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Earl the Pearl tops Friday night battles in the Diamond Open 9-Ball Players Championship

Earl Strickland

Fishers still alive in the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championship. 

He’d played twice already. On Friday night at 9:30, Earl Strickland stepped to the tables of the Super Billiards Expo’s arena in search of his second win in the Diamond Open 9-Ball Professional Players Championship. On Thursday, after a bye, he’d lost his opening match, double hill, to Alan Rolon Rosada and at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, downed Tyler Henninger 9-6. Both matches were very lightly attended. Modest crowds, dotting the three-level risers to either side of the 16 tables, laid end to end, side by side.

Friday night, though, was different. This was weekend-is-here Earl the Pearl time. And he got himself an audience. While there were certainly people in the crowd of some 200 or so spectators who were itching to see a show; not a pool show necessarily, but an Earl show, as only he can bring it. Instead, they got the professional ‘Earl’s here to win’ show, full of rock-solid shooting that saw him take control of a 2-2 match and win six in a row before some of the audience had even settled in. People (though not many) started leaving, like baseball fans leaving a stadium when the score is 12-0 in the seventh inning, wanting to get ahead of the traffic jam. Those who remained were switching their attention between what was left of Earl’s match and what was going on at the tables on either side of him (Shannelle Lorraine and Ada Lio were playing south of him, while Jesus Atencio and Mason Koch were battling it out north of him). 

Gomez managed to chalk up three racks and the remaining crowd went wild. Very quietly and not for long.

Earl finished off Gomez, quickly, only giving up one more rack and moved to the lobby outside the arena where folks gathered around the hand-written brackets to see who was coming up against who in today’s (Saturday) matches. Earl was scheduled to play Bart Czapla at noon, in a match that will determine whether he advances to the 16-player, single elimination phase of the event. The first round of that phase will play out at 6 p.m.

Earl was among those looking to see what was coming up next, and he took the opportunity to play to the audience that had been relatively quiet during his win over Gomez. They were lined up two or three deep around him, cameras at the ready, as he gave them a genteel comedian to play with. Standing for one shot with a broad grin on his face, he said that the woman to his left was prettier than he was, riffing on this to talk about his sagging limbs and a “face that looked like a truck hit me and then backed up.” Manifestly not true, but it got a laugh. He embellished on that central joke for a while before moving on to chat with spectators who’d obviously been paying strict attention to his match as it played out; questions and comments about shot situations and potential solutions, back and forth.

Jayson Shaw, still on the winners’ side of the bracket, looking to advance to the final 16 today, as well (2:30 p.m. against Billy Thorpe), joined the throng gathered around him and it took about two seconds for them to launch into a discussion about the tables and how they ‘played’ in a given match.

“I hit this shot,” said Shaw at one point, “that went into the hole and bounced out. The cue ball jumped up onto the rail, travelled all the way down table, jumping over the side pocket and then went back on the table, giving me a straight shot at the 4-ball.”

Lives of the legends playing out in one of their homes away from home.

There’ll be 32 competitors in the Players Championship facing advancement to pool’s version of the Sweet 16 today. Among those 32, on the winners’ side of the bracket, will be Thorsten Hohmann, Warren Kiamco, Ralf Souquet, Fedor Gorst, Darren Appleton and Shane Wolford.  In addition to Strickland, other loss-side competitors looking to make the cut and who’ll have to play two rounds to do it (or not), will be Danny Olson, Lukas Fracasso-Verner, Joe Dupuis, Landon Hollingsworth, BJ Ussery, Jr. and Bucky Souvanthong. As of noon today, the potential for Strickland to face Rosado a second time remained alive, as Rosado stepped to the tables, looking for advancement beyond Eric Roberts.

The two Fishers continue to play for advancement to the final 16 of the WPBA Pro Players event 

Competition at the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championship will dominate the afternoon schedule at the pro player arena. All 16 women who step to the tables at 2:30 p.m. today, haven’t played a match since Thursday; half of them on Thursday afternoon and the other half on Thursday night.

On Friday afternoon, the Fishers, Allison and Kelly, squared off in a game of 8-ball that was not part of the official proceedings and did not involve cue sticks, felt cloth or actual pockets. Instead, they settled into another kind of table to play an 8-Ball Pool Board Game that’s on display and being pre-sold (prior to publication) to attendees at the SBE from a vendor booth surrounded by cue manufacturers. Kelly is acting as the game’s Brand Ambassador and has been at the booth where it’s being demonstrated a number of times, playing against, among others, Darren Appleton, who reportedly broke and ran the first game of it he played. 

While the game doesn’t employ any of pool’s tactile qualities with cues or aiming skills (there are basically no missed shots if you’ve lined up the cue and target properly), it does manage to offer a degree of strategy and tactics, very similar to the kinds of decision-making involved in the actual game of 8-ball. There are opportunities for bank shots (played out on strict horizontal/vertical target paths) safety play and you can scratch, for example, all of which plays out in ways unique to the board game.   

Though new to the game, Allison won the single game against Kelly. They could play a real game of 9-ball against each other before the end of the women’s tournament, but only, for starters, if both of them advance to the event’s final 16. Kelly, who’s only played a single match so far, defeating Jessica Barnes on Thursday night, was to play Liz Taylor at 2:30 today and if successful, would play the winner of an Ashley Burrows/Emily Duddy match in the opening round of the single-elimination phase at 8:30 p.m. Allison, who played two women from the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) on Thursday (Judie Wilson and Kathy Friend) will be facing Angela Janic at 2:30 and if successful, will also play at 8:30, against the winner of a Monica Webb/Kim Newsome match (check the SBE Web site for streaming options).

