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Orcullo comes from the loss side to win 5th Annual Hard Times 10-Ball Open

Dennis Orcollo

Dennis Orcullo may have rightly earned the headline as the undefeated winner of the 5th Annual Hard Times 10-Ball Open, but in many respects, Mexico's Ruben Bautista may have been the story. The $5,000-added event drew 63 entrants to Hard Times in Bellflower, CA and as has been the case since its inception five years ago, it drew the top names in the sport; not all of them, but a lot of them, including Orcullo, Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, Warren Kiamco, Mike Immonen, Rodney Morris, and a host of Taiwanese players like Ko Ping Chang, Ko Pin-Yi, Yu Hsuan Cheng and Jung Lin Chang.
 Bautista was the event's 'dark horse.' As he had done in the 1st Annual Nick Varner Classic Pro event back in March, Bautista worked his way through the field (26 in the Varner Classic, 63 here) and emerged in possession of the hot seat. In Colorado, he went through (among others) Chip Compton, Johnny Archer and Mika Immonen. In California, he went through (among others) Warren Kiamco and Immonen (again). In both events, though, Bautista stumbled in the finals, allowing the Iceman to take him out twice in the finals in Colorado (losing the opening set in a case game), while Orcullo won eight of the Hard Times' final's last 11 games to snatch the victory away.
Kiamco was the player who sent Orcullo to the losers' bracket; 9-6 in a winners' side quarterfinal. Kiamco would advance to meet Immonen, while Bautista, who'd defeated Hard Times House Pro (and event tournament director) Dave Hemmah, would face Ko Pin-Yi. Immonen fell to Kiamco and Pin-Yi fell to Bautista, both 9-6. Bautista took the hot seat match 9-4 over Kiamco; his final win, as it turned out.
Orcullo moved over to begin his loss-side march back to the finals, opening with 9-4 win over Ernesto Dominguez. He backed that up with a 9-6 win over Yu-Hsuan Chen, which set him up to face Ko Pin-Yi, coming over from the winners' side semifinal. Immonen picked up Efren Reyes, who'd gotten by Hemmah 9-6 and survived a double hill battle versus Jung Lin Chang.
Orcullo and The Iceman advanced to the quarterfinals; Orcullo eliminating Pin-Yi 9-7, as Immonen was ending Reyes' run 9-4. Orcullo ended Immonen's bid for a second straight Hard Times 10-Ball title with a 9-5 win in the quarterfinals, and then wreaked his vengeance on Kiamco 9-4 in the semifinals.
Bautista took an early 6-3 lead in the single, race-to-11 finals, as announcers on the POVPool live stream, and viewers in the chat room tried to figure out who this man was, and what (little) they knew about him. He was mentioned as a "Mexican champion," though no one (me, included) could find corroborating evidence to support such a title. Bautista has appeared a grand total of five times in AZ payout lists since 2010; three times this year, including his runner-up finish in the Nick Varner Classic, and once each in 2010 (33rd in World 8-Ball Championships) and 2011 (25th in Turning Stone XVIII). 
Orcullo, in the meantime, was settling in, eventually catching up to Bautista to create a 6-6 tie. They battled back and forth through to 9-9, before Orcullo took command of the final two games. On the hill, Orcullo scratched on the break, and gave Bautista a golden (runout possibility) table, but Bautista could not take advantage. Orcullo ended up winning eight of the final match's last 11 games to claim the Hard Times 10-Ball Open title.
The event was streamed all weekend by POVPool (, without whom, much of the reporting on this event would not have been possible. Our thanks to Dan Busch and his staff, not only for the stream, but for the willingness to fill in the informational blanks about match results when needed.