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Zvi ‘grinds out’ an undefeated win on the Predator Tour

It had been four years between victories on the New York-based Predator Tour, so when Zion Zvi chalked an undefeated one up on Sunday, April 26, one had to wonder whether he was 'back,' so to speak.
He hadn't really gone anywhere to be 'back' from, actually. From an earnings high of $9.5K in 2009, Zvi had continued to compete, consistently in the money on the Predator Tour, the Joss Tour (which he won twice in 2010), the Mezz Tour (which he won twice in 2011), and events like the annual George "Ginky" Sansouci Memorial (4th in 2012, 5th in 2013). But by last year, cashing in seven events, his pool earnings had dropped to just over $2K.
"I don't have that confidence," he said, the day after winning the Predator's $500-added, Open/Pro event that drew 13 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY. "I have to build that up. I still feel like I'm grinding it out every game."
"I felt good," he added of his general play in the tournament. "I felt like I hit the ball solidly and (developed) a little more confidence in my game."
In a winners' side semifinal against Jorge Rodriguez, he 'ground out' a double hill win, as Hunter Lombardo was busy sending  Predator TD Tony Roble to the loss side 7-5. Zvi got by Lombardo in the hot seat match 7-5 (one game from a second, grinding double hill) and waited on his return.
On the loss side, Robles picked up Steve Wright, who'd defeated Dave Shlemperis and Frankie Hernandez, both double hill,  to reach him. Rodriguez drew Ruben Batista, who'd gotten by Jerry Tarantola 7-5 and given up only one rack to Chris Derewonski.
Robles and Rodriguez advanced to the quarterfinals; Robles 7-3 over Wright, Rodriguez 7-5 over Batista. Robles took the quarterinal match 7-5 over Rodriguez, and then, by the same score, was defeated by Lombardo in the semifinals.
Back to the grind. Zvi and Lombardo locked up in a race to 11 that went to double hill before Zvi closed it out to win his first Open/Pro Predator stop since 2011.
"I was trailing the whole match," he said of the finals. "Down 9-5 and I came back, but I couldn't make a ball on the break, and every time I left him an open table, he was out."
The win hasn't exactly caused any major changes in his fortunes related to pool. He still enjoys the game, and obviously, can still compete. His life priorities, however, have changed, and he's more focused on his day job ("construction," he said).
"I know my level is up there," he said. "It makes me happy when I win, but I move on with my life. It's enough."

Ignacio wins third Predator Open/Pro, as Feliz takes Amateur event

Jeffrey Ignacio chalked up his third victory of the year on the Predator Tour by coming from the loss side and defeating hot seat occupant, Jayson Shaw, for the second time, in the finals of the $500-added Open/Pro portion of the March 14-15 stop on the tour. Yomaylin "Smiley" Feliz, also coming from the loss side, took home the top prize in the concurrently-run, $500-added A/B/C/D event. The Amateur event drew 59 entrants, while the Open/Pro event drew 12 to The Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.
Ignacio's victory went through Shaw twice, the first time in a winners' side semifinal, as Frankie Hernandez and Sean Morgan squared off in the other. Shaw gave up only a single rack to Ignacio in sending him to the loss side, as Hernandez downed Morgan 7-5. Shaw claimed the hot seat 7-2.
On the loss side, Ignacio picked up Zion Zvi, who'd defeated Rob Omen 7-2 and Giovani Hosang 7-3. Morgan drew Michael Wong, who'd gotten by Eugene Ok 7-2 and tour director Tony Robles 7-3. Wong eliminated Morgan 7-5 and in the quarterfinals, met up with Ignacio, who'd defeated Zvi 7-4. Ignacio then downed Wong 7-3 and in the semifinals, Hernandez 7-4. He completed his loss-side run with an 11-6 victory over Shaw in the finals.
Like Ignacio, Yomaylin "Smiley" Feliz' trip to the winners' circle, took a detour at the winners' side semifinals, where she fell to Abel Barriento 7-5. By the same score, Tom Hagan took down Arturo Reyes. Hagan then claimed the hot seat 8-5.
On the loss side, Feliz met up with Wanlop Chantarakolkit, who'd gotten by Bob Toomey 7-2 and Jim Gutierrez 7-5 to reach her. Reyes drew Stephen Dempsey, who'd defeated Basdeo Shawn Sookhai 7-3 and survived a double hill match against Steve Wright
Feliz, at that point, began a series of three straight double hill wins, eliminating Chantarakolkit, Reyes (who'd defeated Dempsey 7-4), and in a re-match, Abel Barriento. She completed her winning campaign with a 10-6 win over Hagan in the finals.

