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Jayson Shaw Wins his Eighth Career Turning Stone Title

Jayson Shaw

The record for career Turning Stone Classic titles is now eight, and Jayson Shaw made number eight look easy.

Shaw cruised through the first three days of play with notable wins over Earl Strickland and Danny Hewitt on his way to Sunday play, still on the winners side. Shaw kicked off Sunday with a 9-3 win over regional player Jimmy Rivera, followed up with a 9-1 shellacking of Mika Immonen for the hot-seat.

On the one loss side, Donny Mills avenged his earlier loss to Immonen and eliminated the Finnish World Champion in 3rd place with a 9-6 scoreline in the semi-finals. 

The extended race to 13 final match between Shaw and Mills saw Mills take an early 1-0 lead, but it would not last long as Shaw won six straight racks to take a lead that he would not give up for the rest of the match. Mills fought back to a 6-4 scoreline, but Shaw then took control and won seven of the next eight racks for a 13-5 win and his eighth career Turning Stone Classic title. 

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Stottlemyer takes two out of three vs. Spohr to claim MD State Bar Table 9-Ball Championship

Brett Stottlemyer

The last time Brett Stottlemyer won On the Hill Production’s MD State Bar Table 9-Ball Championships in 2020, he came from the loss-side, faced a teenager, Dylan Spohr, in the semifinals and went on to double dip Oklahoma’s Joe Tomkowski in the finals. Two years later, this past weekend (April 9-10), Stottlemyer and now, an officially adult (21) Spohr faced each other three times; once in a winner’s side semifinal and twice in a double elimination final. Stottlemyer sent Spohr to the loss side in the first, Spohr took the second and Stottlemyer claimed the 2022 MD State Bar Table 9-Ball title with a victory in the third. The $2,500-added event drew 75 entrants to Brews & Cues on the Boulevard in Glen Burnie, MD.

After being awarded an opening round bye, Stottlemyer’s path went through Todd Michael,  before he faced and defeated the ‘favorite’ in the race, Shaun Wilkie in a double hill fight. He followed with wins over Deomark Alpajera and Glen Loveland to draw Spohr in their winners’ side semifinal matchup.

Meanwhile, Rick Miller, looking for his first recorded win since he came back from a loss, battling for the hot seat, to meet and defeat Andrew Cleary in the finals at a stop on the former Predator Pro Am Tour four years ago, worked his way through four opponents, two of which (Ricardo Diaz and Russ Redhead) gave him a double hill run for his money, two others who came within a game of double hill (Rick Molineiro and Scott Haas; 7-5) and Norman Wagner, his first opponent, who chalked up four against him. Miller faced Bobby Pacheco in the other winners’ side semifinal. 

In their first of three, Stottlemyer downed Spohr 7-4 and by the same score, Miller sent Pacheco to the loss side. Stottlemyer claimed the hot seat over Miller 7-3 and waited on Spohr’s return.

On the loss side, Spohr picked up Jimmy Rivera, who, after losing to Pacheco 7-4 in a winners’ side quarterfinal had eliminated Paul Oh 7-4 and Scott Haas 7-3. Pacheco drew Wilkie, who’d followed his double-hill loss to Stottlemyer with six straight on the loss side, including recent wins over Moe Mozannar 7-1 and Molineiro 7-2. 

Wilkie and Pacheco locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Wilkie to the quarterfinals, as Spohr downed Rivera 7-4 to join him. Wilkie’s loss-side run came to end at seven matches in those quarterfinals, with Spohr advancing 7-2 to meet and defeat Miller in the semifinals 7-4.

Momentum went to work for Spohr in the opening set of the finals. Coming off his three loss-side wins, Spohr rolled into that opening set and gave up only three racks. The second set was a much tighter race until the very end. Tied at 3-3, Stottlemyer won two straight before Spohr came back to take the 9th rack, giving him a chance to break and tie it up again at 5-5. 

Things went pretty smoothly in that 10th rack, with Stottlemyer up 5-4, and with four balls left, it looked like Spohr would, indeed, be tying things up. He lined up to shoot the 6-ball into a corner pocket; a pretty straight-forward shot, running it straight up, about three inches off the rail, with enough of an angle to give him good position on the 7-ball. As the 6-ball moved in the right direction, it looked pretty good. Until it didn’t. It caught an edge of the pocket and rattled in the doorway before deciding to stay outside.

Spohr collapsed forward on the table. He knew he hadn’t just missed a shot. With Brett Stottlemyer stepping to the table, Spohr was fairly certain that he’d just missed his chance at winning the title. He was right. It wasn’t precisely over at that point. Stottlemyer did finish the 10th rack to move out in front 6-4 and Spohr got to break and did win the 11th rack to pull back within one at 6-5. But on the hill, Stottlemyer broke, dropping three balls, and then, ran out to claim the title.

On the Hill Productions’ Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues on the Boulevard, as well as sponsors AlleyKat Cue Sports, AZBilliards.com, Aramith Balls, Bull Carbon, Simonis Cloth, TAP Chesapeake Bay Region, Safe Harbor Retirement Planners, Whyte Carbon Fiber Cue Shafts, OB Cues and MB Cues.

