What is Sandbagging in Pool?

Even if you’re new to playing pool in a league you’ve probably already heard the term sandbagging more than once. Sandbagging is a byproduct of a league handicap system. In an attempt to “level the playing field” most leagues utilize a handicap system to rate every player’s skill level so that any given match is competitive regardless of the differences in the players’ abilities. Additionally, there will be a limit to the total number of skill level points a team can post for their matches. Some teams attempt to game the system by having one or more of their players deliberately play below their ability in an attempt to keep their skill level rating artificially low which in turn makes staying under the team limit easier. If this practice is persistent it will usually result in player(s) or the entire team getting disqualified. Disqualifications are not uncommon at the higher levels of league tournament play and sandbagging or the perception thereof is typically the reason for the disqualification. You may even be asked to “ease up” or flat out lose on purpose especially if you’ve been winning your league matches frequently. My advice, don’t do it! This tactic undermines the league and the spirit of friendly competition. Aside from getting disqualified from a league event what’s to say that you’ll be able to turn back up to your true playing speed when you need it most?

     Even if you choose not to engage in the sandbagging tactic, disqualification is still possible if you happen to hit a gear at a major tournament and start playing really well. It happened to me a few years back. I was told that my match scores and results were too high above my average. The tournament director didn’t use the term sandbagging but that is what I got disqualified for. My issue with that is the fact every pool player’s abilities vary somewhat based on different size pool tables, cloth, environment etc… along with just day to day results. Some days I can break and run multiple racks and other days… not as many! I don’t believe I’m the only pool player with this much performance variation. I guess I was supposed to sandbag to avoid getting disqualified for…Sandbagging! Confusing is it not?