keep on trying until you run out of cake


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BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships
Riviera Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV

Retirement is like a long vacation in Las Vegas. The goal is to enjoy it to the fullest, but not so fully that you run out of money.


[1] : Friday, May 14th

Since I arrived early this morning, I slept in. Rather, I tried to sleep in. No matter how comfortable the bed or how dark the room or how much I’ve silenced the alarms, I’ve found that I will get up, without fail, at exact time I am supposed to get up as if I was going to work. I went back to sleep. Unfortunately, I have a built-in snooze feature which woke me up every half-hour for the next couple of hours. I gave up trying to sleep.

After puttering around for a bit, I made my way over to Pool Sharks via a total ripoff $20 cab ride. Never again, dudes. I came to Pool Sharks with the intention of getting some practice in, but an old guy in classic polyester Vegas lounge shirt with an incoherent pattern had already established ownership of the table in the pit. So, I sat down to wait.

And wait.

And waaaait.

In the meantime, I watched some action between David “Viffer” Peat and the guy in the turquoise shirt (believe his name was Terry and he was from Atlanta, but not entirely sure about that).

The game was one pocket and Mr. Viffer was playing with Ronnie “Insert Pithy Observation Here” Wiseman as his partner. I didn’t ask for particulars but it seems that Mr. Wiseman could only shoot what Mr. Viffer told him to shoot. I watched a couple of games, but didn’t register too much of it being that I was tired and hungry. And bored. Boredom is worse than the previous two.

Lounge Shirt was still in the pit.

I ended up talking to Derek “Cargo Pants Are Good For Carrying Cash” Bivens who had been up for over 24 hours at that point. He brought me up to speed on the nonstop high-stakes (to us pool players, anyways) action that had been taking place for the past three days. Mr. Viffer had played, and lost a large variety of money to a small variety of champion pool players. Since I don’t know the exact numbers or people involved, I won’t post what Im not sure of, but believe me, “Viffer” was a household name for most of the week.

The first big match-up that electrified railbirds and their telegraphs everywhere was probably when Mr. Viffer played Shane “South Dakota Kid” Van Boening. The game was 9-ball, race to 13. Mr. Viffer got 5 games on the wire. And the breaks. And ball-in-hand after the break. And the wild 4. And the last 4.

That spot outweighs a baby blue whale. Hell, it outweighs an adult blue whale sundae with an elephant on top. S—, let’s just put Mr. Van Boening on a unicycle while we’re at it.

I’m told three sets were played, each set varied between $10,000 and $15,000. Mr. Van Boening won the first two, but was Vifferized on the last set.

The next blue whale set featured Mr. Viffer against Francisco “Django” Bustamante.

Mr. Bustamante gave Mr. Viffer almost the same weight Mr. Van Boening did — the breaks, ball-in-hand after the break, the wild 4, and the last 4. The only difference was in the game spot for the race. They would be racing to 38 games and Mr. Viffer would get 20 games on the wire. Yes, 20. As in one for every dollar Andrew Jackson is worth.

For this match, I heard Mr. Viffer covered all side bets in addition to the money in the middle which was around $35,000. There was a line for side bets and he was the teller at the window. I have heard estimates on the total amount of money being wagered on this one set ranging from the low $50,000s to as much as $80,000.

Mr. Viffer ended up getting to 38 when Mr. Bustamante was still at 18 or 19 games. Subtracting the games on the wire, the actual score would then be Viffer 18 and Bustamante 18 or 19, which means the spot was not out of line for this set.

Mr. Van Boening’s official comment regarding his and Mr. Bustamante’s lost sets, as posted on his Facebook:

I have been hustled by this unknown player. I didnt loose one dime out of my pocket. I won money from the first 2 nights and still came out of 1k ahead after the worsed hustled experience in my career. I felt bad for bustamante that he loss and nobody never see it coming. Im shocked, I dont even know what to say.

I have a strange, unconventional thought here: if you’re ahead, even after losing, I don’t think that qualifies as being hustled. I think being hustled inherent has to do with losing money. In this case, Mr. Van Boening came out $1,000 ahead in the end and didn’t lose one dime out of his pocket. I don’t think he was hustled. What do you think?

As for Mr. Viffer, he had this to say when asked about why he was playing pool instead of his usual and extremely more lucrative game of poker:

I want to be a pool player. There’s something satisfying about making thirty Filipinos cry.

It ain’t robbery. It’s Viffery.


Lounge Shirt was still in the pit and I was still waaaaiting.

Eventually, Allen Hopkins showed up to play Lounge Shirt some one pocket, and also to clock Mr. Viffer. In fact, MANY players — professionals, road players, champions, B-players, C-players, D-players and more — came to clock Mr. Viffer’s game with the hope of getting a piece of the pie. The Golden Rule was in effect here: the man with the gold makes the rules. Although many, many players could beat Mr. Viffer, it all came down to who he he wanted to play, and he wanted to play the big names. If you were a good player but lacked notoriety, the only other way to entice him into a game would be to bet high enough to pique his interest. Suffice it to say very, very few could bet high enough to take that route so most hopefuls ended up being barstool warmers.

After many hours, Lounge Shirt packed up and I got an hour or two on the table in the pit.


Then, it was off to one of my favorite restaurants, Isla Mexican Kitchen at Treasure Island, with some friends (I know, I’m amazed I have any, too!). In addition to great food, Isla also has a Tequila Bar which features something like 100 different varieties of tequila. Of course, I forgot my ID so I had to wait outside the restaurant in a neutral spot until we could be seated.

They serve their addictive tortilla chips with three different, equally addictive varieties of salsa. If you go, get the guacamole. I easily ate my share and everyone else’s share of this avocado cracktasticness.