On the Hill Productions will be back at Brews & Cues on the Boulevard at the end of the month, when they bring event #4 in the Bar Box Bonanza Series, a FargoRate 8-Ball tournament (April 30-May 1).

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The “Munchkin” breaks through, downs Stottlemeyer to claim MD State 8-Ball Championships

Brett Stottlemyer and Steve Johnson

“He’s short,” said Loye Bolyard, co-tour director of On the Hill Productions’ Maryland State Championship events, “and people were always busting on him about it.”

Over the years, Steve Johnson has good-naturedly absorbed an expected array of potential nicknames related to his height; “Shorty,” of course, being the most common. Until one day, he corrected someone by suggesting that they refer to him as the “Munchkin.” It’s stuck, if not before, certainly now, as the “Munchkin” just completed a successful run through a field of 50 entrants at this past weekend’s (March 12-13) MD State 8-Ball Championships. According to Bolyard, while Johnson’s been a regular competitor on the MD State series of events, as well as a cash winner at any number of small, venue-specific tournaments, it’s the first time that the “Munchkin” has recorded a major (recorded) tournament payout and it was a win. The event drew its 50 entrants to Brews & Cues on the Boulevard in Glen Burnie, MD.

It’s rare to the point of being remarkable that a player with almost no known history of success at the tables can break through at a tournament featuring a number of better-known and presumably, better players. Not completely unheard of, but certainly rare enough to gain ‘remarkable’ status. And while the game was 8-ball, known to offer players more kinds of opportunities to frustrate opponent plans, and he wasn’t up against the likes of Jayson Shaw, Shane Van Boening or Fedor Gorst, the “Munchkin” didn’t get a lot of luck from the bracket draws. He had to get by (among others) the likes of Matt Krah, Jimmy Rivera, Scott Haas and eventually, had to double dip Brett Stottlemeyer in the finals to claim his first event title.

“We don’t know what happened,” said Bolyard. “He’d won one of those weekly tournaments the Friday before and he just kept his nerves under control. He was really calm all the way through.”

“He kept his composure together and everything just clicked for him,” he added. “He was able (in the finals) to put Brett in some lockdowns; good ones that stopped runouts. He had him 4-0 in that first set.”

It started well for the “Munchkin.” He opened with a shutout over Tim Metter and then got by Christie Hurdel and Joseph Wright, Jr. before encountering Matt Krah in a winners’ side quarterfinal. They fought the proverbial ‘tooth and nail’ to 5-5 before Johnson picked up ‘6,’ advancing to a winners’ side semifinal against Jimmy Rivera. Like Johnson, Stottlemeyer opened with a shutout (over Bruce Brunnell) before facing his own ‘rogue’s gallery’ of familiar combatants, any one of whom could have derailed his trip to the hot seat; Rick Miller, Steve Fleming and, in a winners’ side quarterfinal, Scott Haas. Going into the winners’ side quarterfinals, there was a potential father/son battle for the hot seat looming on the event horizon. But while Thomas did his part, downing Thomas Zippler 6-3, Stottlemeyer sent his Dad to the loss side in a double hill fight and picked up son Thomas in the other winners’ side semifinal. This shifted the potential father/son battle to the loss side, where they eventually met in the quarterfinals.

Stottlemeyer made short work of son Thomas Haas 6-1, as Johnson was dispatching Rivera to the loss side 6-4. In the first of their three matches, Stottlemeyer dominated, for the second time in a row giving up only a single rack. He sat in the hot seat, one would assume, fairly confident that he’d be chalking up the one win he needed to claim the title.  

On the loss side, the Haas family was at work, looking to match up in the quarterfinals. Dad had followed his loss to Stottlemeyer with victories over Bryan Jones 6-2 and Zippler 6-1 to draw Rivera. Son Thomas picked up Eric Lyons, who was working on a modest four-match, loss-side streak that had recently eliminated Matt Krah 6-4 and co-tour director Rick Scarlato, Jr. 6-1.

Father and son downed their respective opponents, Rivera and Lyons, by the same 6-3 score and the quarterfinal family fight was on. Oddly enough, it was won by the same 6-3 score that had made the match happen. It was Dad Scott who advanced to the semifinals against the “Munchkin.” 

The reportedly “calm” and “composed” Johnson kept the ‘cool’ going in the face of a double hill challenge from the last Haas standing. He weathered that storm, eliminating Haas to put an even more daunting challenge on his ‘dance card;’ the necessary two-step tango to pry Brett Stottlemeyer from his perch in the hot seat.

The “Munchkin” grabbed the first set 6-3, which almost certainly had a way of boosting his confidence, while on the other side of the table, the pressure was suddenly on. Johnson won the second set 6-4 to claim MD State’s 8-Ball Championships and earn his first payout entry into AZBilliards’ database.

