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Kazakis Wins Player Relief Open

Alex Kazakis (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)

With the last minute cancellation of the 2018 Tornado Open, a large number of top players who were in the states for the event found themselves with in search of a place to play and an event to play in. It would have been easy for anyone to just shake their head and think that it was another bad roll for the players. Sandcastle Billiards’ owner Ed Liddawi isn’t just anyone though. 
 
On short notice, Liddawi put together the Player Relief Open 9-Ball Tournament at Sandcastle on November 8th and drew a talented field of international players. “I felt real bad about the tragic situation with the cancellation of the Tornado Open not only for Vivian Villarreal but for all the struggling traveling players that spent so much money on flights and hotels just to get to New Jersey. Not only were they out money but they also had no competition to enjoy or try to make up for their losses.”, Liddawi said. “Being a premier pool room in NJ dedicated to the serious player, I just HAD to do something while all the top players from around the World were already in the same state.”
 
The field of players was a who’s who of top talent including such notables as Alex Kazakis, Casper Matikainen, James Aranas, Johann Chua, John Morra, Konrad Juszczyszyn, Kristina Tkach, Maksim Dudanets, Ruslan Chinakhov and Mieszko Fortunski
 
The two players who were able to navigate this field of tough players without a loss were James Aranas and Casper Matikainen. Aranas had wins over 14 year old Ivo Linkin, Juszczyszyn and Chinakhov, while Matikainen had wins over Chua, Morra, Eric Bayhon and Fortunski. Aranas then took the hot-seat with a 7-4 win over Matikainen. 
 
Alex Kazakis had lost his second match of the day to Fortunski 7-5, but was cruising through the left side of the board. To get to the semi-final match against Matikainen, Kazakis had wins over Tkach, Joey Korsiak, Chinakhov and Dudanets. He then scored a 7-4 win over Matikainen to earn his spot in the finals. 
 
With the momentum of his one loss side winning streak, Kazakis defeated Aranas 7-3 in the first set of the finals and then again hill-hill in the second set to earn first place and $1,200 in prize money. 
 
After the tournament, Liddawi expressed his gratitude to Iwan Simonis, Aramith Billiard Balls, Outsville Inc., Accu-Stats Video Productions, Erwin Dionisio, Ivan Lee, Roy's Basement Ariel Roy Francisco, Jerry Forsyth, Mike Howerton, Billiards Digest, Michael Panozzo, GoPlayPool.com, Ramin Bakhtiari, Patrick Fleming, Jim Fredericks,  Jose Burgos, Paul Lieb, Michael Sasso, Alyssa Solt, Saliba Liddawi, Nawal Liddawi, Alex Liddawi and Anastasia Beaverhausen. 
 
With all of those thanks, he forgot the most important thanks. That was a thanks to Liddawi himself for coming through for the players like he did. It’s room owners like Liddawi that keep this game alive. 

Tornado Open Postponed/Cancelled

Vivian Villarreal

Citing the main sponsor backing out of a contractual agreement, Vivian Villarreal announced on Facebook this week that she is forced to cancel her upcoming Tornado Open in Atlantic City, NJ. 
 
While Villarreal called it a postponement in one paragraph of the release, she referred to the event being cancelled in another. 
 
Villarreal elaborated that she does have a written contract with the event sponsor and would pursue the matter in court. All players who paid their entry fees should contact Villarreal for a refund of those fees. 
 
Combined with the Ballpark Village 9-Ball Invitational's postponement, this is two major professional pool events that were erased from the late 2018 schedule. 

Bryant goes undefeated to take WPBA title at Janet Atwell’s Borderline Billiards

Brittany Bryant, Janet Atwell and Mary Rakin (Photo courtesy of Barbara Lee)

It’s hard to know just how exactly the proverbial ‘luck of the draw’ can impact a tournament field. Is there ever an easy path through a strong field? Does early ‘luck of the draw’ influence a player’s ability to face increasingly difficult competition? With ‘no’ as the answer to the ‘easy path’ question, one would think that getting a few relatively ‘easy’ matches under your belt before facing any heavy hitters would have to be of benefit. On the weekend of October 18-21, Canada’s Brittany Bryant went undefeated through a field of strong opponents to win the WPBA BLU-EMU Southern Open Signature Tour Stop.
 
With a Fargo Rate of 663, Bryant opened the tournament with matches against opponents whose ratings were in the 500 range, slowly graduating to matches against higher ranked opponents, and then, in the finals, squaring off against Mary Rakin with exactly the same rating of 663. The $10,000-added event drew 64 entrants to Janet Atwell’s Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN.
 
That said, it didn’t take Bryant long to get into the thick of things. Following victories over Autumn Duncan (Fargo Rating 585) 7-2 and Bonnie Arnold (553) 7-3, Bryant faced the Texas Tornado, Vivian Villarreal, sporting a higher Fargo rate of 685 (the top Fargo-rated female in the US). They locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Bryant against Jia Li (654) and a second double hill fight, which Bryant won, advancing to a winners’ side semifinal match against Karen Corr (722; as an Irish competitor, Corr is not on the US Top 10 list, and doesn’t appear among the top 10 World List, dominated by seven Chinese women, whose ratings range from 782 to 744).
 
