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Orcollo, Kiamco and a little Poteet highlight action at the Iron City Open in Birmingham, AL

Welcome to the ‘Dennis and Warren Show,’ starring fellow countrymen Dennis Orcollo and Warren Kiamco. We’re coming to you, written, following the $10,000-added Iron City Open, at Iron City Billiards in Birmingham, AL on the weekend of March 31-April 4. Tonight’s special guests include Devin Poteet and representing the ladies, Tam Trinh.

There were four events at this Iron City Open; a $4,000-added One Pocket event that drew 18 entrants, a $1,000-added Ladies 9-Ball that drew 37, a single-elimination, no-money-added 10-ball with 23 entrants and the main event, the $5,000-added 9-ball event that drew 141. In the three events that did not involve female competitors, there were four, final-two matches – the hot seat and finals of the One Pocket and 9-Ball – and, because it was single elimination and involved two semifinals and no hot seat match, there was one final match in the 10-Ball event. In those last five matches in those three events, Orcollo and Kiamco were opponents in three of them; the hot seat and finals of the One Pocket and the final match of the 10-Ball. The other two matches featured Orcollo and Devin Poteet in the hot seat and finals of the 9-Ball. Orcollo won them all, with Kiamco as runner-up in two of them and Poteet as runner-up in the third.

Ladies first, of course, although it actually followed the One Pocket event, which got things rolling on Wednesday, March 31. Tam Trinh came back from a hill-hill hot-seat loss to Angela Gann and defeated Julie Cone in the semifinals and then Gann in the finals 11-9.

The ‘Dennis and Warren’ show had debuted the day before, when the two of them worked their way through the 18-entrant One Pocket field that included quite a few One Pocket luminaries, including, but by no means limited to Scott Frost, Charlie Bryant, Devin Poteet (about whom we will speak quite a bit, later), Billy Thorpe, John Morra and Tony Chohan. In their first of three matches in two different games, Dennis and Warren battled for the One Pocket hot seat. It went double hill and eventually sent Orcollo to the semifinals. Orcollo and Frost met in those semifinals, and it, too, came down to the final ball. Scott missed a two-railer that caught the edge on his pocket and rolled toward Orcollo’s one pocket. Orcollo finished it and got a second chance against Kiamco, waiting for him in the hot seat. An extended race-to-7 in the finals went Orcollo’s way (7-4), as he chalked up his first of the three titles.

The 9-ball event (on 7 ft. bar tables) and the single elimination 10-Ball event (on 9 ft. tables) started more or less at the same time on Friday, though the 10-ball finished much sooner. A seven-match, play-in round in the 10-ball tournament that brought the 23-entrant field down to 16, eliminated JT King, Shane McMinn (defeated by Kiamco, 9-7), George Rothrock, Dustin Cook, Josh Roberts, and Jimmy Springfield. It also eliminated Robb Saez, who battled to double hill versus Devin Poteet before giving way (told you we’d be talking about him later).

Kiamco’s path to the semifinals wasn’t easy. After defeating McMinn, Billy Thorpe challenged him, double hill. He persevered and went on to defeat Mike Delawder 9-7 to arrive at his semifinal match versus Omar Alshaheen. Orcollo, who didn’t play in the preliminary round, got by two opponents 9-7, Nick DeLeon and Devin Poteet, who would surely bring the memory of the defeat to the 9-ball challenges ahead of him. Orcollo’s first victory of the weekend over Poteet, set him up for a semifinal match against John Morra. 

From Sweet 16, it had come down to the Final Four, fast. Kiamco eliminated Alshaheen 9-5. Orcollo joined him in the championship final, after defeating Morra 9-7. In their second of three meetings, they fought to double hill. Orcollo prevailed again to claim his second title.

Enter Devin Poteet, with a surprising run in the bar table 9-ball 

Like any good ‘show,’ the final dramatic act depends a great deal on the action and back story of what has preceded it. By the time the field of 141 entrants had whittled down to 16, through a 13-match preliminary round and five more, the finalists from the two previous events – Orcollo and Kiamco – were still in play. The tension of a third finals match between the two was very much in play.

For Dennis, the possibility of winning all three of the events was very much in play, as well. For Devin Poteet, the Cinderella character in this ‘show,’ who, over the years, seemed to have developed an arguably bad habit of finishing as runner-up, the tension must have been . . . well, in tense. In 2015, he’d finished as runner-up in that year’s Side Pocket 9-Ball Open. Two years later, his best recorded earnings year, he finished second in both the 2nd Annual Topwater Memorial and the 44th Texas Open, where he was bested in the finals by John Morra (who fell a loss-to-Jeffrey De Luna short of meeting Poteet in this event). Poteet had not won a (recorded) major event since he went undefeated on Shannon Daulton’s Great Southern Billiard Tour in 2014. Yet here he was, having just sent Jeffrey De Luna to the loss side 9-7 in a winners’ side quarterfinal match facing Omar Al Shaheen.

Poteet downed Al Shaheen 9-5, advancing out of the frying pan, into a winners’ side semifinal fire of a match against Warren Kiamco. As for Orcollo, he’d not exactly been breezing through his personal field of five opponents, but coming into his winners’ side semifinal against Manny Chau, no one had chalked up more than five against him; that had happened twice, including his winners’ side quarterfinal victory over Robb Saez.

Chau put up a fight against Orcollo, battling him to double hill before giving way and moving to the loss side. Poteet moved into the hot seat match with a 9-5 victory over Kiamco, which deflated a lot of the excitement that had been building over a potential Orcollo/Kiamco match in the finals; not completely, since the door was still open for Kiamco to come back from the loss side. Orcollo brushed Poteet aside in the hot seat match, defeating him 9-2 and waiting to complete his third championship run of the weekend.