Here is a picture of my very non-adventurous dinner choice, chicken enchiladas. Totally yummers.

Other choices which were popular included the tamales and pork carnitas. Overall, everyone agreed the food was quite good, which was a huge relief to me, since I recommended the restaurant. I rarely, rarely, recommend restaurants I haven’t been to a minimum of six times and each visit had better be good. I’d only been to Isla twice before this trip. Anyhoo, thanks to Isla, my reputation as a foodie remained intact. Whew.

Isla Mexican Kitchen
Treasure Island
Reservations suggested.
Call (866) 286-3809 or book online.


[2] : Saturday, May 15th

Last year, I finally won the right to play in the Master’s division after four or five years of knocking on the door.

I won my first match, 7-1, and then promptly lost my next match, 7-0. Afterwards, I had to haul ass to Pool Sharks

…where I had my match vs the internationally famous Borana “QueenB” Andoni of New York.

After a smorgasbord of mildly irritating snafus, I finally ended up at Pool Sharks. I got some warm-up time in, and my match started almost exactly at 12:00 midnight (so, technically, this entry should be under Sunday).

I’m not sure how long the match went but, about seven hours later, I had lost 21-19 and was a quarter-pound lighter. That’s about how much $2,000 weighs.

When you don’t play well enough to win, you lose. That’s all there is to it.


I’ve already requested a rematch for $4,000 to be played in New York, on Ms. Andoni’s home turf. It will be the same game, a race to 21.

As you all know by now, I have no stakehorses and all the money in the middle is always all mine. As a result, I cannot tell you definitively when we will play again, but rest assured, we WILL play again.

The better I play, the higher I like to bet. I’m only ever limited by my bankroll.


The match was streamed by “Fast Lenny”, whom most of you are familiar with. If you want to watch the match (I’m all for masochism), I believe it’s stored at Fast Lenny’s website, On The Rail TV.


[3] : Sunday, May 16th

After a few hours of sleep, it was back to the tournament. I played an excellent (and very pleasant) player from Michigan. I was getting destroyed in this match 6-1 in a race to 7 when an interesting situation came up while I was shooting on the eight-ball.

This diagram is NOT DRAWN TO SCALE (otherwise, those would be ridiculously tight pockets, wouldn’t they?).

Some things to note here: I am shooting the 8-ball. The 8-ball is FROZEN to the cueball (“Q”). My opponent’s 12-ball is NOT frozen to the cueball. My opponent had one other striped ball, the 15, which was quite a ways uptable.

I told my opponent what I intended to do: I intended to masse the 8. It was not likely that I would pocket the 8, but in the course of the masse, I wanted to pocket her 12. She understood what I was going to do. I prepared to shoot, but then had a fateful, sportsmanship-like thought. I said, “Since it’s a bit of a weird shot, should we call a ref?” While my opponent didn’t think we really needed a referee, we both agreed that it might be good to have a knowledgeable third party make the call since it was an unusual — and highly crucial — shot.

So, we got ourselves a referee, an elderly chap.

I told the referee I was shooting the eight-ball which was frozen to the cue ball. He examined the layout of the balls and indicated he was ready to watch the hit. I elevated my cue until it was vertical and hit the shot perfectly. The cueball nudged the eight so it was in front of the pocket, and then came back to hit the twelve and the twelve juuuuuuuuust barely made it to the opposite corner pocket and plopped in. The cueball was now stuck to the bottom rail and my opponent had a tough shot on the fifteen uptable, her remaining ball.

“Wow!” she said. “That was a great shot!” A few people watching clapped politely. Awesome. I rarely use the masse in any way, shape, or form because it’s not a shot I know very well. This was definitely one of a handful of times I sucessfully did it in competition.

“That’s a bad hit,”said the referee as he picked up the cueball.

Stunned, both my opponent and I said at the same time: “What?!”

“Yeah,” said the referee. “That’s a bad hit.”

“How? How is that a bad hit?!” said my opponent.

“Um… she didn’t hit the eight,” said the referee.

“Oh, no. the cueball was FROZEN to the eight,” said my opponent. “There was no way she did not hit the eight, she was frozen to it. She had to contact the eight.”

“Oh,” said the referee. “Well… it was a push shot.”

“No it wasn’t,” I said. “The whole point of me doing a full-elevation masse was not only to avoid a push shot, but also to make the twelve. The main point of my shot was to make her twelve, not make the eight-ball. It’s almost impossible to make the eight-ball. It was a defensive shot, I was not shooting directly into the eight.”

“Well then, you, hit the twelve first. So it’s a foul.”

Here, my opponent and I paused. We were being fed changing reasons as to why I had fouled on a shot that wasn’t — in our eyes — remotely close to a foul. “I WAS NOT frozen to the twelve. I was frozen to the EIGHT. I hit the eight first, and then the cueball came back to hit the twelve!” My opponent confirmed that the twelve was not frozen to the cueball prior to the shot.

“Hmm, well, it’s a foul anyways.”

“I want to know, how it is a foul,” said my opponent. “I want to know, just for myself and for sake of the rest of this tournament, how is that shot a foul?”

“It just… is,” said the referee. “I say it’s a foul and it is. You have ball-in-hand. Please continue play.”

My opponent and I looked at each other. She said apologetically, “I’m really sorry.”

I shrugged, “That’s the way it goes sometimes, blind referees and all.”

My opponent took ball-in-hand, made her last ball and the eight, and I was out of the tournament. I shook her hand and wished her luck.


As I was packing up, the referee walked over, stood dangerously close to me, and gave me a condescending smile. What now, you f—ing freaktard? I composed myself as best as I could and stared back daggers at his smug, leathery face. “You know what you should have done…”

Oh no he didn’t!

