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The Hustlers

HustlersLinkCan “The Hustlers” garner the mass appeal of “Pawn Stars” or “The Deadliest Catch?” Will Jennifer Barretta gain the notoriety of a Kardashian or a Braxton? Is Mike Dechaine pool’s version of Gordon Ramsay? The answers to those and other questions will begin to take shape after TruTv’s new pool-focused reality show debuts Friday, March 22, at 9:00 pm EST.

The 10-episode first season of “The Hustlers” follows a troupe of players of various skill levels as they play for money and jockey for hierarchical standing at Steinway Billiards, one of New York City’s busiest poolrooms. Pros Mike Dechaine and Jennifer Barretta are among the central characters in the series, which also features self-appointed ringleader William Finnegan, Boston player Jarrod Clowery and locals Gregg McAndrews, Emily Duddy, Scott Simonetti and Gary O’Callaghan.

“The Hustlers” was produced by reality TV powerhouse Pilgrim Studios. The episodes were taped at Steinway over a 10-week period this spring.

Battle Of The Sexes – Finn goes up against Emily in an epic 9-ball battle royale.

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Home Turf Advantage – Gary and Finnegan show a pair of opponents why Steinway is their home turf.

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Mosconi Junior

With the well-documented success of the Mosconi Cup and the emergence of the Queens Cup, it was only a matter of time before international team clashes reached the junior ranks.

Enter the Atlantic Challenge Cup, an event recently announced by the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) and the European Pocket Billiard Federation (EPBF). As with the Mosconi Cup, which pits players from the United States against a team of European stars, the Atlantic Challenge Cup will be a transatlantic clash. Four boys and two girls will represent Team USA and Team Europe at the inaugural Challenge, which will take place July 1-4, in Rankweil, Austria. Players must be 19 or younger.

“The future of the game lies in our ability to develop tomorrow’s players,” said BCA Chairman Mike Serra. “The prestige of competing in an event of this magnitude will further promote the game to today’s youth.”

Europe, through the EPBF, already enjoys a strong youth program, and EPBF officials suspect the addition of the Atlantic Challenge Cup will further fuel the efforts.

“We expect the desire from the players wanting to be included into the team will be very strong and will further increase the standard within pool,” said EPBF President Gre Leenders. A seven-person committee, chaired by longtime instructor and referee Rick Doner, was assigned by the Billiard Education Foundation to select the U.S. squad The committee included players Jeanette Lee, Johnny Archer and Laura Smith, along with instructor Randy Goettlicher, instructional author Phil Capelle and longtime tournament director Earl Munson, who will also serve as coach and captain for Team USA. The BCA was expected to announce the Team USA members on May 4.

Meanwhile, the EPBF announced its roster, which will include Germany’s Joshua Filler and Raphael Wall, each of whom earned a pair of gold medals at the 2014 Youth European Championships. Maxim Dudanets of Russia, currently ranked 34th on the Euro Tour, will also participate, as will Sweden’s Daniel Tanguud. Youth Euro Championships silver medalist Marharyta Fefilava of Belarus and youth 8-ball champion Kristina Tkach of Russia will round out the squad.

While details have yet to be determined, the four-day event is expected to be a race to 11.

Accu-Stats To Take Over US Open Entry Fees, Payout

In an effort to quell player concerns and secure critical sanctioning from the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships promoter Barry Behrman has come to an agreement with Accu-Stats and its owner, Pat Fleming, to allow Fleming to collect all entry fees and added monies for the 2015 event. Fleming will also be in charge of distributing prize money once players are eliminated from the tournament.

Behrman and Fleming announced the new arrangement in separate press releases March 18. The 2015 U.S. Open is scheduled for Oct. 23-30, at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Va.

“Pat [Fleming] has opened a U.S. Open Bank of America escrow account and will collect the $75,000 added funds prior to mid-July, as well as all players’ entry fees, which will be used to pay through 48th place,” said Behrman in his release.

According to Fleming’s Accu-Stats release, Behrman has until July 23, 2015, to deposit the $75,000 in added money. The total purse (player entries are $1,000) is projected to be $188,000. According to the release, Accu-Stats and Pat Fleming are the only persons on the Bank of America account authorized to receive entry fees and sign prize money checks.

The announcements should have a calming effect on players considering participation in the tournament. Behrman has a history (including 2014) of failing to pay cashing players at the end of the tournament, often having to pay players in installments over a period of months following the event. Fleming, a former pro player and Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer, is well respected by both the players and industry members. His Accu-Stats video company has covered the U.S. Open for more than 30 years, and in recent years has offered both live streaming from the event and edited shows for distribution around the world.

