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Kuwait’s Al Shaheen Guts Out Wins to Stay Alive at Predator World 10-Ball Championship

Omar Al Shaheen

Omar Al Shaheen’s Wednesday had more twists and turns than a bag of gummi worms.

Just when he looked out of it, he’d bounce back just in time to pull off a win. Just when he appeared a lock to close out a match, the Kuwaiti who finished second to Albin Ouschan at last year’s World Pool Championships stumbled, stammered and allowed his opponent back into the match.

Despite the extra drama, Al Shaheen pulled off a come-from-behind as well as a nearly-blew-it win to advance in the World 10-Ball

Championships at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, defeating Roberto Gomez and Ping-Chung Ko in hill-hill battles on the one-loss side. The Kuwaiti will now play Chris Reinhold Thursday at noon.

Facing Gomez in an 11 a.m. local time match, the two competitors split the first 10 games thanks to a handful of safety exchanges paired with an occasional missed shot. After Gomez tacked on two victories to build a 7-5 advantage and move to within a game of advancing, Al Shaheen broke and ran to cut the lead to a game then used a victorious safety battle to gut out another win and tie the score. As two competitors again traded safeties in the deciding 15th rack, Gomez committed a foul and gave his opponent a wide-open table, which the Kuwaiti took full advantage of by pocketing the remaining balls and sneaking out with an 8-7 win.

Playing against Ko later in the evening, the 2019 World 10-Ball champion turned a missed shot by his opponent into an early 3-1 lead until a missed shot of his own. Suddenly it was Al Shaheen who could do no wrong, mixing in shot making and safety play to win five straight racks and build a 6-3 advantage. Ko would use a missed 8 ball by his opponent to steal a win but Al Shaheen returned serve with a win of his own to climb onto the hill, 7-4. Much like Al Shaheen in his previous match, Ko refused to go away quietly, breaking and running to cut the deficit to 7-5, then taking advantage of a 7 ball which Al Shaheen left on the corner pocket’s shelf to cut the lead to 7-6.

After a lengthy safety exchange in the 14th game, Al Shaheen left another opening for his opponent when he committed a foul by failing to touch a rail with a ball while attempting a safety. Ko cleared the table again to tie the score at 7-7 and send the match to a deciding 15th game in which Al Shaheen had the break. The Kuwaiti pocketed a ball on the opening shot and left the cue ball and 1 ball aligned perfectly for a textbook run out, which Al Shaheen completed to escape near-collapse, 8-7.

While the pool population continues to learn about Al Shaheen and his game, spectators have been familiar with Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Darren Appleton for nearly two decades. Wednesday afternoon, Appleton defeated John Schmidt, 8-4, to advance to the final 32, part of a continued recent resurgence by the Englishman that’s seen him place in the top 10 of last month’s Wisconsin Open as well as earn a runner-up finish in last year’s World Cup of Pool as he

The two competitors battled missed shots and open opportunities throughout the match as they split the first eight games evenly. Appleton claimed the ninth rack to take a 5-4 lead and his opponent left a window of opportunity in the next game when he kicked at the 2 ball, allowing the Hall of Famer to pocket the ball then use a safety on the 3 ball to close out the rack and increase his lead to two games. He added another win when Schmidt failed to pocket a ball on the break in the 11th rack then used another safety exchange after the break to close out the match.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Eric Roberts of Tennessee and Yukio Akagariyama pulled two of the biggest upsets of the tournament Wednesday afternoon. Roberts defeated former World 9-Ball Champion Niels Feijen, 8-4, and Akagariyama took down reigning Ohio Open champion Mario He, 8-5. So, it only made sense that the two of them meet up in the next round.

It turned out to be a match where both struggled to find their top games throughout the match until the end, with Roberts gutting out an 8-7 victory. The two young competitors took turns trading missed balls and chances throughout the match as neither held a lead of more than one game throughout. With Roberts clinging to an 7-6 advantage, Akagariyama broke and ran to tie the match at seven games apiece. Roberts, who had been struggling with shot making throughout the match, saved his best for last, breaking and methodically running the balls off of the table to secure an 8-7 victory.

In other matches of note, Shane Van Boening remained undefeated by defeating Roland Garcia in a hill-hill match and Skyler Woodward was eliminated from the tournament by Max Eberle, 8-7.  Pijus Labutis eliminated reigning World Pool Champion Albin Ouschan, 8-2, and Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski took down Jesus Atencio, 8-4.

Competition resumes today at 10 a.m. local times with notable matches including Alex Kazakis meeting Francisco Sanchez Ruiz, Pin-Yi Ko squaring off with Sharik Sayed and Jung-Lin Chang facing Alex Pagulayan.

The Predator World 10-Ball Championship runs March 28-April 1 and still to come is The Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, which runs March 30-April 2.

The events coincide with the CueSports International Expo, which brings thousands of amateur pool players for the BCA Pool League World Championships as well as the USA Pool League National Championships.

Find the Predator World 10-Ball Championship brackets with live scores on the Predator Pro Billiard Series website.

The Predator World 10-Ball Championship is streamed for free on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.

Go to Billiard TV to watch 24/7 Billiard Videos on any device

Follow @probilliardseries on Facebook, @probilliardseries on Instagram or @PBilliardSeries on Twitter to follow the events.

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Pehlivanovic Upsets Ko on Day Two of Predator World 10-Ball Championship

Sanjin Pehlivanovic

When it comes to the game of 10-ball, Sanjin Pehlivanovic has been a force to be reckoned with recently – especially in Europe.

Earlier this month, the 20-year-old Bosnian won the 10-ball division of this year’s European Championships and finished second to former World 9-Ball champion Fedor Gorst in the 10-ball division of the Midwest Open in Ohio. Last year, Pehlivanovic finished in the top of the Predator Austria Open while making his presence felt on the EuroTour, finishing in the top 10 of both the Lasko and Sankt Johann in Pongau Opens.

Tuesday, during the second day of play at Predator’s World 10-Ball Championships, the young Bosnian’s showed the versatility and perseverance which has helped him earn the junior European Pool Championship eight times, as Pehlivanovic gutted out a hill-hill victory against 2019 World 10-Ball Champion Ping-Chung Ko at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The Bosnian will now face Qatar’s

Ali Al Obaidii today at 10 a.m. local time while Ko moves over to the one-loss side to face Ernesto Dominguez.

