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Wilkie goes undefeated to claim inaugural B & L 2022 Open 10-Ball Championship

Brian Kilgore, Shaun Wilkie and Lai Li

Inaugural events in the pool world, can be fraught with any number of issues. It takes a clear idea of what needs to be done and an extraordinary amount of perseverance and assistance to assure that it does. It requires the patience of a saint and the temperament of a seasoned psychiatrist, especially when the inaugural event draws a long list of Atlantic coast pool veterans, as the inaugural $5,000-added B & L Open 10-Ball Championships did this past weekend (Feb. 19-20), drawing 106 entrants to Center Pocket Café and Billiards in Bowie, MD.

“I think they did a great job,” said the event’s winner, Shaun Wilkie, who went undefeated to claim the title, downing runner-up, Raphael DaBreo twice; in the fourth round and again, in the finals.

Wilkie noted that while the inaugural B & L Open 10-Ball Championships weren’t Kilgore and Li’s ‘first rodeo,’ from his perspective, their previous tournament experience tended towards smaller venues and decidedly smaller crowds. The Center Pocket Café and Billiards venue helped, too, in that with 29 tables, they were able to keep matches moving throughout the two-day event.

“Those extra tables can get you more players, moving through the bracket,” said Wilkie. “Speeds it up.”

“Sometimes, too, you get pool rooms wanting their tables back (for use by the general public),” he added, “but the room made sure that all of the tables were available. We had tables available for the whole first day.”

Runner-up Raphael DaBreo, who has, as he put it, “dabbled’ in the experience of running tournaments himself, noted that the B & L organization was “very punctual and professional the way they ran it.”  

“From the player meetings right on through getting everyone playing by noon,” he said. “They were super transparent, too, and if they keep going in the direction of their inaugural event, they have a bright future ahead of them, in my opinion.”

DaBreo also noted that the ongoing proliferation of tournaments and operators is likely a reaction to what players in these tournaments perceive about them; that they’re not done well, and that they, personally, could do a better job.

“I’ve always felt that you wouldn’t have so many tournaments and operators, if someone was doing it right,” he said. “But sometimes you run into situations where it’s not being done well; funds are disappearing or there are discrepancies with skill levels or with local tournaments, maybe someone hasn’t paid. There always seems to be something that comes up.”

“They did it right,” he added of B & L’s inaugural efforts at a much larger event.

They join a wealth of tournament organizations, promoters and tournament directors who get it right, as well, more often than not. Once established, though, the good ones rarely get the credit they deserve. Their efforts can be taken for granted in tournament narratives that focus on the players, so here and now, at B & L’s inaugural ‘big’ event, credit where credit’s due. 

Wilkie and DaBreo ran through a gauntlet of the aforementioned Atlantic coast’s best to reach the finals. The five competitors Wilkie defeated on his journey to the hot seat match could have been the final five in any number of Atlantic coast tournaments over the past decade. Wilkie opened against Brian Dietzenbach and Joey Mastermaker, defeating them both 7-2, before running into DaBreo, whom he sent to the loss side 7-4. And as if that wasn’t enough, he drew BJ Ussery in a winners’ side quarterfinal. Ussery got to within a game of double hill, but Wilkie finished it at 7-5 to draw Thomas Haas in one of the winners’ side semifinals. 

Kang Lee, in the meantime, got off to a shaky start, with Josh Thiele battling him to double hill. Lee prevailed to send Coen Bell, Henry Cha and John Moody, Sr. to the loss side and face Thomas Zippler in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Wilkie downed Haas 7-4, as Lee dispatched Zippler 7-5. Wilkie gave up just a single rack in the battle for the hot seat and waited in it for DaBreo’s return.

On the loss side, the two Thomases (Haas and Zippler) ran right into their second straight loss. Haas had the relative misfortune of running into DaBreo, who was four matches into his loss-side streak, that had most recently included the elimination of John Moody, Sr. 6-2 and Derek Benavides. 6-3. Zippler picked up a re-match against Paul Krimes, who’d sent him to the loss side in a match that kept Krimes out of the winners’ side quarterfinals. Krimes won five straight to get to the rematch, including victories over Justin Muller 6-4 and to the surprise of many (likely, his opponent among them), BJ Ussery 6-4.