Other competitors, still on the winners’ side of the bracket, looking for a slot among the final 16 women, include Emilyn Callado, Brittany Bryant, Caroline Pao and LoreeJon Brown. On the loss-side of the bracket, at noon today, also looking for advancement to the final 16, will be,  among others, Janet Atwell, Jennifer Baretta, and both Kia Burwell and Judie Wilson, representing the JPNEWT. Matches at 6 p.m. on the loss-side of the bracket will determine the eight loss-side competitors among the Sweet 16.

Super Seniors get underway, as Amateur Ladies, Seniors continue, with Juniors in the wings 

The original Super Seniors tournament, with long lines hoping for a waiting-list entry, gathered early this morning, while the 996-entrant Open Amateur event looked to enter its Final 16 phase at 1 p.m. today. The four-brackets of the Amateur Ladies event is still ongoing, as is the (plain, so to speak) Seniors tournament. Two junior competitions (17U & 12U) are set to begin today, as well. 

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Danny Mastermaker collects first Super Billiards Expo title in debut of 6-Ball

The competition is starting to heat up at the 2022 Super Billiards Expo being held at the Greater Philadelphia Convention Center in Oaks, PA. The doors opened on Monday (April 18) with TAP League’s National Championships and by Tuesday, the SBE had crowned its first champion. Emerging from a field of 204 entrants, initially spread out over four single-elimination brackets, Danny Mastermaker grabbed that first title in the game format of 6-Ball, downing Fred Goodman in the finals 6-2, 6-2.

Though not by any means a new format, it made its debut here as an SBE event, playing out on Diamond ‘bar box’ tables. Utilizing the same rules as 9-Ball, with, as one might imagine, the 6-ball as the game’s ‘money’ ball, it has some advantages and disadvantages over the more popular standards; 8-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball. It is, also as one might imagine, a much quicker game. Here, at the SBE, it played out in races to six, best two out of three sets for advancement. For some, it was a familiar game, while for others, like Daniel Dagotdot, who was one of the four competitors emerging from the four brackets, it was a new experience. His thoughts on the game itself highlighted aspects of the game, which are something of a good news, bad news situation.

“It is so hard to make a ball on the break,” he noted of his first experience, “and if you break and don’t drop a ball, 90% of the time, you lose.”

It also creates a ‘do or die’ scenario, where if you step to the table after your opponent has broken, you better be prepared to finish the game from that point. An alternate break format softens the ‘do or die’ consequences somewhat, though Dagotdot made note of the same cautionary note about the nature of the game.

“Unless there’s a pack somewhere,” he said, “if you miss, you’re done, too.”

“I do like the game,” he added, “and you can’t ever really say you don’t get a chance.”

The game format appears to be attracting its share of ‘side action’ matchups at the SBE. Apparently, Dagotdot noted, players on the amateur end of the player spectrum like the odds better in a game that’s “fast-paced, with very little safety play and (not much) strategy.

“It might develop as a format with that action angle to it,” said Dagotdot. “I saw a lot of players doing that in the first two days.”

Loye Bolyard, tour director of the Maryland State Championships series of events, played 6-ball growing up, but at this stage, doesn’t see it showing up on his event calendar any time soon. Like Dagotdot, he noted the most obvious difference that it makes in game play.

“It’s all about the break, but there’s really no downside to it,” he said. “The good thing is that anybody can play.”

Open Amateur tournaments are underway, as are the two Pro events

The SBE’s Open Amateur event, with 962 registered entrants got underway on Wednesday, sporting 16 double-elimination brackets. The TAP League National Championships concluded, while its Rally in the Valley event began. On Thursday, the two Pro events got underway; the Diamond Open 9-Ball Professional Players Championship and the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championships. Today (Friday), as the Open Amateur Players championship entered its third day, the Seniors Amateur Players Championship and the Women’s Amateur Player Championships got underway. 

The 74-entrant Diamond Open 9-Ball Pro event finished two rounds of play on Thursday, with a list of the ‘usual suspects’ advancing. The only real (apparent) surprise in the early rounds, which included a lot of opening round byes, was Earl Strickland’s second round (after a bye), double-hill loss to Alan Rolon Rosado. Among those advancing to a third round today (Friday) were Darren Appleton, Mika Immonen (downing junior competitor Landon Hollingsworth), Thorsten Hohmann, Warren Kiamco, Ralf Souquet, BJ Ussery, Fedor Gorst, Jayson Shaw, Billy Thorpe, John Morra and Kristina Tkach, who was the only one who played two matches, albeit one, a forfeit win over Lukas Fracasso-Verner.

The 63-entrant WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championships had much fewer byes in its opening round and played a single round, followed by eight matches of a second round. Like the Open event, it featured its own set of ‘usual suspects’ advancing. Kelly Fisher was the only player to receive a bye and won her opener. Winning two and advancing to a third round were (among others) Kelly Fisher, Allison Fisher, Monica Webb and Kim Newsome. Playing their second round today (Friday) were (also among others) were Jennifer Baretta, Janet Atwell, Brittany Bryant, Carolyn Pao and Loree Jon Brown.