The two competitors played nip-and-tuck throughout the first half of the match, with neither player holding more than a one-game advantage. With the scored tied 5-5, Pehlivanovic broke and ran to climb ahead by a game, then returned to the table in the next game when his opponent failed to pocket a ball on the break. When the Bosnian misplayed a safety on the 4 ball, it appeared Ko was positioned to tie the match but left the object ball in the jaws of the corner pocket. Pehlivanovic used a tight cut shot on the 5 ball and a straight in draw shot on the 6 ball to clear the table, open up the first two-game lead of the match and pull to within a single rack of victory.

Except that Ko wasn’t in the mood to go quietly, using a safety exchange on the 5 ball in the next rack to pull to within a single game again at 7-6 then took advantage of a missed 5 ball by his opponent in the next rack to tie the score. When Pehlivanovic missed a combination shot on the 7 ball in the 15th and deciding game, it appeared that Ko was going to escape with a victory until he mangled cue ball position for the 6 ball, leaving a sharp cut shot into the side pocket. The young man from Chinese Taipei missed, handing the Bosnian a routine run out and an 8-7 victory.

While Pehlivanovic, who is still five months away from legally being able to drink in the United States, gave spectators a glimpse of the future, 73-year-old Jose Parica was showing that he still had plenty of game left as he battled Oscar Dominguez down to the wire before falling, 8-6.
Taking advantage of a couple of misses and adding a break-and-run, Dominguez built an early 5-2 advantage before experiencing some struggles of his own, missing a 4 ball in the eighth rack and failing to pocket a ball on the break in the following game. Parica, who was elected to the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2014, turned a three-rack deficit into a tie score but Dominguez regained the lead with a break-and-run in the 11th game. He appeared to be in position to add to his lead when Parica was unable to pocket a ball on the break until he scratched in the side pocket while working his way through the rack. Handed an open table, Parica was on the verge of tying the game again when he missed the game-winning 10 ball in the corner pocket and lifted his cue and staring at the ceiling in frustration. The Filipino continued to battle, using a bank on the 1 ball and a long straight-in shot on the 2 ball to run the rack and cut the lead to 7-6.

Standing at the table with the break and a chance to tie the score in the 14th game, Parica did not have a shot at the 1 ball and was forced to play a safety. After a lengthy safety exchange, the Hall of Famer left an opening which his opponent walked right through, running out the rack to secure the match.

In other notable matches, Shane Van Boening pitched an 8-0 shut-out against Jason Theron, only to have Theron move to the one-loss side of the bracket and eliminate Billy Thorpe, 8-3. BCA Hall of Famer Darren Appleton remained undefeated with an 8-4 victory over Sharik Sayed while Fellow Hall of Famer Mika Immonen defeated Corey Deuel, 8-4. Former International Open champion Jayson Shaw was upset in a hill-hill battle with Roman Hybler of the Czech Republic.

The third day of play begins at 10 a.m. local time with notable matches including Omar Al Shaheen of Kuwait taking on Filipino Roberto Gomez and Shaw facing Marco Teutscher on the one-loss side while Van Boening meets Roland Garcia and Lee Vann Corteza squares off with Pin-Yi Ko on the winner’s side.

The Predator World 10-Ball Championship runs March 28-April 1 and still to come is The Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, which runs March 30-April 2.

The events coincide with the CueSports International Expo, which brings thousands of amateur pool players for the BCA Pool League World Championships as well as the USA Pool League National Championships.

Find the Predator World 10-Ball Championship brackets with live scores on the Predator Pro Billiard Series website.

The Predator World 10-Ball Championship is streamed for free on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.

Go to Billiard TV to watch 24/7 Billiard Videos on any device

Follow @probilliardseries on Facebook, @probilliardseries on Instagram or @PBilliardSeries on Twitter to follow the events.

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Predator World 10-Ball Championship Kicks Off Today

Eklent Kaci

In a way, Eklent Kaci’s biggest victory of 2021 was the fact that he made it to Las Vegas at all.

The big Albanian had spent more time in his home country than he had hoped, missing a spring Matchroom event in England when his teammate couldn’t get a visa in time then missing a handful of additional events while waiting nearly three months for his “expedited” visa. Once he finally secured the proper credentials, Kaci was denied the opportunity to board his flight to the United States on August 29due to a reservation mix-up and was forced to skip the Diamond Las Vegas Open.

Finally, three days later, Kaci was cleared to travel and made the most of his opportunity, working his way through a field of 64 of the world’s best pocket billiards competitors and took home the World 10-Ball Championship, defeating Naoyuki Oi 10-6 for the title at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.

“This hasn’t been the best year,” he said after the finals were completed. “But this makes it worth the trouble.”

Although 2021 won’t be one that Kaci looks back on with much fondness, it was a revolutionary year for professional pool overall with the creation of numerous new tournaments throughout the world – including the U.S. Pro Billiard Series.

When billiard equipment manufacturer Predator Group and worldwide pool league operator CueSports International announced plans to launch the Series last summer, the strategy could have been interpreted as both aggressive and unconventional. The Pro Billiard Series launched with four new competitions spread out over three months while also producing the World 10-Ball Championships. Adding intrigue was the fact that the Series would be eschewing longer race formats which have long been a staple at major events and opting instead to implement a two-set, race-to-four that concluded with a sudden-death shootout if two competitors finished tied. As an added bonus, the champion of each Pro Billiard Series event in 2021 earned automatic entry into this week’s 2022 Predator World 10-Ball Championships, held again at the Rio beginning today.

“We need to make the sport more exciting,” said Predator Owner Karim Belhaj over the summer. “We’re trying to find outside sponsors while keeping people’s attention.”

It was only fitting that some of the most exciting young players today in professional pool brought home championships in this first season of the Series, as rising stars like Taiwan’s Kun-Lin Wu, Singapore’s Aloysius Yapp and Austria’s Mario He earned breakthrough titles. Even more impressive than the roster of champions was the quality of play, as competitors used a variety of methods to earn their championships – clutch shot making, pinpoint position play and stifling safeties.

