flower mercy needle chain


One fine Thursday afternoon, I…

…because I was headed to the…


2011 BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships
Riviera Hotel & Casino • Las Vegas, NV


However, the caravan I was a part of didn’t leave until midday on Friday. So, I amused myself by using the side rasps on the Ultimate Tip Tool to give myself a manicure. The results were quite good and I painted my nails a non-threatening shade of glittery pastel pink.

seriously serious pretty, right?

Then, my traveling companion and I set off for the…


2011 BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships
Riviera Hotel & Casino • Las Vegas, NV


…but not before we picked up one more person, Frank “The Barber” Almanza — legend, pool player, and barber.

We stopped by his house which has one of the finest home pool rooms (“The Barber Shop”) in America. The Barber Shop won second place in one of Billiards Digest’s annual Architecture and Design Awards competitions.

See for yourself.

Brunswick Centennial table with barber’s chair in the background.

Left. Straight pool scoring device Frank built himself. Center & Right. The handsome devil himself.

The room was filled with many trophies, awards, posters, and other bits of billiard memorabilia from past and present.

Left. Frank turns on the barber pole to indicate the betting window is open. Right. Damn, that’s cool.

Frank also loves retro stuff and tries to get original items when he can. In addition, he puts his own craftmanship skills (and those of some of his friends) to add modern accoutrements with the same retro styling.

Left. Rock-Ola jukebox. Right. Wall-mounted speakers done in the same style as the jukebox, including neon lighting (unlit in the photo).

Left. An ornate vintage onyx and chrome ashtray with interior lighting. Frank added some extra metalwork to convert it into a cue holder. Right. Custom made and embroidered pool table cover made of — what else? — crushed blue velvet.


Our little tour concluded and Frank was sent out the door with a kiss from his wife and the usual wifely admonishments regarding safety and sanity.

After a pleasant stop at Chick-Fil-A (which I had never been to, but found quite agreeable), we continued on down I-15. Vegas was still a few hours away but Frank’s stories made the time fly.

Some of the best anecdotes he told us were about two-piece cues.



You would never bring in your own cue to a pool room in those days — it would be a dead giveaway that you were a player. Usually, you just picked a good house cue off the wall. However, if there was a REALLY big game, you could have a friend smuggle in a good two-piece cue and assemble it in secret. The big challenge after that was getting the cue out after you had won your match. It’s hard to discreetly unscrew a cue when all eyes are on you — and a fully assembled cue is not the easiest thing to hide on a person.


collateral damage

A ten-dollar bet back then was a decent-sized bet. The problem was, sometimes you didn’t want to play for just ten dollars — you wanted to play for more. However, as an unknown player, you can imagine people would be wary of playing you for money. That’s where two-piece cues came in handy.

You’d hit balls for a while until a local came up to you and asked you to play for ten or twenty dollars. Well, you would say, I don’t have any money — but I do have this cue. (Good two-piece cues went for about eighty dollars back then.) You’d suggest putting up the cue against the other guy’s money and now you were playing for sixty to a hundred dollars instead of just ten or twenty. If it all went as planned, you left with his cash and your cue.

What if I lost? Well, then the guy got himself a nice cue. Besides, I had a lot of those cues in the trunk of my car from winning them off other guys. It never really was a loss to lose one gambling.


Everybody in pool is writing a memoir. I think Frank should write one, too.


Finally, after three hours of a safe and reasonable amount of time driving, we arrived at the…


2011 BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships
Riviera Hotel & Casino • Las Vegas, NV


…for realsies this time.

No foolin’!


Check-in was quite painless, if I focused on the marvel of self check-in kiosks and not the black hole that had taken up residence in my wallet about a month prior. I had taken advantage of the $60 per night deal offered to BCAPL attendees. This deal required that

  • your stay be eight days or longer
  • you paid for your stay in its entirety once your reservation was made
  • your reservation was non-refundable


  • I hadn’t yet left the Golden State for pool this year so I was more than ready for an eight-day cabin-fever-inducing buffet-consuming nerve-wracking heartbreaking overload of billiards.
  • It’s better to get my money before, rather than after, the trip.
  • Non-refundable? So is my life. Ugh.

A quick ride up an elevator of dubious safety (y’all know what I mean — those things “bounce”!) deposited me on my floor. My room was much nicer than I had expected. Apparently, the Riviera is not in danger of being dynamited anytime soon. They recently began renovations with (so I heard) a $40 million budget. From their own website (try to read without snickering):

A casino that successfully blends high quality, excellent value, and exceptional customer service, the Riviera Hotel and Casino is a Las Vegas icon that continues to reinvent itself. With a major property renovation, guests will experience a “new look” Riviera with remodeled well-appointed guestrooms, a refurbished casino, revamped players club and a technologically enhanced convention center. All of which demonstrate the Riviera’s long-standing tradition of offering its guests high quality amenities and first-class service.

(I’m snickering. But just a little.)

Anyhoo, the beds are nice. Behold…

This bed had a plush pillowtop mattress and a feather comforter. I climbed on the granite-topped dresser in front of it and took a flying leap after this picture was taken. No broken bones = good quality bed.


