BCAPL National 8-Ball Championship

Shane Van Boening (Photo courtesy of Dave Thomson - Mediumpool.com)

BCA National 8-Ball Championships "The Greatest Pool Tournament in the World" Location: The Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas. For the first time in the history of the sport, players of all skill levels – from amateur to professional – had the opportunity to compete on equipment built to the same superior playing specifications. 284 Diamond pool tables filled every corner of the Riviera Convention Center – all covered with “Tour Blue” Simonis 860 cloth, and equipped with Super Aramith Pro ball sets, with Aramith Red Circle cue balls. Add 11,000 competitors, exhibitors, and fans who came to participate, spectate, and appreciate competition in 8-Ball, 9-Ball, 3-Cushion, and general billiard ball wizardry and what do you have? The BCA National 8-Ball Championships -- "The Greatest Pool Tournament in the World." The 31 year-old event is the world's oldest national pool league championship. For the last three years, the event continues to grow under the guidance of cue sport nut Mark Griffin. So has the added money; this year, almost $100,000. Mark's goal is "To create and improve opportunities for pool players of all abilities through fair governance and equitable policies." And, of course, live up to the moniker of "The Greatest Pool Tournament in the World." Once again this year he and the BCAPL team, headed by David Vandenberghe, outdid themselves. In all, over 7,100 individual players competed in the 8-Ball Championships. The growth in turnout was encouraging, since travel expenses have risen considerably. The elevator conversation, which is usually, "How long did it take you to drive here?" was, " How much did it COST you to drive here?" Many new features provided added incentives and excitement for attendees. Predator Cues sponsored a random drawing for 10 of their fine cues, given to BCAPL members to demonstrate their appreciation of the support they receive from BCAPL members.

The new BCA Pool League 9-Ball Challenge is open to all BCAPL league and player members. Beau T. Runningen from Falcon Heights, MN took out Canadian Tyler Edey in the finals, with Ike Runnels from Hopkins Park, IL running 3rd.

The 9-Ball Challenge offered league members the opportunity to play both 8-Ball and 9- Ball at the same venue. “This will allow 9-Ball participation to grow," says CEO Mark Griffin. "In November, Qlympics, a new event produced by playbca.com--our umbrella website--will host the BCAPL Big Table Championships on 9 foot Diamonds, as will the U.S. Open professional events in 10-Ball, Banks, One Pocket and 14.1 Straight Pool. Plus, we'll have our BCAPL Regionals--teams and singles--on 7 foot Diamond Smart Tables. Then there will be action rooms going 24/7, so we have a perfect environment to create an audience when Accu-Stats tapes the pros. Qlympics is destined to be huge.”

The BCAPL has created the 8-Ball Men's, and Women's, Grand Master Singles divisions. "Everyone can play in our League, as long as they are a member. You can't get too good and then have nowhere to go." says Griffin, "We want our members to improve. We like having the best players. Maybe one day we'll have a multi-league challenge."

Speaking of wanting to improve. Enter the CUE-Tech Pool School. Free classes were given all week by BCA Master instructors Randy Goettlicher and his crew. Not only was this hands-on at the table, videos were taken so that one's strengths and weaknesses could be studied.

Dr. Cue, Tom Rossman, served as instructor, entertainer, and judge of the 15th Annual BCAPL National Artistic Pool Championship. Members got to compete against other members and stump the doctor with trick shots of their own. We usually view Tom in person as pool entertainer extraordinaire, or winning an artistic billiards event on ESPN. During his instructional series, BCAPL members learned that his deep knowledge of pool was the foundation of his success.

Lessons were also available in the Gabriel's 3-Cushion Billiard & Pool Clinic. The clinic was organized and promoted by Professor Q-Ball's Paul Frankel, and offered personal instructions by 2006 USBA Champion, Mazin Shooni.

