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Valania wins his first in two years, going undefeated on the Garden State Tour

Robert Calton and Joe Valania

About 18 months ago (Sept. 2020), Joe Valania and Daniel Dagotdot split the top two prizes on the second stop of the Mac Attack Tour in Clifton, NJ. As the undefeated occupant of the hot seat at the time, Valania was declared the official winner and in effect, hadn’t been heard from since, at least on any recorded payout lists. That Mac Attack Tour victory was only Valania’s second recorded payout anywhere, since he’d finished 17th in a Windy City Open 9-Ball event, 17 years ago.

On Saturday, Feb. 12, not only did Valania chalk up his second recorded win anywhere (of three payouts in the money), this time on the Garden State Tour (Stop #3), but in so doing, he turned 2022 into his best recorded earnings year at the tables, picking up more cash in the one event than he earned in the previous two. The $600-added event drew 61 entrants to Rockaway Billiards in Rockaway, NJ.

Four of the first five matches that Valania played went double hill; only his winners’ side quarterfinal match against Frank Kasetta, which he won 6-4, avoided that fate, though only by a game. In a final deciding game, he got by (in order), Ginny Lewis, Marc Lamberti, Steve Persaud, after which he downed Kasetta to meet newcomer Onexi Flores. 

Rob Calton, in the meantime, who’d battle Valania twice (hot seat and finals), had to survive two double hill fights in his run to the winners’ side semifinals. He sent Chris Schmidt 7-5, Paul Raval 7-3, Rafael Acosta (double hill) and Jaydev Zaveri (double hill) to the loss side and turned to face Kevin Scalzitti in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Flores and Valania battled to double hill, as well, for a seat at the hot seat match table. Valania won it to face Calton, who’d downed Scalzitti 7-5. With Valania prevailing in yet another double hill fight to claim the hot seat, half of the 12 matches the two combatants had played went double hill.

On the loss side, Flores and Scalzitti handed David Jusis and Christian Orque their second straight loss and turned against each other in the quarterfinals. Flores prevailed 7-5 over Scalzitti to join Robert Calton in the semifinals. They’d both been sent to the loss side by Valania, waiting for one of them in the hot seat.

It was Calton who got the second shot at him, punctuating the semifinal victory by shutting Flores out. In the extended-race-to-9 finals, Calton needed to reach seven racks first for a chance to extend the race to nine games. Didn’t happen. At 2-2, Valania chalked up the next five to complete his undefeated run and claim his second regional tour title.

Valania will likely be looking to chalk up his third regional tour victory when the Garden State Tour settles in for an event this weekend (Sat., Feb. 26), at the site where Valania picked up his first – Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ. 

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Zaveri and Shlemperis split top prizes on snowstorm-interrupted Tri-State stop in Wayne, NJ

Jaydev Zaveri & Dave Shlemperis

As an indoor sport, pool play is not generally affected by the weather. Getting to and back from the venues, however, is another story altogether. On Saturday, January 18, snow and sleet visited the Tri-State New York area, to include Wayne, NJ, about 25 miles northwest of midtown Manhattan, where 23 intrepid competitors gathered to shoot some 10-ball on the Tri-State Tour. Jaydev Zaveri went undefeated to the hot seat and would, in the finals, have faced Dave Shlemperis, whom he’d sent to the loss side in the event’s second round. But with dangerous driving conditions getting worse by the minute, Zaveri and Shlemperis agreed to a split. As the undefeated hot seat occupant, Zaveri claimed the event title. The $1,000-added event drew its 23 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne

Zaveri opened his stormy campaign against Luis Jimenez and after defeating him, double hill (5-4), he faced Shlemperis and sent him over 6-2. He would then defeat A+ player Atif Khan in a winners’ side quarterfinal to face Joe Mazzeo in a winners’ side semifinal. Juan Melendez, in the meantime, squared off against Hunter Sullivan in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Zaveri downed Mazzeo 6-3 and in the hot seat, faced Melendez, who’d defeated Sullivan 5-2. Zaveri, in what proved to be his last match, claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Melendez.

On the loss side, Shlemperis was working on his six-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him all the way back for a rematch against Zaveri, which, of course, didn’t happen. Shlemperis got by Chris Schmidt 6-3, Kevin Scalzitti, double hill (6-5) and Paul Madonia 6-2 to draw Mazzeo, coming over from his winners’ side semifinal loss to Zaveri. Sullivan picked up a rematch versus Bob Toomey, whom he’d defeated in the second round (Toomey’s 1st round; he’d been awarded a bye). Toomey’s four-match, loss-side winning streak included recent wins over Brian Schell, double hill (5-4) and then, he spoiled the possibility of a husband/wife final by defeating Jaydev Zaveri’s wife, Shweta, also double hill (6-5).

Shlemperis defeated Mazzeo 6-3, as Sullivan eliminated Toomey 5-2. Shlemperis then took the quarterfinal match versus Sullivan 7-4.

In the final match of the evening, Shlemperis downed Juan Melendez 7-5. He and Zaveri agreed to the split – Zaveri, the official winner and Shlemperis, runner-up – and those who were left headed for the exits and a difficult ride home.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Family Billiards, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui Tips, Liquid Weighted Cues, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Quick Stik, Phil Capelle,  Pool & Billiards,  Bender Cues, Dayton Cues, and  Romer Trophies. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, January 26, will be a $1,000-added, Double Point event, hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.