On the loss side, any hopes of that anticipated Orcollo/Kiamco matchup in the finals dissipated at the conclusion of Kiamco’s first loss-side match against Jeffrey De Luna, who battled him to double hill before advancing to the quarterfinals. Chau, in the meantime, fell 7-4 to Jonathan “Hennessee from Tennessee” Pinegar, who was in the midst of a 10-match, loss-side run that had included victories over James Aranas, Omar Alshaheen, and Billy Thorpe. Two double hill matches followed, ramping up the excitement. Pinegar chalked up loss-side win #9, sending De Luna home (so to speak), and then had his loss-side run stopped by Poteet in the semifinals.

Poteet took what is generally considered to be a pivotal, significant first step by winning the opening rack of the extended race-to-13 finals. Orcollo tied it up for the first of only three times that it was tied throughout the match. Orcollo began what initially ‘felt’ like the deciding run that would earn him his third title. As meager as it was (three racks), given his opponent, there was a sense emanating from the billiardnet.tv booth and the chat screen, that it was just the beginning of the end. 

Not so, nor was Orcollo’s next run, another three, which followed a rack for Poteet that had it made it 5-3. At 8-3, Poteet chalked up two, and after giving one more up to Orcollo, went on what would become the longest run by either of them; four racks at the end of which, the match was tied at 9-9. 

They are both playing at the top of their respective games. There’s no complacency with Orcollo, who’s doing his traditional solo “show,’ demonstrating to all the world that he knows how to jump balls with authority, a skill that will show up later as the match progresses. Poteet, for his part, is not acting as though he hasn’t won a major event in seven years. He is demonstrating prodigious cue ball skills and dropping target balls with self-confident authority.

Now, a race to 4, Orcollo chalks up two in a row that prompts that ‘here it comes, the end’ feeling again. But Poteet wins rack #21 to draw within one at 11-10. At this point, it’s Monday morning, dawn is approaching and people in the stream booth are literally falling asleep. Those awake note that even at the early hour, hundreds are watching the stream.

Orcollo wins rack #22, reaching the hill first at 12-10. Rack #23 slows the whole process down as an extended, table-length safety battle ensues. It’s Poteet who breaks the logjam and Orcollo concedes the rack as Poteet is lining up the 8-ball. And it’s 12-11.

Poteet breaks, sinks two and doesn’t take very long to look at a well-spread-out table, just itching for a run. In what had to have been the single most important rack in his entire career wielding a pool cue, he ran the table, popping target balls into holes with a bit of a ‘punch.’ He tied things up for the last time. Hill-hill.

Orcollo broke the final rack, dropping the 1-ball, but looking at a lot of room between the cue ball and the two-ball and the 5-ball right between them. As he’d done throughout the tournament, he calmly put his jump cue together as he surveyed the shot ahead of him. The problem was not necessarily the shot itself. It was a long one; cue at one end, near the second diamond on the right-hand rail, the interfering 5-ball, a diamond away from that, center table and the 2-ball, four diamonds away, about six inches off the left rail, aimed at the lower left-hand corner pocket. The 3-ball, though, was behind and to the left of the cue ball, about three inches off the short rail and midway between the middle and left diamond. 

With draw, Orcollo jumped the 5-ball, hit the 2-ball, which went authoritatively into its designated corner pocket, while the cue ball traveled backwards for perfect position on the 3-ball. This time, the feeling that it was all over proved justified. Orcollo cleared the table from there to ‘run the tables’ at the event, chalking up his third victory.

Tour director Daryl Kiplinger thanked Michael Catanese and his Iron City Billiards staff for their hospitality during the event, as well as sponsors Bob@RG Billiards (Birmingham’s Table/Cue Repair, Cue Accessories Dealer) and Brutal Game Gear (Heather and Charlie Bryant).

The event was streamed throughout the weekend by TV Mike’s Billiardnet.tv. TV Mike set something of a precedent at this event, by simultaneously recording at three tables, allowing interested viewers the opportunity to see three streamed matches at once, or select one of three upon which to focus. These matches, including all quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, are available on the Billiardnet.tv Web site, as well as the site’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/billiardnet

Ng goes undefeated to claim Stop #2 on Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour

Ming Ng

Having won the season opener of the Gulf Coast Regional Tour in early January and a week later, finished as runner-up at the season opener of the 2020 Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour (JOLT), Ming Ng signed on to compete in Stop #2 of the JOLT and went undefeated to claim the title. She faced separate opponents in the hot seat and finals of this Feb. 29-March 1, $2,000-added  event that drew 27 entrants to Skinny Bob’s in Round Rock, TX.

Ng opened her campaign with victories over Sandra Melo and Tam Trinh before running into Angie Payne, who put up a double hill fight that almost sidetracked Ng’s march to the hot seat. Ng advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Michelle Cortez, whom she’d face twice, before this was over. Natalie Rocha, in the meantime, who’d battled Ng twice (hot seat and finals) in that Gulf Coast Regional Tour season opener, worked her way through Rachel Hurst, Rosa Cantu and Jennifer Kraber to draw Teresa Garland in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Ng got into the hot seat match with a 7-5 victory over Cortez in their first of two. Rocha joined Ng following a 7-4 victory over Garland. Ng claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Rocha and waited on what turned out to be the return of Cortez.

On the loss side, Garland picked up Angie Payne, who, following her double hill loss to Ng on the winners’ side, downed Yvonne Asher 7-2 and Brittany Williams 7-4. Cortez drew a rematch against Kim Pierce, whom she’d defeated in the second winners’ side round. Pierce was in the midst of a four-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had recently included victories over Jennifer Kraber 7-5 and Tam Trinh 7-3.

Garland eliminated Payne 7-4, as Cortez downed Pierce a second time, 7-5. Cortez and Garland battled to double hill in the quarterfinals before Cortez prevailed for a shot at Rocha in the semifinals.

Cortez completed her brief, successful loss-side run with a 7-4 win over Rocha in those semifinals. Momentum did not appear to be on Cortez’ side in the finals that followed. She’d battled to within a game of double hill in the earlier hot seat match, but could only manage a single rack in the finals. Ng completed her second undefeated 2020 run 7-1 to claim the event title.