DaBreo downed Haas 6-1, while Krimes was wreaking his 6-1 vengeance on Zippler for the earlier defeat. Krimes’ satisfaction with the results of his rematch was short-lived, as DaBreo didn’t grant him a rack in the quarterfinals that followed.

The semifinals weren’t really the ‘pre-party’ to the finals that DaBreo was hoping for. Lee battled tooth and nail to double hill before DaBreo prevailed for his second shot against Wilkie, waiting for him in the hot seat. 

The finals weren’t too much of a ‘party’ for DaBreo, either. Wilkie completed his undefeated run with a 7- 2 win over DaBreo to claim the inaugural B + L 10-Ball Championship title.

It was Wilkie’s first win since he won the MD State Bar Table 10-Ball Championship this past November. A tumultuous couple of months followed that saw him place 25th in Turning Stone XXXIV last month (Jan. 6-9). On January 25, the man who’d started him playing pool, his grandfather, passed away. He’d been spending a lot of time, before and especially after, with his grandmother, and in a way, brought his grandfather with him to the tournament.

“I had him in my heart the whole time,” he said, “and I was really happy to pull it off, for me and him.”

Brian Kilgore and Lai Li thanked the ownership and staff at Center Pocket for their hospitality, as well as all of the players who signed on to make their inaugural B & L 10-Ball Championship a success. 

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Toolsee gets by top Predator female Wong twice to claim Predator Pro Am event title

(l to r): Josh Friedberg, Bryan Toolsee, Suzzie Wong & Greg Matos

The two finalists in the Predator Pro Am Tour stop on the weekend of November 17-18 were experiencing moderate milestones in their careers as pool players. The tour’s highest-rated D+ player and second highest rated female, Suzzie Wong entered the tournament, already experiencing her best recorded earnings year, to date. Her opponent in the finals, Bryan Toolsee, #4 on the tour’s list of B players, went undefeated through the field of 66, on-hand for the $1,000-added amateur event, hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY. The victory added enough to his 2018 earnings to make it officially his best recorded earnings year, to date.
They met twice, in the hot seat match and finals. Toolsee had advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against another top-rated female on the tour, Rhio “Annie” Flores, who is #7 on the tour’s top-ranked females (and the only A player on the list; Jennifer Baretta plays as an A++) and Flores is #5 among its top-rated A players. Wong, in the meantime, squared off against Ron Chau. The possibility of an all-female hot seat match was strong.
Wong defeated Chau 7-4, and the all-female hot seat match came within a game of happening. Toolsee, though, prevailed in a double hill battle against Flores, and then downed Wong 8-5 to settle into the hot seat, awaiting her return.
On the loss side, Flores picked up Josh Friedberg, who’d eliminated Justin Muller 7-3 and Chris Kelly 7-5 to reach her. Chau drew Greg Matos, who’d recently defeated Dave Callaghan 7-5 and just did survive a double hill match versus Ron Bernardo. Matos then defeated Chau to advance to the quarterfinals, as Friedberg dashed any hopes of an all-female final by eliminating Flores to join him.
Matos and Friedberg came within a game of making it a double hill quarterfinal, but Matos pulled out in front to win it 8-6. Wong ended Matos’ loss-side streak with a 7-3 win in the semifinals.
Toolsee and Wong locked up in a final match that precisely duplicated their previous match, battling for the hot seat. Toolsee won it, a second time, 8-5 to claim the event title.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Cue Bar for their hospitality, and wished all of the tour’s players, sponsors, venues and his own staff a Happy Thanksgiving. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for this weekend, November 24-25, will be its annual Thanksgiving Day weekend event, hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.

