Another week another ten-ball tournament… This time, it was closer to home and I didn’t have to take Greyhound’s overnight service.


2nd Annual Hard Times 10-Ball Open
Hard Times Billiards • Bellflower, CA

Last year, Mezz sponsored this event while The Action Report provided the streaming. This year, the event was independently produced by Hard Times Bellflower and the streaming was provided by Andy “AndyofLA” Chen. The field was lighter this year than last year, most likely due to other major tournaments being scheduled the same weekend. The quality of the field more than made up for the smaller number.

The tournament room freshly opened for player practice in the morning, a.k.a. Heaven.


I am now going to shamelessly add filler to this blog post by listing all the players, along with flippant and frivolous commentary (if I have any).

  Abe Lim   dude behind the Laser Rack and Slug-Doctor Tight Rack System
  Alex Pagulayan   wears big hair and small shirts
  Amar Kang   Hustlin clothing spokesmodel, plays great
  Arturo Rivera   looks like Moses, plays with Biblical slowness
  Bill Dunsmore   hello, I played you before, a long, long time ago (three years?) in a galaxy far, far away (Arizona)
  Brandon Shuff   wears the fauxhawk well
  Brittany Bryant   WPBA professional, had a birthday over the weekend
  Butch Barba   dude I dropped the f-bombs on during last year’s stream — he still gets my name wrong after a decade
  Chris Bartram   Nautica clothing spokesmodel, plays great
  Chris Wedekind   short-sleeve, plaid, button down shirts — forever
  Corey Harper   C³ Sports Marketing
  Curtis Johnson   refined fellow with a dry wit
  Damian Alishan   vampire
  Dave Hemmah   house pro of Hard Times Billiards
  Deo Alpajora   “Day-O” like Harry Belafonte, not “Dee-O” like Black Sabbath
  Eddie Cohen   seriously serious this hog is famously famous
  Efren Reyes   like I need to write anything about THIS guy
  Ernesto Dominguez   stop making us all feel lazy with your 20-hour days and 800-pound slates
  Greg Harada   bye bye skinny jeans
  James Burt   he wore a shirt almost identical to Damian Alishan’s one day
  Jeff Carter   was that a linen suit on Sunday?
  Jenny Lee   “Mother’s Day? He gave me a bear, some flowers — and drove me to this tournament.”
  Jesse Engel   the next Shane Van Boening?
  Joey Chin   blond Asian with a big break
  Jonathan Demet   “Johnny D” beat “Efren R” on the winner’s side
  Jose Garcia   this name is incognito to all but those who know him
  Jose Parica   dude has looked exactly the same for the past 10 years
  Jun Almoite   “Vain May Hater” [anagram] 😉
  Keith Durgin   hello, nice to meet you
  Kenichi Uchigaki   gen’ki desu
  Kevin May   has an accent
  Larry Bohn   Hard Times regular
  Lorry Deleon   Hard Times regular
  Louis Ulrich   grrr 🙂
  Mark Tiu    
  Mark Whitehead   grrr (from last week) 🙂
  Mark Wronski    
  Masashi Uemura    
  Melinda Huang   C-player
  Mike Davis   only player to see eye to eye with Corey Harper, literally
  Mike Dechaine   “Two hot chicks told me I had to buy these shoes.” (So he did, of course.)
  Mitch Ellerman   winner of the Seminole Pro Tour in Mountain View, champion of one-liners
  “Nestor”   such a Hard Times regular he doesn’t need to use a last name, he’s reached “Cher” status
  Nick Spano   still buttons the top button of his polo shirt — keeps him looking young 🙂
  Oscar Dominguez   nice to know your dad’s work ethic guilt trips you as well
  Phil Burns   1
  Phong Ha   hello, met you before
  Rafael Martinez   yup, he’s still alive
  Ramin Bakhtiari   grrr 🙂
  Ramon Mistica   someone described his voice as “Filipino Joe Pesci” — totally SPOT ON
  Robert Laurie   local tournament promoter
  Rodney Morris   got the George Clooney distinguished grey hair going on — very nice
  Sal Butera   Son of Lou “Machine Gun” Butera
  Santos Sambajon   now sporting the backwards baseball cap regularly
  Scott Daucett    
  Scott Frost   Tim Curry in gangsta form
  Scott White   looks like he could be Louis’ brother
  Stan Tourangeau   the Man with the Hair from the Country Up There
  Steve Chaplin   Virtual Pool creator
  Steve Leistikow   tournament director
  Terrence Lee    
  “Twig”   such a Hard Times regular he doesn’t need to use a last name OR his real name, he’s reached “The Rock” status
  Tyler Van Wulven   almost got him into a bad game
  Wei Ni   “Way Knee” not “Weenie” or “Way Nigh”

And now, back to the seriously serious business of the tournament.


Tournament room at the height of its sweaty railbird glory.

There were a respectable amount of spectators through the event. I had the best seat in the house, for which I am very grateful, as it allowed me to watch matches up close and occasionally I had the benefit of an elite player providing commentary on the match.

Efren “The Magician” Reyes was definitely a favorite to win this tournament (is he ever not a favorite?). He spent a good amount of his time playing chess (for money, of course) with challengers and from what I hear, he didn’t do too bad.

hee hee hee!
“My God, they just LOVE giving me money!”

