winner winner curry chicken dinner


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It is fitting that my first Greyhound trip of the year was to the first TAR match of the year.

rode first-class TAR24 was the highly anticipated match between Filipino legend Francisco “Django” Bustamante and American hotshot Shane Van Boening.
They famously played in 2009 at the Derby City Classic (the same year Shane defeated Efren “The Magician” Reyes in a big moolah match). I was not there, but I hear Francisco eked out the win for a whole lotta money.
I heard they played again in the Philippines where Shane got his revenge against Francisco, beating him by a large margin for a good-sized bet.

Opting to save on a night of hotel, I greyhounded (ha, I verbed a noun) into Las Vegas just before the start of the match on the first day. I spent most of the ride making the keychains which fund my adventures, but once I was on Sin Soil, I put the yarn away.



The game was 10-ball and the format was best 2 of 3 races to 25. The winner would receive $10,000.

Unlike TAR23 (Oscar Dominguez vs Raj Hundal) — which was the first match to feature this new format (instead of a long race to 100) — this match would not feature the “win by 2” stipulation. If it went to 24-24, that would be hill-hill.


Shane showed up in his plaid Shane Shorts and an athletic half-zip. I’d bet both my rare cues (Sugartree and Tucker) that he was wearing his favorite child-sized tee under it. Francisco showed up in some Awesome Pants.

Those are some snazzy pants, aren’t they? The “inlays” on the back pockets are also on the front pockets. The design is both symmetrical and asymmetrical, resulting in a subtle commentary about how one cannot appreciate balance without first experiencing imbalance.

4:40 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 3-1, Shane Van Boening // However, in the Awesome Pants Race, Francisco Bustamante is ahead by light-years.
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Or something like that.

I was once well-known for reviewing the sartorial choices of the world’s finest (and un-finest) cue artists. I’ve retired mostly from that and others are carrying the torch.

@Bklynjay | 6:36 PM, Jan 13th
@adhesiveremover Nice to see Francisco in the Pinoy pool player uniform aka a horizontal striped polo.


The first few racks of this match were downright ugly. There were many innings and quite a few misses and position errors. It was all to be expected since it was a new table with tough pockets. However, new cloth usually makes tough pockets easier — but that sure as hell did not hold true here.

4:58 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 6-2, Shane Van Boening // Francisco missed 1B after great break as Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” came on. Francisco has missed 3 1Bs.
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The largest gap between the two during this set was when Shane led 12 to Francisco’s 6. Francisco got the speed of the table and his play began to improve. He went from awkwardly firing the balls to a more controlled, finesse-stroke style utilizing pocket speed over power.

Interestingly enough, Francisco had more break and runs than Shane.

6:27 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 13-11, Shane // Francisco has most break & runs with 4. He’s directing a movie about releasing a whale. It’s called “Free Wheel”.
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Allow me to refresh your memory regarding break and runs in 10-ball. When Shane played Alex Pagulayan in TAR22, Shane broke and ran 37 times out of 100 games. In addition, Shane ran off 12 of Alex’s dry breaks. That means 49 times out of the 100 games he won, Shane did not miss a ball.

The Studio table had been redone since last year and this match was the very first match to be played on it. The rails were the major difference. While the previous rails had been modified by hand to reduce the pockets to 4-1/8″, this new set of rails were made at the factory and CNC milled to 4-1/8″. Shane — who had previously dominated all matches on the table — was having some trouble with the new rails. He would later say that not being able to predict the break would be a big factor in this match. On Shane’s breaks in previous matches, a ball from the second row of the rack would almost always find the side pocket. The 1-ball would go uptable and either drop in or remain near a pocket to be easily made after. One or both of the corner balls would cycle around the table and find a corner pocket.


Meanwhile, “Django” was firing up his engines and slowly closing in on Shane. He made some nice shots, but none so nice as:

6:57 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 16-15, Shane // Francisco called and made a three-rail bank on the 1, then 3-10 combo. SICK. Y’all better buy 2nd day of match!
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Freakin’ unbelievable! Right when you thought it was safe to say you were a pretty good pool player, Francisco comes by and kicks apart your little Lego house of dreams, scattering your bricks of hope everywhere.


As the players got closer to the finish line, neither one could break away nor would either one stay behind. Francisco finally took the lead, but even then, it was only for a little while.

7:35 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 19-18, Francisco // Francisco takes lead for first time.
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Both players were running out of games with which to forge a lead or maintain a cushion coming into the homestretch.

