Earl Changes His Ways and Dominates

Earl Strickland looked like the Pearl of old.

Earl Strickland found himself almost out the door last night in his must-win match against Li-He wen. Strickland was down 5-0 in the race to nine match and was up to his now-common antics of complaining about the conditions, the crowds, etc. when suddenly he did an about-face and became the grand force that made him famous.

We had spoken with Earl two days prior to the match and he had his normal litany of complaints. “The soft break is a joke. You should be made to hit them hard, not dink the balls about.” And we all know of his disdain for jump cues and other such ‘tricks'. But facing elimination can cause an epiphany in even the most stubborn and Earl saw the light before the WPC went dark on him.

Once he won his first rack he adjusted to the tables as everyone else has and began using the soft break to huge advantage. He was sinking the wing ball every time and getting great shape on the one. And that's all Earl needs. He put down rack after rack, displaying a brilliant touch and fantastic shot-making to win 9 consecutive racks and proceed into the round of sixty-four. If he continues playing as he did last night the world will once again look his way with awe.

In other play today, the only Royal to compete in the event, the Crown Prince of Brunei, lost his first two matches and was eliminated while only managing to claim four racks in two matches. One of his competitors remarked: “It really wasn't very fair. We should have waited until he learns how to play pool.” Cruel, perhaps, but it shows the leveling effect of sport. No matter your lineage, the balls only respect those who can control the cue ball.

Tuesday will find our final group of 32 players competing for their slots in the last 64. For full details and all the results thus far, go to www.worldpoolchampionships.com.

The promoters of this event are Raya Sports, headed by Mr. Yen Makabenta. Mr. Makabenta has some grand plans for the sport and we hope to be able to share these with you after our meeting with him later this week. Any companies wishing to enjoy the success of these competitions should contact Raya Sport at raya@prismphil.com. Raya does an excellent job of providing maximum exposure to their partners and have proven themselves capable the last two years of putting pool on the large stage it deserves.

As usual, the bookmakers at www.stanjames.com are doing a brisk business this week taking wagers on the competition. We understand that our readers in China and Japan are particularly busy studying the current odds and are unafraid to put their money on the line. This action should increase even more beginning Wednesday in the single-elimination ladder format for the final 64 players. This is when nearly every match will find hero pitted against hero and there will almost certainly be upsets from which to profit. Our odds for a champion are still rather predictable, but there are some that are certainly to change in the next twenty-four hours. Francisco Bustamante is still at 14:1 (you bet a dollar to win fourteen bucks if he takes the crown) and American hotshot Shane Van Boening has the same odds. Shane has not as yet played, but if he displays the form he showed at the US Open his odds will never be better than now. Get on early if you believe the Shane train will stay on track. Another interesting situation is Chun-Shun Yang. This man is due to win one of these titles and his odds are at 16:1, along with last year's champion Ronnie Alcano. Since back-to-back championships are unheard of, we feel Yang is the better bet. Alex Pagulayan is also at 16:1 and we have never seen him more upbeat. If attitude alone could win championships he would be a shoo-in and his skill sets certainly will help propel him.

Whether you wager or not, spend a few minutes at www.stanjames.com and see how your opinions differ from the professional odds-makers. If you can make better predictions than they you may find yourself a new career!

File photo courtesy of Diana Hoppe.