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Zaveri and Villa split top prizes on Predator Tri-State stop at Shooter’s Family Billiards

Jaydev Zaveri and Brook Villa

At least this time out, Jaydev Zaveri was the official winner. Having worked his way into the finals of three Predator Tri-State Tour stops at the same location this year (Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ), Zaveri and his first two opponents – Jan Mierzwa in February and Joe Valania in May, both of whom were in the hot seat at the time – negotiated a financial agreement and opted out of playing a final match. This past weekend (Saturday, August 27), Zaveri negotiated from the hot seat with tour newcomer, Brook Villa and while splitting the top two prizes with him, he did become the official winner of the $500-added Predator Tri-State stop that drew 29 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards.

Zaveri’s trip to the hot seat had something of a shaky start, surviving two straight double hill battles against Hunter Sullivan and Frank Krupa. A subsequent 7-3 victory over Pascal Dufresne set Zaveri up in a winners’ side semifinal against James Kearney. Aiden Wagner, in the meantime, destined for the hot seat match, got by Jowen Pichardo, Bob Toomey, and Ben Zimmerman to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Villa.

Zaveri got into what would prove to be his final match, battling for the hot seat, with a 7-2 victory over Kearney. Wagner joined him after sending Villa to the loss side 7-5. A 7-4 victory put Zaveri in the hot seat and, as it turned out, afforded him the opportunity to be declared the event’s official winner.

On the loss side, Villa picked up Ben Zimmerman who’d followed his loss to Wagner with wins over Tom Crane 7-5 and John Torp 6-3. Kearney drew Kevin Scalzitti, who’d lost his opening match to Pascal Dufresne and was working on a four-match, loss-side winning streak that had most recently eliminated Mike Strassberg 7-3, John Torp 6-3 and was about to end.

Kearney shut Scalzitti out and in the quarterfinals, faced Villa, who’d defeated Zimmerman 6-3. Villa was downing his opponents more efficiently as he got closer to the end, following his victory over Zimmerman with a 9-2 victory Kearney in the quarterfinals and then shutting out Wagner in the semifinals.

It set up an interesting title match, a contest between a tour veteran with a long list of cash finishes and victories on a number of area tours versus a newcomer, looking for his first recorded tour victory. The match, of course, didn’t happen. Zaveri and Villa agreed to the split and Zaveri went into the books as the event’s official winner. 

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Family Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues. 

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Mierzwa and Zaveri split top prizes on Predator Tri-State Tour stop in Wayne, NJ

Jaydev Zaveri and Jan Mierzwa

According to our records, all of the money that Jan Mierzwa has won playing pool over the past nine years has been won on the Tri-State and Predator Tri-State Tour. Two years ago, he came as close as he’d ever come to the winners’ circle, finishing as runner-up to Frank Seiczka at a Tri-State stop in Clifton, NJ. He has now chalked up what would appear to be his first regional tour win anywhere on the Predator Tri-State Tour this past weekend (Sat. Feb. 5). His would-have-been opponent in the finals, Jaydev Zaveri, was looking for his first win on the tour in two weeks shy of two years (Jan. 18, 2020). But when the time came, dawn on Sunday was closer ahead of them than sunset on Saturday was behind them and they agreed mutually to a split of the top two prizes. The $500-added event drew 37 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.

The two met first in a winners’ side quarterfinal. Mierzwa had started his day with a double hill win over Julian Tierney, after which he got by Dave Callaghan, Tae Chang and then, drew Zaveri in a winners’ side quarterfinal. He sent Zaveri off to the loss side 7-5 and advanced to meet an up-and-coming junior player, Aiden Wagner, in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Kerven Francois, in the meantime, squared off against Mac Jankov in the other one.

Mierzwa downed Wagner 7-4 and advanced to the hot seat match. Francois joined him after surviving a double hill battle against Jankov. In what would prove to be his last match of the night, Mierzwa claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Francois.

On the loss side, Jankov picked up Ty Classen, who’d recently eliminated KC Clayton 6-4 and Jay Chiu 6-2 to reach him. Wagner drew Zaveri, who, after his loss to Mierzwa, had defeated Mikhail Kim 7-4 and Nick Torraca 7-3.

A 7-4 win by Zaveri over Wagner and a shutout by Classen over Jankov sent Zaveri and Classen to the quarterfinals, where a double hill fight ensued. Zaveri prevailed to face his last obstacle to a rematch against Mierzwa; Francois in the semifinals.

The final match of the night came to within a game of double hill, but in the end, Zaveri earned his shot at Mierzwa, downing Francois 8-6 in those semifinals. The decision to opt out of the final match was made, the split was negotiated and the competitors, what was left of them, headed out into the chilly, Sunday morning air. As occupant of the hot seat at the time, Mierzwa was the official winner of the event.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Family Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling Billiards, Kamui, Quick Stick, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Joe Romer Trophies, Phil Capelle Publications and Pool and Billiards. The next stop on the Predator Tri-State Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 26-27, will be hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.