Meanwhile, Line Kjorsvik (675) was running her own gauntlet of top-notch talent. She defeated Ji-Hyun Park, Jeannette Lee, Ashley Rice and Helena Thornfeldt to draw (out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak) Allison Fisher (724). Fisher had sent Bryant’s eventual finals opponent, Mary Rakin, to the loss side in the second round.
 
Bryant downed Corr 7-3, and in the hot seat match, faced Kjorsvik, who’d survived a somewhat predictable double hill match against Fisher. Bryant claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Kjorsvik and waited for Rakin to complete her nine-match, loss-side winning streak that would bring her into the final match.
 
Six matches had put Bryant in the hot seat, and while they included those back-to-back wins over Villareal, Li, Corr and Kjorsvik, the run paled (somewhat) in the face of what Rakin accomplished to meet her in the finals. Wins over Kaylin Wykoff and Maureen Seto put Rakin into the first money round (17th-24th) against Gerda (Hofstatter) Gregerson. A subsequent win over Dawn Hopkins led to five straight wins over Thornfeldt, Jennifer Baretta, Corr, Fisher and Kjorsvik.
 
She defeated Thornfeldt 7-4 and Baretta 7-3 to pick up Corr, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Fisher drew Jia Li, who’d defeated LoreeJon Hasson 7-5 and Melissa Little 7-4 to reach her.
 
Rakin defeated Corr 7-5 and in the quarterfinals, faced Fisher, who’d eliminated Li 7-2. Rakin and Fisher locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Rakin to the semifinals against Kjorsvik. A second straight double hill fight, won by Rakin, gave Rakin her shot at Bryant in the finals.
 
The finals, according to FargoRate, was a 50/50 proposition. Rakin had the intangible of momentum and recent wins over higher ranked competitors going for her, though two straight double hill wins over quality opponents might have taken a little out of her. Bryant had the wait, which can sometimes work for you with a little rest or against you, in terms of going a little cold at the table. By the same token, her own list of recently defeated quality opponents suggested that either way, it was going to be a good match between two quality opponents who had more than earned their way into the finals. Bryant won it 7-4 to claim the event title.

APA World Championships Enjoy Record Participation

The Anigons of Osaka, Japan

Attendance at World’s Largest Pool Tournament Continues to Soar

Back in August 2010, the APA National Team Championships set a Guinness World Record for the “World’s Largest Pool Tournament.”  It might be time to get the folks from Guinness on the phone again.

 
This year’s event, rebranded two years ago as the APA World Pool Championships to better reflect the global field, set a new record for participation with a whopping 2,361 teams, nearly 400 more than last year.  The championships were APA’s second major Vegas event following the Poolplayer Championships in April.
 
The more than 15,000 folks in attendance were treated to far more than they anticipated when they won their free trip to the championships during the World Qualifiers.
 
In addition to nearly round-the-clock tournament action for 10 straight days, APA members had the chance to rub elbows with the likes of “The Black Widow” Jeanette Lee, Internet Trick Shot Sensation Florian “Venom” Kohler and billiard Hall of Famer “Dr. Cue” Tom Rossman.  Other pro players spotted at the APA World Championships included Francisco Bustamante, Ewa Laurance, Corey Deuel, Vivian Villarreal and Mike Massey, just to name a few.
 
Competitors capped off the experience of a lifetime with APA’s always epic poolside bash at the Westgate pool overlooking the Vegas strip.
 
Throw in more than $1.2 Million in cash and it all added up to a party unlike any other.
 
In the 713-team 8-Ball World Championship, Sharktank of Owen Sound, Ont., defeated Biggelbach’s of Portland, Ore., in a nail-biter to take home $25,000 in cash and the championship title.  As Runners-Up, Biggelbach’s received $15,000 in prize money.  The 8-Ball World Championship can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzCkInvuiaY.
 
Teams in the 8-Ball Championship squared-off in a modified single-elimination format that ensured each team played at least twice before elimination. All 8-Ball Division teams automatically received $350 in national qualifier money, and the top 8 teams won at least $5,000. The 8-Ball Division began play on Aug. 13 and concluded on Aug. 18.
 
In the 500-team 9-Ball World Championship, it was Anigons of Osaka, Japan, defeating Racks on the Rocks of Peoria, Ill., in the finals.  Anigons became the first team from Japan to secure a title at the APA World Championships since they began sending representatives in 2007. Anigons took home $15,000 in 1st Place prize money. As Runners-Up, Racks on the Rocks received $7,000 in cash.  The 9-Ball World Championship can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIt5tuf6y6U.
 
