Raval crowned Tri-State Champion at 14th Annual Tri-State Tour Invitational

Paul Raval

The annual Tri-State Invitational Tournament, currently in its 14th year, is somewhat akin to thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, in which competitors who've been at each other over a period of months in a preceding year, battle it out over a series of contests that leads to the crowning of an overall champion.  In horse racing, it's the animal who wins all three of the Triple Crown races. In the world of Tri-State pool, it's the player who wins, first, an event in his own class (six of them, ranging from A to D), and then goes on to win the overall event.

Also like the Triple Crown, the Tri-State Invitational has its odds-on 'favorites' (normally, the A++ players) along with a list of 'long shots,' who fare well over the long, two-weekend haul of the tournament. This year, over the two weekends (July 9-10, 16), it was Paul Raval, emerging from his B+ class, who won both his class title, and the finals, against Mike Ettl (a C class, semi-longshot), while the odds-on favorite, Dan Cintron, in his A++ class, fell a single match short of those finals for the third year in a row.

The $4,000-added (in cash) invitational tournament, which also featured somewhere in the vicinity of $12,000 worth of sponsor gifts (including cues for winners in each class), was hosted by John and Minnie Trobiano and their staff at Castle Billiards, in East Rutherford, NJ. Overall, the event drew 92 entrants; 12 in the A++/A field, 32 each in both the B and B+ and C and C+ player categories and 16 D/D+ players.

Unlike the Triple Crown – three races, at about two minutes each – the Tri-State Invitational's format is somewhat complex and would take about as much time to explain fully as it took to play the matches themselves. Basically, on the event's opening weekend, four of the classes on the tour - B+, B, C+, C, - conduct individual tournaments (single elimination, with the possibility of a 'buy back' into the event, with an automatic return once a player has proceeded past the second round of play). On the second week, the A++/A class and the D+/D class hold a tournament, which creates, overall, six winners for a set of single elimination matches leading to the crowning of a champion.

To no one's surprise, on the second weekend, Dan Cintron advanced to the head of the A++/A class of players, in spite of being sent to the one-loss side in the opening round of play and having to buy back in to further competition.  He was prepared to leave, envisioning too long a road back, when some encouraging words from Scott Simonetti, convinced him to persevere. Cintron promptly won six in a row on the one-loss side to get back into the finals versus hot seat occupant, Geoffrey Bauer. For the second year in a row, Bauer fell a single match short of advancing to the invitational's finals.

Raval, in the meantime, was busy in his B+ class, working, as it happened, from the one-loss side to which he'd been sent in the third round of play. The hot seat match in this class was between Ed Culhane (who picked up an event award for both Most Improved Player, and B Class Player of the Year) and Keith Adamik (who'd sent Raval westbound). Adamik prevailed, and then fell in the rematch versus Raval 9-5. It was Ricardo Mejia who advanced to the finals with a win in the B class, coming back from a double hill victory by Dave Shlemperis in the hot seat match, to meet and defeat him, double hill, in the finals. Raval would defeat Mejias in the B+/B finals to advance and meet Cintron.

Paul Spaastra would go undefeated through the C+ class to face the C class winner, Mike Ettl, who would eventually make his way to the finals versus Raval. Ettl had advanced through five victories on the C Class, one-loss side to meet hot seat occupant Sandie Patarino (who would be awarded the tour's Top Female Player prize).  Ettl defeated Patarino 8-6, went on to defeat Spaastra 6-2 in the C+/C finals, and then, defeated the winner of the D+/D finals - Dave Fitzpatrick, double hill. Fitzpatrick had come back from a victory by John Flynn in the D+/D hot seat match, to meet and defeat him in the finals.  Ettl, now guaranteed a spot in the finals, awaited the winner of the Cintron/Raval matchup.

That  Cintron/Raval matchup hinged on a single shot.  Cintron, down by a single rack 6-5, with Raval on the hill, attempted a cross-side bank combination on the 9-ball, and to the surprise of everyone (him, more than anyone), watched the combination ball slip past the 9 and into the hole. The shot left Cintron with a difficult look at the 7-ball, which he missed. Raval stepped to the table and ran out to gain his position in the finals versus Ettl. In somewhat less dramatic fashion, Raval and Ettl played head to head until the match was nearing its end, at which point Raval pulled out in front, to win, ahead by two at 8-6, and become 2011 Tri-State Invitational Champion.

Other top players of the year, who received awards in their respective classes were Cintron winning the A+/A class for the third year in a row, Gary Murgia, B+ player, George Osipovitch, C+ player, Tony Ignomirello, C player, and Andrew Cleary D+/D player. A Sportsman of the Year prize was awarded to Mike Harrington.

Tour representatives acknowledged a "debt of gratitude" to their sponsors, whose dedication, effort and generosity "are what made the event so special and such a great success. Without their continued support of the sport and players, the event could not happen. " In addition to Castle Billiards owners, John and Minnie Trobiano, who donated the room and all of the table time, and their staff (Joe, Jimmy, Brian, David, and the wait staff), tour representatives thanked sponsors Ozone Billiards, Fury Cues, Kamui Tips, Ron Tarr Custom Cues, Sterling Gaming, Pool Tees.com, Spot Clothing, The London Bridge, Capelle's Pool Books, Shot Pad, Billiards Digest, Pool & Billiards, Inside Pool, Professor-Q-Ball's News, Blue Book Publications, Amsterdam Billiards, NYCGrind and Romer's Trophies, all of whom went out of their way to provide the event with some great equipment and prizes.

Overall winnners
1st – Paul Raval $250
2nd Mike Ettl $100

A/B winner
Paul Raval $150

C/D winner
Mike Ettl $150
Class Finals
B+/B – Paul Raval $100
C+/C – Mike Ettl $100

Individual Class Winners

1st Danny Cintron $200
2nd Geoffrey Bauer $150
3rd Stewart Warnock $100

1st Paul Raval $200
2nd Keith Adamik $150
3rd Ed Culhane $100

B Class
1st Ricardo Mejia $200
2nd Dave Shlemperis $150
Richard Ng $100

C+ Class
1st Paul Spaastra $200
2nd Chuck Giallorenzo $150
3rd David Jusis $100

C Class
1st Mike Ettl $200
2nd Sandie Patarino $150
3rd Scott Abramowitz $100

D+/D Class
1st Dave Fitzpatrick $200
2nd John Flynn $150
Mike Strassberg