“I believe we will one day look back on the inaugural season of the US Pro Billiard Series as a historic turning point for professional pool,” said Ozzy Reynolds, owner of CueSports International, the co-creator of the Series. “Several companies joined forces, bringing their own unique assets to the table, to build a better sport.”

The year was also a historic turning point for Wu, who had flirted with victory at big events in recent years only to come up short – finishing in third at the 2016 China Open and turning in a handful of top-10 performances at the Japan Open.

Competing at September’s Diamond Las Vegas Open, the 25-year-old notched his first win of his career, defeating Kuwait’s Omar Al Shaheen in straight sets, 4-3, 4-1. The young man from Taiwan, who posted an undefeated record during the four-day, 128-player event, eliminated Kremlin Cup champion Tyler Styer and Spain’s Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz to reach the semi-finals. Facing Estonia’s Dennis Grabe with a chance to go to the finals, he watched as his opponent pocketed back-to-back pocketed 10 balls on the break to sail to an opening set 4-0 win. Wu bounced back, closing out the second set with back-to-back victories after Grabe missed a jump shot in the fifth game and then the deciding shootout to advance to the finals where he took down Al Shaheen.

“I talked to myself to get off of the pressure in the final day,” said Wu. “I felt much pressure because of the title match. Both me and Omar had not won a title yet.”

That drought ended for Wu thanks to a break-and-run paired with two victorious safety exchanges, as he built a 3-0 advantage in the first set. The Kuwaiti battled back to tie the score but missed a combination shot in the seventh game, allowing his opponent to clear the table and take the set. In the next frame, the young man from Taiwan capitalized on a handful of missed shots by Al Shaheen, who earlier this year placed second at the World Pool Championships, to coast a 4-1 victory and earn his first victory.

Last September, Yapp grabbed the attention of the pool world when the 25-year-old reached the finals of September’s U.S. Open Pool Championships and built an 8-3 lead in the title match before ultimately falling to Carlo Biado. The young man from Singapore continued his ascension at the CSI Michigan Open, bouncing back from an early round loss to Roberto Gomez Jr. to defeat the Filipino in the championship match in straight sets, 4-0, 4-2.

Yapp, who struggled with his break throughout the day, gutted out victories against World Pool Masters champion Alex Kazakis of Greece and Konrad Juszczyszyn of Poland, then survived a second half scare in the semifinals against Hungary’s Oliver Szolnoki. After Yapp won the first set, the match appeared headed to a sudden death shootout as the Hungarian controlled the table with an open table layout. That was before Szolnoki missed the 3 ball, allowing Yapp to run out and advance to the finals, where he capitalized on a handful of Gomez errors to breeze to his first championship on United States soil.

At the Pro Billiard Series season finale, October’s FargoRate Ohio Open in Dayton, Mario He continued to survive but struggled to get a feel for the table being used to televise matches, with the radiant lights causing a different playing condition than he was accustomed to on the outside tables. In the finals against Gomez, the Austrian would barely need to shoot at times, pocketing back-to-back 10 balls on the break to build a quick 3-0 lead in the first set. The Austrian would during a Gomez comeback and win the frame 4-3, then take advantage of a handful of missed shots by the Filipino to pitch a 4-0 shutout and secure the championship.

All three Pro Billiard Series champions will be in competition this week along with reigning Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player Jayson Shaw, five-time U.S. Open 9-Ball Champion Shane Van Boening, 2019 World 10-Ball champion Ping-Chung Ko and his older brother, 2015 World 10-Ball champion Pin-Yi Ko. Also competing will be World Pool Masters champion Alex Kazakis, reigning World Pool and International Open champion Albin Ouschan and U.S. Open pool champion Biado.

Competition is scheduled to begin this afternoon and will be broadcast live on Billiard TV and World Billiard TV, the official YouTube channel of CueSports International.

The Predator World 10-Ball Championship  runs March 28-April 1 and still to come is The Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, which runs March 30-April 2.

The events coincide with the CueSports International Expo, which brings thousands of amateur pool players for the BCA Pool League World Championships as well as the USA Pool League National Championships.

Find the Predator World 10-Ball Championship brackets with live scores on the Predator Pro Billiard Series website.

The Predator World 10-Ball Championship is streamed for free on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.

Go to Billiard TV to watch 24/7 Billiard Videos on any device

Follow @probilliardseries on Facebook, @probilliardseries on Instagram or @PBilliardSeries on Twitter to follow the next events.

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Van Boening and Woodward Suffer Rare Upsets on First Day of Las Vegas Open

Jonas Souto handed Van Boening an early loss

There may not be a more decorated 10-ball player in the United States than Shane Van Boening.

With four United States Open 10-Ball championships, a handful of Super Billiards Expo 10-ball titles and two Derby City Classic BigFoot 10-Ball trophies, Van Boening has practically forged a hall of fame career on this discipline alone.

As a result, it’s not very often that he finds himself situated on the one-loss side of the bracket after the first day of play is completed. But there are exceptions – and Wednesday was one of those cases, as the 38-year-old struggled to get the feel of the table and lost to Spain’s Jonas Souto in the second round of the Alfa Las Vegas Open at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.

After Souto opened the first set by claiming the opening rack after a missed combination shot by his opponent, Van Boening took advantage of missed shots by the Spaniard in three consecutive games as the South Dakotan won four straight to cruise to an easy, 4-1 win. Souto jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the next frame as the South Dakotan missed shots in back-to-back games. Van Boening jumped on the scoreboard in the third game when Souto attempted to break up a locked 8 and 9 balls but instead left an opening, but he relinquished the table when he failed to pocket a ball on the break in the next game. Souto used a combination shot on the 10 ball to climb onto the hill, 3-1, but Van Boening tied the match thanks to a missed shot by his opponent in the sixth game and a successful combination shot on the 10 ball of his own in the next rack.

After a push following the break by Van Boening in the deciding seventh game, the two men engaged in a brief safety exchange on the 1 ball. The five-time U.S. Open 9-Ball champion kicked at the ball and landed the object ball in the corner pocket but unfortunately had called the side pocket, allowing Souto to run the rack and claim the set, 4-3.

