“…people you meet, they all seem to know you…”
Haribo twin cherry gummies
where I was this past weekend…
Here’s a clue:
Have you guessed it by now? If not, I, in my infinite mercy, will bestow the knowledge upon you. I was at the American Poolplayers Association (APA) National Team Championships in Las Vegas, at the Riviera Hotel & Casino.
I didn’t have a team this year, so I just hopped up for the weekend to meet up with some friends, eat some food (lots), and play some pool (minimal).
The first place I hit was the Rio Village Seafood Buffet. I’ve heard lots about this place (it serves ONLY seafood) and a few of us decided to check it out.
We got to the buffet, or rather, the buffet line at 8:30-ish on Saturday night. The line was long. Really, really long. The picture above is of the entrance, but the line snakes off screen to the right, around an escalator, past chintzy apparel stores that carry things made by amped-up cokeheads wielding Bedazzlers, and all the way as far as my tiny eyes atop my short Asian legs could see.
We didn’t actually get seated until around 9:35-ish. Better late than never, I suppose. True to reputation, the buffet was mostly seafood, with some meat items, a “produce” section and a dessert section absurdly named the “Gelateria”.
I got to work right away, and consumed the following:
For dessert, I had the following:
I would have eaten more (and a bigger variety of items), but everyone else had finished and I was ever-so-slightly pressed for time because I had signed up to play in a mini-tournament. So, I only did 2-1/2 plates worth of damage — not very much at all. I’ll have to come back to Vegas someday for the buffet alone and take it on mano-a-smallasiangirlo.
Off I went, back to the Riviera.
I had signed up for a 1:00 a.m. nine-ball mini-tournament. I figured it would be a good way to burn off the few calories I had consumed and, also, I had NEVER played APA nine-ball before. Before I begin, let me give you a quick rundown of how APA handicapped nine-ball works (in my eyes), and my observations about the system.
The basic scoring system of APA nine-ball assigns 1 point value to each ball in the nine-ball rack, except for the nine-ball itself, which is worth 2 points. Each player races to a certain number of points, not games.
This is an interesting system, because value is placed on making balls — you don’t necessarily lose because you ran eight balls and your opponent made the nine. In that situation, you receive 8 points for making the eight balls, and your opponent receives 2 points for making the nine. This is good, as oftentimes, at the beginner levels in pool, anyways, it’s safe to say that the person who is able to run more balls is the better player.
Balls made on the break count for their point value. Balls made on a scratch have no value for either player.
So, if I made 9 balls on the break and scratched, I get no points. Neither does my opponent. We would rack again, with my opponent breaking, since I scratched.
No push-out after the break.
This rule favored the lesser-skilled players, as it didn’t allow those “in the know” about the strategy of using the push-out to use their skills. Different, maybe a little inconvenient, but no big deal to me.
Each handicap races to a certain amount of points. Because of time constraints, the mini-tournaments condensed the number of points normally needed to a smaller number.
In my first match, I was to play a Skill Level (SL) 3, who would race to 22. I, as a SL7, would have to go to 48 point. In regular league play, the SL3 would be racing to 25, and I would be racing to 55.
My opponent, who was almost a perfect likeness of John Lennon (except only about five-feet tall), came up to the table.
“Hi, just so you know, this is my first time playing APA nine-ball, so I might not be too familiar with the scoring or the rules.”
“Okay, that’s fine, just ask me if you have any questions.”
We lagged for the break and I lost. John Lennon shot quite well, and I could see that this might be a tough match. As most of you know, I don’t play a lot of nine-ball, so it took me a bit to adjust. Nevertheless, John Lennon, missed a three-ball and let me back to the table, and I ran out. A few people in the late night tournament crowd were idly watching our match, and a few people clapped politely. John Lennon seemed a bit unnerved.
I broke, and ran the next rack, and my run of balls included a nice bank on the six-ball to get me out of trouble, and back in line for the seven. A man in the audience told me, “Great shot on the six! That was a gutsy shot, and you hit it perfect!”
John Lennon finished racking and immediately went up the the guy who complimented me and said, “I know you like her a lot, but I don’t need you saying anything about how she plays, okay? I’m a 3, and she’s a 7, okay? It’s going to be tough for me, and I don’t need you making all sorts of noise.”
“I didn’t mean anything by it, I just though she made a really nice shot. I mean, you shoot well, too.”
“I don’t need you helping her in any way, okay? I need you to leave.”
“Jeez, okay then. SORRY.”
I broke, and made a ball or two and I was on the five ball and running out when John Lennon ran up to the table, arms waving, and yelled at me to “Stop! Stop shooting! I need you to stop shooting! I don’t know how many points you’ve made!”