Ignacio and Robideau win Predator Open-Pro/Amateur events

In addition to victories at the pool table, Jeffrey Ignacio has been chalking up some Frequent Flyer Miles. He began the year with a victory in the Predator Tour's season opener, defeating Earl Strickland twice to claim the title. He flew to California, where he defeated Oscar Dominguez in the finals of the Chuck Markulis Memorial Tournament, and a day later, opened a campaign that resulted in a finals victory over Skyler Woodward in the US Bar Box 10-Ball Championships in Reno, NV. He came back to New York to compete in the Predator Tour's $500-added Open/Pro event again on the weekend of February 28-March 1, and went undefeated through a short field of seven entrants to claim his second Predator Tour Open/Pro title.
In a concurrently-run, $500-added Amateur event that drew 41 entrants, Bud Robideau came back from a defeat in the hot seat match to defeat Carl Yusuf Khan. The events were hosted by the Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.
In the Open/Pro event, Ignacio got into the hot seat match against Tour Director Tony Robles. Ignacio had defeated Eugene Ok 7-2, while Robles was sending Lee Kang to the losers' bracket 7-5. Ignacio claimed the hot seat in a double hill battle against Robles.
On the loss side, Kang picked up Michael Wong, who'd been awarded a loss-side bye. Ok drew Elvis Rodriguez, who'd eliminated Bob Schlott 7-2. Kang, down 6-3 against Wong, came back to tie it and win, while Rodriguez was busy defeating Ok 7-4. Kang took the quarterfinal match against Rodriguez by the same score and then smoked Robles 7-1 in the semifinals. Ignacio, though, ended Kang's loss-side streak with a 9-6 win in the finals.
In the Amateur event, Robideau and the "Warrior" (Khan) met first in the hot seat, once Robideau had defeated Joe Gibbons 7-5 and Khan had sent Ron Mason west 7-3. Khan took the first of two against Robideau 7-2.
On the loss side, Gibbons picked up Chris Brooks, who'd defeated Darren Schmidt 8-5 and Jamiyl Adams 7-5. Mason drew Steve Wright, who'd gotten by Vinnie Santiago 7-3 and Dave Shlemperis 7-2. Brooks eliminated Gibbons 7-2 and Mason survived a double hill battle versus Wright.
Brooks then eliminated Mason 7-4 in the quarterfinals, before himself being eliminated by Robideau in the semifinals, double hill. Robideau came out gunning in the finals against Khan and reached the hill, five games ahead. Khan battle to tie things up and force a case game, but Robideau won that last battle to claim the Amateur title.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff of the Cue Bar, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, TheDeVito,, Gotham City Technologies, NYCGrind,, and

Morgan and Ramirez go undefeated on Predator Open/Amateur stop

Good weather on Long Island trumped double points in the Open event of the June 28-29 stop on the Predator Tour. While the $750-added Amateur event drew 70 entrants, the $750-added Open event, competing against the highest weekend area temperatures in the month of June, drew only 10 entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY. Sean Morgan and Lidio Ramirez went undefeated in their respective Open and Amateur portions of the weekend's activity.
Morgan and Evgeny Stalez advanced to the hot seat match in the Open event; Morgan, having defeated Elvis Rodriguez 8-4 in one winners' side semifinal, while Stalez was defeating Frankie Hernandez 8-5 in the other. Morgan claimed the hot seat in a double hill battle against Stalez and waited on what turned out to be the return of Hernandez.
Rodriguez and Hernandez returned to their winning ways on the loss side immediately. Rodriguez eliminated TD Tony Robles 8-6, while Hernandez survived a double hill battle against Steve Wright. The quarterfinal match was the first money round and Hernandez advanced with an 8-4 win over Rodriguez. He then defeated Stalez 8-4 for a shot at Morgan in the hot seat. Morgan, though, completed his undefeated run with a 9-7 victory to claim the Open title.
In the Amateur event, Lidio Ramirez was challenged in the finals by Ray Feliciano, who mounted a seven-match, loss-side winning streak to reach him. Ramirez, in the meantime, was on his own seven-match winning streak, advancing to the hot seat match with a 7-5 win over Dave Shlemperis, while Luis Jimenez was sending Josh Friedberg to the losers' bracket 7-1. Ramirez sent Jimenez to the semifinals with an 8-6 win and waited on Feliciano.
Friedberg's first challenge on the loss side was the man he'd sent over earlier, Feliciano, who was four wins in to the streak that would take him to the finals. Feliciano had shut out Jamiyl Adams and defeated Dan Saraguna 7-2 to draw Friedberg. Shlemperis picked up Peter Cornell, who'd gotten by Kapriel Delimelkonoglu 7-5 and Nick Chuang 7-4.
Shlemperis survived a double hill fight against Cornell, while Feliciano defeated Friedberg 7-5. Shlemperis came out on the wrong end of his second straight double hill match in the quarterfinals, which sent Feliciano to a semifinal matchup against Jimenez. Feliciano completed his loss-side run with a 7-5 victory over Jimenez, but fell in the finals to Ramirez, whose 11-9 victory secured the Amateur title.

