South East Asia has produced more than its fair share of professionals in snooker, pool and billiards.
Snooker and billiards featured at the recent 2013 SEA Games, with Thailand topping the medals table, but it is in the professional sector that the real money lies.
Thailand’s most successful snooker player, James Wattana, can lay claim to career earnings that currently stand at US$2.7 million. The 43-year-old has suffered a recent slump in form but is still ranked number 65 in the world.
Wattana has made $29,099 so far in the 2013-2014 season but is unlikely to ever replicate his earnings of the early 1990s when he was ranked number 3 in the world and consistently earned $150,000 to $450,000 every season.
Two up and coming Thai prospects to look out for are Ratchayothin Yotharuck and Noppon Saengkham who will both be looking to follow in the footsteps of Wattana by becoming the next Thai players to break the milliondollar-mark in earnings.
Yotharuck, 18, has made $9,572 so far in his inaugural season on the tour while Saengkham, 21, boasts career earnings of $45,751.
The current snooker season has $13,126,202 in prize money on offer and other notable Thai snooker players involved include Dechawat Poomjaeng. He has earned $78,559 in his career to date but 2013 ended in ignominy for another Thai, the 101st-ranked Passakorn Suwannawat, who was placed under investigation due to irregular betting patterns during a match in Shanghai.
The Philippines can lay claim to the world’s top pair of pool players after Lee Van Corteza and Dennis Orcollo triumphed at the 2013 World Cup of Pool, the international annual single-elimination tournament for doubles teams in nine-ball competition, held in London.
The Filipino pair were awarded $30,000 each for that win which has contributed towards Corteza being the second highest earning pool player in 2013, according to AZBilliards.com. His income for the year was estimated at $111,525.
Orcollo was only marginally behind his doubles team partner after earning an estimated $106,770 in 2013 and the AZBilliards.com list of top performing pool players features a healthy contingent of Filipinos with notable names including Francisco Bustamante, who came in 8th with $66,442, and Carlo Biado, who was 12th with $49,350.
Leading the way for the region in the ladies game is Rubilen Amit. The 32-year-old became the first Filipina to become a world pool champion in 2009 and last year she won the Women’s World 10-Ball Championship for a second time, earning an estimated $27,300 in 2013.
With 15 Filipinos currently ranked in the top 100 for the men’s game by the World Pool-Billiard Association there is no question which country is the game’s regional powerhouse but there are representatives elsewhere who also deserve a mention.
Vietnam’s Anh Tuan Nguyen claimed a bronze medal in 10 ball pool singles at the recent SEA Games, with the Filipinos Dennis Orcollo and Carlo Biado coming first and second respectively, and he is currently ranked number 47 in the world and earned an estimated $3,570 last year.
Flying the flag for Singapore is 59th-ranked Lian Han Toh who earned an estimated $2,500 in 2013 a total that as bettered by his compatriot Aloysius Yapp who despite being ranked 40 places lower by the World Pool Billiards Association earned $3,570 last year, according to AZBilliards.com.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, is represented at elite level pool by Irsal Nasution. His career highlight was a second-place finish at the 2010 Guinness World Series of Pool in Jakarta.
Major international pool and billiards events are not held in South East Asia as commonly as some regions but the 2013 Women’s World 10 Ball Championship was hosted at Resorts World Manila.
The event proved to be an emphatic success from a Filipino perspective as the local favourite Amit defeated America’s Jennifer Barretta in the final to win the tournament and the $21,000 prize money, helping to cement Manila’s status as a viable venue for world class pool.
The best pool players can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars but the prize money on offer pales in comparison to the sort of rewards available to elite snooker players. So while Filipino players like Amit, Van Corteza and Orcollo are undoubtedly at the pinnacle of the sport, they still can’t expect to earn as much as Wattana did during his heyday.