There can’t be many snooker players who keep their table in the same room as an antique hippopotamus skeleton.
In fact there might be only one: Paul Martin, best known as the presenter of BBC show Flog It!
As well as being a renowned antiques dealer and professional drummer, multi-talented Martin is also no mean snooker player. And his skills came on leaps and bounds when he received a coaching lesson from Judd Trump earlier this year.
“I’m a huge fan, I’d play eight hours a day if my wife would let me, though I’d be divorced before long,” Martin explains. “I used to watch Pot Black with my dad when I was about seven years old, it was in black and white so we’d be trying to work out which ball was which.
“I always wanted to be a professional, right up until the age of about 20 when I realised I was never going to be good enough. I could make breaks around 40 and 50. I’ve had coaching in the past from Patsy Fagan, and then I had an opportunity to make a donation to Teenage Cancer Trust and get a one-to-one lesson with Judd because he’s a patron of the charity. I didn’t think twice.
“My dream is to make a century break before I die. Not only do I want to live to be 100, but I want to make a 100 break as well. I think that’s a great bucket list item.
“I’ve got the shots but snooker is all in the head. I don’t have the temperament, you’ve got to keep your head still and believe that you can do it. Once I get to a break of 40 or 50 I start to wobble. As soon as I start thinking I’m going to beat my highest break, I fluff a shot. I want to learn a bit more of that from Judd.”
After studying art in Cornwall, Martin spent two years working at Pinewood studios, paining film sets. He then developed his career as an antiques dealer, while simultaneously playing the drums in jazz and blues groups such as Average White Band and the Quireboys.
Gradually his work in antiques took precedence and he was asked by the BBC to present the popular show Flog It! which he has now done for more than a decade.
Naturally, his passions for antique dealing and snooker have happily merged together on more than one occasion.
“One of the wonderful things about snooker is its history and I love collecting memorabilia,” said the 57-year-old father of two.
“I’ve got one of Ray Reardon’s old tables, made by Burroughes and Watts. It’s in a room at home completely full of antiques – a lot of natural history stuff likes skeletons of horses, seals and hippos as well as old mirrors. The snooker table is right in the middle. I bought a cloth that was used at the Masters and put it on the table so it runs really true and fast.
“I’ve got quite a few old cues. I go around the country a lot visiting antique shops and fairs. If I see old snooker cues I always buy them.
“I also collect old snooker scoreboards, I’ve got about ten of them. I call them architectural joinery. It’s great craftsmanship, it’s all British. They are made of Cuban mahogany or oak, inset in ivory. They are beautiful things with big arch pediments. It looks like the Palladian architecture from the 16th century. A few years ago they were selling for about £800 and now you can pick them up for £200 to £300. I recently bought one of the best ones I’ve ever seen for £280 in Stoke, it’s in perfect condition. I love all that kind of thing because it’s a window into the past, into the Joe Davis era or even earlier.
“I’d really like to find a good old cue that I can use. I know the likes of John Parris make fantastic cues these days but I don’t want to spend £500 on a cue in case I don’t like it. So I’d rather find a really good old seasoned one at the right length and then perhaps just get it straightened and put a 10mm tip on it. That would suit me more.
“I know Dominic Dale collects a lot so maybe we’ll end up as rivals in the billiards memorabilia collecting world.”