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Guzman goes undefeated to take his first Predator Pro Am title in three years

(l to r): Ramilo Tanglao, Juan Guzman, Esteban Morell and Eli Trajceski

In 2016, Juan Guzman chalked up four event titles, two each on the Predator Pro Am and Tri-State Tours and was runner-up to Tony Liang in an event co-sponsored by the two tours, the 6th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial. The year was, not surprisingly, his best earnings year since he began appearing in the AZBilliards database back in 2009. His participation has lagged a bit in the past couple of years, although there’s no real way to distinguish between a drop in participation or just a drop in his advancement to cash winnings. Either way, on the weekend of April 13-14, at a $1,000-added stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, Guzman went undefeated to capture his first event title since he won a stop on the Tri-State Tour last June. The event drew 81 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.
Guzman faced separate opponents in the hot seat and finals of this event, although he did meet and defeat Eli Trajceski twice. The first time was in a winners’ side semifinal. Guzman sent Trajceski to the loss side 8-6 and in the hot seat match, faced Esteban Morell, who’d sent Corey Avallone to the loss side 7-4.
Guzman and Morell battled to double hill in the struggle for the hot seat, but Guzman claimed it.
Over on the loss side, Trajceski picked up Shawn Sookhai, who’d defeated Eugene Ok 7-1 and Duc Lam 7-2 to reach him. Avallone drew Ramilo Tanglao, who’d recently picked up a forfeit win over Paul Lyons and then, ended a seven-match, loss-side winning streak by Debra Pritchett 7-4.
Tanglao and Avallone locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Tanglao to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Trajceski, who’d eliminated Sookhai 7-2.
Tanglao ended up on the wrong side of his second straight double hill match, which sent Trajceski to the semifinals. There, a 7-3 win over Morell gave Trajceski a second shot at Guzman.
As it had in their previous matchup in the winners’ side semifinal, the final came within a game of double hill, but Guzman prevailed a second time to claim the event title.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked Manny Stamatakis and his Steinway Billiards’ staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards,, The DeVito Team,, Cappelle (Billiards Press), AZBilliards, Pool & Billiards Magazine, and Billiards Digest. Robles also thanked his always-supportive cast of assistants, to include his lovely wife, Gail.
Although it did so this weekend, the Predator Pro Am Tour will not be returning to Steinway Billiards for its next stop (#8), scheduled for the weekend of May 18-19. That event will be the first in the tour’s history to be restricted to C/D players. According to Robles, participation has been on the rise at stops on the Predator Pro Am Tour and while room owners are generally encouraged by large numbers of participants at events, there have recently been a few stops that have featured too much of a good thing; player numbers exceeding a room’s general capacity and its ability to complete a given event within a limited time frame. The restriction to C/D players is designed to address that issue when the C/D players gather at Gotham City Billiards on the weekend of May 18-19. 

Gutierrez wins double hill battle in finals to win his first Predator Pro Am Tour stop

(l to r): Mizuno Atsutoshi, Cesar Turcios, Jonathan Martinez & Jim Gutierrez

In the midst of what, according to our records, is Jim Gutierrez’ best earnings year to date, he came from the loss side during a stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour and battled hot seat occupant Mizuno Atsutoshi to double hill before prevailing to claim his first Predator Pro Am event title. The $1,000-added event, held this past weekend (Oct. 13-14), drew 72 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.
Gutierrez advanced to the winners’ side semifinal and a match versus Ramilo Tanglao, as Atsutoshi squared off against Matthew Harricharan in the other one. By identical scores of 7-1, Gutierrez and Atsutoshi advanced to the hot seat match over Tanglao and Harricharan. As a D+ player on the Predator Pro Am (#2 in that player class), Gutierrez began the hot seat match with seven on the wire in a race to 11. Atsutoshi claimed the hot seat with an actual score of 11-1, and a handicap match score of 11-8.
On the loss side, Tanglao picked up Jonathan Martinez, who’d defeated Paul Carpenter 6-5 and  Michael De Lara Iona 7-5 to reach him. Harricharan drew Cesar Turcios, who was sent to the loss side by Dave Shlemperis, and was in the midst of an eight-match, loss-side streak that included back-to-back double hill wins; in a successful re-match against Shlemperis (loss-side win #5) and over the tour’s #3-ranked female, Amy Yu (#6).
Martinez advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Tanglao and was joined by Turcios, who’d eliminated Harricharan 7-5. Turcios chalked up what proved to be his final loss-side victory 9-4 over Martinez in those quarterfinals, and then had his bid for a spot in the finals halted by Gutierrez 10-8 in the semifinals.
With the same handicap matchup (seven on the wire for Gutierrez in a race to 11), Gutierrez and Atsutoshi battled to double hill in the finals. Gutierrez prevailed in the deciding rack to claim his first Predator Pro Am title.
A single-elimination Second Chance event drew 16 entrants. Michael De Lara Iona and Ron Bernardo battled to double hill in the finals, before Iona prevailed 7-6 to claim the Second Chance title. Dave Shlemperis and Feng Zhao shared third place in the event.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked Manny Stamatakis and his Steinway Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues,, NAPL, Cappelle (, Ozone Billiards, the DeVito Team, and his Predator Pro Am staff. The next stop on the Predator Tour, scheduled for Oct. 20-21, will be an Amateur event, hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.
On Saturday, September 20, Amsterdam Billiards in Manhattan will host a Challenge Match between Tony Robles and Efren Reyes. Part of Efren Reyes’ Farewell Tour, it might well prove to be Reyes’ last trip to the Tri-State New York area. The match will be held from 6-9 p.m.

