"The break-off shot is very important and is the single biggest shot in the game."
Despite playing cue sports for more than seventeen years around the world, the experienced English Pool player Arfan Dad has big ambitions in the sport.
Known as the ‘Daddy of Pool’, Arfan was born in Keighley on July 29, 1983. Coming from a humble background, his parents Sahid Dad and Maniza Bi were originally from Azad Kashmir, Pakistan.
Proud of his dual identity, Arfan Dad began playing pool during his teenage years. He learnt and improved his game after playing and challenging some of the greats in the sport.
Juggling around his day job, Arfan Dad has mastered English pool, winning multiple titles over the years. This includes the 2019 St Helens Masters.
Besides English pool, Arfan Dad has also competed at the highest level in Americal 9-Ball Pool and Chinese 8-Ball Pool.
With English Pool being a popular discipline in the UK, Arfan Dad returns as an IPA Tour professional.
Believing his best years are yet to come, Arfan Dad aims to win further silverware. Arfan has never been formally coached by anyone.
In an exclusive conversation with DESIblitz, Arfan Dad reveals more about how he was introduced to pool, learning the game, achievements and lots more.
When and how did you get into Pool?
I first started playing pool at the age of 16 around the year 2000. I was not fascinated by the sport, to begin with.
However, I believe my competitive nature made me pursue the game to where I’ve got to with it now.
I had started a part-time job working in a McDonald’s restaurant in my local town alongside my studies. It is during that period, I met someone that was a good player himself.
And with my competitive instincts kicking in, I challenged him to a game of pool. We played and I was well beaten because at that time my friend was a lot better than me.
Not being one to lie down and take the defeat in a negative light, I used it to better myself. Hence, I started playing with him regularly and his friends too who were also better than me at that time.
Slowly but surely, I got to a level where I was holding my own against these players. They were beating me heavily when I first played them.
I also joined a local league pool team where I started playing competitive pool. After playing league pool for 2-3 different teams, I was eventually asked by the captain of the best team to join them.
This was a great privilege because most of the best players in our town played for this team.
Pretty soon thereafter I managed to win our local league’s singles title for the first time in 2004. And from that point onwards, I just kept playing as much competitive pool as I could to keep improving.
Which Pool players do you admire the most and what did you learn?
I was quite fortunate because some of the greatest pool players to have played the game are from Yorkshire.
These include Darren Appleton and Michael Hill. My local town had a world pool champion too in Chris Melling. As a result, I started taking English pool seriously in 2001.
I grew up watching these great players and eventually playing all of them with various degrees of success. All three have become good friends of mine too over the years.
“I would say Chris has helped me the most because I’ve had many a practice session with him.”
We’ve travelled to many tournaments together over the years, sharing ideas and thoughts on the game.
Chris, along with Michael and Darren have reached the pinnacle of the English pool game as well. Thus, watching them play and picking their brains has been a great help to me over the years.
What are your goals on the IPA Professional Tour?
My goals are to try and win either an Open or a Professional event. In general, want to be as consistent as possible in the events I play in. This will allow me to move up the rankings at a quicker pace.
The IPA professional rankings are a two-year ranking list. So, it will be hard to move up the rankings quickly in the first season. This is because most of the existing professional players will have two years’ worth of points to their name.
Pool at the highest level is a very cutthroat sport. This is because you can lose matches, having done very little wrong at times.
“The break-off shot is very important and is the single biggest shot in the game.”
If you’re not making balls off your break and your opponent is, it can be a tough ask to win a match. This is why being consistent in events is deemed as a success at the highest level of competition.
There is no secret to making balls off the break too -It just boils down to luck. All you can control is making good contact with the rack and controlling the cue ball.
What are preparations like ahead of major tournaments?
My preparations ahead of a major pool event involves having a few practice sessions on the table in the evenings.
I practice playing on my own in my own pool room that I had built in my garden. I also go down to my local club, Pilky’s Sports Club in Keighley to have a session with a friend.
I’m practicing in the evenings through the week due to also working at my day job. I work as a Server Support engineer at a company called Computershare.
“Unfortunately, in pool, the money is not as lucrative in comparison to snooker.”
So, to make ends meet, most pool players still have a normal job to provide for their families. I fall into this category.
Why did you choose to master English Pool as opposed to other Cue Sports?
I think the main reason I chose English pool was because it was the popular form of pool in the UK. It is the most accessible because you’ll see an English pool table in most clubs and pubs.
I’m sure if I was living in America, I would have been playing American 9-Ball Pool. This is because that is the dominant cue sport in their country.
People might ask me why I didn’t choose snooker because that’s popular on these shores too. I think that’s probably down to the circumstances of how I got into cue sports.
I’m sure if I got challenged to a snooker match in my early days, I may have pursued that avenue. I chose English pool purely down to circumstances and not because I prefer it to the other cue sports.
I’ve played English Pool, American 9-Ball Pool, Snooker and Chinese 8-Ball Pool. All of them are very different and present different challenges.
I would say English pool is probably the easiest of these four cue sports in my personal opinion.
That’s simply down to the fact that the table is the smallest in size. Also with the pool discipline being 8ball, there’s more margin for error. This is because you always have the option of playing on more than one ball at a time.
This makes positional play easier than American 9ball pool where you’re having to play position on one ball every time.
Chinese 8-Ball Pool is probably the hardest pool discipline because the table size is bigger than English pool. So, you’re having to play more longer pots.
Also, the pockets play very tight too. This is simply down to the bigger size balls that are used, which are the standard American pool balls.
English Pool can be mentally challenging: How have you adapted?