Normally, I would have to semi-fly off the handle at this interruption, but I was well-fed, and in a benevolent frame of mind (read: food coma). I stood up and said, “I made the seven ball on the break. I’m shooting the five ball now. That would mean I have 1 point for the ball on the break, and 4 points for the 1 through 4, for a total of five points.” I looked at John Lennon and smiled.
“Oh. I see.”
“Yes, you can count the balls and just add them up, right? Nine-ball is 2 points, everything else is 1 point unless it’s a scratch?”
“Yes, I guess you are right.”
“Thank you. I’m terrible at math, if you can believe it.”
I got back down on the five ball, made it, and was lining up for the six ball, when John Lennon returned to the table, arms waving, and said, “There’s something wrong with this scoresheet! It says you’re only going to 48 points!! Aren’t sevens supposed to go to 55?!”
Arm-flapping: Round Two. “Yes, it does. You, however, only have to go to 22.”
“Yes, I think they shortened the races for the mini-tournaments, because they didn’t want the matches to take too long. You’ve played mini-tournaments before, haven’t you?”
“Haven’t they done this before?”
“Err… well… um… I don’t think so. I’m going to ask the referees.”
“You can’t shoot anything until I come back. You can’t move ANY of the balls.”
“Naturally. That goes without saying.”
John Lennon went off to corral an unsuspecting referee for an explanation and I sat down to wait. I chatted briefly with some of the other players in the area about pool, and the APA in general. Soon, John Lennon returned, scoresheet in hand.
“I guess you’re right, the races are right. They are shorter for mini-tournaments.”
I returned to the table, and I missed. I turned to sit down and saw John Lennon saying to the other players, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You guys are not allowed to talk to her, okay? She’s a 7 and I’m a 3, this is very difficult for me, and I don’t want you talking to her at all.” Some of the spectators left, while others told her they were playing matches as well, and they were not going to leave. John Lennon turned to me and said sheepishly and somewhat apologetically, “Some people tell me I take the game too seriously.”
“Do whatever you think you need to do to win.”
“You don’t even look like you care.”
“Oh, trust me, I care. There is nothing I love more than playing well, and I’m not doing that at the moment, so I care very much. I’m just less vocal about it than you are.”
What I learned while I played this match was that, slop in APA nine-ball is MUCH more valuable than slop in APA eight-ball.
When you slop in a ball in APA eight-ball, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can win the game. You still have to get out, and shoot the eight (sometimes this is easy, sometimes not). In nine-ball, however, even if you don’t win the game, that slopped-in ball still counts as a point towards your final tally.
I learned this by watching John Lennon slop in three balls in a row.
Those three balls represented 14% of the points John Lennon needed. By contrast, I would need to make seven balls to gain the same number of points. One rack was worth 10 points total. At 22 points, John Lennon needed well less than 3 racks worth of balls to win. In eight-ball, you can easily see who is winning the match, because the game count is very clear. In nine-ball, it’s is more about percentages — what percentage of your total tally have you achieved? When John Lennon is at 11 points, I’d better be at 24, or else I’m behind in the race. At this point, I was very far behind.
I geared up, and started to play better. I had a better understanding of the cueball and the rails now, so I played a few nice safes, and soon, the race was approaching the end and John Lennon and I were very, very close in score.
It was here that I fully understood another facet of APA nine-ball I would not encounter elsewhere. Because the game is won on points and not games, your winning ball doesn’t have to be the nine-ball. It doesn’t even have to be a shot during a game. It could be balls sunk in on a break. Those balls all count.
As I was running out the last rack, I forgot about this small, but important detail. My last ball was a five-ball, but I didn’t know it. I was so absorbed in running out the entire rack that I played for a slightly difficult five-ball shot so as to set me up for the rest of the run-out. The cueball rolled a little far, and I was faced with a tough back-cut on the five into a side pocket. I hit the ball well, but the five hit the point and rolled down to sit in front of a corner pocket. The five and six balls were hangers.
I went to sit down and looked at the scoresheet. It was then that I realized my error of not keeping a running tally of the points. When I had missed, John Lennon had only needed 2 points, and I had needed just 1. Aww, shucks! I conceded the last six-ball to my opponent, since it was a hanger, and because I should have known better about keeping track of points. It was my first APA nine-ball match and I had been interested in seeing how the game was played by those rules, and now, I knew.
“Oh, you’re just giving me the game? That’s so nice of you!” I smiled and shook John Lennon’s hand. “No, really, that’s so really sweet of you to think of me like that.”
To be honest, this saccharine, syrupyness of John Lennon irked me just a tad and I said kindly, but very matter-of-factly, “Me conceding the ball has nothing to do with sweetness and more with the fact that I am irritated at my own carelessness in both playing this game, and keeping track of the score.” Some of the previous spectators had returned to the area, now that they saw my match with John Lennon was over. They listened to our conversation.
“Well, you know, you don’t play bad at all.”