Lopez’ Tri-State victory makes 2018 his best earnings year to date

(l to r): Luis Lopez & Luis Carrasco

Though saddled with an increasingly popular asterisk, indicating that a tour stop win has been earned without benefit of a deciding final match, Luis Lopez’ victory on the Sunday, October 7 stop on the Tri-State Tour counted where it counted most; in his pocket. According to information at our disposal, the $705 he earned as official winner of the stop made 2018 his best earnings year to date. Another Luis (Carrasco) was Lopez’ hot seat and would-have-been finals opponent. The $1,000-added event drew 39 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.
Following victories over Andre Shramanko 6-3 and Mike Strassberg 6-2, Lopez chalked up two straight shutouts, over Michael Fedak and, in a winners’ side semifinal, Latonia Taylor. Carrasco, in the meantime, downed Dave Shlemperis 7-2 in the other winners’ side semifinal to join Lopez in the hot seat match. Lopez defeated Carrasco 7-1 to claim the hot seat, and, as it turned out, the event title.
On the loss side, eight competitors were at work, looking to earn their share of the $820 left to divide up among six other competitors. Dave Shlemperis, sent to the loss side by Ramilo Tanglao and in the midst of a loss-side winning streak that would take him to the semifinals, picked up one of them; Nick Limbertos, who’d defeated Tanglao 7-3 to get into the first money round, and Ambi Estevez 7-4 to reach Shlemperis. Taylor drew Mike Mele, who’d defeated Abel Barriento, double hill and Shweta Zaveri (the tour’s top female competitor) 9-4.
Shlemperis and Taylor got right back to work and advanced to the quarterfinals; Shlemperis 7-5 over Limbertos and Taylor 7-4 over Mele. Shlemperis eliminated Taylor in those quarterfinals 8-5 and then had his modest four-match loss-side streak ended with a double hill win by Carrasco in the semifinals.
The two Luis’, Lopez and Carrasco, opted out of a final and, as the undefeated occupant of the hot seat (and having defeated Carrasco once already), Lopez claimed the event title.
Tour representatives thanked Manny Stamatakis and his staff at Steinway Billiards, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling Gaming, Kamui Tips, Phil Cappelle, BlueBook Publishing, Human Kinetics, Pool & Billiards, Professor Q Ball, Bender Cues and DIGICUE OB. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 21, will be hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (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.