The Tri-State Tour becomes the Predator Tri-State Tour and starts a modest schedule of events

Aiden Wagner and Ray Lee

It’s been just over a year since the Tri-State Tour held an event; March 8, 2020, to be exact, when Russell Masciotti went undefeated to win his first regional tour event. Hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY, the event drew 38 entrants. An event was scheduled for the following weekend at Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ, but never happened. The Tri-State shut down, as did Tony Robles’ Predator Pro Am Tour. The former is back, the latter shut down permanently and Tony Robles moved to Florida. Just a little over 13 months later, the Tri-State has picked up Predator Cues as a title sponsor and begun a modest schedule of events, beginning with a $500-added event this past weekend (Saturday, April 17), hosted by Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ. 

Ray Lee, whose last recorded event victory (according to our records) was at a stop on the Mezz Tour back in 2015, went undefeated through a field of 41 entrants. He and Aiden Wagner battled twice for the title; hot seat and finals.

John Leyman, Cue Sports International’s current Director of Rules and Referees and long-time co-tour director on the old Tri-State Tour, has stepped up to the plate. . . uhh, table and was on-hand for what is now the Predator Tri-State Tour’s first event back from the involuntary vacation of the global pandemic.

“It feels all right,” he said on Tuesday of his and pool’s return to the tri-state New York City area. “It’s still a little touch and go. We don’t have a firm schedule yet, but (the stop at Shooter’s Billiards) is a start to get back into the swing of things.”

While the area’s two major tours came to a halt, activity in the area didn’t cease entirely, as a number of local players stepped in and mounted tours of their own; Mhet Vergara set up his MVP Tour, Mac Jankov established a Mac Attack Tour and Dave Fitzpatrick was at the helm of the Garden State Tour, which had enjoyed something of a sporadic existence before. When the Predator Tri-State made its decision to start the proverbial and literal balls rolling again, they found themselves in scheduling competition with some of those tours that had rushed in to fill the no-competitive-pool-in-NYC vacuum. And that is likely to continue into the foreseeable future, as the Predator Tri-State takes it time, building up to the way things used to be. 

“We’ve had this one event this month and we’ll have one next month, too,” explained Leyman, adding that a more robust schedule, closer to the way things used to be, depends a great deal on how the ongoing pandemic continues to impact everybody’s lives, including pool players anxious to get back and start playing again.

Normally, the Tri-State Tour would be winding up its mid-year to mid-year calendar about now, preparing for the annual Tri-State Invitational, which has always marked the tour’s transfer from one season to the next. That invitational event will not be happening until the summer of 2022 and it will be the culmination of a long season that began this past weekend. That season could, however, end up having the same number of events as the previous 12-month schedule, because as Leyman noted, for a while, things are going to proceed slowly. 

“We’re definitely not going to be running as many tournaments,” he said. “We’re probably going to be cutting down (on our former schedule of tournaments every week). It’s going to be more feasible to do two a month.”

“Honestly,” he added, “it’s all COVID-related. It has a lot to do with that. Once we’re past the COVID problems, returning to what we were doing will probably happen, but until then, things are going to be different for a while.” 

Leyman talked of doing bigger events every couple of weeks and eventually re-scheduling the Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial Tournament. He also noted that The Predator Tri-State Tour is “definitely going to do a few Open/Pro events,” which had not been as much of a priority, pre-pandemic. And that, he said finally, “is all there is to that.”

Lee and Wagner worked their way through this past weekend’s field, arriving at their respective winners’ side semifinal matches; Lee, facing Henry Cha and Wagner, squaring off against KC Clayton. Lee got into the hot seat with a 7-4 win over Cha, as Wagner was sending Clayton to the loss side 6-1. Lee claimed the hot seat 7-3 and warmed it up from its protracted absence, while waiting for Wagner’s return from the semifinals.

Cha and Clayton showed up on the loss side and immediately lost their second match. Cha picked up Jimmy Acosta, who’d defeated Narang Nishant 9-5 and CJ Chey 9-6 to reach him. Clayton drew Hunter Sullivan, who, a week ago, had come from the loss side to double dip Kevin Scalzitti in the Garden State Pool Tour’s Amateur 9-Ball State Championship, and in Wayne, NJ was looking to chalk up his third event victory in eight weeks. He’d recently defeated Jennifer Pass and Brandonne Alli, both 6-4, to face Clayton.

Acosta eliminated Cha 7-3. He was joined in the quarterfinals by Sullivan, who’d defeated Clayton 6-1. Sullivan’s hopes for a third straight regional win got brighter when he downed Acosta in those quarterfinals 9-5.

Wagner, though, stopped Sullivan’s run and any hopes he may have been entertaining about facing Lee in the finals, with a 6-1 victory in the semifinals. Lee and Wagner battle to double hill in the finals that followed. Lee prevailed to secure the first event title of the Predator Tri-State Tour’s new season.

TD John Leyman thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Billiards for their hospitality as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling Billiards, Kamui, Quick Stik, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Joe Romer Trophies, Phil Cappelle Publications and Pool and Billiards. The next stop on the Predator Tri-State Tour, scheduled for May 22-23, will be hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside, NY.