Vann Corteza and Osipov win Open/Amateur stops on the Predator Pro Am Tour

Lee Vann Corteza & Jorge Rodriguez

As the Super Billiards Expo (SBE) draws closer (April 12-15), the ‘pool eagles’ have begun to gather, settling into the Northeast and deploying to a variety of locations for some pre-SBE competition. On the weekend of April 7-8, the Philippines’ Lee Vann Corteza, who finished 9th in the SBE’s Players Championship last year, showed up to compete in the Open division of a stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour. Vann Corteza went undefeated through the field of 16 that showed up for the $250-added event, hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.
A concurrently-run, $750-added (eagles in training) Amateur event drew 83 entrants and was won by Alex Osipov, who came back from a loss in a winners’ side semifinal to win three on the loss side, and down hot seat occupant, Abel Barriento.
Belying the type of battles one might expect in an Open event preceding the SBE, the last four standing in this one combined for an aggregate game score of 28-3 in the event’s final four matches. The hot seat match was a shutout by Vann Corteza, while the final three matches – quarterfinal, semifinal and final – yielded 7-1 match scores.
Vann Corteza and Jorge Rodriguez fought twice in this event; hot seat and finals. Vann Corteza survived a double hill fight against Zion Zvi in one winners’ side semifinal, while Rodriguez downed Sean “Alaska” Morgan in the other one. Vann Corteza got into the hot seat with a rare shutout over Rodriguez.
On the loss side, Zvi picked up Luke Rollison, who’d gotten by Eddie Kunz and Justin Muller, both 7-4. Morgan drew Hunter Lombardo, who’d eliminated Mhet Vergara, double hill and Gary O’Callaghan 7-5. Zvi advanced to the quarterfinals by coming out on top of his second straight double hill match, and was joined by Lombardo, who downed Vergara 7-4.
Hunter gave up a single rack to Zvi in the quarterfinals, before Rodriguez gave up only a single rack to him in the semifinals. Vann Corteza completed his undefeated run with a combined (hot seat and finals) match score of 14-1.
[photo id=49122|align=right]Osipov wins three on the loss side to meet and defeat Barriento in Amateur finals
In the Amateur event, Alex Osipov came back from an 8-6 loss to Abel Barriento in a winners’ side semifinal, to defeat him in the extended-race finals by the same score. Paul Carpenter, after surviving a double hill match against Luis Carrasco, faced Barriento in the hot seat match. Carpenter came out on the losing end of his second straight double hill fight, leaving Barriento in the hot seat.
Osipov and Carrasco got right back to work on the loss side. Osipov won an 8-6 match over Gary Bozigian, who’d eliminated Paul Everton 7-4 and Eugene Ok, double hill, to reach him. Carrasco, in a 7-4 win, downed Greg Matos, who’d previously defeated Ramilo Tanglao 7-5 and Corey Avallone 6-4.
Osipov took the quarterfinal match Carrasco 9-5, and earned himself a second shot at Barriento with a 9-6 win over Carpenter in the semifinals. Osipov reached his 8 racks first, ahead of Barrieto, in the extended-race finals, and added two to win it 10-6.
A Second Chance event that drew 14 entrants saw Max Watanabe down Erick Carrasco, double hill, in the finals to win it. Ray Feliciano and Paul Everton finished in the tie for 3rd place.

