Thomas Haas chalks up first (recorded) regional tour victory at B & L Billiards’ 699 and under

Thomas Haas

Last-minute change of venue makes for a chaotic Sunday in Fargo ‘robustness’ tournament

Thomas Haas has been competing and recording cash finishes in Mid-Atlantic tournaments since 2017, but this past weekend (Saturday, March 4), he chalked up his first (recorded) regional tour win at the B & L Billiards Tournaments 699 and under Fargo Rate event. He went undefeated, downing Francisco Salas twice, hot seat match and finals of the event which drew 71 entrants to Bank Shot Bar & Grill in Laurel, MD.

Haas kept his early opponents at bay, allowing his first three an average of only three racks; Russ Obaker (2), Craig Rineman (4) and Curtis Branker (3). Joseph Wright, Jr. then challenged him in a winners’ side quarterfinal that went double hill before Haas advanced to a winners’ side semifinal versus Tony Long. Salas, in the meantime, was doing more or less the same thing, sending Omar Abbasi (5), Jason Trigo (2), Jacob Kohl (3), and David Mason, Jr. (2) to the loss side before meeting up with Matt Krah in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Both matches for advancement to the hot seat match went double hill; Haas over Long and Salas over Krah. Haas grabbed the hot seat 7-4 and waited on Salas’ return from the semifinals.

On the loss side, Long picked up Shaun Dobson, who’d started his day with a loss to Jimmy Portillo, followed by a seven-match loss-side streak that had recently eliminated Mason, Jr. 6-2 and Derek Schwager, double hill. Krah drew Mike Saleh, who’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal to Long before defeating Brandon Johnson 6-3 and Wright, Jr. 6-4.

Krah eliminated Saleh 6-4 and in the quarterfinals, met up with Dobson, who’d shut out Long. The quarterfinal match went double hill, eventually advancing Dobson for a match against Salas, who earned his rematch versus Haas with a 6-4 win.

Haas took the opening and, as it turned out, only set necessary. He defeated Salas a second time, 7-3 to claim his first (recorded) regional tour win. 

Fargo makes an exception to participation rules to allow B & L’s Robustness Roundup event

Three times a year, Fargo Rate officials allow B & L Billiards Tournaments to conduct and submit information to them about ‘round robin’ tournaments, from which normally they do not accept information. According to Brian Kilgore (the “B” in “B&L”), Fargo Rate’s concerns about ‘round robin’ tournaments has to do with the fact that they entail a lot of matches in a single day (or two), and tend therefore to attract (some) competitors looking for a rapid decrease in their stated rate and accomplish the objective by deliberately losing matches (aka sandbagging). Officials at Fargo Rate however, noting the format of B & L’s proposed ‘robustness’ tournaments (so-called because they allow non-Fargo Rated competitors to fulfill a large number of tournament appearances necessary to qualify for a Fargo Rate), felt that the prize-winning incentives of B & L’s proposal made their concerns less likely and therefore granted permission to B & L to submit result information from their three-times-yearly Robustness Roundups, the most recent of which was this past weekend on Sunday, March 5.

On that morning, Brian Kilgore and Lai Li (“B” & “L”), members of their staff, 50 entrants and others showed up at Bank Shot Bar & Grill at about 9 a.m., where they had just the previous evening completed the tournament reported on above. They were met by members of Bank Shot’s staff, some of them in tears, who informed them that the night before, a well-known and highly respected member of their staff, bartender Brian Percival, had passed away and that the room was not going to open its doors out of  respect for his passing. 

A mad scramble ensued, led by B & L looking for a venue that might accommodate them and someone explaining to those gathered outside that the tournament was going to be delayed (possibly cancelled) and for the moment, patience was required. That patience was rewarded when it was announced that on short notice, Brews and Cues on the Boulevard in Glen Burnie,  MD (15 miles away) had agreed to host the event and everybody waiting in the parking lot of Bank Shot Bar & Grill.

Everybody piled into vehicles and headed east. By the time everybody settled into the new location, had the players meeting and got things underway, it was nearing noon time. And here’s where the fun really began.

As designed, the Robustness Roundup featured five different round robin ‘flights’ of 10 players each. At the conclusion of these rounds, a number of players from the ‘flights’ were seeded into a single elimination bracket, which, when it was concluded, were further seeded into another single elimination bracket which moved the proceedings to a conclusion. All of which has taken nearly as much time to explain here as it did to accomplish.

In all of the years that Brian Kilgore has been engaged with oversight of tournament events, he called Sunday’s “the most frustrating” of all of them, not solely because of the event, which, under normal circumstances, was scheduled to occur anyway. But combined with the sudden change in venue, the late start, a reduction in the number of available tables and the necessity of sharing the space with events already scheduled for the new venue (a photo shoot and a local league event), there was some understandable confusion. Not to mention the resultant frustration of pool players, who spent an entire day popping up and down from chairs to play scheduled matches like Whack-A-Moles in an arcade. 

“It was insane,” said Kilgore, “but it was a really cool event.”

Trying to detail the wins and losses, along with who advanced from which round robin flights or which step in either of the two single elimination processes, would take an inordinate amount of time, but we can tell you that Paul Oh won the Robustness Roundup, that Kyle Dilly was the event runner-up and that Raymond Paraga and Curtis Branker finished in the tie for third place. The remaining 12 players will have their cash prizes included in their individual databases here on AZBilliards.

B& L Billiards extended thanks to Bank Shot Bar & Grill for hosting the event on Saturday and to Brews and Cues on The Boulevard’s ownership and staff for their sudden and much-appreciated short-notice hospitality on Sunday. B & L and us here at AZBilliards extend an R.I.P. out to Brian Percival, along with condolences to his family and his family of friends at Bank Shot Bar & Grill.

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