donuts diamonds & dumb luck


winning number was 10

Thank you to all who participated in my raffle for the “Keep Calm and Slop it Three Rails” 9-ball mug.

just like the love boat...'s shiny and new

The proceeds allowed me to go up the I-5 to play in the Chuck Markulis Memorial Tournament, the summary of which is below for your reading pleasure.

Thank you so much, dudes and dudettes!



2012 Chuck Markulis Memorial Tournament
Hard Times Billiards • Sacramento, CA

Southern California has the Jay Swanson Memorial (2012 summary) and Northern California has the Chuck Markulis Memorial. They’re both big tournaments, each able to accomodate up to 192 players in nine-ball (the Markulis has a one-pocket division), and the perfect reason for roadtrips.


My initial plan was to go Greyhound. I ended up working later than I planned or wanted to but I did not cut out early because I have learned the following:

full-time job > pool tournament

Although I flew out the door with enough time to make it to the bus station, I didn’t count on 1). traffic being as bad as it was and 2). an asshole bus driver who went past the stop I needed to transfer to the next bus. This bus driver said the stop I wanted was no longer on their route. When I said there was no sign declaring the change at the stop and the other passengers asked why didn’t he announce that stop was no longer in service, he said it wasn’t his problem. Nice. Then, of course, due to liability issues, he wouldn’t let us off until the next stop. The next stop was two blocks away, but in that traffic, it took 30 minutes.


By the time I could transfer to the next bus, I knew I would miss the Greyhound.

There was one person I knew who might not have left yet, HK. I called her and — miracle! — she hadn’t left yet. However, her group wasn’t leaving until late. I said I would meet them at Hard Times. I switched from the bus to the train back to a bus, and in two hours, I was hitting balls at one Hard Times waiting to go to… another Hard Times.

We left quite late and after a polite amount of time being awake, I KTFO and slept. Sleeping in a bed is better than sleeping in a car, but sleeping in car completely trumps staying awake and watching out for pervs on Greyhound.


We made a quick pit stop to see if Hard Times was still open (it wasn’t) and also so I could say I went door-to-door from one Hard Times to the other. We rolled up to the hotel at about 4:30 a.m. The night shift dude at the counter was very nice and commented that there were a lot of pool players at his hotel. We told him it was because there was a major tournament in town, and that the best player in the world was already playing in it. He said he’d seen the best player in the world at the hotel. I and MP, the driver of the car, agreed he probably did — all the players stayed at this particular hotel for the tournament.

“You know, I forgot his name.”

“EFREN REYES”, MP and I said at the same time.

“No, that’s not him.”

“What?” We also said this in unison.

“Let me see… he’s on here.” He started scrolling through his computer screen. “Isn’t he a heavyset guy?”

“No, he’s… Filipino. Skinny, but with a pot belly.” The skinny-pot-belly trait is quite prevalent among the top Filipinos.

“He was named Fray-something… something. Oh, here it is. Freynosa? That’s the guy.”

MP and I looked at each other in puzzlement. Neither of us had heard of a top player by that name. Of course, there were any number of unknown champions in the world and one could not know them all.

“Well…” I said, delicately. “I… have not heard that name before. But, I think it’s pretty well-known within the pool community that the greatest all-around player right now is probably Efren Reyes from the Philippines.” MP nodded assent.

“Aww, really? So this guy’s not the best player?”

I tried to find a diplomatic way to put things, but failed as it was 4:43 a.m. and my brain was on autopilot. “In the world of pool, if someone walks up to you and says they’re the best player in the world — just like that — they’re probably not. The best players in the world don’t need to announce themselves. They just kick your ass, take your money, and you find out later.”

We got the keys to our rooms and after I got things in order for the next day, I went to sleep. Four hours later, I was up and some time after that, we all bundled into the car and headed to the pool room.


We made a quick pit stop for coffee and let me tell you, the capacity some people (read: everyone else in the car) have for caffeine scares the bejeezus out of me. In addition to large coffee drinks, the other peeps in the vehicle also consumed cans of Red Bull. I’m having a heart attack just thinking about it.


A short screech of tires later and we arrived at Hard Times Billiards, the Home of Champions!
Many Southern California players were in attendance and we all secretly hoped we would not draw each other. Seriously serious, we could just play each other in our own backyards, y’know?
Three world champions were in attendance: Francisco Bustamante (over there to the left, with glasses on his forehead), the aforementioned Freynosa Efren Reyes, and Ronnie Alcano.


The room itself was packed. Every table was in play with three or four players waiting their turn on each one. I gave up trying to find a table to warm up on and wandered about.