The 9-Ball Championship was held Aug. 9-13, with each team competing in a modified single-elimination format that ensured each team played at least twice before elimination. All national qualifiers received a minimum of $350, with the top 8 teams winning at least $2,000.
 
After winning their divisions in weekly APA 8-Ball and 9-Ball League play and then placing in World Qualifiers throughout the United States, Canada and Japan, teams consisting of five to eight players, qualified to compete in the 2018 APA World Championships.
 
In the inaugural Team Captains Championship that included 380 teams, Q-Bert 222 of San Diego, Calif., defeated the Mizfits of Snohomish, Wash., to take home $10,000 in prize money.  As Runners-up, the Mizfits took home $5,000.  The Team Captains Championship can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTZwejy6XZI.
 
The finals of the Masters Championship featurEd Hugh & the Hustlers of Wallingford, Conn., defeating Not MMMMMMKay of Houston, Texas.  Hugh & the Hustlers took home $10,000 in 1st Place prize money, while Not MMMMMMKay received $5,000 as Runner-Up in the 256-team event.  The Masters Championship can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbgmw8yh-fg.
 
In the finals of the 256-team Ladies 8-Ball Championship, it was Chicks Ahoy of Newport News, Va., defeating Manny’s Angels of Edison, N.J., to win $10,000 in 1st Place prize money.  As Runners-Up, Manny’s Angels received $5,000 in cash.  The Ladies 8-Ball Championship can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=ofVcSFe6RTI.
 
In the Jack & Jill Doubles Championship, which also included 256 teams, it was Stumble Inn J&J of Godly, Ill., winning $3,500 in the finals with a victory over Last Minute of Fall River, Mass. Last Minute received $2,300 as Runner-Up.  The finals of the Jack & Jill Doubles Championship can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOdowbsJ9tk.
 
Championship match coverage was provided free online courtesy of www.PoolDawg.com.
 
In addition, the APA conducted nearly round-the-clock MiniMania tournaments, which took place daily and were open to all APA members. The MiniMania tournaments offered multiple formats with 100% prize money payback that awarded nearly $260,000.
 
The APA, based in Lake Saint Louis, Mo., sanctions the world’s largest amateur pool league, with leagues throughout the United States, Canada and Japan.  Nearly 250,000 members compete in weekly 8-Ball and 9‑Ball League play.  The APA is generally recognized as the Governing Body of Amateur Pool, having established the official rules, championships, formats and handicap systems for the sport of amateur billiards.
 
The APA produces four major tournaments each year—the APA World Pool Championships, the APA Poolplayer Championships, the APA Junior Championships and the U.S. Amateur Championship—that, together, pay out nearly $2 Million in cash and prizes annually!
 
The APA and its championships are sponsored by Aramith, Action Cues and PoolDawg.
 
For more information on the APA World Pool Championships, visit the official APA website at www.poolplayers.com.

Hofstatter, Davenport Elected to Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame

Gerda Hofstatter (File photo courtesy of Diana Hoppe)

The Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame welcomes two of the game's top players of the '90s to the class of 2018. The United States Billiard Media Association today announced that Austrian import Gerda Hofstatter Gregerson and "California Kim" Davenport have earned induction as the 71st and 72nd members of the sport's most prestigious club.
 
Hofstatter Gregerson, 47, will enter the Greatest Players wing of the BCA Hall of Fame, while Davenport, 62, will be honored in the Veteran Players category. Both will be formally inducted during ceremonies on Oct. 26, 2018, at the Norfolk Sheraton Waterside in Norfolk, Va.
 
A native of Friesach, Austria, Hofstatter Gregerson was an accomplished athlete, competing in tennis and skiing, and winning a national junior fencing title before committing herself to pool. Hofsttater Gregerson won her first European Championship (and the first ever for Austria) at 18, and has collected 10 European Championship gold medals. In 1993, she relocated to the U.S. to join the new Women's Professional Billiard Association Classic Tour and promptly won the very first event. Over the next seven years, Hofstatter Gregerson added seven more Classic Tour titles, as well as the 1995 WPA World 9-Ball Championship, the 1997 WPBA National Championship and the 2000 BCA Open 9-Ball Championship. She added her ninth Classic Tour title in 2010 at the San Diego Classic.
 
Hofstatter Gregerson currently resides Charlotte with her husband Dan and daughters Sophie and Madison. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business from New York University, and has a pilot's license.
 
After finishing second in voting in each of the last three years, Hofstatter Gregerson was named on more than 70 percent of the ballots in 2018, far outpacing first-time nominees Niels Feijen and Corey Deuel, each of whom were named on 36 percent of the ballots. Shannon Daulton, Jeremy Jones, Stefano Pellinga, Vivian Villarreal and Charlie Williams received votes on fewer than 25 percent of the ballots.
 
"My first reaction is, 'What am I doing in there with all those great players?'," Hofstatter Gregerson. "Honestly, I never expected to get in. Everyone who has gotten in is so deserving, I was just honored to be on the ballot. But I am excited, humbled and honored to be in such great company.
 
