Gus Briseno dons Arizona straight pool crown

Dennis Orender with Gus Briseno (Photo courtesy of Rick Schmitz

To be deemed “The Champion” in any sport or game is a very good thing.  But when it comes to pool, and when the particular pool game is Straight Pool (technically called 14.1 Continuous) that title seems to command an extra measure of respect.   

For many pool fans, just the mere mention of straight pool will evoke fond memories of the movie The Hustler, in which it was the platform game for the character duelers of Minnesota Fats and “Fast Eddie” Felson.  But for some billiard history buffs, straight pool recalls memories of great champions from the past ? guys like Frank Taberski, Ralph Greenleaf, Jimmy Caras, Irving Crane; and the greatest of them all, Willie Mosconi.  

Today, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in straight pool in many parts of the nation.  Some organizations still recognize straight pool as a key ingredient in the overall education of any true pool player ? it demands superior skill, knowledge, patience, and nerves.  The Desert Classic Tour in Arizona is one of those organizations, and on the weekend of April 4-5 they staged the Arizona State Straight Pool Championship at Pockets Billiards in Tucson.

There were 31 entrants who chased the coveted title of Champion on this beautiful sunny weekend in “The Old Pueblo,” and they were led by last year’s defending champion, Bernie Pettipiece, and nationally-known straight pool artist, Rodney “Babe” Thompson.  Other contestants, known to possess formidable straight pool games, in attendance were, Peter Lhotka (1979 collegiate champion), tour co-director, Jimmy Mendoza, Tres Kane, and Leil Gay.

But at the end of it all, a new champion was crowned, and he wasn’t one of those that anyone might have picked as a pre-tournament favorite.  Gus Briseno went undefeated in this double-elimination format, beating Bernie Pettipiece in the final match by the score of 125-48.  Also in that final match, Gus had a high run of 71balls, besting Jimmy Mendoza’s earlier high run by one ball, thus giving Gus a bonus prize of $100 to go along with his tournament winnings and his new title of, 2009 Arizona State Straight Pool CHAMPION.