life of TAR



As befits a member of the working class, I missed the first day of TAR33 featuring Francisco Bustamante vs Alex Pagulayan. This was extra-bummerific because Friday was the 8-ball set and I rarely get to see professionals play 8-ball.

Bustamante opened the set with an 8-pack.


I have to figure out a way to not work Fridays.

The final score of the 8-ball set was 20-15, Bustamante.




At least I got to watch this day. After getting a sandwich from a nearby Subway, I walked over to the Studio. I was quite early so I plunked down and watched the looping feed of the previous evening’s 8-ball set while I had my all-American lunch, complete with Coke.


What it’s like when no one’s around.

hell of a rec room, isn't it

now go fantasize about playing big action

Your view, if you were playing on TAR.


I hadn’t seen elite-level one pocket in a very long time and I had never seen it as part of a TAR match. In recent years, it seems one pocket is the go-to game for a lot of high-stakes gamblers, partly because it is more easily, and perhaps accurately, handicapped, requires much knowledge of cue ball movement, and games can be as short as a few minutes or as long as a couple of hours, making bets-per-game an attractive option.


it's great when Bustamante plays with glasses perched on his forehead -- makes him look like an absentminded professor


Those reading glasses up there made me suspect Mr. Bustamante might have chosen that corner for his base of operations the day before. After a little bit, people began to trickle in. The popular topic of discussion was how long this match could take. Finally, our players arrived.


too much style in one photo, for sure As always, Mr. Pagulayan arrived in a karaoke whirlwind of stylishness. I cannot think of another professional male pool player who could pull off the ankle-cuffed jeans look. His shirt matched his shoes perfectly.
Mr. Bustamante, no stranger to the bright trappings of pool player style himself (see him wear Awesome Pants en route to his TAR24 victory), opted for preppy casual (instead of World Champion Gangsta) with an argyle printed polo shirt and Lucky Brand jeans.


zippy A closeup of Mr. Pagulayan’s shoes. Because they are cool. Mr. Pagulayan conceded that for all its great looks, Diesel sneakers offered terrible support. But today, he said, he was feeling good because he had put in cushion inserts and expected they would help his game.


HALP! Justin Collett sets the microphone on Mr. Pagulayan’s collar while Mr. Bustamante “assists” in a highly suspect manner.


In comments to the spectators and then again in the pre-game interview, Mr. Pagulayan said his plan was to to play a highly aggressive game. He did not want to keep us all too long and he jokingly promised Mr. Bustamante would hurt so bad after the match his brother in the Philippines would feel the pain. Mr. Bustamante then revealed his strategy: play a highly conservative game. Hilarious!

I do love it when the opponents are friendly, entertaining, and competitive. It makes for the best matches.


5:20 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 1-0, Alex // Alex #Pagulayan wins first game, 8-2
follow me & be entertained


The first game took much less time than your average ballbanger’s game of 8-ball, thanks to Mr. Pagulayan’s full-offense approach. Surveying the battle was the Man, the Legend, the Magician himself, Efren Reyes.

"They're ALL hacks."


Mr. Pagulayan wasn’t kidding on using the balls-out approach to a game more often associated with careful defense and deliberate bunting. Here are the tweets I posted as the match went on.

5:52 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 1-1, even // Francisco wins second game 8-5 // both pocket-scratched unintentionally: Alex twice, Francisco once
follow me & be entertained
5:57 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 2-1, Alex // Alex runs 8 to win third game
follow me & be entertained
6:00 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 3-1, Alex // Alex makes a ball on break, runs out to win fourth game
follow me & be entertained
6:19 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 3-2, Alex // Bustamante wins fifth game, 8-1
follow me & be entertained
6:29 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 4-2, Alex // Alex wins sixth game 8-0, Alex made three-ball bank combination, last ball was bank-carom
follow me & be entertained
6:44 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 4-3, Alex // Francisco wins seventh game 8 to -3, Bustamante ran 9 to win, score was -2 (FB) to -3 (AP) at one point
follow me & be entertained


I noticed (forgive me if I seem dense — I am not a one pocket connoisseur) many of the ball scores were lopsided, 8-0 or 8 to negative. I figured this was due to the aggressive style of play. Instead of the one pocket I am used to seeing in my home room where a player makes a ball, or a couple of balls, and then plays safe, aggressive high-level one pocket players waited for a moment where they could run out the whole game. It was all-in all the time. F#cking awesome.


The perpetually chipper, dapper, and singing Mr. Pagulayan always has a smile.

Hakuna Matata!


There were some games that did require lots of careful moving. That just showed another facet of why the professionals are professionals and the rest of us are glued to our screens watching them play.

7:16 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 5-3, Alex // Alex wins eighth game 8-1 uptable dogfight of a game
follow me & be entertained
7:58 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 5-4, Alex // Francisco wins ninth game 8-6
follow me & be entertained
8:13 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 6-4, Alex // Alex wins tenth game, 8-6
follow me & be entertained


Mr. Pagulayan conceded the eleventh game.

8:36 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 6-5, Alex // Francisco wins, 8 to -2 (Alex conceded at 6 to -2, no further concession allowed), both on two fouls at -2 to -2
follow me & be entertained

After the concession, referee Ken Shuman informed both players concession of games were not allowed. It turned out Mr. Pagulayan did not know Mr. Bustamante needed two balls. He had thought he only needed one, hence the concession. After this game, Mr. Shuman began announcing ball counts to help the players keep track.