Muller runs loss-side table to win Tri-State stop

(l to r): Justin Muller & Matt Klein

It doesn’t happen often. While event victories by competitors who spend time on the loss side of a double elimination bracket are common, the number of them that do so after losing their opening match and ‘running the table’ on the loss side of the bracket are rare. Justin Muller did just that on the Saturday, January 13 stop on the Tri-State Tour. He would meet the player who’d defeated him in the opening round of play, Victor Dabu, in the event semifinals, and go on to defeat hot seat occupant Matt Klein to claim the event title. The $1,000-added event drew 25 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.
As Muller began his eight-match, loss-side winning streak, Dabu advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Tony Ignomirello. Klein, in the meantime, squared off against Shweta Zaveri. Dabu and “Tony Iggy” battled to double hill, before Dabu finished it to advance to the hot seat match. He was joined by Klein, who’d sent Zaveri to the loss side 7-4. Klein claimed the hot seat in a double hill match and sent Dabu to the semifinal re-match against Muller.
On the loss side, with three wins already, Muller defeated Brian Cap 7-4 and Joe Rubino 8-6 to draw Ignomirello. Zaveri picked up Mike Strassberg, who’d gotten by Luis La Puenta 6-4 and Jim Gutierrez, double hill. Muller and Strassberg handed Ignomirello and Zaveri their second straight loss, both 8-6, and advanced to the quarterfinals.
Muller ended Strassberg’s day 8-6 in those quarterfinals, and turned to face the opponent he’d more or less been waiting for all day; Dabu. The two locked up in something of a predictable double hill fight for a shot at Klein in the hot seat. Muller won that battle and turned his attention to Klein. Muller completed his mostly-loss-side run with an 11-5 victory over Klein and claimed the event title.
Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Billiards, as well as sponsors John Bender Custom Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling Billiards, Kamui, Digicue, Billiards Digest, Human Kinetics, Blue Book Publishing, Phil Capelle Publications and Joe Romer Trophies. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for the weekend of January 20-21, will be hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.

Flores, Pritchett & Wong win Predator events in week prior to Predator Tour Championships

Jose Kuilan, Annie Flores & Junior Singh

Sometimes, even the tiniest crack in what looks like an impregnable concrete wall can lead to the destruction of the entire wall. Think of a crack in a dam, that spreads with the pressure of a wall of water behind it, finally bringing the whole dam down. On the weekend of November 20-21, a week before its Tour Championships, the Predator Pro Am Tour held its final tour stop, which set a tour precedent by becoming the first event in the tour’s history at which all three events (main, Second and Third Chance) were won by a woman.
A tiny crack in the seemingly impregnable wall of separation between men and women pool players? Or just an isolated event on a random regional tour stop that no one will remember in a week? We shall see.
Although 2017 has been Rhio Anne (Annie) Flores’ best recorded earnings year, to date, her undefeated run at the $1,000-added main event of the Predator Pro Am Tour stop this past weekend, which drew 73 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY, was her first tour victory of the year and her first on any tour/event in over three years. She was runner-up at a Tri-State event in May, placed third (with Vivian Villareal) at the 2017 Super Billiards Expo Women’s Championship in March, and has placed among the top 10 in all but one of the events in which she’s competed and cashed this year (she was 17th at the 7th Annual Ginky Memorial).
To go along with Flores’ victory, Debra Pritchett chalked up a win in the 16-entrant Second Chance event, defeating Justin Muller 11-4 in the finals. In the Third Chance event, which drew 12 entrants, Suzzie Wong downed Max Watanabe, double hill, in the finals to complete the unprecedented trio of women winners at a single stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour.
Flores faced separate opponents in the hot seat match and finals of the main event. She downed Gary O’Callaghan, double hill, to get into the hot seat match against Jose Kuilan, who’d defeated Junior Singh 7-1. Flores claimed the hot seat 8-6 over Kuilan and waited on what turned out to be the return of Singh.
On the loss side, Singh picked up Matthias Gutzmann, who’d defeated Keith Jawahir 7-5 and  Bianca Martinez 6-3 to reach him. Martinez had lost in the opening round of play and won eight on the loss side, before Gutzmann ended her run. O’Callaghan drew Jimmy Acosta, who’d eliminated Elvis Rodriguez 7-5 and Raphael Dabreo 8-6.
Singh and O’Callaghan advanced to face each other in the quarterfinals; Singh 7-5 over Gutzmann and O’Callaghan 8-2 over Acosta. Singh and O’Callaghan fought to a deciding 17th game in the quarterfinal, and it was O’Callaghan who took aim at the last 9-ball. He missed the shot, and Singh advanced to the semifinals, where he defeated Kuilan 7-5.
As he’d done in the quarterfinals against O’Callaghan, Singh battled Flores in the finals to double hill. Flores, though, took the final game and claimed the event title.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Steinway Billiards, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards,, The DeVito Team,, Capelle Billiards Press, AZBilliards, Billiards Digest and Pool & Billiard Magazine. The final event of the 2017 Predator Pro Am Tour season will be the annual Tour Championships, open to anyone who’s competed in at least five events throughout the season, with entry discounts available for competitors with larger numbers of appearances on the tour. The estimated $10,000-added event, scheduled for December 2-3, will be hosted by Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY, and will also feature two $250-added Second Chance events for the upper and lower brackets.
The event will also name tour Player of the Year in nine separate divisions, including Female Player of the Year, who is likely to be Annie Flores, whose victory this past weekend moved her ahead of Amy Yu. The Tour Championships will be streamed live with commentary by Upstate AL throughout the weekend.