After leaving everything right where I dropped it, I ran down (in heels, of course) to the tournament rooms to see if I could catch some of the 2011 U.S. Open One Pocket Championships which had started on Thursday and was slated to run until Sunday.

  2011 U.S. Open One Pocket Championships tournament chart

the fourth estate

Many thanks to the BCAPL and CueSports International (CSI) which provided me with press passes (they’ll let anyone be “the press” nowadays, amirite? LULZ!!1) to both professional events, thus allowing me to take pictures with my crappy (yet oddly magical) camera while posting scintillating, timely updates of matches to Twitter and Facebook!


This year, the arena for the professional events was set up differently than in previous years.

In recent years (and as far back as I can remember), the professional events took place in their own room, separate from the amateur events. This year, the decision was made to have the pro arena in the back of the second room (where the mini tournaments were), with a black curtain separating the professional from the amateur events.

Let’s take a look at this year’s pro arena.

Here’s the view after getting past the bouncers and going backstage behind the curtain. Spectator chairs are on risers with VIP seating featuring fancy-schmancy velvet chairs with their fancy-schmancy armrests. The large screen up there on the left showed the matches on the TV table.

I’ll know I’ve made it when I get a chair with armrests. I’ll know I’ve really made it when I can lean back and not fall over.

Last year, I believe all matches (including the Grandmasters division of the eight-ball) were streamed for free (the final match between Lee Van Corteza and Lo Hi Wen topped out at more than 2,000 viewers).

Eight tables and the TV table in the corner.

This year, all streamed matches were Pay-Per-View and could be purchased through The Action Report (TAR). If you were staying at the Riviera, you could watch the livestream in your room for free by clicking over to Channel 14. Being able to watch matches in the comfort of my room while surrounded by soda and junk food was quite delightful, I must admit.

View of the big screen. That’s Chris Gentile in the purple shirt. That’s Earl Strickland with the javelin.

After the matches had concluded for the night, I made my way through to the casino and found plenty of friends I hadn’t seen in a long while. While we made our way over to the “Circle” bar, I saw some of the “reinvention” the Riviera had mentioned over at the blackjack tables.

Pole dancers! Whee!

After some amused ogling (the ladies were very athletic), I drank a little, caught up a lot, went to eat a little, stayed out a lot, and then went to sleep.


I woke up, and attempted to play.

I won one.

I lost one.

This year (unlike previous years), I had not dedicated a lot of time to bar table eight-ball prior to this event. Where normally I’d spend at least a whole month to the little table, I’d spent most of this year chasing ten-balls on a big table. As such, I had — reasonable — expectations of how I would do in this event.

I did, however, get to go eat with a bunch of friends at my favorite Korean BBQ restaurant in Las Vegas (you have seen MANY photographs of food from this place over the years), Kimchi. They now have two “all-you-can-eat” options, one of them is just $21.99! In addition, they have the best tasting water of any restaurant I have ever been to.

It's like this picture but a thousand times more refreshing and it also gives you superhero powers and after I drank it I couldn't miss a ball or maybe I was just hallucinating from the banned substances in this highly addictive H2O yeah whatever it also makes me write run-on sentences.   Yes, water.
Those who know me know what kind of insane idol-worshipping testimonial this is. I rarely drink water, preferring instead the sugar-loaded stylings of soda or the caffeinated jitters provided by coffee or tea.
But, at this restaurant, I drink the water. And I drink glass after glass after glass. It totally freaks out my friends who think I’m so unhinged after a loss I’m trying to drown myself in the slowest, most painful way possible. Nope. I’m sane. Just addicted to whatever drugs they’ve put in their water.
(And now I’ve got them all addicted, too! Muhahaha!)
3049 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109-1960
(702) 894-9944
open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

This was my first year in the “Advanced” (read: “Middling”) division. Actually, it was the first year the Advanced — being the level between Open and Masters — divisions were presented as an option. I think being an Advanced player is like being the awkward middle child everyone sometimes forgets exists. There weren’t many in my division and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing — it meant I had a very leisurely tournament. For one thing, I had a whole day in between my loss and my next match on the one-loss side. Whatever shall I do to pass the time…

The sun actually graced us with his presence today. That meant a hurried dash out to the swimming pool to catch whatever rays were thrown down to us.

Vegas was COLD and overcast since I had arrived. This was unusual. I think the average temperature may have been in the 50s all week long. As a somewhat serious pool player, Vegas is the only time in the whole year I get my sunshine allowance. Thankfully, it wasn’t terribly cold out by the pool, but it was very windy.

The very nice waitress by the pool (same one I’ve seen year after year) kept me stocked up with White Russians this year. I didn’t eat the whole day. I just had drink after drink. After drink. After… drink. (Thanks, dudes!) This was the first time, ever, that I treated this event like a vacation.

I know, I’m getting complacent and lazy in my old age, what with this enjoying tournaments and crap. Didn’t they predict the Rapture/End Of The World for May 21? That prediction is lookin’ good.

