Faster than pool and less complicated than snooker, 9 Ball is increasing in popularity in Dubai with 50 clubs in the emirate. Now the first UAE 9 Ball Arab Championship is set to take place this week in Oud Metha, bringing the region’s best shooters here for the first time.
On appearance, nine-ball resembles pool – the quick pace of play, the numbered balls, but when you look into the game a little more there’s a marked difference between nine-ball and its other recreational relations. Hisham Hendi, managing director of Pro 9 Sports Events, talks us through the appeal of the game.
‘It’s a much faster sport, it’s got different rules and the tables are three times smaller than a snooker table – that’s why there’s not so many snooker clubs – the tables take up more space. It is a challenging game for players. It’s indoors and it’s speedy and for myself it’s like playing chess – you have to be strategic.’
So how do the rules differ from pool? Hendi explains: ‘The aim of the game is to pocket the nine ball before your opponent. The game starts with nine balls on the table, numbered one-nine. The first player has to start by potting ball number one and then continue in numerical order. If the player pockets any ball in the break he can continue on number one – but if number one has been potted on the break then he goes for the next lowest number. Once you’ve potted one ball you’re free to go for the nine. Even if you pocket balls one to six and then your opponent pots the nine – he’s the winner.’
And it’s this quick turn of the game that makes it so attractive to players who like an alternative to snooker and pool. ‘A game can be over in one shot – if you make the nine ball in the break without any faults then you win the game,’ says Hendi.
Hendi is expecting more than 100 players to take part in the championship, and the events will see players from 18 countries play at the highest level. And it’s set to be an exciting face-off; Hendi says that the UAE has some top players with some among the best 50 in the world.
One local player, Majed Al Joker, recently competed in a nine ball competition on June 23, which was held at the arrivals lounge of Dubai International Airport, Terminal Three. Clinching the runner-up spot, he feels while the quality of play in Dubai is improving, it’s still relatively new to people who may be put off because it lacks the commercial backing that pool and snooker enjoy.
‘It’s very difficult to market the game – so financially they won’t gain much. If you want to focus on any sport you have to think about the financial benefit. The officials here will have to consider how to improve the monetary aspect of the sport, either that, or provide academies to attract schools.’
Al Joker is considering entering the forthcoming UAE championships and would like to see more of these events in the UAE giving kids a chance to see the game played at a higher level, a sentiment shared by Hendi.
‘Our event is under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and we’re proud of that. We want this event to be part of the Ramadan celebrations in Dubai. In the final we are hoping that Sheikh Hamdan will distribute prizes, and we may even play the final in a mall for more exposure. We are also inviting Florian Kohler, one of the world’s best trick shot players so we’re hoping to have him with us on Friday July 18 and Saturday 19.’
Hendi says some of the region’s biggest names in the game will be in attendance over the course of the tournament and says players like Emirati Salah Al Rimawi are ones to watch. Whatever way, if you’re new to nine ball you can expect a relaxed atmosphere, fast games and a lot of strategic play. What’s not to like? UAE Nine-ball Arab Championship, July 11-19, Flamingo Billiards Club, Oud Metha. Free to spectate. www.pro9.ae (no number).
Where to play nine-ball in Dubai
Flamingo Billiard A popular spot with players of nine-ball has ten tables and is a popular spot for youngsters. Al Nasr Plaza Office Tower, Oud Metha (04 357 8703).
Que Club This social café is a hub for gamers of all sorts and has 120 gaming computers. The billiards hall here has eight professional Gold crown IV tables, and also hosts regular billiard tournaments. Emerald Properties Building, Al Barsha, www.queclub.com (04 336 5551).
8Ball Billiard Club This community gaming café and pool club has ten pool tables, and a restaurant. There’s also table tennis and foosball. Etihad Road, opposite Al Mulla Plaza, Al Mamzar, www.8ballbilliard.com (050 677 7200).