Orcollo, Kiamco and a little Poteet highlight action at the Iron City Open in Birmingham, AL

Welcome to the ‘Dennis and Warren Show,’ starring fellow countrymen Dennis Orcollo and Warren Kiamco. We’re coming to you, written, following the $10,000-added Iron City Open, at Iron City Billiards in Birmingham, AL on the weekend of March 31-April 4. Tonight’s special guests include Devin Poteet and representing the ladies, Tam Trinh.

There were four events at this Iron City Open; a $4,000-added One Pocket event that drew 18 entrants, a $1,000-added Ladies 9-Ball that drew 37, a single-elimination, no-money-added 10-ball with 23 entrants and the main event, the $5,000-added 9-ball event that drew 141. In the three events that did not involve female competitors, there were four, final-two matches – the hot seat and finals of the One Pocket and 9-Ball – and, because it was single elimination and involved two semifinals and no hot seat match, there was one final match in the 10-Ball event. In those last five matches in those three events, Orcollo and Kiamco were opponents in three of them; the hot seat and finals of the One Pocket and the final match of the 10-Ball. The other two matches featured Orcollo and Devin Poteet in the hot seat and finals of the 9-Ball. Orcollo won them all, with Kiamco as runner-up in two of them and Poteet as runner-up in the third.

Ladies first, of course, although it actually followed the One Pocket event, which got things rolling on Wednesday, March 31. Tam Trinh came back from a hill-hill hot-seat loss to Angela Gann and defeated Julie Cone in the semifinals and then Gann in the finals 11-9.

The ‘Dennis and Warren’ show had debuted the day before, when the two of them worked their way through the 18-entrant One Pocket field that included quite a few One Pocket luminaries, including, but by no means limited to Scott Frost, Charlie Bryant, Devin Poteet (about whom we will speak quite a bit, later), Billy Thorpe, John Morra and Tony Chohan. In their first of three matches in two different games, Dennis and Warren battled for the One Pocket hot seat. It went double hill and eventually sent Orcollo to the semifinals. Orcollo and Frost met in those semifinals, and it, too, came down to the final ball. Scott missed a two-railer that caught the edge on his pocket and rolled toward Orcollo’s one pocket. Orcollo finished it and got a second chance against Kiamco, waiting for him in the hot seat. An extended race-to-7 in the finals went Orcollo’s way (7-4), as he chalked up his first of the three titles.

The 9-ball event (on 7 ft. bar tables) and the single elimination 10-Ball event (on 9 ft. tables) started more or less at the same time on Friday, though the 10-ball finished much sooner. A seven-match, play-in round in the 10-ball tournament that brought the 23-entrant field down to 16, eliminated JT King, Shane McMinn (defeated by Kiamco, 9-7), George Rothrock, Dustin Cook, Josh Roberts, and Jimmy Springfield. It also eliminated Robb Saez, who battled to double hill versus Devin Poteet before giving way (told you we’d be talking about him later).

Kiamco’s path to the semifinals wasn’t easy. After defeating McMinn, Billy Thorpe challenged him, double hill. He persevered and went on to defeat Mike Delawder 9-7 to arrive at his semifinal match versus Omar Alshaheen. Orcollo, who didn’t play in the preliminary round, got by two opponents 9-7, Nick DeLeon and Devin Poteet, who would surely bring the memory of the defeat to the 9-ball challenges ahead of him. Orcollo’s first victory of the weekend over Poteet, set him up for a semifinal match against John Morra. 

From Sweet 16, it had come down to the Final Four, fast. Kiamco eliminated Alshaheen 9-5. Orcollo joined him in the championship final, after defeating Morra 9-7. In their second of three meetings, they fought to double hill. Orcollo prevailed again to claim his second title.

Enter Devin Poteet, with a surprising run in the bar table 9-ball 

Like any good ‘show,’ the final dramatic act depends a great deal on the action and back story of what has preceded it. By the time the field of 141 entrants had whittled down to 16, through a 13-match preliminary round and five more, the finalists from the two previous events – Orcollo and Kiamco – were still in play. The tension of a third finals match between the two was very much in play.

For Dennis, the possibility of winning all three of the events was very much in play, as well. For Devin Poteet, the Cinderella character in this ‘show,’ who, over the years, seemed to have developed an arguably bad habit of finishing as runner-up, the tension must have been . . . well, in tense. In 2015, he’d finished as runner-up in that year’s Side Pocket 9-Ball Open. Two years later, his best recorded earnings year, he finished second in both the 2nd Annual Topwater Memorial and the 44th Texas Open, where he was bested in the finals by John Morra (who fell a loss-to-Jeffrey De Luna short of meeting Poteet in this event). Poteet had not won a (recorded) major event since he went undefeated on Shannon Daulton’s Great Southern Billiard Tour in 2014. Yet here he was, having just sent Jeffrey De Luna to the loss side 9-7 in a winners’ side quarterfinal match facing Omar Al Shaheen.

