Las Vegas is sort of like how God would do it if he had money. ~Steve Wynn
A few hours after an exciting episode of fisticuffs, my friends arrived and we set out for Las Vegas. It was raining, but the driver said he enjoyed the “challenge” of driving in rain and snow. Hoo boy.
We left late enough that we saw the sun rise while still on the road…
…and we pulled into Vegas bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
No, that’s a lie.
That would be my road partners who at least would get to play in this event. I continued to sulk in the back seat. Lucky bastards.
I was reduced to civilian status for the weekend so I had the luxury of sleeping until I felt like getting up. Unfortunately, that was only a few hours after my head hit the pillow — even after being up more than twenty-four hours. This is an annoying feature of billiards addiction: if you KNOW there is quality pool to watch, you’re required to get up at the ass-crack of pool player dawn (10 a.m. in this case) to drag yourself off to a smoky hole in the wall to watch champions play a coinflip tournament.
I’d made it a point this year to go watch the calcutta for this tournament which is one of the biggest highlights of this event. Of course, the aforementioned fisticuffs and delayed departure meant that I missed it. Oh well. Next year.
The amounts of the calcutta for this year were not as high as in previous years, but were still impressive (for the western area of the U.S., anyways). As expected, the calcutta money outpaced the actual tournament payouts for the same places.
This is your tournament arena: four Diamond bar tables.
Yes, really, that’s it.
Over the course of three days, the field is whittled down from 64 until the last Highlander (“There can be only one!”) is left with all the glory and the cash (assuming no stakehorses).
Let’s go over the format again (because it’s mildly important): bar table 9-ball, winner breaks, races to 6.
Yes, really, that’s it.
But, what does that mean?
You’re playing a game that is dependent on luck (9-ball), on a small table (7-footers), winner breaks (yeehaw), in a short-race format (just a half-dozen games).
It means each match is a free-for-all. This type of format can see average players knock out champions — all they need is a few good rolls. It can see complete wipeouts, incredible comebacks, and enough bricks s— over single games (each one is 16.67% of your race) to build a replica of Colonial Williamsburg.
I parked myself comfortably at the bar and proceed to grumble internally about all the stress and heartbreak I would not be experiencing as a result of this format due to my lateness in sending in my tournament entry. Grrr.
The Rum Runner Tropicana has mirrors set in the ceiling at strategic places, allowing many of us not-tall people sitting in not-tall chairs to sweat the action.
There were many good matches to watch and all I heard about all day was Shane Van Boening’s 6-0 first-round win. He started off with a five-pack. So, yeah. I suppose it was not at all out of line that he was the highest bid (self) in the calcutta at $2,800.
After several hours, I was done being grumpy and went back to the hotel to sleep.
My roommate was in Vegas for pool, also, but not the five-pack kind. The APA Southwest Challenge was going on this same weekend at the luxurious Riviera Hotel. She had an 8:00 a.m. match and was an early riser, which meant that, once again, I was also an early riser.
Thank you, Starbucks, for making life bearable at 6:00 a.m. on a tournament day when I’m not in the tournament.
This is your tournament arena: 40+ Valley bar tables.
The format for the Southwest Challenge is — screw it, here’s the info I jacked from southcoastapa.com because it’s well-written and I’m still tired:
The Southwest Challenge is an annual event that brings together members from nine different APA League areas in the Southwestern United States.
The main event is a three-person 8-Ball tournament, which features a unique “rotating roster” format. The requirements for a legal team are as follows:
- Maximum combined skill level at entry is 14
- Only one skill level six or seven per team
Each team must declare their shooting order prior to entry into the tournament. Throughout the event, the teams must rotate through their rosters, maintaining the shooting order as the tournament progresses. This format guarantees each player an equal opportunity to play, and forces teams to rely on their novice teammates to help them advance. It also creates some interesting match-ups with often-surprising results!
I went to watch some of my friends play and also to play in the mini-tournaments. The first mini tournaments started at 3:00 p.m. so I had a lot of time to kill. Like, a whole army of time.
I watched my friends win some and lose some, and when sign-up time for mini-tournaments rolled around, I went to see what was available. I think there were more events in past years, but I could be wrong. I didn’t see anything I wanted to play in and just looking at the list of events made me feel blah. I was so tired. Yeah, screw the mini-tournaments. Gotta go get some rest…
…watching more matches at the Rum Runner.
Because I am a moron that just doesn’t know when to stop sacrificing sleep and well-being for the sake of pool (even when I’m not playing).
I scored excellent seats and settled in for the long haul.
It was worth it.
The next day, the last sixteen players returned and all were in the money.
Needless to say, there were many great matches. The picture above is strangely prophetic as Oscar Dominguez defeated Shane Van Boening, 6-1, for the hotseat. Mr. Van Boening then went to the left side of the board where he had a grand ol’ time regaining his right for a rematch with Oscar in the finals (his wins included one over Ernesto Dominguez, Oscar’s father and last year’s winner).
In the finals, Mr. Van Boening returned the earlier favor dished out to him by Oscar and won in two sets in the true double-elimination final, 6-1 (ran four racks) and 6-0.
