Well, hello. This post is very tardy to the party, but at least it arrived. I would like to thank the following sponsors.
The BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships is definitely one of the year’s most anticipated events. Last year was the first year the Rio hosted the event and, despite the blackout and resulting scheduling craziness, the whole thing was pretty nice.
|I caravaned with some other Asian peeps. The boys did a good job playing luggage tetris and everything was stowed away securely while still allowing rear-view vision.|
|And, like many later-generation Asians who are not quite as productive or organized as their ancestors, we tried to leave early, but overslept.|
|Then one car’s air-conditioning decided to die (and not because the guys were fiddling with it, no, not at all).|
|Then we got hungry.|
|Then we realized the dumpling house was really close by!|
|Then we said, let’s order take out!|
|Then we realized these dumplings (from Din Tai Fung) were so damn delicious we should sit down to eat to fully appreciate their transcendent taste.|
|The lone Canasian of our group, overjoyed at the prospect of dumplings. You shall never see happiness this genuine again.|
Finally, we got on the road and after a long, leisurely drive through the desert and outlet malls, we pulled up to the metallic mosaics of the Rio driveway.
|The line for check-in, even this early in the event (Tuesday the 15th), was rather substantial. No matter, we were in Vegas and we self-medicated appropriately.|
After last year’s packed pool schedule and its resulting burnout, I had done the absolute minimum for my game this year. This was the first in a long time I did not have a decent amount of action lined up, and so, I made it a real vacation doing what I do best…
|Some eight hours of drinking later…|
|This is your standard road player. He decided, extremely last-minute, that he wanted to play in Vegas. He had made no travel or lodging plans. He was able to hitch a ride, but no place to sleep for at least a few days. He told a friend he could sleep in an armchair.|
|(Don’t worry, they made room for him and he eventually got a bed.)|
My road partners were scattered throughout the first three days in various events, so I spent my free time drinking, sleeping, and sometimes just doing nothing. It was everything I hoped it would be.
|And sometimes it was fun to observe professional players when they did not play pool (although they played gin for blood). The player here is very famous. Guess who it is. (No telling if you already know, duh.)|
I did find time, in the very, very wee small hours, to hit balls in an empty rooms full of tables and that might have been the best bit of my whole vacation.
|These kiosks were new this year (or maybe they were around last year and I just didn’t see them). You swipe the players’ card they give you at registration and it will tell you where and when your matches are! Extremely, extremely convenient.|
Last year, the event’s professional tournaments were the U.S. Open One Pocket, U.S. Open 8-Ball and U.S. Open 10-Ball, allowing 64, 128, and 128 players, respectively.
This year, the U.S. Open tournaments were traded for a 16-player invitational for 8-ball and 10-ball, with some singles and doubles matches scheduled in between.
|I liked this board which illustrated what matchups were occuring when with the help of velcro-ed headshots. Of course, this is a more manageable sort of thing with sixteen players rather than 128 or more.|
|The players were selected to represent different regions: four players from four different regions for sixteen total players.|
Here are the players and a sampling of their U.S. Open and national, continental, or world Championship titles (gleaned from internet browsings so errors and omission are very possible).
|Corey Deuel||U.S. Open 9-Ball (2001), U.S. Snooker (2013)|
|John Morra||Canadian 8-Ball (2009), Canadian 10-Ball (2012)|
|Shane Van Boening||U.S. Open One Pocket (2012), U.S. Open 8-Ball (2013), U.S. Open 9-Ball (2007, 2012, 2013), U.S. Open 10-Ball (2011)|
|Darren Appleton||World 9-Ball (2012), World 10-Ball (2008), U.S. Open 9-Ball (2010)|
|Thorsten Hohmann||World 9-Ball (2003, 2013), World 14.1 (2006, 2001, 2013), European 9-Ball (2007), German 9-Ball (2003)|
|Jayson Shaw||World Blackball (2010)|
|Ralf Souquet||World 8-Ball (2008), World 9-Ball (1996), U.S. Open 9-Ball (2002), U.S. Open 14.1 (2000)|
|Francisco Bustamante||World 9-Ball (2010)|
|Dennis Orcollo||World 8-Ball (2011), U.S. Open One Pocket (2013, 2014), U.S. Open 10-Ball (2012)|
|Efren Reyes||World 8-Ball (2004), World 9-Ball (1999), U.S. Open One Pocket (2000), U.S Open 9-Ball (1994)|
|Chang Jung-Lin||World 8-Ball (2012)|
|Ko Pin-Yi||World Junior (2007, 2008)|
|Ko Ping-Chung||World Junior (2013)|
|These are the two practice tables just outside the professional arena.|
|The professional arena had just two tables, compared to the twenty or so last year.|
|So, there were less players this year, but the quality of the field was excellent.|
Some members of Team Taiwan and their captain/translator.
