By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Scott Barrett, owner of M8 Pool Leagues and Ultimate Pool Leagues (UPL), started his pool career in the basement of his grandparents’ home in Winsted, when he was 8 years old.
His grandparents, the late John and Marie Karels who lived on Shady Creek Drive, had a pool table and Barrett looked forward to the times when he could visit them.
“We were always excited to go to grandma’s because, if we were bored, we could go downstairs and play pool,” Barrett said.
During these family games, Barrett discovered he not only enjoyed playing pool with his cousins because he was good at it, but he considers it the beginning of what “fueled the fire” of his competitive nature.
“I love to compete!” Barrett said. “I am an adrenaline junkie and I thrive on competition the feeling that it gives you. I play competitive golf, as well. Between the two, it feeds my desire and my adrenaline.”
Today, Barrett is not lacking in available pool competition.
As owner of M8 Pool Leagues since 2005, he just wrapped up his sixth annual Midwest Regional Tournament in March. He bought out his previous partner in November of last year, so this was his first time as tournament director on his own.
The annual tournament in the spring is the culmination of three seasons of play winter, summer, and fall. With all of the events leading up to the tournament and the tournament itself, a team has the opportunity to win close to $15,000.
This year’s first midwest tournament took place at Treasure Island Resort and Casino, with 1,200 players participating in the masters and open team events, the weekend of March 4 to 6.
The second tournament, at Canterbury Park, included the advanced team and singles, with 1,100 players participating, the weekend of March 11-13.
Eligibility to play in the annual tournament is based on the three seasons of play.
The number of participants was up for this year’s tournament and Barrett received plenty of good feedback, which has given him a positive view of his leagues’ future.
“I have heard there are rumblings going on in the pool community about the players who don’t currently play in the M8 system UPL, who now want to, because we are paying out (in prizes) at a local level as much, or more than they are paying out on a national level,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s M8 Pool League is a Minnesota-based league. He is also the owner and creator of Ultimate Pool Leagues, which is his branding for eventually expanding nationwide.
Being realistic, Barrett estimates it will take him 10 years to recruit the different regions of the country, and possibly 15 years to get on a national level.
Currently, he is focusing on the midwest region.
“My vision before we get to a national event is that we have a midwest, northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest championships. To have these different pockets, and as those sections grow enough, then we can conglomerate them into one national event. Right now we are not big enough or strong enough to support a national event. But that is the ultimate goal.”
He already has leagues set up in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and his goal for this year is to get North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa involved to complete his midwest region.
Even before purchasing M8, Barrett had played in the league since 1998, and had learned a lot about its rating system.
“M8 is the largest independent pool league in the country. They have been around for 21, going on 22 years,” Barrett said. “Our whole idea to buy it was because it has the best rating system in the country.”
The rating system (handicap) is based on players accumulating points per shot, rather than per game.
Having played pool on a national level and in other organizations, Barrett found other rating systems left a lot to be desired, according to Barrett. “They don’t have a rating system that is as good as what is played in the Twin Cities,” he said.
“With that thought, that’s why I decided when I found M8 was for sale, we needed to buy it and expand it on a nationwide level and not just on a local level.”
The office at M8 and Ultimate Pool Leagues has three full-time employees and three part-time employees.
“It’s busy and my office staff is very good at what they do,” Barrett said.
There are two ways to join M8 Pool Leagues or the Ultimate Pool Leagues as an individual, a player can be put on a team that is looking for additional players; or as a group of players who have already created a team.
Teams are placed into a division and scheduled based on the day of the week they want to play, the location, and the format (an example would be “advanced”).
If a player is in just one division, he will play only one night a week, but according to Barrett, there are many players who play on multiple teams, so they are playing multiple nights of the week.
The Ultimate Pool Leagues’ website, www.play-up.com, is used on multi-levels. For a guest’s visit to the website, general information is available. If a player logs in, he can see schedules and team standings in addition to other information. When an employee or office staff member logs into the site, they are given permission to manage the divisions, teams, players, and create new teams.
What Barrett is hoping to do is to expand the website to league owners. As an owner of a league, he will be able to log in to the website and manage his individual league. All new leagues joining would be put under the umbrella of Ultimate Pool Leagues, equal in standing to M8 Pool Leagues.
With Barrett’s educational background, expanding the system will probably be a breeze.
As a software engineer contractor, Barrett works in downtown St. Paul and is currently living in Inver Grove Heights.
Following his high school graduation in 1988, from Howard Lake-Waverly High School, he attended Willmar technical college for two years and got his associate’s degree in electrical engineering as a technician.
After Willmar, he attended the University of Wisconsin- Stout for five years and got a degree in micro electronics engineering with a software minor and math minor. He has been a software engineer ever since.
Besides having office staff available, Barrett’s parents, Jack and Vonnie Barrett, who live by Lake Mary, were a big source of support for him at this year’s tournaments.
“They helped me out so much,” Barrett said. “It was huge.”
Jack Barrett is currently director of marketing and advertising for Ultimate Pool Leagues.
“He is helping me get things into a position so we can expand and start notifying people in different parts of the country about what we’re about,” Barret said.
Barrett’s dad has a background in pool that is sure to help serve in his latest position in Ultimate Pool Leagues.
“Dad plays pool. That is how I got started. He and my uncle Jack Karels, mom’s brother, were the ones that introduced me to pool,” Barrett said. “My mom doesn’t play pool, but she knows an awful lot about pool now.”
For more information on either M8 Pool Leagues or Ultimate Pool Leagues, call (651) 636-2022 or visit the website at www.play-up.com.