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Castillo goes undefeated, downs Laboy twice to win 1st Predator Pro Am Tour title

(l to r): Euryel Castillo, Mike Callaghan & Miguel Laboy

The nature of pool lends itself to showdowns between long-time veterans and so-called ‘young guns,’ although not all of them are necessarily young. The finals of this past weekend’s (Feb. 15-16) stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour was a case in point, when newcomer Euryel Castillo, with only six cash finishes and one event victory (*) on his ‘resume,’ all recorded within the past year, faced off against Miguel Laboy, with cash finishes and multiple event victories, dating back 15 years, to his first appearance at the 2005 US Open 9-Ball Championships, at which he finished 33rd (along with Tony Robles, by the way). The ‘young gun’ Castillo came out on top in this one, going undefeated and taking Laboy down twice at the $1,000-added event that drew 84 entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY.

Their first get-together was in the battle for the hot seat. Castillo had defeated Monika Callaghan (whose husband was already toiling away on the loss side) 7-3, while Laboy was involved dispatching George Poltorak to the loss side 9-5. In their first of two, they battled to double hill before Castillo prevailed to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, George Poltorak picked up Eli Trajceski, who’d recently defeated Jaydev Zaveri 7-3 and survived a double hill battle against Troy Deocharran. Monika Callaghan drew her husband, Michael, which is always the kind of match that draws speculation about how their relationship will proceed immediately after one of them wins; the standard speculation which follows a husband victory is usually about the husband spending at least one night sleeping on a couch. Michael had defeated Katie Baker 6-3 and Mikhail Kim 7-3 to reach his wife.

Poltorak and Trajceski locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Poltorak to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Michael Callaghan, who’d sent his wife home (figuratively) 6-3, his assumed night on the couch possibly avoided by the eventual $1,000 in cash they managed to bring home as a team.

Michael advanced a step further, downing Poltorak in the quarterfinals 7-4. His loss-side run was stopped by Laboy who downed him 11-9 in the semifinals, to earn a second shot at Castillo in the hot seat.

The odds in the final match were likely on Laboy’s side. Castillo, though, did not apparently get that memo, as he defeated Laboy 10-4 to capture his first non-asterisk (meaning, played a final match) title.

A Second Chance event which drew 16 entrants was won John Francisco, who pocketed $160 for the win. Sean DaCosta was runner-up ($100), with Debbie Buyukdeniz and Erick Toledo finishing in the tie for 3rd ($30 each).

Tour director Tony Robles thanked Josh and Holden Chin and their Raxx Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, PlayNAPL.com, The DeVito Team, PoolOnTheNet.com, Cappelle (BilliardsPress.com), AZBilliards, Pool & Billiard Magazine and Billiards Digest. He also thanked his own Predator Pro Am staff to include his lovely wife, Gail. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for March 14-15, will be hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.

Ok goes undefeated, downing Martinez twice to capture Tri-State title

Eugene Ok and Bianca Martinez

It could have gone either way. And happened to any one of them.
 
It just so happened that on Sunday, October 27, it was Bianca Martinez facing off against a male competitor (in her case, Eugene Ok) at a stop on the Tri-State Tour. Martinez competes as a C player on the Tri-State Tour. She is fourth in tour standings among females, behind Michelle Brotons, Amanda Andries and Allison LaFleur and just ahead of Suzzie Wong. On the Predator Pro Am Tour, she plays as a D+ and is fifth among the tour’s female competitors, behind Wong, Andries, Kanami Chau, and Monika Callaghan. She is just ahead of Annie Flores
 
It’s becoming a common occurrence; women competing against their male counterparts at the tables and if not, at this juncture, always favored to win, at least in the conversation at the end of increasing numbers of regional tours; not all of them with just female competition.
 
Eugene Ok, who plays as a B+ player on both the Tri-State and Predator Pro Am Tour; good for 7th place among B+ players on the Tri-State and 4th among the B+ players on the Predator Pro Am Tour, went undefeated at the $1,000-added, 10-Ball Tri-State event that drew 27 entrants to Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY. But he had to get by Martinez twice to do it; both times in a match that came within a game of going double hill.
 
They both advanced to a winners’ side semifinal; Ok, facing off against Tommy Schreiber and  Martinez doing battle with one of the aforementioned women ahead of her in the standings of both tours, Amanda Andries; second on both tours and like Martinez, a C on the Tri-State and a D+ on the Predator Pro Am.
 
