Double Kiss in the tourist city of Pattaya in Thailand was the venue on a humid night in May for an exhibition that pitted three world champions against each other, the undeniable king of controversy Earl 'The Pearl' Strickland, Mosconi cup legend Rodney 'The Rocket' Morris and 2015 World snooker champion Stuart 'Ball Run' Bingham.
The 3 Amigos, I use that term lightly, played a round-robin format event, 9-ball, race to 5, and this would decide, for tonight at least, who is the king of the cuedom.
It's always an interesting topic for conversation between cue-wielding warriors on and off the battlefield, whether that field is nine by four and a half feet or twelve by six, a battle I'm sure will still be raging into the next century. I spoke to Stuart before the start of the exhibition tournament, and he told me he once spent three weeks practicing for a cancer charity fundraiser in the UK playing English 8 ball, but he said it totally ruined his snooker for a while, and couldn't see himself putting any time into practicing on smaller tables and therein lay the problem, there just isn't any money in pool compared to snooker so no real incentive.
It's unlikely you'll see any snooker players switching full-time to make their mark on the 9-footers; the odd tournament during the snooker closed season is a different proposition, but as far as any player making the full-time switch from the green baize to blue or shark grey cloth is a distant dream.
I would like to see what would happen if someone like Ronnie O'Sullivan gave it a go for a year when he finally retires from snooker in the next few years, as he has hinted at. He already made that documentary where he traveled to the States trying out different disciplines of the game, and I really do believe that if he gave it 100%, he could win a world title in 9-ball also. What an achievement that would be. Now that would be a record never to be broken and a little too tempting to resist for Ronnie. It's the type of challenge he would relish. Imagine two rockets reaching the dizzy heights of the world pool champion, and then, we just need to persuade Rodney to go green.
Basildon-born Bingham was first up against four-time 9-ball world champion, 5-time US Open champion, and 10-time Mosconi cup winner. In fact, Earl Strickland has won over 100 titles in a career that saw him inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame in 2006. Earl struggled with the 'Wet' conditions and complained and explained to a packed audience how tough it is to move the ball around the table in Asia in his first match alone.
Stuart was having no problem on the smaller table as he mopped up the balls in wet conditions and was on the crest of a wave when he brushed aside Earl 5-2 and then blasted his way past the rocket 5-0 to book his place in the final. Rodney then beat the Pearl 5-2 to book his place in the final, and his chance for revenge against Stuart, who had borrowed a carbon cue from a friend and the US Open champion, got the better of Bingham, beating him 5-3 to be crowned champion.
You can watch some of the action by clicking this link.
Regulars and guests got their chance to play against any one of the three champions, or all 3, a 1000 Thai Baht
($28.50) gave you the chance to play 1 of them, 43$ to play all three at the game of your choice. Eightball was the most popular, and the endless line of challengers went on long into the night. The pros were beaten on a few occasions, and we were treated to long epilogues of the effects of moisture on the cloth and rails as Earl went into bizarre discussions sometimes with himself on how snooker players have it easy playing on heated tables, which is why they rarely miss, pearls of wisdom, I guess you'd call them.
After a short break for autograph signings and raffles for cue giveaways courtesy of JFlowers, fans were treated to a bunch of trick shots from Earl, who was great entertainment telling stories about Minnesota Fats and Willie Mosconi. Earl waxed lyrical about Mosconi, who he described as the best player ever to hold a cue. He also took delight in telling the Double Kiss audience about how Minnesota Fats talked so much that he never had to play that many trick shots. The pearl made a high percentage of the shots he attempted and was almost obsessed at one point when he refused to give up until he had made 15 moving balls in a row.
Earl's favorite game, without a doubt, is straight pool, and he wishes the game attracted more coverage. He has a high run of over 400, and when I asked him what he thought about Jayson Shaw's 714, he described it as "Insane''.
The five-time US Open champion was very impressed with Double Kiss; he praised the Predator tables and described the venue as one of the best rooms he'd ever seen.
Double Kiss is situated on 3rd road in Pattaya and has something for the cue sports enthusiasts, there are 11 Predator Apex 9ft tables in the 'Tournament side' of the room along with the Predator Arena lights, and on the other side of a well-stocked central bar there are two full-size snooker tables (I didn't see Earl on one, having said that they aren't heated) there is also a 9-foot Carom table, a Joy Chinese 8-ball table, a 9-foot Diamond, a 9-foot Rasson, and 4 GR8s. There is also a cue shop and repair service, which offers cues, cases, and every type of accessory you can imagine. There are numerous large flat-screen TVs spread around the room, showing every type of sport you can think of, and they show all the big live events, so you never have to miss a slam dunk, home run, field goal, knockout punch, or even a Mosconi cup.
There are tournaments every week. Monday is Fast 8-ball, four stripes and four solids racked in a diamond. Wednesday is standard 8-ball. Friday is 10-ball, and around 30 to 40 players turn up for the 9-ball event on Saturday. Entry for every tournament is 500THB (Just over 14 USD). There is also an auction, and the winner will take home an average of 300 USD.
The owners of Double Kiss are very ambitious and keen to keep pushing the boundaries. They plan on opening up a large showroom very soon selling everything cue sport-related including their own pool tables and new innovative lighting system. In addition to that, they are designing a new arena that will feature tiered seating, multiple cameras, and a commentary booth. The action arena will invite the best pool players from around the globe to come and test their skills in some of the biggest challenges the pool world has ever seen.
For more information about DK, visit their Facebook page, Double Kiss Pool and Sports Lounge.