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Zaveri and Villa split top prizes on Predator Tri-State stop at Shooter’s Family Billiards

Jaydev Zaveri and Brook Villa

At least this time out, Jaydev Zaveri was the official winner. Having worked his way into the finals of three Predator Tri-State Tour stops at the same location this year (Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ), Zaveri and his first two opponents – Jan Mierzwa in February and Joe Valania in May, both of whom were in the hot seat at the time – negotiated a financial agreement and opted out of playing a final match. This past weekend (Saturday, August 27), Zaveri negotiated from the hot seat with tour newcomer, Brook Villa and while splitting the top two prizes with him, he did become the official winner of the $500-added Predator Tri-State stop that drew 29 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards.

Zaveri’s trip to the hot seat had something of a shaky start, surviving two straight double hill battles against Hunter Sullivan and Frank Krupa. A subsequent 7-3 victory over Pascal Dufresne set Zaveri up in a winners’ side semifinal against James Kearney. Aiden Wagner, in the meantime, destined for the hot seat match, got by Jowen Pichardo, Bob Toomey, and Ben Zimmerman to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Villa.

Zaveri got into what would prove to be his final match, battling for the hot seat, with a 7-2 victory over Kearney. Wagner joined him after sending Villa to the loss side 7-5. A 7-4 victory put Zaveri in the hot seat and, as it turned out, afforded him the opportunity to be declared the event’s official winner.

On the loss side, Villa picked up Ben Zimmerman who’d followed his loss to Wagner with wins over Tom Crane 7-5 and John Torp 6-3. Kearney drew Kevin Scalzitti, who’d lost his opening match to Pascal Dufresne and was working on a four-match, loss-side winning streak that had most recently eliminated Mike Strassberg 7-3, John Torp 6-3 and was about to end.

Kearney shut Scalzitti out and in the quarterfinals, faced Villa, who’d defeated Zimmerman 6-3. Villa was downing his opponents more efficiently as he got closer to the end, following his victory over Zimmerman with a 9-2 victory Kearney in the quarterfinals and then shutting out Wagner in the semifinals.

It set up an interesting title match, a contest between a tour veteran with a long list of cash finishes and victories on a number of area tours versus a newcomer, looking for his first recorded tour victory. The match, of course, didn’t happen. Zaveri and Villa agreed to the split and Zaveri went into the books as the event’s official winner. 

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Family Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues. 

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Valania goes undefeated, splits top two prizes with Zaveri on Predator Tri-State Tour

Jaydev Zaveri and Joe Valania

Back in February, Joe Valania chalked up what was only his second recorded event victory anywhere at a stop on the Garden State Tour. His first victory, recorded two years previously, was awarded when, as occupant of the hot seat at the time, he and Daniel Dagotdot split the top two prizes at a stop on the Mac Attack Tour. In reporting on the Garden State Tour stop in February, we noted that the win made 2022 Valania’s best recorded earnings year. This past weekend (Saturday, May 7), he added to his best recorded earnings year with his third recorded victory, this time on the Predator Tri-State Tour, though like the 2020 win on the Mac Attack Tour, he and the runner-up (Jaydev Zaveri) split the top two prizes. The $500-added 10-Ball event drew 37 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.

It is worthy of note that just below the headliners (Valania and Zaveri), third-place finisher, Sabrina Sherman, came in search of what might have been her second tour win. She had previously recorded only three cash finishes on the tour, including an undefeated run at a stop in February 2019, when she split the top two prizes with Mac Jankov (the ‘Mac’ in Mac Attack Tour). Sherman’s bid to record her second tour win was derailed when she forfeited out of the semifinals, allowing Zaveri to leapfrog from the quarterfinals, directly into the finals, which, as it happened, didn’t happen. 

Valania and Zaveri did meet in this most recent event, in a winners’ side semifinal. Valania had opened with a double hill win over Mac Jankov before sending Dave Fitzpatrick and Jason Goberdhan to the loss side and drawing Zaveri in that winners’ side semifinal. Sherman, in the meantime, had embarked on a bit of a roller coaster ride through her first three opponents, shutting out Donald Henriquez and then, surviving two straight double-hill matches against Tom Crane and Marc Lamberti before running into Jay Chiu in the other winners’ side semifinal.

In what was described by tour representatives as a “stunning upset,” Valania defeated Zaveri 6-1, while Sherman was busy sending Chiu to the loss side 5-3. In what would prove to be the last match for both of them, Valania claimed the hot seat over Sherman 5-1.

Zaveri and Chiu picked up rematches against the two competitors that they’d sent to the loss side in two of the winners’ side quarterfinals. On the loss side, Julian Tierney downed Luis Jimenez 6-2 and Mike Strassberg 6-4 to get to his rematch against Zaveri, while Nick Torraca defeated Rich Cardillo 5-2 and Shweta Zaveri (Jaydev’s wife) 6-4 to draw his rematch against Chiu.

Zaveri and Chiu defeated Tierney and Torraca a second time; Zaveri over Tierney 6-4 and Chiu over Torraca 5-3. In what would prove to be his final match, Zaveri defeated Chiu 6-3 in the quarterfinals.

At that point, with Sherman having already forfeited the semifinals, Zaveri and Valania opted out of a final match. The split of the top two prizes was negotiated and the two went their separate ways in plenty of time (sleep included) to enjoy their Mother’s Day celebrations. 