Junior players like Landon Hollingsworth, Payne McBride, Skylar Hess and Savannah Easton (among others) are competing in the Pro events and will be competing in two separate junior events (17 & Under, 12 & Under), beginning on Saturday. The winner of each division will win paid entry to Billiards Education Foundation’s Junior Nationals. The top 16 in each division will qualify for the event. Each division’s winner will be recognized by the BEF as the Pennsylvania Jrs. State 9-Ball Champion. 

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Gorst Wins Derby One Pocket Title / Locks Up Master of the Table

Fedor Gorst (David Thomson – Medium Pool)

Diamond Derby City Classic XXIII, January 21-29, 2022

Caesars Southern Indiana, Elizabeth, IN

David Thomson

LIVE from the Accu-Stats TV Arena

Ladies and gentlemen, we have an undisputed 2022 Derby City Classic All-Around Champion.

21-year-old Muscovite Fedor Gorst just snatched the DCC One-Pocket Championship.

On Tuesday night, he apprehended the Banks title.

Gorst is now the youngest player in the 23-year history of the event to harness the opening two of the three  competitions thereby ensuring the All-Around Championship.

He also pocketed an additional $20,000 in bonus prize money.

For you DCC trivia buffs, Efren won the One-Pocket and Banks in 2007…when he was about eighty.

Some might say that in many of his One-Pocket bouts Gorst was the underdog. 

Certainly with Tony Chohan – whom he didn’t allow a game; 2017 DCC One Pocket Champ Billy Thorpe didn’t get a look at a shot; Darren Appleton did give Gorst his only loss tho,’ it was soon avenged in the semis.

The Finals sported a true One-Pocket specialist, Josh Roberts: potentially serious opposition.

Many would agree that Gorst has a much-improved understanding of the discipline’s defensive tactics.

His performance this week added one more plausible asset: He can get inside a player’s head:

There is a lot of heat on a straight-in shot when you know that the guy behind you can run 8-and-out from anywhere.

Yesterday, as Fedor Gorst had drawn the bye that resulted in Josh playing Darren, he knew he would have to compete in the next round of play: You cannot have back-to-back byes at the Derby.

So how do you redraw with 3 players, one of whom isn’t eligible to play? You simply redraw till Fedor isn’t the odd man out. The player who is the odd man out is automatically a finalist.

The draw welcomed Josh Roberts.

Fedor and Darren were in the semis again.

Darren had the best comeback of any game when down 6 balls to 1.

Appleton applied his never-say-die death grip by positioning balls up-table.

One ball at a time, his patience prevailed yet, securing that rack wasn’t enough.

Gorst, perhaps, inspired by his slip, permitted no further interruption while Darren earned a very respectable 3rd.

Roberts was resting in the wings.

Regarding last night’s “Mr. Under-the-Radar-No-More,” reference, we were just joshing with you:

A player is hardly under the radar when there are DVDs available of his  superlative performance in the 2017 Accu-Stats “Make It Happen” One-Pocket Invitational.

There, Roberts beat Efren 4-1 and Shane 4-0, in that tournament alone.

Now to the Accu-Stats TV Arena:

Within minutes, Gorst was up two games.

The intimidation had begun.

Another Gorst asset, he now has the knowledge and ability to smother his opponents. 

They can’t move the cueball. If they do, they have to take an intentional foul or risk selling out.

In the 3rd game, the only game he won, Josh dug deep and Fedor fell into a well-set, one-pocket trap.

As expected, Fedor erred which resulted in a lonely 1 near Roberts’ name on the scoreboard.

Josh, the consummate gentleman, was the first to acknowledge how well Fedor had competed.

“It was really impressive to see how quickly he had picked up the moving part of the game.”

The good news for Josh is that there is still plenty of 9-Ball.

Gorst’s requests for autographs, handshakes, high-fives, selfies, etal, allowed him to leave the arena beaming.

The look of fulfillment foretells that tonight will be a night he will treasure into eternity.

You can bet his first call will be to share his success with his sweetheart Kristina.

DIAMOND 9-BALL CHAMPIONSHIP

473 Battle on the Derby’s Most Brutal Battlefield.

As Matchroom has deemed the Derby’s 9-Ball Championship a Mosconi Cup point garnering tournament, 9-Ball has become this year’s most populated DCC event.

The ladies are well represented by Pia Filler, the 2021 American 14.1 finalist, and 2121 BEF Junior Champion April Larson.

Pia was going strong until she ran into Puerto Rican pro Alan Rolon.

Husband Joshua, always supportive, nodded, “Really good player: He once beat Earl 11-zero.”

In the first round, the aforementioned Joshua sent Appleton to buy-back.

Darren soon entered the Accu-Stats TV Arena for his next 9-Ball encounter with the 2013 DCC One-Pocket Champion, Corey Deuel.

Darren was soon ahead 5-1.

He blinked and was behind 7-6.

At hill-hill, Corey was breaking and skillfully completed the rack…and Darren’s visit to the Derby.

More irony: The “compliant-break” is enforced at the Derby: Three balls, minus any pocketed, must enter the kitchen.

Darren’s break was “non-compliant” resulting in Corey taking control of the table. This was costly for Appleton.

The irony is that Corey’s “soft break” was the reason for the compliant break’s initiation.

It was encouraging to see Appleton back in action. And playing so well.

He broke and ran 4 racks in that match. He was not intimidated by BIG Foot, and finished 3rd in One-Pocket.

That’s also the luck of the DCC occasionally cruel draw.

In Appleton’s first and second rounds of 9-Ball the algorithm spat out back-to-back Champions.

See you next year Darren.

