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2013 in Review – Part Two – The Trials of Tunica

Mika Immonen came back under the spotlight with a bang in Tunica

The Ultimate Ten Ball Championships came to Tunica with $100,000 in added money between the men and the ladies. It ran on time and everyone was paid on the spot so the two most critical aspects were successfully accomplished. And the players paid that back with some fantastic matches. Ten Ball is a game that challenges the player on many levels. The break shot is tough and certainly not always reliable. And the one extra ball seems to crowd the table early and it leads to the need for skillful safety play. In Tunica the masters that week were Mika Immonen and Ga-Young Kim.

Immonen was just dead-on perfect. He dominated every opponent he faced and he faced some very tough guys. Among his victims were Ernesto Dominguez, Nick Ekonomopoulos, Mike Dechaine, Darren Appleton and then Can Wang in the finals. Immonnen had hit a gear that week that is rare in pool. But Immonen was not the only immovable object in Tunica that week. Ga-Young Kim put on a show of devastation herself as she made crushing World Champions look like child’s play. She busted up Siming Chen, Jasmin Ouschan, Line Kjoersvik, and Allison Fisher on her way out to the finals and only one of those names got to four games on her.

In the finals she would again face Allison Fisher. Allison hung in there real well and at one point the match was tied at four games apiece. But then Ga-Young took charge. She would have won it 9-5 but a fan popped a flash at her just as she pulled the trigger on the winning 10-Ball and that game was gifted to Fisher. Kim came right back to take the next rack and the title.

So as a pro tournament the UTBC events were a huge success. The problem was it was held in front of very few fans and its founder Badi Nazhat announced a few weeks later that UTBC would not return until he could develop a more sustainable format located inside a structure for the sport that would assist in the success of the game.

The UTBC was paired up with Diamond Billiards' Southern Classic. This event bumped up against Bonus Ball and that, coupled with another low fan turn-out, cost the event its life. The Southern Classic joined the list of events held for the last time in 2013. Add to that list two CSI events (US Open 10-Ball and US Open 8-Ball) which will not return in 2014, at least not in their current form.


NEXT: 3 of 5: The Big Opens and Turning Stone

Or you may jump directly to the following:

1 of 5: Derby City

2 of 5: The Trials of Tunica

3 of 5: The Big Opens and Turning Stone

4 of 5: Bonus Ball and the Mosconi Cup

5 of 5: It's a Wrap!


Ultimate 10-Ball, the Backstory

The Ultimate 10-Ball Championships, won by Mika Immonen and Ga-Young Kim, were a year in the making. Badi Nazhat and his team began searching for a venue last summer and signed on with Chad Scharlow of Diamond Billiard Products and his Tunica location for the Southern Classic several months later. But the work had just begin then. The tournament itself was only a part of the vision of the UTBC Team. A major concern to everyone is the health of the game itself. According to the National Sporting Goods Association yearly poll participation in pool has dropped from a high of 37.3 million US people in 2003 down to 21.8 million in 2012. This is a precipitous drop and signals to anyone paying attention that efforts must be made to focus more attention on the game.


Pro pool has been in recession for the last twenty years. Purses have been stagnant, the fan base eroding, and the industry as a whole has been in a long slide that pre-dates the recent economic woes of the country. Professional players are no longer able to realistically look at tournament pool as an avenue for sufficient income. Blame for all of this can be cast around aplenty. But placing blame does not do anything to solve the problem. As sponsors and industry leaders spoke in the weeks leading up to the event many decided to attend to try and find common ground on which to get the game growing again.


American promoters and industry obviously have interest in growing the American game. But so do those from overseas. Overseas promoters, who toss $200,000 and more into prize funds, want American players for the cachet that they bring to the game. No matter their international rankings, players like Johnny Archer, Earl Strickland, and Shane Van Boening head a list of names that are wanted on tournament charts worldwide. The international interest in this subject was made obvious by the appearance in Tunica of four WPA Board members. Anamaria Matesic of Croatia, Victor Maduro of South America, and American WPA rep Skip Nemecek all took of their time to travel to Tunica to discuss the future growth of the pro game. WPA President Ian Anderson made the trip even though his daughter is in hospital awaiting the birth of triplets. When she told him that it could be another three weeks before the births Mr. Anderson grabbed a flight and was welcomed in Tunica a little over 50 hours later.


The next four days contained a lot of brainstorming. Weaknesses that were identified for action items include the ability of America to fund player travels to overseas events, the monetization of the BCA points fund so that it has financial value as well as the honor that it represents and there was discussion of plans for a Untied States National Championship. Discussions were had on how to form a proper "farm" system where the amateurs feed into the ranks of the pros. Future venues and tournament structures were analyzed. In short, a lot of information changed hands and everyone left with more information than they had before the week began.


The game must be brought into the public spotlight to grow. The expertise of the folks in Tunica is focused on growing both pro and amateur participation in pool. The amateurs are the steak that feeds the industry, but it is the pros who put the sizzle on that steak and make it more appetizing and exciting. Pro play is a catalyst for amateur participation. Wheels are turning and for once they are all on the same track. The next year should find us making progress.