While the WPA has not stated it publically, it is thought by most with knowledge of the situation that the world governing body would not have granted sanctioning to the U.S. Open if Behrman had been solely responsible for the distribution of the prize fund in 2015. WPA sanctioning means players earn world points, making them eligible for other WPA-sanctioned events and world championships. With $75,000 added, the U.S. Open would qualify as a Tier 2 event by the WPA, earning players more points for higher finishes. The U.S. Open is also slated as the final points event for players hoping to qualify for Team USA and Team Europe in the 2015 Mosconi Cup. “It is really good news all around,” said Darren Appleton, two-time U.S. Open champion and a player who travels to most big international events. “The players were losing faith, and the loss of the WPA sanction would have meant 50 percent of the players from Europe and Asia would not have come over. Now, with the money safe and the WPA points, all the foreign players will show up. Pat Fleming rescued the U.S. Open. We need the U.S. Open. It’s a prestigious event.”

The Accu-Stats release included a list of options for players wanting to post their entry fee, as well as a list of options for the collection of prize money. More information is available at http://www.azbilliards.com/news/stories/11850-pat-fleming-announces-us-open-escrow-details/

WILSON ANNOUNCES FINAL SELECTIONS FOR TEAM USA

After making “some of the roughest telephone calls I’ve ever had to make,” Team USA captain Mark Wilson announced his five-man team for the 21st Mosconi Cup, scheduled for Dec. 1-4, in Blackpool, England. The squad features a mixture of veteran players and youth.

Not surprisingly, newly minted U.S. Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening will lead the U.S. squad, which has dropped four Mosconi Cups in a row (and six of seven) to Team Europe. The 31-year-old Van Boening will play in his eighth Cup, and will be joined by Cup veterans Corey Deuel, also making his eighth appearance, and John Schmidt, who played in 2006 in Rotterdam. Making their Mosconi Cup debuts will be 27-year-old Justin Bergman of Fairview Heights, Ill., and 26-year-old Justin Hall of Palm Harbor, Fla.

The “tough calls” Wilson made were to Brandon Shuff, Oscar Dominguez and Jeremy Sossei, who have been offered coaching positions in Blackpool. Dominguez and Shuff have each participated in one Mosconi Cup, with Dominguez being a member of the last U.S. team to win the title, in 2009.

“This represents a new era for Team USA,” said Wilson, who was named captain by Matchroom Sport in January, just a month after Team USA was humiliated by Team Europe, 12-2, in Las Vegas. “And I’m counting on these players to be leaders. “The final decisions were difficult,” Wilson added. “Every player put a lot of time and effort into their game over the past nine months. And they all represented the sport and the U.S. well during that time. There were a few close calls, but I’m confident in these picks. It was a pretty thorough process.”

According to Wilson, the three players left off the final squad were asked to travel with the team to England, expense-paid, to assist during the event. “This won’t be a holiday,” Wilson added. “Each player will be assigned special duties, setting up little refresher drills for the team before each round.” Wilson said the duties include an Offensive Coordinator, a Defensive Coordinator (to work on safeties and kick shots) and Specialty Shots Coordinator (for breaking and elevated cue shots).
“I will have drills for the players to work on,” said Wilson, “and the coaches will help the players run through the drills.”

According to Wilson, the team will meet in St. Louis, Nov. 20-21, for intensive practice sessions at Lindenwood University, where Wilson coaches the billiards program. The team will participate in Mosconi Cup-style match play at Starship Billiards in Decatur, Ill., the following two days. After several more days of practice in St. Louis, the team will share a Thanksgiving dinner, before leaving for Blackpool on Friday, Nov. 28. “I feel great about Team USA,” Wilson said. “I’m ready to go to war with these guys.”

Immonen, Parica Elected to BCA Hall of Fame

Mika-Immonen-thbOne year after missing induction into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame by two votes in a special run-off against Jeanette Lee, Finland’s Mika Immonen overwhelmed the 2014 field to earn his spot in the sport’s hallowed hall, according to the United States Billiard Media Association (USBMA). Two-time world champion Immonen, 41, will be joined by 65-year-old Jose Parica, the leader of the “Philippines Invasion,” who was added to the ballot under recommendation from the Veterans Committee.

Born in London, raised in Helsinki, Immonen was Europe’s No. 1-ranked played at age 20. But his career really took off after he moved to New York City in 2000. He won the WPA World Pool Championship in 2001, back-to-back U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships titles (2008, 2009) and the World 10-Ball Championship (2009). During the 2000s, Immonen won 10 U.S. pro titles, and numerous international events.