Oh yes.

He did.

This is why this blog is titled OMGWTF and not I Love Ponies & Butterflies & Dandelions & World Peace.

“…I shouldn’t have called a referee?” I meant this wholeheartedly, but apparently, Stevie Wonder here thought I was trying to be charming.

He chuckled and fluttered his fingers and hands incoherently, summing his movements up with, “…you should have sent the cueball uptable.”

“That’s a NEGATIVE,” I said as politely as my blood pressure would allow. “I’m not sure if you saw my opponent play, but she’s a hell of a shotmaker. The best choice for me was the shot that I chose. That YOU said was a bad hit. If I chose YOUR shot, I would inevitably sell out. Also, it would have been a foul because I would be shooting AWAY from the eight ball.”

“Oh, well… You could have done this…” he waved his arms to illustrate another shot.

“No, sir.” I said. “By YOUR rules, that would have been a push shot and a foul.”

I didn’t know why I was attempting to be a tolerant person. I had had enough. “Say, do you even PLAY pool? I mean, like, seriously? Like big tournaments and action and stuff?”

“Well, yes,” he said, straightening up and smiling to show a row of uneven fence posts he might have called teeth, “yes I do.” I had to resist the urge to do a high kick with my stilettos. Instead, I imagined tying each self-satisfied fence post to a separate Porsche and then waving a green flag.

“Then you sure fooled the F— outta me.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll play good some day,” he said generously with a smile.“You’ll get there.”

“If all I gotta do is play better than you, it won’t f—ing take much.”


The good news was, the Grandmasters division of eight-ball was still being played. As eight-ball on a small table is my favorite game, I got myself a cup of tea to calm down, and then went to go watch the matches from the best seat in the house: the TAR booth.

Apparently, a lot of people were just as excited as I was to watch top-quality pool. That’s Shane “I Got Hustled By A Fat Man” Van Boening there on the left. That’s a standard audience for one of his matches on the right.

The Action Report (TAR) and CueSports International (CSI) live-streamed feature matches from the Grandmasters for the duration of the event. If you watched some of the latter matches, you may have heard me commentating (if it can be called that) on some of them.

After the Grandmasters matches were concluded for the evening, I was given a pass to the last sessions of the World Pool Masters tournament, also going on at the same time in the Riviera. I got there in time to catch the end of the match for third place between Oliver “The Machine” Ortmann of Germany and Toru Kuribayashi of Japan. Jay “White Gloves” Helfert was the official referee for this event.

Below, you can see the very flashy arena. You can also see the shot clock to the right of the photographs — that’s the screen displaying the large numbers. Each time the clock ran down to ten seconds, a warning honk — VERY comparable to an extremely loud foghorn or truck horn — would blare out. I’m amazed more people didn’t get heart attacks.

I liked the shirt design on the guy on the right so I included it here for kicks. 🙂

The photograph below says it all.

Mr. Kuribayashi defeated Mr. Ortmann, 8-3. As Mr. Ortmann was headed for the door, a persistent fan/spectator walked quickly (practically jogged) next to him and threw a rapid-fire battery of questions and requests at him. I can only imagine his annoyance, but all he replied with was a curt, “Give me ten minutes.” I hope he got them.

Mr. Kuribayashi would go on to play Dennis “Robocop” Orcullo of the Philippines for the title. Mr. Orcullo defeated Mr. Kuribayashi 8-3 and won the top prize of $20,000. Mr. Kuribayashi received $10,000 for second place and Mr. Ortmann and Roberto “Superman” Gomez of the Philippines each got $5,000 for third.


[4] : Monday, May 17th

At this point in my trip, I hadn’t slept very much. I think I averaged out to maybe two hours a day. Of course, my last thought before going to sleep in the wee small hours of this morning was to set an alarm so I could get up early to watch the final day of Grandmasters matches. Cuz I’m sick like that. 😉

After watching my cuemaker win his match in the Men’s Open Singles, I went to watch the rest of the Grandmasters. The finals of the Men’s Grandmasters featured Shane “I Own More Than Blue Shirts” Van Boening from the one-loss side and hotseat occupant Chris “FuglyPants” Melling of England. Since the format of the tournament was true double-elimination, Mr. Van Boening would have to defeat Mr. Melling two sets of alternate-break races to seven.

When elite players play eight-ball, it becomes a game of almost pure offense. The biggest crime is to break dry or scratch on the break. Once a player pockets a ball on the break (and their breaks at this level almost guarantee an open layout), they are out. Since it is alternate break, no player can run packages (racks in a row). That makes breaking dry an even bigger setback than usual because not being able to string racks means making a comeback when you are down many games extremely difficult.

The score stayed close throughout the first set. I predicted that it would come down to who won the first break (via a coin flip). Why? Because whenever a match goes hill-hill in an alternate break format, the final game’s break will go to whomever broke first. And I was correct. At 6-6, it was Mr. Melling’s break and he broke — and ran out.

While I GREATLY enjoyed watching the best players in the world play my favorite game, the only additional thing I could ask for is that the race be longer than seven. At this level, the players play so well that while a race to seven is fine for us mere mortals, a race to nine or eleven would be nice for the later stages and the finals of the tournament, even if the final goes to two sets. I understand, though, that matches can always run long, even between elite players, and scheduling concerns make longer races impossible. Still, I can dream. And selfishly, too!


The Women’s Grandmaster finals came down to Kelly “KwikFire” Fisher of North Carolina and Vivian “Texas Tornado” Villarreal of Texas.

