Numerous billiards clubs are now emerging across Ho Chi Minh City, with the majority of customers being young people, despite stereotypes.
On weekend evenings, billiards clubs are often crowded and lack available tables.
Based on Google Maps data, there are currently around 410 billiard centers in Ho Chi Minh City, most of which are located in populous areas including District 1, District 8, District 10, Binh Thanh District, Tan Phu District, Tan Binh District, Phu Nhuan District, and Go Vap District.
In the affordable segment, pool table rental prices vary from VND30,000 (US$1.24) to VND100,000 ($4.12) per hour, while modern-equipped places charge between VND120,000 ($4.94) and VND300,000 ($12.36) an hour.
Pool cue rental is not included in the mentioned fees, and it costs at least VND50,000 ($2.06) per person.
Besides that, many online groups on Facebook for billiards enthusiasts whose members range from thousands to hundreds of thousands have started to bloom such as ‘Cong Dong Bida – Chia Se Dam Me’ (Billiard Community – Sharing Passion), ‘Dam Me Bida’ (Passionate about Billiards), and ‘Cong Dong Bida Sai Gon’ (Ho Chi Minh City Billiards Community).
These pages aim to connect players for friendly matches, share skills, and promote this sport in Vietnam.
According to Van Anh, the manager of a newly opened billiards club on Au Co Street in Tan Phu District, customers of different age groups, mostly between 18 and 30, have been enjoying the facility.
She said that the busiest time is from 7:00 or 8:00 pm onward, particularly on weekends when tables are usually in full use.
Sense of community
Billiards seems to be a game suitable for gathering.
This sport arouses curiosity amid young people, tempting them to try it, even though it is often associated with both bad and good stories, Anh said.
Many entertainment channels that influence young people, including Schannel, share information about famous billiards players, which inspires more youth to learn about this sport, she added.
Tran Duc Anh, 22, a Tan Binh District resident, said he and his friends often go to billiards centers three to four times a week, and it has been three years since he first tried playing it.
“I find billiards trendy and recreational, especially when playing it with a group of friends,” Duc Anh said.
“Before entering the game, we often make mutual consent that the loser will pay for the group’s billiard fee. This small competition excites our moods and generates more fun."
As for Thanh Chi, 18, billiards is beyond just a game.
“This sport is enticing in that participants must have a certain calculation of hand strength and ball direction to be able to win the match. In addition, billiards provides a great opportunity for friends or colleagues to gather around,” said Chi.
Normally, Chi and a group of four to six co-workers meet at a billiards club once or twice a week.
There used to be a perception amid the public that billiards is an unhealthy game due to its frequent association with alcohol, gambling, and prostitution, leading to many people believing that this sport should not be encouraged.
Nowadays, billiards is becoming more and more openly accepted since it is not only an entertaining sport but also a strategic game, requiring careful calculation and high skills to win.
Moreover, billiards is included in a variety of domestic and international sports tournaments.
Le Diem Hanh, 21, a senior from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, disagreed with the said prejudice even though she is not a fan of billiards, saying that billiards is a healthy game as there are many widely-broadcasted billiards competitions within and outside Vietnam.
Hanh emphasized that human beings themselves are the ones who assign negative connotations to billiards.
She also mentioned that billiards is a socially recognized profession.
Tran Mai Chi, 26, a District 8 dweller, saw eye to eye with Hanh.
“It depends on each person's purpose when playing billiards. If it's just for stress relief with friends or colleagues, there's nothing bad about it," Chi said.
Interaction and learning
As the mass sports training movement has spread in both breadth and depth, billiards has attracted a large number of amateur players because of its unique appeal.
|Thinh Kent (holding a pool cue), a renowned Vietnamese billiards player, has a positive vision of this sport in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Thinh Kent
“Billiards is gaining the position it deserves in the heart of the public today,” affirmed Huynh Truong Thinh, also known as Thinh Kent, a renowned Vietnamese professional billiards player and the director of the billiards center Thinh Kent Carom Academy.
Frequent and large-scale tournaments are organized, with the primary focus being on interaction and learning rather than winning or losing.
The players who participate in these tournaments share a common passion and come together to motivate each other toward leading a more positive life, said Thinh Kent.
Billiards is expected to thrive and lure a large number of participants, making fitness, sports, and local entertainment activities more diverse and exciting.
Additionally, many talented billiards players have been discovered, contributing to Vietnam's sports and promoting the country's billiards strength in the international arena, he said.