Interview with Professional Snooker Player Peter Devlin

We caught up with Professional Snooker player Peter Devlin about life on the Professional Snooker circuit.

Peter achieved his best result to date as a professional at the 2020 European Masters as he defeated former world champion Mark Williams en-route to the last 16. He had qualified for the World Snooker Tour for the first time just weeks earlier, scoring five victories to come through Q School Event One.

Away from Snooker Peter is a keen rapper and song writer.

What first attracted you to Snooker and how did you get involved in the sport?

I’ve always liked sport, I played a lot of sport when I was younger; football, cricket, tennis, snooker but mainly I played pool with my Dad in the sports club every Saturday, when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I enjoyed the game, I used to watch snooker on TV so I liked the idea of potting balls but it was the competitive side that really appealed to me because my Dad never let me win! I was always losing, always throwing tantrums but it gave me a real sense of competitiveness so that when I actually did win for the first time it meant something. I was playing a lot, losing a lot, then I started to win a little bit and every Saturday I wanted to go and win. I then went into Snooker when I was about 10 years old and really enjoyed it. I got quite good quite quickly and I had a lot of positive people around me telling me I had a lot of potential. Suddenly playing snooker once a week became twice a week snooker, cancel tennis, three times a week snooker, cancel cricket, four times a week snooker, cancel drama school and it all started to change from there.

You first qualified for the World Snooker Tour in 2020 through Q-school. What is Q-School and how was it transitioning from Q-School to playing on your first ever European Masters?

Q-School? It’s horrible!!

It’s called Qualifying school and it’s where anyone from all over the world, with no restrictions at all can enter and attempt to turn pro. You get a lot of players who have been professional and just fallen off the circuit, a lot of very capable players who have also wanted to play pro, so you have more than 200 players all battling out for 12 spots. It’s a straight knock out event where it’s a random draw, you can play anyone, and you have to win enough games to get you into the final 4. The 4 players who get to the semi-final become pro straight away and all the remaining players start again in round 1 and it goes down to the 4 in the semi-final again. There’s then a third round where another 4 players will qualify so effectively you have got 3 chances but it’s very cutthroat, it’s a horrible place to be, you’re under so much pressure. It’s not like when you’re playing on the pro tour when you’re playing for prize money or for progression points at Q-School you’re literally playing for your life. There’s huge pressure.

And transitioning from Q-School to playing on your first ever European Masters, how was that?

It was awesome! It was nerve-racking because it was a different experience but because of Covid we were still playing in empty arenas, so it wasn’t a huge transition all at once. It made me realise how lucky I was to be on the tour because all of the opportunities we’re given in terms of prize money and exposure. There’s a huge difference when you turn pro, it’s like 0 to 10, there’s no in between. Suddenly you can be playing for £3,000 for winning one match, which is what happened to me. When I beat Mark Williams I got a huge amount of exposure on the internet, everyone talking about the game really positively and suddenly I thought this is a big deal, this is a huge organisation in World Snooker! It was a massive jump but fortunately because I had such a good start, I got to experience all of the highs very early on in my career.

Moving on to your training programme. What does your training programme look like, how long are your average practice sessions? And how does it work, do you just play frames against yourself?

We’re fortunate to be our own bosses but at the same time you have to have a certain level of discipline. For me a lot will depend on where I am, if I’ve got an inspiring place to practice then I’m going to want to put more hours in whereas over lockdown for instance, I was in an empty room on my own and it was a lot more difficult. If you’re playing someone in a competitive practice match you could be playing for 6 or 7 hours in the day but if you’re just practicing on your own a session could be between 2 and 4 hours. For me it’s all about quality over quantity.

How often do you change your cue? What would make you change it?

I haven’t changed mine for about 10 years now and I think that it’s probably best that I don’t. I got a cue in about 2012, I went to John Parris, who is one of the famous cue makers in the world. He’s like the apple of mobile phones, the one that everyone knows, that everyone trusts!

I found a cue that I liked and took it away but I found that it wasn’t perfect in all aspects so I took it back and switched it for a different one and I’ve still got it now.