Followers of professional pool would have been most excited to see Team Taiwan play. The Taiwanese have represented well at major international events and we rarely see them play in America. Their carefully crafted coifs also stay in place with some kind of supernatural power.
|The blue lighting in the arena often let spectators’ inner stars shine.|
The view of the TV table from the control tower.
The match I watched most completely was a ten-ball match between Ping-Chung Ko vs Ralf Souquet. Souquet took an early lead and stretched it to 6-2 in a race to 9. Then, Ko crept back in and got in stride to win the next seven games and the whole match, 9-6.
There were challenge matches between specific players and sponsored by companies within the industry. These challenge matches were quite exciting and there was much betting on the side between spectators, between the players, between player managers, heck everyone was involved!
One of the early challenge matches was Pin-Yi Ko vs Shane Van Boening. This match was one of those matches people liked to pester TAR about with the whole, “You know what would be a good match?” After TAR would outline the costs of flying in an international challenger who would otherwise not travel to the land of sin and slot machines, there would be a respite. Then, a few weeks or months later, “Hey TAR, you know what would be a GREAT match?!” Facepalm.
Well, it finally happened and that was thanks to challenge match sponsor Kamui. I caught snippets of this match while it was going on, mostly from people who were watching or keeping tabs on the match. The favorite, from what I could extrapolate when I was not drinking, was Mr. Van Boening. And throughout the first half of the match, that was certainly so.
|I was drinking with a friend who had spent the day getting drunk by the pool and woofing back and forth with some other players. The result was placing about $1,500 worth of sidebets on Mr. Ko. As the match went on and the sun and buzz wore off, this seemed like less of a good idea. Then we got word the score was close, that the players were now trading racks and staying within a game of each other. Then the final word came that Mr. Ko had manage to win 21-17. My friend said, “I can’t believe I made a drunk bet, made a drunk bet for that much, and won.”|
|You know what they say.|
|Warren Kiamco does a jump shot with a bridge as a Ko looks on.|
|There is still yet another Ko brother, if you can believe it. They say he is even better than the two Ko brothers we’ve seen so far.|
|There were a few brother vs. brother matches, but in the end, they did all right.|
|Ko Pin-Yi won the CSI Invitational 10-Ball Championships, beating his brother Ko Ping-Chung in the finals, Their respective prizes for first and second were $8,250 and $5,250.|
|Ko Ping-Chung went on to win the CSI Invitational 8-Ball Championships (defeating Mr. Van Boening in the finals) while Ko Pin-Yi finished tied for third. Their respective prizes for first and third were $8,000 and $2,500.|
Chang Jung-Lin of Team Taiwan also did well, defeating Dennis Orcollo in a nine-ball challenge match sponsored by Tiger Products. The match was close most of the way but after a miss at 18-15 by Mr. Orcollo, shit got real. Mr. Chang finished that rack (18-16) and then ran the next five to win, 21-18. It certainly wowed the audience as for the next day, that’s all I heard about.
I am not sure if I like having a smaller, invitational field, or a much larger pay-to-play field for the professional events. Having less matches makes for easier sweating, that’s for sure. However, having a lot of matches going on at the same time is fun, too, in a flipping through channels on cable TV sort of way.
The race to 21 challenge matches were great and I hope to see those every year.
The most noticeable difference — to me — of having an invitational field instead of large open fields was in the amount of action. I don’t mean action at the venue specifically, but rather just action in general. When you have 128 or more elite players (with or without stakehorses) coming into town for three major open events spread out over ten days, you know there will be matching up. Last year, there was plenty of action, not just at the event venue but also offsite at Vegas’ pool halls. Of course, having that many professional players at an event can also be a massive headache and it very likely was easier to deal with sixteen than 128+ players.
The only hiccup I heard about in all the professional events was regarding the semi-finals of the 8-Ball Invitational. The two original semi-final matches were: Thorsten Hohmann vs Ko Ping-Chung and Ralf Souquet vs Ko Pin-Yi. Mr. Souquet had to forfeit as he had already made arrangements to play in the World Team Championships in China and could not find a later flight. Thus, they replaced Mr. Souquet with Mr. Van Boening, who won his semifinal match against Ko Pin-Yi and advanced to the finals against Ko-Ping Chung.
I don’t know exactly how they chose Mr. Van Boening to sub in for Mr. Souquet, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with the win percentages and standings in the earlier group stages, before the semi-finals.