Ms. Fisher had been put on the loser’s side earlier in the tournament by the other Ms. Fisher — Allison “Duchess of Doom” Fisher. (Off topic: Allison Fisher needs a better nickname.) Ms. Villarreal won the hotseat earlier from Ms. Doom by a score of 7-5. On the scenic side of the board, Ms. Doom ran into Ms. KwikFire and Ms. KwikFire got her revenge, 7-2. Ms. Doom got $1,200 for third place.

In the finals, Ms. Fisher would have to defeat Ms, Villarreal two races to seven. She won the first set, 7-4. In an almost mirror image of the Men’s Grandmaster finals, the second set remained close and went to hill-hill. Ms. Villarreal broke and ran the last rack for the $2,600 win. Ms. Fisher’s second place was worth $1,800.


I have to mention something.

During the last set, some troglodyte assclown took a FLASH photograph DIRECTLY in Ms. Villarreal’s face on a crucial shot. Sir Assclown was only about five feet away from the table, having scored a sweet-ass front row seat near the head of the table. A referee came over and told Sir Assclown to turn off the flash on his camera.


In the next game, Sir Assclown DID IT AGAIN. He took another flash photograph right as Ms. Villarreal was down shooting the eight ball. Yes, I am f—ing serious. This time, Ms. Villarreal, a referee, and other highly irritated spectators told Sir Assclown: TURN OFF THE F—ING FLASH.


In the next game, Sir Assclown’s CELL PHONE starts ringing loudly. Yes, I am still f—ing serious. I’m sure you’d all like to know that Sir Assclown had the decency to stand up — AND ANSWER IT. Yep, he just stood there, jabbering away like the important, giant steaming pile of s— that he was, letting the whole world know wassup wit’ his life. Perhaps after noticing the glares of just about everyone present, he scooted off to the side and eventually noticed this thing called a “door” which led to something else called “outside the tournament room” where he finally realized various ringing and flashing crap — and their cameras and phones — belonged.

Deep breath.

End rant.

Here are some happy photographs to dispel the dark clouds of assclownism:

That’s Steve “Cut The Bitch” Lomax on the left, engaged in his favorite Vegas pastime (other than fixing your cues). Justin “I Collect Small Asians” Collett of The Action Report is on the right with the adorable Shu Han “Cherie” Chang on his right and Ms. Chang’s sister on the left. I think Ms. Chang’s sister is asking Mr. Collett when he’s expecting.

With the Grandmasters tournament over, the TAR staff now had to go set up to stream the 2010 U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships which started in a couple of hours. I tagged along by carrying random small items for them. In the process of tagging along, I ran into Mark “Marvelous Mark” Estes of the BCAPL staff who had a nice present for me — an Italian sandwich from Capriotti’s!

Out of everything pictured here, you know who my real hero is.

Just kidding, the real present was a press pass for the 2010 U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships. How did you like that? That meant I was officially a writer now! Of course, it was partly because I was not longer in any capacity as a player at this event — but, I’ll take this consolation prize. Just this once. 😉

After annihilating the above sandwich (but not before much envious praise and admiration was paid to it by others), I declared a general amnesty for all idiots I encountered in the next fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, I did not meet with any so my benevolence went unbestowed.

Benevolence was bestowed upon me, though, by my real job (yeah, blogging for a living is all about two-cent increments — you give ’em out and people toss ’em back at ya). Due to my success in fixing a major SNAFU of someone else’s deoing before I left for Vegas, the powers that be decided I was worthy to have the rest of the week off. I didn’t have to be back at work on Wednesday. Instead, I could spend the rest of the week at this event gathering blog material for YOUR entertainment. Is that guilt-trip working? Didn’t think so. It was worth a try.

Forging ahead…


In my wanderings, I noted terminals set up near the control desk of the tournament room. This year, CSI rolled out its CTS (CueSports Tournament System) for the National 8-Ball Championships. It had already been in use for regional tournaments but this was the first at a national level. From what I’ve been told, this tournament bracket system has been a long time and a lot of money in the making.

It’s freaking awesome.

Here is a breakdown of the system as told to me by CSI.

For players:

  • It gives you more time and eliminates frustration, especially if you’re in a tight running tourney. You don’t have to actually walk over to the paper tournament boards posted by the control desk to check when and where you will be playing next (although I still do this out of nervous habit for every match) which generally keeps you leashed to the immediate vicinity of the Riviera.
  • The kiosks in the area also allow for orderly viewing of a tournament chart (instead of a massive crush of people all straining to read tiny, tiny print — y’all know what I mean).

For spectators/fans:

  • Once you enter player’s name, it automatically searches entire brackets (even if there are multiples used for one event) and pops into correct spot, with the match time and table number.
  • You can also see a snap shot of match results of a player: who they matched up, won and lost to, and even where their opponents finished.

For event promoters/directors:

  • When searching for players’ known ability: every event, finish, and opponents won and lost to are archived for easy search by players’ name.
  • It practically eliminates human error because the system runs the tournaments for you.
  • Players start with a barcoded score sheet. Once the match is over with the win-loss score noted, the scoresheet is returned to the tournament desk. The barcode is scanned and loser’s score is recorded next to his/her name. The program automatically generates the next match in the bracket for both winner and loser and then prints next set of barcoded score sheets.

Everything is updated in real-time (as fast as updating can allow) and accessible via the intarwebs. Many cell phones nowadays have internet access. This means that you can now look up, on your phone (or computer), when and what table you will be playing on next. Even more fantabulous is the following:

We also have text message and email notification service for match time and schedule in final testing stage of development. Players will provide their cell phone number (messaging fees as charged by your service provide may apply) or email address. It is tied into CTS and was tested at the U.S. Bar Table Champions this year. 

The message will inform you of your upcoming match time and table number:

“Congratulations, Peter Pan. You defeated Captain Hook and your next match is 2:30 pm on table #34.”

