Roberts comes back from the brink of defeat to win 1st Annual Cheesehead Classic
Skip Maloney - AzB Staff
Oct. 12, 2015
Josh Roberts
Josh Roberts
Rooting for the underdog is a time-honored tradition. But what do you do, for whom do you root, in a true double elimination final between Alex Pagulayan and Josh Roberts? With Roberts in the hot seat of the $12,000-added, 1st Annual Cheesehead Classic in Appleton, WI on the weekend of October 9-11, you might find yourself  'underdog' rooting for The Lion, the man he defeated, double-hill, in the hot seat match. 
 
But how, given Pagulayan's 15-year (plus) history of success in the game, do you cast him in an underdog against a still-relatively-young man with only half that history? In context, it makes sense, because normally, given that the player coming from the loss side has to beat the hot seat occupant twice, you'd cast the player coming from the loss side in the underdog role. And when that victorious semifinalist (Pagulayan, in this case) has already been defeated once in the hot seat match, his underdog credentials rise. Now, give Pagulayan a victory in the first set of a true double elimination final, and put him up 8-3 (racing to 9) in the second set. Who's your underdog now? 
 
Josh Roberts played that scenario out in the early morning hours of Monday, October 12 and chalked up the victory. Though he'd established an eight-year reputation and already earned more (reported) money in 2015 than in any year prior,  the Cheesehead Classic was his first major 2015 victory. 
 
The event, hosted by KK Billiards in Appleton, WI (and streamed by PoolAction TV) drew a full field of 128 entrants, many of whom would generally not qualify as underdogs;  in no particular order, Justin Bergman, Sky Woodward, Robb Saez, Dennis Orcollo, John Morra, Many Chau, and Larry Nevel, to name just a few. Roberts, going in with a win/loss percentage of just over 63% (45-26), advanced to a winners' side semifinal against Bergman. Pagulayan  came to his winners' side semifinal match against Nevel (who'd just sent Orcullo to the loss side, double hill) with just over a 76% win percentage (45-14). They each gave up three racks to advance to their first meeting in the hot seat match; Roberts now at 65%, Pagulayan still at 76%.  Roberts' double hill win to claim the hot seat (in which he was down 7-3) narrowed the gap. What began as a 13-percentage-point differential going into the winners' side semifinals, had been reduced to a seven-point-differential, Roberts closing in, following the hot seat match.
 
On the loss side, Bergman drew Sky Woodward, who, after being defeated by Jonathan "Hennessee from Tennessee" Pinegar (fourth round), was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side streak that would take him all the way to the semifinals. Wins #3 and #4 came against Manny Chau, 9-7, and John Morra, 9-6. Nevel picked up Roberto Gomez, who'd defeated Pinegar 9-4 and survived a double hill fight over Alex Olinger to reach him. Nevel downed Gomez 9-3, while Woodward and Bergman locked up in a double hill battle that eventually advanced Woodward to the quarterfinals against Nevel.
 
Woodward chalked up what turned out to be his last win, over Nevel, 9-4, in those quarterfinals. He had to settle for third place, when Pagulayan took him down in the semifinals 9-5.
 
Pagulayan's opening set in the finals over Roberts (9-5), certainly made him the favorite, as action moved into the second set. Roberts' chances looked pretty slim in the second set when Pagulayan got to the hill, ahead by 5.  
 
Then, now firmly sitting in the underdog seat, Roberts wins six straight to claim the title. Overall, he played 11 more games than Pagulayan, and ended up with a lower winning percentage (60% to 66%). Roberts took his losing percentage in the winning effort to the bank, to the tune of $7,000.
 
"Even with the double elimination," Roberts noted the next day, "I was still the underdog in that (double elimination set).
 
Down 3-8 in the second set, Roberts had a lot on his mind. He'd been there before, in the hot seat match, down 7-3 and come back. He needed, obviously, to do it again. And he did.
 
"I just kept thinking to myself, don't give up," he said. "If he wins, shake his hand, but just keep playing."
 
Words of advice, to underdogs everywhere.