Aww they're so cuuuuu <cough, cough> uuuuute!   After getting toasted in more ways than one, the lovely Miss Amy Chen came to tell me and my fellow toastees that she was thinking of going to a buffet for dinner.
Toasted by the sun, toasted by drinks, and now, I was off to be toasted by food. Life doesn’t get better than this. I’m seriously serious about that.
The Wynn was the choice since it was within walking distance. It was early (5:00 p.m.) and there was no wait.
That’s Mister Amy and Miss Amy. Their adorability overload made it hard for me to eat, but I managed.

My brain circuitry may have been damaged by all the toastage during the day so I departed from my usual organized eating manner and just loaded plates with unrelated (or semi-related) items.

Yaaay prime rib and HORSERADISH!

I LOVE hot hot HOT horseradish. I like fresh horseradish, the kind that punches you in the nose and makes you cry. Once I sat down, I promptly slathered horseradish on a bite of the prime rib. I broke out in tears. Mr. Amy observed this and went to get some himself. He also used a liberal dab. He broke out in tears. The rest of the table didn’t learn and everyone was soon crying. It was like a Korean soap opera series finale where everyone comes back from the dead to forgive everyone else and there’s, like, eleventy pairs of good-evil twins and everyone’s wearing Chanel tweed and Armani suits.

Except much more delicious.

On the top of the plate are the two fish dishes I love best at the Wynn — Chilean Sea Bass and Mahi Mahi. The Sea Bass is the flippin’ nuts.

I forgot to take more pictures due to concentrated efforts at eating. Suffice it to say the Wynn buffet rarely disappoints and remains one of my favorites.

Also, Miss Amy likes to try food from everyone’s plate. She demands to have a buffet-within-a-buffet. Beware of her and her roving fork. They are prepared to strike as soon as your watchful eye is distracted from your plate.

After we incapacitated ourselves, we walked at a strategic pace back to the Riviera where I had to get to work playing a match and everyone else was just going to fully appreciate their food comas. I felt a vague sense of unfairness, but that’s what I get for being on the one-loss side. Blargh.


I won.

I struggled massively in the beginning of my match (I shall blame food coma) but managed to claw my way to victory. It was a fugly win, but I’ll take it, since it put me in the bottom money.

The last time I watched this much tournament one pocket had to be at Derby City a few years back, in the days of the OG Executive West (*sniff*, such fond memories). Some of the most magnificent shots I saw in the tournament had to be in the Efren “The Magician” Reyes vs Corey “The Prince of Pool” Deuel match. I can’t even describe them. For those who saw, I’m sure they’ll agree with me — those shots were of the “you just had to be there (or watching the match via live stream)” kind.

Here’s a video of a nifty one pocket bank I saw used in the tournament.

The results of this 64-player (four no-shows: Dee Adkins, Amar Kang, Adam Kielar, Eric “Fatboy” Peterson), $10,000 added event:

2011 U.S. Open One Pocket Championships
tournament results & payout
1st Efren Reyes $8,000
2nd Christopher Gentile $4,400
3rd Alex Pagulayan $3,000
4th Scott Frost $2,000
5th Corey Deuel $1,400
  Earl Strickland  
7th Brian Butler $1,000
  John Henderson  
9th Chris Bartram $700
  Rafael Martinez  
  Danny Smith  
  Paul Song  
13th Bob Herchik $450
  Jeremy Jones  
  Bernie Pettipiece  
  Brandon Shuff  
17th John Brumback $300
  Jeff Carter  
  Richard Grenier  
  Danny Harriman  
  Jeff Heath  
  Cliff Joyner  
  Gabe Owen  
  Ike Runnels  

After all the photographs and congratulations and glad-handing, the tournament tables were open to the general public to rent, at the bargain rate of $10 per player for as long as they wanted to play.

Another really nice after-hours feature was the replay of marquee matches and previous TAR events on the big screen. That’s TAR 20: Earl Strickland vs Shane Van Boening playing on the screen. I didn’t get to watch this match when it was on live, so I parked my buffet-cushioned ass down with a pleasantly alcoholic beverage to watch what I had missed.

Donny Mills hates flying, so I hear, but he flew out for this event. Strong.

Donny “Car Lot” Mills was in action almost every night the tables were open. He’s playing Brandon Shuff (the blur in black, white, and red) this evening on the first table on the left.

The match (on a ten-foot converted Brunswick snooker table, from what I understand) was bizarrely entertaining. Unfortunately, the recording cut off near the end so I missed the ending. But, it’s okay: I had a lot of helpful people tell me Mr. Strickland won.


Since the U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships were starting the next day, lots of people were in line to rent tables. The ten-ball event had 96 players signed up. Add a healthy amount of big-table fans and you can see where the wait was going to be very… very… loooong.

Left. Miss Sunny Griffin, doing her impression of an elderly Asian female driver. Right. Miss Amy, waiting for a table while watching the big screen and enjoying her food coma.

I waited with everyone else for a table, but after a few hours, I gave up and went to sleep.


I lost.

There had been some f—ed up shenanigans in one of my previous matches, but since I understood the reasoning behind them (win at all costs) I let it go fairly quickly. The strange shenanigans in this match were a different story.