On the Hill Productions’ Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues on the Boulevard, as well as sponsors AlleyKat Cue Sports, AZBilliards.com, Aramith Balls, Bull Carbon, Simonis Cloth, TAP Chesapeake Bay Region, Safe Harbor Retirement Planners, Whyte Carbon Fiber Cue Shafts, OB Cues and MB Cues.

On the Hill Productions will be back at Brews & Cues on the Boulevard for its next three events. Its first, a 10-Ball Scotch Doubles event for teams with a combined FargoRate of 1200 or under, scheduled for the weekend of March 26-27, will be #3 in its Bar Box Bonanza series. April will bring two events, blending into May. The MD State Bar Table 9-Ball Championships (April 9-10) and #4 in the Bar Box Bonanza Series, a FargoRate 8-Ball tournament (April 30-May 1). 

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Hohmann backs up Steinway Classic title with NYC Singles 8-Ball Championship title

Tony Robles, Thorsten Hohmann and Tournament Director John Leyman (Erwin Dionisio)

Soto, Rosario, Sugiyama, Musser and Karwas win other division 8-ball titles
 
Three days after winning the 7th Steinway Classic in a thrilling, double hill final match against Fedor Gorst (Oct. 17), Thorsten Hohmann, at the same location, won the Grand Master Division of the NYC 8-Ball Championships (Oct. 20) with a slightly less dramatic 6-1 finals victory over Ruslan Chinakhov. The Grand Master division of the annual event, which drew 22 entrants to Steinway, was one of six division 8-ball tournaments held on the weekend of October 19-20. In all, under the sponsorship of Michael Fedak, the NYC Singles 8-Ball Championships added $15,000, divided among the six divisions, which drew 151 unique entrants.
 
It was Jose Soto who won in the 16-entrant Mixed Master’s Division, Abel Rosario in the 32-entrant Mixed Advanced Division, Akiko Sugiyama in the 32-entrant Women’s Leisure Division, and Maxwell Musser in the 32-entrant Men’s Leisure Division. The largest field, 48 entrants, was the Mixed Open Division, won by Sebastian Karwas.
 
Hohmann’s path to the winners’ circle in the Grand Masters event went through Chinakhov twice. He opened with a double hill win over Joey Korsiak and then, sent Chinakhov to the loss side 6-4. Hohmann then defeated Del Sim 6-4, to draw Damianos Giallourakis in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Nick Ekonomopoulos in the meantime, after being awarded an opening round bye, downed the Steinway Classic’s runner-up, Fedor Gorst 6-2 and Jalal Yousef 6-4 to draw Jimmy Rivera in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Hohmann defeated Giallourakis 6-3 and in the hot seat match, faced Ekonomopoulos, who’d sent Rivera west 6-1. Hohmann claimed the hot seat 6-3 and waited on the return of Chinakhov.
 
On the loss side, Chinakhov was working on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would give him a second chance against Hohmann. He got by Raphael Dabreo 6-2, Ryan Hsu 6-4, Tony Robles 6-2 and survived a double fight versus Burgos to draw Giallourakis, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Rivera picked up Roland Garcia, who after being defeated by Giallourakis ended Gorst’s run 6-1 and  by the same score, Del Sim’s.
 
Chinakhov and Giallourakis battled to double hill before Chinakhov advanced to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Garcia, who’d eliminated Rivera 6-2. Chinakhov took the quarterfinal match 6-2.
 
He completed his loss-side run with a double hill win over Ekonomopoulos in the semifinals. Hohmann, though, shut Chinakhov down early in the finals and completed his undefeated run with a 6-1 victory over Chinakhov.
 
Soto is the only competitor to come from the loss side to win Mixed Masters Division
 
Five of the six divisions of the NYC Singles 8-Ball Championships featured winners who went undefeated through their respective fields. Jose Soto, in the smallest field (16), competing in the Mixed Masters division, was the only competitor to win a division by coming from the loss side to defeat the hot seat occupant. And he did so, by losing in his first round and winning six loss-side matches to down Cesar Turcios in the finals.
 
Soto lost 5-1 to Tim Edmonds in the opening round of play. Edmonds was subsequently defeated by Brooke Meyers, who advanced to face Turcios in the hot seat match. Turcios claimed the hot seat in a double hill win over Meyers. On the loss side, three of the six matches Soto played, forced him to play a single deciding game to advance; matches against Eddie Kunz, Matthew Harricharan and his quarterfinal match against Miguel Laboy. Soto downed Meyers 6-3 in the semifinals and then, claimed the title with an 8-4 win over Turcios.
 
The largest field of 48, in the Mixed Open division, was won by Sebastian Karwas, who went undefeated. It took Karwas as many matches on the winners’ side of the Mixed Open bracket to claim the title, as it took Soto on both sides of the Mixed Masters bracket to win his. Karwas got by Jim Gutierrez, Keith Stefanowitz, Omar Chavez, Alex Kent and Marco Daniele to face Paul Lyons in the hot seat match. He claimed the hot seat 6-1 over Lyons, who moved to the loss side and downed Daniele in the semifinals 5-3. Karwas took their second match 6-4 to claim the title.
 