Here’s a more striking encapsulation thru round 6: Mario He gave Gomez his first loss as did John Morra to Roland Garcia.

2021 World and International Open Champion Albin Ouschan branded Shuff. 

Albin was soon forced to buy-back by Francisco Sanchez Ruiz then later truncated by Konrad Juszczyszyn.

One-Pocket maestros Chohan and Joyner showed Chohan a little stronger in the world’s most popular rotation game.

And lastly, an upset: Marc Vidal Claramunt sent Sky flying to the buy-back booth to be later flown home by Mieszko Fortunski.

NOTE: Jayson Shaw, as runner-up in Bank Pool, tied for 4th in One-Pocket, and still undefeated in 9-Ball, is in the running for 2nd place in the All-Around.

FRIDAY NIGHT BANKS RING GAME

The usual prospects, or should we say suspects; Al-Shaheen, Delawder, Hall, Shaw, Thorpe, and Woodward began the beguine at 50 bucks a ball.

The prize money is shared between first and second-place survivors.

 The Arena was standing room only. 

Matchroom’s Emily Frazer, sitting ringside, reputedly suggested that the Banks Ring Game was her favorite activity of the Derby.

Emily is not alone. 23,000 more enjoyed the FREE Accu-Stats’ stream on FaceBook: A special thanks to Upstate Al for his promo skills.

Delawder was the first to be slaughtered, quickly followed by Hall, then Al-Shaheen. With the ante rising quickly to $300 a ball, it takes a lot of bullets to stay alive.

Shaw soon fell leaving best buds Thorpe and Woodward to battle it out…again.

2022 was Billy’s year earning the top prize of $8000 to Woodward’s $4,000 for second.

Diamond Derby City Classic 9-BALL Championship: Wed. Jan 26 – Sat. 29.

Accu-Stats PPV OnDemand service

The cream of the 9-Ball division match-ups is presented via the Accu-Stats Pay-Per-View OnDemand, 4-camera HD production.

With PPV OnDemand, you choose when you view, no matter what you’re timezone.

Kazakis goes undefeated to claim Open/Pro side of 9th Annual Ginky Memorial

Jayson Shaw, Alex Kazakis, James Aranas and Hunter Lombardo

In the absence of defending champion, Klenti Kaci and runner-up Lee Van Corteza (or third-place finisher, Mike Dechaine), Jayson Shaw and Alex Kazakis were the early, euphemistic ‘fan favorites’ going into the 9th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial Tournament, held over this past Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27). There was a bit of a collective groan when Shaw stumbled in the third round, falling to Del Sim, double hill, to begin a loss-side trip, but the Scotsman validated fan interest in his abilities when he won seven on the loss side to meet Kazakis in the finals. Kazakis, though, coming off his best earnings year to date (2018), completed an undefeated run by downing Shaw in the finals to claim the 9th Open/Pro 10-Ball Ginky Memorial title. The $2,000-added event, held under the combined auspices of the Predator Pro Am, Tri-State and Mezz Tours, drew 36 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.
 
The weekend also included a $2,000-added Amateur event, which, like the Open/Pro event drew a record field of 169 entrants, divided initially into upper and lower handicapped brackets. Jason Sheerman won seven on the loss side to meet and defeat the man who’d sent him there, Jimmy Acosta, in the finals. Further details on the Ginky Memorial’s Amateur tournament, which once again, crowned a unique champion, will be featured in a separate report.
 
As it turned out, Del Sim’s triumph over the event’s presumed ‘favorite’ was short-lived and ended with a 9-4 loss to Kazakis in one of the winners’ side quarterfinals. What was left at that point was a list of three usual suspects, with one unusual suspect to compete in the winners’ side semifinals. Kazakis advanced to face Jeremy Sossei, who’d just survived a double hill fight versus Raphael Dabreo. The other usual suspect, Zoren James Aranas, advanced to meet the somewhat unusual suspect, 19-year-old Russian phenom, Kristina Tkach, who was the event’s only female competitor.
 
Kazakis sent Sossei to the loss side 9-7, while Aranas sent Tkach west 9-3. Early on, in the battle for the hot seat, it looked as though the second ‘fan favorite’ – Kazakis – was going to join Shaw on the loss side. Aranas jumped out to a 4-0 lead, before Kazakis woke up and chalked up four of his own to tie it and then, take the lead at 5-4. Aranas responded with three racks to tie and retake the lead at 7-5. They proved to be the last three racks he would win in the match. Kazakis followed his five-in-a-row with four-in-a-row to reach the hill first and then, claim the hot seat.
 
Over on the loss side, Kristina Tkach drew an immediate rematch against the man she’d defeated in the third round of play, Hunter Lombardo. Lombardo had defeated Jimmy Rivera 9-5, Raphael Dabreo 9-1 and moving into the first money round, just did survive a double hill fight against the  Ginky Memorial’s 2016 champion Zion Zvi. Zvi had previously spoiled any hopes Shaw might have been entertaining about a rematch versus Del Sim by defeating Sim 9-6. Sossei had the misfortune of picking up Shaw, four matches into his loss-side winning streak, having given up only eight racks over the past 35 games; two to Mhet Vergara, three to Alan Rolon and three to Dmitris Loukatos.
 
Lombardo successfully navigated his way through his rematch against Tkach, which was tight through about the halfway point of the match. He pulled out in front and advanced to the quarterfinals 9-5. Shaw joined him after eliminating Sossei by the same 9-5 score.
 
