The Hard Times 10-Ball Open is a tournament I look forward to every year and this is the fourth year it’s been held. It’s always the weekend before the BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships in Las Vegas and because of this particular timing, it draws the professionals who are headed to the U.S. Open events (8-Ball, 10-Ball, and One Pocket) and want a little “warm up” tournament.
In past years, the field has filled to a full 96 players. This year, it leveled off at 64, but what a fine 64 it was (excepting the occasional hack, teehee).
This was the sight that greeted the players.
And it was “Players Only” before the door opened to the public — I felt so special. You may click to embiggen.
I got there a little early to unwind from my long bus commute. The tables were recently recovered, the sections roped off, and everything was in order for a Big Ass Tournament. And the internet streaming booth was also up and running.
|Even a pool streamer is not exempt from calls during an event — from his mother. Daniel Busch is a good son.|
Soon, the big guns were rolling in. Many players had played the previous weekend at California Billiard Club’s West Coast Challenge. That had been a star-studded field and most of the stars simply migrated south.
|Francisco Bustamante wearin’ some fine threads while striking a pose worthy of Vogue. Mackelmore wishes he could find something this cool.|
|Alex Pagulayan (left) gives Mr. Bustamante a shoulder massage.|
There is nothing like watching a professional event…
…with world champions as your commentators and question-answerers. You learn a damn lot.
My run through this tournament was brief and unsatisfying.
That, indeed, is what she said.
For the low, low price of $150 ($50 of it being green fees), I got to play two fine players — Corey Harper (9-3) and Oscar Dominguez (9-1) — I could have played on any given Sunday at Hard Times.
C’mon, pool gods. Next time, get me someone from another county at least. Sheesh.
After I was done being grumpy, I was offered a spot in the commentary booth with Mr. Hatch and Mr. Putnam. We were supposed to be commentating on Oscar Dominguez vs Johnny Archer, but it totally devolved into a Q&A for the online fans of Messieurs Hatch and Putnam.
|Dennis Hatch (right) mops Shawn Putnam‘s (left) brow during their interview/commentary session.|
It was great fun to interview these two and to hear their perspectives on the game as well as each other. I asked them would they rather be known for gambling or tournament victories. Mr. Hatch was unequivocal: gambling. Mr. Putnam was equally unequivocal: tournament. There were many questions of this nature and at one point, they were woofing at each other to play one set of 10-ball, one set of one pocket and one set of… table tennis. We all talked about a great many topics and people in pool and it was a fun time.
After the tournament was done for the day with the final 24 returning on Saturday, it was time to see what else was up. You put that many sparring partners into one pool hall and there is bound to be some sparring, duh.
Hard Times fixture Hawaiian Jimmy was soon doing some light negotiations with Mr. Hatch. He said Mr. Hatch could pick anyone and he would play them on the 6 x 12.
Now, Jimmy is an old school Hard Times resident and he is, shall we say, NEVER IN THE BUSINESS OF LOSING MONEY. However, there was quite a line up available at this tournament and after some suggestion and discussion, Team Hatch said… “How about one of the Brits?!”
Chris Melling was chosen by Jimmy’s Magical Action Sorting Hat and then it was on.
Just a lil action on the legendary “Big Bertha” 6×12.
Chris Melling shoots against the infamous Hawaiian Jimmy as regulars and non-regulars alike look on. You may click to embiggen.
In addition to the golf table which fielded the most spectators, there was some one pocket going on as well as discussion of more nine- and ten-ball sets. It was an action buffet and I watched a little of everything.
|OMG SPARKLY THINGS.|
|What? Oh. Right. It was also Mr. Busch’s birthday so, after things wound down a bit, a few of us went out for drinks. Raj Hundal came along and told us some fabulous road and tournament stories… which I am not allowed to make public. Buy him a drink sometime and maybe he’ll tell you himself.|
|When we returned, action was still in full swing. Like in the good ol’ days. Warms my bad-decision-making, cola-pumping, frozen permafrost tundra rock of a heart.|
|Mr. Melling’s road partners take a load off while they wait for him to get the cash.|
I watched until I felt young again. Seeing the sunrise from the top of a mountain or the balcony of a nice building just doesn’t compare to having your retinas scorched by daystar rays walking across the parking lot of a pool room. It’s an experience I need at least once or twice a year to remind of the olden days when I didn’t need to sleep.
About that second day.
I slept in and did not wake up until it was too late to go to the tournament.
(I did get a lot of chores done, though. Hooray for that.)
I woke up at a reasonable hour the third day, and took the bus down to the OK Corral.