A lot of people do switch cues all of the time, they try to find problems to solve but the problems always tend to be with yourself and not the cue.

Do you get more satisfaction out of a long pot or a good safety?

That’s an interesting one. I can get satisfaction out of both. If you play the safe shot especially if you need a snooker at the end of the frame and you get it, that’s a great feeling but of course long shots are always a buzz especially when there’s a crowd.

How do you avoid dwelling on a bad shot when your opponent is making a break?

If I knew that, I’d be a champion! I haven’t got the answer to that, it’s very hard for anyone to do. When you’re sitting in that chair you’re just thinking about the mistake you made or how it’s cost you the frame or maybe the match. It’s a very lonely place whilst the other person is potting balls and it’s very hard to not think of anything negative because you’re in that chair because of yourself. Sometimes you’re in the chair because you’ve been unlucky but that’s just as bad because there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a very lonely place.

What are your goals for the next 12-18 months?

My main goal is to stay on the pro tour. I’m in my second season now and it’s very cutthroat. You only get two seasons to try and make huge inroads into the top 64 in order to stay on the tour. It’s very challenging and very weighted against new players. Very rarely does a player get on and stay on. The snooker tour doesn’t really reward consistency in the rankings, it rewards performance in the big tournaments. It’s all based on prize money, so the more money you win the higher you rise and all the big money is at the later stages of the big events. For example, when I beat Mark Williams and got to the last 16 I won £6,000 but if I’d got to the same stage in another tournament against the same players, I would have won £18,000. I need to get a deep run, in a big tournament and hopefully that should be enough to keep me on the tour.

If I drop off, I will go back to Q-School and I hope that I will have gained enough experience to get back on the circuit. A high percentage of the players that do qualify through Q-school are people that have just played on the pro circuit.

As a player, what is the best and worst part of the snooker tour?

The best part is the opportunities it gives you. Playing for prize money, playing in front of crowds at great venues and all the bits on the side, the interviews, meeting people, going on the radio – all the glitz and glam of the tour and the opportunities it can give you.

The worst part about it is the way it makes you feel when things aren’t going well. It’s a very tough circuit, everyone’s of very high standard and when you’re constantly playing first round matches against a top-quality opponent who are beating you, especially if they’re beating you heavily it can be very demoralising. You don’t get many chances to get your confidence back or just have an easy match. Losing consistently and having to keep battling back is definitely the most challenging part of the tour.

If you could give one tip to club players what would that be?

Try your best to enjoy the game. It’s a very difficult and stressful game and there’s so many things about it that can be challenging, whether it be your losing or you’re having back luck, there’s so many things that can put you off from enjoying it so just try to focus on enjoying the game. If you’re in a better frame of mind you’re likely to perform better.

What are your interests outside of snooker? We know you are a keen rapper. What got you into rap?

I actually used to hate rap when I was a kid. I used to think it was just related to gangs and drugs and I just didn’t like it then I opened my eyes a little bit. I was a bit of a weird kid at school, I didn’t really find my place until I was soon to be leaving, around year 10 or 11. I randomly I just did a freestyle rap, which whilst it was very average, it was quite unusual, and everyone was showing excitement listening to it which made me feel good. A lot of the time we follow things that make us feel good or get you recognised and for me at school rap became that. Once I left school I then didn’t do much with it, it was just something I had in the locker.

When I won English Under 21 Snooker Championship in 2016 a week or two after I had an allergic reaction and I found myself in hospital for a short time, which brought me back to rap. Randomly I wrote a rap about a subway sandwich I had delivered to the hospital. I was seeing on the internet lots of accounts with people writing and performing raps which were getting a lot of views and engagement and it inspired me to do something with mine. A little while later I created a video with my rap and it was very popular and I got a lot of good comments. As is nowadays we all want to chase good comments and positivity so I started to create a few more based on other experiences in my life, things people can relate to, silly subjects to make people laugh. I really enjoy making them and listening to them – it’s been great fun.

Look out for an All Sport rap coming soon!!