Shaw took an early 3-0 lead in the quarterfinals, after which, briefly, it looked as though Lombardo was going to give him a run for his money, literally. Lombardo won two to draw within one at 3-2. Shaw, though, roared right back to win another three in a row to go out in front by four at 6-2. Lombardo fought back a second time with another two, but they’d prove to be the last two. Shaw added his third run of three to win it 9-4.
 
Now, as one might imagine, things started to tighten up. Though externally calm and composed, it was clear from the semifinal get-go that both Shaw and Aranas wanted a shot at Kazakis in the hot seat. From all appearances, this might just have been a match between two buddies with nothing at stake but a good time playing pool; there was no grim determination, or frustration over the occasional (actually, rare) bad rolls. Even the mistakes, and there were a few, were met with an easy sense of humor as these two battled to see who’d be relegated to a third-place finish. It was rare to see either of them actually finish a rack. Each of them conceding up to three balls at the end of racks to move on.
 
Shaw took the opener and Aranas came back to tie it. Shaw won two and then, they traded racks back and forth to 5-3. Aranas missed the 8-ball in the 9th rack and conceded the final three balls to give Shaw a 6-3 lead. Aranas came right back with three in a row to tie things at 6-6 and then sunk four on the break, ran the other six balls and took his first lead at 7-6. It would be his last. Shaw won three straight to end the Filipino’s weekend 9-7.
 
The match everybody had been waiting for, was on.
 
It was a modified race to 11. If Shaw reached 11 first, they’d extend the match to 13. At the 8-7 mark, with Kazakis out in front, that probability remained. But getting there was more than half of the fun of this match, which was preceded by a few trick shot demonstrations by the two of them. Accompanied by microphone commentary that introduced the finalists, they placed two object balls on a diagonal from each other, and stroked the two balls simultaneously. The balls collided at the center of the table, each of them bouncing off the other and landing in a pocket. One time, one of the balls failed to drop into its designated pocket, but bounced off of an extra rail to land in a side pocket.
 
Demonstrations over, they lined up for the lag, won by Kazakis, who opened the proceedings with a win. Shaw responded with a win of his own to mark the first of four ties. Kazakis got out in front by two at 3-1, but Shaw came back to win two to tie it at 3-3. At 5-5, the tide turned in Kazakis’ favor. He won three in a row to give himself an 8-5 lead that he’d never relinquish (Shaw conceded the last three balls in the rack that gave Kazakis this biggest lead of the match).
 
Shaw closed the gap with two in a row to pull within one at 8-7, but in the following rack, Kazakis made a match-defining shot – an oblique angle, long table bank shot on the 8-ball – that led Shaw to concede the game’s last two balls. Kazakis won the next rack to reach the hill first and though Shaw won the 18th rack, Kazakis took the 19th to claim the event title.
 
Event director Tony Robles thanked Manny Stamatakis and his entire Steinway Billiards staff, who worked tirelessly, professionally and with remarkable grace throughout a long weekend with over 200 pool players and a contingent of venue regulars who spent time playing chess and backgammon at nearby tables. Robles also acknowledged his regular tour sponsors, including Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, PlayNAPL.com, Capelle (Billiards Press.com), PoolontheNet.com, The DeVito Team, as well as the cooperation of the other sponsoring tours (Tri-State and Mezz Tours) and the tireless, non-stop live stream operated by Upstate Al and his broadcast team.
 
Robles also made note to all in attendance of the defining fact that this annual event is held each year in memory of George “Ginky” Sansouci, who passed away in 2011, and whose legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of innumerable players in the New York area and wherever “Ginky” played. The event was attended by members of the Sansouci family, who were accorded ‘front row’ seating privileges for all of the live-streamed matches and remain deeply grateful for the opportunity to celebrate Ginky’s life with a living, breathing memorial to his influence on the game and the people who continue to play it. 

Edwin Garcia wins 1st Predator Caribbean 10 Ball Open with undefeated run

This past weekend (Jan 26-27, 2019) Pool Players Factory in Puerto Rico hosted their first major event of the year with 5k added money thanks to the sponsorship of Predator Cues.  The event was open to all Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American Players. 
 
Among those in attendance were Ruben Bautista (Mexico), Julio Burgos, Joselito Martinez, and Ricardo Joel Rodriguez, all Puerto Rican players currently living in the USA.  Other tournament notables were Alan Rolon, Efrain Morales, Edwin Toro, Anthony Perez, Jomax Garcia, Geovanni Serrano, Wilbert Ortiz, Wilfredo Camacho, Juan Poventud, Nelson Hernandez, Shooter Pagan, Miguel “Pito” Batista, among many others.
 
Sixty-four (64) players showed up for the two-day tournament with many of the top Islanders not disappointing their fans with brilliant plays throughout the event.  Format was two races to five with a sudden death match if necessary.  Much to the surprise of the tournament directors was the fact that 42 of the 126 matches (33%) went to a sudden-death game.  Obviously endurance and/or fatigue was a factor within the tournament.  Nonetheless by the end of the first day we had 16 of the best tournament players ready to chalk-up for the first-place prize of $ 4,000.
 
The last four players in the event were Edwin Garcia and Julio Burgos in the winner’s side and Reinaldo Dendariarena and Ruben Bautista in the one-loss side.  Reinaldo was sent to the one-loss side by Edwin Garcia, and Ruben Bautista was sent by Julio Burgos.  Both matches were decided by sudden death wins. 
 