The final eight players returned for the last day, which I think was great for spectators. If the time can be afforded, I think a quality tournament with such exceptional players should run three days, if only to ensure the top performance from the players and the best, unhurried spectating experience for everyone else.
Wang Can (left) eyes a close cut while Mr. Melling (right) breaks.
Dennis Orcollo defeated Mr. Can, 9-7, while Ralf Souquet (pink shirt!) defeated Mr. Melling, 9-6.
The player who seemed most determined to grind his way to victory was Mr. Pagulayan. After a stunning 9-0 loss to Rodney Morris in his second match of the tournament waaay back on Friday afternoon, he slogged it through the loser’s side to play Mr. Morris again.
And got him.
Local player Johnny Kang lines up on the ten-ball as Mr. Souquet watches in Germanic impassiveness. This is likely the best photograph I took at this event.
One of the more memorable tournament moments was Mr. Kang’s win earlier in the tournament against Mr. Hatch. Mr. Hatch broke his shaft afterward. No judgment here from me and no judgment here from you. We can all relate.
What can you do after being knocked out and everyone only cares about who’s still in?
Mr. Pagulayan rolled on…
|Mr. Biado (also in some very fine threads) warms up for his finals match versus Mr. Pagulayan. The finals were a single race to 11.|
|Mr. Biado, as well all know, is no picnic. (Of course not, I can hear you say, he’s a pool player.)|
|Mr. Pagulayan, hooked.|
|To say Mr. Pagulayan had a tough time in the finals would be a massive understatement.|
|It was a magnificent final, even if the score did not reflect it on paper. For as much heart and effort as Mr. Pagulayan put in, he got no rolls and no momentum.|
|Mr. Biado played very well and won, 11-1.|
|(And that one shot with the spin just flying the cue ball off the rail? Y’all who watched know which one I’m talking about. Goddamn.)|
|I’ve embedded a video of the match below, if you want to watch.|
Top three finishers (left to right) Carlo Biado (1st), Dennis Orcollo (3rd), and Alex Pagulayan (2nd) with tournament director Dave Hemmah (double fisting microphones).
If you are so inclined, you may watch the final on YouTube, courtesy of POV Pool.
I don’t do commentary often. I always believe there are much more qualified people to commentate matches, but once in a while, I am given the opportunity and for that, I am very grateful.
I learn an amazing amount when I get to watch a match between elite players up close with an expert. I can ask questions regarding shot selection, execution, their history, etc. etc. etc. Dude, it’s just a fucking badass experience, and I’m lucky as all hell to live it.
I often say I am a C-player. This is to inform those watching, and those who have joined to watch in the middle of the match, of my skill level. Many times, I will ask questions that seem to have an obvious answer, and perhaps those answers would be obvious — if I were a better player. But, I am not.
There are some who would say I am not a C-player and to that I must say: it’s all relative. At Hard Times in Bellflower, California, I am a solid C-player. No more, often less. In their ranking system where Level 10s are B+, I am an 8, meaning B-/C+ (mostly C+, sigh, sometimes D+, ugh). Now, my co-commentators may be polite and say I play well. That’s awfully kind of them, but I am the most realistic of all realists and I know EXACTLY where my game stands. Kind words and compliments are nice, but neither helps me run the f#ck out for the cash, I assure you.
In my book, the only A-players are world champions. In that case, I am actually vastly overrating my game when I consider myself a C-player.
Now you know why I say I am a C-player so often on the commentary stream: because I am, and I want you (and newly-joined viewers) to know where I’m coming from and what level I play at when I ask the questions I ask.
All that being said, I hereby dedicate all my meager commentary attempts — past, present, and future — to one Omar Vacchani.
keep the stream alive
Daniel Busch of POV Pool streamed this tournament. So far, he has streamed…
- Pots ‘N’ Pans Memorial 9-Ball Tournament // Las Vegas, NV
- Cole Dickson Memorial 9-Ball Tournament // San Francisco, CA
- West Coast Challenge // Mountain View, CA
- Hard Times 10-Ball Open // Bellflower, CA (the one you’re reading!)
as well as (I have not had time to write about it, yet)
- BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships // Las Vegas, NV
If you watched and enjoyed the stream, or would like to help Mr. Busch in his venture to bring free pool streams from quality tournaments to the masses, please consider sending a donation to help him cover costs.
Top 8 Finishers of this Event
|t h a n k s|
|EMCA | Dave Hemmah & Marie Lim | Eddie Arreguin & Hard Times Bellflower | Daniel Busch of POV Pool|
|first time hello & hello again|
|Mr. Hatch & Mr. Putman | eatpool | everyone else|
|if you have enjoyed my writings, please consider donating $1.00 toward a better low-light camera →|