Van Boening dug himself into an early hole in the sudden death shootout when he missed his first shot. Meanwhile, the Spaniard was perfect in the extra frame, pocketing four consecutive shots to secure the victory.

Van Boening’s loss was part of a brutal opening day for American competitors, with three former Mosconi Cup members suffering early defeats, including two-time Cup Most Valuable Player Skyler Woodward losing in a 7-6 shootout to Riku Romppanen, a 14-year-old junior from Finland. After Romppanen won the opening set, 4-2, Woodward rallied to tie the match at a set apiece with a 4-2 victory of his own. Both competitors were perfect in their first six attempts in the sudden death shootout until Woodward missed his sixth attempt, leaving the door open for the teenager to pull the upset.

Romppanen will now face Michigan Open champion Aloysius Yapp Thursday afternoon.

Later in the evening. Van Boening’s friend and former Mosconi Cup teammate Billy Thorpe was trying to avoid a similar fate when he matched up with Filipino Roland Garcia, the plucky Filipino who finished third at this year’s Arizona Open and placed third in the Derby City Classic’s 9-ball division.

Thorpe appeared to be in control early after executing back-to-back combination shots on the 10 ball to open the match until he missed a 2 ball in the third rack, allowing Garcia to climb onto the scoreboard. The Ohio native added another victory in the fourth rack when his Garcia misplayed the 1 ball, but his opponent tied the set at 3-3 with back-to-back victories after Thorpe failed to pocket a ball on the break in the fifth game.

Standing at the table with a chance to close out the set, Garcia appeared positioned to run out the rack but instead missed the 5 ball In the corner pocket. Thorpe slid the ball into the corner pocket, then ran the rest of the rack to close out the set, 4-3.

The Filipino rebounded in a back-and-forth second set, taking advantage of two Thorpe misses to win two racks, then using a combination shot on the 10 ball in the fifth rack to climb ahead 3-2. The Filipino then capitalized on another Thorpe miss on the 5 ball in the sixth game to steal the set, 4-2, and force a shootout.

Thorpe’s shot making struggles continued in the extra frame as he missed all first three of his shots in the extra set, handing his opponent a 2-0 victory.

Competition resumes Thursday at 9:30 a.m. local time, with notable matches including an all-Poland matchup of Wiktor Zielinski taking on Konrad Juszczyszyn, Austria’s Maximillan Lechner facing reigning champion Kun-Lin Wu and World 10-Ball champion Eklent Kaci meeting Ping-Chung Ko. Matches can be watched on Billiard.TV and also on World Billiard TV, the official YouTube channel of CueSports International.

The Alfa Las Vegas Open takes place March 23-26. The Alfa Las Vegas Open is followed by the Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which runs March 28-April 1 and The Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, which runs March 30-April 2.

The events coincide with the CueSports International Expo, which brings thousands of amateur pool players for the BCA Pool League World Championships as well as the USA Pool League National Championships.

Find the Alfa Las Vegas Open brackets with live scores on the Predator Pro Billiard Series website.

The Alfa Las Vegas Open is streamed for free on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.
Go to Billiard TV to watch 24/7 Billiard Videos on any device
Follow @probilliardseries on Facebook, @probilliardseries on Instagram or @PBilliardSeries on Twitter to follow the next events.

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Bigger Alfa Las Vegas Open Brings Star-Studded Field and Ko Brothers Return

The Ko Brothers

Wu Kun-Lin had been close to the finish line in a handful of major events in recent years only to stumble when he reached the finish line.

So, when he reached the last day of September’s Diamond Las Vegas Open, Wu was resolute to finish the job this time. So determined, that the 22-year-old found himself walking around the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, host facility for the tournament, giving himself pep talks to try and remain composed.

“I talked to myself to get off of the pressure in the final day,” Wu said. “I felt much pressure because in the title match, both me and Omar had not won a title yet.”

Wu survived a strong performance by Estonia’s Denis Grabe in the semifinals and coasted past Kuwait’s Omar Al Shaheen in the championship match to post an undefeated record and win the third annual Las Vegas Open, ending his title drought and picking up $15,000.

“Sometimes I was very close to winning so the only thing that I thought of was winning a title,” said Wu. “That was my goal and I made it.”

Now Wu is back to try and repeat as champion, as the Alfa Las Vegas Open opens play today, kicking off 11 days of professional and amateur pool at the CueSports International Expo at the Rio. This year’s Expo features a new title sponsor for the professional open events – cryptocurrency Alfa – added a professional women’s tournament while expanding the men’s field from 128 players to 192 – with three of those registered being the Ko brothers, who are making their return to international competition for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic begin in 2020.

Three years ago, in the very same arena where he will be competing this week, a 23-year-old Pin-Yi Ko, used a combination of tight safety play and sound shot making to upend Germany’s Joshua Filler and earn the World 10-Ball championship – his first major championship after a handful of close finishes. Helping the young Ko battle his nerves was older brother, Ping-Chung Ko, who walked and talked with his younger sibling during timeouts. When COVID-19 began spreading in March of 2020 and lockdowns occurred, the brothers from Chinese Taipei found themselves sequestered at home for nearly two years. With restrictions lifting worldwide, these two competitors, 2020 Las Vegas Open winner Jung-Lin Chang and a handful of top-flight competitors from the Far East Asian country are now back in town and ready to compete after the long layoff.

The last time Greece’s Alex Kazakis competed in the U.S. Pro Billiard Series, nothing seemed to be easy. The Greek needed not one, not two, but four consecutive victorious extra-inning shootouts to edge Kuwait’s Bader Al Awadhi and win the inaugural Wisconsin Open last month. The reigning World Pool Masters champion returns to action this week while in the midst of a stellar start to 2022, having followed up his Wisconsin win with a sixth-place finish in the Predator Premier League Pool event in England and having won February’s Cajun Coast Classic 9-ball tournament.

Earning top honors at Premier League Pool for the second consecutive year was Austria’s Albin Ouschan, who is back in Las Vegas looking to build upon a 2021 which saw him take home three major events, including a second career World Pool Championship and the International Open. Ouschan, who has a pair of 17th place finishes at the Las Vegas Open, was so dominant in big events last year that he earned the Player of the Year award from Billiards Digest magazine.

