The Pros Join the Grand Masters at the BCAPL

Allison Fisher

BCAPL National 8-ball Championships, Las Vegas, NV:  With the recession still in full steam, poolrooms struggling and people watching their wallets, what to expect this year was a bit of a mystery.  I was hoping to see the same usual faces, the same booths and hopefully the same vibe.  Thus far, the buzz is definitely the same as it's always been but there's definitely a bit of a difference.  A few masks scattered the tournament room on the first day but by day two, the H1N1 virus took a backseat to bar table 8-ball.  It's May and that only means one thing in PoolWorld - Let the games begin!

The biggest surprise hit me when I least expected it.  As I was killing time between matches, wandering from table to table to watch friends play, an announcement came over the loud speaker that took me waaaaaay off guard: "Mika Immonen, TABLE 16"  Wait, did I hear that right?  The former World Champion, the reigning US Open champion ON A BAR BOX?  I dropped what I was doing, ran over to his table, walking past Shane VanBoening on yes, another bar table.  Allison Fisher was due to make an appearance in the "amateur" room later that afternoon.

It is always exciting to see the pros play but relate to them can often be difficult.  What Would Mika Do?  Well, the answer would be in moments, right on table 16.  I really had no idea what to expect and what I saw was no doubt an incredible surprise.  Mika, like the rest of us, found the equipment difficult!  The fast cloth, tight pockets, small confines all make for wonderfully consistent play but can be equally frustrating.  Mika's great stroke and amazing pocketing simply were not going to be sufficient tools to master bartable 8-ball.

In spite of the fears of the economy, pandemics and all the other concerns that face our nation, the BCA marches on with their tradition for the 33rd straight year and continue to present the new and exciting.  Aside from seeing your favorite pro befuddled over what to do on the "easy" tables, all matches are now presented online.  Yes, that 's ONLINE and updated rather quickly.  Within minutes of receiving every match score, the front desk has managed to update the chart so that players can immediately know results on their iPhones and laptops.  With Team-play set to begin soon, this year will go down as one of the more exciting and technically improved of all time.  Perhaps the Mosconi Cup will one day have to contend with BCA Grand Masters for Dream Team status, at least in 8-ball.