A $100-added Best of the Rest Tournament was won by Jennifer Kraber. Yvonne Asher finished as runner-up.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Skinny Bob’s, as well as title sponsor Jerry Olivier Cues. The next stop on the Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour, scheduled for the weekend of April 4-5 will be hosted by Diamond Sports Bar in Port Arthur, TX.

Kraber records her first 2019 victory, going undefeated on Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour

Jennifer Kraber

It was her first (recorded) victory on the Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour since its debut in March of last year, when she went undefeated to claim the inaugural tour title. On the weekend of October 19-20, Jennifer Kraber joined 21 competitors for the 6th stop on the 2019 tour and went undefeated through the field, downing Michelle Cortez twice to claim the event title. The $2,000-added event was hosted by Fast Eddie’s Billiards in Embassy Oaks, TX.
 
Following an opening round bye, Kraber chalked up wins over Michelle Yim 7-4 and Angie Payne 7-2 to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match against Kelly Jones. Cortez, in the meantime, after her opening round bye, got by Ellen Robinson and Teresa Garland, both 7-5, to draw Rachel Hurst in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Kraber moved into the hot seat match with a 7-4 win over Jones and was joined by Cortez, who’d sent Hurst to the loss side 7-3. Kraber and Cortez battled to double hill in their struggle for the hot seat before Kraber prevailed and Cortez moved over to the semifinals.
 
Jones and Hurst arrived on the loss side of the bracket and immediately picked up their second straight loss; Jones, falling 7-5 to Kim Pierce, who’d defeated Gail Roles 7-1 and Michelle Yim 7-3 to reach her and Hurst, defeated by Ellen Robinson, who’d eliminated Angie Payne 7-4 and Tam Trinh 7-2.
 
Robinson won the quarterfinal match that followed 7-3, but had her six-match, loss-side winning streak ended by Cortez 7-4 in the semifinals. By the same score, Cortez had her single-match, loss-side winning streak ended by Kraber in the finals, who claimed the event title.
 
Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Fast Eddie’s as well as title sponsor Jerry Olivier Custom Cues and MZTam.com. The next stop on the Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour (#7), scheduled for the weekend of November 16-17, will be the tour’s Season Finale, hosted by Legends Billiards in League City, TX. 

Suarez wins eight on the loss side, double dips Soto in finals of DFW Tour experiment

Tina Soto, Orietta Strickland & Krystle Suarez (Photo courtesy Jesse Garcia . Bound by Imagination)

With the idea of introducing a Ladies Division into their 2020 schedule, the Dallas/Fort Worth 9-Ball Tour ran a ‘trial run’ event on Saturday, September 28. It was, according to tour representatives, a success and plans are moving ahead to include four or five events in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The trial event was won by Krystle Suarez, who, after being awarded a bye in the opening round, was defeated in the second round by Tina Soto, won eight on the loss side and then met and double dipped Soto in the finals to claim the event title. The event drew 35 ladies to Rusty’s Billiards in Arlington, TX.
 
Soto, who’d won her opening round versus Jennifer Hooten, advanced after her defeat of Suarez to send Phoebe Simon and Tam Trinh to the loss side and faced Corina Campbell in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Orietta Strickland squared off against Jessica Demello in the other one.
 
Soto and Campbell locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Soto to the hot seat match. Strickland joined her after shutting Demello out. With Strickland racing to 7, Soto claimed the hot seat 5-5 and waited for Suarez to complete her loss-side run.
 
On the loss side, Campbell drew a re-match against Ricki Casper, whom she’d sent to the loss side in a third-round double hill battle. Casper was in the midst of six-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently included two straight shutouts over Christa Ramon and Nina Dolman. Demello picked up Suarez, five matches into her loss-side streak, having recently shut out Jennifer Pavlovick and downed Alicia Stanley 7-4.
 
Casper extended her loss-side streak, as she successfully navigated her rematch versus Campbell 6-1. Suarez joined her in the quarterfinals with a 7-2 victory over Demello.
 
Suarez ended Casper’s loss-side journey 7-2 in those quarterfinals and then earned her rematch against Soto with a 7-5 victory over Strickland in the semifinals. She and Soto battled to double hill in the opening set of the true double elimination finals, forcing a second set. Suarez upped her game a bit in the second set, shutting Soto out to claim the trial run of the DFW 9-Ball Tour’s Ladies Division.
 
Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Rusty’s Billiards, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, OB Cues, Fort Worth Billiards Superstore, and the Dallas 8-Ball League. The next stop on the DFW 9-Ball Tour, scheduled for October 19-20, will be hosted by the Billiard Den in Richardson, TX. 
 

Jones goes undefeated second straight time to take Stop #4 on the Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour

(l to r): Kim Pierce, Kelly Jones & Tara Williams

Shades of Yogi Berra and his musing about ‘Déjà vu all over again.’ On the weekend of June 8-9 at JR Pockets Sports Bar and Grill in Denton, TX, Kelly Jones and Kim Pierce faced each other twice to claim an event title (Stop #4) on the Jerry Olivier Custom Cues Ladies Tour, just as they had on the weekend of April 13-14 (Stop #3) at the Diamond Sports Bar and Grill in Port Arthur, TX. With the same result – Kelly Jones claiming the title, Kim Pierce finishing as runner-up. At this most recent event, however, their first meeting came in the hot seat match (it was in a winners’ side semifinal back in April), while for the second straight time on the tour, they were the event finalists. The $2,000-added event drew 48 entrants to JR Pockets.
 
Jones’ path to the hot seat match was almost derailed at the outset. She was awarded an opening round bye before facing Michelle Cortez in the second round. Cortez battled her to double hill before giving way. Jones advanced to defeat Rachel Hurst and Belinda Lee, to face Angie Payne in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Pierce, in the meantime, without an opening round bye, defeated Ellen Robinson, Glynda Fuller, Tam Trinh, and Orietta Strickland to draw Ashley Nandrasy in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Jones got into the hot seat match with a 7-2 win over Payne and was joined by Pierce, who’d survived a double hill match against Nandrasy. Jones claimed the hot seat 7-5 and waited for the second straight time on the tour for the return of Pierce.
 