Parica was the first top player from the Philippines to come to the U.S., when he entered the World Straight Pool Championship in 1978, six years before the arrival of Efren Reyes. He won his first U.S. pro title in 1986 (the Clyde Childress Open). After several years away from the game, Parica returned to win two Camel Pro Billiard Series titles in 1997, and was the tour’s top points-earner and Player of the Year.

Immonen and Parica will be formally inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame on Friday, Oct. 17, at the Chesapeake Convention Center in Chesapeake, Va.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Immonen, upon hearing the news. “You never really believe it until it’s real. Last year was interesting, obviously. But I’m a little beside myself right now. I’ve got goose bumps.”

Fisher ‘Great’ Following Heart Surgery

“Everything went really well,” said a fatigued but upbeat Kelly Fisher, from her hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit at Golden Jubilee National Hospital near Glasgow, in the United Kingdom. “The doctors were over the moon. They said it couldn’t have gone better.”

Fisher, ranked second in the world by the World Pool-Billiard Association and the sixth-ranked player on the Women’s Professional Billiards Association tour, underwent surgery on July 22 to repair an atrial septal defect, also known as a “hole in the heart.” While a congenital defect, the 35-year-old Fisher had not experienced any severe problems until recently.

“I’d been bothered with a palpitation for many years,” Fisher said a week prior to the surgery, “but was told in 2009 that it was just a heart murmur, and that I had nothing to worry about.”

Fisher said she noticed that the palpitations were becoming more frequent in the past year, so she scheduled a doctor’s appointment in early March, following the Amway Cup in Taiwan (where Fisher finished second to Yu-Chieh Chou). Following tests at her local hospital in Dumfries, Scotland, Fisher was referred to Golden Jubilee in Dunbartonshire. An MRI and further tests discovered the congenital defect, which showed damage to a valve and a dilation of the right side of her heart.

“I was very lucky that it was found now,” Fisher said, “before it caused any permanent damage to my heart.”

A full recovery is expected to take three months, but Fisher said she hopes to shave a few weeks of the recovery time to participate in the Women’s World 9-Ball Championship in Guilin, China in mid-October.

“The doctors and staff were fantastic in my preparation for the operation,” said Fisher, who was expected to be out of ICU less than 48 hours after surgery. “I was off the ventilator very quickly. With plenty of rest and physio, recovery should be good. My goal is to be fit and ready for the 9-ball world championships.”

SEALs Of Approval For Team USA

In his new book, “Play Great Pool,” Team USA captain Mark Wilson recounts a special guided tour he took of the U.S. Navy SEAL facility near San Diego in 2009. He refers to the trip as one of the most inspiring, motivational and uplifting experiences of his life. In late May, Wilson hoped to get a similar response from his Team USA squad. Seven of the eight Mosconi Cup hopefuls were scheduled to visit with the Navy SEALs, May 22-25, as part of a combined training and charity mission in preparation for Mosconi Cup XXI in Blackpool, England, Dec. 1-4. (Shane Van Boening had a scheduling conflict with the San Diego dates.)

According to Wilson, in addition to a tour and lecture at the Navy SEAL facility, the San Diego camp will include a visit to a Veterans Administration hospital, a full clinic, a charity event and challenge matches. “This is all about motivation, discipline, core values and professionalism,” said Wilson. “If this visit doesn’t get the players dialed in and pumped up, nothing will.”

Wilson has expressed interest in getting the team together for several “boot camps” before selecting the final five players who will compete in Blackpool. He added that he would be compiling physical evaluations on each player — statistics on break speeds, cue ball control, spot shot accuracy and more (“like the NFL Combine,” he said) — and plans to post the results on a Team USA fan page.

To listen to Team USA promotional spot, click on the link.
http://billiardsdigest.com/audio/Mosconi-PEP.mp3

Wilson Names Team USA Hopefuls

Mosconi_CupAs was his original intent, Mosconi Cup Team USA Captain Mark Wilson worked quickly to select the players who will compete for the final five roster spots for the 2014 event in December in Blackpool, England. Wilson announced the selection of eight players who will train and compete together through the summer, before the captain whittles the list down to the five players who will wear the red, white and blue in Blackpool.

Not surprisingly, Wilson tabbed America’s No. 1, Shane Van Boening, and immediately announced that he will expect the taciturn star to provide leadership to the 2014 squad. “Shane sets a great example,” Wilson said in a press release. “And I expect to rely on him for leadership this year.”