Still, it was kind of interesting. Pros! They’re just like us! Sometimes they have to forfeit out of a tournament for their jobs! In this case, another tournament!
|This is the cappellini pomodoro from, of all places, the seafood restaurant in the Rio (Búzio’s).Cappellini pomodoro is one of those foods where I will have a sudden craving for it and I must have it or destroy the world.|
|I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the serving. I had expected the teensy tiny well-garnished portion size fancy restaurants are often guilty of. Instead, this dish was meant to serve up to four regular people or one hungry Asian girl.|
I did not come to Vegas to gawk at professionals, stuff my face with food, and drink unhealthy amounts of distilled spirits (contrary to all evidence so far presented). I came to poke at weirdly colored balls on a little table with pockets along with thousands of other people.
The first event I played in was Advanced Scotch Doubles. Last year, my partner and I took almost the entire first day to get into a synchronized gear. We struggled in every match until the evening and once we got in gear, the now-infamous power outage hit. We did not play anymore that day and when it was time to play again, we had lost our earlier fire and lost twice in quick succession. We finished in fifth place and said, oh well.
This year, we had a few more local scotch doubles tournaments to practice in before Vegas and those extra days of practice definitely helped. We did have some close matches in the beginning, due chiefly to my late-night soirees. My partner shook his head at me on the first day asking, “Why would anyone drink that much?” The answer: “Because they can!”
Although my break was better than last year, it was still not nearly good enough. As such, we did not have any break and runs. Most of our games devolved into clusterfuck nightmares. However, each of us would make a great shot or get lucky in turn and so, we plodded on through the brackets.
Last year’s winners met us in the hotseat match and dumped us into the loser’s side handily. We made it to the finals where we lost to them again, 4-1. C’est la vie.
Initially, I was surprised to see last year’s winning team playing again in this event. I had always understood that if you won a doubles event, your team was moved up into the next higher division until you “maxed” out in the Masters Scotch Doubles division. I read the policies again and it seems, at least for the Advanced division, that as long as both players on the team are still eligible to play in that division or below, the team can play again. If one of the players gets bumped up to a higher division, then the team must move up to the higher scotch doubles division if they want to continue playing together.
Well, we didn’t win. But we do get to try again next year! Whee!
My singles performance and finish was… meh. It was fun, though, and that was due in no small part to not worrying about where I would finish or whether I should have a drink or six before a match. I’ll try again next year.
But, yay! There were still teams events left. I had 3 out of 4 original players from last year’s team and one new player. Last year, we scrabbled our way to winning the team 9-ball and 9th-12th (FUCK 9TH THROUGH 12TH!!) in the 8-ball. We were hoping to stay the same course in one event and go further in the other.
|We had sparkly shirts this year, thanks to my ahem, occasional, obsessive-compulsive crafting nature.|
|We started with a printed design with the area for the diamond remaining unprinted.|
|One Saturday and a few handles of alcohol later, every rhinestone was successfully hand-set and sparkles were bestowed upon all.|
|For my first foray into animated gif-making, you can click here to see me fill in the diamonds.|
The format for 9-ball teams had been changed. Last year it was single-elimination, best two of three sets of race to 9 games, with up to a 3-game spot depending on the skill level of your highest ranked player. This year it was a single race to 11 between teams and double elimination. A total of 26 teams were entered.
Last year’s format suited my team better. Two out of three races to 9 is a longer match overall and last year we lost the first set of every match because we are slow starters. We made up for the first set loss in the subsequent sets. This year’s format was very short and very fast compared to last year and we crapped out. We lost two close matches, one after the other, and so it goes.
It was a hell of a long way to fall, but there it is. Sometimes you kick ass, sometimes the ass kicks you. My team would have to up their level of play and come out of the gate firing if this is the format for this event for the future. My teammates are unsure of whether they would play this event again, mostly citing the fact that the match format — three players, alternating breaks, bar table 9-ball to 11 games — was just so fast.
If I have a team to play on next year, I’ll play. If not, no biggie — I will have more time to lounge around and enjoy the experience of not being a pool player.
|Hardcore studying during team competition.|
But, we all did love 8-ball and when 8-ball began, we once again had our chance for glory with 87 other teams. The level of play goes up every year for this event and we do our best to keep up.
In our first match, I played a long, protracted battle that ended up with my opponent’s 8-ball hanging in a side pocket and me facing an off-angle bank into the opposite side pocket for my last object ball. I did not know it at the time, but this was the game for all the marbles. I made the bank and we won. One of the spectators asked me what my thought process was when I was looking at the shot as I had examined it for a while. As no one usually asks me for my thought process, I found it interesting and I recounted it for him. I have a running commentary in my head, as I think many of you do, but oftentimes, I forget it all after the shot is over.
