It’s that time again – the pool season is well under way and the only recognised body for the professional arm of the sport, the IPA, hold the UK Open at the Hilton Doubletree in Coventry next weekend (17th to 19th May) , and it’s already a sell-out with a waiting list in case of any late withdrawals.

It has to be good news for all to see the popular pub game gaining in popularity week on week, and if you play the game at any level (even as badly as me!), then you just have to tune in to watch the best players around strutting their stuff this weekend from Friday through to Sunday.

Once again it is free entry for spectators and free to watch via the IPA YouTube channel, TikTok, and on Billiard TV around the World, but can I find you a winner or two – pretty doubtful to be honest as this game makes fools of us all.

UK Open

This is the most interesting event by far, with the mixture of amateurs looking to take a scalp and seasoned professionals, and the guarantee of at least one seed falling earlier in the competition than you might expect. Having said that, most events still see a semi-final line up from the top players, and it would be naïve of me to think that will change this weekend. With 270 players and 24 tables in use the action is going to be fast and furious, and as I have mentioned before, this will be as much about mental stamina to get from match to match as it is about raw ability with a pool cue. The truth is, there is no such thing as an easy draw here and it is more a question of whether the old guard still hold sway – or are there some up and coming players who can rock the status quo? The current rankings see Mark Boyle and current World Champion Gareth Hibbott holding sway, and even I am not daft enough to write either of them off, but I have a suspicion we may see a resurgence from Liam Dunster on this occasion. His style of play may not always be as flamboyant as some, but he invariably gets the job done and can put an opponent to bed in double quick time if the opportunity arises – that in itself may be the key here, and if he can bet though the early rounds with minimum frames played, that may see him fresher than most when it gets to the business end of the event.

UK Professional

Looking at the draw and one thing is glaringly obvious – there are no easy matches here and predicting the overall winner is an absolute minefield. All professionals, all top players and all capable of beating anyone on their day – what a feast of pool for us all to watch to learn how the game should be played. Rightly or wrongly, I do get the feeling that Ross Fernie could get off to a flyer here, and if that is the case and he settles quickly, he might be a force to reckon on with. I have also learned over the years to never write-off Mark Boyle, and if he has been putting in the practice hours he is another to consider, as is Gareth Hibbott whose confidence has to be a high having regained the World title as recently as February this year. Whatever the end result, we can guarantee close finishes, hill-hill deciders, unexpected errors, and incredible finishes – not an event to miss if you have some time to spare.

UK Amateur

For amateur read impossible. With last year’s top amateurs now making their ways in the professional ranks, and an open entry system that allows anyone to play, all things are possible here with many of those in action totally unknown quantities to me and to the players thy are up against. All I have to work with are the rankings and the draw, and that points me in the direction of Adam Myerscough, Kevin Kirkham, or Geo Edgar, who are the current top three. Geo is a player I have heard a lot about for a couple of years now, and his all round game suggests he could become a top player in the years ahead if he gives the sport his all. I am not sure if he is a morning person, but his first match is due off at 9.00am against Kevon Nicholson, but if he gets through that to play Steve Rhodes, I can see the draw opening up in front of him, making him my idea of the likeliest winner – though he will need the pool Gods to be smiling on him to come home in front in this field.

UK Elite Ladies

A small but select field go to war in the Elite Ladies event, and this time I will side with Rachel Tucker, the number two seed who I feel may, just may, have the better half of the draw. She will start off on Friday evening against the winner of Kelly Egan and Meera Arya, and if all things go to plan (do they ever in pool?), then she may well meet Deb Burchell in the final, which makes for an interesting battle.

UK Ladies Open

A huge field of 49 runners for the Ladies Open just reminds us all how fast the Ladies game is growing, and just like in the men’s game, we can expect an upset or two along the way. I am a brave man but not brave enough to oppose Deb Burchell twice, and if she is on her game, than surely she wins one or the other (or both) of the main Ladies events? A class act on and off the table, it seems fair to say that she takes her pool pretty seriously, and much as we are good friends, I would not want to get in her way if she loses! That is exactly the kind of attitude needed to get to the front where it matters, as she has proved time and time again, and much as I am wary I have called this the wrong way round (and not for the first time), Deb is my pick to take home this particular trophy.

UK Ladies Amateur

Not a clue would be the most appropriate phrase here, with another open entry contest and plenty of names I have never seen play in the flesh. Once again I will head off to the latest rankings for some kind of clue, and that gave me a top two of Marianne Waud and Kaitlyn Kennedy, and it may fall to one of that pair if they play to their full ability on the day. Both start their campaigns Friday afternoon and neither have an easy draw, but I am hoping the cream will rise to the top and one of the two, preferably my pick, will come home with the trophy – and the money!

For those interested in watching the pool this weekend, coverage will be on the IPA TikTok channel from 3.00pm Friday afternoon, and on the IPA YouTube Channel and Billiard Tv from 1pm Saturday and 12pm Sunday.

If you fancy trying your luck against the best, go to www.ipapool.com and look for an event you would like to enter or ask for further details!