PoolRoom

IPT Open Continues: Filipinos Dominate; Fisher’s Perfect While Most Women Falter

The IPT’s North American 8-Ball Open is shaping up to be the Philippines 8-Ball Smackdown.

The Filipino contingent flew their flag high and often on Monday — the second day of the history-making, $2 million event — as six Pinoy shooters scored perfect 4-0 records in round-robin play: Efren Reyes, Alex Pagulayan, Francisco Bustamante, Marlon Manalo, Dennis Orcollo and Ronato Alcano.

Joining the ranks of the undefeated was Brit snooker and 9-ball superstar Allison Fisher, who steamed through a fairly soft bracket to qualify for the next round of play. However, she was one of only two women of the 15 female tour members to score a winning record, and one of only four to advance. The U.K.’s Sarah Ellerby had the other winning record, 3-1.

Top female pros making early exits Monday included Ireland’s Karen Corr, who went 1-3 in a particularly tough draw; the U.K.’s Kelly Fisher, 1-3; Helena Thornfeldt of Sweden, 0-4; and American Monica Webb, 0-4.

Play on Monday centered on the second set of 100 competitors in the 200-player field, divied up into 20 groups of five. The top three in each group advanced to today’s round, featuring the remaining 120 players, parsed into 20 groups of six.

The 80 eliminated players from the first round will settle for $2,000 each. The winner of the event will pocket a record $350,000.

Here’s a brief wrap-up of Monday’s highlights:

• One of the biggest surprises of the Open so far is the number of players who qualified for the event — those not among the 150 regular IPT tour members — who are posting undefeated records. These surprise contenders from Monday’s play include Dutchman Rico Diks; England’s Karl Boyes; and Anthony Ginn of Australia.

• Keith Bennett, a 27-year-old house pro at Breaktime Billiards in Wilmington, N.C., who made it into the Open as alternate after Hall-of-Famer Jim Rempe bowed out, posted a 4-0 record in the first-round on Monday.

• The four women to advance to Tuesday’s matches in the round-of-120 were Allison Fisher, 4-0; the U.K.’s Sarah Ellerby, 3-1; Hall-of-Famer Loree Jon Jones (U.S.), 2-2; and Austria’s Gerda Hofstatter, who managed to limp into the next round with a 1-3 record when her games-won percentage topped two other players in her group with the same record (Ed Kelly and Jim Weast, both of the U.S.; Hofstatter’s games-won percentage was in fact just 1 percent higher than Weast’s).

• Beyond the Filipinos, who were expected to do well, several favorites sent messages to the field that they were not to be underestimated. Also posting 4-0 records were well-regarded Americans Johnny Archer and Shannon Daulton, and Germany’s Oliver Ortmann.

Souquet’s On Top of the World, Again

With his parents and his girlfriend cheering him on in the stands, Ralf Souquet lifted his fifth PartyCasino.com World Pool Masters trophy over his head at the Hotel Zuiderduin in Egmond aan Zee, The Netherlands, which culminated June 18. Souquet has the best record of any player in this event with previous wins in 2002, 2000, 1996 and 1994.

With as many trophies as Souquet has had hovering over that head, one might expect it to swell to mass proportion, but even after his 8-4 victory against Alex Pagulayan in the final, Souquet remained humble. “It was a hard match as expected, and even though the scoreline suggests it was easy, it wasn’t,” he said.

With a single-elimination format, Pagulayan had ejected Steve Davis, Vilmos Foldes and Raj Hundal from the 16-man field to reach his first Masters final. Souquet removed Efren Reyes, the “Majarajah” of England, Imran Majid and 17-year-old wonderboy Wu Chia-ching of the Chinese Tapei.

In the final, Pagulayan won the lag and took the first rack, but Souquet wasn’t worried. He leveled the scale in the second, and after Pagulayan scratched off the break in the third, “The Kaiser” took command and moved in front, 2-1. Souquet potted two balls off the break but recognized trouble with the 2 ball, so he played safe. After a tight exchange, Pagulayan was gifted an opportunity as Souquet scratched and, with ball in hand, the Canadian/Filipino pulled it back to 2-2.

The third rack showed that the typically invulnerable Souquet is human, when Pagulayan missed a long shot at the red 3 and Souquet produced one of his worst shots of the competition and presented Pagulayan with a connect-the-dots layout, that allowed him to regain the lead, 3-2.

