FORT WORTH, TX - Valley's new "Great Eight" pool table incorporates state-of-the-art electronics designed to enhance player convenience and support operator promotions.
Modern electrical and electronic components with low current requirements and a state-of-the-art rechargeable battery have enabled Valley to incorporate a bill validator and sophisticated controller into the "Great Eight." The electronic controls include a digital timer, which supports a "Speed Pool" play option and also allows time-of-day discounting.
Surrounding these high-tech features is a pool table that Valley regards as its best ever, the culmination of more than half a century's experience in designing and crafting pocket billiards equipment. Among the advances incorporated in the "Great Eight" are new cushion rails and spillproof, stain-resistant cloth.
Valley's new "Perfect Roll" cue ball from the Belgian billiard experts at Saluc rounds out the player- and operator-pleasing enhancements of the new table. Featuring magnetic material distributed in uniform concentric layers beneath the surface of the ball, the Saluc "PR" is reliably detected by the ball separator, resulting in fewer service calls. The laminar construction also assures that the center of gravity of the cue ball is identical with the geometric center, and has enabled construction of a cueball that is the same weight as the object balls (see VT, May).
The battery-operated bill validator, from JCM, represents the achievement of a quarter-century's research. Players now can insert $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills, and can choose to "play by the rack" or to purchase blocks of playing time. The traditional 25¢ coin mech has been retained, so players can continue to use quarters if they wish.
The rechargeable battery will hold a sufficient charge to power approximately 2,800 vends. In most locations, Valley noted, this represents about three months of operation.
The industry has long recognized the potential advantages of battery operation. A pool table is, by nature, a difficult thing to plug into an AC power outlet. Locations seldom are equipped with floor outlets of the kind found in light industrial plants, and players must have access to the table from all sides.
Until recently, however, batteries have not been available with sufficient energy density to support reliable operation of electronic features over an economically practical period of time.
The steady boom in demand for portable electronic equipment, from computers to camcorders, has driven progress in battery and component design. Valley's designers applied the resulting advances to the "Great Eight."
In addition to the bill validator, the new table provides a two-line, 16-column LCD alphanumeric screen built into the mahogany rail above the vend mechanism. After inserting money, players choose between rack play or time play. The display shows the credits for the number of racks purchased, or the amount of playing time.
The onboard timer allows players to choose the "Speed Pool" option. This is a relatively new game, introduced by the Valley National Eightball Association at its VNEA Championships five years ago. The objective is to pocket all the balls in the least amount of time, which leads to fast-paced competitive play.
When a player opts for "Speed Pool," the LCD panel switches to clock mode, acting as a countdown timer. Pressing the "Speed" button starts the timer; when the last ball is pocketed, the player presses the button again to stop the clock.
According to Valley vice-president of sales and promotions Dave Courington, "Speed Pool" has become an increasingly popular pastime. "It's really taking off with players," he said. "It's a whole new game that's creating excitement in locations for both regular and tournament play."
To help publicize the game, Valley offers rules poster, scoreboards and other promotional materials to intrigue and educate players.
The "Great Eight's" electronic controller also supports unprecedented pricing flexibility. Prices are fully programmable and can be varied by time of day, which permits operators to offer happy hour or league pricing at specified hours on the appropriate days. Bonus games also can be offered.
Ray Williams, owner of Commercial Music (Dallas, TX) reported that these options have proven very successful. "Plain and simple, the table gets customers playing more pool, and that's more money for operators," he said. "Coin-op pool has never before been merchandised like this."
Also a plus for operators and players alike is the new "Valley Ultra Cloth" used to cover the table and the rails. It was developed exclusively for Valley by Championship (D&R), and incorporates "Teflon." The cloth is said to be 100% spillproof and stain resistant. Spills are not absorbed by the cloth, but bead up on the surface, and can be wiped away without leaving any residue.
Jeff McKenney of City Vending (Fort Worth, TX) noted that "Ultra Cloth" is a real cost-saver and patron-pleaser. "I can't tell you how many times we've put a brand-new cloth on a table, and the next day there's a big stain on it," he said. "Beer, coffee, Coke , anything can be spilled on the felt, and it just doesn't show. It's really amazing. The cloth looks better, plays better and lasts much longer."
The new "Ultra Cloth" is complemented by new rail engineering on the "Great Eight." The "double density" rail cushion is formed of rubber that is harder on the nose, and features a softer runner. This results in faster and more accurate ball deflection, producing livelier play. Valley reports that even novice players notice the difference in playability, and billiards aficionados appreciate the precision carom.
Dave (Ginger Wizard) Pearson, a three-time Guinness World Record Holder and multi-title professional pocket billiards champion who is a spokesman for Valley, hailed the combined effect of the new cloth and the reengineered rails. "The new tables play beautifully," he said. "The cloth offers so much cue ball control, and the rails bank so crisply."
Courington explained that the "Great Eight" is the result of prolonged study and deliberate design. "For years, operators have been asking: 'When are you going to give us a pool table with all of these features?'" he said. "We did not want to pursue this until the technology was perfected. Now that technology is here."
The table itself took three years to develop, Courington reported; and the Valley/Seluc "Perfect Roll" cueball is the result of a two-year research program.
"When you put all the revolutionary new features together, along with the new magnetic cueball, there aren't enough good things to say about what it's doing for both players and operators," he summed up. "Reports on the new table are showing remarkable earnings. It's great news for the industry, and for the game of pool."
The new Seluc "PR" cueball also enhances the functionality of Valley's classic "ZD8" and high-style "Black Cat" pool tables.