On the loss side, Payne picked up Tara Williams, who’d been defeated by Belinda Lee in the third winners’ side round and defeated Stacie Putnam 7-2, Rachel Hurst 7-4, picked up a forfeit win from Ricki Lee Casper and downed Kim Sanders 7-5. Nandrasy drew Aryana Lynch, who’d been sent to the loss side by Payne in a winners’ side quarterfinal and downed Michelle Yim 7-3 and Ellen Robinson 7-4 to reach Nandrasy.
 
Nandrasy advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-4 victory over Lynch and was joined by Williams, who’d eliminated Payne 7-2. Williams made it six in a row on the loss side with a 7-2 victory over Nandrasy in those quarterfinals.
 
Pierce stopped Williams’ loss-side run with a 7-4 victory in the semifinals for a second shot (a second time) at Jones in the hot seat. Second verse, same as the first, as they say. Jones took the semifinal match 7-4 to claim her second Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour title.
 
A Best of the Rest event with 11 entrants saw Rachel Hurst take the top prize, with Nicole McDaniel in 2nd place. McDaniel was in the hot seat, but left to get home to her family. Corina Campbell finished 3rd and Melissa Smith came in 4th.
 
Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at JR Pockets, as well as title sponsor Jerry Olivier Custom Cues, MzTam.com and a “huge shout out” to Rackem TV for providing a live stream. The next stop (#5) on the Jerry Olivier Custom Cues Ladies Tour, scheduled for the weekend of September 14-15, will be hosted by Slick Willie’s Family Pool Hall in Austin, TX.

Sykes from the JPNEWT wins first major at NAPT Division II Championships in Phoenix

Bethany Sykes (photo courtesy of NAPT – Playnapt.com)

Prior to her start and victory at the $5,000-added North American Pool Tour’s 3rd Annual Division II Championships, held from February 21-24 at Bullshooters in Phoenix, AZ, Bethany Sykes had only one major victory on her brief, two-year, four-event, cash payout resume; two of those payouts were earned on the J. Pechauer Northeast Womens’ Tour (JPNEWT) and two, including the only victory, came on the Action Pool Tour (APT), where, this past November, she won the Virginia State Ladies 8-Ball Championships. It should be noted that the Ladies’ VA State 8-Ball event featured a field of only five entrants, although as they say, a win is a win is a win. For Sykes, though, the NAPT Div. II Championships were her “first big tournament” and the win was like gravy on a main meal of just being thrilled to be there and the four-day joy of participation.
 
“It was an incredible feeling,” she said of her first impressions, “just to be there with that many women in the room (64 entrants).”
 
“It was an awesome experience,” she went on to say, noting that it was her first time playing in a round robin event, and the first time she’d ever had to deal with a shot clock. “I found that the 30 seconds gave me no time for indecision about what could go wrong. There was no thinking about anything but the shot.”
 
As her resume indicates, she’s only been playing the sport competitively for the past couple of years, although she says she’s been in love with the game since she was about nine years old. She got her first cue when she was 16 and now, at 31, she’s crossed a big threshold and won her first major tournament. Her appearances on the JPNEWT and APT over the last year or two helped her to identify and improve some of the basics to which she had not been exposed previously.
 
“I never knew where to put my feet,” she said of her early attempts to develop a stance. “I got a lesson from Karen Corr about five months ago, and she told me where to put my feet.”
 
With her feet sorted out, Sykes joined 63 other women from seven regional ladies pool tours at these Division II Championships; six from the United States and four women from a ladies tour out of Quebec. The most heavily represented tour among the seven was the Texas-based Jerry Olivier Pool Tour (JO), with 14 entrants, about 22% of the field. The Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) was next with 12, followed by the ‘hometown’ Arizona Women’s Billiards Tour (AWBT), which had 11. The West Coast Women’s Tour (WCWT) sent 9. The JPNEWT contributed 8 (including Sykes), the North Central Pool Tour (NCPT) checked in with 6, while  four women represented the ‘Circuit de Billard Feminine du Quebec.’
 
They broke up into eight round robin flights of eight players each, beginning on Thursday, February 21. Sykes, in Group Two, representing the JPNEWT, was paired with a primarily West Coast field; Cassie Francois and Elaine Eberly from the NWPA, Ginger Bowen from the WCWT, Jaye Succo and Leandra Gaff from the AWBT, Tam Trinh from the JO and Marilou Therrien from the Canadian league.
 
Sykes opened her campaign at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday morning with a 5-2 win over Francois. In round two, she got by Eberly 4-2 and then, in the final match of the opening day, she survived a double hill fight (4-3) against Trinh, which would prove to be highly significant later. As measured by total games won, she was the ‘flight’ leader at the end of that first day, with 13 games won. Gaff, Trinh and Therrien were second with 12 each.
 
Day two didn’t start out as well. Succo defeated her 5-2. Though Gaff and Therrien had been defeated, as well in the fourth round, Trinh downed Bowen 5-2, putting her out in front (by game points) 17-15.
 
“In that morning match (on the second day),” said Sykes, “(Succo) came out on fire. And from being ahead by one, I was all of a sudden behind by two games.”
 
Sykes survived a double hill (4-3) battle against Therrien in round 5, as Trinh lengthened her game lead by one more, with a 5-2 defeat of Eberly. With the game score between them now at 22-19, in favor of Trinh, they both chalked up 5-2 wins; Sykes over Bowen and Trinh over Succo. The game score between Sykes and Trinh was now at 27-24, with a single match to play.
 