"It's a great thing for my kids," she continued. "They'll be so proud. And it's nice to know that you will be remembered in the history books."
 
[photo id=22317|align=right]
Born in Oklahoma, Davenport relocated to Modesto, Calif., in the early '80s. By mid-decade, Davenport was making a name for himself on the pro tour, winning events like the Bowling Green Open and Tar Heel Classic. He broke through in 1988, winning the highly regarded Japan Cup and Eastern States 9-Ball Championship. After adding three more titles in 1989, Davenport put in a Player of the Year performance in 1990, winning the Brunswick Challenge Cup in Sweden, the Sands Regency Open and the B.C. Open – all major tour titles. Davenport added eight more pro tour titles, before an injury to his left eye for all practical purposes ended his pool-playing career.
 
Davenport, who resides in Acworth, Ga., had been recommended for consideration by the Hall of Fame Veteran Players Committee after failing to garner enough votes for election on the general ballot prior to turning 60.
 
"That's really good news," said Davenport upon being informed of his election. "I had started to wonder if it would ever happen, so it's hard to explain how I feel right now. To be honest, I thought my record was good enough to get in before now, but better late than never.
 
"In the end, this is what 40 years of playing pool comes down to," he added. "And 100 years from now, people will see my name next to Mosconi's, which is not a bad thing."
 
About United States Billiard Media Assocation
Founded in 2007, the United States Billiard Media Association is a non-profit association dedicated to elevating the visibility and status of billiards in the media at large. The USBMA consists of professional print, radio, TV, public relations and Internet media persons who cover cue sports. One of the association's main functions is electing of billiard media members to the Billiard Congress of America's Hall of Fame Board for the purpose of nominating and electing players and notable figures to the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.
 
About Billiard Congress of America
Founded in 1948, the Billiard Congress of America is a non-profit trade organization dedicated to growing a united, prosperous and highly regarded billiard industry through Billiard Congress of America leadership.  The Billiard Congress of America seeks to enhance the success of its members and promote the game of billiards though educational, marketing and promotional efforts, annual industry trade shows and other programs designed to encourage billiards as a lifestyle and make pool everybody's game. For more information, visit bca-pool.com or call 303.243.5070.

Villarreal Gets Network TV Deal for Tornado Open

Vivian Villarreal revealed during an American Billiard Radio podcast this week, that she has a deal in place for three hours of television coverage for her upcoming Tornado Open event on CBS. This would be the first time billiards has been on network television in over 20 years. 

 

Villarreal said that the three hours will feature the final matches from the Men's, Women's and Scotch Doubles events and the plan is to broadcast them roughly two weeks after the event's conclusion.

 

You can listen to the podcast in it's entirety online at the poolpodcasts website.

Texas Tornado blows down from Canada and storms to undefeated WPBA victory in Louisiana

Vivian Villarreal (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)

Fresh off her victory over Brittany Bryant in the Ashton Twins Classic in Calgary last weekend (June 14-17), Vivian Villarreal flew down to New Iberia, Louisiana on the weekend of June 22-24 to join 62 other WPBA competitors in what was billed as the “Signature Tour Stop.” She went undefeated through the field. Punctuating her undefeated run, the Texas Tornado, sitting in the hot seat, almost shut out Allison Fisher in a true double elimination final to claim the event title. The $13,000-added event was hosted by Emerald Billiards and through the services of Ray Hansen and his PoolActionTV crew, was streamed live via Facebook.
 
It took Villarreal seven matches to claim the title, four of which went double hill. She started with a double hill win over Gerda Hofstatter Gregerson, got by Louisiana Le 7-2, and then, in a re-match against Brittany Bryant, whom she’d defeated twice in the Ashton Twins Classic, she won her second double hill match; up on the hill at 6-1, Villarreal watched Bryant fight back and force a deciding 13th game. Villarreal then got by Gail Eaton 7-5 (reaching an aggregate score of 28-19) to draw Jia Li in one of the winners’ side semifinals.
 
Allison Fisher, in the meantime, advanced to her winners’ side semifinal against Monica Webb, sporting an aggregate score of 28-13. She’d given up two racks (one each) to Kelly Cavanaugh and Meghan Buchanan, before running into teenage ‘phenom’ April Larson, who battled her to double hill, before she (Fisher) advanced to meet and defeat Jennifer Baretta 7-5 and then, draw Webb.
 
Fisher downed Webb 7-1 and, in the hot seat match, faced Villarreal, who’d chalked up her third double hill win against Li. Villarreal and Fisher battled to double hill, as well, before Villarreal closed it out to sit in the hot seat.
 
On the loss side, Webb picked up Line Kjorsvik, who, after being defeated by Jia Li in a double hill, winners’ side quarterfinal match, had chalked up two more double hill wins, eliminating Larson and Gail Eaton. Li drew Bryant, who was in the midst of a four-match, loss-side streak that included a 7-3 win over Emily Duddy and 7-2 victory over Gerda Hofstatter Gregerson.
 