I fell behind in this match from the start and in less time it takes to eat an average slice of cake, I was down 3-0, racing to five. It was then that a friend of my opponent came to watch this match. He was an elderly man wearing a ball cap. I glanced at him and then returned to watching my opponent at the table. He looked at the scoresheet and then said my name.

I tried to ignore him, as I wanted to focus on the match, and I figured it was best not to engage this person who I really did not wish to engage in conversation with at this time. He was persistent and repeated my name, twice more, getting louder each time.

Finally, I turned and said, “What.”

“Are you Vietnamese?”


SRSLY? Make it so. SRSLY? Technical foul for lameness. SRSLY? Meow meow meow. SRSLY? Stupid humans.


Are you seriously serious?


I looked at the man again and noted that his ball cap had embroidery on it showing that he was part of a unit that had served in Vietnam. Some thoughts came to mind:

  • If this man had served any significant amount of time in Vietnam, perhaps he would know my last name IS NOT VIETNAMESE — not even close to being Vietnamese. (But, then again, we all look the same so maybe all our names are interchangeable, too.)
  • Why on earth would he need to know whether or not I was Vietnamese?
  • Why on earth would he need to know whether or not I was Vietnamese RIGHT NOW?!
  • Do I get a prize for being Vietnamese?

After the initially overwhelming flood of irritation this question presented in this particular situation produced, I got myself the hell under control and said, “NO.”

He looked a little stunned and two other thoughts came to mind:

  • Regardless of the inappropriateness of the question at this most inopportune time, I am always grateful for the armed forces that protect this country. Without them, I might not be able to swear as much or write the astounding metric shit-tons of drivel that I do.
  • I may have said “NO” a tad forcefully.

I decided I’d try to be nice. (We know this is a bad idea.)

In an attempt to lighten the force of my previous answer, I said, “But, good guess, though.”

I decided to smile. (We know this is a really bad idea.) Woo. That was painful.

“Good guess! Ha, I was right!”

Ugh. He’d misheard me.

“No, no, no — you guessed wrong.”

“No? So you’re not Vietnamese?”


Sadly, my attempt at being lighthearted and friendly (which it seems the WHOLE FUCKING WORLD always wants me to be) only served to confuse him and frustrate me further. “NO?”

“NO! NOT Vietnamese!”

“Oh.” He seemed disappointed.


This “Let’s Guess What Kind Of Asian You Are!” game gets flippin’ old. I turned resolutely back to the match, but, I was done. Like, DONE. Done with it all. I’d handled a shitty situation with as much grace as I could and the outcome sucked. Fuck it. I no longer wanted to play and I didn’t care what the fuck happened in the rest of this match. This whole exchange took all the enjoyment out of the game for me.

I ended the match with no words, a shrug, and a handshake. My only success in this match: not losing my temper and not even giving an indication that I had one.

Now what was that about the world ending on the twenty-first?


Regardless of what crazy-important Illuminati-level Armageddon message from outerspace this dude had for me (if I was Vietnamese), he just didn’t get it and there was no way for him to ever know. This dude didn’t give a shit about pool the way I give a shit about pool. He had no way to know that I had fought hard to get to where I was and I was still trying my best to fight against all odds (many of which I had stacked against myself) to win this match which could lead to me winning this event.

He wasn’t malicious, just ignorant.

If pool isn’t important to him — then it sure as hell isn’t important to this maybe-Vietnamese/maybe-not-Vietnamese/mystery-Asian girl who speaks perfect unaccented English and who wasn’t born yet when he was fighting his war against or for her parents.

I had a friend tell me during this event, “You can’t be mad at people for doing what they’ve done their whole adult lives.”

This guy had no idea that I would consider such a question rude or that perhaps I had been asked the same type of question thousands of times from people just like him.


I made the mistake of being born Asian and I furthered my poor decision by deciding to play pool. You’d think, after all these years, that I’d get used to these kinds of questions and assumptions, but I never do. It just wears on me, time and time again, that I’m reminded I’m not a pool player — I’m Some Asian Chick Who Speaks Really Good English.

In this man’s eyes, I am, and always will be, a novel curiosity, no different than those pickled animal embryos they put in jars at county fairs with a ginormous red neon sign blinking above it screaming at you to guess wHAt iS It?!

Shitty part is, I can’t charge him a dollar to guess.


After I lost, I went back to my room and decompressed. My friends Jay and Monkey wanted to go eat and I figured food was the best band-aid of all. Besides, the professional ten-ball event was starting today and I was looking forward to watching lots of high-level pool. We went to the Grand Luxe Cafe at the Palazzo where the following edible band-aids brought me back to normal levels of contentment.

Left. Caesar salad! Right. Fried pickles!

Left. Deep-fried duck in spring roll wrappers! Right. Capellini Pomodoro — one of my favorites. Exclamation point!


After food and drink…

drank a ton of these some of these just one of these one of these one of these

…(a lot of people kept me in drinks this trip — I’m very thankful but just a tad suspicious), I was geared up to go watch the pros!