Ok advanced to the hot seat match with a 6-3 win over Schreiber, as Martinez was busy sending Andries west 5-2. In their first of two, Ok claimed the hot seat 7-5 and waited for Martinez to get back from the semifinals.
 
On the loss side, Schreiber picked up Dave Shlemperis, who’d been defeated by Ok in a winners’ side quarterfinal match and then, defeated Kevins Scalzitti and Shin, both 6-4. Andries drew Jason Goberdhan, who’d eliminated the Tri-State Tour’s top female, Michelle Brotons 5-1 and Jim Gutierrez 5-2.
 
Both matches for advancement to the quarterfinals went double hill. Shlemperis eliminated Schreiber and Goberdhan defeated Andries. Goberdhan then defeated Shlemperis 6-2 in those quarterfinals.
 
In a semifinal match described by a tour representative as “one of those sets where he couldn’t do anything right and she couldn’t do anything wrong,” Martinez shut Goberdhan out 5-0 to earn a second shot against Ok in the hot seat.
 
They duplicated their hot seat match performance. Ok chalked up the game, set and match 7-5 to claim the event title.
 
Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Cue Bar for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui, Phil Capelle, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Billiard Engineering, Pool & Billiards, Professor Q Ball, Bender Cues and Pool & Billiards. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, November 3, will be hosted by Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ. 
 

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.

Tenzin Jorden goes undefeated to win his first Predator Pro Am Tour stop

(l to r): Tony Robles, Dave Callaghan, Thomas Schreiber & Tenzin Jorden

12th Annual Empire State Championships at Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY on tap next
 
Tenzin Jorden and Thomas Schreiber battled twice in the February 9-10 stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour. The first time, the match sent Schreiber on a three-match, loss-side trip. The second time earned Jorden his first title on the Predator Pro Am Tour. The $1,000-added event drew 73 entrants to Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.
 
Both matches between Jorden and Schreiber went double hill. The first, in a winners’ side semifinal, advanced Jorden to the hot seat match, where he was joined by Dave Callaghan, who’d defeated Mac Jankov in his winners’ side semifinal match. Jorden claimed his first hot seat 9-7 over Callaghan and waited on Schreiber’s return.
 
Long before Dave Callaghan had moved into the hot seat match, his brother, Michael Callaghan was busy trying to advance on the loss side. Michael made it past the first money round (13th through 16th) and moved into the matches that would determine the four-way tie for 9th place. And ran into his wife, Monika, whom his brother had sent to the loss side earlier. Displaying a level of fearlessness rarely seen on a pool table, Michael Callaghan defeated his wife, double hill (6-5), eliminating her from the tournament, albeit with $150 in her pocket . . . uhh, purse? Fortunately, they were able to stay and watch brother/brother-in-law, Dave, compete in the semifinals because Michael was subsequently defeated by Esteban Morrell 7-4. We don’t know whether they watched those semifinals together or not. We didn’t ask.
 
Esteban Morrell, who’d defeated Hector Torres 7-4 previously advanced to meet Jankov, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Schreiber drew Matthew Harricharan, who’d eliminated Brian Toolsee and Jaydev Zaveri (winner of the last Predator Pro Am stop), both 7-4.
 
Morrell won a double hill battle over Jankov and in the quarterfinals, faced Schreiber, who’d defeated Harricharan 7-2. Schreiber gave up only a single rack to Morrell in those quarterfinals, and then sent Dave Callaghan to sit and watch the finals with Michael and Monika Callaghan by defeating Dave 7-3 in the semifinals.
 
Jorden and Schreiber settle in to the their second straight, double hill match; this one for all of the proverbial marbles, all 1,250 of them. Jorden defeated Schreiber a second time to claim his first Predator Pro Am title.
 
A Second Chance event that drew 14 entrants, saw Russell Masciotti and KC Clayton battle to double hill in the final. Masciotti dropped the last ball to claim the Second Chance title and take home $140. Clayton added $100 to the $100 he’d earned finishing in the tie for 13th place in the main event. Vinnie Crescimanno and Justin Daniels (adding to his $100 for finishing in the tie for 13th place) each took home $20.
 
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Cue Bar for their hospitality, 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.
 
Zion Zvi will defend his two-time title at 12th Annual Empire State Championships
 
The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of February 23-24, will be the 12th Annual Empire State Championships, as usual, hosted by Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY. There will be a $2,000-added Amateur event, which last year, drew 111 entrants, and was won by Jason Carandang. There will also be a $1,000-added Open/Pro event. The two-time defending champion of this event, Zion Zvi, has indicated that he will be on-hand to defend his title.