Jia Li and Bryant locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Li to the quarterfinals, where she was met by Kjorsvik, who’d shut out Webb. Li eliminated Kjorsvik 7-5, only to be eliminated by the same score by Fisher in the semifinals.
 
Having endured the double hill hot seat match against Villarreal and Fisher, spectators, as well as commentators on the stream, were expecting a tight final match, possibly two in the double elimination format. It never came to pass. The Texas Tornado blew into that final match, brimming with confidence, a sense of humor, and in spite of an alternate break format, she  was up quickly 4-0. In the fifth rack of this quick, and even to Villarreal, surprising run, Fisher left her with the necessity of making a jump shot from the middle of the table. Villarreal reached for a new bridge she’s recently acquired, and reaching deep over the table, using that bridge, she jumped the middle ball, sunk her target ball, made a long-table shot at the 8-ball and left herself in perfect position to chalk up the fifth rack.
 
And then, two racks later, with Villarreal one rack away from reaching the hill first, the momentum shifted, briefly. Villarreal broke the rack, and though she sank a ball, she missed her opening shot at the 1-ball. Fisher calmly stepped to the table and cleared it to get on the board at 7-1. Villarreal reached the hill in the next rack, and suddenly, for the first time in nine racks, things started to tighten up. Villarreal became just a tad more cautious, as Fisher promptly won two in a row to make it 8-3. It was as far as Fisher got. Villarreal chalked up rack #12 to capture the event title.

1st WPBA Signature Tour Stop of 2018 to be held at Emerald Billiards

$29,000 GUARANTEED PURSE, 64 PLAYER FIELD, & ARAMITH BALLS AS SPONSOR 
 
The Women’s Professional Billiard Association is excited to announce the 1st Signature Tour Stop of 2018. Emerald Billiards, located at 2511 Old W. Spanish Trail; New Iberia, LA, will be hosting the 64-player event with a guaranteed purse of $29,000. A field of 64 elite players will travel from all over the world for a shot at the title & the top prize of $5,500. 
 
WPBA President Dean Roeseler has this to say regarding the event: “The WPBA Board is proud to bring you the second tour stop of the year in New Iberia, LA. This event will be a "signature stop" (50% points) and will be a 3 day event beginning Friday June 22nd at 10am.  Emerald Billiards owner Keith Hulen is dedicated to making this a great event. We have 2 more events on the schedule for this year and will make those announcement when contracts are completed.”
 
EVENT SCHEDULE (times approximate):
Thursday  June 21st: Black Widow Exhibition 7pm-10pm
Friday   June 22nd: Match play from 10am-11pm 
Saturday  June 23rd: Match play from 10am-12am
Sunday   June 24th: Match play from 10am-finals 8:30pm
 
CONFIRMED PLAYERS INCLUDE:
 
#1 Ranked – Line Kjorsvik
“Duchess of Doom” Allison Fisher
“The Assassin” Monica Webb
“Double B” Brittany Bryant
“9mm” Jennifer Barretta
“The Black Widow” Jeanette Lee
“Texas Tornado” Vivian Villarreal
“G-Force” Gerda Hofstatter Gregerson
“Billiard Bombshell” Emily Duddy
“The Grinder” April Larson
“The Sledgehammer” Helena Thornfeldt
“Lone Star” Kim Newsome
“The Terror” Teruko Cucculelli
“The Texas Belle” Belinda Calhoun
“The Honey” Sandy Badger
“The Queen of the Hill” Loree Jon Hasson
“Jumpin” Janet Atwell
Jessica Barnes
 
Exhibition Event with “The Black Widow” Jeanette Lee June 21st 7pm-10pm
“The Black Widow” Jeanette Lee will be doing an exhibition with challenge matches the night before the main event, June 21st from 7pm-10pm. For tickets to the main WPBA event or “The Black Widow” exhibition call: 337.319.0530
 

Aranas, Fisher And Marks Victorious In Vegas

James Aranas, Kelly Fisher and Justin Marks (Photo courtesy Poolaction.tv)

Players from all over the globe arrived at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV for the First Annual Asian Culture Day pool tournament with a whopping $43,500 added to the prize fund. Billed as the opening event of the Efren Reyes Retirement Tour, it drew a star-studded field.
 
Tournament promoter Kenny Hsi pulled out all the stops and called in all his favors to put together this fabulous event in the relatively short time frame of ten weeks. With the advice and assistance of longtime WPBA touring pro and Tornado Open promoter, Vivian Villarreal, in addition to a countless number of volunteers, Kenny pulled together all the various sponsors and pieces for one of the most flawless inaugural events I’ve ever seen in my over forty years of involvement in the sport. Tournament sponsors included the Orleans Hotel and Casino, Caesars Entertainment, FaDa Vlogs YouTube, Aruze Gaming, Kovacs Pool Promotions and PoolActionTV.com.
 
