Insightful Interview with Steve Davis from 2002 on Snooker vs. Pool


"Look! A real hippie!"
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Found the following interview in this old thread and thought it worth reproducing verbatim since the original link is now archived.

I'll have to split the complete interview across more than one post due to its length. interviews Steve Davis at the nineball worlds
Posted on Wednesday, July 17 2002 @ 18:39:27 GMT Daylight Time

He was immortalised by Spitting Image as Steve 'Interesting' Davis in the Eighties – but the six-times world snooker champion is getting himself a new nicknamed as 'Romford Slim' in the nineball world. Oh, and he still doesn’t like eightball much…

Have you been very much in demand this week?
I think everyone is at the moment. Because of the nature of this event, with the pool village and all the players interacting with everything that's going on, there's such a sense of excitement that you don't mind getting involved and being in demand. It seems to me, perhaps because I'm not very involved in it, that the world of nineball pool is very much one big happy family – or becoming that way as everyone seems to be working to the same ideals. The more the merrier seems to be the call.
How did you get started in nineball?
The first time I played nineball was a 'them and us' match with Terry Griffiths and myself playing Mike Siegel and Jim Rempe in Texas. We played them in a large hotel called the Plaza des Americas on an ice-rink. Now they couldn't melt the ice rink down as they had something important on the next day, so they put boards down on the ice rink and we played nineball pool, straight pool and snooker. Terry and myself played in doubles and singles matches against those two, and the outcome was that they beat us in both the pool disciplines, but the end result was that our feet were frozen even though these boards were on the ice rink. The best way to get through it was to sit down in your chair with your feet in the air. Even worse, the spectators had to stand on these boards so their feet got frozen too. That, bizarrely, was my first experience of nineball.
What are the technical demands of moving from snooker to nineball?
I haven't changed my actual technique for the game of nineball pool, although I could understand how your technique for the game of nineball would need to be different if you were playing it from scratch as nineball is more of a stroking game. Snooker is more of a power and punching game so if you were designing a nineball stroke from scratch you could easily look more like a nineball player with a different stance and a more 'feeling' action. The snooker stance is essentially designed for accuracy over distance and I've stuck with my snooker stance, although I know full well that to play nineball properly you have to smoothly stroke the ball and you cannot play the stun and screw game that is the snooker action.
We understand you had a special cue made that combines both elements of a snooker cue and a nineball cue. Can you tell us about that?
I went to John Parris and we discussed what I wanted. Now the right tool for the job in nineball is obviously a nineball cue with an American tapered shaft, which goes from thick to thin to thick to house the larger ferrul and to help with the looped bridge. It also helps to generate power and gives it a lot more whip and life. Now you don't really want much whip and life on a snooker table so the snooker taper just goes from thick to thin, but playing with an open bridge meant that I didn't have to change to a pool taper. So I said to John Parris that it would probably be better if I stayed with an English taper as I didn't want to go with too big a ferrul so we went with a compromise ferrul. I think we ended up with something like an 11mm ferrul, which is thin by nineball standards but I think that Oliver Ortman plays with something of a similar size. I've also got a fibre ferrul instead of a white plastic ferrul. I don't think you can play with a brass ferrul at pool, but I also don't thnk you can use a plastic ferrule for snooker. It's strange how the games differ like that, so I have a compromise cue because I don't play nineball all the time.


"Look! A real hippie!"
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Part #2 cont.