With the competition now expanded to 192 players spectators will have a non-stop roster of top pros to watch throughout the four-day event, including five-time United States Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening, reigning Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player Jayson Shaw, former United States Open 9-Ball and World 9-Ball Champion Joshua Filler and former Mosconi Cup MVP Skyler Woodward. Also making the trip are reigning World 10-Ball champion Eklent Kaci, four-time Mosconi Cup competitor Billy Thorpe and reigning Kremlin Cup champion Tyler Styer. Previous Pro Billiard Series champions slated for competition include reigning Ohio Open champion Mario He and rising young superstar Aloysius Yapp of Singapore, who won last year’s Michigan Open.

The Alfa Las Vegas Open takes place March 23-26. The Alfa Las Vegas Open is followed by the Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which runs March 28-April 1 and The Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, which runs March 30-April 2.

The events coincide with the CueSports International Expo, which brings thousands of amateur pool players for the BCA Pool League World Championships as well as the USA Pool League National Championships.

Find the Alfa Las Vegas Open draw on the Predator Pro Billiard Series website.

The Alfa Las Vegas Open is streamed for free on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.
Go to Billiard TV to watch 24/7 Billiard Videos on any device
Follow @probilliardseries on Facebook, @probilliardseries on Instagram or @PBilliardSeries on Twitter to follow the next events.

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Joshua Filler New World Number 1

Joshua Filler

Following the World Pool Championship (9-Ball), the WPA has updated its men’s rankings list which is available at <www.wpapool.com/ranking/>

The WPA rankings are the world’s official list. The points are compiled from WPA sanctioned events that carry ranking points. Only tournaments that are open to all eligible players can be considered so that all players have the opportunity to earn points.

As can be seen from the updated list, Joshua Filler of Germany is the new number 1, replacing previous holder, Ko, Ping Chung of Taiwan. It was unfortunate for Ko that he was unable to participate and maybe retain his number 1 spot, but because of travel restrictions he was unable to attend. Many countries were affected by travel bans thereby preventing players from earning valuable points.

WPA points are very valuable for players as they can often determine sponsorship opportunities for players, as well as funding assistance from some national governments or national Olympic Committees. This type of funding often covers travel expenses such as air ticket and hotels for players, perhaps an annual allowance, plus it can earn bonuses for players who win world championships or medals. WPA points are the only points that can be considered for player selection to Multi Sport Events such as the World Games which will be played in Birmingham, Alabama July 2022, or for Olympic Games if our sport should ever be included on the Olympic Program.

Roy’s Basement with April Larson, Pia Filler and a pair of ghosts

 

Over the past week or so, Roy’s Basement in Maryland has been playing host to the Fillers; Joshua and his wife, Pia. On a nightly basis, Joshua has been stepping to the table in the basement and playing almost continuous pool games against the ‘ghost,’ with Ariel Roy Francisco and Pia Filler doing commentary on a live stream broadcast on the Roy’s Basement Facebook page. Viewers are checking in on a chat screen to choose which ‘ghost’ game they want to see Josh Filler play, and then, after deciding whether Filler or the ghost is going to win the chosen game, are pledging to donate money if they turn out to be right. Viewers are literally lining up in the virtual chat lobby to participate.
“They want to see the best pool player in the world play the ghost with them controlling what games he plays,” said Francisco. “It’s also a chance to win Josh’s ‘junky’ stick; the one he used to win the World 9-Ball and the US Open 9-Ball.”
“He surprised us,” Francisco added of Filler’s quality of play during these ghost matches, “and surprised himself, too. Nobody knew. The more he plays, the better he gets.”
The ghost games, being what they are (watching one person shoot), are not drawing anywhere near the virtual crowds that an earlier match, a couple of weeks ago, drew, when Filler and James Aranas played a match in the basement and a record Roy’s Basement viewing crowd of 7,600 was on-hand to watch. That said, though, the player versus ‘ghost’ matches are drawing respectable, albeit virtual crowds to the Facebook page, and ever-ready to take advantage of an opportunity, Francisco has announced plans for a double screen, double player set of ghost matches between April Larson, playing in the basement of her home in Minnesota, while Pia Filler plays her ghost from Roy’s basement.
From their separate locations, April and Pia will square off against their ‘ghost,’ in an attempt to reach 50 wins, with a winner determined by which of the two reached that 50 plateau, having played the least amount of games. It won’t end when one of them reaches 50. It’ll end when they’ve both chalked up 50 wins. The winner will be the player who’s given up the fewest games to the ghost.
Early ‘money’ was appearing on April Larson’s side of the ledger, but as she headed for home this weekend, after visiting a relative, she was quick to point out that Pia Filler is a lot more than just Joshua Filler’s wife.
“I think everybody is underestimating her,” said Larson. “She’s no slouch. Roy’s not stupid. He’s not just going to put anybody up.”
“I’m going to have to play really well to beat her,” she added.
Larson has been on a bit of a hiatus from her school work these days. She switched her Lindenwood University classes from actual to accelerated virtual (on-line) in December and is out of school now until August, giving her time to pursue this, and presumably, other activities. According to Larson, while she has certainly played games against the ‘ghost’ before, doing so in a way that’s preparing her for a formalized contest is a new kind of challenge.
“I’ve played the ghost, but not religiously,” she said. “Now that I’ve been playing by the actual rules, I’ve discovered the actual number of times that I run out and it’s been humbling.”
“When you’re playing the ghost,” she added, “you have to take all the shots, regardless of your comfort level. If you’re playing regular 9-ball, you can play safe or try to hide somebody, but with the ghost, the shots you normally duck, you have to make.”
For her part, Pia Filler is looking to step out of the accidental shadow that’s been cast by her husband’s emergence as a world class player, one of the best in the world (he’s presently #2 in WPA rankings behind Taipei’s Ko Ping-Chung). She points out that she and her future husband met as seven-year-olds, competing in German youth championships.
“We knew that one day, we both wanted to become professionals,” she said. “He’s been the most successful and won the most titles, but I think we’re kind of special; always together, always working as a team. We’ve known each other so long. We’re each other’s coach and do everything together.”
As for the upcoming match. . . .
“I haven’t just been watching Joshua,” she explained. “I’m spending a lot of time practicing with him, as well. We’re both working very hard.”
“I’m feeling pretty confident and looking forward to Sunday,” she added.
So, tune in. Sunday afternoon, 1 p.m EDT. Go to Facebook, find the Roy’s Basement page and click on the ‘Live” screen. Join the chat and learn how you can donate to keep the streams going during this time of forced isolation.