Nevada is the only state in the country that has an officially designated day recognizing and celebrating the enormous Asian population in this state. Celebrations began with a Launch Party at the top of the Rio in the world famous Voodoo Lounge. This was continued the following evening in downtown Las Vegas at the Fremont Street Experience with a New Years Eve-style countdown to midnight. The Fremont Street Experience is also known all over the world for its overhead canopy and light show. Another major part of this celebration was in recognition of one of our own, BCA and One Pocket Hall of Famer Efren Reyes. He was chosen to be the first recipient of the Asian Culture Day Lifetime Achievement Award. The governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, presented Efren with a beautiful etched art piece commemorating this award in a special ceremony. Congratulations, my friend!!!
 
Due to the fact that the announced dates for this tournament were inflexible and fairly “last minute,” the fields in the three divisions were relatively small as compared to the fields of other events that are set far in advance. In addition to the short time frame, 64 of the world’s greatest male players were in Shanghai, China this week competing in the annual World Cup of Pool. I’m sure they’ll be here next year!
 
Although the fields were smaller than usual for an event of this caliber, the level of talent was exceptional. I have never been to a tournament where nearly every single match was “televison table” quality. I also have never been to a pro event where there were no evening matches! I was told this was because of other happenings during the Asian Culture Day’s week long celebration. If you’re interested in seeing what else was going on, visit asiancultureday.com!
 
Being that this event was part of the celebration for Asian Culture Day, the field was a magnet for and included some of the greatest players from Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines who were eager to participate to try to claim the titles for their countries. Stars from Europe, Canada and the United States rounded out the field.
 
There were three divisions in this event – pro men’s, pro women’s and amateur. The men’s division had 37 players, the women’s 23 and the amateurs 50. The amateurs played on seven foot tables while the pros played on nine footers. The format in the pro divisions was double elimination ten ball, call shot, alternate break with magic rack and races to nine.
 
Play began at noon on Wednesday and everywhere you looked, there were matches that you might see normally in a finals clash! Women’s world number one player, Chen Siming, drew Allison Fisher in the second round. With Allison leading the match and on the hill, 8-4, Siming charged back to tie it up but to Allison’s relief, she managed to take the win. After the match, Allison told me that this was the first time she had ever beaten the young 24 year old star!
 
A sampling of Wednesday’s action included wins by Vivian Villarreal over Jasmin Ouschan, Ga-Young Kim over Brittany Bryant and Karen Corr over Line Kjorsvik and then junior champ, Taylor Hansen. In two of the men’s division matches, Max Eberle prevailed over Donny Mills and James Aranas defeated Tony Chohan.
 
A sampling of Thursday’s action saw Ouschan over Erin McManus, Efren defeat Billy Thorpe, Aranas beat Ho Jun Lee and Ga-Young took down Vivian.
 
By Friday, many players had been eliminated. Steamrolling through the field, Efren beat Justin Bergman but was defeated in the next match by Chris Melling while Rita Chou defeated LoreeJon Hasson. Rita was then defeated by Siming who was methodically dispatching her opponents after losing to Allison in the second round.
 
Melling claimed his seat in a very exciting and well played hot seat match and sent Roberto Gomez west. There Roberto faced the young James Aranas. Still playing at a top level, Roberto led James 8-5 and then, with two balls left on the table, he underhit position leaving himself an extreme but makeable cut shot down the rail. Roberto missed the ball. James went on to win that game followed by the next three and survived being tossed out of the tournament. It had to be devastating for Roberto as he had been playing topnotch pool the entire event and then to be knocked out by a 1-2 punch.
 
After watching it happen, a thought popped into my head. As many players look back on their tournament titles, sometimes something occurs that seems to preordain the victory. I can look back at most of my titles and recognize a turning point which gave me the chance to win. I said to a friend that James might go on from here to win the whole thing instead of watching from the rail…
 
I also have to mention that I haven’t seen Efren as determined and focused in a very long time. I believe he really wanted to win this event and go out with a bang! Alas, it was not in the cards, as Efren finished a very respectable 5th-6th in a killer field.
 
But, I digress, so…back to the matches. On the ladies side, the two undefeated players, Kelly Fisher and Ga-Young, duked it out in the hot seat match. Kelly prevailed to claim her seat in the finals.
 
Saturday noon kicked off with the men’s hot seat match. The match featured Dennis Orcollo and Melling. After a spanking by Melling, Dennis headed to the other side to play the survivor of the one loss side. Chris would be in the finals.
 
On a side note, Erin McManus had told me earlier in the day that her good friend, Chris Melling, had been in Vegas celebrating a pal’s 40th birthday and had known nothing about this tournament and she had urged him to play as he could win!
 
Meanwhile, on the ladies side, Siming had fought her way through the one loss side after her defeat by Allison. After a long tough match the night before with Chou and leaving her in fourth place, Chen had made it to the semifinal match against Ga-Young.
 
