Phil Haigh ✍️
Mark Allen makes his Ultimate Pool debut on Saturday in the Players Championship and he is expecting the pool stars to want to put the snooker player ‘back in his box’.
During a quiet time on the snooker calendar, the Pistol is having a go on the smaller table, competing in Group 5 of the Players Championship alongside five full-time pool competitors, including one of the finest to ever play 8-ball, Mick Hill.
We have already seen Mark Selby look brilliant in the Ultimate Pool Pairs Cup alongside Gareth Potts, but Allen will be flying solo as he looks to succeed in a different cue sport.
‘I’ve been asked a couple of times by pool people to play, but it hasn’t worked out in the past, now because it’s so quiet at this time of year I thought I’d give it a go,’ Allen told Metro.co.uk.
‘I don’t play any pool at all. I hit pool balls ahead of this for the first time in 18 months, so I’m not expecting too much. But at the same time I’ve got pride in my performance, I don’t want to make an idiot out of myself and it will be good to test myself against the best players in the world and see where my game’s at.
‘I know that if it’s an open game and it’s just pot, pot, pot I can beat anyone and maybe win the event.
‘But in a tactical game I’m going to struggle. I didn’t even know the rules too well when I said I’d play, so I’ll be massive second favourite when it comes to knowing the rule set.
‘If I play well, break well, make clearances, the rules shouldn’t come into it too much. I want to enjoy the experience but at the same time try and do well.’
Allen has been impressed by the ruleset rustled up by Ultimate Pool, feeling it suits his game and should be able to bring in a new audience to the sport.
‘Ultimate Pool have brought in their own ruleset and it’s going really well, I just need to get used to it,’ he said.
‘The guys at Ultimate Pool have made it so entertaining, the ruleset and everything they do. It’s such an open ruleset. Shouldn’t be long drawn out frames, too much tactical play, that’s what people want to watch. I’ve seen some rulesets over the years and it’s an hour for a frame of pool. No one wants to watch that.’
Clearly snooker’s world number 14 feels his chosen sport is the superior one, but there is no snobbery towards pool from the Northern Irishman, who knows how difficult it will be for him against the pool pros.
‘I have a lot of appreciation for pool and how skilled it is, just because a lot of my friends play and I see how skilled it is,’ he said.
‘There’s no doubt that I think snooker is the most skilled of the cue sports, but there’s a lot more to 9-ball and 8-ball than a lot of people give it credit for.
‘I was one of those people. I used to think pool’s easy, but the more I’ve played it I know that these guys are so good.
‘I’m going to try and enjoy it. It’s a completely different thing for me.’
Allen knows he will not just be facing the skills of his opponents in the Players Championship, but also some fierce motivation as the pool stars will want to show the snooker champ that he cannot just walk into their arena and have his way.
‘I think so. I think they’ll be looking at me thinking: “I’m going to show him what to do. Get back in your box,”‘ said Allen.
‘That’s another edge to the competition. I want to do well for me, but they want to defend pool to the hilt. They won’t want to see the likes of me, or Selby when he played the doubles, nicking the money. They want to keep it for themselves. It’ll be quite competitive.’
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