I had the pleasure to interview Sam Rullo, TAP (the Association for Pool) founder and owner of the Laurel Highlands division in PA, and the Sales Director for TAP Corporate, where he handles all the contracts for new licensees throughout the US.
Sam got his start in billiards when he visited a local bar with his dad at age 10. That started a love affair with pool that has not abated in the many years since. As a teen, he would play at the local bowling alley. He’s from western PA, a locale with coal mines and farms, so when he hit 21, he started frequenting the bars to get a game. He states he got ‘pretty good’, which in poolspeak means he could run a rack or two, wink wink!
He was a machinist for 27 years, but along the way, he attended the Super Billiards Expo, put on by pro Allen Hopkins. He learned a lot, even though he says he ‘got beat there’. That seemed to fan the flames of his love for pool, so he went and talked to The Association for Pool, and bought a license. On April 30, 1997, his league was born. Sam’s league is the 2nd oldest licensee. He would fax the results to the local newspaper, so he shortened the name to TAP.
When asked what makes TAP leagues different or better, he states that it has a better handicapping system. And they move Nationals every year, so that all parts of the country have a better chance to participate. This year it’s in Biloxi, MS, and next year it will be in KS. It’s also been in Vegas, New Orleans, Louisville and Myrtle Beach. They give out beautiful slate plaques, they post score sheets with all the stats, it is a call pocket league, and play is on Diamond tables.
TAP is the only league with a partnership with Allen’s Super Billiards Expo. , (1957-2013), the founder of TAP Loyd Schonter, started the league in 1989 and got licensed in 1996 to have teams compete at the SBE. Starting with 22 teams, the event has grown this past year to 280 8-ball teams and 60 9-ball teams. It offers a round robin format in groups of 4, so each team shoots 3 rounds, then goes into a different bracket with single elimination. Each team is guaranteed 4 rounds. They use the PoolNet handicap system so it’s consistent.
Sam says they use TAP the app, and have gone 100% paperless. It takes 3-4 seconds to submit weekly scoresheets. He says the players love stats and this handicapping system allows them to factor in data such as how many balls are left on the table, did you run them over or was it close, how many balls you average, etc.
Looking down the road, Sam says they’re always building, with some big upgrades in sight. Since Loyd passed away on New Year’s Eve 2013, his family runs it now. With Celeste at the helm, and Chuck and Larry, they just want to keep growing, with good people. They want to remain cutting-edge with innovations.
Sam says, “Other leagues built the mousetrap, but we built a better mousetrap. We’ll be on the forefront, setting the bar”. With Sam’s son, Mike and daughter, Morgan continuing on the legacy by playing TAP pool, I have no doubt they will.
Author: Linda Carter
Editor: Chris Freeman