Judd Trump Goes Pool Sharking In Atlantic City

The 2019 world champion is looking to ‘Make Pool Great Again’ at the US Open
20:52, 11 Sep 2021

Judd Trump will be a welcome guest in the gambling mecca of Atlantic City this week. And that alone puts him in a different category to his better-known namesake - the embattled former president of the USA - should he ever show his face again on this stretch of the eastern seaboard. 

The Juddernaut is in town having switched codes from snooker – a sport he has unquestionably mastered – to nine-ball pool as he takes advantage of an invite and a timely gap in the calendar to compete in the US Open. 

The 32-year-old, a world champion in 2019, looks certain to reclaim his snooker world No1 spot next month having won 11 major titles in the last two years – but in New Jersey as he takes his place in a field of 256 players, Trump is in uncharted territory. 

And with local wags asking him if he is ready to ‘Make Pool Great Again’, that surname is not the most venerated in the city with Donald Trump having seen three casinos fail, leaving the scene owing a fortune with thousands of jobs gone and contractors left unpaid. 

Pool is run like most sporting businesses these days, but there is still a hangover romantic image associated with the game of long Route 66-style road trips, hustling strangers for wads of dollars and escapes from toilet windows to the getaway car with some fleeced heavies in hot pursuit. 

Other snooker players have chanced their arm at pool with varying degrees of success, including Steve Davis, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White and the late Alex Higgins. And reigning and four-time snooker world champion Mark Selby emerged from the UK eight-ball pool scene in Leicester.

Mark Selby
Mark Selby

At Harrah’s Resort in a city that enjoyed its Boardwalk pomp almost 100 years ago is more down-at-heel these days. Trump - a regular holidaymaker at the more upmarket Las Vegas - will see how far natural talent without any expertise and know-how can take him. 

Ahead of taking on American Joe Magee tomorrow [Monday] on just a couple of days’ practice and a rules session from official Brendan Moore, Trump said: “The flight attendant did ask me if I was any relation, I made sure they knew I wasn’t. And if the other Trump has had his problems here, I’d better make sure I don’t fail.  

“I like America, I have been on holiday here and it is one of the reasons that I decided to come over. The crowds are loud and in your face, a bit like the Masters at home in the snooker, they let you know how they are feeling – and I like that. And I’d like to get known over here, and help promote pool and cue-sports across the world. 

“The pool world has always had those stories about being on the road and the hustling in halls, even a bit of danger. It is different now and run like a real business, but the older players here have certainly grown up in that environment before moving on to these bigger tournaments. 

“And for them, playing while staking your own money, $10,000 or something on the side of the table, is very different to playing for prize money - where at least you can’t lose anything. You never had it. That’s a tough school and environment and after that anything would seem better. 

“It was a bit of a last-minute decision, and I’d rather have had a month to practice. People will say ‘the pockets are bigger…so if you’re a good potter on smaller pockets you should never miss and should win’. But there are a lot of tactics involved, and the initial break-off – where you use a different cue – is crucial. I might win a game or two, but top pool players are that for a reason.” 

Although Trump is attempting to manage his own expectations, the natural competitor also emerged for a player in the habit of winning in his own game over the past three seasons. 

He added: “For the US Open, I'm not just going to take part, It will be to try and win the event. I will give it my absolute all and to see what I can do with myself. It's something I've always felt I wanted to do, see how good I can be at pool. But I am not under the illusion that I will go there and blow everyone away. 

“However I will be one of the players who can play with a smile on my face with a lot more freedom and enjoyment, because it isn’t the be-all and end-all for me. 

“The US Open has got the most heritage and prestige to it, it's been around a long time. If you are going to win one tournament, or even play in one, it's this one. But I like the idea of going in at the deep end to see what I can do. 

“Of course I don't want to make a fool of myself, that will add some pressure. In the snooker I know what I am capable of and have that belief, while in pool I don’t know what's going to happen.”

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