Reinaldo and Ruben Bautista then met for the 4th place prize with a fairly easy win for Bautista.  Edwin Garcia and Julio Burgos were now setup to meet each other to see whom was to claim the hot seat of the tournament.  Edwin Garcia won the first set 5 to 3.  Julio Burgos won the second set 5-2.  Sudden death went to Edwin Garcia with a break and run.
 
A rematch between Julio Burgos and Ruben Bautista was now in play.  Everyone was excited since Julio (Puerto Rico) had won against Ruben (Mexico) in their previous match.   After the dust was cleared, Ruben had ousted Julio with two wins by score of 5-1 and 5-1 with Julio Burgos obtaining third place in the event.
 
For the Championship Match between Edwin Garcia and Ruben Bautista, more excitement was built-up.  Ruben Bautista had been determined to be the tournament favorite at the get-go, and obviously there was a sense by some people that Bautista could snatch the event.  Edwin Garcia is one of the best top 2 players in Puerto Rico and everyone was certain that Edwin would not go down easily; and that he too had a great chance of success.
 
On the last match of the night, Ruben took the first set 5-2.  Edwin came back with a 5-3 win, and now the outcome of the event relied on the 42nd sudden-death match of the tournament.  Edwin won the lag but came up with a dry break, Ruben played a safety on the one, Edwin returned the safety. Ruben had to jump the cue-ball leaving the one open.  Edwin pocketed the one but tried to leave a safe on the two returning the table to Ruben.  Ruben proceeded to pocket the two, three, and four ball.  The five was straight-in to the upper right corner, a makeable ball but somehow Ruben rattled the 5 and that was it for Ruben’s performance.  Edwin cleared the table and claimed the tournament Championship.
 
Jose Garcia and Alejandro Rodriguez, proud owners of Pool Players Factory, the largest pool hall in the Caribbean with (14) Diamond Pro Tables and six (6) 7ft Smart Tables greeted players and fans alike.  Also on a very special and surprise appearance, Mr. Karim Belhaj, CEO of Predator Cues addressed the crowd on day two with encouraging words as to a sponsored tour for the Island, with future Predator sponsored events like this one.  Needless to say, Mr. Belhaj made the day for all of us whom have been dreaming of something like this to happen.  We thank Jose Garcia, Alejandro Rodriguez and Karim Belhaj for the great news and their combined willingness to help establish a Puerto Rican Tour.
 
 

“Klenti” Kaci goes undefeated to take Pro side of 8th Annual Ginky Memorial

Eklent Kaci, Lee Van Cortezza, Mike Dechaine and Jorge Rodriguez

The finals of the 8th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial Pro Tournament, held over Memorial Day weekend, proved to be a preview of an event, scheduled for tomorrow evening (Thursday, May 31) at the same location, Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY. At the upcoming event, Albanian phenomenon, Eklent “Klenti” Kaci and Filipino Lee Vann Corteza will square off for a $20,000, race-to-30 10-ball match, which will be available as a pay-per-view event, beginning at 6:30 p.m. (EDT). Over the Memorial Day weekend, in the Pro event held under the combined auspices of the Predator Pro Am, Tri-State and Mezz Tours, Kaci and Vann Corteza had to work through a field of 38 entrants before meeting up in the finals. Kaci defeated Vann Corteza in those finals, completing an undefeated run that earned him the 8th Annual Ginky Memorial Pro title. A concurrently-run Amateur event drew 144 entrants (separate story, to be posted later).
 
It proved to be more than tomorrow night’s race-to-30 for both Kaci and Vann Corteza. Kaci ended up winning 56 of the games he played over six matches. Corteza, thanks to Mike Dechaine, had to play two more matches (an extra 33 games), and ended up winning more total games (65). Corteza ended up winning 65 of his 115 games (56%), as Kaci chalked up the event title by winning 56 of his 82 games (68%).
 
Kaci opened his bid for the title with a 9-2 win over Brian Schell, and then, almost had his undefeated run derailed by Tony Robles, whose actual participation in the event was (and always has been at this annual memorial event), secondary to his overall organization and oversight of everything about this tournament. This did not prevent “The Silent Assassin” from throwing Kaci a bit of a scare by virtue of a double hill fight that did eventually send Robles west and Kaci further east in the bracket.
 
Kaci’s next match proved to be significantly easier (if they’re ever easier), because Kaci didn’t give Jimmy Conn a single rack, which set him (Kaci) up in a winners’ side semifinal match against Joey Korsiak.
 
Vann Corteza, in the meantime, who’d worked his way through Ehmunrao Toocaram (9-1), Alex Kazakis (9-5) and had to fight Jorge Rodriguez to double hill before advancing, found himself facing not-so-retired “Fireball,” Mike Dechaine in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Kaci moved into the hot seat match with a 9-2 win over Korsiak, and faced Dechaine, who’d just consigned Vann Corteza to a few extra matches on the loss side with a 9-5 win. Dechaine gave Kaci his second double hill challenge, but Kaci prevailed to sit in the hot seat and wait for what turned out to be Vann Corteza’s return.
 
On the loss side, Korsiak picked up Rodriguez, who, following his defeat at the hands of Vann Corteza, had eliminated Robles and Alan Rolon. Vann Corteza drew a second match-up against Kazakis, who’d defeated Jimmy Conn and Frankie Hernandez.
 