The match began with a rocky start by Chen and exemplary play by Ga-Young, Siming was trailing 4-1. An unexpected miss by Kim allowed Chen some air and by mid-match, it was neck and neck. With momentum on her side, Chen closed out the match and marched into the finals. A very disappointed Ga-Young Kim finished in third place.
 
After surviving his match against Roberto, his day was not over. James had to defeat another young player who has having a great event – Vilmos Foldes. Vilmos has been honing his game playing on the Mezz West State Tour racking up victories and high finishes. It was another close hard fought match but James prevailed. Vilmos finished fourth – a great finish in a very tough field.
 
James now had to face Dennis Orcollo in the semifinals. The match was close but James Took it down 9-7 and advanced to the finals.
 
The ladies final match was first. Since this was true double elimination, Siming would have to defeat Kelly twice to win the event. At the start, the match was all Chen. Her powerful break combined with her flawless play rocketed her to an early lead. Kelly had struggled with her break most of the tournament and it was no different in the finals. She clawed her way back to 4-3.
 
To go ahead in the match 5-3, Siming missed a fairly routine 10 ball. The crowd gasped and Kelly leaped out of her chair to tie the match at four. Although still struggling with her break, she fought hard, taking the lead and managing to win most of the next few games with her great safety play and pocketing ability and reached the hill first. Siming, however, wasn’t going down without a fight. She clawed her way back and joined Kelly on the hill. Each player got to the table in the case game but it was Kelly Fisher who took the crown! Congratulations to Kelly for a well played victory!
 
There were no easy matches in this tournament. I’m sure Siming was very disappointed as, from what I’ve been told, she’s won just about everything in the past year or so! Great tournament, Siming!
 
The men’s final was highly anticipated as well. A young James Aranas, seeking his first international title, would have to defeat the very accomplished Chris Melling – twice! The race had been extended to 11 for the final matches.
 
Aranas won the first set 11-7 and the second one 11-6 to overcome the previously undefeated Melling. Both sets followed a very similar path. Starting each set with extremely close lags, each player won one and James jumped out to an early lead. Things didn’t go so well for Chris as, uncharacteristically but like Kelly, he struggled with his break. However, he still managed to knot the score after a few games. Even though both players displayed excellent shotmaking ability, James exploited his exceptional break by consistently running out or playing formidable safeties. Even when Melling broke and pocketed a ball or two, he couldn’t take advantage of it because he just didn’t have a good starting shot. Once after pocketing FIVE balls on the break, Chris was wedged between the ten and the rail with no shot! Consequently, most of the games in which Chris broke turned into safety battles with Chris on the kicking end. That, combined with a series of unlucky rolls opened the door for Aranas to dominate both matches. The only thing that kept Chris in the match was his world class and fearless kicking ability. As we all know, the balls knows who’s winning!!!
 
By winning this tournament, James has taken a giant leap to joining the ranks of the great Filipino superstars like Parica, Reyes, Bustamante and Orcollo. He displayed extraordinary poise and composure as he dismantled rack after rack and player after player with his exceptional play. Congratulations!!
 
During the week, I had a chance to spend some time with Chris Melling. A World English 8 Ball champ, Chris is mainly known in this country for his impressive come-from-behind victory in the finals of the Derby City Classic 9 Ball Championships over John Morra and his Mosconi Cup appearances. I know he has to be hugely disappointed. As an incredibly accomplished player in all facets of the game, I truly believe that this man will be back in the winner’s circle in the very near future. Keep your eye on him! Good tournament, Chris!
 
The amateur event was won by Justin Marks over Ray Skenandore. Randy Kukla was third and Ben Sutherland finished fourth. Congratulations to Justin for a great event! Good job, Ray!
 
I thoroughly enjoyed my opportunity to provide commentary for this event. Working alongside the always informative and accomplished player Jeremy Jones and special guest Allison Fisher was a real treat. The only thing better than watching the matches at home on the PATV stream is to have a front row seat from the booth! It was also a pleasure for me to interview old friends Allison Fisher and Kelly Fisher in post-game interviews.
 
Thanks again to tournament promoter Kenny Hsi for producing a fabulous event. Tournament Director Tim Kovacs of Kovacs Pool Promotions and ably assisted by his wife, Darcy, did a fantastic job of keeping the event running smoothly.
 
PoolActionTV.com would also like to thank our sponsors and fans for another fantastic event! Our sponsors include Steve Lomax Custom Cues, Kamui, John Barton of JB Cases, GoPlayPool.com, Mike Durbin Custom Cues, Aramith, James Hanshew Custom Cues, Simonis and Club Billiards of Wichita, KS. Thanks for all your support!
 
Our next event is the Fourth Annual Buffalo’s Pro Classic and Professional One Pocket in Jefferson, LA. The world famous Buffalo’s Billiards is adding $2000 to the Nine Ball and $10,000 to the One Pocket! Dates are May 24-27th. Hope to see you there!!!