Strickland takes Open Predator event; Alli takes Amateur title

Earl Strickland

Last weekend (March 29-30), Chris Derewonski came back from a loss in the hot seat match to defeat Mike Harrington in the finals of the Predator Amateur event at Gotham City Billiards. One week later (April 5-6), he was in the finals again, having followed the same path, only this time, he was playing in the Open/Pro event and his hot seat and finals opponent was Earl Strickland. Strickland defeated Derewonski twice to win the $500-added Open/Pro event that drew 12 entrants to Strickland's home room, Steinway Billiards, in Astoria, NY. On the $500-added Amateur side that drew 72 entrants, Omar Alli went undefeated to take home the top prize. 
Strickland, who'd finished third in the March 29-30 Predator stop, went undefeated through the short field, arriving at his first meeting against Derewonski, after a 7-2 win over Zion Zvi. Derewonski, in the meantime, defeated Jorge Rodriguez, who'd been the hot seat occupant and eventual runner-up in the March 29-30 stop, 7-3. Derewonski battled Strickland to double hill in the winners' side final, but the Pearl prevailed.
Zvi and Rodriguez moved to the losers' bracket, where they picked up Mike Yednak and Tony Robles, respectively. Yednak had eliminated Koka Davladze 7-3 and Steve Wright 7-5. Robles got by Jerry Tarantola 7-1 and survived a double hill fight versus Eddie Culhane. Zvi downed Yednak 7-5, and in the quarterfinals faced Rodriguez, who'd defeated Robles 7-2.
Rodriguez and Zvi fought tooth and nail to double hill before Rodriguez prevailed to get a shot at Derewonski. Derewonski and Rodriguez went double hill, too, but Derewonski came out on top for a second shot at Strickland, waiting for him in the hot seat. Strickland sealed the deal 9-4 to claim the Open/Pro title.
In the Amateur event, Omar Alli, looking to improve on his runner-up finish on the tour in early March, advanced to the hot seat match with a 7-4 win over Enoch Hooper, as Eric Grassman was sending Billy Santiago to the losers' bracket 7-6. Alli dominated the winners' side final, winning it 8-1.
Hooper moved to the losers' bracket and picked up Kirill Safronoz, who'd defeated Ray Feliciano 7-2 and George Poltorak 7-4 to reach him. Santiago drew Miguel Laboy, who'd eliminated Shawn Sookhai 7-2 and Junior Sanchez 7-5. Hooper advanced to the quarterfinals 7-4 over Safronoz, and was met by Laboy, who'd defeated Santiago 7-5. Hooper took a page out of the Omar Alli 'hot seat book' and defeated Laboy 8-1.
Grassman ended Hooper's short, loss-side winning streak in a double hill semifinal, and then, put up something of a fight in his re-match against Alli. Alli, though, stayed on top and won it 8-5 to claim the Amateur event title.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Steinway Billiards, as well as New York City Grind, while welcoming Ozone Billiards to the sponsorship ranks. Selected matches on the tour stop were broadcast under the auspices of AZBTv.

Stevens goes undefeated on Predator Amateur stop; Open cancelled due to weather threat

James Stevens picked up his first win on the Predator Tour; in fact, based on information at our disposal, his first win in any tournament, with an undefeated run through 90 entrants, on hand for the $500-added, March 1-2 stop on the Predator Tour, hosted by Steinway Billiards, in Astoria, NY. Responding to concerns about the arrival of seriously inclement weather, the tour stop did not include an Open tournament.
Stevens faced different opponents in the hot seat and finals. Once he'd defeated Diana Rojas 7-5, among the winners' side final four, he faced Steve Wright, who'd just sent Stevens' eventual finals opponent, Victor Nau, to the losers' bracket 7-4. Stevens got into the hot seat with a 7-3 win over Wright and waited for Nau, who'd come later.
On the loss side, Nau picked up Luis Novas, who'd survived a double hill battle versus Dave Shlemperis, and defeated Roberto Mendoza 7-4. Rojas drew Chicky Romero, who'd gotten by Gus Iliotoulos 7-4 and Josh Friedberg 7-5. Nau and Rojas got right back to work, downing Novas (7-4) and Romero (7-3), and advancing to the quarterfinals.
Nau then navigated his way through two straight double hill matches; against Rojas in the quarterfinals, and then, Wright, in the semifinals. It gave him the shot at Stevens that he'd been looking for, although the end result was not what he'd expected. Stevens gave up only a single rack to Nau, completing his undefeated run with a dominating 8-1 performance to claim the event title.