Less Than One Month Until The Predator World 10-Ball Championship

Ko Ping-Chung (JP Parmentier)

Last year, Ping-Chung Ko claimed his first World Championship with a dramatic win in the finals over Joshua Filler. This was part of his incredible 2019, which earned him the WPA #1 ranking he has today.
 
In less than one month at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, he’ll have a chance to repeat. The $100,000 added tournament features 64 players in an impressively skilled field. Part of that is due to the appeal of 10-Ball, something Ko appreciates.
 
“I like 10-ball because it is more difficult to break. Although just one ball more it brings more diversity and visibility to enrich the game,” said Ko. “You need more concentration and more thorough consideration to finish each rack. I enjoy the feelings of playing 10-ball.”
 
Admission is free for the five-day competition and the event will be streamed live for no charge on Cuesports International’s YouTube channel. Last year’s event was the first Category 1 WPA sanctioned world championship held in the United States since 1997.
 
Players already confirmed and announced include Ko, former World 9-Ball Champion Joshua Filler, Billiard’s Digest player of the decade Shane Van Boening, Kremlin Cup winner Tyler Styer, 2017 World Games 9-Ball Champion Carlo Biado and reigning Mosconi Cup MVP Skyler Woodward.
 
More announcements will be made as we continue to finalize what is one of the most competitive fields of the year.
 
The Championship takes place over two stages. The first involves all players competing in a race to 8 matches in a double-elimination format until only 16 competitors remain. The surviving players then play in a single-elimination format during the second half of the event, with the race now increased to 10 games. The final phase features re-drawing of the brackets where competitors from the winner’s side take on players from the one-loss side.
 
The Predator World 10-ball Championship is presented by CueSports International and sponsored by Predator Group, the world’s premier cue makers and billiards accessory manufacturer. The event is being hosted at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino and broadcasted live on YouTube by CSI Media, a subsidiary of CueSports International. For more information, visit www.world10ball.com.
 
The Predator World 10-ball Championship is sponsored by:
Predator Cues: www.predatorcues.com
CueSports International: https://www.playcsipool.com/
Diamond billiard tables: www.diamondbilliards.com
Omega Billiards: www.omegabilliards.com
Kamui Brand: www.kamuibrand.com

The Predator Group is proud to celebrate it’s 25th Anniversary in 2019

Thanks to an amazing team of passionate individuals, the company has revolutionized how the game of pocket billiards is played since the introduction of the original 314 low-deflection shaft in 1994. A quarter of a century after this ground-breaking technology was introduced, this United States-based company has grown to become the largest and most innovation-driven manufacturer in pool and billiards worldwide. 
 
HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED 
Out of all the billiards shafts, cues and components that Predator Group has been associated with over the last 25 years, none may be more important than the tip that was on Allan McCarty’s cue in the early 1990s. A frequent player who had dabbled in developing inventions, McCarty was leading his opponent during a billiards match when his tip loosened and popped off of the ferrule. He switched out that shaft for his reserve and immediately struggled to make balls. McCarty lost the match, walking away from the experience lighter in the wallet and questioning how these two seemingly identical shafts could play so differently. McCarty teamed up with Steve Titus, a self-made engineer he’d met at a tournament a couple of years before. Together, the two constructed a mechanical arm for testing billiard cues named Iron Willie. This helped them to develop a product which would deliver more consistency and accuracy. They toiled away in their Clawson, Michigan shop for about a year and a half, ultimately creating a six-piece spliced wooden shaft. That desire to design and develop a superior performing product led to Predator’s initial product creation – a multi-splice shaft introduced as the original 314 shaft in 1994. Predator’s cutting-edge shaft technology reduced the error factor called “cue ball deflection”, where the mass of the shaft pushes the cue ball off the aiming line when using English or side spin. Put simply, this new technology made it easier to pocket balls using English and helped players progress faster. What started as two guys fighting to educate the industry on their research findings now has evolved into the industry trendsetter in pool and billiards technology. The company has grown into the largest billiard cue manufacturer worldwide – thanks largely to the people who work for and with the company. “There’s all the cue makers and then there’s us,” said McCarty. “They’re selling design, we’re selling performance with design.” “When we received our first cue and shaft combination way back in 1998, we knew immediately that Predator was an innovative and technology-advanced cue manufacturer,” said Sid Kreis of Seybert’s Billiard Supply, one of Predator’s leading distributors. 
 
THE QUEST FOR INNOVATION 
It would have been easy to sit back and be satisfied with creating the billiard cue shaft which revolutionized the industry. “However, the goal is to always challenge the standards of the industry – then design a completely new standard.” said President Karim Belhaj, who rose from company intern in 1997 to owning the company today. “Every time we made it to the top, we thought “how do we better ourselves?” In a company that was created by pool players, it didn’t take long for the team to realize there was more to playing proficient pool than simply minimizing deflection. Predator released the first BK break cue in 2001, equipped with a balanced weight design as well as a tip and ferrule developed to transfer maximum energy. Four years later, a reengineered break cue called the BK2 would hit the market with an improved grip, phenolic and carbon fiber tip plate and improved shaft design. A dozen years after the original 314 shafts became available to consumers, Predator introduced the second generation of low-deflection shaft technology – featuring a lighter and improved 10-piece spliced construction, which resulted in better wood grain consistency throughout. Four years ago, the company debuted the third generation of these revolutionary shafts, featuring a lower front-end mass, V-Tek front end construction as well as the eight-layer Victory tip. “We design every single shaft based on what the player needs to improve his or her game,” said Belhaj. Since the turn of the century, Predator’s engineers have been working on methods to build a cue shaft from composite technology. As materials improved and processes perfected, the years of trial and errors resulted in the debut of Predator REVO shaft in 2016. Made from aerospace grade carbon fiber, this latest innovation offers reduced deflection at high and low speeds coupled with unmatched durability. When Predator’s Chief Engineer Paul Costain had his first prototypes of REVO ready for field testing a few years ago, it was essential for him to see the players’ feedback: “I remember very well the first time I saw people testing the Predator REVO – at first they were skeptical. So, to see their face when they hit the first few shots was quite enjoyable – I could see instantly they could feel the difference… and then of course they didn’t want to give the shaft back!” 
 