Rosario and Schreiber battle it out for Mixed Advanced title
 
Two of the New York area’s better competitors in their respective ranking divisions battled twice to claim the 32-entrant Mixed Advanced title. Abel Rosario and Thomas Schreiber hold top positions in the standings of both the Tri-State and Predator Pro Am Tours. Rosario is #10 on the Tri-State’s A+/A standings list and the #3 B+ player on the Predator Pro Am Tour. Schreiber is #5 on the Tri-State’s list of B players and # 2 on the Predator Pro Am Tour’s list of B players.
 
After four victories each, they met first in the hot seat match. Rosario claimed the hot seat 6-3. Schreiber moved to the loss side and downed Matthew Rezendes 5-1. He and Rosario fought to an appropriate double hill game 11 before Rosario finished it to claim the title.
 
In the 32-entrant Women’s Leisure division, Akiko Sugiyama won five straight to claim that title. She faced Melissa Schleifer twice and gave up only a single rack over the two matches; that one, coming in Sugiyama’s victory in the hot seat match. Schleifer shut Debra Pritchett out in the semifinals, but punctuating her undefeated run through the field, Sugiyama shut Schleifer out in the finals.
 
Completing the six-tournament event, it was Maxwell Musser, who went undefeated through the 32-entrant Men’s Leisure field. Musser faced separate opponents in the hot seat and finals, defeating Brian Schell to claim the hot seat, and after Henry Chan had downed Schell double hill in the semifinals, Musser shut him out to take the title.
 
As always, event director Tony Robles thanked Manny Stamatakis and his Steinway Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as Dr. Michael Fedak for his continuing financial support for this event (Fedak finished in the tie for 13th place in the Mixed Open tournament). Robles also noted sponsorship support from Predator Cues, and Blatt Billiards. According to Robles, the 2020 NYC 8-Ball Championships are going to be even better. It’s being planned as a three-day event on Columbus Day weekend and Dr. Fedak will be adding $20,000.
 
“This event wouldn’t be possible without the support of Michael and Marilyn Fedak,” said Robles.

Hernandez and Ok win Open-Pro, Amateur events on Predator Pro Am Tour

(l to r): Omar Soto, Eugene Ok, Ryan Boursse & Mac Jankov

Eugene Ok and Frankie Hernandez both went undefeated to claim respective Amateur and Open/Pro titles in the July 13-14 stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour. Ok worked his way through a field of 83 entrants on-hand for the $1,000-added Amateur event, hosted by Amsterdam Billiards in Manhattan. Hernandez, the tour’s current #1-ranked Open/Pro competitor, went undefeated through the Open/Pro field of 21 entrants in the $500-added event.
 
In the ‘almost’ department with two losses, the second of which occurred in the event final, were Ryan Boursse in the Amateur event and Tour Director Tony Robles in the Open/Pro, who won five on the loss side to get into the final match. Robles couldn’t remember the last time he’d been in an event final, which, according to our records, had been last September, when he downed Max Watanabe twice. Prior to that, it had been five years (2014) since he won two events and was runner-up in three others on the tour. He won four matches to win the 2018 event at Cue Bar in Bayside, Queens. It took nine matches to be the runner-up this past weekend.
 
Jimmy Rivera sent Robles to the loss side in a winners’ side quarterfinal that went double hill before Robles gave him ball-in-hand to close out the 13th rack (7-6). Rivera advanced to meet eventual winner Frankie Hernandez, while Duc Lam and Sean Morgan met in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Lam downed Morgan, double hill, and in the hot seat match, faced Hernandez, who’d sent Rivera to the loss side 7-3. Hernandez claimed the hot seat 7-2 over Lam and waited for The Silent Assassin to come back from his five-match, loss-side trip.
 
Robles would play five matches on the loss side and the one match in the final. Three of those six matches went double hill, including the only one he lost, in the final. He opened his loss-side trip with his first double hill win, over Dominic Gauthier. He then eliminated John Messina 7-2 to draw Morgan, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Rivera drew Jonathan Smith, who’d recently eliminated Raphael Dabreo and Pat Fleming, both 7-5.
 
Robles downed Morgan 7-2. Smith spoiled the potential Robles/Rivera rematch by downing Rivera 7-5 to join Robles in the quarterfinals.
 
Robles won the next two matches, double hill, to meet Hernandez in the finals. He downed Smith in the quarterfinals and then, Lam in the semifinals, both 7-6. He ended up on the wrong side of his third straight double hill match and had to settle for runner-up, as Hernandez completed his undefeated run to claim the event title.
 
Ok moves up the tour’s B+ ladder with undefeated victory in the Amateur event
 
Eugene Ok’s trip through the 83-entrant Amateur field ended in his second victory on the Predator Pro Am Tour, his first since May of 2017, a year in which he finished among the top five in five events on the Predator and Tri-State Tours.
 
