Epperson wins* Florida tournament at Beyond Billiards, but the Silent Assassin gets the trophy

Randy Epperson

There are any number of reasons why two competitors opt out of playing a final match in a pool tournament; it’s late, one of the players has to get to work, another has a long drive, this one just doesn’t want to be bothered, etc., etc., etc. As a rule, we don’t often write about the reasons, because in a lot of cases, we don’t know. The negotiations are initiated by the players themselves and their reasons are often unknown to even the tour director who dispenses the cash in any way the two players dictate. We also don’t generally know exactly how the cash was split, because often, even the tour directors who distribute the cash don’t know. On Super Bowl weekend, however, we were apprised of a ‘top prizes’ split between the last two standing in a $200-added Super 9 Bowl Open, hosted by Beyond Billiards in Davie, FL.

We know about the split, because while the venue and tournament itself were relatively unknown, one of the competitors was Tony “Silent Assassin” Robles, who, with his wife Gail and son, Antonio, moved down to Florida over the winter. They left behind them the Predator Pro Am Tour, Tony’s operation of the National Pool League, a lot of Tony’s students and a boatload of friends, acquaintances and pool players in the tri-state area pool community. Not to mention, for a while, Tony’s pool game.

“I don’t regret any of the time I spent with the (Predator Pro Am) tour or the league, or any of my students or corporate events,” he said from his Miami-area home earlier this week. “I enjoyed it while it lasted and there weren’t any plans to stop, but the pandemic didn’t give us much choice.”

It took a little while for them to settle in, but it wasn’t very long before he found a local venue and on Super Bowl weekend, February 2021, Robles joined 31 other competitors (including, by the way, the Iceman, Mika Immonen) in the Super 9 Bowl tournament at Beyond Billiards. He worked his way through the field and arrived at the hot seat match, where he suffered his first defeat, at the hands of Randy Epperson. He came back from the semifinals and was approached by Epperson, who proposed that they opt out of the final match and split the cash. As the undefeated occupant of the hot seat at the time, Epperson would be the event’s official winner, but Robles didn’t really care about that. He’d fallen in love with the event trophy (pictured at left with Robles) and suggested to Epperson that he’d agree to a split if he could get the trophy.

Tony Robles

He got the trophy. And part of the $950 in cash (how much was not revealed) that represented the first two cash prizes.

“The first match,” Robles said of his return to the tables, “I was shaking like a leaf. In my second match, I was feeling really good and by the third match, I felt like I was back in stroke.”

He won the first match, versus Nikolin Dalibor, 7-2 and survived a double hill challenge from Sam Kantar in the second match.  He downed Jason Sheerman 7-5 and advanced to a winners’ side semifinal match against Raul Alvarez.

In the meantime, Epperson and The Iceman set out on a collision course to the other winners’ side semifinal. Epperson defeated Carl Kahn 7-2, Gabe Messa 7-1 and Pierre Palmieri 7-4, as Immonen shut out Ignacio Meindl and Felix Lunda, to either side of a 7-2 win over Eric Poveda.

Now, ‘in stroke,’ reportedly, Robles advanced to the hot seat match 7-1 over Raul Alvarez. Having lost only two of his first 23 games, Immonen found himself fighting for his winners’ side life against Epperson. And losing, double hill. Epperson claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Tony and waited on his return.

“He played phenomenally well,” said Robles of the hot seat match. “I had a few opportunities to win that match. He made a few simple errors that gave me ball-in-hand.”

“There are very few times,” he added, “when I’m losing that I find myself enjoying the match, but I was really enjoying that match.”

On the loss side, Mika Immonen picked up Florida powerhouse Anthony Meglino, Beyond Billiards’ house pro and tournament director for this event, who was fresh off a runner-up finish in an independent event in Port St. Lucie last week and a 4th place finish in something of a leftover 2020 event on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour the week before that. Meglino had lost his opening match, double hill, to Yusan Alvarez and was in the midst of a five-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to come to an end. 

Alvarez drew Pierre Palmieri, who, after his winners’ side quarterfinal defeat by Epperson, had defeated Karen Freire 5-1 and shut out Yusan Alvarez before Meglino could get a loss-side shot at him. 

Immonen ended Meglino’s loss-side run 5-2 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Raul Alvarez, who’d eliminated Palmieri by the same 5-2 score. Alvarez and Immonen locked up in a double hill fight, which bore the extra weight of a potential Immonen/Robles matchup in the semifinals. It was not to be. Alvarez defeated Immonen, setting up his re-match versus Robles. 

In what proved to be the final match of the night, Robles earned himself a second shot at Epperson with a 5-1 victory over Alvarez in those semifinals. Epperson and Robles launched their negotiations over who’d get what and how much and called it a night, relatively early.

Robles was happy with his overall performance in what was his first, somewhat official return to the tables; not counting the one in his home. He posited a theory as to why he did as well as he did this first time out.

“I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m not in charge of a tour anymore,” he said. “I’m at peace.”

“All I’m doing in Florida is teaching and competing,” he added, “so all I’m thinking about when I come to the table is the game. It’s like night and day.”

While as he noted earlier, he left the tri-state New York area without a lot of regrets, he reflected on the more positive notes his departure and resettlement struck.

“I wanted to watch my son grow,” he said. “I realized when I was up there that I was away over  30 weekends a year between the tour, the NAPL, lessons and corporate parties.”

“When I stopped doing the tour, the world opened up,” he added. “It’s been awesome. I am really, truly enjoying life.”

You might be seeing more of him at tournaments being scheduled by Eduardo Gomez, originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina and as of October, the new owner of Beyond Billiards. Prior to his arrival, he said, the site didn’t hold tournaments, but once he’d arrived and like Tony Robles, settled in a little, he began to organize them; a couple in January, including New Year’s Day. Then, of course, this most recent Super 9 Bowl tournament, to be followed by another one, for intermediate players, this weekend. A comprehensive and ongoing schedule is in the works. For further information, call Beyond Billiards at 954-434-3487 or check out their Web site – beyondbilliardsfl.com