Since the top four in each flight would advance to a 32-player, double elimination bracket, Sykes’ advancement at that point, short of being shut out or winning only a single game in the final match, was pretty much assured. Sykes sealed the deal with a 6-1 victory over Gaff that left her with 30 total wins. When Trinh fell to Francois 5-2 in that final round, she ended up with 29 total wins, allowing Sykes, by a single win (reflected in their earlier match), to enter the double elimination phase as the winner of her individual flight.
 
Heather Cortez, from the AWBT, with 37 total wins in her round robin flight was the top winner in her flight as well as the overall winner of the round robin phase of the event. Other top winners from the individual round robin flights were Michelle Cortez, from the Jerry Olivier Tour, in second place overall with 36 total wins. Susan Williams, with 35, from the AWBT was third. Suzanne Smith, from the NWPA, was fourth with 34, Natalie Chabot (from Canada) and Sykes’ eventual opponent in the hot seat and finals, Kim Pierce from the JO, were tied for fifth with 33 wins each. Yang Liu from the West Coast Women’s Tour was sixth with 31 total wins. Though she’d enter the double elimination phase of the event as the winner of her flight, Sykes was last among the individual flight winners advancing to the final two days of the event. Advancement to the double elimination rounds guaranteed all 32 participants at least of the share of the total $11,400 prize package.
 
“The Round Robin was so scary,” she said. “Every single game mattered. I grew from the experience, though. That Round Robin hardened me.”
 
Seven down, seven to go.
 
Over the next two days, Sykes played seven more matches; four on the winners’ side, one on the loss side, and two in the double elimination final. None were against the opponents she’d faced in her own round robin flight, one was against the overall winner of the round robin phase of the event (Heather Cortez) and three were against Pierce.
 
To get into their first match together, Sykes and Pierce would eventually, in the two winners’ side semifinals, have to get by two AWBT opponents. Sykes opened her winners’ side campaign on Saturday morning, February 23, against Gigi Callejas from the West Coast Women’s Tour, downing her 7-3. She followed that with victories over Jennifer Kraber (JO) 7-3 and then, defeated the overall round robin winner, AWBT’s Heather Cortez 7-4, to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match against a formidably more experienced opponent, another AWBT entrant, Bernie Store. Pierce, in the meantime, had defeated Nicole Donisi from the NWPA 7-3, both Janna Nelson (7-5) and Khanh Ngo (7-3) from the West Coast Women’s Tour and arrived at her winners’ side semifinal match against yet another AWBT entrant, Susan Williams.
 
Sykes and Pierce got into the hot seat match with identical 7-5 wins over Store and Williams. In their first of three, Pierce claimed the hot seat in a double hill match.
 
“I got on the hill and things just fell apart,” said Sykes of that hot seat match, “and I couldn’t get it back together.”
 
On the loss side, Store picked up Ngo, who, following her defeat at the hands of Pierce, had defeated Stephanie Hefner 7-2, and survived a double hill match against Michelle Cortez. Williams drew Heather Cortez, who, following her defeat at the hands of Sykes, had shut out Kelly Jones and eliminated Tam Trinh 7-5.
 
Heather Cortez and Williams locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Cortez to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Ngo, who’d defeated Store 7-4. Cortez and Ngo had faced each other on the opening day of the round robin matches, with Cortez winning that battle 5-2. This time, in the quarterfinals, it was Ngo who came out on top, winning it 7-5.
 
Sykes, though, having so unexpectedly, but joyfully arrived at this spot in her “first big tournament” was in no mood to let it go. She downed Ngo 7-2 in those semifinals and turned for a second and, necessary in a double elimination format, third shot at Pierce in the hot seat. They locked up in their second straight double hill battle in the opening set, but this time, it was Sykes coming out of it with the win. She completed her 12-2 run with a decisive 7-2 win over Pierce in the second set.
 
“People tell me I have no sense of tension,” said Sykes. “I always feel as though I’m in the right place at the right time. That was what made the whole thing exciting.”
 
“I went out there to get into the top four,” she added. “That was my goal as soon as I read about the tour. This was my first opportunity to get to that level and I spent the week before, imagining what it would be like; thinking of how I’d be telling my Dad about it afterwards.”
 
Exactly one week later, on the first weekend in March, Sykes rejoined her JPNEWT comrades, competing on the tour’s season opener at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD. In a field of 22, Sykes had the misfortune of running into tour director Linda Shea, who defeated her in the opening round. She’d win two on the loss side before finishing in the tie for 9th place when she was defeated by Sharon O’Hanlon.
 
And so it goes, in the world of the emerging amateur into the world of the best in pool. Up one day, down the next. She remains somewhat in awe of her “first big tournament” win and is looking ahead at better things to come. She expects, looking ahead to competing at the Super Billiards Expo’s Women’s Pro 9-Ball event, her first shot at the Pro level, to continue improving. She is also keenly aware that pool careers, like the tournaments along the way, can be a relentless series of hills and valleys.
 
“My goal,” she said, “is to make the gaps between them smaller and smaller.”
 
“I expect to be playing with the best of them,” she said of her hopes for the next five years. “I have no aspirations of anything in particular, just to be playing at that level.”

Terry Petrosino Wins JO Tour Season Opener

Terry Petrosino and Angie Payne (Photo courtesy of Marty Jones)

The kickoff of the 2019 JO Ladies Tour was held at Big Tyme Billiards in North Houston on the weekend of January 12th-13th.  54 women came out to compete in a double elimination, race to 7, 9-Ball match on Diamond Bar Boxes.  Prior to the start of each tournament, a players’ meeting is held and this one was quite special.  A major announcement made was the addition of Strokin’ Billiards, owned and operated by brothers, Tuan and Nam Nguyen.  Strokin’ Billiards will be providing the fashion of the tour and adding $100 to the “Best of the Rest” Tournament at each stop.  We are excited to have Strokin’ as part of the JO Tour and look forward to the amazing designs that will be available!  Check them out at www.strokinbilliards.com
 
The JO Ladies Tour also commemorated the years of service and dedication given by Monica Anderson and Shayla Neris, both who resigned from board positions at the end of 2018.  Also resigning from the tour was our “Tour Angel”, Carter Nakashima.  We are actively looking to fill that spot, so applications are being accepted…  As always, our fearless sponsor, Jerry Olivier, was on site to provide flawless cue repair and sales of his great playing cues!  To order one of his fabulous cues go to www.jocues.com! 
 