Ok had to get by Ryan Boursse twice in this event and the first, was in a winners’ side semifinal match. Mac Jankov, in the meantime, squared off against Alfredo Altamirano in the other one. Ok got into the hot seat match, downing Boursse 7-5 and was joined by Jankov, who’d sent Altamirano over 7-4.  Ok claimed the hot seat 8-6 over Jankov and waited for Boursse to get back from the loss side.
 
In his opening loss-side match, Boursse drew Pascal Dufresne, who’d defeated Luis Jimenez and Brooke Meyer, both 7-5, to reach him. Altamirano picked up Omar Soto, who’d gotten by Ada Lio 7-2 and Ryan Dayrit 7-5.
 
Boursse and Soto advanced to the quarterfinals; Boursse 7-5 over Dufresne and Soto 7-3 over Altamirano. Boursse then eliminated Soto 7-4 in the quarterfinals and Mac Jankov 9-5 in the semifinals. Boursse was able to chalk up one more rack in the finals than he had in the winners’ side semifinal, forcing a 13th and deciding game in the final against Ok. Ok, though, closed it out to claim the Amateur event title.
 
A single elimination Second Chance event drew 15 entrants. Ambi Estevez claimed that title, with Jorge Collado as runner-up. Ray Lee and Luis Jimenez tied for third place.
 
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Amsterdam Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, PlayNAPL.com, The DeVito Team, PoolontheNet.com, Cappelle (BilliardsPress.com), AZBilliards, Pool & Billiards Magazine and Billiards Digest.
 
On the weekend of August 3-4, Robles’ Silent Assassin Productions will present a non-tour event at Steinway Billiards – The 4th Annual NYC 8-Ball Scotch Doubles Championships. The following weekend, August 10-11, Steinway Billiards will host the next Predator Pro Am Tour stop; a $1,000-added, double points event. 

Aranas wins Predator Pro Am qualifier to CSI Predator World 10-Ball Championship

Omar Al Shaheen and James Aranas

It’s rare, if not downright unheard of, that a pool tournament, especially among the sport’s elite, is set up as a winner-take-all scenario. That, however, is just what occurred on Sunday, June 23, when 15 competitors gathered at Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY vying for a single, winner payout in a $500-added event, which would qualify that winner for the upcoming, $100,000-added CSI/Predator World 10-Ball Championships, set for July 22-26 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Zoren James Aranas won four matches in a row in a single elimination format to claim the $1,500 first-place prize and a paid entry to the Vegas event next month.

The event was held under the auspices of the Predator Pro Am Tour, which, concurrently, held its 10th tour stop of the year, a $1,000-added A/B/C/D event that drew 80 entrants to Raxx Billiards. Between the Open/Pro event qualifier, the A/B/C/D tour stop and two Second Chance events, 124 players (with some event overlap) traveled out to Long Island for this multi-event weekend. A report on the A/B/C/D tournament and the two Second Chance events will be posted separately.

The qualifier event featured exactly 201 games of pool. In winning, Aranas won 40 of the 51 games in which he competed (78%). His opponent in the finals, Omar Alshaheen, won 35 of 63, for a game-winning average of 55%. Alshaheen’s opponents chalked up an average of six games against him and he faced a double hill battle in the third, semi-final round. Aranas’ opponents won an average of just under three games per match.

Aranas opened with a 10-1 victory over Pat Fleming, as Alshaheen downed Jeremy Sossei 10-6. In the second round, Aranas defeated tour and event director Tony Robles 10-5. Alshaheen, in the meantime, defeated Jimmy Rivera 10-3.

In the semifinals that followed, Elvis Rodriguez, who’d defeated Mike Dunn 10-5 and Holden Chin (owner of Raxx Billiards) 10-8, was eliminated in a shutout by Aranas. Thorsten Hohmann, who’d defeated Mike Badsteubner and Joey Korsiak, both 10-6, forced a 19th and deciding game against Alshaheen, who advanced to meet Aranas in the finals.

In the final match, Aranas downed Alshaheen 10-5 to claim the top prize and his literal (ticket) on a plane to Vegas for the CSI/Predator 10-Ball Championships next month.

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. 

Shaw comes back from hot seat loss to win 11th Annual Empire State Championships

Pnoto by Erwin Dionisio (l to r): Jorge Rodriguez, Jayson Shaw, Frankie Hernandez, Raphael Dabreo

Fracasso-Verner goes undefeated to capture Amateur title
 
When Frankie Hernandez first appeared in our database, finishing 25th in the US Open 9-Ball Championships, won by Tommy Kennedy in 1992, Jayson Shaw was four years old. A year later, in the same event, Hernandez would share a 17th place finish with such luminaries as Allen Hopkins, Jim Rempe, Richie Richeson and Cliff Joyner. In Frankie’s best earnings year, to date (2001), Shaw had just become a teenager, as Frankie was busy finishing 49th at the US Open, but cashing in 21 events, including eight stops on the Joss Tour, two Turning Stone events (II & III), and geographic victories all over the map; Florida, Las Vegas and New England, et al.
 