One of Chuck Markulis’ greatest contributions to pool in California were the Tournament Rooms. In all his rooms, there would be one separate section with the best tables and tiered spectator seating designed for tournaments and action.
Sacramento’s tournament room had six Brunswick Gold Crowns and they were freshly re-clothed by father-son pool and table team Ernesto (he finished in second place last year) and Oscar Dominguez.


The chart from the one-pocket division of this event was posted with finishes. The top three places were swept by the Filipinos, with Mr. Reyes at the top spot (to nobody’s suprise).

The final match was “Bata” vs “Django”, (and $anto$ finished third) which further cements my thoughts that pool players should also be comic book superheroes, as the good ones already have great names.

Here’s a crappy panorama of the incredibly non-crappy tournament room.

Before the tournament could get underway, there was the small matter of the player auction. I didn’t know how long this would take so I sat down next to two friends who would be bidding on players and had scored front-row seats.


HEY HOMIE!! Behind us, in the the third-row seat, was Mr. Reyes, taking a nap.
He successfully surprised me as I took his picture.
As expected, a Filipino was the top bid in the auction, with Mr. Alcano going for $325.


After the auction was over, the players’ meeting was to take place and then finally the announcement of matches. It was well past 1:00 p.m., which was the projected start time and the feel-good effects of my small (but mightily overpriced) coffee drink were fading. F####ck I was tired.

To cheer me up and keep me awake, a friend told me about my other friend’s new dog. Of course, he had pictures. And here they are:

This breed of dog is known as a “MaltiPoo”. If that name was not affiliated with a cute widdle bwall of fwuff, I’d find it disturbing (a Malt? made from Poo?). There was much adoration over this puppy named… DONUT.


hahaha makes you think of myspace doesn't it


My heart could barely stand the strain of the warm fuzzies but there was more to come.

Ken Shuman, the tournament director, announced during the players’ meeting that all players had been entered into a special raffle and the prize would be presented just prior to the tournament start. Hmm. Okeydoke. Secret raffles are generally good…? The winner of the raffle was Miss Danielle Edwards. Mr. Shuman told her to wait a moment while he went to get her prize.

Miss Danielle’s prize was her better half, Todd Minobe with a large bouquet of red roses…

she said yes ;-) …and the very charming story of knowing Miss Danielle from childhood, and then reconnecting years later at a pool room. They stayed so late back then that the owner/manager of that pool room, Miss Karen Markulis (owner of the very pool room he was proposing in right now — too neat), had to kick them out.
Mr. Minobe got down on one knee and presented Miss Danielle with a ring and a proposal.
Miss Danielle said yes.
Danielle & Todd
I was all warm-fuzzied out.

After all the pictures were taken and the rules of engagement reviewed (haha), matches were called and the great grand tournament engine fired up and departed the station. There were 162 passengers aboard the Chuck Markulis 9-Ball Express.



Y’know, some call me a natural-born killer and they’re right. (Some call me crazy, and they’re even righter.) However, it seems if you inundate me with enough pictures of cute animals with cute names and toss in a heartwarming moment or two (sparkly diamond ring optional — ooh! shiny!), I de-Hulk and become a normal human being. That’s great for Humanity and completely sh#tty for my game.

I struggled through my first match and eked out the hill-hill win. I found my lack of competitive bloodrage unsettling. Eh, nothing to do but forge ahead I suppose (whilst skipping about with adorable woodland creatures).

There was a little time until my next match so I spent it in the tournament room watching the real players play.


This is $anto$ $ambajon, Jr. looking to the crowd in his disbelief after hooking himself (note the 6-9 combination). I’m not sure why he’s looking into the audience — we can’t help him and I’m sure he wouldn’t want any of us shooting this shot for him.


Mr. Alcano was definitely the dude to beat in this tournament.
He successfully jumped over the 6-ball (like it ain’t no thang) to pocket the 4-ball and then ran out to win. The sheer casualness with which he made difficult shots with perfect execution and results was simultaneously scary and annoying.
He was also quite snappily dressed with red hat, red and white polo shirt, and white shoes that sported a red stripe. Some dubbed him the “pizza delivery boy”, though, in reference to his too-well-matched attire.


I lost my next match 8-4 and was all right with that.

Once again, there were people who insisted I needed to be comforted. I would say almost all serious California players who travel for tournaments are familiar with my intense dislike for post-match chitchat. If a player is not aware, one look at my I’ll-F#cking-Kill-You face should do the trick.

Let me clarify something else while I have this space: I do not want your criticisms nor pity after a match, but I also do not want your accolades. I don’t want anything after a match, win or lose, except some time to take a breather and/or get a drink (perhaps a slightly-to-insanely alcoholic one, depending on match outcome).