Pagulayan proved himself imperfect as well, with a foul that gave Souquet ball in hand, and soon after, the sixth rack, 3-3. From there, Souquet ran the next four racks, maintaining meticulous precision on every shot position. 6-3 as he closed in on yet another Masters title.

The crowd-pleasing Pagulayan kept the match alive by winning the 11th rack, but Souquet ran from the break in the 12th to become Masters champion again.

“This performance was probably my best match in the whole event,” Souquet said. “The semifinal was okay, although I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable, but I had a good feeling now and wanted to take every chance I had.”

Who Will Rule Pool?

The World Pool Masters are underway at the Hotel Zuiderduin in Egmond aan Zee, The Netherlands, with 16 male players vying for wold dominance in straight-knockout, single-elimination 9-ball.

Of the 16 players, nine are Europeans: Nick van den Berg, Alex Lely and Neils Feijen of Holland, Thomas Engert and Ralf Souquet of Germany, and Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis, Imran Majid and Raj Hundal of England. The remainder of the field was filled out by Wu Chia-ching of the Chinese Taipei, Hiroshi Takenaka of Japan, Efren Reyes and Alex Pagulayan of the Philippines and Rodney Morris as the lone American.

The first-round began today (June 16) and so far, defending champion Hundal eliminated Hiroshi Takenaka, 8-5, while Feijen sent Morris packing, 8-3. Feijin’s win will put him in the quarterfinal with Hundal on Saturday evening.

Morris, who reached the final of last year’s event, said: “I felt good but with the alternate-break format I couldn’t come back when I went down a couple of games.”

Meanwhile, Foldes nabbed a nail-biter match against van den Berg, 7-8. The back-and-forth match was at hill-hill when Foldes broke and ran out for the win, much to the dismay of the Dutch crowd.

“I’m delighted to have won. It was a very tough game and either of us could have won it but in the end I kept it together to clear that last rack for victory,” Foldes said afterwards.

San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Event Underway

The 2006 San Miguel Beer Asian 9-Ball tour begins today, May 5, at the Nguyen Du Sports Hall in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The field is divided into eight groups. Using a round-robin format, race-to-9, with alternating breaks, the winner of each group will advance to the quarterfinals. Filipino top seeds include Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan in group one, rising star “Marvelous” Marlon Manalo heading group three, Francisco “Django” Bustamante heading group four, and Efren “Bata” Reyes in group five.

Last year’s overall champion, the sensational Taiwanese Yang Ching-Shun, is the first seed in group eight, veteran Fong Pang Chao heads group seven and last year’s World Pool Champion, teenage sensation Wu Chia Ching has been listed No. 1 in group two. The fourth player Taiwanese player is Wang Huang Hsiang.

The only outsider who earned a top-seed ranking was Malaysia’s Patrick Ooi, who is heading group six. Four players will represent the host nation, Vietnam, led by Nguyen Thanh Nam and including Luong Chi Dong, Vu Trong Khai and Nguyen Phuong Thao.

Japan’s lone entry is Masaaki Tanaka. Hong Kong will be represented by Au Chi Wai. Korea’s entry is Jeong Young-Hwa who was runner-up to Reyes in Taipei in 2004. Other entries are Xu Meng and Li He-Wen of China, Nurdin Abuba and Imran Ibrahim of Indonesia, Sundeep Gulati of India, Chan Keng-Kwang of Singapore, Tepwin Arunnath and Amnuayporn Chotipong of Thailand.

Archer Remains On Target For Final In Calgary

Quarter-final matches will take place today between undefeated players Johnny Archer and Luc Salvas, Alex Pagulayan and Jason Klatt at the 2006 SML 9-Ball Open in Calgary.

Archer’s path to the final was almost thwarted by young Shane Van Boening in an early match on April 13, the third day of the tournament. The match was tied at 10-10 with Van Boening breaking, but a scratch on the break proved fatal as Archer ran out the final rack to remain undefeated.

After beating Stan Tourangeau, Archer’s next obstacle is Salvas of Quebec, who has built momentum with wins over formidable Filipinos Edwin Montal and Dennis Orcollo.

Defending champion Pagulayan and 2004 champion Archer are favored for the final.