Vann Corteza downed Kazakis a second time, 9-6, and in the quarterfinals, faced Rodriguez, who’d eliminated Korsiak 9-7. Vann Corteza then ended Rodriguez’ run 9-5 in those quarterfinals, and turned for a second shot against Dechaine in the semifinals. Vann Corteza left Dechaine in third place with a 9-5 win and the final ‘preview’ match of the upcoming challenge event was on.
 
If Kaci holds on to the percentage for tomorrow night’s 20K challenge match, he should win that match 30-14, because he claimed the 8th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial Tournament over Vann Corteza by a score of 11-6.
 
Tour representatives of the Predator Pro Am, Tri-State and Mezz Tours thanked Manny Stamatakis and his Steinway Billiards staff for their hospitality. They also thanked Upstate Al and his staff for the live stream of selected matches of both the Amateur and Pro events throughout the weekend.   
 

2016 Steinway Classic – Josh Roberts vs Alan Rolon

 

Zvi downs The Iceman twice to go undefeated on 6th Annual Ginky Memorial

Alan Rolon, Zion Zvi and Mika Immonen

In what might be arguably described as his biggest tournament win ever, Zion Zvi worked his way undefeated through a field of 53 Open/Pro competitors, on-hand for the 6th Annual George "Ginky" Sansouci Memorial Tournament. Held over Memorial Day weekend, under the combined auspices of the Predator, Tri-State and Mezz Tours, the $2,000-added 10-Ball event, run concurrently with a $2,000-added Amateur event that drew 190 entrants (separate story), was hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.
 
It was the fifth time that Zvi had cashed in this annual memorial event, finishing 5th twice (2013, 2011), 4th once (2012) and last year, finishing in the tie for 13th. He'd won three stops on the Predator tour last year, but this year's Ginky Memorial proved to be his first 2016 victory on the tour. According to tour director Tony Robles, the win should elevate Zvi to an A++ rating, on the tour, which, he said, means that going forward "he'll have to win two more games to beat me."
 
In a post-match interview, Zvi was still a little stunned. Not only that had he won, but had done so by beating The Iceman, Mika Immonen, twice.
 
"I need to adjust to (the win),' he told Upstate Al from AZBTV, minutes after the final. "To beat Mika once is tough.
 
"When I played him in the hot seat match, I felt the heat," he added, "but I just kept grinding."
 
As every winner of this tournament has done since the tradition began in 2011, Zvi acknowledged the tournament's namesake – George "Ginky" Sansouci.
 
"I'd known Ginky since 2006," Zvi said, referring to the year he arrived here from Tel Aviv. "He always treated me like I'd grown up with him. I was blessed to know him and grinded every match because of him. He motivated me to win."
 
By Sunday afternoon, Zvi had advanced to a winners' side semifinal against Jonathan Smith, while Tony Robles squared off against The Iceman. It was already the first time that in six years, Robles was in line for prize money at the tournament he'd helped to create. Zvi downed Smith 9-4, as Immonen was sending Robles to the loss side 9-5. Zvi claimed the hot seat 9-5 over Immonen and waited on his return.
 
On the loss side, Robles and Smith ran into two juggernauts; one, a two-time former Ginky Memorial winner, Mike Dechaine, who'd eliminated Fernando Paulino 9-4 and Bucky Souvanthong 9-5 to draw Robles, and the other, Alan Rolon, from Puerto Rico, who was on a loss-side streak that would take him to the semifinals, who'd downed Sean King and John Morra, both 9-7 to pick up Smith. 
 
Though he'd jump out to an early 4-0 lead in a bid to reach the quarterfinals, Robles eventually succumbed to Dechaine 9-4. Rolon eliminated the veteran Smith 9-7. A thrilling double hill quarterfinal followed, which ended with Dechaine settling for fourth place.
 
Over his last four matches to reach the semifinals against Immonen, opponents had averaged seven racks against him in the races to 9. The Iceman allowed him only two and earned himself a second shot against Zvi, in the modified race to 11, meaning that if Immonen, from the loss side, reached 9 first, the match would extend to 11 games. If Zvi, in the hot seat, reached 9 first, it would be over.
 
The final match was delayed in order to have it play out on the AZBTV table, which, at the end of the Open/Pro semifinals, was featuring the Amateur finals between Tony Liang and Juan Guzman. Though hard to measure, the short delay seemed to benefit Immonen, who opened the finals with two straight racks. Zvi caught up quickly to create the first of five tie scores in the match.
 
Mika took game #5, but Zvi came back with two, the second of which entailed a 1-10 combination that Immonen had literally handed to Zvi by attempting the combination himself and missing it. Immonen, known to have a bit of a temper, was visibly unhappy. Over the course of games #8 and #9, they both started missing relatively easy shots, and at the end of game #10, Zvi was ahead by two (6-4).
 
Immonen used a 2-10 combo to pull within one, and then used a 6-10 combo that Zvi had given him to knot things at 6-6. They traded racks to 7-7, Zvi reached the hill first and The Iceman followed suit. Zvi completed his undefeated run in the case game to claim his first 2016 title, at the 6th Annual George "Ginky" Sansouci Memorial.
 
In addition to thanking everyone who came down to Steinway Billiards to honor George "Ginky" Sansouci, Tony Robles thanked both the Tri-State and Mezz Tours for their cooperation and assistance, along with Steinway Billiards' owner, Manny Stamatakis, and his staff. He also extended his thanks to sponsors Predator Cues, National Amateur Pool League, Ozone Billiards, Delta-13 racks, Gotham City Technologies, PoolOnTheNet.com, The DeVito Team, Billiards Press, AZ Billiards, Billiards Digest, and Pool & Billiard Magazine. He also thanked William Finnegan, Mandy Wu, and Irene Kim for their assistance with the tournament, as well as his wife, Gail Robles.