Salerno moves into top A++ spot on Predator Pro Am Tour with ‘double points’ win

Dave Callaghan, Lidio Ramirez, Mike Salerno and Troy Deocharran

Thanks to the awarding of ‘double points’ on the Predator Pro Am Tour’s 18th stop of the season, the finalists in the event, with two stops left in the tour season, moved into the top spots in their respective ranking positions on the tour. As the winner, Mike Salerno jumped up two slots to move in front of Rob Pole for the top spot in the A++ division of the tour’s competitors, while, as runner-up, Dave Callaghan moved up a single notch ahead of Paul Carpenter in the C rankings. The $1,000-added, Double Points event drew 67 entrants to Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.
The two faced each other twice, once in the hot seat and again, in the finals. Callaghan had sent Ambi Estevez to the loss side, double hill, in one winners’ side semifinal, while Salerno sent Lidio Ramirez west 7-4 in the other one. This set up the hot seat match, won by Callaghan 11-8. Salerno was giving up six racks to Callaghan at the outset, which Salerno initially erased to create a 6-6 tie. Callaghan then won five of the next seven to claim the hot seat.
On the loss side, Estevez picked up Troy Deocharran, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak and had, most recently, gotten by Frank Tonn 7-4, and Patrick Meyers 7-5. Ramirez drew Eugene Ok, who’d eliminated Justin Muller, double hill, and Annie Flores 7-3.
Deocharran and Ramirez advanced to the quarterfinals; Deocharran 7-5 over Estevez and Ramirez 8-5 over Ok. Deocharrran chalked up what would prove to be his last win, over Ramirez 8-3 in that quarterfinal match.
Salerno ended Deocharran’s loss-side run 9-6 in the semifinals, and moved into the ‘extended-race-to-13,’ second shot at Callaghan in the finals. Salerno reached the 11-win plateau that advanced the finals to a race to 13, and finished it at 13-9.
A Second Chance event, which drew 10 entrants, saw Chickie Romero take home the top $120 first prize. Romero and Thomas Schreiber fought to double hill in the finals, before Romero edged out in front to claim the Second Chance title.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Cue Bar for their hospitality, and made note of next week’s (November 25-26) Thanksgiving Classic, which will be hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY. The 2017 Predator Pro-Am season will conclude with its finale, the Tour Championships, on the weekend of December 2-3, and be hosted by Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY. Robles also extended best wishes to all for a Happy Thanksgiving Day weekend, which he hoped would conclude, for many, with attendance at the Thanksgiving Classic on the following Saturday and Sunday. 

Zvi and Lam take Open/Pro, Amateur titles at 10th Annual Empire State Championships