I turned to John Lennon and said very, very calmly, “I don’t play bad at all, do I?” I noticed the surrounding people were listening very intently. I looked around at them, and then back at John Lennon, who looked like a mouse on crack with a mullet hairdo. I decided I’d be good since my food buzz was still operational and the warm caloric glow was still toasting my heart. “That’s great — that YOU think I don’t play bad at all.”
“Yeah! I mean, you really need to learn defense. You play terrible defensive shots, and you can’t control your cueball.”
“I play terrible defensive shots,” I echoed. The listening people were chuckling now. I ran through my head of the few safeties I played — I had actually played some nice ball-freezing safes. It was the rattled shots that cost me the match.
“Hey, I thought her defense was just fine.” This was someone who was listening to the conversation. John Lennon immediately shushed the speaker.
“Well, just learn to play defensive shots, and someday you could be good player. Maybe even a killer player!”
“Is that so. That’s just great.” John Lennon scurried off to the tournament desk and I looked around at the people who had heard the conversation. “Wow, that was interesting.” A few of the listeners laughed.
Now, a lot of you will say that this is typical male behavior — a guy telling a girl how to play, even if she plays better than him. This kind of condescension is SO common in the pool world because so many more men play pool than women and assume all kinds of things. Well, let me toss a backhoe into that machinery.
John Lennon, you see, was a woman. (Although she looked EXACTLY like John Lennon — glasses, skinny nose, weak chin and all!) It seems that women are not immune from the condescension of their own kind. 🙂 How’s that for equal opportunity?
“Does she know you play better than she does?” one of the listeners asked.
“You know, I don’t think she does.”
“But it’s pretty obvious. Even if she was sandbagging, there’s no way she could beat you in an even race. How could she not see that?”
“I have no idea.” I was perplexed myself, but as you all know, this kind of incident happens to me very often, so I didn’t dwell too much upon it. Instead, I turned to the people present and said, “But, you heard it here first! I might be a good player — someday! Keep prayin’ for me!”
new foods, yay
because variety is the spice of life
On Sunday, I met a few professional players — Allison Fisher (who talked about Gary Glitter), Kristi Carter (who always looks beautiful), the very-gracious Val Finnie (designer of KwikFire cues) and Kelly Fisher (very accomodating to her fans — she must have played eight hours straight at her booth).
I also met Abe Lim of The Laser Rack and I have to say, I like the idea of a rack that will perfectly align the racks when you play. This innovation will certainly be useful for straight-pool and one-pocket, where every angle counts double!
Afterwards, my friend Vagabond took me out for Ethiopian food (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, har har har, I’ve heard that before).
Ethiopian cuisine is centered around the concept of family-style sharing. Below is an example of a table where family and friends gather around to share food out of a communal dish. There were two of these tables set up at the restaurant, but the rest of the tables and chairs were just like the kind in a western restaurant.
At Vagabond’s suggestion, I ordered the lamb stew. The server first brought out a large flat pan with injera bread on it. Injera is a traditional Ethiopian bread with a soft, spongy texture and a slightly sour taste, reminiscent of sourdough bread. A bowl of the stewed lamb was poured on the bread, along with a salad.
Oh, I forgot to mention — there are no utensils. You eat by tearing off a small piece of injera, and use it to pick up lamb pieces. Basically, you are making mini soft tacos with the injera, lamb, and salad. Additional injera is provided to pick up the stew-soaked bread after all the lamb and salad is eaten.
The flavor of the lamb was very good. You can order it “spicy” or “Ethiopian spicy”. The latter is like nuking the inside of your mouth. That’s probably a good way to get rid of gum disease — I can’t imagine any microbes surviving that onslaught.
Anyways, if you feel like trying something different, like eating the tablecloth your food comes on, I suggest you try this restaurant. The servers are very helpful and extremely nice.
855 E. Twain Ave #112
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Open daily from 11 a.m.
a final word from Jerry Springer
hee hee hee
I thought it was funny to hear Brian Gregg’s name being called for matches in the mini-tournament room. I thought perhaps it was another Brian Gregg, not the Brian Gregg that snapped off the following:
2005 Derby City Classic Bank Pool Ring Game for $12,000
2006 Derby City Classic Bank Pool Ring Game for $14,000
2008 Derby City Classic Bank Pool Ring Game for $18,000
However, it was, indeed, THE Brian Gregg of DCC fame — his ears gave it away.
He’s a SL6 in eight-ball, to boot! You read it right! Not an SL7, but an SL6!
We love you, APA!! Now if you could only get rid of those pesky sandbaggers…
It’s since been verified that Brian Gregg is an SL7. I know that one extra game on the wire will make all the difference to most of the APA players out there.
This pool-related post is dedicated to Mr. Roy Steffensen! 🙂