Orcollo spoils Van Boening’s bid for a fourth straight win at 23rd Annual Super Billiards Expo

Dennis Orcollo (Photo courtesy of Johnny Sturgis)

Hopkins wins Women's Open 9-Ball, Brown takes One-Pocket Title
 
Dennis Orcollo went undefeated through a field of 64 entrants, on-hand for the 23rd Annual Super Billiards Expo's $9,000-added Open 10-Ball Professional Players Championship, held on the weekend of April 16-19 at the Greater Philadelphia Center in Oaks, PA. Over the past three years, Shane Van Boening had defeated Stevie Moore (2012), Thorsten Hohmann (2013) and Tommy Kennedy (2014) in the finals of this event. This year, however, Orcollo defeated him in the hot seat match, and Jayson Shaw foiled his attempt at a rematch against Orcollo by defeating him in the semifinals.
 
Orcollo's path to the hot seat went through Patrick Carosi, Danny Olson, Rodney Morris,  Johnny Archer, and, in the winners' side semifinal, Hohmann, before he handed Van Boening his first of two straight losses. Van Boening had gone through Francis Crevier, Beppu Kenji, Corey Deuel, Mika Immonen and, in the other winners' side semifinal, Warren Kiamco, before he ran into Orcollo, never to return. 
 
The other two runner-ups from the last three years were on-hand, as well. Tommy Kennedy, last year's runner-up went two and out, falling to Scott Frost in the opening round, and Yu-Huan Kevin Chang in the first loss-side round. Moore, 2012's runner-up, was defeated in the opening round by Kevin Clark, and then, defeated Raj Vannala, Michael Yednak and Dan Cintron, before falling to Corey Deuel in the fourth loss-side round. Hohmann defeated, in order, Tim Murray, Justin Bergman, Mike Dechaine and Darren Appleton to earn himself a winners' side final four matchup against Orcollo. Orcollo sent him west where he picked up his second straight loss versus Mike Dechaine.
 
Shaw, who faced Orcollo in the finals, defeated Alan Rolon, and Lee Kang on the winners' side before Warren Kiamco sent him to the loss side. Shaw then ran the gauntlet through a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that was arguably as tough as any set of opponents faced by any of the event's competitors. He got by Jeremy Sossei, Hunter Lombardo, Darren Appleton,  and Johnny Archer, before successfully navigating his re-match against Kiamco. He then defeated Dechaine and Van Boening to earn his spot in the finals.
 
The Open 10-Ball Professional Players Championship was the marquee event of four held over the weekend. Dawn Hopkins came from the loss side and defeated Caroline Pao in the finals of the $2,800-added Women's Open 9-Ball Players Championship that drew 28 entrants, and Jason Brown took the $2,200-added One Pocket event that was expanded to include 48 entrants. 
 
The weekend also featured four Amateur events; an Open event, won by Alex Olinger, that drew a record-breaking 960 entrants, a Senior Division (age 50+), won by Dennis Spears, that drew 384, a Super Seniors Division (age 65+), won by Warner Burton, that drew 128, and a Women's Division, won by Brianna Miller, that drew 160.
 
Further detailed reports on the Super Billiards Expo, to include more complete reports about the Women's, One-Pocket and Amateur events will follow, soon.
 

Strickland goes undefeated to capture Predator Tour Open/Pro title

Earl Strickland

Will there ever come a day when the appearance of Earl "The Pearl" Strickland on an event roster will not drop fear into the heart of every competitor on the list? Today's 'young guns' and quite a few wily veterans will deny this, of course (the "I ain't scared o' nobody" school of thinking) and point out that the 54-year-old Strickland can and has been beaten, a lot over the years. The fact, however, remains. The most common response to his name on a sign-in sheet is "Uh, Oh!"
 
On the weekend of April 11-12, Strickland added a victory to that reputation of his with an undefeated run on the Predator Tour. The $500-added, Open/Pro portion of the event drew 19 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY. A concurrently-run, $500-added Amateur event, won by Brooke Meyer (see separate story), drew 68 entrants.
 
As is usually the case, the winners' side semifinals of the Predator's Open/Pro event was a small-sample "Who's Who?" of the New York area's top competitors. Strickland squared off against Jorge Rodriguez, while Frankie Hernandez met up with Mhet Vergara. Strickland sent Rodriguez to the loss-side 7-2, while Hernandez did likewise to Vergara 7-5. Strickland claimed his gazillionth hot seat 7-2 and waited on what turned out to Vergara's return.
 
On the loss side, Rodriguez picked up Hunter Lombardo, fresh off victories over Tony Liang 7-2, and Ed Culhane 7-1. Vergara drew Zion Zvi, who'd defeated Raphael Dabreo 7-5 and survived a double hill fight against Alan Rolon.
 
It was Vergara and Rodriguez advancing to the quarterfinals; Vergara with a 7-3 victory over Zvi, Rodriguez winning a double hill battle versus Lombardo. Vergara took the quarterfinal match 7-5 and then benefited from an 'illness' forfeit by Hernandez in the semifinals.
 
Uh Oh!
 
"The Pearl" closed out his undefeated run and picked up his first victory on the 2015 Predator Tour with a 7-1 victory over Vergara in the finals.