It is definitely mentally challenging and that’s down to a few reasons. Firstly, sometimes you can be frozen out for a few frames purely because you’ve not potted balls off the break. So to recover from those moments, one has to be mentally very strong.
It isn’t easy to do. I believe you learn to get stronger mentally as you age and gain more experience.
“Experience gained over the years has helped me become a mentally stronger player.”
Secondly, where one has to be mentally strong is the number of changes that can happen from tournament to tournament.
This can involve a few different things from playing on a different brand of pool table that will inevitably play differently to its competitors, the difference in pool cloth that is used, which can impact the speed the balls run at and come off the cushions.
Finally, the ruleset that is being used in a particular tournament can be challenging.
This is because there are two or three different rulesets in English pool with subtle differences between all of them. Being mentally strong to adapt to these changes can hold a player in good stead.
What would you consider as the main strengths of your game?
My main strength is my single ball potting. It’s probably the one natural thing, which I’ve built my game around. I do get complimented on this part of my game by my fellow players. So yeah, I would class this as my main strength.
I would also class my age as a strength too because having that experience and know-how gained over the years can give you an edge on players too especially the younger players who haven’t gained that experience or know-how yet.
You’re known as the ‘Daddy of Pool’: How did this nickname come about?
I think it is pretty obvious with my surname being spelt as ‘Dad.’ So, you could say it kind of just happened naturally.
In my early years, I’d constantly hear shouts of ‘Who’s the Daddy?’ by my teammates in team events I’ve played in whenever I’d play a good shot or win a frame. The nickname has kind of stuck ever since.
I don’t use the nickname that often but it is another name I’m known by around the pool circuit.
What drives you forward on a Pool table?
My main drive is my will to win a pool match or a tournament. I’ve always been very competitive in whatever I’ve taken part in – be it other sports such as football, tennis. That will to win is definitely my main driving force on a pool table.
Trying to make a name for myself in the game and being successful in general on the table is also another driving force.
“Hopefully, I can look back one day when I’m grey and old and I can be proud of what I’ve achieved.”
However, I’ve got a long way to go before either of those things happen.
How many different cues have you used over the years? Any favourites?
I’ve never been one to chop and change too much with my cues. I’ve actually had the same English pool cue for a long time.
I believe I purchased it in the early 2000s and I’ve used it ever since. I wouldn’t swap it for anything else too because it’s become a part of me now.
It’s pretty unique in the sense that it’s thinner than a normal cue at the butt end by almost half a cm.
I also use different cues when it comes to playing American pool or Chinese 8-Ball pool. This is because the balls used in these two disciplines are bigger than the English pool balls so the cues have to be different to adapt to that difference.
Again, I’ve never really chopped and changed my playing cue too much at American pool.
I originally started with a hybrid cue, which was more suited to someone coming from a snooker or English pool background like I had. But I just felt it was limited to the amount of cue power I could generate with it.
Within a couple of years, I purchased a playing cue made by Predator who are one of the market leaders in American pool equipment and I’ve stuck with it ever since.
What has been your greatest achievement in Pool and why?
Over the years, I’ve had success playing English Pool, American -9-Ball Pool, Chinese 8-Ball Pool and even Snooker in local leagues and pro-ams.
I would say my greatest achievement has been the ability to switch between these different cue sports and achieve the success that I have over the years.
My ability to be adaptable to the changes from one discipline to the other and my will to win has definitely helped me in this regard.
During mid-February, 2020, I decided to enter one of the tour events on the GB 9-Ball tour in Telford.
I hadn’t played this discipline for over a year but I somehow managed to win the challenge event beating the number one player on the tour along the way.
“I believe I’ve learned different things in terms of shot-making when playing these different disciplines.”
What do you do in between tournaments?
As aforementioned, I have a full-time job that takes up a lot of my time through the week. When I’m not at work, I like to spend time with my family as I am away quite often playing in various competitions around the UK and occasionally abroad.
I also play a lot of football and do plenty of walking as I believe keeping fit helps my pool. As the old adage goes, a healthy body equates to a healthy mind and the mind is a big part of the game in cue sports.
Faith also plays an important part in my life with myself being very spiritual and having a close connection with the Almighty.
Have you ever considered representing Pakistan in Pool? What is the route?
I have considered representing Pakistan if it meant an easier route in gaining entry into certain events but nothing has materialised so far.
The beauty of having dual citizenship means this option is always on the table. Whilst I’m still competing, I can’t rule out representing the birthplace of my parents.
“I’m a proud Pakistani as well as being a proud Englishman.”
What advice would you give an aspiring youngster who wants to play Pool?
The best advice I can give to a youngster is to always work hard and never stop learning. I would also tell them to remain humble and grounded when achieving success.
It’s important to move onto the next event working as hard as ever as opposed to resting on your laurels and thinking you’ve made it big time.
If I had to rewind back to when I was a youngster myself, in hindsight I would have tried my hand at snooker first as opposed to English pool. This is because that’s where the money is.
If you’re competing at the top level at snooker, you can earn a living from that, providing you’re ranked in the top 32 in the world.
Having such a varied cue sports career, Arfan Dad has many other titles and achievements to his name. These include becoming the winner of the 2019 Savanna Double Dare and the 2017 North West Pool Tour Grand Final.
As Arfan is open to representing Pakistan in pool, perhaps there may be an opportunity to pair up with Imran Majid. Imran is also a British player of Pakistani descent who specialises in American 9-Ball Pool.
Fans of pool can catch Arfan Dad in action, playing several IPA Tour events, which will be broadcast on Freesports or BBC Sport.
With his professional approach and some impressive performances, hopefully, Arfan Dad will have a successful back end to his career.