The battle of the 54 ladies went late into Saturday night and the remaining 12 returned to play on Sunday.  On the winners’ side was a showdown between Angie Payne vs Chris Fields and Terry Petrosino vs Kim Pierce.  The B Side featured Robyn Petrosino vs Shayla Neris, Jeannie Cockman vs Orietta Strickland, Michelle Yim vs Natalie Mans, and Jennifer Kraber vs Tam Trinh.  When it was all said and done, the hot seat match featured Angie Payne from Austin and Terry Petrosino from Houston.  Terry sent Angie to the other side to duke it out with 2018 Tour Champion, Orietta Strickland from Dallas, and it was Angie who came out on top.  Angie hadn’t played in an Tour stop in quite some time and she was on a mission.  She beat Terry in the first set, however, Terry wasn’t going to let her get away with the second set.  Terry nabbed the first place trophy and prize money of $800!  Congratulations!
 
The second day of the stop isn’t all about the main event.  The Best of the Rest tournament is held on Sunday and it is no less competitive than the main event.  24 ladies returned to play and then there were 2 remaining.  Ellen Robinson from San Marcos and Yvonne “Casher” Asher from Houston were the last 2 standing and split the winnings of $210 and were declared the Best of the Rest.  
 
Main Event Standings:
1st Place Terry Petrosino $800
2nd Place Angie Payne $600
3rd Place Orietta Strickland $450
4th Place Kim “Texas Heat” Pierce $335
5th-6th Place Jennifer Kraber $200
Chris Fields $200
7th-8th Place Natalie Mans $125
Shayla Neris $125
9th-12th Place Robyn Petrosino $85
Tam Trinh $85
Jeannie Cockman $85
Michelle Yim $85
 
Best of the Rest Standings:
1st-2nd Place Ellen Robinson $105
Yvonne Asher $105
3rd Place Cheyna Wigley $60
4th Place Teresa Garland $35
5th-6th Place Crystal Dunn $20
Deedra Trammell $20
 
 
A huge thank you to Big Tyme Billiards (www.bigtymebilliards.com) and Billy Sharp for hosting the event.  Big Tyme is truly a players’ pool hall with its wide open spaces, Diamond Bar Boxes, 9’ Diamonds and Gold Crowns, and friendly staff!  We appreciate it and look forward to returning next year!  
 
We hope to see everyone at the next stop!  From Diamond Bar Boxes to 9’ Gold Crowns, we head out to Round Rock, TX (just north of Austin) to Skinny Bob Billiard’s (www.skinnybobs.com), home of the Texas State 9 and 10 Ball Opens, the weekend of March 9-10th.  Come on out and enjoy some great pool and meet the women of the JO Ladies Tour!  For more information, please contact one of the Board members: Teresa Garland, Natalie Mans, or Yvonne Asher.  
 
The JO Ladies Tour is a sanctioned Division II tour of the North American Pool Tour (NAPT).  Good Luck to these 14 women who will represent the JO Tour in the upcoming NAPT Division II Championships held at Bull Shooters in Phoenix, AZ, February 21-24: Jennifer Kraber, Michelle Cortez, Nicole McDaniel, Kim Pierce, Natalie Mans, Yvonne Asher, Teresa Garland, Tam Trinh, Ellen Robinson, Robyn Petrosino, Kim Sanders, Shayla Neris, Julie Collins, and Kelly Jones.  Let’s hope one of these ladies brings the championship to our tour!
 
 
Jerry Olivier Custom Cues www.jocues.com
JO Ladies Tour www.joladiestour.com
Strokin’ Billiards www.strokinbilliards.com
Mz Tam Trinh www.mztam.com
North American Pool Tour (NAPT) www.playnapt.com

JO Ladies Tour 4th Stop: 3rd Annual Emma Davis Memorial

(L-R): Tam Trinh, Orietta Strickland and Michelle Cortez

On the weekend of September 15-16th, 2018, thirty-seven women descended onto the great state of Texas’s capital to battle for the top prize at the Jerry Olivier’s Ladies Tour’s 4th Stop, held at Slick Willie’s on Burnett Road.  The September event in Austin is significant to the members of the JO Tour, as it is the stop where we take the time to remember one of our own, Emma Stewart Davis who, three years ago, left us unexpectedly.  We know you’re watching, Emma!
 
On hand to show his support for the women and to provide cue repair services, was renowned cue maker and tour sponsor, Jerry Olivier.  Jerry has always been a staunch supporter of women’s billiards and it was no different this weekend.    Thank you, Jerry, for all that you do!  You can check out his cues on jocues.com or talk to him about having a custom cue made!
 
At the pre-tournament player’s meeting Saturday morning, it was revealed that one of the original Hunters/OB/JO Cues Tour Board Members was resigning.  After dedicating 20+ years to the tour, Shayla Neris decided it was time to close this chapter in her life and forge on as a full-time player.  “It was just time” Shayla says, “but I’ll be back as a player and not on the board!”  We will miss her and the time and effort she has devoted to helping make this tour a success!  
 