It’s a tournament player/results junkie/stalker’s dream. Oh, and a pool blogger’s dream, too — since now I can directly link you, gentle reader, to the tournaments of which I write. As long as the tournaments use CTS, of course. 😉

The first evening’s matches of the U.S. Open 10-Ball were not streamed as TAR and their partners for this event, Run Out Media, did not want to disturb matches in progress with the clankity-clank of setting up cameras and cranes and computers and bottles of Mountain Dew.

On the left is a picture of the TV table before the cameras were set up. On the right is a very famous hat.


After a round of late matches, Sunny “Kimchi!” Griffin and I ran into the English contingent of Chris “Haha I Got To Break On The Hill” Melling, Darren “Daz” Appleton, some dude named Lee and the two gentlemen below, Karl “The Bomb” Boyes (left) and Neil “The Cleveland Kid” Cummins (right). I’d like to take this moment to note that the nicknames of the latter two mentioned are the ones listed on the Matchroom Pool website and not a product of my weak wit.

These two have an extremely important question they would like my blog readers to answer:


  • Karl “The Bomb” Boyes

  • Neil “The Cleveland Kid” Cummins

After promising to post the above poll, I went back to watch what was left of the last round of matches.

Matches I Heard Everyone Talking About

  • Brendan Crockett d. Jasmin Ouschan, 9-6
    Southern California’s proud of you, son.
  • Liz Ford d. James Baraks, 9-6
  • Rodney Morris d. Jayme Goodwin, 9-8
    Hill-hill thriller that hinged on whether or not Mr. Goodwin took a carom on the 10. He didn’t.

I took the below photograph upon re-entering the playing arena. It is one of my favorites, even though the quality admittedly sucks. I have to get a camera that takes better photographs in low light.

I shall call this: “Practice, Even When No One Cares Except You”.


…and after practice, one shall be allowed to party. Just a little bit.

Here is Roberto “Super Lemon” Gomez posing like a model.

That’s a lemon he’s eating in the last photograph.

When he joined the little party I was at, Mr. Gomez had been drinking beer. We were drinking liquor. He said he didn’t usually drink liquor, but he was willing to give it a try if the drink was “tasty”. We had Sonny the bartender make a round of lemondrops. (Sonny is a cranky old dude who will give you s— all the time but you’ll totally take it because he mixes great drinks. And under all that he’s got a heart of gold. Or dollars. Whatever.)

Would you like to see how Superman shoots his shots? Check it out…



[5] : Tuesday, May 18th

I’ll tell you right now that there is no more coverage of barbox anything from this point forward. That’s what happens when I get a pass that would normally cost $180.

Here is a picture of the pockets on the TV table for all you equipment nuts. It’s a Diamond Smart Table covered in Simonis 860 in Tour Blue. The balls are Super Aramith Pro balls and the measle cueball was used.

All players in the U.S. Open 10-Ball had headshots (mugshots?) taken for profiles for CTS. That’s Dennis “Hatchetman” Hatch on the left with Ashi “Hi Stephanie!” Fachler, the official CSI photographer for the event. On the right is Brendan “I’m Still In High School” Crockett in his school gym shorts. Your eyes do not deceive you. He wrote his name upside down by accident. He was probably thinking about pool when he did it.

Matches I Heard Everyone Talking About

  • Thomas Engert d. Chieh Yu Chou, 9-8
    Mr. Engert was down 8-6 and came back to win, although Chou put a FORMIDABLE amount of heat on him.
  • Roberto Gomez d. Efren Reyes, 9-6
    Mr. Gomez hammed it up for the crowd, never looked concerned at all.
  • Oscar Dominguez d. Jeremy Jones, 9-8
    Match finished at 1:00 AM, last three balls were tough, Mr. Dominguez just fired them in.


In addition to a sandwich, a press pass, various adult beverages and childish foods, I also received a personalized CueShark Player’s Ultimate Pocket accessory! I have to say, I am amazed at how lightweight it is being that it’s made from a solid piece of metal. Of course, that metal is aircraft-grade aluminum so that would account for its unbearable lightness of being. I bet it could still hurt if I chucked it at someone — but I like it too much to use it as a weapon of mass amusement.

The shaper is made of a silicone-carbine abrasive mixed with aerospace epoxy and guaranteed to never wear out.

This was a totally spiffy surprise! Thanks, CueShark and trust me, I will put it to good — and its intended — use. 🙂

If y’all would like to see their stuff, visit them at:


[6] : Wednesday, May 19th

Wake up. Watch professional pool. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Here’s the view of the TV table from the TAR booth. They had an overhead camera in addition to the cameras and cameramen of Run Out Media. The additional cameras really made for a great production, as those of you who watched on the stream must have noticed. It’s really nice to be able to see the players’ expressions, zoom in on a tricky shot, and see the layout of the table, all within a minute. That’s a testament to the skills of the camera guys, some of who didn’t play pool but caught on quickly to what you wanted to see.

“Hello, my name is…”

Here’s a random photograph for you. This is what the penthouse of the Riviera looks like, with high ceilings, balconies, and… doorbells. The decor is very 80s, and much nicer than the rest of the plebian hotel rooms. Yep, that’s how the other half lives…

This guy has more access to great events than I do… Annoying…

After watching professionals split the wickets on the pockets all day — and I mean ALL DAY — I was on my way out for some food and caught a little bit of the action on the action tables. That’s Timmy “Toolshed” Heath playing Some Dude In A Blue-Striped Shirt one-handed full-rack banks on a bar table.

