunswick at his house. I just loved rolling the balls, climbing on the table etc. I kept begging my Dad to get a table. I didn’t know pool halls existed and my Dad never let me know they did—ha! Well we finally got a table—it was an Imperial, and the legs were 3” taller than they were supposed to be, but we had a table! Then I learned there were local pool leagues, and well you know how that goes—hooked! Now, the only time it seems I get to shoot is when we have a table in our Kamui booth at the major billiards events!
Barb: Who is Kamui sponsoring these days?
John: We currently sponsor over 125 pro players worldwide, including the likes of: Mika Immonen, Ralph Souquet, Thorston Hohmann, Jennifer Barretta, Jeremy Sossei, Skyler Woodward, Matt Krah, Hunter Lombardo, Jayson Shaw, Michael Yednak and our newest member, Adam Smith, also Florian Kohler the trick shot artist and too many to name all here of course. We are really trying to help the players promote themselves and the game. We came up with the collector “trading cards” idea for them and in a few years down the line, those cards are going to be worth something!
Recently I decided to start sponsoring the juniors too, since they will be the future of pool. In fact, the face of pool is going to change some years from now because of these up and comers!
Barb: I love that! How is that going?
John: We have very high standards for sponsorship. The Junior, in order to be sponsored must maintain a straight “A” grade average. Taylor and Tristan Hansen (brother and sister) are one of our newest Junior sponsorships. Anyone we sponsor must have a healthy lifestyle and work hard. Again, Kamui high standards!
Barb: Wonderful! On a personal note, how did you meet your terrific wife Elisa?
John: Well we knew each other in high school—no wait, she didn’t really know me because she was the “untouchable” cheerleader and athlete and I was a nerd (laughs), but we graduated the same year. Anyway, later after a divorce and single again, her sister sort of hooked us up via social media (yep, she did not remember who I was from high school). Fortunately for me however, it worked out. The rest is history!
Barb: Well I must say you are a terrific family man and your new five month old Gianna is adorable! What is your favorite thing about being a new father?
John: What isn’t?
Barb: That’s a wrap lol!
Barb: Any “secrets” you can spill regarding upcoming Kamui products etc.?
John: Shhhhhhhhhh! I don’t want to jinx myself!
Barb: Ohhhhhhh, sure John, of course! But give us something!
John: I will tell you this. I was very impressed with the BCA Nationals in Vegas this year! The Kamui booth did great, and the new format the BCA had worked well. So I am currently working with Mark Griffin and Ozzy Reynolds of CSI for a possible Kamui Tour event, which would hold “qualifiers” around the country, culminating in a final Kamui Open here on the west coast. This is very exciting and hopefully we can put this together with a WIN WIN WIN all around! That is very important to me when it comes to working in this industry—that no one loses out and all involved win. If it can’t be like that, then I won’t do it.
Barb: Very commendable John! And exciting news! Keep us posted!
John: Oh, and also—Japan wanted me to start selling tips directly to players and I refused. I only sell to cue makers and cue repair dealers.
John: Because—well let me ask you this—when you need a tip, or something done for your cue, where do you go?
Barb: To the cue repair guy.
John: Exactly! And they are at the bottom support of our industry. I will not do something that could take money away from them or put them out of business.
Barb: Wow! So now, as someone who is constantly involved in the billiards scene, what is your take on the future of pool? What could be done to expand our industry?
John: I think that our industry is going through a “transition” that is taking us out of the old perception of dingy dirty pool rooms into more of an athletic sport. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen because of the kids today. They will be the ones who will change the face of pool. That is one of the reasons we want to sponsor them!
Barb: Well said—I agree that we all can do more! Anything else you would like to share with the readers?
John: Yes, too many times we forget our pool origins, all the help we had, where we were and where we are now. Even if one is a mediocre player, they are still sort of pool “Gods” to those who know nothing. So I believe everyone should share his or her craft and talents with someone who knows nothing about pool! If we do that, we make new players!
As you can see from John’s responses here, that this is someone with high standards, a big heart, and great ideas and goals to forward our beloved industry. We need more John Bertones in billiards! Thank you John for your integrity and for setting a great example! Great chatting with you as always!