Yep. Buying yourself in the calcutta for $2,800 is not at all out of line as long as you take it down.
Your final standings for this bar table 9-ball beauty pageant.
Afterwards, I had a little something to eat, hitched a ride back home, and went to work the next day on no sleep.
|Back in the City of Angels, I struggled all week to get back on a normal sleep and practice schedule.|
|I was unsuccessful on both counts.|
|Things I succeeded in doing included meeting up and catching up with non-billiards friends, meeting up and catching up with billiards friends, drinking, eating, staying up way too late, and not doing laundry or dishes.|
|This was bad because…|
…by Friday, I was headed back to the City of Sin.
I did not have the luxury of friends with vehicles this time so I took the bus. This is what sunrise on a city bus looks like.
After an hour on the city bus, I disembarked on the sketchy side of town, walked about a mile, and arrived at the Greyhound station with plenty of time to spare.
I tried to sleep on the Greyhound bus, but managed to get only about two hours. After that, I basically said, “F— it,” and stopped trying to sleep.
The bus began to overheat and slowed to a crawl. The driver turned off the air conditioning. This did not help with the internal temperature of a bus full of anxious people. The vents began to blow hot air as the driver attempted to dissipate the heat. Ugh. Curiously, I found one vent that did not blow hot air, just a warm-ish air like that outside. Without missing a beat, I stuck my cue case on the vent and continued to sweat it out. Must protect equipment first. We crept into an empty lot and the driver stopped the bus to allow it to cool off.
We arrived in Las Vegas mid-afternoon. After a pricey cab ride to my hotel, I finally slept.
But not for long (of course).
The calcutta for my tournament this weekend was to take place at 8:00 p.m. I had to wait an hour for a cab but at least the driver broke many traffic laws to get me to the Rum Runner on time. I immediately saw my friend Pooh Bear from California and she was already rolling well:
The highest bid of the calcutta, $320, went to the winner of last year’s tournament, Holly Ryan. Overall, a good amount of money went into the calcutta and as this was a charity event (the charity got 10% of the calcutta), that made me all warm and fuzzy inside. 🙂
Play began the next day.
The format of this tournament was 9-ball, alternate break, race to your handicap number (4, 5, or 6). I was rated a 6, thus ensuring that I would receive no weight in this event. For a short race, alternate break, bar table nine-ball tournament — that was dangerous.
My first match was at 3:00 p.m. and I am happy to say that although I did not get back on a “normal” sleep schedule, I did manage to sleep enough. I won two matches and was done for the day. The weather was especially nice and I often went outside the bar just to enjoy it.
The next day, the matches rolled on, one after the other. I did not play great, but I played at a consistent level, and I really could not ask for more. During some of my matches, I became aware of certain shenanigans taking place in other matches. These shenanigans were centered around ONE player. Let me bullet-point some of this this s— for you.
- she talked constantly (it was a never-ending conversation with her opponent, the audience, the tournament directors, and herself when there was no answer)
- she talked loudly (enough to shark you if you were on the next table)
- she talked loudly (and cried out) about straining a groin muscle while stretching for a shot (yup, I totally shanked a six-ball when I saw her grab her crotch, Michael Jackson-style)
- she took a lot of bathroom breaks (although she did warn her opponents she would before the match started)
- towards the end these bathroom breaks (two per game) were for throwing up the contents of her stomach (the contents were mainly alcoholic)
- she stopped a match in order to search for masking tape (she claimed a need to cover her non-dominant eye while playing)
- no masking tape was found and so a roll of scotch tape was provided
- she actually taped her eye shut like a pirate (how appropriate for the rum runner)
- I voted that we should rename her Pearl Strickland
Luckily for me, I never had to play this particular competitor. I think our match would have been interesting, to say the least. From what I heard, this particular competitor was having some rough times in life and so, we all cut her some slack (and tape).
I don’t remember too much about how I played in this event. I felt that I played at the same level as I did last year; the difference was my mental game was stronger this year.
In the end, I finished better than I did last year, and that’s all that matters.
I got back on the Greyhound bus, slept a little, and then went straight to work.
Life goes on.
Here is a music video of the event, created by Amy Encinias of VegasBilliardsBuzz.
t h a n k s
EMCA | HCCA | OEDCA | BSNJ | Eric Crisp of Sugartree Cues | Murray Tucker of Tucker Cue Works | The Rum Runner Tropicana | the ladies who ran the tournament so efficiently | Shady Katy | PoolDawg | Vegas Billiards Buzz
in no particular order
Nicole “Shut Up, Jeremy” Civetz | Christina “Two Thumbs Up!” Kolkhorst | Sunny “Garth? GARTH! I need limes!” Griffin | Garth the Bartender & the Waitress with the Fabulous Red Hair | Holly “Tape Enabler” Ryan | Julie Hadden (sweetest competitive person I met, totally my role model now) | Amy Encinias | Anne Martinez (thanks for having faith this pony can run) | & everybody else I might have missed (email me if you feel left out and I’ll add you to this list, heh)