Onto the battles… with $2000 added to the prize money, the women were ready to fight.  Saturday began with 37 but ended with 12.  On the A side, the returning Sunday matches would be Natalie Mans (Houston) vs Michelle Cortez (Austin) and Jennifer Kraber (Austin) vs Tam Trinh (Austin).  Natalie’s quest started with wins against Margaret Fox (Austin) 7-6, Tina Soto (Dallas) 7-4, Veronica “Pistol” Perez (Austin) 7-5, and Teresa Garland (Houston) 7-5.  Michelle took on the always tough opponent “Bye,” Tera Saunders (Dallas) 7-2, Gail Roles (College Station) 7-3, and Darcy Durham (Austin) 7-0.  Jennifer’s day consisted of Nicole Menitz (Austin) 7-3, Kitty Poutthaung (Dallas) 7-4, Orietta Strickland (Dallas) 7-5, and Kimberly Brown (Waco) 7-1.  Tam stacked up wins against the always tough “Bye,” Melissa Smith (Denton) 7-6, Kim Pierce (Austin) 7-5, and Belinda Lee (Houston) 7-5.  The one-loss side had 8 women returning on Sunday.  Matchups were Yvonne “The Casher” Asher (Houston) vs Kimberly Brown (Waco); Rachel Hurst (Austin) vs Belinda Lee (Houston); Kelly Isaac (Waco) vs Teresa Garland (Houston); and Orietta Strickland (Dallas) vs Darcy Durham (Austin).  
 
With the one loss side returning at 10am on Sunday, Yvonne defeated Kimberly 7-3, Belinda defeated Rachel 7-4, Teresa defeated Kelly 7-6, and Orietta defeated Darcy 7-1.  However, they did not leave empty-handed as they shared the winnings for 9th through 12th at $35 each.  Free play for the weekend!  On the No Loss Side, Michelle was victorious over Natalie 7-2 and Tam over Jennifer in a hill-hill thriller.  As those matches progressed, the one loss side women were at it again and this time it would be Belinda barely edging out Yvonne in another hill-hill thriller and Orietta defeating Teresa 7-5.  Yvonne and Teresa, both members of the JO Ladies Tour Board and sponsored by Jerry Olivier, went home with the 7-8th place finishes at $95 each.  (Yes, Yvonne “the Casher” Asher lived up to her new nickname…)
 
The fight to advance past 5-6th matched up two friends who are also road partners and opponents who had already faced each other the day before – Belinda vs Natalie and Orietta vs Jennifer.  Belinda and Orietta ended up victorious in those matches, 7-3 and 7-4 respectively, but Natalie and Jennifer earned $170 each for their 5th-6th finish.  
 
The hot seat match was a great display of Austin women’s billiard skills.  Michelle and Tam battled it out, trading blows until it was another hill-hill matchup.  In the end, Michelle was victorious.  Meanwhile on the other side, Belinda and Orietta had to face each other and after the score was tied 4-4, Orietta made a charge and beat Belinda 7-4 while earning a 9 ball on the snap lottery ticket!  Belinda went home with the 4th place prize at $335. 
 
Tam went to the one loss side seeking revenge but she had to go through Orietta first.  Orietta would prove that she’s 2017 Tour Champion for a reason and beat Tam 7-3.  In a true double elimination format, Orietta would have to defeat Michelle twice in order to go home as the winner.  Michelle had other plans – she beat Orietta 7-3 and called it a day earning her the nickname Michelle “The Conqueror” Cortez.  Congratulations to Michelle!  This is her second win in three years at this particular stop!  For their efforts, Tam went home with $450 for 3rd place, Orietta went home with $600 for 2nd, and Michelle, went home with the top prize of $770!  Not bad for a weekend of doing a labor of love!
 
Not to be forgotten were the women of the “Best of the Rest” Tournament held on Sunday.  Twelve women returned to duke it out and the winner was Gail “Thunder” Roles (College Station).  Board member Monica Anderson (Dallas) came in 2nd. Austin’s own Kim “Texas Heat”Pierce, who is also a Jerry Olivier sponsored player, finished 3rd and Tina Soto (Dallas) 4th.  Congratulations to these ladies for taking another shot and winning!
 
As always, the stop was a combination of fun, laughter, and serious concentration to hone in the pool skills.  We look forward to seeing everyone at the Championship Stop at Legend’s Billiards the weekend of November 3-4, where the hosts Mindy and Craig Cohen have generously added in an additional $1000 to make it a total of $3000 to the prize fund!!!  So come on out and join us!  We welcome players of all skill levels and look forward to meeting new players!  More details of the final stop will be out soon so be sure to check out the website joladiestour.com for the most up to date information!  Tickets are available for cue raffles!  Please contact Yvonne Asher for more details!
 

Al Shaheen Wins Texas Open

Omar Al Shaheen and ladies champion Ming Ng (Pool Action TV)

Congratulations to Omar Alshaheen for winning the 45th Annual Texas Open 9-Ball Championships at Skinny Bob's Billiards in Round Rock, TX! It was also Omar's Birthday, Happy Birthday!
 
The main event kicked off Friday night with a 128 player full stellar field. When it was all said and done, the action boiled down to two determined players in the Finals match.
 
The match would be an epic true double elimination battle between Omar and The Iceberg Justin Bergman. First set in the finals ended with a hill hill thriller with Justin on the winning end 9-8. Second set Omar Cruised to an 8-5 lead with Justin winning one more game before the set was closed out 9-6. Excellent job guys, was a pleasure to watch and enjoy.
 
The Warrior Warren Kiamco earned a very respectable third place finish, he played really strong for the entire event. Jalal Yousef scored 4th place in this stellar field, great job everyone.
 
Congratulations are also in order to Ming Ng for winning the Ladies 9-ball! Jennifer Kraber earned a tough fought 2nd. Scoring a well earned third was Emily Duddy and fourth went to Tam Trinh for her good efforts. Great showing Ladies!
 
Kelly Isaac & Roberto Gomez won the Scotch Doubles Jack & Jill 9-Ball, with a close second by Jennifer Kraber & James Davis Sr, congrats! Claiming third prize was Gail Eaton & James Davis Jr. Fourth was earned by Kimberly Brown & Omar Alshaheen, Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make the scotch doubles a successful turnout.
 
Mr. Smooth John Morra earned First place in the Mini tournament Wednesday night with some fantastic left handed playing against the Young Gun Sky Woodward. Amazing job fellas.
 
Gratz to Manny Chau and Ian Bowling for winning the banks ring game on Thursday, they ended splitting the prize.
 