How seriously do you actually take nineball?
I devote as much time to it as I think it's worth me devoting to it. I think it would be hard for me, due to the fact that I am 44 years old, to start again from scratch and pay my dues as a pool player. There's no way I'm going to go on the road in America or go to the Philippines and learn my trade. Also, it's coming to me in this country and I'm experiencing top-class competition mainly because it was Matchroom that started to bring it over to this country. So what do I do? Once again it's a compromise and I'm devoting a little bit of time to it and trying my heart out in the tournaments and learning my trade that way. But I'm not paying my dues in the clubs so I'm really getting by on raw talent and my experience of not just snooker, but also English billiards, which is more of a stroking game. I'm living off my wits rather than my reserves of match experience.
How important is Matchroom's involvement in nineball growing in the UK?
If you want exposure and you want an exciting tournament then you need someone with a bit of flair for promoting and Barry Hearn's track record has been very good in many sports he's got involved in. Strangely enough, Barry could have been very instrumental in the snooker world and making that a more attractive proposition to TV around the world than it is now, but our association was so small-minded that it virtually vetoed entrepreneurs coming in as they thought they were feeding off them and decided that they wanted to keep themselves to themselves. Sadly, the end result is that Barry's involvement in snooker is now minimal and, in my opinion as I am biased in this, it's snooker's loss and nineball's gain. Just look at what Barry's doing in darts with the Las Vegas tournament, and nineball's now growing around the world and it's nice to think that the nineball people have got enough common sense, unlike the snooker players, to realise that this guy's doing well for everybody and the game's getting bigger so we should just go with the flow. If this guy's making money then there's a chance we'll all make money so there's a chance we can get bigger and bigger prize money. So let's not cut off our noses to spite our faces as we did in snooker.
Who are your nineball heroes and which components would you like to have from the games of top nineball players?
Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason were two of my great pool heroes in The Hustler. I obviously don't know a great deal of the history of the older players, so my first introduction was Jim Rempe and Mike Siegel. Now Siegel was a great striker of the ball and he could have adapted to snooker easier than most nineball players as he had more of a snooker style. Of today's players I'm hugely impressed by Efren Reyes. You just know that he knows his way around a table and that he could probably play blindfold. I'm very impressed with Corey Deuel, too, and I think he will be just as knowledgeable as Efren as time goes on. In fact you could make a case for it not really mattering if Corey's knowledge is just a bit less than Efren as it doesn't matter if it's only a slight amount. Johnny Archer is also very knowledgeable. I like Earl Strickland's way of getting on with the shots when they're obvious. There are a lot of players who seem to take a massive amount of time over the obvious and it's not really the snooker way as you like to get on with it and get into a rhythm. So I like Earl for that reason and it’s a similar case with Oliver Ortman.
Who of the English guys have impressed you?
None. Not on a world stage. And this is nothing against any of them and I'm not trying to be controversial, but I'm just calling it as I see it. As yet there is not a talented cueist who hasn't come from snooker first as that's where the money is in England. But if nineball gets bigger and a new generation of kids start to get attracted to just playing nineball first, then you may get some genuinely talented cueists coming straight into nineball. But as it is we still have players that have gone to nineball after they've tried snooker. Unfortunately, you therefore got a second level of cueists. If you look at the Philippinos or the Americans then the only game they know is nineball so they have their first crop of cueists. Now that may sound cruel and I'm not saying that Steve Knight and Tommy Donlan are not great players because they are, but they're just not that great.
Do you think it's because we don't have a real nineball pool of talent yet?
Yes. Look at someone like Lee Tucker. Now he's a 100-break man at snooker which means he can definitely hold a cue, but he's not among the best cueists in the country because the professional snooker players are. Now I see Mark Williams and Tony Drago playing this game and adapting very well in a short space of time and I think they could be the best nineball players in the UK if they put their mind to it. I also don't claim that I'm one of the best nineball players in the country and I think Steve Knight's doing a great job, but as yet he's not made his mark on the world stage. I know it's hard to that but I do think that Steve and some of the other boys may be the sacrificial crop of players that the next generation feed from and get inspired by.
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"Look! A real hippie!"
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Part #3 cont.