8:41 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 7-5, Alex — Alex on the hill // Alex wins twelfth game, 8 to -1, he just ran the fck out
follow me & be entertained
8:44 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 7-6, Alex — Alex on the hill // Francisco wins thirteenth game, 8 to -1, he just ran the fck out
follow me & be entertained
8:58 PM, April 20th
#TAR32 #1P // 8-6, Alex wins the set // Alex wins fourteenth game, 8 to -2
follow me & be entertained


The whole match finished in just under four hours. Taking into account the half-time break, pre-game interview, and restroom breaks, I mark the match as being 3-1/2 hours long. Divide 3-1/2 hours by 14 games and each game, on average, took about 15 minutes to complete.

That is ridiculous and amazing.

I am used to games taking at least twice as long at the pool room I play out of. Hell, some of my 9-ball games last 15 minutes (although I am admittedly not very good). The 4-1/2″ pockets on the Studio table no doubt contributed to the fast tempo. Where I live, almost all one pocket games are played on 4″ or sub-4″ pockets. Regardless, offense-oriented one pocket is most effective if you are a great shotmaker and very precise with your cue ball, meaning it is still not quite accessible to us ball-shanking hacks, big pockets or not.


After the match wrap-up, I had two options: go to an awesome house party with Filipino food and karaoke (that Mr. Reyes and Mr. Bustamante would be attending), or go to a lower-key dinner with Mr. Pagulayan and his crew. I had begun to feel chilly and strangely tired, so I passed on the house party and opted for the quieter dinner.

At the beginning of dinner, I was still cold, even with my many jackets and hot soup. Plus, we were at an awesome teppanyaki-style steakhouse and I was not hungry. Weeeeird. I excused myself from dinner.

yay Vegas ugh I left to take a cab back home (ha, “home” — I practically live in Vegas now). The taxi lines on a Saturday night at a major hotel were just as bad as you think they would be. There were easily more than a hundred people in line. I focused on breathing in and breathing out.
I snapped this picture because it was quintessentially Vegas, in a way.
During the ride, I noticed the driver would “accidentally” miss turns. I told him it would be in his best interest to get me to my destination as quickly as possible rather than attempt to get an extra dollar here and there with his shenanigans. I can be quite forceful when speaking. He took the hint. I should have thrown up in his back seat anyway.

Back at home, I commenced my journey down that black hole known as “food poisoning”. It was pretty bad. And yet, I still thought about pool in my most cold-sweat delirious moments, telling Miss Sunny I had a revelation: Dry heaving is your body firing air barrels.




On the last TAR day, all I could think about was feeling better by 5:00 p.m. so I could catch the 10-ball set. Although I made a valiant attempt to get better, ultimately I failed in spectacular fashion and was relegated to watching the latter parts of the match from a couch.

next best to the real thing

A couple of unlucky rolls and strange unforced errors prevented Mr. Bustamante from making a comeback against an obviously en fuego Mr. Pagulayan. Still, the last racks were quite exciting and the score reasonably close.

9:25 PM, April 21st
#TAR32 #1P // 27-22, Alex // Alex wins 2 of 3 sets to win TAR33
follow me & be entertained


I did hear of Mr. Pagulayan’s excellent play earlier in the match. He ran one four-pack (off Mr. Bustamante’s dry break, and then three B&Rs after) that I saw from the post-match loop and I heard about a six-pack. This, naturally, led me to think (as many of you did, I am sure): is there an Alex vs Shane rematch in the future?! No rivalry in recent memory has ever delivered so well (TAR32 with Ronnie Alcano and Jayson Shaw was pretty good — but they’d have to play at least three times on TAR before I call it a TAR rivalry [psst, someone make it happen]). In the post-game interview, Mr. Collett mentioned to Mr. Pagulayan that he would love for him to play the winner of TAR34 featuring Mr. Reyes and Shane Van Boening. Mr. Pagulayan said he was good for that match.


I will be watching TAR35 in person (I hope).

Until then, I am fashioning a tiny set of brass knuckles and honing a tiny knife with which I shall battle these terrible microbes which have temporarily knocked me down.




The next day, I was still in possession of my insides. I decided not to go seek qualified medical help and got on Greyhound to go home instead, because no more time off could be spared.


not nearly as soothing when you feel like you're gonna hurl every two minutes


It was a pretty sh#tty ride. There were bathroom ventilation and air conditioning problems. Plus, my neighbors smelled aBsOLuTeLy terrible. These factors combined with already nuclear levels of nausea made for a less-than-stellar ride back. The following cat gif accurately sums everything up:



The bright side of things: Out of everyone on this hellhole of a bus, I was the only one to ever have seen TAR matches live. These poor souls would never know the magnificence of that experience. That’s gotta count for something, I guess.




t h a n k s if I were Filipino, these boots would be made for kicking
EMCA | Justin Collett & The Action Report | CueSports International | Mark & Sunny Griffin
first time hello & hello again



TAR34 is already upon you

For reals, y’all! It’s THIS weekend STARTS TOMORROW!

This is a long-awaited match between America’s best player and a freaking living legend. It is an all-around match: race to 20 8-ball, race to 11 one pocket, and race to 27 10-ball.

you know you gonna watch it

I regret I am unable to attend this match to provide you with updates as I am burnt toast right now (gosh that sounds delicious — if only I could eat). But, you can always watch the action yourself by purchasing the Pay-Per-View from:

Remember, each day’s match loops at the end for 24 hours so if you miss any of it, you can catch up later.



more pool for you -- ain't life grand?