After the unmatched success of the IPA World Pool Championships in Bradford last month the 2107 IPA Tour is even more eagerly anticipated than usual and kicks off this weekend in Cardiff with the Welsh Open, Professional, and Amateur Championships from the Mercure Holland House Hotel that is a sell out and has attracted the best players to hold a cue as expected.
With three days of live action, and free entry for spectators, this was always going to be a superb starting point for the season with blackball pool so popular in Wales, even more so since Craig Marsh was crowned World Champion. The addition of bookmaker input via Coral has set the pool world buzzing and added a new dimension of interest in the sport, while recent BBC coverage on the Outside Source programme gave pool a whole new audience round the World, however briefly.
Add in recent live radio coverage (strange but true) and the IPA is clearly opening new doors in the sport we all love, but who exactly will the ambassadors be on the table this season?
With a new set of players joining the professional ranks after fulfilling the rankings requirements, it will almost certainly be the most competitive season yet but from a punting perspective those who have been at the top will fight as hard as ever to remain there, starting with Marc Farnsworth who is the early favourite for both the Professional and the Open events. Always tough to beat he seems sure to be there or thereabouts this weekend, but with plenty of local support the Welsh boys seems sure to put up a bold showing. Craig Marsh has to head that list after his World Championship victory, but Simon Ward, Kristian Phillips, Jordan Shepherd and others can never be written off, and will get in to the mix if the draw lets them avoid each other early on.
Gareth Hibbott remains one of the most consistent players on the tour and can never be written off, a remark that also applies to other former World Champions Jack Whelan and the evergreen Jason Twist, though the beauty of this sport (and thus the value as well), is that any of the top players can beat anyone else on their day – the standard really is that high.
The IPA Tour is free entry to spectators and can be watched in HD on the live stream here http://ipapool.com/tour-extra/live-streaming/ with Coral the only bookmaker taking bets on the event here http://sports.coral.co.uk/?action=GoEvCategory&ev_category_id=28 with bets taken on the tournaments overall and individual live streamed matches.