Wilson also named seven-time Mosconi Cup veteran Corey Deuel, who many thought should have been on the team in 2013, to the squad. John Schmidt, Oscar Dominguez and Brandon Shuff, each of whom has participated in one Mosconi Cup, were named to the team was well. Leaning on America’s youth, Wilson rounded out his selection with Southern Classic One-Pocket champion Justin Bergman, Derby City titlist Justin Hall and Connecticut’s Jeremy Sossei.

“I’m really excited by this team,” Wilson said. “Every player seems so genuinely appreciative and excited. They’re all willing to do whatever it takes to develop a strong team and a strong sense of unity.”

More interesting than who Wilson selected, of course, was the list of players who weren’t invited to “camp.” The most notable omission was Johnny Archer, whose string of 17 consecutive Mosconi Cup appearances will come to an end. Fourteen-time Cup participant Earl Strickland and nine-time team member Rodney Morris were also left off the roster. In fact, Van Boening will be the only holdover from the 2013 squad that lost 21-1 to Team Europe in Las Vegas.

“I didn’t interview those players,” Wilson admitted. “And I explained to Johnny that I thought it best to go in a completely different direction this year. A lot of it is about attitude. Last year I felt there was no sense of urgency. There seemed to be a sense that it was a yearend bonus, and if the team won, great.”

Another player conspicuous by his absence is Mike Dechaine, one of the most consistent American players over the past three years.

“I spoke to Mike,” said Wilson. “In the end I felt that his reputation among the players wasn’t a good fit at this stage for a team event like the Mosconi Cup.”

Wilson added that his plan is to get the players together several times over the summer and fall for practice and team bonding. Wilson said he planned to make the final cut to five players after the U.S. Open, and that Team USA would meet and practice together for a week at Lindenwood University near St. Louis before departing for London. The dates of the 2014 Mosconi Cup are Dec. 1-4.

BD’s George Fels Dead At 75

George Fels

George Fels

George Fels, whose book, “Mastering Pool,” and monthly “Tips & Shafts” column in Billiards Digest taught and entertained pool lovers from more than 30 years, died Dec. 31 in Chicago after suffering a heart attack. Fels was 75.

According to Fels’ son, Adam, George collapsed at home Dec, 27. He was rushed to Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, but never regained consciousness. Per his wishes, George was removed from life support after neurologists confirmed extensive brain damage from the heart attack. He died late in evening in New Years Eve.

Born and raised in Chicago, Fels love of pool began early in life. An award-winning creative writer for some of the city’s biggest advertising agencies, Fels slipped away many afternoons to shoot pool at downtown Chicago’s famed Bensingers, about which he wrote on numerous occasions.

After publishing the book, “Mastering Pool,” in the late ’70s, Fels began contributing monthly columns to Billiards Digest in 1981. Over the next 33 years, Fels penned nearly 300 columns for the magazine. His columns were entertaining recollections of the game and its characters. His style was crisp, precise and hilariously descriptive. As billiard historian Mike Shamos of the Billiard Archive noted, “George said more in one page than most writers could in an entire book.”

Mr. Fels is survived by sons Adam and Sam.

BCA Hall of Fame Banquet Ticket Deadline

Chicago — The ticket deadline for the 2013 Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame Banquet, which will honor women’s champion Jeanette Lee and Matchroom Sport president Barry Hearn, is rapidly approaching! The United States Billiard Media Association, which produces the annual banquet with the BCA, announced that the deadline to purchase tickets is Tuesday, Nov. 26. Tickets WILL NOT be sold at the door.

This year’s Hall of Fame Banquet, staged during the 2013 Mosconi Cup, will be held at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Monday, Dec. 2 at 6:30. Action on the first day of the Mosconi Cup will be completed by 4:00 pm, ensuring that all the players from Team USA and Team Europe will be in attendance as Hearn, creator of the wildly popular USA v Europe team 9-ball tournament, is inducted into pool’s most exclusive club.

The evening will begin with the Bass Pro Shops Cocktail Reception at 6:30 pm. Bass Pro Shops is a major sponsor of Ms. Lee.

Tickets for the 2013 BCA Hall of Fame Banquet are $95 per person, and can be purchased at www.USBMA.com, or by calling 312-341-1110 ext 229.

The 2013 Hall of Fame Banquet is sponsored by: Bass Pro Shops; American Poolplayers Association; Aramith, Billiard Congress of America, Championship, CueSports International; Diamond Billiard Products; Imperial Int’l; PartyPoker.com; Predator Products; Simonis; Tour Edition Cloth; and Tweeten Fibre.