  2011 U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships tournament chart

a lotta little tables

Elevated view of the second room where the pro arena is located.

Elevated view of the pro arena. You can see where the curtain separates the arena from the bar table event. TV table is in the foreground.

Last year, there were 128 entrants and the races were to 9, with the finals being one race to 13.

  2010 U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships tournament chart

This year, there were 96 entrants and the races were to 8 until the semi-finals where they were race to 9 or “win by 2”. “Win by 2” means there would be no hill-hill matches in the semifinals — either you won by a score of 9-7 or you were the first to get to 11. If the score was 8-8, then the race automatically extended to 11. The finals this year was to be race to 11 or win by 2 going to 13 (correct me if I’m wrong, Miss Sunny!).

If you’re confused, don’t worry about it. No match ever reached the “win by 2” scenario in this year’s event.

Yes. Let us get this par-tay started.

Just after the lag.

Other details included winner breaks format and use of the Magic Ball Rack™. One of the more interesting features of using the Magic Ball Rack™ was pointed out to me by Bill Maropulos: you don’t hear the sound of balls being racked during the tournament. After I’d been told, the silence seemed deafening. It was scary. I had to drink more.


John Morra’s rakishly dapper racing stripe on his hair needed no pointing out.

It's like an optical illusion. "Look Ma! I've got a mohawk!" "WHAT?!" "Just kidding!" Maybe shaved sides would be better. Or a fade, like from the 80s. Vinyl racing stripes obviously add 50hp to cars. Maybe racing stripes on pool players bring their games up by a ball.

General consensus: “neat”, “cool”, “very Filipino”, and “Alex Pagulayan did it first.”


I’m going to take this moment to say that once I was KO’d out of my event, I had a flippin’ blast of a vacation. All the days bled into each other and I watched professional ten-ball until I couldn’t remember if my life had any other purpose.

There were SO MANY great matches.


I watched Fu Xiao Fang‘s match against Brady Gollan from a distance (sweating other matches) and got to watch it up close towards the end. They took three hours and from what I remember, neither held a lead bigger than two games at any given time. There were lots of safety battles, but Miss Fu pretty much ran the last two racks to win while Mr. Gollan was on the hill.

Afterwards, a friend told me a neat little story about her.


what is perfection

At a tournament in Asia, all the participants were asked to define “perfection”. Some girls said, “winning” or “playing well”. When asked, Fu said, “Perfection is everyone in the world practices eight hours a day while I practice nine. That way, at the end of the year, I will have 365 more hours of practice than everyone else.”



There were good crowds for the matches. First rounds started at 10 or 11 a.m. and last round matches were at 11 p.m.

One thing I didn’t like about the setup this year compared to last year was the way the spectator seating was done around the tables. Last year, there was that one odd bit of elevated seating that ran down the middle of the room. It seems like that may have been a hasty solution to rearranging the tables after last year’s Matchroom Sports event, but that hasty solution was a spectator’s blessing in disguise.


2010 U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships

2010 pro arena setup


I actually liked that weird center divider. For one thing, it was well-elevated so you had a great view, but the BESTEST BEST part was that you could sweat the scores of ALL the matches from that one section, including the one on the TV table. If you were watching a non-televised match but wanted to see what the score was on the televised match, you just turned around. It was also no bother to walk down to the other end to see what was going on over there on three other tables. I felt the TV table section was more spacious and the video and commentary peeps had more room to work with.

I can see this year’s spectator setup was more comfortable, but I’d give up the comfort for a better view. More space might improve this year’s setup. I felt very much this year that I was in a pool room as opposed to a professional arena.


Here is a picture of your average pool player’s hotel room with five people living in it for at least a week.

My room didn’t have a fridge, but I’m cool with that.


One of the unexpected highlights (for me, anyways) of this event was the CSI 14.1 Challenge, sponsored by Action Junkies Sportswear, Mueller Recreational Products, McDermott Cues, and Diamond Billiard Products.

The aim of this event was to introduce more people to the game of straight pool, which was the dominant pocket billiard game until nine-ball came along to dethrone it. In addition, if anyone broke Willie Mosconi’s high-run record (526), there was a $20,000 prize up for grabs.

This was the dealio:

  • $20 to play (no limit to how many times you wanted to play)
  • you get 4 attempts
  • you get to set up a break shot and go from there
  • final score is number of balls from all 4 attempts added together
  • divisions are: Professional, Amateur Men, Amateur Women, Seniors
  • top 4 finishers in each division get paid (the Professionals would have a playoff between the final eight)

Since I am not a straight pool player, I didn’t even think of trying. However, as the days went by and more and more professionals tried to break their high runs, my interest was piqued. I would often stop by and sit to watch players of all levels try their hand at the game. It was VERY popular. Its popularity, I think, was due largely to the fact that the game looked easy (especially with the breakshot allowance) but was actually quite difficult.

John “I’m Not A Low-Strung Person” Schmidt held the high score (281) for a majority of the time but ultimately, Danny “I Just Stepped Out Of A Rembrandt Painting” Harriman took the high run (199) and score (313). Other professionals would stop by and post their attempts. In some cases, they had to leave in the middle of their run to play a match in the ten-ball event. When this happened, the event organizers marked the cloth with where the last break ball and cue ball sat so they could resume later.

