“Pool is a lot more artistic. There is so much finesse and there is a lot more you can do with the cue ball."
When a fresh faced Raj Hundal first picked up a snooker cue, not even he could have imagined the journey that the sport of pool would have taken him.
From standing on a box to take a shot, to becoming World Pool Masters Champion, “The Hitman” has always been destined for glory.
Born in London on 30 September, 1981 both of Raj’s parents were from Punjab, India. It was his father who first moved to the UK at the age of three.
The families heritage resonates strongly in Hundal’s attitude towards the game. He is extremely proud to have represented the country of his fore-fathers on numerous occasions as a pool player.
Speaking about his roots Raj said: “We’re the freedom fighters, the men who stood on the frontline of the battlefield. It’s in my blood. It’s in my gene structure. In fact, my grandad was a captain in the Indian army.”
Raj was just six years old when he first held up a cue, playing in his Aunties restaurant where his mother worked as a chef.
It was here he got the chance to play everyday, it was here he discovered his passion for cue sports.
This was also the place where his dad first noticed the talent that Raj had as a young cueist. At the tender age of 8 his father took him to the local snooker club.
This was a new and daunting world for the young Raj who could barely peer over the table edges. Recalling his earlier days, Raj exclusively told DESIblitz:
“I started competing in tournaments when I was about twelve years old, playing challenge games and stuff. It was great, I really miss that time. I could not even reach the table, use to stand on a box.”
His willingness and passion to play the game has turned Raj into the champion he is today. After almost a decade as a snooker player, at the age of seventeen Hundal turned his attention to the pool table.
Raj switched to the smaller table as the more aggressive game was a perfect fit. The power and the direct nature of pool was a great match for Hundal’s attacking approach towards the art of cueing.
Whilst still respecting the game of Snooker, Raj described what attracted him to American pool: “Pool is a lot more artistic. There is so much finesse and there is a lot more you can do with the cue ball.”
After entering a few pool tournaments Raj enlisted the help of Steve Knight to help him with his development. Steve “The Night Rider” Night was Britain’s best pool player at the time, and with his experience, he helped Raj to turn professional in the year 2000.
It was not long before Raj had an impact on the tour, winning the Cyprus Open in 2002, a year that turned out to be his breakthrough.
During the 2004-05 season, Raj made a name for himself. Winning five tournaments in a row, he was named Player of the Year.
In 2005, in his debut World Pool Masters tournament he became the youngest ever champion at the age of twenty-three.
Raj also imposed defeat on his rival and longest friend Rodney Morris (US) in the final.
This match saw Raj coming back from 6-0 down to win 8-7. Raj has made a habit of this throughout his career and became known as “The Hitman” for his sensational comebacks.
He attributes this to his never say die attitude:
“I think I live every day like it’s my last, almost. Try to get the most out of it, that’s my mentality. That’s why when I’m behind in matches, I’m not scared at that point.”
Besides his illustrious pool career, Raj has also inspired the next generation to take up the sport. “I think that as professional athletes and sportsmen that the world actually looks up to, we should set an example.”
Raj also regularly attends charity events, doing whatever he can to help and promote the sport within different communities.
His most significant achievements on the table include: Winning the 2013 Southern Masters Challenge Cup, Runner-up in the West Coast Challenge 10 ball, two-times winner of the Interpol Open Sweden, as well as numerous high finishes.
Off the table Raj won Most Up and Coming Sports Personality of the Year 2010 and was nominated for British Sports Personality in 2011, at the British Asian Sports Awards.
Raj’s reputation in the sport has earned him the respect of snooker players such as Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Occasionally, snooker and pool players have played each other in exhibition matches and during different competitions.
Raj enjoys watching American movies from the gangster genre. His favourite films include classics such as; The Godfather (1972), Scarface (1983) and Goodfellas (1990).
He can groove along to anything from Tupac to Marvin Gaye, which helps to explain his swag around the table.
When he isn’t potting balls, Raj loves spending time with his wife Rupi and son.
As for the future, Raj remains optimistic about his chances of winning further titles. With his never say never attitude anything is possible. Raj is truly a great pool champion and a wonderful human being.