Rocket Rodney wins The Social Pool Network's benefit tournament
Skip Maloney - AzB Staff
May 26, 2020
They’ve been popping up on the landscape like weeds in a garden; pool competitions utilizing some variation of pool’s ‘ghost’ games in which individual players pit their skills against an imaginary opponent that wins every game that they lose. This past weekend (May 22-24), The Social Pool Network (TSPN) joined the party and hosted six top-notch pool players, competing against each other in a modified single-elimination tournament of what’s known as Rocket Runout, one of a series of games invented by “Rocket” Rodney Morris and a friend, Ed Glode.
 
“We created these games about 12 years ago and hammered out these rules,” said Morris, “right before (Ed) became mayor of Saratoga, Wyoming.”
 
According to Tanya Mapes-Stremler, TSPN’s Chief Operating Officer, it was Morris, in fact, in his role as TSPN’s Vice President of player relations, who “took the lead’ on the initiative that led to this weekend of tournaments.
 
“We all worked together,” she said, “and did this as one team, but it was Rodney who came up with this idea.”
 
And then, “Rocket” called five of his pool buddies – Johnny Archer, Tony Crosby, Tony Robles, Raj Hundal and Oscar Dominguez – and invited them to take part in a benefit tournament that would aid First Responders and Food Banks in the five states, represented by the six players; Georgia, Florida, New York (2), California and Hawaii. All six played on Friday, May 22. The four top scorers on Friday played on Saturday, and on Sunday, two of those four played in the finals of the event. Though Oscar Dominguez ended up scoring the two highest scores of all 12 matches, it was the “Rocket” himself, who downed Dominguez on Sunday to claim the first TSPN Cares benefit tournament title.
 
It should be noted that while the tournament did end on Sunday, and we’ve just provided you with the ultimate ‘spoiler’ alert, readers can still view the matches themselves on the TSPNCares page on Facebook. As of Monday night, donations were continuing to be accepted on the tspntournaments.com Web site, as well as entries for a number of raffles for pool-related, donated items. The matches themselves, streamed live and commentated by the team of Neight Mindham (from CueItUp podcasts) and Mike Demarco (with ShiptheCash stream) offer some entertaining play by the six professionals, playing a unique game.
 
Rocket Runout is one of a series of pool games, designated by Morris as the Saratoga series of games, which are a hybrid of 8-ball and 9-ball. In each of these Saratoga games, including the 9-ball variant played at the TSPN Cares benefit, the rack is divided up between the lowest stripes and the lowest solids and the 8-ball. In the TSPN Cares benefit that meant the balls numbered 1-4, 10-13 and the 8-ball were organized in a 9-ball rack. Played as a solo game, each player plays a rack in a race to a designated number; in the TSPN case, it was 20 racks. The game(s) could be played in a two-player matchup, as well. The object of the game is much the same as 8-ball; break the balls, select either stripes or solids, sink ‘your’ four balls (in rotation, low to high) and the 8-ball. Each pocketed ball is worth a single point and the 8-ball is worth 6, making the total points possible per rack, 10. There are ‘less point’ options available and rule specifics that would make this report longer than it really needs to be, like the ‘Salvage’ rule that states that if you’ve sunk a certain number of your designated solid or stripe balls and miss one, you may take ball-in-hand and try to run the other ones, which, if successful, will score you five points.
 
Thus, with the specific race-to-20 racks, 10-points-available per rack rule firmly in mind, we have a perspective on the scores that were recorded, beginning with Friday’s six matches. As noted earlier, Dominguez, who played last among the six, recorded the day’s highest (and event’s second highest) score point total of 152. Morris was second with 138 and Hundal checked in with 127. Though absolutely convinced that he wasn’t going to be advancing to day two of this event, The Scorpion (Archer) recorded 120 to make the cut.
 
“I don’t think I’ll be playing tomorrow,” he said, right after completing his 20 racks. “120 probably ain’t going to make it.”
 
But it did. As low men on the proverbial totem pole on Day One, the two Tonys (Crosby, 118 and Robles, 111) didn’t make the cut.
 
On Day Two, Dominguez showed up with his ‘A’ game again and recorded the event’s highest score of 166. For the second time, Morris came in second, this time with 122. Archer and Hundal, who chalked up 114 and 96, respectively, didn’t make it to Day Three.
?In the finals of the event on Sunday, it was Morris who showed up with his ‘A’ game, chalking up the third-highest point total of the 12 (131) and defeating Dominguez’ effort by 12 points at 119.
 
In concept, the Saratoga series of pool games, especially the 9-ball variant, would appear to be easier than either of their hybrid forebearers; 8-ball or 9-ball. But like a lot of things, appearances can be deceiving.
 
“The (9-ball Saratoga) game seems easy, like all you have to do is run five balls,” said TSPN’s Mapes -Stremler, “but it’s very deceptive.”
 
“You not only have five balls, but you have to shoot them in rotation,” she added, “so with calling shots and the other balls in the way, this is a challenging game.”
 
“It improves everything about your game,” said Morris. “There’s a lot of strategy and a lot of thinking going on.
 
“In games, like 8-ball and 9-ball,” he added, “normally, it’s like connecting the dots. People like the creativity that comes into play with this game.”
As with its streaming ‘ghost’ game predecessors – The Ashton Twins, Roy’s Basement, and the WPBA (among others) – TSPN will likely be doing this again.
 
This one, it should be noted, is still happening, with the videos available on the TSPN Cares Facebook page and donations and raffle purchases still being accepted at http://www.tspntournaments.com. The raffle and donations are being extended for an indeterminate amount of time, based on site traffic. According to preliminary reports on the ‘views’ associated with the stream, around 12K people watched over the three days of the event. Sunday’s finals recorded views of 6.2K.
 
Donated money, by the way, will be divided up among all six players and donated to their respective states in the following way:
 
1st Rodney 28% for Hawaii
2nd Oscar 22% for CA
3rd 20% for Johnny, GA
4th 15% for Raj Hundal, NY
5th 10% for Tony Crosby, FL
6th 5% for Tony Robles, NY