Jorge Rodriguez, Zion Zvi, Jimmy Rivera and Kang Lee

Zion Zvi, winner of last spring's 6th Annual George "Ginky" Sansouci Memorial Tournament, chalked up not only his first win, but his first paying finish since then, with an undefeated run at the 10th Annual Empire State Championships, held on the weekend of February 25-26. The $1,000-added Open/Pro, 10-Ball division of the championships drew 25 entrants to the event's traditional home, Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY. A concurrently-run, $2,000-added, 9-Ball Amateur event drew 108 entrants and saw Duc Lam return from a defeat in the hot seat match to down Tony Kuo in the finals.
"I took a break over the past few years," said Zvi, who's sponsored by Molinari Cues and Steinway Billiards, "but I'm going to be more active this year.
"I'm coming back, one step at a time," he added.
Zvi and Jimmy Rivera battled twice in this one; once, in the hot seat match and again, in the finals. Zvi had sent Frankie Hernandez to the loss side 7-4, as Rivera was downing Lee Kang by the same score. Zvi took the hot seat by that same 7-4 score as well, and waited on Rivera's return.
Over on the loss side, Jorge Rodriguez, following victories over Jim Conn 7-2, and Eugene Ok 7-4, was laying in wait for Hernandez. Waiting for Kang was veteran player Danny Basavich (better known as Kid Delicious), who'd defeated Chris Derewonski 7-3, and Holden Chin 7-2.
Rodriguez downed Hernandez 7-5 as Kang was busy eliminating Kid Delicious 7-4. Rodriguez then defeated Kang in the quarterfinals 7-2. In the semifinals, Rivera ended Rodriguez' loss-side run 7-5. 
Zvi, though, on something of a comeback trail that looks to be stepping up its pace in the weeks and months ahead, was too close to let this one slip away. He downed Rivera a second time, this time 7-2, to claim the title.
Lam comes back from hot seat defeat to down Kuo in Amateur finals
Duc Lam and Tony Kuo battled twice in the Amateur event, with the lower-handicapped Kuo getting '4 on the wire' (racing to 9) in the hot seat match, and '3 on the wire' (racing to 8, and then, to 10) in the finals. In the winners' side semifinals, Lam had sent the event's defending champion, Justin Muller, to the loss side 7-5, as Kuo was sending Ryan Dayrit over by the same score. Lam and Kuo played 10 games in the hot seat match, each winning five. Kuo's handicap advantage made it 9-5 for him, and he was in the hot seat.
On the loss side, Muller picked up Eddie Kuz, who'd gotten by Matthew Harricharan, double hill, and Juan Guzman 7-2. Dayrit drew Thomas Schreiber, who'd eliminated Troy Deocharran  and Nicole Monaco, both 7-4.
Kuz ended Muller's hopes of defending his title 7-5, and in the quarterfinals, faced Dayrit, who'd downed Schreiber 8-5. Dayrit took the quarterfinals 9-5, and then had his short loss-side streak ended by Lam in the semifinals 10-5.
As noted, Kuo opened the finals with '3 on the wire,' racing initially to 8. Lam reached 8 first, with Kuo at 6, having won 3. Lam went on to win it 10-8 to claim the event title.
A 16-entrant Second Chance, single-elimination event saw Shawn Jackson take home the top prize, with Dany Recinos as runner-up. Ramilo Tanglao and George Poltorak tied for third.