8:10 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 21-21, EVEN // Race to 4!
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Shane's got his baby-tee on! So cute. :-D


8:28 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 22-22, EVEN // What. A. Match. I have never seen Shane taking the heat like this. RACE TO 3!!
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8:41 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 23-23, EVEN // Race to 2!
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There was no dominating play going on: both players seemed ill-at-ease, even when they did run out. This was particularly noted with Shane who, in past TAR matches, played with great confidence and made open breaks an afterthought. In this match, it seemed every runout took monumental effort and neither player exhibited the fluidity or high gear we — the hacktastic audience — had come to expect from these worldbeaters.

8:46 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 24-23, Shane // Francisco scratched on break. Shane ran out, rattled 10-ball in. Shane is now on the hill.
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8:51 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // 24-24!! Hill-Freaking-Hill!
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Here’s a filmstrip-like thingy of the last rack Francisco broke. It’s missing a sequence where Francisco waves his cue over the table like a madman magician and calls upon every supreme power in the book in Tagalog.

The man in the chair on the right is Ken Thomason, former owner of the legendary Hard Times in Bellflower. I also captured his reaction to the break. 🙂 Shane doesn’t have much of a reaction. I think he was resigned to his fate.

The gods must have favored the Pinoys today as the 7-ball dropped, the 1-ball rolled back downtable and the 10-ball did not drop. If the 10-ball had dropped, it would have came back out on the spot and Francisco would have to run through the rack to win.

Since it didn’t, it left Francisco a hell of a way to win, hill-hill, the first set of the series.

8:55 PM, Jan 13th
#TAR24 // Francisco Bustamante d. Shane Van Boening, 25-24 // Bustamante broke, 1-10 combo rolled into place. Wow.
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As usual, Miss Sunny and I went to have Korean food afterwards with Francisco and Steve Leistikow. We were joined later by Justin Collett and Mr. Griffin.

While we were eating, Mr. Griffin joked about how he was always on the wrong side of the bet. He related a story about when Efren Reyes first came to the states as “Cesar Morales”. A one-pocket match was set up between one-pocket legend Grady Mathews and this “Cesar Morales”. Mr. Griffin says by that time, everyone knew how good Reyes played rotation games, but had yet to see his one-pocket game. Mr. Griffin gamely put $10,000 (that’s Old Money that could actually buy sh#t, unlike today’s devalued currency) behind Mr. Mathews.

In the first game, Mr. Mathews broke and ran eight-and-out. Mr. Griffin admitted to feeling quite good about the bet after that first game. The final score of the match? Mr. Reyes won, 11-1.

Check, please.



Day 2 began with Francisco up a set and on the hill for the match. Shane had to win to make Day 3’s tiebreaker set for all the jellybeans gummy bears happen.

Above is a picture of the new pockets. They’re tight, all right.


I'm your best friend! It had been rumored the day before that Efren Reyes would come sweat the match. He arrived, along with Santos Sambajon, Jr. for the match.
He’s counting his money, no doubt one of his favorite past times.
The other dude in the photo is the one they call “Scooby”. I do not know his real name (assuming “Scooby” is not his real name). He is CFO and General Manager of the Van Boening Corporation.


I'm not the main course! Shane is! Francisco warmed up with some racks under Efren’s watchful eye.
Upon spotting my globe-trotting friend there on the rail, he asked the audience what it was. Then he asked,
“Can I eat him?”
He spoke in jest. Of course. (Right? He wouldn’t eat an adorable forest spirit — would he?!)
This led to an enthusiastic conversation about Filipino food which, naturally, had to reference balut. Mark Griffin said he would not try balut.


Francisco got his own filmstrip so Shane must have one, too. This was taken during practice, but it’s still a nice illustration of his standard break. There isn’t a lot of body movement — he doesn’t seem to power the cue ball. He just hits it very solid and pops the cue ball back.


You can see where the 1-ball goes towards the upper corner pocket. According to Mr. Griffin, this predictability, along with the corner balls going four-rails and then heading for pockets, is what makes the break for 10-ball easier than 9-ball.

Easier break or not, I think 10-ball is still plenty difficult.


The match started off with Shane taking the early lead but Francisco caught up.

4:54 PM, Jan 14th
#TAR24 // 4-4, EVEN // Francisco wearing polo w/ 80s neon pink & green design. Shane wearing his fave kids-size black tee. Francisco 1 B&R.
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Shane took another four-game lead at 10-6, but once again Francisco caught up.

