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Conn goes undefeated, splits top two prizes with Chang on Predator Tri-State Tour

Tae Chang and James Conn

In their first (Conn) and second (Chang) appearances on the 2021-2022 Predator Tri-State Tour, James Conn and Tae Chang played a single match, battling for the hot seat. Won by Conn, the result was left to stand as the defining match in the event. They opted out of a final match and split the top two prizes on the $500-added, A-D 10-ball event that drew 32 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.

The two advanced through the field to their respective, winners’ side semifinal matches. Conn faced Brandonne Alli, as Chang squared off against Juan Melendez. Conn moved into the hot seat match on the heels of his 9-5 victory over Alli. Chang joined him after eking out a double hill win over Melendez. 

The A+ (Conn) meets B (Chang) hot seat battle, was, as it turned out, for all the proverbial ‘marbles.’ Conn won it 8-5 in what proved to be ‘the’ and his last match.

On the loss side, Alli drew a rematch versus Ron Oulette, whom he’d defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal match. Oulette’s two-match, loss-side trip to the rematch had eliminated Erwin Jao 8-4 and Levie Lampaan 8-2. Melendez picked up Rick Rodriguez, who was working on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently included victories over Arthur Trzeciak 7-5 and a double hill win over Roberto Rodriguez (no relation).

Oulette successfully wreaked his vengeance versus Alli 6-4, as Melendez sent Rodriguez home 6-3. Oulette advanced one more step and defeated Melendez 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

Oulette’s loss-side streak was stopped at four. Chang won the semifinal 7-5. He and Conn opted out of the final and split the top two prizes.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling Gaming, Kamui Tips, Phil Cappelle, Blue Book Publishing, Human Kinetics, Pool & Billiards, Romer Trophies and Professor Q Ball. The next stop on the Predator Tri-State Tour, scheduled for this weekend (Aug. 28-29), will be hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.

The Iceman goes undefeated to win Predator Pro Am Open/Pro Championships

Robles wins 7 on the loss side and is runner-up for second straight year 

(l to r): Mike Salerno, Jorge Rodriguez, Mika Immonen & Tony Roble

Ten years ago, in what was reportedly his best earnings year ever, Finland’s Mika Immonen (aka The Iceman) cashed in a total of 29 events all over the world, 21 of which he finished as either the winner (13), the runner-up (4; to include his appearance on Europe’s Mosconi Cup team) or in third place (4). Six of his 13 victories that year were chalked up in the state of New York; he won a stop on the Tri-State Tour, two on the Joss NE 9-Ball Tour, and three on the Predator Pro Am Tour. Many of the cash winners in those three 2009 Predator events were present for the 2019 Tour Championships held on the weekend of December 14-15 at the event’s traditional location, Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY. They included Jorge Rodriguez, Frankie Hernandez, Mhet Vergara and Tour Director Tony Robles, who, in the 2009 events won by Immonen, finished third in February, 5th in July and 9th in October. Notable, as always, in his absence from this year’s event was George “Ginky” Sansouci, who was 5th in that 2009 February event, 13th in July and tied with Robles for 9th in October.

The Predator Pro Am Tour’s defending Open/Pro Tour Champion and the 2018 runner-up met in this year’s semifinal; Jorge Rodriguez and Tony Robles, respectively. It was, though, Mika Immonen who became the 2019 champion, going undefeated through a field of 24 entrants, on-hand for the $1,000-added, 10-ball event at Raxx Billiards.

A concurrently-run, $9,930-added A/B/C/D Amateur event (separate story), which drew 93 entrants, was won by Pascal Dufresne, one of the tour’s 18 event winners this year. Sent to the loss side early, Dufresne won seven in a row before meeting and defeating hot seat occupant Ryan Dayrit in the finals.

For the second year in a row at the Open/Pro Championships, Rodriguez battled for the hot seat; last year, versus Robles, this year, against The Iceman. This year, Robles was sent to the loss side by Frankie Hernandez and like Dufresne in the Amateur event would win seven on that side of the bracket for the right to face Immonen in the finals.

Immonen advanced through the field to draw Joey Korsiak in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Rodriguez, in the meantime, faced Mike Salerno in the other one. Immonen gave up only a single rack to Korsiak and moved on to the hot seat match. He was joined by Rodriguez, who’d sent Salerono west 7-4. The Iceman and Rodriguez battled to a somewhat predictable double hill battle that eventually sent Rodriguez to the semifinals.

On the loss side, Robles chalked up wins #3 and #4 against John Francisco (7-2) and Mhet Vergara (double hill) to draw Korsiak. Salerno picked up Frankie Hernandez, who’d eliminated Jimmy Conn 7-2 and Jonathan Smith 7-3 to reach him. A potential rematch between Hernandez and Robles loomed in the shortly-distant quarterfinals.

Robles did what he could to affect that rematch with a 7-5 victory over Korsiak in the event’s first money round. Salerno, though, ended Hernandez’ weekend 7-4.

Robles downed Salerno 7-5 in the quarterfinals, setting up a repeat of the 2018 hot seat match and final; Robles versus Rodriguez. They split those two matches last year. Robles, winning the first one and Rodriguez, claiming the title in the finals. Robles earned his shot against The Iceman with a 7-2 win over Rodriguez in that semifinal matchup, guaranteeing himself at least a repeat, runner-up finish and a certainly possible finish as the Open/Pro Champion.

According to Robles, he lost that final matchup, early. He missed an early shot that he says he shouldn’t have missed and The Iceman used the resultant momentum to move on and win the match 7-4.

“I made one mistake in that final match,” said Robles later, “and it cost me.”

Robles thanked Holden Chin, Matthew Harricharan, Troy Deocharran, and Joshua Friedberg’s Raxx staff for their hospitality, his own Predator Pro Am staff (to include his lovely wife, Gail) and title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards,, The DeVito Team,, Cappelle (, AZBilliards, Pool & Billiard Magazine and Billiards Digest. The Predator Pro Am Tour will open its 2020 season at Amsterdam BIlliards with an event scheduled for the weekend of January 18-19, 2020

“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.