Corr undefeated for NAPT Desert Challenge

Karen Corr (photo courtesy of Karl Kantrowitz)

Billiards fans were filled with heyday glee on the weekend of November 4-5, at the North American Pool Tour’s (NAPT) Desert Challenge, hosted by Griff’s Bar & Billiards in Las Vegas, NV. A flashback matchup in the finals between Karen Corr and Allison Fisher thrilled the audience, with Karen Corr claiming victory and continuing her reign of the NAPT; she’s won all three of the tour’s Division I events. This event was particularly challenging, as several large names made debut appearances on the tour, adding to the grand, ‘heyday glee’ nostalgia of the event. The four-day, 10-ball tournament, played out on nine-foot Diamond tables, drew 61 entrants. 
 
Eleanor Callado not only let herself be drawn to Griff’s, but took 4th in the staggering field. After finishing only second to Karen Corr in August, this is a new notch she’s sure to remember. Along her way, Eleanor bested not only 8-time world champion Loree Jon Hasson (7-3), but also 2-time WPBA Champion Monica Webb (7-5), and 6-time European champion Line Kjorsvik (7-6). Eleanor showed herself worthy of her placings with steady position play and crowd-exhilarating shot making. 
 
During her match with Line, Eleanor at one point was at two fouls in a row (a third one would lose the game), and Line had hidden the cueball so securely that many in the audience believed there was no way to hit the object ball. Rising to the challenge, Eleanor broke out her jump cue, jumped an entire table length, kicked off a rail, and not only made contact, but left Line safe! The drama! That match went appropriately to the hill, as did her next against Hall of Famer Vivian Villarreal. Not allowing Eleanor to repeat such a close victory, Vivian took that match 7-6. Ultimately Ms. Callado was knocked out by none other than Allison Fisher (7-3), on the Duchess’s first tour appearance. 
 
Vivian, Line, and Monica were newcomers to the NAPT as well this event, all showcasing their talents long into the weekend. Vivian, also known as the Texas Tornado, is known for her quick and decisive shooting style. This weekend it was exciting to watch her whip around the table, powering balls in and playing a heavily offensive strategy. Vivian lost only to Karen Corr (7-0) in the semifinals, and then fell to the newly B-sided Allison Fisher (7-3) to take third. Allison had just fallen to Corr also.
 
Allison and Karen met twice this tournament. In their first matchup, Allison took an early lead 2-0, but didn’t hold it for long. Karen came back with tight defensive play and run outs to turn the score 6-4 to her favor and breaking the last rack. Corr shot down to the 10-ball, but ran into it, pushing it to a funny angle. She played it in the corner and it hung right in the pocket for her opponent. Stunned, Allison came to the table and shot the ball, not taking very long at all, and scratched in the opposing side! It was quite the unexpected turn of events, and Karen and Allison both scratched their heads a bit about it afterwards. 
 
Allison went to the B-side to fight for a spot in the finals, where she put Line Kjorsvik out (7-4), Eleanor Callado out (7-3), and Vivian Villarreal out (7-3). After that champion-ending run, the Duchess of Doom was ready for her rematch against Karen. Being a true double elimination format, to win the tournament, Allison would have to win two successful sets of 7 games to the undefeated Corr’s one set. The audience settled in for a juggernaut match and they were not disappointed. 
The lag itself garnered great applause, with Karen freezing her ball to the rail and Allison losing the first break by a fraction of an inch. It didn’t hurt her immediately though, as the English snooker player drew first blood and repeated her early lead of 2-0. Karen came back the next two games to tie it up, and the score stayed close the whole match. Allison at one point was up 5-3 after Karen hung a 6-ball. The safeties played in this match by both players were truly incredible, and well worth watching if you would like a class on when to play defensive. Karen seemed the cunning champion, choosing defense at least once a rack, utilizing a strategic play on the 9-ball to get on the hill. Fisher seemed a bit more aggressive, making an incredible 10-ball cut using the bridge to make the score even. 
 
The final rack was Karen’s break, and she had to make a combo to get going, but the rest of the rack was fairly open. A break and run would be the fitting end to the rematch we’ve all been waiting for, so that’s what Karen Corr gave us! The Irish Invader claimed her third victory in a row on the Division 1 tour, thrilling all in attendance and at home. Allison took 2nd in her premiere attendance, Vivian 3rd, and Eleanor 4th, and what a weekend was had by all! We will just have to wait to see if someone can dethrone Karen Corr until 2018, until then, it’s been incredible to watch. 
 
The NAPT would like to thank Mark Griffin and his staff at Griff’s Bar & Billiards for hosting, and POVPool for their live-streaming. The NAPT looks forward to returning to Las Vegas as Griff’s has signed on for two more years! This was the final stop for the NAPT in 2017, but next year comes quickly! Join us at www.playnapt.com for more information and to find links to watch this tournament’s live streamed matches.