And this is dinner…



[7] : Thursday, May 20th

One of today’s featured match-ups was Johnny “The Scorpion” Archer and Efren “The Magician” Reyes on the one-loss side at 3:00 PM. Problem? Mr. Reyes wasn’t at his table — the TV table — at go-time. The tournament rules for an absentee player went like this:

  • 1 game penalty if you are not present at the lag
  • 1 game penalty for every 5 minutes you are late, up to — but not including — the 15 minute mark
  • At the 15-minute mark, you have officially forfeited your match

These are two of the greatest players of recent history and it would be highly unusual for either of them to forfeit unless it was under extremely serious circumstances.

Mr. Reyes arrived at 3:07 PM. The match began and Mr. Reyes was already down 0-3, effectively spotting Mr. Archer three games on the wire to nine. Ouch. I watched until the score was 7-0 in favor of Mr. Archer before leaving.

Normally, I’d watch a match between two players of this caliber until the bitter, grass-grown, paint-dried end — but even this match was seriously BLAH. I was still a little tired, and most definitely hungry…

…so you can hardly blame me for ditching the Magical Scorpion match for fantastic pho…

I heard Mr. Reyes made a comeback of sorts as the final score was 9-5, Mr. Archer.

I went back, took a nap and then woke up to go eat some more. 🙂 Sunny “More Kimchi!” Griffin, Thorsten “Thor Wields A Mighty Toast” Hohmann, Yu Ram “Little Lightning” Cha and her sister Bo Ram Cha as well as their friends were present for the eating of many tasty Korean dishes at Kimchi, a restaurant I pretty much live at during these Vegas events. Also in the mix was Dave “The Ginger Wizard” Pearson, pictured below.

Mr. Pearson is a speed-pool champion and holder of several Guinness World Records relating to billiards. What I found interesting was that he had a very specific workout routine he did to get ready for his speed-pool events. It’s a strict schedule of particular workouts that is based around the date of upcoming events. I know staying fit is always a good thing and helps your pool game if only to keep you healthy, but this is the first time I’ve heard of working out that intensely specifically for one’s pool game. Then again, speed-pool is not your ordinary game of billiards so it does make sense.

In any case, he had a really nice car and all four Asian girls present fit in the back seats. Mr. Hohmann had a 10:00 PM match so it was back to the Riviera for everyone.

Matches I Heard Everyone Talking About

  • Imran Majid d. Liz Ford, 9-7
    Yet another fantastically contested close match. Lots of them at this tournament.
  • Johnny Archer d. Efren Reyes, 9-5
    Talked about for obvious reasons…
  • Melissa Little d. Karl Boyes, 9-8


Also scheduled for the evening was the Players’ Party. After sufficiently dolling myself up (read: put on clean clothes that didn’t smell like bacon), it was off to the Blush club at the Wynn. Of course, this display window on the casino floor caught my eye — and the eyes of many, many small fashionable Asian girls.

Blush Boutique Nightclub at the Wynn is an upscale kinda gin joint with 300 color-changing lanterns on the ceiling and an outdoor patio area. What I really loved were the glass doors which had faceted chunks of glass inlaid into glass. Very, very cool.

There actually was a “list” and for once in my life, I could say, “yes, I’m on the list”. Aww yeah. This blog’s mission has been accomplished — it got me into a club free of charge AND a free glass of champagne.

Here we have (left to right) the stylish contingent of Vagabond, Sunny “I’m So Asian” Griffin, Lee Something-Or-Other, Neil “Keeping My Eyes Open” Cummins, Chris “FuglyPants” Melling (those are the fuglypants themselves, wish I had a better photograph), A British Person, and Karl “Buttons” Boyes.

While I was standing around trying not to look awkward, a petite Asian girl with blonde hair wearing a bikini came up to me and asked, “Are you in the competition?”

“Yes,” I said. “Well, I was. I got knocked out a couple of days ago. And before that I totally dogged off a $2,000 set. But let me tell you about this one blind-ass referee and this ridiculously stupid call he made…” As I rambled on, the girl’s eyes betrayed a sort of polite confusion. Finally, Ms. Sunny elbowed me in the ribs.

“That’s not what she’s talking about.”

“About what?”

“She’s asking you if you’re in the bikini contest. They’re having a bikini contest.”

“Oh. What?” Blondie smiled enthusiastically.

“Yeah, she’s not asking you about the pool competition.”

“Oh. Oooooh. Heh. Well, then, no. Sorry about that.”

Blondie shrugged and clicked away in her high heels.


Below on the left, Michael Neumann is being paid — and paid well — to dance by an unknown lady while Oliver “Hippie Shirt” Ortmann looks on and tries to figure out how he might get some of this easy action. On the right are the finalists of the bikini contest. Apparently, the winner would get to be the ring girl for an upcoming UFC fight.

…and the party didn’t stop until late into the early morning.


[8] : Friday, May 21st

By now, the U.S. Open 10-Ball was down to its final 32 players out of an initial field of 128. There had been many great performances by the men, women… and children (hehehe) entered in this event. Also, I had yet to get a hangover. Amazing.

This is the world-famous Billy “Awesome Shirts” Incardona of road-playing, tournament-handicapping, perpetual-gambling fame. He was here at the event along with Scott “Freezer” Frost to provide expert commentary for the broadcast matches.

I didn’t wander about too much today because I had the honor of commentating on one of the broadcast matches with Dan “Measle Ball Is A Disease That Must Be Stopped!” Wallace and two later matches with Mr. Incardona.

Matches I Heard Everyone Talking About (& That I Was Talking About, Too — Cuz I Got To Play Commentator!)

