Kiamco and Villarreal Take 18th U.S. Bar Table Championships All Around Titles

Alex Pagulayan, Warren Kiamco and John Morra

Come snow or shine the U.S. Bar Table Championships (USBTC) held February 21-27, 2011 brings players from all across the globe to “the Biggest Little City in the World.” Hosted at the Terrible's Sands Regency Casino Hotel in Reno, Nevada, the $25,250 guaranteed added event celebrated its 18th anniversary in 2011.

The event had over 450 entries in six divisions: Men's / Mixed 10-Ball, 9-Ball, 8-Ball and Women's 10-Ball, 9-Ball and 8-Ball. This was the first year in the event's history to include a full set of women's divisions and women's All Around bonuses.

The USBTC is produced by CueSports International (CSI), sponsored by Terrible's Sands Regency and Diamond Billiard Products, and directed by Bad Boys Billiard Productions. During the event players were paid immediately on-site. Over $66,000 was available for cash payouts.

The tournament began with the 10-Ball divisions, with 16 women and 93 men. The 9-Ball division started its engine mid-week with 23 women and 128 men. The 8-Ball competition, with 36 women and 157 men in contention, wrapped up the event. After two years of bandwidth issues at the host venue, the innovative team and internet live pool action leaders, TAR, this year was able to live stream.

In the women's competition, a tornado ripped through all three fields with little mercy. Vivian Villarreal, long time WPBA professional and fan favorite, took first place in all three women's divisions. Her dominance solidly secured her the $500 first place All Around Women's Bonus.

Competing for the second place women's All Around included Melissa “The Viper” Little, Nicole Keeney, Brittany Bryant, and Susan Williams. While the points were close, it was Bryant who came in second in the women's All Around points behind Villarreal.

For the first time in several years, the Men's / Mixed All Around competition was not dominated by one or two individuals. Instead there were a handful of players who were neck and neck in All Around points throughout the week.

The final board of the Men's / Mixed 10-Ball division included the diverse crowd of Stevie “the Blade” Moore from Georgia, Canadian Pros Stan Tourangeau and John Morra, Californian Louis Ulrich, Arizona monster Mitch Ellerman, Midwest young gun Branden Ashcroft and 2008 World Pool Master Champion  Alex “the Lion” Pagulayan.

Going into the 10-Ball finals between Pagulayan and Morra, the railbirds were putting “The Lion” heavily in favor over Morra. The live stream audience was treated to both men playing dead stroke in the first race to 7. However, two scratches on the break by Pagulayan gave Morra the edge needed to win the first set. Coming from the one loss side, Morra would need to beat Pagulayan again in a second set. It was not to be as Pagulayan came back strong and Morra seemed to lose steam, giving Pagulayan an easy win in set two.

Heading into mid-week Pagulayan led the men's All Around points with Morra hot on his heels. However in the 9-Ball division both were knocked out much earlier than anticipated. “The Lion” was ousted by Vegas player Ray Skenandore and the kid from Ontario, Morra, was sent to the sidelines by Phoenix player Nick DeLeon. Both Pagulayan and Morra finished 49th-64th place in the division. The gate was now wide open to a slew of other players to pursue the meaty $2,000 first place Men's / Mixed All Around bonus.

Prime to take advantage of that opening were Moore, Tourangeau and lesser known Tennessee player Josh O'Neal who all cashed high in the 10-Ball division and two additional dangers, Larry “the Truth” Nevel and top Philippine player Warren Kiamco. The finals of the 9-Ball men's division were those very two dangers who uncharacteristically didn't catch the final board earlier in 10-Ball, but earned redemption in the 9-Ball.

Nevel's road to the 9-Ball finals was a long one. After a first loss to Beau Runningen in his third match, Nevel had to grind it through 9 more matches on the one loss side to make it to the mountain. Kiamco was more leisurely in his travel to the finals, enjoying the sweetness of being in the hot seat. The finals came down to Nevel and Kiamco. But even the best grinders can hit a wall. Although Nevel trounced Kiamco 9-2 in the first set, a little déjà-vu of the Pagulayan – Morra 10-Ball final took place. In set two Nevel lost a little steam and Kiamco played solid taking the set 9-6 and first place in the division. Now it appeared there was a new Sherriff in the All Around point list town.

Going into the 8-Ball and final division, there were more horses in serious contention for the USBTC All Around bonuses than the 9th race at Aqueduct.

The top contenders were Kiamco, Nevel, Moore, Pagulayan, Morra, Ashcraft, O'Neal and Tourangeau.

Moore played consistently all week placing 7-8th in the 10-Ball and 5-6th in the 9-Ball. Tourangeau was also one to watch with a 5-6th place finish in the 10-Ball and 7-8th place in the 9-Ball. Although they faltered in the 9-Ball, the 1st and 2nd place finishes in the 10-Ball still put Pagulayan and Morra in solid All Around position. Nevel and Kiamco garnered new life after their 9-Ball finishes and were slightly ahead of Pagulayan and Morra in the point list. Two darker horses but still in contention were Ashcraft with a 5-6th place finish in the 10-Ball and a 17-24th place in the 9-Ball and O'Neal with a solid 9-12th place finish in the 10-Ball and strong 5-6th finish in the 9-Ball.

The top contenders still had to maneuver the 157 player 8-Ball field. Some fared well, some fell to the wayside. The final 8 players included: Amar Kang, O'Neal, Kiamco and Ashcraft on the winner's side and Morra, Moore, Josh Smith and Ivan Doty on the one loss side. Kang, Smith and Doty could only cash in on the All Around bonuses if they won the 8-Ball division.

Kang, Smith and Doty were motivated and potential spoilers to the other 5 players; evidenced when Doty knocked Moore out of the 8-Ball division 5-0. After the dust settled Morra and Kiamco were the last two players standing. While Kiamco again was the hot seat man, Morra meticulously made his way through 10 matches before facing Kiamco. It must have been the taste of his near 10-Ball victory that spurred Morra as he handily double dipped Kiamco 5-2, 5-2 to take the 8-Ball division title.

With division play over and points list in hand, it was announced that Kiamco took the $2,000 first place Men's / Mixed All Around bonus, Morra took the $1,000 second place bonus and the initial lion that roared early in the week, Pagulayan, squeaked past the rest of the field to take the $500 third place bonus.