At the $1,000-added, 11th Annual Empire State Championships (Open/Pro division), which drew 28 entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY on the weekend of February 23-24, Hernandez advanced to the hot seat match, where he met and defeated Jayson Shaw in an exciting, back and forth, double hill match. Shaw returned from the semifinals to down Hernandez in the finals.
 
When Shaw first appeared in our database in 2006, Lukas Fracasso-Verner was four years old. They didn’t meet to play in this 11th Annual Empire State Championships, although it would have been fun to watch. Fracasso-Verner went undefeated through the $2,000-added Amateur event’s field of 140 to capture the Amateur title.
 
Both defending champions of this event were on-hand at this year’s championships, but both would end up in the tie for 13th in their respective divisions; Zion Zvi, the two-time defending champion of the Open/Pro division, and Jason Carandang, last year’s amateur winner.
 
Fracasso-Verner is fresh off his best earnings year to date (2018) and recent winner of a stop on the NE 9-Ball Series. He was last year’s winner in the Amateur division of the 8th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial, at which he lost his opening match and won 11 on the loss side before downing Chuck Allie to claim the title. That said, he’s proved to be a bit of puzzle. Though his various accomplishments on regional tours and national events has been impressive (last year’s Ginky Memorial and this event as just a couple of relevant examples), he has come into this broad field of top-notch competition without benefit of a Junior National Championship under his belt, although he’s competed several times. He is also not on anyone’s short list to become a member of the USA’s junior team at this year’s upcoming Atlantic Cup Challenge. According to Roy Pastor, who’s taught Fracasso-Verner in the Connecticut Youth Billiards program and is a part of the BEF’s junior and world championship programs, Fracasso-Verner’s absence from this year’s Atlantic Cup Challenge team says less about his individual skills and talent, than it does about the overall strength of the youth programs leading up to the BEF Junior Nationals every year.
 
“The field (of junior competitors) is getting stronger every year,” said Pastor, “and there are a lot of Lukas Fracasso-Verners out there.”
 
Joey Tate, the teenager, from Raleigh, NC, for example, is younger than Fracasso-Verner and has already attained a 681 Fargo Rate. By comparison, Fracasso-Verner is currently at 645. And there are others, some of whom, over the years, have defeated Fracasso-Verner in Junior National competition.
 
“Lukas is a terrific player, though,” said Pastor, “and has the potential to be one of the greatest.”  
 
This time around, Fracasso-Verner opted out of the loss side route for this event, going undefeated through the Amateur field. He defeated Chris Ganley in the hot seat match and Matt Klein in the finals.
 
[photo id=50742|align=right]
Fracasso-Verner and Klein met first in a winners’ side semifinal, while Ganley and Paul Carpenter squared off in the other one. Fracasso-Verner got into the hot seat match with an 8-4 victory over Klein and was joined by Ganley, who’d sent Carpenter west 7-5. Fracasso-Verner downed Ganley, who started the match with 5 on the wire, 10-7 to claim the hot seat.
 
On the loss side, Klein picked up Xavier Romero and Carpenter drew Jim Gutierrez. Klein and Carpenter got right back to work, downing Romero and Gutierrez, both 7-3, to meet in the quarterfinals. Klein then eliminated Carpenter 7-5 and got a second shot at Fracasso-Verner with a 7-4 victory over Ganley in the semifinals. Fracasso-Verner claimed the Empire State title with an 8-5 victory over Klein.
 
Shaw comes back from hot seat loss to claim 10-Ball Open/Pro title
 
There had to be an inescapable air of inevitability about the 10-Ball Open/Pro event. With Jayson Shaw in the relatively short field, as the winners’ side whittled down further and further, who wouldn’t be bracket watching to see if they were next on the world-class player’s hit list. Frankie Hernandez, though, was one of the 28, who, having competed against his share of top-notch champions, would be unlikely to be intimidated. Cautious, maybe, respectful of Shaw’s obvious talent, but up to the challenge, which reached him in the hot seat match.
 
Shaw had faced and defeated another unlikely-to-be-intimidated competitor, Jorge Rodriguez 7-3 in a winners’ side semifinal (Rodriguez won this event in 2015). Hernandez, in the meantime, squared off against and eventually sent Rob Pole to the loss side 7-2. In a thrilling, double hill hot seat match, Hernandez sent Shaw off to the semifinals.
 
On the loss side, in the first money round, Rodriguez picked up Tenzin Jorden, who’d been the first of two to defeat defending champion, Zion Zvi, and a week earlier, had chalked up his first Predator Pro Am Amateur title. He’d defeated Jimmy Rivera 7-3 and survived a double hill match against Joey Korsiak to reach Rodriguez. Pole drew Raphael Dabreo, who’d most recently eliminated Jonathan Smith 7-4 and Mike Salerno (Smith, in the previous round, had knocked out Zion Zvi).
 