Not gonna lie, this was a great series of photographs. Part of the greatness due to Corey's Shirt of Sunshine. That's Dustin Norris in the foreground. He seems to color-coordinate his outfits and is rather cute.

The large amount of professionals who stopped by to play definitely gave this game a lot of exposure to those who didn’t play it on a regular basis. Some of the top names with straight pool backgrounds included Tony Robles, Mika Immonen, Max Eberle, and the aforementioned Messieurs Harriman and Schmidt.

Bill Maropulos is a 14.1 enthusiast (the way I’m a pool “enthusiast” — that is to say — bordering on “psychotic”) from Southern California and he was thrilled with the player turnout and new interest this challenge was sparking. I was thrilled he made Mr. Schmidt tell me a story.


what do I know, I just make sandwiches

Mr. Schmidt had acquired a pool room and was working in it day in and day out. He did the job of every employee, including making sandwiches.

One day, one of the players was talking about how he had played Earl “The Pearl” Strickland in a challenge match at the Super Billiards Expo and had tortured him. Mr. Schmidt listened to his story and then said, “You do know that Earl Strickland is a five-time world champion, right?”

“I don’t care about your little ‘titles’ and stuff,” the man said with much contempt.

Mildly annoyed, Mr. Schmidt came out from the kitchen, decorated as he was with mayonnaise and bits of lettuce from assembling sandwiches, and said, “Gee, I sure wish someone would play ME for money.”

Our loudmouthed Pearl-beater measured up Mr. Schmidt and agreed to play.

Mr. Schmidt tortured the guy in front of an audience for the princely sum of fifty dollars. The best part? Even after being destroyed by the dude who made his sandwich, the loudmouth still claimed he was the better player.

Mr. Schmidt would disagree, but, as he says, “What do I know? I just make sandwiches.”


In return for being amused, I had to enter in the 14.1 challenge. I did no good, but my numbers don’t look all that bad in the right context. 😉

small comfort... but I'll take it!

I can also make an excellent sandwich but it appears having mad sandwich skilz doesn’t magically translate into being able to run 400 balls.



I’ve been told the 14.1 Challenge was such a success that next year’s challenge will pay $25,000 to the person who can match or break Mosconi’s high run. CSI and Bob Jewett (another 14.1 enthusiast) will each put in $10,000 while Dr. Joseph Long will put in $5,000.

If there was ever a way to drum up more interest for 14.1 this would be it. Think about it, if you match or break Mosconi’s record next year, you’ll win more than the winners of this year’s U.S. Open One Pocket ($8,000) and the U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships ($15,000) combined!


The great ten-ball matches continued rolling on. In one, Alex Pagulayan ran one rack, and then seven, to win. However, the most buzzed-about match had to be Mike “The Fireball” Dechaine‘s match against Johnny “The Scorpion” Archer.

Yes, the moral of this story is: Don’t lose the lag!


I like ten-ball.

I like it a lot.

I like it that the ten doesn’t count on the break and all shots must be called.

People have said for years that nine-ball is too easy, what with its allowance for crapping in balls and making the nine on the break. After Mr. Dechaine’s eight-pack, I heard whispers that even ten-ball is too easy, especially with the use of the Magic Ball Rack™, which people fear will do to ten-ball what the Sardo Rack and the cut-break did to nine-ball. I agree that new racking — technologies — do make the game a tad easier because they standardize the rack. With enough research, one can find out how to break so you can make a ball on the break every time, especially with a standardized rack that racks exactly the same time after time.


Consider this: Mr. Dechaine, even with the help of the Magic Ball Rack™ (yes, this is the first time I’ve used the “™” and I’m tickled pink with it) still had to accomplish a few things for his eight-pack. He had to:

  • win the lag
  • make a ball on the first break and get a shot
  • make a ball on every break after that and get a shot
  • make all the balls into their intended pockets


There ain’t nothing EASY about that, no matter how you look at it. Sure, there has to be a little luck, but it’s certainly a hell of a lot easier to NOT run eight racks than it is to run eight racks.

Since I’m not a good player and certainly cannot pass judgment on whether or not ten-ball is too easy, all I have to say about that ten-ball eight-pack is: “Damn. That was awesome. I need to go practice.”


I got off the soapbox and into a cab with a bunch of other hungry people and we went to a buffet.

Miss Connie was my buffet benefactor. Guess where we went?

stained glass... beautiful, but unappetizing...

Yarrr, we be eatin’ at the Bellagio tonight, mateys!

I dine at buffets in a particular manner.

Each plate contains related items, only.

Not really sure where I picked up the habit or why I do it.

I'm aware all the food ends up jumbled in the same place.

But, it's just SO NICE to see my food organized neatly.


Cheesecake decorated with gold sprinkles. It was delicious and it made me laugh.

After dinner, I went against my good judgment to try that 14.1 Challenge again. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, but I did all right. I had a few drinks more and then left my friends to their task of packing up as they were flying out in a few hours.