After this match (which was against well-known Northern California player Paul Juarez), I actually didn’t feel all that bad about how I played. I was semi-content with how I did. I was not my usual HULK-SMASH! angry about losing, not even for the briefest of nanoseconds. But, of course, I had a dude trailing me, offering me pity because he thought I needed it — even as I studiously ignored his attempts.


I felt all right after losing and, during this extremely rare Halley’s comet-like occurence, I had a dude dumping pity on my f#cking grave, which was letting me know he felt I should feel bad about losing.


If you were one of the people outside who heard my impassioned, “You know what’s tough for women who play pool? Walking that f#cking gauntlet of pity after losing. I played that match, I lost, and I don’t need your f#cking Band-Aid.” That’s what it was referring to.


Well, some would say, it’s not like that dude knew you felt okay about that match.

No sh#t, I’d answer. And that’s why the best thing to say to anyone after a match, especially a stranger, is nothing at all. Silence, man. It really is f#cking golden.


Moving on.

I was now on the scenic side of the charts and that was fine by me. I’d rather be on the scenic side than completely off the road. I waited patiently for my next match and filled the intermission with old friends, new friends, watching matches, and the like. Finally, it was time.

I won this last match 7-2 and it was a bit of a milestone for me because I finally accomplished a New Year’s Resolution. Actually, it’s been several years in the accomplishing, so it is techinically a New Years’ Resolution. Way back when, I decided a good goal was to make it into the second day an open event. I had stipulations in place for this goal (because of course I did):

  • it had to be a major event (at least 64 players and be a once-a-year-type deal)
  • I had to make it to the second day on play alone (the match to get me to the second day could not be a forfeit)
  • the tournament had to have some players eliminated completely on the first day (at the U.S. Open, even if you lose your first match, you’ll play the second day)

All these stipulations ensured that if I made it to the second day, it’s because I f#cking deserved it. I’ve come very close many, many times, but was never able to get over that hurdle until now.


Everyone else in my caravan was out of the tournament and off to party so when I was done, I had to look for another ride back to the hotel. In the end, I cadged a ride with broadcaster Andy Chen and his road partner GH (who was also in for the second day). However, we had to wait until the evening’s matches were done and Andy could tear down.

It was a long wait.

Neither me, nor GH had eaten all day. It seemed like years since I had that coffee. The wait was long and agonizing, but salvation finally arrived and the pho place down the street was open until 3:00 a.m.! We all needed to sleep but I raised the point that good food is worth at least two hours of sleep.

This bowl of pho was the best food I had all year.

Then I went to sleep like I didn’t have to get up in a few hours and all was right with the world.




Hooray for the second day.

The field had been reduced to 96 players and there was no word yet on how many they planned to bring back for the third day. Matches were called at 11:00 a.m. and all the ponies left were off and running.

I went to my table and hit some balls to warm up. I was dressed in an exceedingly casual (for me) manner. When asked why by a friend, I responded that in an unusual lapse of confidence, I only brought one “cute” outfit as I did not expect to make it to the second day — and having planned to take Greyhound, I had packed very lightly.

After waiting for ten minutes, I went to the tournament chart to see who my opponent was. I did not recognize the name, but I did tell the tournament directors my opponent had not shown up. I went back to the table and hit some more balls. One of the directors stopped by again after a few minutes and asked if my opponent had showed up yet. Nope. A few more minutes and I had won by forfeit.

I did not have any Resolutions (or their associated Stipulations) for the second day of a tournament concerning forfeits so… oh, well. Nothing to do but take it and run! I hit balls until a match was assigned to the table. Then it was off to kill a little more time in the tournament room.


The man in red to the right is Steve Chaplin. He is the man behind the game Virtual Pool. The most recent release will be Virtual Pool 4.
Mr. Chaplin is quite tall and once told me one of the many annoyances of being A Tall Person was hitting one’s head on the table lights. I will never know that inconvenience.


I was asked if I would mind my next match being put on the streaming table. I was told my opponent was at least an A-level player, which meant I could very well be completely crushed (as I am a B-minus level player), 7-0, in front of a critical audience of millions thousands hundreds tens across the world.

Well, bring it on.

If I gotta lose, I might as well lose big.

In the match, I played all right at first, then played horribly. I fudged some incredibly easy outs, but it didn’t bother me because: sh#t happens and sometimes it happens to you. I dogged (Donutted?) plenty of easy shots. I also made, by accident, several shots at key moments in the match.

The very words I painted on the nine-ball mug I raffled off specifically for this tournament held true:

Keep Calm and Slop It Three Rails

This coincidence is at once sidesplittingly amusing and chillingly weird.