Strickland wins short-field Predator Open; Grassman wins Amateur event

Earl Strickland

Jeremy Sossei and Earl Strickland played twice in the February 23 Open event on the Predator Tour, with Strickland winning both times. Eric Grassman faced two different opponents in the Amateur event over the weekend and won twice, as well; against Diana Rojas and Thomas Rice. The $500-added Amateur event drew 48 entrants, while the $500-added Open drew 10 to Gotham City Billiards in Brooklyn, NY.
Strickland and Sossei met first in the battle for the hot seat. Strickland had downed Jorge Rodriguez 7-5 in one winners' side semifinal, while Sossei defeated Tony Robles 7-3 in the other. Strickland moved into the hot seat with his first win over Sossei 7-3.
Rodriguez moved over to pick up Emily Duddy, who'd defeated Joe Gibbons 7-1 and Larry Ross 7-4. Robles drew Joey Korsiak, who'd gotten by Jerry Tarantola 7-3 and shut out Mike Esposito. Rodriguez and Korsiak met in the quarterfinals, once Rodriguez had downed Duddy 7-2 and Korsiak had defeated Robles 7-3. Rodriguez then shut out Korsiak and got a shot at Sossei in the semifinals. Sossei denied Rodriguez a re-match against Strickland with a 7-5 win, and then, in his own re-match, fell to Strickland in the finals 7-3.
On the Amateur side, the eventual winner, Grassman, met up with Steve Wright among the winners' side final four, as Diana Rojas faced Thomas Rice. Grassman and Rojas advanced to the hot seat match with identical 7-1 wins over Wright and Rice. Grassman sent Rojas to the semifinals 8-4.
On the loss side, Rice picked up James Stevens, who'd defeated William Finnegan 7-1 and Tony Ignomirello 7-4 to reach him. Wright drew Chris Derewonski, who'd gotten by Koka Davladze 7-3 and survived a double hill match against Roberto Mendoza. Wright and Rice got right back to work; Wright shutting out Derewonski, while Rice eliminated Stevens 7-2.
Rice took the quarterfinal match 7-5 over Wright, and successfully navigated his semifinal re-match against Rojas 7-3. Rice battled Grassman to double hill before Grassman prevailed to claim the Amateur event title.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked Gotham City Billiard owners, Kevin and Isabel Buckley, for their hospitality and continuing support of the tour. 

Diaz returns to the Tri-State winners’ circle with a loss-side run and victory over Bak

Tomasz Bak, Keith Diaz and Jamiyl Adams

It's been over a year since Keith Diaz won a stop on the Tri-State Tour; his last, an April 15, 2012, undefeated run through a field of 53 at Eastside Billiards in Manhattan was also his first. He stopped a seven-match, loss-side winning streak by Raj Vannala to win that event. On Saturday, August 17 at the Cue Bar in Bayside, Queens, Diaz won five on the loss side to meet and defeat hot seat occupant Tomasz Bak and claim the event title. The $1,000-added, A-D handicapped event drew 41 entrants.
Diaz survived an opening round, double hill match against Debra Pritchett, and defeated Alberto Sanchez 7-2, before running into Adrian Daniel among the winners' side final eight. Daniel sent him west 7-2 and moved into a winners' side semifinal against Jamiyl Adams. Bak, in the meantime, squared off against Basdeo Sookhai. Bak sent Sookhai over 7-5, and in the hot seat match, met up with Adams, who'd downed Daniel 6-2. Bak took the hot seat battle 8-4 and waited on Diaz.
On the loss side, Diaz met up with the previous week's winner, Ed Lum, and defeated him 6-4. He followed with a 6-3 win over Chris Soto-Chimelis, which set him up for a re-match against Adrian Daniel. Sookhai drew Adrian Daniel's son, Meshak Daniel, who'd gotten by Dave Shlemperis 7-2, and survived a double hill fight against Steve Wright
Diaz wreaked his vengeance on the elder Daniel 6-3, and in the quarterfinals, met up with his son, who'd eliminated Sookhai 7-4. Diaz then eliminated Meshak Daniel 7-4 and gave up only a single rack in the semifinal match against Jamiyl Adams. 
Diaz came out of the finals gate in a hurry, chalking up eight up in a row before Bak managed to win a rack. Bak took two in a row, but it was all he took, as Diaz came back with two of his own to win the match and event title 10-2.
Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at the Cue Bar, as well as sponsors Sterling-Gaming, Ozone Billiards, Qpod, Heptig Cues, Kamui Tips, Phil Capelle, BlueBook Publishing, and Human Kinetics. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour will be the third annual George "Ginky" Sansouci Memorial Tournament, scheduled for August 31-September 2  at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, NY. The annual tournament is a combined effort between the Tri-State and Predator Tours, at which, this year, Earl Strickland in the Open category and Daniel Dagotdot in the Amateur event, will look to repeat as champions. 

