How to Watch Polo

The view from the announcer's stand provides excellent sightlines to a beautiful green field that is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. Veteran polo aficionado and announcer Bob Bullock shares his perspective.

1. The action is fast and furious.
If you are watching close to the field, make sure you are a safe distance from the sideboards. Many times the ball is knocked over the sideboards, and the polo ponies and players come very close to the spectators. For your own safety, please don't get closer than 10 yards to the edge of the field.

2. There are four players to a team.
There are four players to a team and each carries a number on the back of his/her jersey. Each player has a certain position that they maintain on the field, and can usually be found there. Part of team strategy is to position yourself favorably in order to maximize scoring opportunities. Defensive strategy works basically the same, as players try to neutralize the offensive attack.

3. A good pair of binoculars helps.
Personally, I use a pair of 10 x 50 strength to announce polo matches. A pair of 7 x 50 would also work well. I like to look at the players warming up before the matches begin. This provides a good perspective on players’ riding styles, approach to the ball and what type of shots they are working on. I also make note of the color of the players’ helmets, leg wraps on the ponies and other visual aids. This enables me to identify the players easily and follow the match.

4. Anticipation helps
Anticipation is part of what makes for an interesting match. You may see the #2 player race across or up the field, expecting a passing shot from the #3 player. More often than not it happens – especially when teammates have played together often.

5. You may see a foul committed from your vantage point.
Even if you're not up on all the rules in the Blue Book (Polo's Bible), you may see a player come racing over for the ball and cross in front of his opponent. This may result in a crossing violation if a player's right of way is impeded. If the umpires rule that it is, a penalty shot will be awarded. Also, a penalty may be called for intentionally hooking a player with the mallet. However, the opposing player's mallet may be hooked while he is in the act of hitting the ball.

6. Penalty shot.
White hash marks on both ends of the playing field indicate where a penalty shot will be taken. A penalty #2 is from 30 yards, #3 from 40 yards, and #4 from 60 yards. There are two umpires on the playing field, and a third man or referee on the sideline.

7. Make sure you allow time before the match.
Allow time before the match to set up a tailgate picnic or to stop at the players' trailers to look at the polo ponies. The grooms will be adjusting tack, mallets will be laid out, and who knows, you may be able to hear the players discuss pre-match strategy. Note between chukkers (periods) how quickly players go to the trailers, change to fresh ponies and come back on the field. The grooms work hard to make everything run smoothly.

8. Half-time.
Half-time (after the third chukker) provides a good opportunity to get acquainted with fellow spectators. Participate in replacing divots - the only sport where spectators are invited to actually enter the playing field - to help out players and ponies. It's also a good way to get some exercise, check out the fashions and see what the other side of the field looks like.

9. Post-match trophy presentation.
Polo is one big family, that is why spectators are always invited to the post-match trophy presentation. It's a great way to get a true sense of sportsmanship, make the most of photo opportunities, obtain autographs and mingle with your favorite player. No sport offers this sense of camaraderie and class. I will look forward….. to seeing you at a future polo match during the wonderful Saratoga season. See you there!

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