  • Dennis Hatch d. Po Cheng Kuo, 9-7
    Mr. Hatch had stomach trouble with some seafood he ate but it wasn’t enough to stop him from winning.
  • Mika Immonen d. Roberto Gomez, 9-8
    EXCELLENT match. Seriously one of the best of this tournament. It seesawed back and forth, ultimately coming down to the final 10-ball itself, a long, straight-ish 10-ball — that Mr. Gomez rattled so hard the ball went across the table and nearly banked back into the intended pocket, but didn’t. Post-game interview by Andrew “Big Tony” Cleary, who had famously beaten Mr. Immonen in a push-up contest. No, really. He did.
  • Shane Van Boening d. Roberto Gomez, 9-8
    Another hill-hill back-and-forth heartbreaker right after his previous one. Let me buy you a shot, Superman.

A nifty little gizmo made its way to the tournament floor for a lot of these matches. Today’s smartphones are so smart I can’t wait until they start thinking for me. Paul Nettle has developed an “app” for the iPhone and other smartphones that measures the speed of the break using two main sounds: the sound of the cue striking the cueball and the sound of the cueball striking the rack. You also indicate where the breaker placed his cueball prior to breaking as that affects the speed because the cueball may travel a further or lesser distance.

It’s very, very cool. I had a fun time predicting the speed of players’ breaks while doing commentary with Mr. Incardona. As one of the best features of my middling-level pool game is my break, I’m going to forgo drinking Coke for a week and get it myself. It’s $5.99 for the iPhone from the Apple App Store (listed as “Break Speed”) and you may purchase versions for other smartphones from the website.

After talking nonstop for over four hours (a skill that comes naturally to women, so I hear), I took a break and wandered about the tournament floor. Here are views of the other sections of the tournament room. The arrangement of the tables in the tournament room were a bit odd and I have word from Mark “Productive Insomniac” Griffin that the layout will be different next year. This year they were somewhat limited in what they could do being as they followed directly after the World Pool Masters had ended.

I then had the pleasure of meeting Lou Figueroa from the infamous AZ Billiards Forums who bought me a much needed drink. I didn’t think I wanted one at first — but then thought better of it as I remembered the past few days. 🙂

In addition to Mr. Figueroa, I met cyrex of Moaalii Leathers. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Rex makes cue cases. Not just any old kind of case with any old leather tooling — the kind of the case that could give my stingray Jack Justis a swim for its hide and money.


A close-up of the worked leather. I’m told the leather must be wet down and laboriously worked by hand in order to achieve such stunning dimensional results. The color is also applied by hand.

To see more of Mr. Rex’s amazing leatherwork, check out these photographs at his online album. My pictures, taken in the low light of the tournament room ABSOLUTELY do not show the jaw-dropping effect of his work. Seriously, check out the album.

If you are interested in getting a case from him drop him a line.

As I was oohing and aahing over the fantastic craftmanship of Mr. Rex’s leather case, I got a text message from Stevie “The Blade” Moore. He was having some fantastic craftsmanship done on him as well.

Now he’s Stevie “The Braid” Moore (as coined by Jason “The Canadian” Klatt).

[9] : Saturday, May 22nd

Congratulations, we all made it to the final day of the U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships as well as the final day of the gigantor hoedown known as the BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships. On the final day, just eight players out of the original 128 are still alive and only some of them are kicking.

Matches I Heard Everyone Talking About

  • Lo Hi Wen d. Lee Van Corteza, 9-6, for the hotseat
    Lo Hi Wen is considered an unknown player here in the U.S. — but he’s sure as heck known now. Mr. Corteza just came off winning the Hard Times Mezz 10-Ball Open two weeks ago and is in fine form.
  • Francisco Bustamante -vs- Everyone
    That’s a man on a mission. He’s had a long road through the losers’ side and he kicked off Morris (5) and Immonen (1) today.
  • Shane Van Boening d. Francisco Bustamante, 9-6
    What happens when a bulldozer runs into another bulldozer? The bulldozer who makes it to the hill first, breaks in four balls and runs out wins.
  • Lee Van Corteza d. Shane Van Boening, 9-8, to go to the finals
    Mr. Van Boening held the lead for most of the match. Mr. Corteza came back from being down 8-5 to win. What’d I tell you about awesome hill-hill matches everywhere?! If you didn’t watch these matches, you totally missed out.


Over the course of the event, online viewership held steady at 1,200 to 1,400, increasing to more than 1,600 by the last two days of the event.

And… here we are! At the finals. Finally. We have Lo Hi “Omaha” Wen (so dubbed because people mistakenly started calling him Hi-Lo which then led to references to Omaha Hi-Lo, a variant of poker) and Lee “The Slayer” Corteza.

For the finals, it had been announced that there would be no time penalties on the match. For this tournament, if the two players had not played a certain number of games by a certain time, one game would be added to each player’s score. This approach ensured that the matches would move along, but did away with shot clocks which usually require a person to sit there with a stopwatch. Shot clocks have been the accepted method to speed up play for quite a while now and this approach was considered novel. There have been mixed opinions about it. What is your opinion about it?

Moving on…

The match started at about 8:15 PM. It soon became apparent that the match could potentially last a very long time. I don’t feel both players were excessively slow. I feel that, under similar circumstances (playing a race to 13 for the $7,500 difference in prize money), we might all play a little more methodically. I know that when I am in a match, even if I play slow to those watching, I personally don’t feel I am playing slow at all. It’s all about perspective.

Regardless, the match did drag quite a bit at the beginning. On the left we have Billy “Stripes” Incardona and Scott “Stripes” Frost at the beginning of the match. They look hale and hearty. On the right, they are recuperating during a break midway through the match. Mr. Incardona’s eyes have glazed over and Mr. Frost is in a coma.

I had a spiffy time watching the match and interacting with the livestream chatroom. This match by far had the highest viewership all week, ranging from 1,700 to 1,900.

