Rich Orem Works for Reno Open Win

Winning your first major event is hard work for most pool players, but for Rich Orem this week it was harder work than most players go through. Orem not only had to deal with a field of 162 other players, but also had to deal with helping keep all of the tables in perfect playing order.

Orem, who recently moved from Alaska to Clearwater Florida, has been friends with Mark Griffin and Ric Jones from Diamond Billiards since he was sixteen years old. Orem ran into Mark and Ric in Chesapeake this year when Orem played in his first ever US Open 9-Ball Championship, and found out that Ric would be handling the tables for this year's Reno Open. Orem offered his assistance if Ric needed someone. "I basically begged them to let me come out and help" said Orem. But this wasn't just a case of a player looking for a free ride into a tournament. "I am interested in helping anyone in the industry" commented Orem, "I just want to help any way I can."

So in addition to playing matches til the wee hours of the morning, Orem was up each morning at 6am to help clean the balls and make sure all of the table were playing in top condition. The extra work didn't seem to both Orem, as he won his first four matches including a 9-4 win over Ike Runnels. Orem finally took the trip to the one loss side when he came up just short against Justin Bergman. "I snapped the 9-ball in when I was down 9-7, but I scratched. I got back to the table and played a great 2 rail kick with shape on the 7-ball in that game, but I lost my cue ball and froze it to the 9", commented Orem on the match. A safety attempt was not good enough and Bergman pocketed the 9-ball to send Orem packing to the one loss side.

Orem was not discouraged by the loss though. Orem commented, "I prayed every night. Not to win matches though. I prayed that I would be able to play to the best of my ability. And I did". He scored wins over Bobby Hunter and Keith Bennett on the one loss side and then ran into Jose Parica. Parica turned out to not be much of an obstacle to Orem. "I was actually up 8-0 when I think I got a little overwhelmed by the situation. Here I was playing one of the forefathers of the Filipino movement, and I was leading 8-0." said Orem. Orem would go on to win that match 9-3 and then move on to defeat Bill Ganne and exact his revenge over Bergman with a 9-6 win on Saturday.

Orem knew that Sunday would be the toughest day yet for him, "Coming into Sunday, I knew I was a longshot. I would have to beat three of the best players in the country, but I knew I could win if I could just play good and maybe get a couple rolls." Orem didn't need many rolls on Sunday, but he got them when it counted. A 9-ball break at hill-hill against Cliff Joyner was then followed by a combo attempt on the 9-ball at hill-hill against Tony Chohan that went one rail and found the pocket earning Orem a match against former US Open Champion Gabe Owen in the finals.

"I had nothing to lose against Gabe" said Orem. With 2nd place guaranteed, Orem had already assured himself of the biggest payday of this career. "The most I had ever won before this was $5000 at the Alaska State Championship when I was eighteen" said Orem. The final match with Gabe Owen was true double elimination, but Orem came through with a 9-7 win followed by a 9-5 win for the first major title of his career. "I had always dreamed of being a pro player when I was young. Not a hustler or a gambler, but a pro player. I wanted to win at least one major title, and I have done that now" said Orem.

With $12,500 in prize money burning a hole in his pocket and his first major title under his belt, what was Orem doing after the tournament? He was doing the only thing that someone could do in his situation, he was helping Ric Jones tear down the tables so that they could be taken to the next event.