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English teacher-turned-billiards trainer: Vietnamese man notches up success following his passion

Monday, March 22, 2021, 17:10 GMT+7
English teacher-turned-billiards trainer: Vietnamese man notches up success following his passion
Huynh Truong Thinh performs a billiards shot at a club in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, March 19, 2021. Photo: Linh To / Tuoi Tre News

A Vietnamese man has been riding a wave of success and popularity after giving up his profession in English teaching for billiards.

Huynh Truong Thinh, now a famed billiards player and businessman who is widely known as Thinh Kent among billiards lovers in Vietnam, sat down for an interview with Tuoi Tre News on Friday afternoon to have a look back at his pursuit of billiards.

In one of his billiards club franchises in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, 35-year-old Thinh recalled when he had first got into billiards during his first year in university.

Like many university students at that time, Thinh was not a diligent school-goer.

He spent most of his time at billiards clubs with his friends, who introduced him to the sport.

The more Thinh played billiards, the more he realized it was his life’s passion.

“I truly enjoy immersing myself in everything about billiards,” Thinh said.

A life-changing decision

Upon his graduation with a degree in Business English, the young man started his first job as an English teacher, which had been his childhood dream before he became interested in billiards.

During his early days in the sport, he met a local billiards player, who was famous for his skillful performances in Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc District (now Thu Duc City).

Thinh affectionately called him “Master Truong” as he taught Thinh more about playing billiards.

“Before I met Master Truong, I had played instinctively, scoring a maximum of 20 points in a single break with very poor technique,” Thinh said.

This supplied photo shows Huynh Truong Thinh (right) and his billiards mentor, Truong, at a club in Ho Chi Minh City.

This supplied photo shows Huynh Truong Thinh (right) and his billiards mentor, Truong, at a club in Ho Chi Minh City.

Under Master Truong’s counsel, his skills improved.

“Around one year later, I managed to score over 120 points in one single turn for the first time,” he gleefully said as he recalled the moment as a milestone in his career.

As Thinh’s passion for billiards grew larger and larger, he decided to invest all of his time and effort in the sport.

It also meant that Thinh no longer had time to follow his childhood dream job of teaching English.

His decision shook his family as the complex environment at billiards clubs, with smoking and tattooed players, prejudiced the public opinion in Vietnam against the game at that time.

“I still remember the look in my father’s eyes when I told him about my decision,” Thinh said.

“It spoke to my father’s disappointment.

“As a father now, I have been able to understand my father’s feelings.”

Nevertheless, Thinh’s father did not prevent him from pursuing his passion.

From an English teacher, Thinh became a billiards trainer to satisfy his passion.

He assisted at local billiards clubs and taught the sport to about 15 to 20 people every month.

The young passionate sportsman utilized his reading ability in English and French to find out more about billiards from Internet sources.

“I knew how to play well, but not how to convey my knowledge to billiards enthusiasts and help them play the sport better, so for that I turned to the Internet,” Thinh said.

This supplied video shows Huynh Truong Thinh performing eye-catching billiards shots.
This supplied video shows Huynh Truong Thinh performing eye-catching billiards shots.

‘My father did not know I was famous’

Thinh has gained popularity after launching a YouTube channel to share his billiards games and performances in 2013.

He appeared to be the first billiards player in Vietnam to have created social media content about the sport.

Thinh said that his marketing team includes one man, with him covering everything from setting up equipment for filming to editing videos.

Although it all simply started with the use of an iPhone 5, beyond Thinh’s expectations, his YouTube videos have caught viewers’ attention for eye-catching and challenging billiards shots.

His YouTube channel has garnered about 180,000 subscribers and nearly 53.5 million views as of the time of writing.

As an amateur in billiards, as he claimed, Thinh also participated in numerous competitions and tournaments, from local to national scales.

He won a handful of prizes from these events.

But the most memorable competition to him may be the Carom Libre Billiards KTS Club Cup Open in 2018, in which he managed to score 249 points in one single break during his game against Vo Phuoc Thanh, a prominent senior player that Thinh considered as the most excellent in Vietnam to date.

In comparison, Thanh played for the Vietnamese national billiards team, while Thinh was merely a talented amateur.

“You know that blissful feeling when you defeated such an experienced player,” Thinh said.

“It was overwhelming as brother Thanh was like an idol to me."

Thinh went on to win the championship of that tournament.

Huynh Truong Thinh performs a billiards shot at a club in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, March 20, 2021. Photo: Linh To / Tuoi Tre News

Huynh Truong Thinh performs a billiards shot at a club in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, March 19, 2021. Photo: Linh To / Tuoi Tre News

The more titles the young non-professional player got, the more famous he became in Vietnam’s billiards sport.

His reputation spread as far as Indonesia, whose national carom billiards team reached out to him, asking him to be their coach ahead of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 2019.

“At first, I couldn’t believe it,” Thinh said.

“I repeatedly asked ‘Are you sure? I’m not a professional player or national athlete,’ to which they answered ‘Of course!’”

“They said they chose me because I can speak English and my instructional videos were easy to understand for them.”

The Indonesian team traveled all the way to Thinh’s billiards club for the short-term training.

They then did a good job at the 2019 SEA Games, according to Thinh.

No matter how famous Thinh was, his parents had no clue about his success.

“My friends knew, my neighbors might also know, but my father did not, at least until his very last days before passing away two years ago,” Thinh said, explaining that his father’s age and health conditions prevented him from getting access to things like smartphones and social media.

“Neither did my mother,” he added.

“Back in the days, my father thought that I only spent it all and gambled on billiards games.”

Huynh Truong Thinh performs a billiards shot at a club in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, March 20, 2021. Photo: Linh To / Tuoi Tre News

Huynh Truong Thinh performs a billiards shot at a club in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, March 19, 2021. Photo: Linh To / Tuoi Tre News

Billiards player-turned businessman

Following a streak of success and luck, Thinh found an opportunity to build his own billiards business about four years ago, when his YouTube channel was already well known.

He is currently operating his own billiards club in Thu Duc under the Thinh Kent Billiards Club brand and its franchises.

In addition, he also cooperates with people in his network for the operations of billiards clubs in several locations across Vietnam.

Apparently, Thinh was the first billiards player in Vietnam to start such a franchising business.

“I started the billiards business because my utmost wish was to not only play billiards but also immerse myself in the typical atmosphere of a billiards club,” Thinh said.

The new role, however, has taken him time to hone his skills.

Recently, Thinh has not participated in any competitions due to his tight schedule for the billiards business.

On the other hand, Thinh revealed that the Indonesian national billiards team had contacted him again for a possible training course in preparation for the 2021 SEA Games, scheduled to take place in Hanoi between November and December, should the COVID-19 situations in Vietnam and the region allow.

This second invitation, along with other feathers in his cap, has proved Thinh’s talent.

However, he modestly attributed his success to the good fortunes which had happened in his life.

The billiards player-turned businessman hopes that his business and social media activities can inspire as many people as possible, as well as contribute to dispelling the prejudice against billiards as a form of gambling in Vietnam.

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Bao Anh - Linh To / Tuoi Tre News

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