6:16 PM, Jan 14th
#TAR24 // 10-10, EVEN // Shane scratched shooting the 8 & ran just 2 balls w/ BIH one game. Not gonna lie, warmed my hack heart just a lil
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Shane made some very uncharacteristic errors, errors that were more worthy of us hacks than worldbeaters. Professionals! They’re just like us! They make mistakes, too! They also sometimes dog it! (Just 99% less than we do. They’re the 1% of pool.)

Francisco was very conscientious about taking his breaks. Shane, given the option, seemed to always want to power through (“brute-force method”, I call it). We were relieved when Francisco would take a break because it gave us all a chance to scurry over to the snack table and haphazardly lay in provisions for the next spate of games. By the way, I’m thoroughly impressed with whoever invented the single-serve container of Pringles. Give that genius a raise!

Left // Spectators doing their spectator thang. All three of these spectators are extremely dedicated and I have seen them at every match to date. Dude looking at 49er butts and totally not paying attention to the match is StatMaster Jason Bryan.
Right // Camera Dude Tim Wampler chows down on the Twinkie he buried in a cache under the snow stashed earlier in the freezer. Frozen Twinkies? Fascinating! I’ve had them deep-fried but never frozen. Have YOU had them frozen? Do tell.

Shane would prefer there be no breaks (that would mean he was always shooting, since you can only take a break on your turn), but then all of us judgmental hacks that never miss would starve (not that we would notice ourselves wasting away, entranced as we would have been by the excellent play in front of us).

Both players agreed there would be no jump cues. That’s Shane doing a full-cue jump. I believe the cueball was jumped off the table on that shot, resulting in a foul.

6:56 PM, Jan 14th
#TAR24 // 12-12, EVEN // Shane looks really cranky.
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I have never seen Shane as — animated — as I have in this match. In all previous matches I have seen in the Studio (TAR21, TAR22) or on TAR DVDs, Shane is very, uh, stoic. He rarely speaks and doesn’t often show disappointment. When he does show frustration, it’s usually a Mika Immonen Hand Flip or something similarly innocuous. A couple of times during TAR23 vs Earl Strickland, Shane smacked his cue against the table, but that was like patting a puppy compared to Earl’s shenanigans. In this match, Shane talked to himself often, slumped over pouting in his chair almost all the time (regardless of if he was in the lead or not), and was quite rough with equipment.

7:29 PM, Jan 14th
#TAR24 // 15-13, Shane // Shane scratched on break, whacked cue against table twice. Hooray for fiberglass!
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In a later interview, he said he was frustrated and acted out because of it. I don’t know if he was taking the heat from the equipment or his opponent. I think it was both — ain’t nothing like having a bad day against one of the best in the world (for $10,000) to bring out the Earl in all of us.

8:40 PM, Jan 14th
#TAR24 // 20-18, Shane // Errors by Shane allowing Francisco to keep up.
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Day 2 looked to be a repeat of Day 1 as Francisco kept Shane’s lead to a minimum. This time, Shane would keep the pressure on Francisco coming down the homestretch.

9:15 PM, Jan 14th
#TAR24 // 23-19, Shane // Bustamante scratched playing safe on 5B. Great safety battle on 9B went at least 3 tries each.
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Francisco maintained his composure even as the gap began to widen. He didn’t take flyers and played percentages. I watch these kinds of matches to see how professionals handle pressure and maintaining composure and playing the percentages is something these matches manage to impress upon my memory when nothing else gets through.

I still have moments where I think flailing wildly is a smart way to avoid drowning, y’know?

9:26 PM, Jan 14th
#TAR24 // 24-19, Shane // Shane is on the hill. If Shane wins tonight, final tiebreaker set tomorrow.
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9:34 PM, Jan 14th
#TAR24 // Shane Van Boening d. Francisco Bustamante, 25-19 // Shane broke, played safe on 1B. Francisco lost safety battle. Shane ran out.
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Another great set concluded and the best part was: I wouldn’t have to worry about what to do the next day. I’d be back here for more pool.


Crawfish: Not just for when Asia Cycak decides she can’t win. The crawfish is also delicious crustacean, made even more delicious when stewed in spicy garlic butter. I had that for dinner tonight. Yum. A meal without billiard dignitaries, however, also meant no road stories. Aww. 🙁



All I wanted for a belated Christmas present was that the match should go into the third day so I could have more top-flight pool to watch. I’m selfish like that. I got my wish.