First thing I knew was that there was no guaranteed safey, or at least no safe a hack player of my level could possibly hope to accomplish. No safety, then.
I am fairly good at steep cuts and I first considered cutting the ball, but I knew the cut would be very thin and if the object ball rolled off at any time or hung in the pocket, my opponent would make the 8-ball and win. No cut, then.
That left the bank and this was the tricky part. It was off-angle, so I knew the cue ball must move after I shot the bank — there was no way to hold the cue ball.
I wanted to shoot the bank with medium speed and which was what I would normally have done and certainly was the most comfortable shot for me at the moment. Shooting it such a speed would let the object come off the rail and widen out the angle so it could be made. However, having played on these tables for about a week, I also knew that was a natural scratch into a bottom corner pocket. I still wasn’t confident about using side English so I would shoot everything with center ball. No comfortable bank, then.
I could shoot the bank with draw to avoid that natural scratch, but that meant hitting the ball with more force. If I did not draw enough, I could still scratch in the other bottom corner pocket (big pockets are great until you scratch too much). So I would have to hit it very firmly. Hitting the bank that firmly would inevitably shorten the object ball’s angle of approach into the side and to compensate, I would have to hit less of the object ball. If I misjudged the compensation of angle, my object ball could very well double-bank into the hanging 8-ball, which meant my opponent would win–and I won the game for her. Still this was the shot and I committed to it.
And I made it.
After outlining my train of thought to the spectator he and I stood there in mutual thoughtful silence processing the information. He said, “I love it, I love how you measured everything and thought about all the options before you shot.”
“The thing is, though, I measured all these things, weighed the options and did what I thought would work.”
“And it did!”
“And yet, I kept thinking that all this measurement, all these calculations–could totally be wrong. If I miss, they will win — and man, I am going to look so stupid and hear about how stupid that shot was and how I should have shot it from everyone and their mother. If I miss, I’m going to have to live a goddam nightmare.”
“So how did you get past that thought?”
“I said, ‘fuck it all’, then my mind cleared and there was just the shot, and I shot it.”
We battled through another tough match before losing to the team that would eventually win the whole thing. (Damn you Las Vegas!) On the loser’s side, we had one more win before losing to another strong team that would eventually finish fifth.
We finished 25th-32nd and it was, undoubtedly, the worst year for any team I have played on in a very, very long time. The level of play is just too high for us. For my team to do better, we would need to change a lot of aspects in our games. One of my teammates noticed the declining number of teams entered in the event (down from 112 teams last year) and expressed a desire to focus more on singles play. I was strongly reminded of how bands break up so the individual members can pursue solo careers. And so it seems it shall be with us.
See y’all again when we have the reunion tour!
With no pool left to play, the real vacation began and hoo boy did we have many nights of ill-advised drinking.
Some professional players were still around and there were rumblings of action but none of the matches I heard about ever came to fruition.
Here, Efren Reyes and various stakepersons await to see if the match being discussed will go off (it didn’t).
My team entered in the team shirt competition and we didn’t win that one, either. And thus ended all our hopes at this year’s 2014 BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships.
The day I left was very nice, though.
|First I had all-you-can-eat sushi at Goyemon, which is most certainly my favorite restaurant during the entire event. Their prices are reasonable and they are open until three in the morning(!!).|
|Then my road partner and I went to one of those Asian massage places (sans happy ending). This place also sold “home decor” consisting of fake jade statues, fake trees lit with LEDs, and various other items proudly bearing the little gold Made in China sticker.|
|After that, we had dessert at a Korean shaved ice shop.|
|Stuffed and comfortable, we left in an air-conditioned car with mediocre mileage and spent the ride home discussion the existential crisis of being a pool player with great dreams and neither the time nor funding to accomplish said dreams.|
|See you all next year, I’ll be at the bar.|
Usually I have my little summary of people I met, old and new, but this year, there were just too many of you. I had a great time meeting everyone (and good heavens I swear I must have met EVERYONE), alcohol is a great conversation starter. I have never been so social in my entire life and while it has been a blast in this rather difficult year, I am totally ready to retreat into my introvert’s cocoon until next year. I hope I have paid off all my drink I.O.U.’s (Chris Honeman for being a nice person, Sara Majetic for making me laugh via a Facebook comment, Andrew Cleary for being himself, etc.). If I have not, well… come and get it next year.
Until then, drink one for me!
Thanks again to my sponsors. They have done more for me than I could ever hope to do for them, and for that I am eternally grateful.