I moseyed on over to the Cue Club, where the long-awaited match between Oscar Dominguez and Raj Hundal (it was supposed to have taken place a couple of weeks ago at the Seminole Pro Tour event) was in progress.

When I arrived, the first set was already completed (Mr. Dominguez won) and the second set was underway. I miscalculated the beads so I thought it was earlier in the match than it actually was.

I’ll make up for my substandard scorekeeping with some neat photographs (poor quality, though — taken with iPhone in lowlight).

Left. Oscar Dominguez in the background and his father, Ernesto, watching in the foreground. Right. Raj Hundal.

Mr. Hundal was upbeat and proposed they play again the next evening for twice the stakes. I hadn’t seen many big action matches during my time here, so I was looking forward to the rematch.

I'd been up 24 hours at this point. I did not like the sun at all.

Whether you win or lose, the sun still rises. (That annoys me, too.)


I don’t know how long I slept for, but it wasn’t enough. Nevertheless, my internal billiards clock (with complete disregard for my physical and mental health) woke me up in time to go watch more pool.

The 14.1 Challenge concluded at noon and all division excepting the Professional division received their prize money. The top eight professionals faced off in a single-elimination, seeded playoff tournament. They played to 100 points (real rules this time, no do-it-yourself break ball). I had to choose between watching these matches or watching the end of the ten-ball event.

once more! with feeling!

I went to the ten-ball event thinking that there was still plenty of time to watch the rest of the 14.1 Challenge.

Here are some views of the pro arena on the final day, after all tables except the TV table had been cleared out.

looks weird...

I did like the cocktail tables with the armchairs in front of the big screen…

…so did many people…

Dude was out COLD.

…because after a long day of team pool, the chairs were extremely comfortable to sleep in.

if anyone else dressed like this, I might laugh... Alex just makes it work...

Shane Van Boening defeated David Alcaide in the finals, 11-6, after being down 5-1 at one point. Yawn. South Dakota Kid just plays too good.

2011 U.S. Open 10-ball Championships
tournament results & payout
1st Shane Van Boening $15,000
2nd David Alcaide $8,500
3rd Corey Deuel $6,500
4th Dennis Haar $4,800
5th Scott Frost $3,450
  Johnathan Pinegar  
7th Mike Dechaine $2,400
  Ralf Souquet  
9th Darren Appleton $1,750
  Mitch Ellerman  
  Efren Reyes  
  Charlie Williams  
13th Mike Davis $1,300
  Raj Hundal  
  Alex Pagulayan  
  James Baraks  
17th Ernesto Dominguez $975
  Oscar Dominguez  
  Corey Harper  
  Danny Harriman  
  John Schmidt  
  Brandon Shuff  
  Jeremy Sossei  
  Kenichi Uchigaki  
25th Johnny Archer $750
  Jesse Engel  
  Mika Immonen  
  Jeremy Jones  
  Jason Klatt  
  Hunter Lombardo  
  Tony Robles  
  Paul Song  

I was hit with total exhaustion after watching the ten-ball finals. During an (unsatisfying) nap, I got the message that some friends wanted to go to Hot ‘N’ Juicy, a local seafood restaurant. If I can’t sleep, I might as well eat.

While waiting for my friends to get ready (vamanos people!!), I roamed the main tournament room.

The finals of the Women’s Masters Team event.

Someone’s forgotten autographed magazine.

The final results of the 14.1 Challenge. I ended up missing the rest of the matches, but I heard Mika Immonen was playing exceptionally well and pretty much no one was going to beat him.

I also got word that the Dominguez vs Hundal rematch wouldn’t take place that evening but the following evening. Bummer! I would be leaving then. 🙁


Food conquers all!

Miss Sunny drove at breakneck a safe and reasonable speed to ensure we made it to the restaurant before they closed.

Hot ‘N’ Juicy is a chain of restaurants that serves Cajun-style seafood. You pick the seafood of your choice, crab legs, shrimp, crawfish, etc. (usually sold by the pound), your seasoning of choice (they have five and you can pick the level of spiciness you want), and some sides. Your seafood is cooked with your sides (if applicable) in a plastic bag and brought to you at your table.

I chose crawfish and crab legs cooked in Mild Garlic Butter.

There are no plates for your seafood — you eat it straight out of the bag. It’s messy business so the tables are covered in plastic sheeting, there are rolls of paper towels on every table, and you get a bib to protect your duds.

AndyFace says it ALL.

Left. Andy Chen modeling a bib along with his “AndyFace” look of disbelief/disapproval. Right. It’s okay to crawfish when you’re a crawfish.

4810 Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 891-8889

I slept in. Well into the double-digits. I futzed off offers to hang out and eat in favor of more sleep. So nice. When I finally did get up, I had to pack. This was the first year I did NOT overpack and so, even packing was a nice experience.

Before I was to leave Vegas, I did some last-minute shopping for cue accessories.

Behold, the fabled Chalk ($25) and Gator Grip ($30) from Kamui.

I know some of you are all, “Wait! You have to do the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Disclosure for these items! All bloggers who receive product in return for reviews are required to do them!” To which I will answer, “Nope. Because I actually paid for my stuff.”