Rodriguez and DaBreo advanced to the quarterfinals, both 7-2, over Jorden and Pole. DaBreo took the quarterfinal 7-5 over Rodriguez. It was getting late, already into early Monday morning, when Shaw, seemingly impatient, gave up only a single rack to DaBreo in those semifinals to earn a second shot against Hernandez in the hot seat.
 
Things broke pretty evenly in the early going of the finals, which didn’t get underway until nearly 2 a.m. Shaw and Hernandez fought back and forth early, with no clear winner in sight. Near the middle of those finals, though, Shaw broke through to claim the title 9-4.
 
A Second Chance event drew a full field of 16 entrants. Julie Ha ($160) won four straight in the single elimination bracket to down Monika Callaghan ($100) 8-6 in the finals. Chulo Castro and Mark Antonetti finished in the tie for 3rd place ($30 each). A Third Chance event drew another full field of 16 and was won by Brian Tierney ($160), who downed Dave Callaghan ($100) 7-5 in the finals. Mike Callaghan and Shashi Hajaree each took home $39 for their third place tie.
 
Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Raxx Billiards for their continuing support and hospitality at these annual Empire State Championships, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, NAPL, The DeVito Team, PoolontheNet.com, Billiards Digest, AZBilliards, Pool & Billiards Magazine and his entire staff, including his lovely wife, Gail. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 2-3 will be an Amateur event, hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.

DaBreo and Fracasso-Verner win Open/Pro, Amateur events on Predator Pro Am Tour

Joey Korsiak, Zion Zvi, Raphael DaBreo & Jimmy Rivera

It is a significant rite of passage; moving from the top ranks of Amateur status to the loftier competitive environment where the Open/Pro players do battle. On the weekend of March 3-4, at a $250-added Open/Pro event on the Predator Pro Am Tour, Raphael Dabreo took that step, winning his first-ever Open/Pro event, and according to tour director Tony Robles, was “super happy about it.”
 
“Like a kid in a candy store,” said Robles.
 
DaBreo, working as a B player, first showed up on the AZBilliards’ radar 10 years ago, when he won his first stop on the Tri-State Tour. A year later (2009), he won two more on that tour. He won his first stop on the Predator Pro Am in 2010. Over the next eight years, he chalked up a baker’s dozen (13) more on the two tours, as he climbed the rankings ladder. On average, we reported here last October, he’d won an average of one event per year on both tours, dating back to those initial victories.
 
In a concurrently-run, $750-added Amateur event over the weekend, Lukas Fracasso-Verner went undefeated through a field of 53 entrants to claim that title (more on this a little later in this report). Both events were hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.
 
DaBreo had a crack at a Predator Open/Pro event about three weeks ago, (Feb. 10-11), when he made it to the semifinals (downing Robles on the loss side along the way), before being eliminated by the event’s winner, Kudlik Marek. His first Open/Pro victory followed the same script, with the significant difference of coming back from the loss side to win it. He advanced to a winners’ side semifinal versus Jimmy Rivera in this most recent event, while Joey Korsiak and Zion Zvi squared off in the other one.
 
Korsiak got by Zvi 7-4. DaBreo battled Rivera to a deciding game, before Rivera sent him to the loss side. Korsiak claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Rivera and waited on DaBreo’s return.
 
On the loss side, DaBreo picked up Robles (whom he’d met in the quarterfinals of the Feb. 10-11 event), who’d defeated Victor Nau 7-3 and Mike Salerno 7-2 to reach him this time. Zvi drew Jorge Teixeira, who’d gotten by Yesid Garibello 7-3 and Dave Shlemperis 7-1. DaBreo got by Robles again; this time, 7-4, as Zvi eliminated Teixeira 7-2.
 
DaBreo, apparently very motivated to collect his first Open/Pro title, chalked up two straight double hill wins to get a shot at Korsiak in the hot seat. He downed Zvi in the quarterfinals, and then, Rivera in the semifinals. A 9-5 win over Korsiak in those finals secured DaBreo’s first Open/Pro win.
 
[photo id=48780|align=right]Fracasso-Verner goes undefeated to take Amateur division
 
Last February, at the age of 15, Lukas Fracasso-Verner became the second-youngest player to ever win a stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour; the first, being Thomas Rice, who, at 14 won a stop on the tour in 2013. What was particularly significant about Fracasso-Verner’s victory at the time was that he’d won 13 loss-side matches to meet and defeat the hot seat occupant, Atif Khan.
 
At this most recent stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, Fracasso-Verner, now 16, chalked up another victory, this time going undefeated through a field of 53. He advanced through the field to a winners’ side semifinal against Rhio Anne “Annie” Flores, while Adam Miller met up with Feng Zhao in the other winners’ side semifinal. Miller downed Zhao 7-3, while Fracasso-Verner and Flores locked up in a double hill battle that did eventually send Flores to the loss side. Fracasso-Verner then downed Miller 9-5 to claim the hot seat.
 
On the loss side, Zhao picked up Suzzie Wong, who’d gotten by Greg Matos 6-3 and won a double hill match against Matthias Gutzmann. Flores drew Mark Zamora, recent double hill winner over Ocheign Carlos and Max Watanabe 7-5. The ladies advanced to the quarterfinals; Wong, over Zhao 7-2, and Flores over Zamora 7-4.
 
