Pool enthusiast Kevin Foong does not get defensive when asked about the stereotypical view that the world of cue sports has its share of shady characters. After all, the 33-year-old CEO of web-hosting company HostSG and IT solutions firm Quest Venture Technologies has met quite a few of them himself.
Recalling an incident that took place at a pool hall in Kuala Lumpur a few years ago, Foong says: “I was alone and doing a few training shots. A hustler approached me to play a game; whoever won ten frames would win the game, at RM50 (S$19.50) a frame. I accepted the challenge and played surprisingly well (laughs). When I started winning, he got angry and accused me of cheating. At this point, five people – who had been playing at different tables earlier – had gathered around.”
With a laugh, he adds: “So, I just told them, ‘Never mind the money, let’s just take it as a friendly game.’ Then they were okay. But I learnt that when you are overseas, it’s better to watch a game rather than play one, unless you know the place very well.”
That said, Foong is quick to point out that the reputation of the game here has improved greatly over the years, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of the sport’s governing body Cuesports Singapore, which organises tournaments and training courses. He notes: “I think it has helped people to see that pool is a sport that their kids can play, and that it can teach them about discipline as well as strategy.”
Having first picked up a cue at the age of 17, the pool player was good enough to make the national under-21 team at 18. It was a brief stint, in part due to the financial uncertainty of playing pool professionally. In addition, he smiles: “I wasn’t playing fantastically well.”
A decade and a half later, he continues to practise the sport twice a week, improving his game by going up against friends who play professionally. He notes: “It’s only by playing with the best that you learn many different tactics. In pool, there’s a lot of emphasis on strategising and understanding your opponents. It’s a lot like doing business.”