(WWLP) – The New England American Poolplayers Association (APA) teams in western Massachusetts compete for the chance to go to the World Pool Championships in Las Vegas Resort and Casino.

History of the APA

The American Poolplayers Association (APA) first began in 1979, after two professional pool players, Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart created an amateur pool league known today as American Poolplayers Association. To make the Poolplayers association official, both Bell and Hubbart had first brought the idea to the Billiards Congress of America (BCA) in order for it to start locally, but BCA declined. Bell and Hubbart then began to create the company themselves and started in St. Louis.

“They started talking to people locally to get involved and next thing you know they become franchise owners,” said New England APA league owner, Kelly Hall.

Soon after, over 400 teams became created in western Massachusetts and a league would be formed. -Teams consist of eight people, where five people play per match. According to Hall, 200 teams play each week. The league would begin to follow a full manual of both national and local rules with a handicap system. The handicap system gives each member a fair chance to win.

Hall says, “the great thing about our league is they instilled a cap on the total of the five players that play on the team for the night. The lower handicap is just as important as the higher handicap. You can’t just stack your team and play against all great players, you have to have a good balance of different skilled players.” Lower-skilled people are usually taken under the wing of the higher-skilled to be taught different pool methods. “The more you play something, the more you get better, handicaps go up, so we are always looking for new players to get in order to avoid going past cap of 23,” said Hall.

APA continuation through pandemic

Western Massachusetts APA was the only one during covid that were fortunate enough to have Board of Health commissioners and mayors to work on the continuation of being able to play pool. There was only one person shooting at each table inside Billiards. They were Hall’s only spot for a while and were such a controlled area.

“There had been sign-in sheets for everyone to dictate who was there, who was sitting. Designated areas for everyone. Eventually the other area Board of Health towns, like Chicopee and Springfield and then the Berkshires, “because of what we outlined at every Billiards and saw that what we were doing was very responsible, were able to expand to other towns. Actually help other host locations with their revenue by getting teams back in there before anyone else in the state.”

Local competitions

Currently, most local competitions take place at Ivory Billiard Room in Holyoke, Brookside in Ludlow or 410 in Chicopee.

“Honestly, even though it’s a competition we still have fun. It’s a good outlet for people to go out with their friends, families, coworkers, meet new people and enjoy, learn more about the game of pool,” said Hall, “wherever you see a pool table in a restaurant or a bar, its not just billiard rooms, you see a pool table somewhere, we usually have a league pay in there, usually slower nights to help with their business.”

How scoring is kept in matches

Scoring will depend on the number of teams playing in a division and the length of the session. The 8-Ball division consists of people with a skill level at the pool table of a 2 and goes up to 7, while the 9-Ball division goes from a skill level of a 1 and goes up to 9. Teams can’t exceed their team skill level limit before starting a match or they will be given zero points. Each team alternates in naming their next player first and the maximum handicap of all 5 players combined cannot exceed 23. “Teams keep score at each match they play on every night of the week except Saturday,” said Hall.

Five people will play their own singular match by themselves against other players. Double players will alternate their shots and will play up to a skill level of 10. Both will have to win a certain amount of games based on their handicap against their opponent.

“It takes some time to get use to because you never really get in a complete rhythm.”

New England APA league owner, Kelly Hall

Four different matches are featured in APA such as 8-Ball, 9-Ball, masters, and doubles. Team matches consist of head-to-head matches between members of each team. Teams that receive the most points at the end of each session are able to qualify for Playoffs.

Singles programs are split up into multiple levels based on their skill, can compete all the way to the World Championships. Single championships are during the first week of Playoffs in May in Vegas for those range of a skill level of 1 to 9. “One thing about playing in a league is not just having a good time, but the coaching that goes on from the higher skill players,” said Hall, “when your playing in a match, the lower-skilled has like two-time outs in that one round, that they are playing so they get a lot of coaching. If you just went out to play pool just for fun, you’d get better gradually, but you’ll definitely get better at an accelerated rate because their are mentors scattered everywhere.”

Individual scores are calculated through computers to determine the skill level of each player. There are 10 to 20 plays to settle into their handicap spots.

New England APA heading to Las Vegas

There are three sessions a year to try and go to Las Vegas for those participating on travel teams. Beginning in the summer, each division is at a different venue, there are 16 teams in each division.
Over 14,000 players are competing in August and over 1000 teams from the US, Canada, and Japan. Singapore was just added as a franchise recently as well. Sessions consist of Playoffs, a bracket, and three matches to win each bracket. If won all of these, then it’s onto Las Vegas in June for the world qualifiers to qualify for Las Vegas World Wide Championships in August.

“The goal is to go all the way to Vegas with great people.”

Carol Maloney from Holyoke, a pool player that joined in 2015

The APA has more than 30 teams playing in Las Vegas and competes against 100 other teams from across the country. Every pool player gets payouts when they attend.

“Earning your way to Vegas as a team is a penultimate experience in league play.  Most teams go to Vegas with the mindset that they will win everything and are very focused on each decision during every match, every game, and even every single shot.  Other teams go to Vegas knowing that the competition is fierce and their only expectation is to have fun competing and enjoy the experience,” said APA competitor since 1998, Stacie Bourbeau.

According to Hall, it has become a community filled with all walks of life such as doctors, teachers, homemakers, police officers, and firefighters.

New England APA Big Dawg team become New England Champions. Courtesy of Kelly Hall.

“If it wasn’t for APA, I wouldn’t have the best friends I ever have met, they have become family.”

APA team captain and player since 2014, Tim Regan

Hall hopes to begin new divisions of teams with an added bonus of going to not only Las Vegas, but Orlando with the inclusion of the ladies team and captains team. She also hopes to see team numbers increase for the next season to come.