Guzman comes from the loss side to claim Predator Tour Championships title

Justin Muller, Lukas Fracasso-Verner, Abel Rosario and Juan Guzman

It's been Juan Guzman's best recorded year. Playing on a combination of both the Predator and Tri-State Tours, Guzman has won two Predator events, one Tri-State event and was runner-up to Tony Liang at the annual George "Ginky" Sansouci Memorial in May. He capped his 2016 efforts with a come-from-the-loss-side win at the 9th Annual Predator Tour Championships, held on the weekend of December 3-4. The $10,000-added event drew 81 amateur entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY.
The field was restricted to Predator tour members who had appeared in at least five events during the year, and was initially split into two brackets; an upper bracket of 34 players, ranked B+ or above, and a lower bracket of 47 players, ranked B or lower. The two brackets 'met' for the first, and as it turned out, the last time in the hot seat match.
Guzman, who entered the tournament ranked third among the tour's A+ players, made it to the winners' side quarterfinals before he ran into Miguel Laboy, who entered the tournament one spot below him on that A+ Predator ranking list (#4). LaBoy defeated Guzman and advanced to a winners' side semifinal against another A+ competitor, Justin Muller (#10). Meanwhile, the tour's #1-ranked B player, Abel Rosario, squared off against the tour's #1-ranked C player, Marvin Phisitkraiyacorn in the other winners' side semifinal.
Muller and Rosario advanced to the hot seat match with identical 7-3 victories over LaBoy and Phisitkraiyacorn. Muller, having chalked up wins at the Empire State Amateur 10-Ball Championships and a Second Chance event at the 7th Annual New England Pool and Billiard Hall of Fame 9-Ball Open earlier this year, moved into the hot seat with a double hill win over Rosario and waited as Guzman worked his way back to the finals.
On the loss side, LaBoy and Phisitkraiyacorn ran into Guzman and Lukas Fracasso-Verner, respectively. Guzman had opened his loss-side run with a double hill win over Ron Gabia (#9 in the A ranks), and a 7-4 victory over Rhys Chen (#5 on that same A list) to earn his re-match versus LaBoy. Fracasso-Verner (#2 in the B rankings, behind Rosario) had eliminated Dave Callaghan (#4 in the C rankings) 7-4 and Tony Ignomirello (#4 in C+) 7-3.
Fracasso-Verner and Guzman advanced to the quarterfinals; Fracasso-Verner, with a nail-biting double hill win over Phisitkraiyacorn, and Guzman successfully countering his earlier loss with a 7-5 win over LaBoy. Guzman chalked up loss side win #4 with an 8-6 win over Fracasso-Verner in the quarterfinals, and by the same score, denied Rosario a second shot against Muller.
In the modified race to 7/9 finals, Guzman hit the "7" mark first, and added two more to claim the event title 9-6 over Muller.
The 2016 Tour Championships featured both a Second and Third Chance event, which drew 15 and 12 entrants, respectively. Gene Hunt picked up the $280 first-place prize in the Second Chance event, defeating Gary Bozigian in the finals. Josh Friedberg chalked up the Third Chance event, downing Amy Yu in the finals, and pocketing the $210 first place prize.
This being the final event of the Predator Tour's 2016 season, tour director Tony Robles offered season's greetings and best holiday wishes to all of the players and room owners who participated in the tour's 22 events. In regards to the Tour Championship event itself, he thanked Raxx Billiards' owner Holden Chin,  as well as manager George Florides, and the entire staff. Thanks were also extended to the tour's sponsors – title sponsor Predator Cues, the NAPL, Ozone Billiards, PoolOnTheNet.Com, Cappelle Publishing,  and Delta-13 Racks. Robles also acknowledged the continuing support and assistance of Mandy Wu (ass't TD), Irene Kim, and his "lovely wife," Gail Robles.
The 2017 Predator Tour season is scheduled to commence on January 7, at an event to be hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.