Special thanks to Skinny Bob's Billiards and staff for hosting this longest running prestigious event! Sincere thanks to Double J Jeremy Jones, for bringing his world class commentary for everyone to enjoy.
PoolActionTV.com would also like to thank our fans and sponsors for another great event! Our sponsors include Steve Lomax of Lomax Custom Cues, Aramith, John Barton of JB Cases, James Hanshew of Hanshew Custom Cues, Mike Durbin of Durbin Custom Cues, Kamui, Simonis, Champs Bar & Grill and Club Billiards of Wichita, KS.
 
Join us this weekend for The Houston Open, 7th-9th at Legend's Billiards in League City,TX. See you all then!

Ng-vincible on Gulf Coast Tour

Margaret Fox, Ming Ng, Millie Almarez and Gail Eaton

Houston’s Ming “The Empress” Ng made her way through an elite field of 32 players to capture her second  Gulf Coast Women’s Regional Billiards Tour 9-ball event of the 2018 season. Ng overcame Tour newcomer Mille Almaraz in the final, who also booked her best finish to date.  Almaraz joined the Tour in 2017, and in only her second event, competed in her first hot seat match. 
 
On August 4th-5th, 2018, the Gulf Coast Tour held its 5th stop of the year at Skinny Bob’s Billiards in Round Rock, Texas. Room owners John and Sue Cielo, along with tour sponsors Cyclop Pool Balls www.facebook.com/CyclopPoolBalls, APA of North Harris County www.facebook.com/apanorthharriscounty, www.VaporKnightsUSA.com, and www.OutsvilleBilliards.com facilitated another successful event for the women of the  Gulf Coast Tour. This “Texas Open Warm-Up” was a $700 added, 9-ball event on open bar tables, which paid out a generous $1,340. The accommodations featured a non-smoking, private playing area with eight (8) new Diamond bar tables, and “Zeus” Cyclop Pool Balls. “I’d like to thank John and Sue Cielo for their never-ending hospitality and generosity, spanning nine years. We greatly appreciate their continued support, and already look forward to 2019,” says Gulf Coast Tour and Poison Lone Star Tour Director, Kim Newsome.
 
Following a short players’ meeting on Saturday morning, action kicked off around noon, and Ming “The Empress” Ng began her trek to the winners’ circle. She booked wins over Yvonne Asher, 7-3, Margaret Fox, 7-0, and Gail “Thunder” Roles, while Tam Trinh overcame Kim “Texas Heat” Pierce, 7-4, Maria Requejo, 7-1, and Stacie Putnam, 7-3. Mille Almaraz bested Celeste Espinosa, 7-3, Ellen Robinson, 7-5, and Sissy “Voo Doo”, Lozano, 7-0,  while Gail “Virginia Slim” Eaton tagged Robyn Petrosino, 7-4, Jennifer Yo, 7-4, and Kris Wilburn, to complete the winners’ side, final four. On the one loss side, after taking a second round hit by Ng, newcomer Fox plowed through the one loss side eliminating Espinosa, 5-2, Brittany Kromer, 5-1, and Wilburn, 5-1. First-timer, Tina Soto, took out newbie Debbie Hammond, 5-3, Requejo, 5-2, and R. Petrosino, 5-4, but was snubbed by Lozano, 5-1. Also new to the Gulf Coast scene, Shar Dyer stayed alive on the one loss side with wins over Cardona, 5-2, Yo, and Lopez, 5-4, but was stopped by Roles, 5-4. Angleton’s Brandi Booth made a splash, defeating newbie Karyna Hahn, 5-2, and Lois Morgado, but fell to Robinson, 5-4. In turn, Robinson was eliminated by newcomer Stacie Putnam, 5-4, rounding out the final eight. On day two, final four action kicked off on each side of the bracket. On the east side, Eaton defeated Almaraz, 7-4, and Ng ousted Trinh, 7-6. Ng dealt Eaton her first blow, in the hot seat match, 7-1. On the west side, Fox was on fire, dusting off Lozano, 5-1, and Trinh, 5-2, while Putnam passed Roles, 5-1, only to be stopped by Almaraz, 5-4. Almaraz went on to eliminate Fox, 5-1, and Eaton, 5-2, meeting Ng for her first-ever, Gulf Coast Tour final. Almaraz was on fire the first set, extinguishing Ng, 7-3. In the second set, Ng regrouped and took charge, besting Almaraz, 5-1, to capture her second Tour victory of 2018.
 
Congratulations to Yvonne Asher and Kimberly Brown, who split first and second place in the second chance event! Margaret Fox and Stacie Putnam also reached milestones, playing in their very first event, Fox finishing 4th, and Putnam, 5th-6th. 
 
The Gulf Coast Tour would like to thank all the ladies who ventured out to Skinny Bob’s to compete in this very special event, and “welcome” its newest members: Margaret Fox, Stacie Putnam, Brandi Booth, Tina Soto, Karyna Hahn, Debbie Hammond, Kimberly Brown, Nina Dolman, Shar Dyer, Liana Butler, and returning members Diana Cardona, Tam Trinh, Lois Morgado, and Jennifer Yo. Gulf Coast Committee members who assisted in running a seamless event included Celeste Espinosa (Office Administrator), Gail Roles (Social Media),  D’Andrea McQuirter, Ming Ng, Kim Pierce, and Toni Esteves. Finally, the Tour would like to thank Mille Almaraz for taking some great photographs throughout the weekend, and sharing them with players, friends, and fans, via social media.
 
Our next event will be our First Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Event, October 13th-14th, at Bogies West, 9638 Jones Road, Houston, Texas. 
 
The Gulf Coast Women’s Regional Billiards Tour is open to all female, amateur players of all ages and skill levels. For more information about the Gulf Coast Women’s Regional Billiards Tour, visit GulfCoastWomensTour.com. Follow us on Facebook @gulfcoasttour1 and Twitter @gulfcoasttour.