On the last day, I arrived early and ran into Mr. Reyes stretched out in the manager’s spectator chair. He waved hello and went right back to sleep.

this is just an awesome pic scorekeeper, not a bomb
Efren “The Manager” Reyes

For the final day of the tournament, official tournament referee and all-around legend (and fabulous match commentator), Frank “The Barber” Almanza brought in a scorekeeper he had constructed. You can change the score using a remote control. His first version of this scorekeeper was made for TAR XVI: John Morra vs Oscar Dominguez back in 2009. This iteration is sleeker, sexier, and comes in an aluminum case, which, depending on your imagination, either looks like the suitcases on Deal or No Deal or a bomb.


It was inevitable that in this tournament, with its concentrated amounts of elite players, we should have clashes of titans. As they fell one by one, some of them found action in other areas while the tournament room was still being used for the surviving players.

In particular, three-cushion billiards was very fashionable.

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3C is the new 9B
I think Amar Kang looks very distinguished here. I want to put a bowtie on him.

My ultimate goal is to shove everyone over to Twitter so I don't have to blog anymore!

Just kidding!

The current owner of Hard Times is a three-cushion enthusiast. After he bought the room from the previous owners, he brought in additional billiard tables.

At one point, there were more people watching the three-cushion tables than in the tournament room. A possible reason? Well, you could watch the three-cushion action (with the likes of wagering professionals Scott Frost, Brandon Shuff, Ernesto and Oscar Dominguez, Jesse Engel, Amar Kang, Mike Dechaine, Rodney Morris, and Rafael Martinez) for free. That’s more than a half-dozen high-caliber players in one place. Meanwhile, the tournament was winding down and so, you might only catch two or four professionals at a time in the tournament room.


The format of the tournament was ten-ball, races to nine, winner breaks. Early players of note included Chris “Smooth Criminal” Bartram forging a comeback win against Mike “Iron Mike” Davis and racking up a 9-4 win over Rodney “The Rocket” Morris. But, the pixie to beat was Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan. He started off the tournament well and as it progressed, he played better. This may or may not be due to the fact that Hard Times does not serve alcohol.

Kenichi Uchigaki, who is relatively unknown here but an established professional back in Japan, was the most buzzed-about player, taking down well-known players (Sal Butera, Santos Sambajon, Jose Parica) on his way to the hotseat match against Pagulayan.

Kenichi Uchigaki
Kenichi Uchigaki

In the hotseat match, Pagulayan defeated Uchigaki 9-6. On the left side of the bracket, Uchigaki then booted Parica out for a rematch with the Killer Pixie.

Killer Pixie
Alex Pagulayan & hairdo.

The finals were just GREAT. It was everything a final should be (to me, as a spectator who is not in contention for titles, money, or heart attacks) with close scores in the beginning, surges by both players, mistakes, recoveries, fantastically creative shots, amazingly mundane bricks, and a final rack that might have outdone the entire rollercoaster ride of a match.

If you want to watch it, I’ve included a link to it at the end of this post.


I’m always fascinated by how professionals break, so I’ve taken some videos of both Pagulayan and Uchigaki breaking. Uchigaki had three break and runs in the finals, Pagulayan had none.

Alex Pagulayan Kenichi Uchigaki



concerning forfeits

There were two notable forfeits in this tournament.

Ernesto Dominguez vs Oscar Dominguez
Winner’s side.
Ernesto forfeited in favor of his son going forward.

Santos Sambajon vs Efren Reyes
One-loss side.
Santos forfeited in favor of going to watch the Pacquiao-Mosley fight with Efren.

Originally, I was told Santos and Efren were postponing their Saturday night elimination match so they could watch the Pacquiao-Mosley fight. There was some minor uproar over this as the other three matches on the elimination side for the evening had to stay to play. It reeked of favoritism. After a while, I was given word that Santos forfeited the match to Efren instead.

Discuss your thoughts (if any) on these forfeits in the comments section.



This was a great event. Personally, I loved playing this tournament. I went 1-2, which was better than last year’s 0-2, so I’m — content — with my finish. There were no shenanigans, probably because I knew my opponents, more or less, and the one opponent I didn’t know was very nice.

Life is good for a girl when pool is pool and nothing else.


tournament results & payout

1st Alex Pagulayan $3,000
2nd Kenichi Uchigaki $1,800
3rd Jose Parica $1,300
4th Efren Reyes $900
5th Louis Ulrich $700
  Chris Bartram  
7th Rodney Morris $500
  Jesse Engel  
9th Jonathan Demet $300
  Oscar Dominguez  
  Santos Sambajon  
  Dave Hemmah  
13th James Burt $200
  Greg Harada  
  Brandon Shuff  
  Mike Dechaine  



t h a n k s

EMCA | FWCCA | Eddie Arreguin & Hard Times Billiards | tournament directors Steve Leistikow & Marie Lim | live stream peeps Andy Chen & Daniel Busch


nice seeing/meeting
in no particular order

Jay “No More Toupee” Helfert (he’s starting on a second book) & Brooklyn Butch | John Bertone of Kamui (thank you for the chalk, I shall defend it with my life) | poolist | the lil green cho | & congratulations to Alex Pagulayan and Kenichi Uchigaki for a helluva tournament

if I missed you in this list, I apologize — when I have ceviche in front of me and no sleep from watching too much world-class pool, my memory occasionally falters (email me if you feel left out and I’ll add you to this list)




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