DaBreo comes back from opening-round loss to win AH Tournament event in Port St. Lucie

Raphael Dabreo

Raphael DaBreo and Miguel Laboy were getting a little bored, sitting around the New York City’s Tri-State area, waiting for the state’s governor and/or the city’s mayor to loosen pandemic restrictions to the level where pool play was possible. They heard about a tournament in Port St. Lucie on the last weekend in January, which, with an apparent storm on the way where they were, and $90 round-trip flights available, seemed like a cool (make that ‘warm’) idea.

Down they flew.

They walked into Shooter’s Billiards in Port St. Lucie, signed on with 60 other competitors and promptly lost their opening matches, both of which went double hill; Laboy lost to Chris Filippelli and DaBreo fell to Anthony Meglino. Though privately asking themselves whether boredom in a snowstorm might have been a better idea, they both persevered, because after all, pool is better than no-pool. 

Laboy lasted until the third loss-side round. DaBreo ended up winning 10 on the loss side, which translated into a rematch against Meglino in the finals. DaBreo won the single race to 9 and claimed the event title. It was the first of a planned Bi-Annual event, held under the auspices of AH Tournaments, which drew its 62 entrants to Shooter’s Billiards in Port St. Lucie, FL.

As it happened, come Tuesday morning, Feb. 2, DaBreo and Laboy were still there.

“On Saturday,” said DaBreo, “I got a message from the airline that we’d have to re-schedule because of the snowstorm up there. Wednesday was the first available flight.”

Though prompted by inexpensive flights and a current, general lack of tournaments in their area, DaBreo has found himself in a situation with a 715 Fargo Rate that’s beginning to edge him out of the amateur tournaments that are the backbone of a lot of NYC-area pool events.

“There are not a whole lot of tournaments that I’m allowed to play in anymore up there,” he said, when asked what (beyond the obvious) had prompted a 1,200-mile trip to Florida. “And there’s not much going on in New York, anyway. The way the city is implementing its (pandemic protocols), in terms of distancing and cleaning tables and balls, there are a lot of restrictions and if they catch you in a violation, they can just shut you down.” 

It’s been a little more than just that, he went on to say. His participation in tournaments has also been affected by his new role as general manager of New City Billiards in Queens, NY and his regular job in construction and home restoration.

He and Laboy had come down to Florida last November to compete in the first Meucci Classic, both of them; 9-ball and 10-ball. Laboy had finished third in the 9-Ball and out of the money in the 10-ball tournament. DaBreo had finished in the tie for 9th in both events and setting up what was going to happen in two months, had been defeated in the 9/12 matches of the 10-ball by none other than Anthony Meglino (who lasted only one more round).

One would think that given that little bit of history that DaBreo would have had a rather negative reaction upon hearing his name called in Port St. Lucie and hearing it paired with Meglino. Again. Not so, he said. Nor, for that matter, did it affect what happened next.

“It’s just about recovering early,” he said of his first-round, double hill loss to Meglino. “It’s not the first time it had ever happened to me and not likely to be the last.” 

Meanwhile, Meglino moved on, won three more against Edgar Lopez, Corey Penrod (who would move to the loss side and give DaBreo a run for his money) and Jason Sheerman to face Chris Daly in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Donny Branson, in the meantime, who’d started out with a defeat of Julia Sheerman, before defeating the competitor who’d sent Laboy to the loss side, Chris Filippelli 7-5. He then gave up a single rack to Randy Smith and none at all to Justin Jacobs and drew Sam Kantar in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Branson then gave up another stingy single rack to Kantar and advanced to the hot seat match. Meglino joined him after shutting out Daly. Meglino claimed the hot seat over Branson with his second straight shutout; a pair of victories that did not escape the attention of DaBreo, working his way back on the loss side.

“They played the hot seat match early,” he said, “so I knew it was going to be him.”

In the meantime, he was dealing with each of the match hands he’d been dealt. Six matches into his loss-side streak, he ran into Corey Penrod, who took him to the brink of elimination.

“I got to the hill first (at 6-4) and broke dry,” he recalled. “Corey ran out and then broke and ran the next rack to tie it up. Then he broke dry and left me with a jump shot. I made it and ran out to win.”

That victory set him up against Chris Daly, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Kantar came over to face Mike Miller, another competitor who’d lost in the opening round and was in the midst of a loss-side streak that had recently included victories over Ricky Charles 7-5 and Jason Sheerman 7-2.

Miller handed Kantar his second loss 7-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals. DaBreo joined him after eliminating Daly 7-5. Miller engaged DaBreo in his second loss-side double hill fight in those quarterfinals and almost won it. As DaBreo had been, earlier, Miller reached the hill, ahead by two, 6-4, but, said DaBreo, “he made a mistake.” DaBreo was able to cash in and advance to the semifinals. DaBreo made relatively short work of Branson in those semifinals 7-2 and 10 matches after his first against Meglino, DaBreo stepped up to Meglino to play his last.

They came within a game of double hill in the extended race-to-9, before DaBreo closed it out at 9-7 and went back to the hotel, where he knew, before he’d even finished the final match, that he’d be ‘recuperating’ for at least three days. He hadn’t given the initial loss to Meglino, nor the rematch in the finals very much thought ahead of time.

“I don’t think about stuff like that, because when you do, you start overthinking things,” he said, with that ‘been here, done this before’ attitude, so necessary in pool. “You just play the table.”

AH tour directors Alyssa and Henry Kantorski thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Billiards for their hospitality. AH Tournaments will host a One Pocket event in March and their second Bi-Annual 10-Ball tournament in July. Check the AH Facebook page for further details.