In a special debut of 3-Cushion billiards on ESPN, entitled the 3-Cushion Grandmaster, the internationally acclaimed World Champion, Semih Saginer, was challenged by the legendary BCA Hall of Famer, Mike Massey, and the 2006 WPA Masse World Champion, Eric Yow. Massey and Yow were invited by event producers, High Rock Productions and Dragon Promotions, to see if they could put a dent in Semih's reputation as the world's foremost master in billiard ball artistry. Watch for it on ESPN. It's mesmerizing to see what these guys can do with a billiard ball.

The Billiard Congress of America moved the BCA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony from the International Billiard & Home Recreation Expo to where the real pool fans are. This year's induction was posthumously awarded to former World 3-Cushion Champion Sang Chung Lee. Sang also won, from 1990-2001, 12 consecutive national USBA championships. Lee is considered the driving force behind the current resurgence of 3-Cushion play in the US. The coveted award was accepted by Sang's daughter, Olivia, who was deeply touched and visibly moved by the tribute to her father.

More innovations were at hand as Hall of Fame attendees had the opportunity to view some of the finest works of art known to cue sports. Collectors Rick Goulden from Des Moines, Iowa, the Glenn family from Houston, Texas, and Mark Kulungian from pooltablemagic.net displayed Balabushkas, Szambotis, Palmers, Schicks, and so many cues that an accumulated value was estimated at $750,000.

Victor Stein, of Billiard Encyclopedia fame, presented a diverse collection of pool memorabilia secured in a glass display case. And if that wasn't enough, Charlie Ursitti offered reproductions of many of the great posters from his collection. Denny Glenn's goal is that, one day, there will be a Billiard Museum so that the world can enjoy this great American Art.

Awe is the word that best describes what the pool fans had to experience at the Enjoypool.com 9-Ball Championships. Where else do you get to see the men and women's pro organizations play in the same venue? And the league members loved it. They knew that, for the first time in tournament history, men, women, amateurs, and professionals were playing, other than table size, under the exact same playing specifications. The same pocket size, the same table, the same cloth, and the same balls – the standardization of equipment is considered one of the hallmarks of when a game evolves into a sport.

And what better an audience to show their appreciation than the pool savvy BCAPL members. No other amateur group appreciates cue sports skills as much as BCAPL members. They had already had fun with pros at the Billiard Education Foundation's Challenge the Stars. Fans lined up. They learned a few moves first hand, got to mingle with the best, and shake a few well-known hands. And, even though most lost, now they have a lifetime memory of the experience, and someone familiar to root for at the pro event.

The pros love the applause, the yells, and the cheers. They also commented positively on how the tight-pocketed Diamond tables allowed the cream to rise to the top. No more hitting the second diamond and seeing the ball fall. Finally, equipment they could trust.

And no one trusted it more than men's finalist Shane Van Boening -- "The Dakota Kid."

Shane's finishes in recent pro events have been so consistent that he caught the attention of management at playbca.com. It was decided to sponsor Shane in the enjoypool.com event. "Who better to represent the league than Shane?” Griffin asked. "He has competitive pool in his bloodline and he is respected by his peers."

The 23 year old roadrunner turned pro is no stranger to league play. As a BCA certified instructor Shane's grandfather, Gary Bloomberg, got the family competing; his aunt, Gari Jenson, is a 3 time VNEA Women's Master Champion, while his mom, Timi Rae Bloomberg, is the '88 BCAPL Women's Open Champion. Shane learned well. He has back to back VNEA titles (2004/2005), and he won the Predator World 10-Ball Championships in Jacksonville, Florida one week after finishing 2nd in the EnjoyPool.com pro event at the Riviera.

No one is more pleased on Shane's high finishes than Mark. "Shane's passion for the sport and will to win is second to none. He's fearless. All he wants to do is compete. We are honored to have him as part of the team and look forward to his contribution and to our mutual, continued success." I guess that's why the BCA Pool League had signed him to a yearlong deal. They walk the talk.

Visit playbca.com and check the results of the more than 3,000 who cashed in this year's BCA National 8-Ball Championships. You're bound to know someone. And next time you see them, ask “What's the greatest pool tournament in the world?”