Following this success, the carbon composite BK Rush break cue was released in 2017 – the most powerful and most accurate break cue ever designed. As the technology and innovation improved, so too has the playing experience for beginning and amateur players. With cue ball deflection significantly decreased compared to the equipment of decades ago, the competitors of today can pocket balls more accurately while utilizing English and sidespin with much more ease. “Due to the Predator equipment, the pockets for amateurs seem bigger than normal because you can play more precisely,” said Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Ralf Souquet, who has won every major title in the sport using a 314 shaft. Today, Predator’s extensive family of products connects with different players – from the road hustler to the World Champion, there is a Predator cue for everyone. We not only specialize in performance but also in design. From the entry-level Roadline “Sneaky Pete” to the 25th Anniversary limited edition cues, there is an artistic and fashionable style to match 
the various preferences of players. Whether a player is looking for a classic or intricate look, Predator has a design which can connect with the individual and provide a unique style, coupled with unmatched construction and technology. “Predator helps players be the best version of themselves,” said Karim Belhaj. 
 
PREDATOR’S COMMITMENT TO GROW THE SPORT 
Ever since Titus and McCarty started working on the original shafts, Predator has been striving to connect people to the game as well as give back to the billiards industry. When the company was in its infancy, McCarty made sure the product was in the hands of not only nationally known professional players but those dominant at the regional level as well – recognizing word-of-mouth exposure would be essential to the product’s growth. As Predator slowly grew to become a worldwide company, the manufacturer’s commitment to providing professionals with the tools needed for success has not changed. Today, countless players all over the world rely on the company’s cues in tournament competition – including World Champions and BCA Hall of Famers. As a result, players using Predator cues have won more titles than all of the other cue brands combined. As a company which constantly strives to improve its equipment and the players’ experience, this working relationship also allows Predator’s designers to receive valuable feedback on its products from some of the best professionals competing today. “I remember one year every European Mosconi cup player played with Predator. That’s mental,” said Hall of Famer and longtime brand ambassador Darren Appleton. “They have helped me massively in my career and God knows what I would not have been able to achieve without them.” “Predator brings the equipment and I bring the skills, so together we can achieve greatness,” said women’s professional, Jasmin Ouschan, who started using the company’s equipment as a junior. Predator is also proud to support John Schmidt and his quest to beat the longest-standing record in the sport, Willie Mosconi’s 526-ball run. John achieved his dream by an astounding 100 balls, running 626 without a miss, which already placed the formerly nicknamed “Mr. 400” in a class of his own: “I was using a P3 Red with a REVO 12.4 shaft – fantastic cue. Everybody loves their cue, that sounds forced but it’s really the best cue I’ve ever played with”, said John “Mr. 626” Schmidt. 
 
Predator’s support of the industry also extends to professional and amateur tournaments throughout the world, as well as in the United States. The company has been a longtime title sponsor of the Mosconi Cup, Matchroom events, the Euro Tour for both men and women, Tony Robles’ Predator Pro-am Tour in the northeastern United States, the World Pool and Billiards Association’s Players Championship, and many other events. “Predator has been a big part of the industry so far and will be even more so in the future,” said Emily Frazer, Chief Operating Officer for Matchroom Multisport, producer of the Mosconi Cup. “Predator has been in business for 25 years and Matchroom has shared a relationship with them for the majority of that. We only hope to continue and strengthen that partnership as we push together our passion and goal of taking our sport to the next level.” 
 
This past year, the company again expanded its position within the professional billiards industry with the debut of the Predator World 10-ball Championships which brought back a World WPA event in the United States for the first time in over 20 years. The event had been dormant since 2015 as it struggled to find available sponsors and prize funds, but Predator saw the event as a unique opportunity to help grow the number of professional events worldwide while celebrating the company’s silver anniversary. Partnering with Cue Sports International, the inaugural tournament was played this past July in conjunction with the BCA Pool League’s national and world championships in Las Vegas. This event, which was won by Ping-Chung Ko, showcases the best professional players in the world and helps in the company’s mission of building a bridge between the recreational pool player and the game’s elite. As WPA President Ian Anderson said, “We are very proud to be associated with Predator and to have them as a partner in the promotion and development of pool and billiards.” Predator continues to focus on the future by making the world a better place, one pool game at a time. 
 
For more information, watch the “Predator Cues – 25th Anniversary Innovation and Inspiration” video:
 
 
Special thanks to Keith Paradise, Senior Editor at Billiards Digest, for his contribution in writing this Press Release. 
 
ABOUT PREDATOR GROUP Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., USA, Predator Group’s vision is to inspire and innovate in the billiard world. Predator, Poison and Uni-Loc are Predator Group brands that focus on performance pool cues, billiard accessories and precision components. For more information regarding Predator Group’s products, visit www.predatorcues.com, www.poisonbilliards.com and www.uni-loc.com
 

Ko Wins Thriller Over Filler, Crowned Predator World 10-Ball Champion

Ko Ping Chung (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)

Four years ago, a 19-year-old Ping-Chung Ko was eliminated in the semifinals of the World Pool and Billiards Association’s World 10-Ball Championship and watched from stands as his older brother, Pin-Yi Ko, claimed the tile over Carlo Biado.
 
“I was happy for my brother, but I think if I would have been the winner that may have been better,” the younger Ko said with a laugh through a translator.
 
The roles were reversed Friday night, as the younger Ko used a combination of brilliant shot-making and some late match mistakes by opponent Joshua Filler to claim the Predator World 10-ball Championship at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino. The win is the first major victory for Ko, who has come close in big events in recent years but hasn’t been able to close out until this week in Las Vegas. Last year, Ko finished second at the International 9-Ball Open and had top-10 finishes at the China Open and World 9-Ball Championship.
 
“The last couple of years, Joshua has played really well and I just wanted to challenge him,” Ko said. “I didn’t know if I could beat him but I just wanted to try my best.”
 