Romero downs Wong twice to go undefeated on Predator Pro Am stop

(l to r): Ramilo Tanglao, Suzzie Wong, Duc Lam & Xavier Romero

Xavier Romero, according to our records, chalked up his best earnings year, to date, in 2017, and came to the March 17-18 stop on the 2018 Predator Pro Am Tour, looking for his first win. He’d made it to the finals of a Predator stop twice last year; the first, about a year ago, and the most recent, one week before last Christmas. In both cases, he fought a double hill battle in the finals and lost; in the first, in March of last year, he fell victim to pool’s ‘three-foul’ rule against Chris Kelly in the deciding game, and back in December, Rhys Chen took the final game to win the tour’s Player’s Championships.
This past weekend, at the $1,000-added, Double Points Predator Pro Am event that drew 86 entrants to Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY, Romero battled twice against Suzzie Wong; once, in the hot seat match and again, in the finals. Although Wong had appeared in the finals of a Tri-State Tour event as recently as last month (February 25), and previously (November, 2017) won the Women’s Leisure Division of the 2017 NYC 8-Ball Championships, she became the first D/D+ player on the Predator Pro Am tour to ever make it to a final match. This, presumably, gave them both a lot to think about as they squared off in the finals. Romero won both the hot seat and final match to complete an undefeated run and claim the event title, but Wong cannot be replaced as the first D/D+ player (not just ‘woman’) to appear in the finals of a Predator Pro Am Tour stop.
Their first meeting followed a victory by Romero, over Duc Lam 8-4, and a Wong victory over Ramilo Tanglao 7-2 in the two winners’ side semifinals. Romero took the first of his two against Wong 8-6, leaving him in the hot seat, to think about his third appearance in the finals of a Predator Pro Am event in a year, as Wong moved over to battle for her right to a second shot at him.
On the loss side, Tanglao and Lam picked up two opponents who had downed their previous two loss-side opponents in double hill matches. Tanglao picked up Greg Matos, who’d defeated Kanami Chau and Ada Lio, both double hill, while Lam drew Eddie Kunz, who’d eliminated Junior Acosta and Jaydev Zaveri the same way.
Tanglao advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Matos, while Lam came out on top in Kunz’s third straight double hill match, to join him. Tanglao then earned himself a re-match against Wong with a 9-7 win over Lam.
Both semifinalists were looking to advance to a Predator final for the first time (Tanglao had won an event on the Tri-State, eight years ago), and fought to double hill for the right to do so. In the final game, Tanglao was able to line up the 9-ball for the win, and though it dropped, so, seconds later, did the cue ball, and Wong got her shot.
Though it might have been expected, Romero and Wong did not face a deciding game in the finals. Romero pulled out in front and finally won it 8-5 to claim his first Predator title.
A Second Chance event drew 12 entrants and was won Eugene Ok. Abel Rosario finished second.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Cue Bar for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, NAPL, Ozone Billiards, The DeVito Team,,, AZBilliards, Billiards Digest and Robles also extended thanks to his entire Predator Staff, including his wife, Gail Robles, Mandy Wu, William Finnegan, Irene Kim, and Rob Omen. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of April 7-8, will be hosted by Steinway Billliards in Astoria (Queens), NY.

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.

Strickland and Dempsey go undefeated on the Predator Tour

On the weekend of November 28-29, warming up for the Predator Tour's season finale, a $7,000-added event, scheduled for December 12-13 at Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY, Earl Strickland and Steve Dempsey went undefeated through their respective Open/Pro and Amateur fields. The $500-added Open/Pro event drew 10 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria, Queens, NY. The Amateur event drew 58 to the same location.
Strickland's path to the winners' circle went through Lee Kang twice; once in the hot seat match and again, in the finals. Strickland had sent Zion Zvi (the tour's top-ranked Pro class player) to the loss side 7-5, as Kang sent Sean Morgan over 7-4. Strickland gave up a single rack in the battle for the hot seat, and waited on Kang's return.
On the loss side, Zvi drew Ron Mason, who'd picked up a loss-side bye and defeated Ryan Boursse 7-4. Morgan drew the tour's top-ranked Open class player, Jorge Rodriguez, who'd defeated tour director Tony Robles 7-1 and Mike Wong 7-5.  Zvi downed Mason 7-2, as Rodriguez was eliminating Morgan 7-4.
Rodriguez took the quarterfinal match 7-5 over Zvi, and was then eliminated 7-4 by Kang. In their second of two, Strickland claimed the Open/Pro title over Kang 7-4.
In the Amateur event, Steve Dempsey faced separate opponents in the hot seat match and finals; Ramilo Tanglao in the former, Juan Guzman (whom he'd sent to the loss side) in the latter. Dempsey sent Raphael DaBreo to the loss side 7-2 in a winners' side semifinal, as Tanglao sent Paul Wilkens over, double hill. Dempsey claimed the hot seat 9-6 and waited on Guzman's return. 
On the loss side, Guzman got by Tony Liang and Shawn Sookhai, both 7-5, to pick up DaBreo. Wilkens drew Mike Figueroa, who'd eliminated Lukas Srancasso-Verner 7-5 and Erick Carrasco 7-4. Guzman downed DaBreo 7-2, and in the quarterfinals, faced Wilkens, who'd defeated Figueroa 7-5. 
Guzman won two straight double hill matches for a shot at Dempsey in the hot seat. he got by Wilkens in the quarterfinals, and Tanglao in the semifinals. Dempsey, though, shut Guzman down in the finals, allowing him only a single rack to claim the event title.