Were you surprised that Chris Melling didn't qualify?
It's a bit tough on him not to get an automatic place, but then again if he played on all the UK Nineball Tour events he'd probably have got enough points to qualify automatically. But he's also mixing and matching and playing a bit of snooker, and a bit of nineball and a bit of eightball pool – and I have no sympathy for anyone who plays eightball pool in the UK because the game, as far as I'm concerned, is not in the same league as nineball. So if you're trying to play eightball and nineball then you might as well give up because if you're using a smaller white at eightball you'll never beat these blokes at nineball.
Who's your tip to win the event?
Johnny Archer's impressed me. Things always go in cycles and I just fancy an American to win it this year. There are also other factors that make people win events. Last year Mika was over with his girlfriend and he was in the happy zone, and this year Johnny's over with his fiance and he's getting married soon. Fabio Petroni's also just come through a bad car crash and so nineball may not be his number-one priority at the moment so he may be more relaxed mentally. But Johhny Archer for me is the world champion we haven't really seen perform at this event yet, but then again you're backing against so many other great players that to pick one is a bit unfair really.
What do you put the huge 2001 Mosconi Cup defeat down to?
I think there is still a genuine divide between Europe and the USA about strength in depth. I still don't think Europe knows its best team and there would be no guarantee that I would be in the best European team or that Steve Knight would be in it, too. But there is a compromise about it being held here so two English players are in the team and Jimmy White was in it before. I still think the main divide is that we are still a way behind the USA, the Philippines and Chinese Taipei with the talent pool we have to pull from. Having said that, events like this are making the world a smaller place and with lots of different countries tuning in the chances are that the next generation will know how to play the game a bit better and decide to play it instead of other cue sports.
You made some very disparaging comments about UK eightball during the World Snooker Championships in April. Do you still stand by those?
Yes. I think it's totally Mickey Mouse as a sport. It's great as a pastime but Mickey Mouse as a sport. I think that anyone who plays eightball can have a great time, but I think you cannot call a game with a whiteball smaller than the other balls a sport. It's nowhere near the same scientific level of skill and to also have a ball where the dynamics don't react properly doesn't make sense when all other cue sports use the same size white. The only reason the white's smaller is so it can run through the table mechanism so you don't have to pay to get it back – and then you're playing with it in your main tournaments! I would give the game more credit if you used the same size whiteball.
But don't you think it’s a bit like switching from nineball to snooker where you have to learn different mechanics and a different technique? Surely the smaller white is just a different technique to learn.
I still wouldn't like eightball if it was played on snooker-style tables and the white was the same size, but I wouldn't call it Mickey Mouse. My Mickey Mouse quote was to do with the size of the whiteball and if the governing body decided that you were going to use the same size white in TV events then I wouldn't call it Mickey Mouse. Now if you're promoting eightball then you have a dilemma because the rest of the world plays nineball and we're at odds with the rest of the world. So it's in everybody's interests to go with the flow. Now eightball will always exist because it's in the pubs in the UK and it's also in the pubs in America. But if you want to look at a cueball sport that could go to the Olympics then there's only one game that has a chance of making it and it's going to be nineball. You could just change your site to I mean, you must surely get some players who have played eightball but now have gone to nineball.
We have seen some of that, but eightball has always had a huge bedrock of grassroots support. There are also some two million players in the UK and it's one of the biggest participation sports in the UK?
I know that, but all I'm saying is that I don't view eightball as a sport when one ball is smaller than the others. When you change your competitive play to the same size ball, then I'll stop calling it Mickey Mouse as a sport. And that's all. It's not the game itself as eightball is a good game, but not a sport. It just makes me laugh when you play the white ball with stun and it whizzes round the table. I don't mind playing it for a laugh in the pub but not as a sport.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get better at nineball?
For a start I'd tell them not to play eightball because you can make some decent money at nineball, but I don't think you can make much as eightball. I'd also suggest that you throw yourself in at the deep end and warn them that they may have to pay to play and learn I'd also tell them to watch the World Nineball Championships because if you are serious about your game then here are the best players in the world giving away their secrets on TV - and young players anywhere around the world can soak up that information like a sponge. So you watch Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamente and pick up all their good points.


AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Really interesting. I've heard snippets of this but never actually read the interview. I think he's being a little harsh about English 8 Ball but in the same breath I think he's 100% right about the size of the cueball.

Really interesting reading this interview in light of the later success of Melling, Peach, Boyes and particularly Appleton and Shaw. What's also interesting is that Steve Davis really knows his stuff about 9 ball and had much more than a passing interest in the game.


AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
What's also interesting is that Steve Davis really knows his stuff about 9 ball and had much more than a passing interest in the game.

yes, snooker was in a rough state there for a while and therefore players like drago, dale, ronnie, williams and davis etc had a real incentive to play the world 9-ball which had good payouts at the time. the first prize for the world 9b in 2006-2007 was 100k, which at the time was higher than for example the UK championship in snooker. this was before barry hearn transformed the snooker tour and now of course there's little reason for top snooker players to try their hand at 9-ball. davis was a really solid 9-ball player.