Filler jumped out to an early 3-1 advantage in the finals, using two breaks and runs and a dry break from Ko. After the two players traded breaks and runs in the next two games, and Ko took a restroom break immediately following Filler’s pocketing of the 10-ball. The elder Ko followed along with his little brother, more to be there as a security blanket than to coach or offer advice.
 
“He didn’t really say anything to me,’ said Ping-Chung Ko. “Just having him walk with me relaxed me.”
 
The timeout paid dividends for Ko, who used missed shots by his opponent in the seventh and ninth racks to pull to within 5-4. Momentum really shifted in Ko’s favor in the crucial 10th game. Without a clear shot on the 1-ball, the German attempted a safety and left a long open shot instead. Ko pocketed the ball and ran out the rack to tie the score, then mixed in a break-and-run to take the lead. Filler tied the score at six each and had an opportunity to regain the lead in the 11th game when Ko misplayed a safety on the 5-ball, but couldn’t capitalize – missing a somewhat routine combination shot on the 9 and 10 balls.
 
“Both matches today, I played pretty solid at the start of the match but I couldn’t get a good lead,” Filler said. “I didn’t have a chance to get three games ahead. Then I missed some balls.”
 
Ko was clutch in the closing stages, executing a sharp cut on the 3-ball and bank on the 4-ball to run out the 15th game and regain the lead, 8-7. When Filler broke dry in the next game, Ko used a challenging one-rail kick shot to pocket the 3-ball and run out the rack and climb onto the hill, 9-7.
 
Needing one more win for the championship, Ko broke in the 18th game and authoritatively banked the 1-ball into the side pocket – as Filler sat in his chair simply nodding in appreciation.
 
“That’s really when I felt like I could win this,” he said.
 
As he stroked his way through the final balls, a packed crowd sensed the victory – including a dozen family and fans who had traveled from Chinese Taipei. After landing the 5-ball and sending the cue ball two rails down table for the game winning 9 and 10 balls, the elder Ko let out a sigh of relief.
 
“I was nervous until he made the last two balls,” he said.
 
Filler was plagued with mistakes throughout the day. He reached the finals by surviving a handful of uncharacteristic unforced errors throughout the match, defeating the elder Ko, 10-8.
 
The reigning WPA World 9-ball champion looked like he could be giving the assembled crowd an early dismissal, jumping out to a 3-0 lead on the strength of three victorious safety exchanges. Filler was cruising through the fourth rack as well but missed a makeable cross-side bank shot on the 3-ball into the side pocket. Ko took full advantage, clearing the table and adding three breaks and runs in route to winning five of the next six games to capture the lead, 5-4. Filler broke and ran out in the 10th game, tying the score at five apiece before the two competitors took a brief intermission.
 
Everything that went right with Ko’s break before the intermission was nowhere to be found in the second half – failing to pocket a ball off of the opening shot three times. After Ko inched ahead once more time, 6-5, after a victorious safety exchange, Filler broke and ran twice and took advantage of back-to-back dry breaks from his opponent to charge ahead, 9-6.
 
“I was criticizing and questioning myself, and that’s why I didn’t do well on the breaks,” Ko said through his translator.
 
The German appeared positioned to run out the 16th game and advance to the finals but missed position on the 5-ball. Filler again had a chance to close out the match in the next rack when Ko again failed to pocket a ball on the break, but missed the 2-ball in back-to-back opportunities.
 
“Overall, I think it was just a bad day for me,” Filler said.
 
Filler initiated a safety exchange when he didn’t have a clear shot at the 1-ball after his break in the 18th game. He found an opening after Ko left the 1-ball visible down at the opposite end of the table from the cue ball. The German pocketed the ball and meticulously worked his way through the rack to earn a spot in the evening’s finals. Filler’s go-to move after pocketing the game-winner in a final round is to yell and pump his fist. Not this time, as he collapsed onto the table in relief instead.
 
“I wasn’t very lucky. Every time that Filler missed, I didn’t have a good position to shoot,” Ko said.
 
Although he’d been eliminated, baby brother Ping-Chung Ko still had an opportunity to keep the family alive with a victory in the next semifinal match against Masato Yoshioka of Japan.
 
“The only words I have for my brother is, ‘release your pressure,’” Ko said. “I don’t want to see him under any pressure.”
 
If the young Ko was feeling any kind of pressure, he certainly didn’t show it at the table. Using stifling safety play as well as pinpoint accuracy when an open shot was available, Ko won five of the first seven racks of the game and cruised to an easy 10-3 victory.
 
After Yoshiota claimed the first game of the match, Ko took advantage of a foul, scratch and a victorious safety battle to build a 4-1 advantage. His Japanese counterpart, who was the last remaining player in the event who qualified by winning a regional qualifier tournament, tacked on a break-and-run and took advantage of a Ko scratch to narrow the deficit to 5-3. However, Ko continued to hit the gas pedal – breaking and running in the ninth and 11th racks as he won the last five games of the match. 
 
“My main objective was to just get the experience internationally, but when I got to the semifinals, I felt a lot of pressure. That’s why I didn’t play in a way that I want to play,” Yoshiota said.
 
The Predator World 10-ball Championship is a presentation of CueSports International and sponsored by Predator Group. Predator Group is an international billiard industry leader with a focus on high-performance cues and shafts as well as bringing constant innovation and game-improving equipment to billiard players worldwide. The event is being hosted by the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino and broadcast live on YouTube by CSI Media, a subsidiary of Cue Sports International. For more information, visit www.world10ball.com
 
CueSports International (CSI) is an international billiards organization which produces the United States Open 8-ball, 10-ball, one pocket, bank pool and straight pool championships. CSI, which also operates national amateur pool leagues, has three divisions: CSI leagues, CSI events and CSI media. CSI leagues manages the BCA Pool League and USA Pool League, the events division produces numerous amateur and professional events and the media department creates live video billiards content. For more information about CSI, visit www.playcsipool.com or find CueSports International on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.
 
The Predator World 10-ball Championships are sponsored by:
 
Predator Cues: www.predatorcues.com
Diamond billiard tables: www.diamondbilliards.com
Omega Billiards: www.omegabilliards.com
Kamui Brand: www.kamuibrand.com