Watanabe and Klein start but don’t quite finish Tri-State stop, leaving Watanabe with event title

Max Watanabe & Matt Klein

They met in the opening round of play at the Tri-State Tour stop on Sunday, December 8; Max Watanabe and Matt Klein. Familiar opponents on the Tri-State Tour, friends, two of the tour’s highest ranked players. Max at #1 among A players, Matt at #3. The kinds of players who might, at larger tournaments, be seeded so that they wouldn’t meet in an event’s opening round. They did here and Max prevailed 7-4, moving on to advance through the field, all the way to the hot seat. Matt, in the meantime, went on an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that ended up giving him a shot at redemption in the form of a second chance against Max in the event finals.

That didn’t happen. They opted out of meeting a second time, allowing Max’s earlier 7-4 win to stand as the defining match between them. On this day, at least. Max, undefeated, claimed the official title of the $1,000-added event that drew 28 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.

Max’s path after Klein in the opening round went through Joe Mazzeo 7-5 and Debra Pritchett 10-8 to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal matchup against Chris Schmidt. Zain Sundaram, in the meantime, who’d started his day by shutting out Jason Goberdhan, allowing Bob Toomey only a single rack in a 6-1 victory and downing Jim Gutierrez 6-3, drew Jose Carlos Ramos in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Watanabe defeated Schmidt 7-5 and in the hot seat, faced Sundaram, who’d sent Ramos to the loss side 7-1. Watanabe played what proved to be his last match of the day, utilizing some strong safety play to claim the hot seat 8-6 over Sundaram.

Klein, in the meantime, was navigating his way through the loss side. He got by Mikhail Kim, Steve Kalloo and Luis Lopez, before surviving a double hill match against Debra Pritchett. He went on to down Eddie Medina 7-3 and drew Schmidt, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Ramos picked up a re-match versus Adrian Daniel, whom he’d defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal and who’d eliminated Mike Strassberg 6-4 and Jason Goberdhan 6-3 to earn the rematch.

Klein downed Schmidt 7-3 and in the quarterfinal, faced Ramos who’d defeated Daniel a second time 6-3. Klein chalked up his seventh win of the day, sending Ramos home 8-5.

Momentum aside, Klein’s path through Zain Sundaram in the semifinals was not as easy as he might have liked or predicted. They battled back and forth and it was Sundaram who reached the hill (7) first. He gave Klein the smallest of openings in the next rack and Klein forced a 15th deciding game. He won that game to earn a well-deserved second shot against Watanabe, waiting for him in the hot seat.

With some good-natured trash talk and the opportunity to get home a little early, the two opted out of the final. As the undefeated occupant of the hot seat at the time of the negotiations, Watanabe claimed the title.

Tour representatives thanked Manny Stamatakis and his Steinway Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui, Phil Capelle, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Billiard Engineering, Pool & Billiards, Professor Q Ball, Bender Cues, and Pool & Billiards. The Tri-State Tour will take a couple of weeks off, as the Predator Pro Am Tour holds its season finale at Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY this coming weekend and is followed by an Open Date for the Tri-State Tour. The tour will return on the final weekend of 2019 (December 29) for a $1,000-added, A-B-C-D event at Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.

Schmidt goes undefeated to win his first regional tour event on Tri-State Tour

(l to r): Luis Jimenez & Chris Schmidt

It had been, according to our records, almost exactly five years since Chris Schmidt had taken home any cash by competing on the Tri-State Tour. In October of 2014, he finished, in successive weeks, 5th and 4th at two stops on the tour. Schmidt returned to the ‘fold,’ so to speak, on Sunday, October 20 to chalk up his first Tri-State victory. Schmidt went undefeated through a field of 22, on hand for the $1,000-added event that was hosted by Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.
 
Schmidt had to get by Luis Jimenez twice to claim this event title. Following victories over Tri Chau 7-1 and Paul Wilkens 7-2 Schmidt drew Jimenez for the first time in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Adrian Daniels, in the meantime, squared off against Rick Rodriguez in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Schmidt advanced to the hot seat match with a 7-3 win over Jimenez. Daniels joined him after a 6-3 win over Rodriguez. Schmidt and Daniels battled to double hill before Schmidt prevailed to claim what appears to be his first recorded claim to a tournament’s hot seat.
 
On the loss side, Jimenez opened his three-match march back to the finals against Desi DeRado, who’d defeated Paul Wilkens 7-5 and Zach Ivie, double hill, to reach him. Rodriguez drew Shweta Zaveri, who’d recently eliminated Bob Toomey 7-5 and CJ Chey 7-1.
 
Jimenez and Rodriguez got right back to work, winning. Jimenez downed DeRado 7-3, as Rodriguez just did survive a double hill fight against Zaveri.
 
Jimenez earned his way to a slot in the finals with two straight double hill wins, over Rodriguez in the quarterfinals and Daniels in the semifinals. Schmidt, though, edged out in front in the final match that followed, defeating Jimenez 7-5 and claiming his first event title.
 
Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Family Billiards, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui, Phil Capelle, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Billiard Engineering, Pool & Billiards, Professor Q Ball, Bender Cues and Pool & Billiards. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, October 27, will be a Double Points, 10-ball event, hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.