Guzman goes undefeated through a field of 62 to win third Tri-State Tour stop

Geoff Bauer, Juan Guzman and Raymond Lee

Juan Guzman chalked up his fourth Tri-State area victory in as many months with an undefeated run on the Tri-State Tour on the weekend of June 8-9. He was undefeated on Tri-State events in March and April, and in May, on the Predator Tour, won nine on the loss side to meet and defeat hot seat occupant, Darwin Vergara. This most recent event, a $2,750-added, A-D handicapped tournament, hosted by Gotham Billiards in Brooklyn, drew the largest field of all of them (62). Though it hasn't happened yet, this third Tri-State victory is likely to advance him out of his current B++ class, and have him competing as an A player, real soon.

Following victories over Marco Costello, Rajesh Vannala, Jimmy Acosta, and a double hill win over the Tri-State Tour's current top-ranked B player, Gary Murgia, Guzman moved among the winners' side final four to face Geoffrey Bauer. Raymond Lee and Dennis Kennedy squared off in the other winners' side semifinal. Guzman defeated Bauer 7-5, and in the hot seat match, faced Lee, who'd dispatched Kennedy to the loss side 6-3. For the third time since March, Guzman was in the Tri-State hot seat, awaiting a finals opponent.
Bauer moved west to pick up Steve Wright, who'd handed Murgia his second straight loss 7-1 and gone on to survive a double hill match against Meshak Daniel. Kennedy faced Ambi Estevez, who'd defeated Bredon Hollack 6-5 and Luis Jimenez 6-3. Two double hill battles ensued, with Bauer and Estevez winning them and moving on to face each other in the quarterfinals.
Bauer downed Estevez 9-6, leaving only the semifinals against Lee between him and a re-match versus Guzman. Lee spoiled that reunion with an 8-4 win in those semifinals to earn his own re-match.
Lee took a quick, three-rack lead in the finals, only to have Guzman come right back to tie things up. From there it was back and forth, one rack at a time, to a 6-6 tie, at which point, Guzman took final command, and completed the 8-6 win that gave him his third Tri-State victory.
Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Gotham Billiards, as well as sponsors Sterling-Gaming, Ozone Billiards, Poison Cues, Ron Tarr Cues, Kamui Tips, Phil Capelle, BlueBook Publishing, and Human Kinetics. The next Tri-State stop, an A-D handicapped, $1,000-added event is scheduled for June 15 at Steinway Billiards in Astoria.

The Iceman comes back to defeat Saez in Predator Open finals

Mika Immonen

Robb Saez sent the Iceman, Mika Immonen, to the loss side in the opening round of play in the Sunday, June 2 Open event on the Predator Tour. Immonen came back from a five-match march on the loss side to meet and defeat him in the finals to claim the top prize. The $750-addded event, run in conjunction with an Amateur event (story elsewhere), drew a short field of 11 entrants to Raxx Pool Room, Sports Bar & Grill in West Hempstead, NY. 
With Immonen out of the way, Saez advanced to face Steve Wright among the winners' side final four. Tour director Tony Robles, in the meantime, squared off against Vikram Dasari in the other winners' side semifinal. Saez downed Wright 7-3 and in the battle for the hot seat, met up with Robles, who'd sent Dasari west 7-1. Saez got into the hot seat with a 7-5 victory over Robles, and awaited his re-match against Immonen.
Immonen opened his loss-side campaign with a 7-1 victory over Frankie Hernandez, and followed that with a shutout over Rich Lang, which set him up to face Wright. Dasari drew Keith Adamik, who'd gotten by Jerry Tarantola 7-5 and Anna Grintsuk 7-4. 
Adamik handed Dasari his second straight loss 7-3, as Immonen did likewise to Wright 7-1. Immonen took the quarterfinal match versus Adamik 7-2 and then defeated Robles in the semifinals 7-3. 
In the extended-race finals, the Iceman reached nine games first, extending the match to 11 games. He completed his successful bid 11-9 over Saez to claim the event title.