12:10 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 Day 3 // “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! We sell you the whole seat but you’ll only need the edge!” What are your predictions?
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The pool world was buzzing about this final day. When I put the question out there via social media to ask who would win, I had 6 for Shane winning and 5 for Francisco. Let’s do some analyzing, yeah?


Adding up the games won from the previous two sets, Shane had 49 (24+25) to Francisco’s 44 (25+19).

While Francisco won the first day, the hill-hill win was hardly considered dominant. Shane held the lead for most of the day and Francisco took some time to settle in, briefly taking the lead at 19-18. The first day could have belonged to either player, and certainly Francisco’s 1-10 setup in hill game was an unbelievable stroke of luck.

The second day, Shane got the early lead and although Francisco managed to catch up with him a few times, he wasn’t really able to pass him. Francisco’s first lead on the second day was early on, at 5-4, and I think it’s slightly better to be leading coming into the homestretch than early on when you’re just testing the waters. Shane successfully held Francisco off with some great play and ended the day with a six-game margin of victory.

Today was the third day and based purely on statistics, Shane was the favorite. He juuuust lost the first day, played well and won solidly the second day, and coming into the third day, it was safe to assume he had the table speed and his famous break figured out. In addition, by Francisco’s own admittance, he had back problems and they were aggravated by the cool temperatures of the studio. Several people had also noted he was twenty years older than Shane, blah blah blah.

I got to do this on the final day. Spiff! A local 94-year-old cuemaker used to routinely destroy me playing eight-ball, when I used to play that game better than I do now. He wasn’t much bigger than I was, he had to squint, his back was slightly bent — but he shot unbelievably straight.
As long as you’re in fairly good health, you can beat on young whippersnappers in this game well into your golden years.
Francisco, even with his back problems — which, with the way he was stretching ballet-style for shots and shooting behind his back, you could hardly tell he had — was still a world-level competitor. He won the World 9-Ball Championship as recently as 2010, so he’s hardly toast.

Francisco has always been famous for having a very strong break and I would say his break, although not as controlled as Shane’s, was effective. Since Shane’s own break was not as effective in the past due to the new equipment, that equalized the breaking aspect of the match.

In the end, my (un)professional opinion about the third day was: total coin-flip.


Perhaps Francisco disagreed with my unprofessional opinion and the story told by the statistics as he, for once, took the early lead…

4:33 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 // 4-0, Francisco
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5:24 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 // 10-3, Francisco
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6:13 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 // 14-7, Francisco
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…and never relinquished it.

If you didn’t click the “MUTE THAT SH#T NOW” button, you may have heard the commentary between me and Mr. Griffin. He predicted that neither player would have more than an eight-game lead on the other. At the time, that was a pretty good bet — the biggest lead had been six games and in those cases, it was Shane leading over Francisco. I bet a beer with Mr. Griffin, payable to Mr. Bill Stock who had lost a beer-wager earlier to Mr. Griffin.

7:02 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 // 19-9, Francisco
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I won that bet.

7:35 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 // 22-11, Francisco
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And soundly, too.

Francisco played exceptionally well, although he did benefit from some fortunate rolls. Among those fortunate rolls was not leaving Shane a good shot when he broke dry. Still, I think we were all surprised. This was not a match anymore — it was a blowout.

8:02 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 // 24-14, Francisco // Francisco on the hill.
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Shane rallied at the end but it seemed, to me, that he was just going through the motions. He couldn’t get anything started and the lead was just too much to fade.

8:31 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 // Francisco Bustamante d. Shane Van Boening, 25-17 // Shane lost safety battle on 1B, Francisco ran to 9B, Shane conceded the 10B.
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Interestingly enough, Mr. Griffin correctly called the final score — but he didn’t bet. Just goes to show he truly is on the wrong side of every bet. Francisco was humorous and self-deprecating in the post-game interview and he conceded that he got a lot of fortunate rolls.

8:35 PM, Jan 15th
#TAR24 // Francisco Bustamante: “I thought I played good but Efren [Reyes] said I play like shit! But he just kidding…”
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Will there be a rematch?

In my (un)professional opinion: HELLS yeah!

I don’t know when or where or if I’ll get to witness it. I do know that two great players like these — they’re never afraid to bet and bet and play and play. This could be the rivalry to fill the void while Alex takes a vacation from playing Shane. After the first day, Francisco said at dinner that he truly enjoyed playing Shane because, “He’s always nice, always respectful. If he wins, he’s the same guy. If he loses, he’s the same guy. He’s a gentleman.”