I had the chalk before I came to Vegas. It’s a finer grain than regular Masters chalk and I agree with the description that most people say it’s got the texture of makeup foundation.

CueShark!   It’s supposed to reduce miscues and I will agree that if your miscues are caused by excessively NOT chalking, then yes, it will help. The chalk does to have good lasting power on the tip.
What I find works for me is to clean off the tip of my cue, chalk it well with the Kamui chalk, and then roll the tip-pick feature on my CueShark (pictured to the left) over the chalked tip.

Of course, 99% of my miscues are caused by operator error — that is, I hit the ball with a shitty stroke. But, I do like having different chalk for that 1% of the time where it could be humidity, the breaking down of my tip, extreme chalking laziness, attacks by sharks with laser beams in their heads, etc. that causes a miscue. In times like that, the $25 price of the chalk more than pays for itself.

A lot of people won’t buy the chalk on principle (“OMG! $25 CHALK?! DIAF!”), which I understand perfectly. That’s what I like about myself — I have no principles! Tee hee! Besides, the chalk is going to last me a while.

The Gator Grip I like a lot. It’s a very fine metal filing surface that roughs up your cue tip just enough. Most of the other tip shapers and scuffers I’ve had tend to rough up the tip too much, resulting in shreds of leather being taken off the tip. The Gator Grip texturizes the tip jut enough to hold chalk. This is important to a pool nerd like me. When I get into a seriously serious tournament (read: every tournament), I’m that person who roughs up my tip in between matches. As you can imagine, I burn through tips faster than a flamethrower through butter. The Gator Grip will give my tips a longer life. They’re $30, but they’ll last pretty much forever (barring loss, theft, and acts of God).


As my road partners and I were loading up the car, I was notified of impending action:

It was Dominguez vs Hundal (same format as before) for $10,000 and Alex Pagulayan vs Shane Van Boening in a race to 40 for $15,000!

We all thought really hard about ditching work for an extra day to sweat these matches, but good sense prevailed in the end and off we went. Vegas was getting cold again, anyway, and storm clouds were gathering. Also, my fellow travel-mates were tired of losing money to the casinos.

We’d been chugging along for a while when I got another notification.

That’s not a joke. I was told the match was cancelled because one of Mr. Hundal’s backers lost his phone. Okay.

We stopped at The Mad Greek in Baker. I’ve had better Greek food elsewhere, but not in the middle of the desert next to the world’s largest thermometer.

We made good time and I was back in the City of Angles (yes, Angles) in a couple of hours.

Shane Van Boening defeated Alex Pagulayan by the score of 40-20, in case you were wondering.


I went to work the next day and when people asked what I did on vacation, I said, “Laundry.”


related links

    tournament brackets
  2011 U.S. Open One Pocket Championships
  2011 U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships
  2011 BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships
    previous BCAPL National 8-Ball Championship writeups
  umm... I don't know why I have this for an icon here, either 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2008* | 2007 (series of posts)

t h a n k s !

EMCA | FWCCA | JGCA soy saucesushiginger | Mark & Sunny Griffin, Mark Estes, Holly Ryan, John Leyman & the rest of the BCAPL & CSI peeps who put on the show | John Bertone & Masato of Kamui | Mike Feiman of Pool Dawg | Cue Times Billiard News | Mark Whitehead & Andy Chen (for having licenses to drive, hehehe)


nice seeing/meeting
in no particular order

Roy “Norwegian Nit” Steffensen | Crystal, Lyle, & Marie | E1 & Suzy | Mike Mitchell | Amy & Po, Dana, Paul, “Play-Doh” Jeff, & Patty & Jermaine | Connie (high-end buffet sponsor for this trip!) | Melissa Herndon (and her Stef Stories), Jennifer Barretta (in a really nice Led Zeppelin shirt), & Melissa Morris (who got married while in Vegas! Congratulations!) | Gina, Supadra, Caroline, & the NYC hotties | Toasti | Mr. Incardona | Buddha & PoolMonkey | Justin, Cleary, & TAR | John Schmidt & Bill Maropulos (they attempted to teach me the finer points of 14.1) | Kenichi Uchigaki | “Pool Boss” | Keigo Senbei | DRW | Mike Fieldhammer | Billy & Sarah | my drinking buddy from Ohio (and the full-size bottle of Jagermeister she carries in her purse as a snack) | “The Other” Alison Fischer | poolist | Kristen Malone | the future Mrs. Klatt & Mr. Rousey | Alex “I Need To Take A Sh!t” Pagulayan (who still gives life advice in exchange for beer) | Amanda Lampert | Dave, Sweeney, & Jimmy (I have yet to meet this legendary Orly) | Christina & Ben, Nicole & Jeremy | & finally, congratulations to Everyone Who Won Anything In Vegas

if I missed you in this list, I apologize — when I have too much fun, my memory occasionally falters (email me if you feel left out and I’ll add you)

To those I didn’t get a chance to catch up with in Vegas, pool is a small world and we’ll see each other soon!


for Dana & Sunny