Shaw double dips Wilkie to win 7th Annual New England Hall of Fame 9-Ball Open

Jayson Shaw has opened 2016 with a string of victories that have already earned him half of his 2015 earnings. After finishing seventh at Turning Stone XXV in January, he went on, two weeks later, to win the Derby City Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge (defeating Shane Van Boening in the finals). He finished second in that multi-tournament 9-Ball Banks event, fourth in the One Pocket and 45th in 9-Ball. He added $1,750 to his mounting total by winning the 7th Annual Ray Desell Memorial 9-Ball Tournament, held on the weekend of March 4-6. Also known as the New England Pool & Billiard Hall of Fame 9-Ball Open, the $2,500-added event, held under the auspices of the Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour, drew 88 entrants to Snookers in Providence, RI.
The event was preceded, on Friday night, by the annual New England Hall of Fame awards ceremony, which inducted eight players into the region's Hall of Fame; Mike Dechaine, Joe Dupuis, Tommy D'Alfonso, Tommy Seminaro, Bobby Hilton, Sal Bevilacqua, Larry Gendler, and Becky Ellsworth-Tucker. Dechaine was inducted into the Hall as a two-time winner of the tournament, and its defending champion. Dupuis had won the event in 2014, defeating Dechaine in the finals.
Dechaine and last year's runner-up, Jorge Rodriguez, ended up meeting in the quarterfinals; Rodriguez, at the time, had lost his opening match and won nine loss-side matches. They'd both survived double hill matches in the battles for 5th/6th to get to those quarterfinals.
It was Shaw and Shaun Wilkie who ended up battling twice to crown a winner. Shaw had sent Ivaylo Petrov to the loss side in a winners' side semifinal 9-5, as Wilkie was sending Jeremy Sossei over 9-6. In what was surely a surprise to Shaw, Wilkie claimed the hot seat 9-4 and waited on Shaw's return.
On the loss side, Petrov and Sossei ran into Dechaine and Rodriguez. Dechaine had picked up a forfeit from Nelson Oliveira, and defeated Kevin Bauccio 9-4 to reach Petrov. Rodriguez had chalked up loss-side wins #7 & #8, downing Ron Casanzio 9-3 and Kyle Pepin 9-1 to draw Sossei. Two double hill wins sent Dechaine and Rodriguez to the quarterfinals, where Dechaine prevailed 9-4 for a shot at Shaw.
Another double hill battle ensued, and the defending champion, Dechaine, finished in third place. Shaw, not pleased to have had to play that extra match against Dechaine, won the opening set of the true double elimination final against Wilkie 9-3. He punctuated his displeasure with a 9-2 second set win that gave him the title.
A $500-added Second Chance Tournament that drew 17 entrants saw Justin Muller defeat Joe Darigis in the finals. Mario Argentino finished third, and Dennis Levesque finished fourth. Mark Creamer and Bob Begey finished in the tie for fifth place. A custom, engraved Joss Cue, valued at $1,700 was raffled off at the event, and won by Joe Duperry. 
The next stop on the Joss NE 9-Ball Tour, scheduled for March 12-13, will be a $1,500-added event, hosted by Trickshot Billiards and Sports Pub in Clifton Park, NY. Tour director Mike Zuglan noted that the roster for Turning Stone XXVI, scheduled for August 25-28, is two-thirds full. Anyone wishing to sign up should contact Zuglan immediately at 518-356-7163.

Justin Muller, in honor of a deceased friend, wins the Empire State Amateur Championships

Gabriel Palacios and Justin Muller

Three days before the Empire State Amateur Championships (February 20-21), a very close friend of Justin Muller's, John Kalsky, passed away. By the time Muller hit the tables on Saturday, he was sporting a t-shirt, in commemoration of that friend. He wore it throughout the $2,000-added event that drew 125 entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY. All the way to the finish line, which he crossed ahead of Gabriel Palacios in the event finals.
"It's been one of my biggest goals, to win this tournament," he said in the AZBTV broadcast booth, shortly after winning, adding that in the midst of on-going grief over the loss of his friend and the exhilaration of his victory, he was "just happy" that he'd won it for his friend.
By Sunday, the date of the memorial service for Kalsky, Muller had made it to a winners' side semifinal, facing Elvis Rodriguez. Palacios, in the meantime, squared off against Dany Recinos. Muller gave up only a single rack to Rodriguez and advanced to the hot seat match versus Palacios, who'd sent Recinos to the loss side 7-3. It was Palacios who moved into the hot seat, with a double hill win.
On the loss side, Rodriguez and Recinos ran right into their second straight losses. Rodriguez picked up Manny Stamatakis, owner of Steinway Billiards, and winner, at that point, of four loss-side matches on a march to the semifinals. Stamatakis had eliminated Austin Tripp 7-3 and Rhys Chen 7-2 to reach Rodriguez. Recinos picked up Rick Miller, who'd gotten by Jessica Lynn 7-2 and Rene Villalobos 7-4.
Stamatakis, chalking up his fifth loss-side win, and Miller advanced to the quarterfinals over Rodriguez and Recinos, both 7-4. Stamatakis went on to defeat Miller, double hill, in the quarterfinals.
Though Stamatakis would force a deciding game against Muller in the semifinals, it was Muller  who advanced back for a second shot at Palacios in the hot seat. Muller prevailed in the single set final 10-5 to complete his undefeated run and honor his friend, John Kalsky.