Poteet downed Al Shaheen 9-5, advancing out of the frying pan, into a winners’ side semifinal fire of a match against Warren Kiamco. As for Orcollo, he’d not exactly been breezing through his personal field of five opponents, but coming into his winners’ side semifinal against Manny Chau, no one had chalked up more than five against him; that had happened twice, including his winners’ side quarterfinal victory over Robb Saez.

Chau put up a fight against Orcollo, battling him to double hill before giving way and moving to the loss side. Poteet moved into the hot seat match with a 9-5 victory over Kiamco, which deflated a lot of the excitement that had been building over a potential Orcollo/Kiamco match in the finals; not completely, since the door was still open for Kiamco to come back from the loss side. Orcollo brushed Poteet aside in the hot seat match, defeating him 9-2 and waiting to complete his third championship run of the weekend.

On the loss side, any hopes of that anticipated Orcollo/Kiamco matchup in the finals dissipated at the conclusion of Kiamco’s first loss-side match against Jeffrey De Luna, who battled him to double hill before advancing to the quarterfinals. Chau, in the meantime, fell 7-4 to Jonathan “Hennessee from Tennessee” Pinegar, who was in the midst of a 10-match, loss-side run that had included victories over James Aranas, Omar Alshaheen, and Billy Thorpe. Two double hill matches followed, ramping up the excitement. Pinegar chalked up loss-side win #9, sending De Luna home (so to speak), and then had his loss-side run stopped by Poteet in the semifinals.

Poteet took what is generally considered to be a pivotal, significant first step by winning the opening rack of the extended race-to-13 finals. Orcollo tied it up for the first of only three times that it was tied throughout the match. Orcollo began what initially ‘felt’ like the deciding run that would earn him his third title. As meager as it was (three racks), given his opponent, there was a sense emanating from the billiardnet.tv booth and the chat screen, that it was just the beginning of the end. 

Not so, nor was Orcollo’s next run, another three, which followed a rack for Poteet that had it made it 5-3. At 8-3, Poteet chalked up two, and after giving one more up to Orcollo, went on what would become the longest run by either of them; four racks at the end of which, the match was tied at 9-9. 

They are both playing at the top of their respective games. There’s no complacency with Orcollo, who’s doing his traditional solo “show,’ demonstrating to all the world that he knows how to jump balls with authority, a skill that will show up later as the match progresses. Poteet, for his part, is not acting as though he hasn’t won a major event in seven years. He is demonstrating prodigious cue ball skills and dropping target balls with self-confident authority.

Now, a race to 4, Orcollo chalks up two in a row that prompts that ‘here it comes, the end’ feeling again. But Poteet wins rack #21 to draw within one at 11-10. At this point, it’s Monday morning, dawn is approaching and people in the stream booth are literally falling asleep. Those awake note that even at the early hour, hundreds are watching the stream.

Orcollo wins rack #22, reaching the hill first at 12-10. Rack #23 slows the whole process down as an extended, table-length safety battle ensues. It’s Poteet who breaks the logjam and Orcollo concedes the rack as Poteet is lining up the 8-ball. And it’s 12-11.

Poteet breaks, sinks two and doesn’t take very long to look at a well-spread-out table, just itching for a run. In what had to have been the single most important rack in his entire career wielding a pool cue, he ran the table, popping target balls into holes with a bit of a ‘punch.’ He tied things up for the last time. Hill-hill.

Orcollo broke the final rack, dropping the 1-ball, but looking at a lot of room between the cue ball and the two-ball and the 5-ball right between them. As he’d done throughout the tournament, he calmly put his jump cue together as he surveyed the shot ahead of him. The problem was not necessarily the shot itself. It was a long one; cue at one end, near the second diamond on the right-hand rail, the interfering 5-ball, a diamond away from that, center table and the 2-ball, four diamonds away, about six inches off the left rail, aimed at the lower left-hand corner pocket. The 3-ball, though, was behind and to the left of the cue ball, about three inches off the short rail and midway between the middle and left diamond. 

With draw, Orcollo jumped the 5-ball, hit the 2-ball, which went authoritatively into its designated corner pocket, while the cue ball traveled backwards for perfect position on the 3-ball. This time, the feeling that it was all over proved justified. Orcollo cleared the table from there to ‘run the tables’ at the event, chalking up his third victory.

Tour director Daryl Kiplinger thanked Michael Catanese and his Iron City Billiards staff for their hospitality during the event, as well as sponsors Bob@RG Billiards (Birmingham’s Table/Cue Repair, Cue Accessories Dealer) and Brutal Game Gear (Heather and Charlie Bryant).

The event was streamed throughout the weekend by TV Mike’s Billiardnet.tv. TV Mike set something of a precedent at this event, by simultaneously recording at three tables, allowing interested viewers the opportunity to see three streamed matches at once, or select one of three upon which to focus. These matches, including all quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, are available on the Billiardnet.tv Web site, as well as the site’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/billiardnet