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Foldes wins his third straight Andy Mercer Memorial Tournament at Rum Runner in Vegas

Run Runner Owner Geno Hill and Vilmos Foldes

About eight years ago, when Hungary’s Vilmos Foldes shifted his pool-competition activity to these United States, settling in Las Vegas, he started to make appearances on the Mezz West Tour, chalking up two wins in four cash-payout performances on that tour in 2014. The following year, he cashed in 11 appearances on that tour, including one victory. He also began a string of appearances on the Jay “Swanee” Swanson Memorial Tournament, finishing as runner-up to Rodrigo Geronimo that year. He has cashed in every “Swanee” Memorial since then, winning it finally in 2019.

In 2016, Foldes appeared in six memorial tournaments, winning the Chuck Markulis and Bob Stocks Memorial, and cashing in the “Swanee” (4th), the Don Coates (9th), the Cole Dickson (5th), and in his first cash finish on the Las Vegas-based Andy Mercer Memorial, he finished 7th. 

In 2017, Foldes added attendance at the Cole Dickson and Brendan Crockett Memorials, at which he finished as runner-up to Beau Runningen. In the same year that he chalked up his first, and so far, his only win on the “Swanee,” Foldes won his first of three straight titles at the Andy Mercer Memorial Tournament, downing Shane Van Boening in the finals. In 2020, he defended that title, winning nine on the loss side to down Chad Vilmont in the finals, leaving such pool luminaries as Dennis Orcollo, Warren Kiamco and Van Boening in the dust, so to speak.

In all, since 2015, he’s cashed in 17 memorial tournaments, winning six of them. He won the 6th this past weekend (March 18-20), going undefeated at the $3,750-added, 31st Annual Andy Mercer Memorial, hosted by Rum Runner in Las Vegas, NV. He may not be the only person to have appeared in all of the mentioned memorial tournaments (the actual number of them, being hard to determine), but he is certainly doing his part to keep the memories of eight esteemed members of the US pool community alive. 

Foldes’ path to the winners’ circle that saw him win 24 of the first 34 games he played, went through Goran Mladenovic, Sal Butera, Donnie Branson and Max Eberle to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal versus Sam Cordova. Dave Datillo, in the meantime got by Gary Onomura, Tommy Baker, Jeff Gray and, in a winners’ side quarterfinal, Gary Lutman, who’d return to challenge Foldes in the finals. This set Datillo up to face Blake Baker in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Datillo moved into the hot seat match with a double hill win over Baker. Foldes downed Cordova 6-1 to join him. Foldes checked in with another 6-1 victory, this time over Datillo, to claim the hot seat, sporting a ‘three out of every four,’ game-winning percentage (75%).

On the loss side, Baker picked up Ian Costello, who’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal to Cordova and then defeated John Farris 6-3 and Max Eberle 6-4. Cordova ran into Lutman, who’d followed his loss to Datillo with a double hill win over Mladenovic and a shutout over Donnie Branson, who’d just knocked Shane Van Boening out of the tournament 6-4.

Lutman chalked up his second loss-side double hill win, against Cordova and advanced to the quarterfinals. Baker joined him after knocking Costello out 6-4.

In his third double hill match of four played on the loss side, Lutman downed Baker in those quarterfinals and then, gave up only one to Datillo in the semifinals. Foldes completed his undefeated run with a 6-4 victory over Lutman in the finals to claim his third straight Andy Mercer Memorial title.

Tournament director Jack Murray thanked Geno Hill and his Rum Runner staff for their hospitality, as well as all of the players who have in the past and did, this year, gather to pay homage to Andy Mercer, who passed away in 1990.

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Foldes wins nine on the loss side, downs Vilmont to defend his Andy Mercer Memorial title

Vilmos Foldes and Chad Vilmont

With Jimmy Mataya in the broadcast booth alongside POVPool’s Daniel Busch during the double elimination finals of the 30th Annual Andy Mercer Memorial, held over this past weekend (Feb. 21-23), viewers and listeners were rewarded with a combination of table savvy and street humor that made the broadcast almost as entertaining as the matches themselves. Sounding like a cross between the late Howard Cosell and Paul Harvey, while bearing a bit of ‘don’t mess with me’ edge to his commentary, Mataya would likely tell you how it all went down this way.

“Let me tell you something right now,” he might say. “These two kids knew what they were doin’ out there and put on one hell of a show, OK?”