When the score was something like 6-3, the tournament director went up to the players and told them to speed it up a bit. The change of pace seemed to suit Mr. Wen who promptly ran three racks to catch up to Mr. Corteza. Neither player held more than a two-game lead for the rest of match until it went hill-hill (of course). Mr. Corteza won the final game three hours and fifteen minutes after the start of the match. For his troubles, he won $20,000 and a big metal cup. Mr. Wen clocked in at $12,500 for second place.

Also, viewership for TAR’s livestream reached an all-time high of 2,046 (or something close to that). Congrats!


Although the professional event had ended, the eight-ball teams events were still going on. All the same, breakdown of the tables had begun, first in the secondary tournament room. With the overhead lights on and the table lights gone, the effect is not so different from turning on the lights in a theater when the show’s over.

Mr. Griffin… still working in the wee small hours…

I was scheduled to leave at around 9:00 in the morning. It was now, after some munchies, around 2:00 AM and I still had to pack. The choice was clear: stay up and sleep on the bus.

It’s not too hard to stay awake in Vegas.

[10] : Sunday, May 23rd

I plunked myself onto a barstool and put my amusement factor to good use. Thank you everyone who bought me a beer. Mmm Newcastle!

At one point, there was a bit of a fuss to my right. It seems that someone had dropped a box of beer. Here is what a witness emailed to me regarding the incident afterwards and now I shall post for you:

When a group of British people loudly break and splatter a six pack they smuggled into a bar all over an entire corner of said bar, and then move to another corner of the bar as if it didn’t happen, is this:

a.)    Displaying a British tendency to colonize, break treaties, and abandon with no regard.
b.)    Displaying an acquired American tendency to invade an area and disregard indigenous rules and traditions set time and generations to their own betterment.

c.)    Displaying a strong pool player’s mentality by having a short memory and blocking out mental mistakes.

Feel free to answer all questions from this post in the comments section.

Chris “100-93” Bartram stopped by at the bar after he’d just finished a practice session. He had a challenge match (TAR 18) with Darren Appleton scheduled to start in less than 48 hours. I asked him how did it go. He said he played about forty good practice games with one guy — at $20 a pop. He came out $1,000 ahead overall after his practice session and was going to donate to the Spearmint Rhino.

I wandered around the gaming floor and saw a lot of familiar faces at the casino tables. Sometimes multiple champions were parked at the same one. My favorite had to be Efren Reyes, Robert Pole, Sarah Rousey, and Jason Klatt all at the same pai gow table. When you think of it, any other time you see a tall slouched over Filipino guy with messy hair, a New York dude the same shape and shade as a daikon, a petite strawberry blond, and a tall Canadian who barely talks (also with messy hair) all at the same table — you’d never think they had anything in common, really, besides pai gow.

Finally, Andrew “Plane Ticket” Cleary dropped enough green for the casino to comp him and a few other people (myself included) breakfast at reliable old Kady’s.

This doesn’t look appetizing but I assure you, after a long night of pool and a long morning of drinking, it’s freaking gourmet.

After breakfast, I packed up ten days’ worth of random crap that I had packed (and I did overpack, of course) and was soon on my way to the Greyhound station. I was on the bus at 9:00 AM and before it had even hit the freeway, I was playing lights out — in my dreams.

We stopped at Barstow. I woke up, took this picture and went back to sleep.

About an hour after Barstow, I woke up again, took a picture of the desert in all its springtime glory and went back to sleep.

I arrived back in Los Angeles at a decent time, about 3:15 PM. I got on a city bus, transferred to another city bus, walked a bit, and then I was home. I had the last Coke in the fridge (I always keep one soda in the fridge for when I get back from trips) and then went to sleep because I had work the next day.

And, “that’s all she wrote,” folks!

t h a n k s

EMCA | LWCA | DLNY | SGNV | Eric Crisp of Sugartree Cues | CueShark | John Kutcher & the Pool Sharks staff | Mark Griffin & the BCAPL staff | The Action Report & Run Out Media | PoolDawg | Spot Clothing

nice seeing/meeting
in no particular order

Buddha & Monkey | Holly (congrats on staying sane) | Mark Estes (thanks for that awesome sandwich) | Ashi Fachler (find his billiard photography here) | Nicole (Miss Redemption herself) | Stef & James | lfigueroa (thanks for the drink) | DogsPlayingPool (“Los Angeles has higher standards.”) | cyrex (fabulous cue cases, visit his photo gallery) | Steve Lomax | Joe Blackburn (and his 19-year-old grandson who I thought was 12) | mandalamps 🙂 | akaTrigger (her blog) | Hell on Heelz 😉 | DerekDisco (that was weird pizza, but at least it was edible) | ShadyKaty | Vagabond (still as spiffy as ever) | SpiderWebComm | Fast Lenny of On The Rail TV | Spot Clothing crew of Andrew “That’s 22, Bitch” Cleary, Austin “Redeye” Tripp, Raphael Debreo, and Brooklyn Irish | Run Out Media crew of Nathan DuMoulin, Eric Shepherd, Dave, and One More Person (I think) | Mr. Wallace | Mary Rakin | Mike Mitchell | wincardona (you never age and your shirts get brighter every year) | E1 & Suzy (“Tequila!”) | the whole Mezz crew and everyone I ran into at their booth | Amy Chen (her site) & Po Lin (stop sleeping in class) | Andy of LA (blog) | Rafael Martinez | John Schmidt | Stevie Moore (website and blog) | Toasti Hohmann (website and blog) | Ming Ng (always fun times) | Ga Young Kim (thanks for the beer) | Shu Han Chang (“jia you!”) | Oliver Ortmann (website) | Michael Neumann | the crew from England | David Luddy (there you go) | & everybody else I might have missed (email me if you feel left out)

related reading


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