Playing the Ghost: Two Screens, Two Tables, Two Women Miles Apart

Pia Filler

It’s hard to know whether there’s a market for watching two pool players compete against each other by separately playing the ghost, on separated-by-potentially-thousands-of-miles pool tables. On Sunday, April 19, April Larson in Minnesota and Pia Filler in Virginia did just that and according to Roy’s Basement founder, chief cook and bottle washer, Ariel Roy Francisco, who organized the matchup and ran the live stream that broadcast it far and wide, viewership peaked at about 1,100 and maintained an average of about 900 viewers over the eight hours of the broadcast.

For some, it was compelling, particularly for those who, via communication in the broadcast’s chat room, were able to bet each other on the outcome. For others, it was compelling because it featured two of the sport’s up and coming women stars; Larson and Filler, the former being considerably better known than the latter, although that may change soon. For some, it was riveting TV, while for others, it was worse than watching paint dry.
Results, as they say, may vary.
What is not in dispute was the outcome. Pia Filler got off to an impressive start in her race to win 50 games against the 9-ball ghost. Though she would eventually see the ghost surpass her on a number of occasions, it was never by much and she finished having allowed the ghost to win just one more game than her (51). April Larson, who by her own admission, hadn’t been involved in a ‘pressure’ pool match since she finished in the tie for 17th at the Ashton Twins Classic in Canada this past January, started slowly, allowing the ghost to win five, and eventually, gave up a total of 74. Donations to Roy’s Basement during the live stream totaled just over $1,800, which was split three ways, between the Basement and the two players.
 “I would have thought that there’d have been more viewers,” said Francisco. “It’s really hard to get viewers involved with women’s pool.”
“I was disappointed that I didn’t get more feedback from some of the veteran female pool players,” he added, noting that he’d sent some of them the poster promoting the event. “I was surprised that I didn’t hear back from any of them.”
As for the two competitors, they both claimed to have learned something from the experience. For Pia Filler, it was about her mental game and awareness of “mistakes made and good things accomplished.”
“Any match that takes that long, 8 hours under pressure,” she said, “can wear on your mind, but if you want to be a pro, you have to be a fighter, a positive thinker. You can’t let bad things come into your mind.”
For April, it was a match suited to her nickname – The Grinder. She learned, she said, a lot about herself.
“I learned that once I settle in, I’m good,” she said, “and that small things can have a rippling effect on you.”
In her case, she explained, one of the “small things” was her break, which had been working fine for her as she was practicing in preparation for the event, but not so much when the event began at around 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
“I couldn’t figure out what was wrong,” she said, as the ghost began piling up victories; five of them before April finally chalked up a rack. Part of the ripple effect from less-than-stellar breaks was about April herself. It’s one of the things she said she’d work to change if this kind of opportunity presented itself again.
“I would not let myself get so nervous,” she said. “It had been about four months since I felt that kind of (game) pressure and I had no idea how to handle it.”
“I needed to calm down,” she added, “and I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder and think about how to do that. I needed to figure it out right then.”
She did calm down, eventually, and combined with a tip she got during a break about the benefits of pattern racking (not expressly forbidden in the stated rules of the event), she started to run racks, eventually running as many as eight in a row. By the time she and Pia were into the 20s of the 50 they needed, they were neck and neck in their personal score, while April lagged considerably behind in the number of racks chalked up to their respective ghosts.
Both are in something of a holding pattern with their careers at the moment, pretty much like everybody else, waiting to see when and where the next tournament might be organized. They spoke before and after the event and are on the same sort of wavelength when it comes to competing and mutual good feelings for each other. They both expressed gratitude for their respective sponsors; April, thanking J. Pechauer Custom Cues, IBA Pool Leagues, TNT Billiards, Kamui, Jam Up Apparel, Nails by Sonny and Love our Roof, while Pia thanked Predator Cues, Gabriel’s Billiards, Andy Cloth and HOW tips (all of whom can be seen in her photo).
Pia, for one, is looking ahead to June, when the Euro Tour is scheduled to hold an event and slightly further ahead to late September/early October when the Predator World 10-Ball Championships for women are scheduled to be held. No word, as yet, on whether they will actually be held.
“I hope it’s going to happen,” she said, “but it’s kind of up to the whole world, so we just live day to day and hope for the best.”
She noted, as well, that her husband, Joshua, who, along with Ariel Roy Francisco, commented on the dual ghost matches, is waiting to see how his tournament schedule will play out. They expect to be in Roy’s Basement literally and figuratively until about the end of May.
Francisco, in the meantime, continues to put Joshua at the table in the basement, playing about seven different ghost games, as he ponders plans for other kinds of ghost matchups.
“I’m working with my tech crew toward a series of single-elimination, multi-ghost 12-ball events,” he said, noting that time zone differentials will likely have a way of prioritizing US players for these events. “It’ll be open to 16 players only (random draw, no seeding), playing until someone wins. We’ll ask for an entry fee and then add something to the pot.”
Stay tuned to Roy’s Basement’s Facebook page for announcements of Josh Filler’s ongoing appearances over the next month or so, and any official announcements about the 16-player event, which could come as early as tonight (Tuesday) or tomorrow.