Santos Sambajon Goes Undefeated Over Oscar Dominguez in the Finals to Win the 2nd Annual Chet Itow Memorial Tournament

Santos Sambajon, Chris Swart, and Oscar Dominguez

Mountain View, CA (WCPP) January 18, 2011 – The 2nd Annual Chet Itow Memorial Tournament was held at California Billiard Club in Mountain View this past weekend, drawing together some of the finest players on the west coast. California Billiard Club was the result of Chet Itow's vision of providing the west coast with a great poolroom geared towards pool players, spectators, and recreational players alike. After a long and courageous battle with cancer, Chet passed away on August 30, 2009. Although Chet is no longer with us, his legacy and vision has been carried on by CBC's new owner, Chris Swart.

As opposed to last year's setbacks for pool with such things as the disappointing cancellation of the CPPT Northern California regional finals and the lack of payout monies for the USPPA Reno Pro-Am, Chris's commitment to pool on the west coast has shown through. Chris and California Billiard Club have been working with Bob Bealieau and his WorldPPA tournament handicapping system to offer something to the lower echelon players, and now with the Chet Itow Memorial as an open he has something substantial to offer the players higher up on the totem pole.  Although last year's Chet Itow Memorial Tournament drew more players (153) being a handicapped format, this year's tournament drew a 93 player field of many of the top players from all over California to the double elimination, race to 8 on both sides format. Simon Pickering and Stan Tourangeau made the trip from Canada, as well as Bobby Emmons from Arizona. All players received a free t-shirt with their entry, and Mark Griffin donated a seat to the upcoming U.S. Bar Table Championships this February in Reno to the winner of the tournament. In addition to the format change, the pool action was  live streamed on All these factors combined created a level of energy and excitement as the weekend began felt by both players and spectators alike. These changes also set the stage for people to watch some really great pool.

In fact the action was so good that several locals who were watching the live stream at home drove themselves to the hall to see it for real. The growing occupancy in the house even caused the owner Chris Swart to decide to move the camera for the live streaming table to another location to ease congestion and improve viewability to the delight of the paying customers at his establishment. After a peak of 111 viewers, about 80 viewers hung on until the sweet bitter end, around 3:30AM PST.

Railbirds packed the house and were not disappointed as we saw a lot of great play on some of the toughest equipment around. The play here this weekend was like a microcosm of what you might expect in world class play. The 4″ pocketed Gold Crown III tables, setup by the top table mechanic and player Ernesto Dominguez, do not easily lend toward run-outs, so we saw a lot of tight play, safety battles, as well as tough shotmaking and position play throughout the matches. Similarly, we would find three Filipinos in the final six, Deo Alpajora meeting up with Santos Sambajon on the winners side prior to the hot seat match, with Santos emerging on top, and Gerardo Jamito edging out Amar Kang to play Santos for the hot seat.

Hot Seat Match – Santos Sambajon vs. Gerardo Jamito
Santos would come out of the gate to win the first game, but Gerardo would win the next two to take the lead 2-1. Through the next several games, games were traded back and forth, Santos would win one, then Gerardo. Gerardo could not pull away with the lead as every time he won a game, Santos would tie it up. This continued until Gerardo got ahead 5-4, Santos won the next three games to get to the hill first at 7-5. It look liked Santos would defeat Gerardo at 7-5, but after missing the 5 due to getting jacked up over the 8, Santos handed over a game to Jamito to bring the score to 7-6. What happened next was remarkable, Gerardo pushes out when the 2-9 combo lay available (1:23:45). After much study Santos decides to give the shot back to Gerardo. Gerardo studies the shot for a bit, and then executes a perfectly hit yet highly improbable bank the 1 ball into a 2-9 combo to tie the game 7-7. At hill-hill Gerardo pockets two balls off the break but gets hooked on the 1. Gerardo pushes, and Santos misses his safe. The last game, although an exciting battle, had an ugly end with a missed 8 by Gerardo that was partially obstructed by the 9 to allow Santos to claim the hot seat.

Loser's Side Semi-Final – Oscar Dominguez vs. Amar Kang
A notable match was the loser's side semi-final, Amar was leading Oscar 6-3, after previously sending Oscar to the loser's side. Oscar wins the next two games to bring it to 6-5. Amar takes the next game to get to the hill first. Trailing 7-5, Oscar implemented a very creative use of the bridge (28:10) when jacked up over the 9. He placed the bridge across both rails of the table and then bridged off of the shaft of the bridge itself, to get a higher elevation. Many players, including both commentators, Doug Wu & Alex Bradley, and Assistant Tournament Director Bob Bealieau, had never seen the use of a bridge like this before. Well that little trick paid off as Oscar was able to win the three games in a row he needed to send Amar packing with 4th place and a $550 payout and guarantee 3rd place for himself.

Loser's Side Final – Oscar Dominguez vs. Gerardo Jamito
Towards the beginning of this match we could see the players fatigue show through as they exchanged turns at winning. At 3-3 Gerardo breaks the pattern and takes momentum with two wins in a row to take the lead 5-3. After Oscar safes Gerardo after missing an open 1 ball at 5-4, Gerardo accidentally nudges the 9 (1:04:20) nearly into the path of the cue ball. About a minute or so of controversy ensued as Oscar and Gerardo discussed the shot, Oscar accepts the new position and runs out to a 6-9 combo and hangs the 9 ball but also manages to safe the cue ball. Gerardo manages to kick-carom-rail-1st the nine (1:11:00) to make the the score 6-4. Gerardo breaks the 3 into the corner and safes Oscar on the 7. Oscar fouls, and Gerardo takes ball in hand and begins to run out only to miss a long 5 to the corner. Both players struggled for a bit with the balls with a couple of missed shots and safeties, leading up to Oscar running out to the 9, missing a semi-tough but makeable cut to give Gerardo a chance. Jamito misses his bank and leaves Oscar a long but straight-in shot on the 9 to let Oscar inch closer trailing 6-5. Gerardo wins the next game to get to the hill first 7-5. Oscar with his brilliant safety play and adept ball pocketing / position play wins the next three games to advance on to play Santos in the finals, sending Gerardo home with 3rd place and $850 cash.

Finals Match – Oscar Dominguez vs. Santos Sambajon
At the onset of the finals match, some wondered if fatigue was becoming a factor; it was well past midnight going into the finals match. Coming from the loser's side, Oscar would have to defeat Santos two sets, and we saw him falter a bit the match prior. Oscar did not disappoint us as he got some wings after being rejuvenated with a red bull to take the first three games. Oscar continued to lead the match up until 6-2 and seemingly convinced the audience that he would force a second match. Santos inched closer to 6-3 after first missing a makeable 9 and then having Oscar accidentally leave a 9 hung in the corner on a failed safety attempt. A dry break allowed Oscar to run out the next rack to get to the hill. Santos then managed to win the next 5 consecutive games to overcome a serious deficit to win the tournament.

Thanks to Kenny Koo, Jeff Gregory, John Henderson, Daniel Busch, Louanne LaFlamme, Bernie Garma, and especially Alex Bradley for their commentary, Ken Mendoza of Jaide Billiard Service for on-site cue repairs , Chris, Ben & the staff at CBC, and Bob Bealieau of the WorldPPA for his fine photography work.  Special thanks to Mark Griffin for donating a seat to the upcoming 18th Annual U.S. Bar Table Nationals this February 21-27.