The ladies then locked up in a double hill fight, won by Wong. Miller took the semifinal 6-3 over Wong. Fracasso-Verner completed his undefeated run with a double hill 9-8 win over Miller in the finals.
 
A Second Chance event drew eight entrants. It was won by Wax Watanabe, who defeated Rich Hourihan in a double hill final. Watanabe pocketed  $100, while Hourihan took home $50.
 
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at The Spot for their hospitality, as well as special thanks to title sponsor Predator Cues, NAPL, Ozone Billiards, The DeVito Team, PoolOnTheNet.com, BilliardsPress.com, AZBilliards, Billiards Digest and PoolMag.com. Robles also extended thanks to his entire Predator Staff, including his wife, Gail Robles, Mandy Wu, William Finnegan, Irene Kim, and Rob Omen. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 17-18, will be an A/B/C/D event hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.

Marek comes back from semifinals to win Predator Open/Pro event

(l to r): Kudlik Marek & Alex Kazakis

Lio joins growing list of female winners on Predator Pro Am Tour
 
Both winners on the most recent Predator Pro Am Tour stop on the weekend of February 10-11 came back from the loss side to claim victory in the event’s Amateur and Open-Pro events. Kudlik Marek came back from a loss in the hot seat match of the $250-added Open/Pro tournament (10-ball), which drew 21 entrants, to down Alex Kazakis in the finals. Ada Lio came back from a winners’ side semifinal in the $750-added, Double Points Amateur event (9-ball), which drew 89, to defeat Bryan Toolsee in the finals. The 13 amateurs who opted to compete in the Open/Pro event paid a reduced entry fee of $60 to sign on. Both events were hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.
 
In the Open/Pro segment of the weekend’s activities (Sunday), Marek faced Alex Kazakis twice; first, in the hot seat match and then later, victoriously in the finals. Marek had sent Raphael Dabreo to the loss side, double hill, in one winners’ side semifinal, while Marek was busy downing tour director Tony Robles 7-5. Kazakis claimed the hot seat 7-3 over Marek, and waited on his return.
 
Robles and DaBreo got right back to business on the loss side; Robles downing Joey Korsiak 7-3 and DaBreo eliminating Jimmy Rivera 7-4. DaBreo then defeated Robles 7-4 in the quarterfinals to earn himself a re-match against Marek. Marek downed him a second time 7-4 in the semifinals to earn his own re-match against Kazakis. The two fought to double hill at 8-8, before Marek closed it out to claim the Open/Pro title.
 
Ada Lio gets by the boys to claim Amateur title
 
[photo id=48693|align=right]Ada Lio has been appearing on payout lists in the New York area for about five years, splitting her tournament time between the Tri-State and Predator Tours. As a D+/D player on the Tri-State Tour, she went undefeated, knocking off a couple of A players, to win a Tri-State event in September of 2014. At this most recent event (now playing as a “C”), she came back from a winners’ side semifinal loss to down Bryan Toolsee in the finals of the Amateur event, which played out over two days.
 
She was sent to the loss side by Matt Klein 7-5, as Toolsee was busy dominating Geovanni Hosang 7-0 in the other winners’ side semifinal. At double hill, poised to claim the hot seat, Klein missed a shot at the 9-ball, and left the door open for Toolsee. Toolsee walked in, sunk the 9-ball and sat in the hot seat, awaiting Lio’s return.
 
Lio picked up Erick Carrasco on the loss side, who’d defeated Ryan Dayrit and John Salmon, both 7-5, to reach her. Hosang drew Rikki Ragoonanan, fresh off two straight double hill wins against Dan McGinnis and Jim Curti. As had happened in the Open/Pro event, the two recent arrivals from the winners’ side bracket got right back to business; Lio, downing Carrasco 7-4, and Hosang, coming out on the win side of Ragoonanan’s third double hill match.
 
Lio and Hosang locked up in a double hill quarterfinal fight that eventually sent Lio to the semifinals against Klein. She gave up only a single rack to Klein in those semifinals (7-1) and got a shot at Toolsee in the hot seat. She took full advantage, defeating Toolsee 9-5 to claim the event title.
 
A Second Chance event on Sunday drew 15 entrants. Jason Carandang came out on top to win $150. Juan Guzman finished as runner-up to the tune of $90, while Ambi Estevez and Max Watanabe finished in the $30 tie for third place.
 
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Cue Bar for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, NAPL, Ozone Billiards, The DeVito Team, PoolOnTheNet.com, BilliardsPress.com, AZBilliards, Billiards Digest and PoolMag.com. Robles also extended thanks to his entire Predator Staff, including his wife, Gail Robles, Mandy Wu, William Finnegan, Irene Kim, and Rob Omen. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour will be the 11th Annual Empire State Championships, scheduled for the weekend of February 24-25 at Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead (Long Island), NY.