The afterparty for Francisco’s win would be at the home of a local Filipino man who cooks like a champion! I was invited to go and I was very much thrilled with the idea of lots of delicious Filipino food (Hi Mom! I know you’re jealous!)

Left // Shane and Francisco are friends… for now… (dun dun duuuun!) Francisco is very quick when it comes to noodles.
Right // Efren Reyes chats with the host while Francisco continues winding noodles at warp speed.

Here are some photographs of our players’ injured hands.

Left // Shane has a scar from when he pulled a big fish out of the water while ice fishing. Scooby told me a neat story about ice fishing. When I think of ice fishing, I think of camping out on the ice with a little shed that offers you protection from the elements. My friends tell me you can actually have a heater and chairs in some of these sheds — it’s not terribly different from your usual lazy day of fishing. It’s supposed to be quite relaxing. Apparently, Shane does not utilize sheds. According to Scooby, “He just stands out there in the blizzard over the hole in the ice.” Daaaamn.
Right // Francisco’s hands were torn up and blistered due to an allergic reaction he had to some food he ate. He played all three days of the match with skin peeling and cracking from his hands. Ouch.

I don’t do well in social situations, but the hosts were SO nice. As was their fully-stocked bar. Tee hee! I had nice conversations with several people and, like always, you learn new and nice (sometimes not-so-nice) things about these people who have the same passion for the game as you.

By far, the coolest new person I met was a pool fanatic who was almost done with a Masters degree in Public Health and researched tuberculosis.


It makes me feel like I should do something useful for humanity other than being a hack who talks mad sh#t on a blog. 😉

Luckily, karaoke machine was fired up and I ceased thinking of doing altruistic things.

Eventually, all food was eaten (and DAMN was it good), all the beer was drunk, all the songs were sung…
…all the stories were told (whoa! you got robbed?!), all the advice given (I TOLD you to pay the dude his 200!), all the compliments paid…
…and it was time for the festivities to end.



That is how my little jaunt to Vegas went down.

I can never stress it enough: watching a TAR match on a livestream is wonderful but you really have to see it in person to truly appreciate the play. I’m a person who learns by watching and the more high-quality play I get to watch, the better my own play gets. There are three camera angles on a livestream broadcast, but you can pick your own camera angles (well, within reason) when you watch in person.

You also never know when you’ll be invited to a hell of a dinner with the best players in the world. 😉



t h a n k s look what TAR Santa gave me!
EMCA | Mark & Sunny Griffin | Justin Collett & The Action Report | Tom | fly4lyf | Roy Steffensen | TimKrazyMon
first time hello & hello again
Jamie & Carl | poolist (thank you for book recommendations) | Scooby (many interesting stories) | Francisco Bustamante (also many interesting stories) | meezergirl (nice Mustang!) | Amy Encinias & Tim Wampler | Jason Bryan (TAR StatMaster)



where shall I adventure to next

20 Replies to “winner winner curry chicken dinner”

  1. Still basking in the afterglow of the best night ever! The amazing write-up and photos bring it all to life again 🙂

  2. Scooby’s name is Randy Pelton. He used to live in AZ, but I don’t know if he still resides here… I haven’t seem him in quite a few years in the local halls.

    Thanks for the recap!

    1. I sometimes worry the pictures will get redundant since these matches are always held in the same place.

      1. As long as you focus on the unique aspects of the drama, like you have been doing, you won’t get redundant, at least IMHO.

  3. The rash on the hands is cause by gloves. Most likely a reaction to latex. I’ve seen it before.

    1. Could be. Bustamante thought it had to do with something he ate. His cornerman will probably read this post so I’m sure the information will get passed on. 🙂

  4. I recall you made a comment about just because you’re married/dating a good pool player it doesn’t make you one, or something along those lines. Are we going to hear about that?

  5. So jealous. I’d love to be able to hang in Sin City for a weekend sweating some great pool. C’est la vie!

  6. About Francisco’s hand- it was caused by eating ‘Dry Fish’. It’s fish jerkey made with whole fish with bones and all. It gets little rough and I guess Francisco didn’t really protect his hand from bones. He said never again unless someone else shreds it for him 😉

  7. Very nice narration of a world-class match; even better was the after match celebration at the friend’s house…..I have partaken in such consumption at a filipino friend’s house too (usually during PPV boxing matches featuring Manny Pacquiao…….they are such nice hosts and everyone always seems to have a great time…….Thanks for the story and pictures which always brings it closer to home…..

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