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Family Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui Tips, Phil Capelle, BlueBook Publishing, Human Kinetics, Pool & Billiards, Romer Trophies and Professor Q Ball. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for May 21-22, will be hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.     

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Couvrette comes from the loss side, claims first regional tour title on the Garden State Pool Tour

Michel Couvrette and Robert Calton

As Yogi Berra was famous for saying about the game of baseball, a pool match “ain’t over ‘til it’s over” either. Just ask Michael Couvrette, who, this past weekend (April 2-3), not only had to win five on the loss side, but in a two-set final, was a single game away from defeat, twice; down by nine racks in a race to 10, with his opponent (Marc Lamberti) on the hill. He fought back to win them both, claiming his first recorded regional tour title and his first recorded cash payout since he was runner-up to Borana Andoni at a stop on the Mezz Pro Am Tour, eight years ago.

Overall, it was a strongly competitive weekend at the Garden State Pool Tour’s $450-added, B/C/D Class 9-ball event that drew 53 entrants to Rockaway Billiards in Rockaway, NJ. One-third of the event’s 105 matches went double hill, three of them in a row recorded by Couvrette, on the loss side of the double elimination bracket.

Couvrette started out with three winners’ side victories over Tony Robles (not the pro) and Gary Barnish, both 7-4, and downed Paul Raval 7-2, before running into Joe Valania in a winners’ side quarterfinal. Knotted at 5 in that match, Valania chalked up three in a row to send Couvrette to the loss-side portion of his title-winning run. Valania moved on to face Robert Calton in a winners’ side semifinal, as Lamberti and Rich Cardillo squared off in the other one. 

Lamberti and Cardillo recorded one of the event’s 35 double hill matches, which eventually advanced Lamberti to the hot seat match. He was joined by Calton, who’d defeated Valania 7-4. Lamberti claimed the hot seat 8-4, blissfully unaware of the “victory from the jaws of defeat” battle he’d be fighting before the night was over.

On the loss side, Couvrette worked his way through two straight double hill matches against Nelson Tran and C.J. Chey, before drawing a rematch against Valania. Cardillo, in the meantime, in his first loss-side match, drew Jay Pass.

Pass downed Cardillo to advance to the quarterfinals, as Couvrette chalked up his third straight double hill win in a successful rematch against Valania to join him. Couvrette took down Pass 8-4 in those quarterfinals and then, eliminated Calton 7-5 in the semifinals.

At the start of the two-set finals, needing to win them both, Couvrette began with ‘five on the wire’ in a race to 10. Lamberti took Couvrette’s handicap advantage out of the equation when he jumped out in front 6-1. In the now-race-to-4, Lamberti won the next three to reach the hill. Couvrette went on his first serious run of the opening set, chalking up the next eight matches. With both of them on the hill, Lamberti opted out of playing safe to go for a risky combination that failed. Couvrette stepped to the table and completed the rack to force a second set. 

In the second set, Lamberti once again got out in front by eight racks and was on the hill, one game from claiming the title. Couvrette came back again, knotting things at 9-9 and finished with a flourish; breaking and running the final rack to claim the event title.

Tour representatives thanked room owners, Paul and Gary, and their Rockaway Billiards staff for hosting the tour. The next stop on the Garden City Tour, scheduled for Sunday, April 10, will be and A through D-class 9-ball event, hosted by Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ.

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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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Valania and Dagotdot split top prizes at second stop on the new Mac Attack Tour

Joe Valania & Daniel Dagotdot

Well, at least now, it has an official name. With two stops in the books and one coming up this weekend, Mac Jankov’s Mac Attack Tour may still be working to establish itself in a pool community, recuperating from the losses of pool rooms and players in the tri-state New York area, but it is attracting fair numbers and recognizeable personalities to its venues. This past weekend – Sunday, September 27 – the tour drew 32 entrants to Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ. Joe Valania went undefeated through the field, downing Daniel Dagotdot in the hot seat match and then, by mutual agreement, opting out of a second match, in the finals, and splitting the top two prizes with him. 

Their first and only match against each other came after Dagotdot had defeated Ricky Mejia, double hill, in one of the winners’ side semifinals and Joe Valania had sent Frank Kasetta to the loss side 6-3 in the other one. They battled to an appropriate double hill, deciding game in the battle for the hot seat, before Valania prevailed.

On the loss side, Mejia picked up Kyle Manuel, who’d defeated Jimmy Conn and Erwin Jao, both 5-3, to reach him. Kasetta drew Tommy Schreiber, who’d recently defeated Juan Melendez 5-1 and survived a double hill match versus Alfredo Altamirano.

The first money round, and in fact, all of the matches up to the final that didn’t happen, featured double hill matches. In the first two of four, Schreiber handed Kasetta his second straight loss and Mejia eliminated Kyle Manuel.

The quarterfinal match that followed was won, double hill, by Schreiber over Mejia. And in what proved to be the final match of the event, the semifinals, two very familiar rivals on the New York area pool scene, Dagotdot and Schreiber, battled to double hill before Dagotdot prevailed. The agreement was reached to opt out of a final and with Valania in the hot seat, he claimed the official event title.

Tour director Mac Jankov thanked the ownership and staff at Clifton Billiards, along with all 32 participants who came out to support his efforts to re-start the pool ‘engine’ in the tri-state area. The next stop on the Mac Attack Tour, scheduled for this Sunday, October 4, will be hosted by Breakers Billiards in Clifton, NJ.