Every Donut has its day and today was mine. In the final rack, I sh#t the 3-ball two-rails into a corner pocket and that completely accidental shot (I f#cked up getting to the 3-ball even though I had ball-in-hand on the 2-ball. The 2-ball for f#ck’s sake! And ball-in-hand!) allowed me to win that game and the match, 7-6.

I lost the next match 7-2, to a guy who played extremely well and had an incredible break. I used up all the luck allotted to me in the match before, and that was all right. Now that I was out, I could eat, drink, and watch the real players play.


This is Mr. Bustamante looking serious. He played almost all his matches with reading glasses perched on his forehead, which gave the impression that he had briefly put aside his crossword puzzle to show you how pool should be played, and then would casually go back to finishing it up once you were sufficiently demoralized with defeat.
He ended up getting into some straight-pool action after he had safely made it to the next day of the tournament.


Mr. Alcano and Mr. Reyes playing chess.

It was noted that Mr. Alcano has a tattoo of the Viking Cue logo on his forearm. Many, including myself, wondered about the significance of the tattoo. Was it advertising? Was he paid to do it? I asked this question of the chatroom on the internet stream and someone imparted the following story:

Ronnie Alcano wasn’t paid to have the logo tattoed on his forearm. He paid to have the Viking Cue logo tattoed on his forearm because he believed it was his Viking cue that won him his two World Championship titles (2006 WPA World 9-Ball and 2007 WPA World 8-Ball).

Once again, that’s just hearsay but if true, that’s a hell of an endorsement for Viking Cues.


Did I mention I could eat now that I was out of the tournament? In addition, I had won a little money from the tournament so I could eat in grand style.
Popeye’s fried chicken. The choice of 33rd-48th place finishers the world over.

After eating, I went back and watched more of the tournament, now down to sixteen or so players. The tournament directors planned to bring back just the final eight for the last day.


In other random batsh#t things of the world, while I was in the booth giving score updates, a stranger reached over and pinched my leg. In normal circumstances, I might have cussed him THE F#CK out, but the microphone was live. In normal circumstances, I might have hit him, but I was in a pool hall, which is my equivalent of a church.

Instead, I abruptly stopped talking and glared at him in the eyes with pure, unfiltered hatred because I really wanted to beat him until he was just a faded stain on the carpet and was having a difficult time convincing myself not to do it. Without breaking the line of gaze or saying a word, I leaned out of the booth.

He giggled. He was portly and older. I remained silent, staring.

“Oh, hey,” he tittered. “I, uh, just wanted to make sure you weren’t, uh, sleeping in there. Haha.”

I had just read scores into the microphone. I knew he had seen that. His excuse was a study in failure. “I’M. AWAKE.”

“Oh, yeah. Haha. Okay.”

I continued to glare until he looked away. I continued to glare until he sat back down. I continued to glare until he scooted over.



F#cking ridiculous. What the f#ck gives a f#cking stranger the right to touch me in that manner — or at all? Good grief. Later, this carpet-stain came over again and said, “I was trying to be funny.”

“You failed.”


My original ride wasn’t planning to leave until very late so I arranged to ride with another group. The driver of this second group was still in the tournament and we would not be leaving, obviously, until he was out. He got KO’d (sadface) at about 11:30 p.m. and we headed back to the Southland shortly thereafter.

I stayed awake to keep the drivers awake (since I can’t contribute any other skill, car-wise) and we all made it back… in time to go to work.



The final eight returned on Monday. They were:

Winner’s side

  • Ronnie Alcano
  • Francisco Bustamante
  • Brian Parks
  • Efren Reyes

Scenic side

  • Ramin Bakhtiari
  • Oscar Dominguez
  • Amar Kang
  • Johnny Kang

How it all played out:

1. Ronnie Alcano $2,000
2. Francisco Bustamante $1,400
3. Brian Parks $1,000
4. Amar Kang $650
5. Johnny Kang $450
Efren Reyes $450
7. Ramin Bakhtiari $300
Oscar Dominguez $300

I suppose it is worth mentioning that Mr. Reyes forfeited his match. Word on the street was he had action lined up before even the tournament had started and that payday was worth passing up the final day of the tournament.

But, you know — never look a forfeit in the mouth. Just take it and run!



t h a n k s may I order for delivery
EMCA | all the raffle peeps | kbcnc | Mike, Marie, & Charles | Chris, Art, & Sam | Tony Torres, Ken Shuman, Janet Okamoto, & Brian LaFlamme | Tucker Cue Works
first time hello & hello again
Mary, Emilyn, & Teresa | Jeannie & Gary’s cat | everyone else (seriously, it was almost all Norcal and Socal peeps)


thanks for everything, Chuck :-)