The ‘kids’ to whom he hypothetically referred were the winner, Hungary’s Vilmos Foldes, the event’s defending champion, who won nine on the loss side to meet and defeat USA’s Chad Vilmont, who finished as runner-up, after he’d defeated six opponents, including two former champions of this event, to claim the hot seat. The $3,700-added event drew 64 entrants to Rum Runners in Las Vegas, NV.

Five of the event’s 17 former champions competed, and three of them finished among the top four – Foldes, Orcollo (2016), who finished third, and Warren Kiamco, who won it twice, in 1995 and 23 years later in 2018, and finished 4th this year. Also competing were Brian Parks, who won it in 2008 and finished in the tie for 7th, and Ernesto Dominguez, who won it in 2010 and finished this year in the tie for 33rd. Shane Van Boening, who’s won it five times, including four in a row from 2011-2014, did not compete.

Foldes got one match under his belt, a 6-0 shutout over Tres Kane, before running into a double hill fight versus Orcollo, that he lost. Orcollo advanced to defeat Jack Rippel and Brian Parks to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Chris Robinson. Vilmont, in the meantime, had opened his trek to the hot seat with three straight shutouts, over James Harling, Randy Kukla, and Joseph Crugnale, before he gave up three racks to Warren Kiamco in a winners’ side quarterfinal win. He faced Edgie Geronimo in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Orcollo sent Chris Robinson to the loss side 6-3, as Vilmont was busy surviving a double hill fight versus Geronimo. Vilmont claimed the hot seat 6-2 and sent Orcollo to a fateful semifinal against Foldes.

Vilmont, who’s been at the tables for “around 30 years,” was a little surprised and at the same time, not all that surprised to be in the hot seat in this particular field of players. He was asked, right after defeating Orcollo, if he had any particular mental preparation he employed for matches against some of this field’s tougher opponents.

“I just play my game. It doesn’t matter who I’m playing,” he said. “These guys have a lot of tools, but it comes down to me.”

“I’m getting old,” he added with a laugh. “I’m just happy to make the balls.”

On the loss side, Foldes had picked up, more or less, where he’d left off. He followed his defeat at the hands of Orcollo with his second 6-0 shutout, this one over Joey Chin. Foldes went on to defeat Trick Sixty, Joseph Crugnale and Lance Salazar, before eliminating Mark Jarvis 6-3 and Brian Parks 6-1 to draw Geronimo, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Chris Robinson picked up Kiamco, who, after his defeat at the hands of Vilmont, had survived a double hill fight against Mitch Ellerman and defeated Tommy Baker 6-4.

Foldes defeated Geronimo 6-3. He was joined in the quarterfinals by Kiamco, who in a ‘wily veteran’ vs. ‘young gun’ matchup against Chris Robinson had sent the youngster home with a shutout to remember him by. Foldes went on to eliminated Kiamco 6-3 in those quarterfinals, for a second shot at Orcollo in the semifinals.

They locked up in their second double hill fight in those semifinals. This time, though, Foldes moved on and Orcollo did not, ending his brief four-event-in-a-row winning streak that had begun with his victory at a Midnight Madness event of the Music City Classic, followed with his 9-Ball Banks and Master of the Table win at Derby City and most recently, concluded with his victory at the Texas 10-Ball Open (at which he defeated Warren Kiamco in the finals).

Foldes had that intangible ‘momentum’ working for him as he stepped into the true double elimination final against Vilmont and opened up a quick 4-1 lead in the opening set. Vilmont sandwiched a rack right in the middle of Foldes’ four. Vilmont, though, let everyone who was there know that it wasn’t over yet. He ran a three-pack to tie things at 4. They traded racks to the double hill 5-5 tie, before Foldes sealed the deal to force a second set.

Though Foldes would win the opening rack of the second set, Vilmont would record another three pack, before Foldes won two to tie; to include a 5-9 combination in the tying game. They traded racks to a 4-4 tie, before Vilmont reached the hill first, after Foldes scratched in the 9th rack. Vilmos came back to tie it to force a second double hill finish. Foldes finished it early with a 2-9 combination to successfully defend the Andy Mercer Memorial title.

Rum Runner owner Gino Hill and his brother, Gordie, along with their assistant, Mike Ganz thanked their staff and official event referee Jim Blakeman for their work, as well as Daniel Busch and his POVPool staff for their streaming of select matches throughout the weekend. Busch added thanks for POVPool sponsors JB Cases, Tiger Products, Luxe Electric Car and West State Billiards.