Matchroom Sport selects Manila to host 2006 World Pool Championship

After the last two years in Chinese-Taipei and Kaohsiung, Matchroom Sport has decided to push the envelope and stage the prestigious World Pool Championships in Manila this year, marking the first time that the annual event will be held in the Philippines.

Matchroom Sport, headed by its chairman, British millionaire Barry Hearn, and Media Director Luke Riches will join ESPN Star Sports executives in Manila next week to finalize deals of what is reportedly a done deal.

While hosting the World Pool Championships is a costly endeavor, the positive media opportunity is expected to be more than worthwhile, especially since pool-crazy Filipinos would love to see 1999 champion Efren “Bata” Reyes, 2004 winner Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan, 2002 runner-up Francisco “Django” Bustamante and promising stars such as “Marvelous” Marlon Manalo match their skills against the finest players from Chinese-Taipei, the U.S. and Europe, along with emerging talents from Japan and South Korea.

Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today was informed that the top prize will be the biggest in the history of the World Pool Championships, running into six figures.

No venue has been selected as of yet, but candidates include the Philippine International Convention Center, the World Trade Center and billionaire Henry Sy’s Mall of Asia.

Joyner Named 2006 Louie Roberts A/E Award Winner

Cliff Joyner of High Point, N.C., was voted this year’s winner of the Louie Roberts A/E (Action/Entertainment) Award for his endless pursuit of action at the 2006 Derby City Classic.

The award was instituted in 2003 and is named in honor of Louie Roberts, who was never a Hall Of Famer but certainly was entertaining to watch. Every year the distinction goes to the person that makes the most of his or her time at Derby City, and makes it the most interesting for fans to watch. Recipients of the A/E award win free lodging and a waiver of the Derby City entry fee for life.

Joyner was the top vote-getter in a poll on an Internet forum, where his non-stop one-pocket action is said to have drawn crowds “morning, noon, and night” at the nine-day tournament in Louisville, Ky. He joins the ranks of former winners Alex Pagulayan, Tony Watson, and Scott Frost.

Jason Miller, the New Darling of Derby City, Joins Pagulayan on IPT

Miller's Time: Jason dominated at Derby.

Miller’s Time: Jason dominated at Derby.

It’s wasn’t too bad a week for Jason Miller, a sports bar owner from Dayton, Ohio.

After hardly playing pool for a year, Miller arrived at the Eighth Annual Derby City Classic and wrested the Master of the Table title and its $20,000 prize from perennial all-around champion Efren Reyes. Then he strolled undefeated through a tough-as-nails 46-player qualification tournament for the International Pool Tour and won a berth on the million-dollar 8-ball circuit for 2006.

So when we say Miller arrived at the nine-day Derby City Classic, held Jan. 5-14 at the Executive West Hotel in Louisville, Ky., we mean he really arrived.

“I’m extremely excited,” Miller enthused. “This is great. The week was great … and then winning this card is just icing on the cake. It’s been a long ten days. A marathon. I just concentrate on one match at a time, and that’s about it. I got a good night’s sleep every night, didn’t stay up late, no gambling matches. It was well worth it.”

During the nine-day Derby endurance test, Miller won the 9-ball banks division, placed second in the one-pocket pack, and held on long enough for a 15th-place finish in the 9-ball contest. Reyes, who blitzed Miller 3-0 in the 20-minute one-pocket final, needed to top the 9-ball field to keep his Master of the Table title from 2005, but fell short in the semifinal versus fellow Filipino Rodolfo Luat.

As the 9-ball division was wrapping up on Jan. 14, the IPT kicked off the first of its four qualifiers for a handful of open spots on the 150-player tour. Each of the 46 players paid a $2,000 entry fee, and the only reward would be tour cards for the top two finishers.

The all-star field made for perhaps the most intimidating qualifier in pool history. At the top of the list was reigning U.S. Open champ Alex Pagulayan, but there wasn’t much of a drop-off from there, as the dream of competing on the IPT brought a passel of national 8-ball champs from the BCA and VNEA amateur leagues (Shane Van Boening, Brian Groce), 9-ball pros (Tang Hoa, Robb Saez, George Breedlove) and international studs like Hungary’s Vilmos Foldes, Germany’s Thomas Engert and the U.K.’s Imran Majid.

Miller was the first to qualify on Jan. 15, besting Foldes, 10-6, in the winners-bracket final. Pagulayan then outplayed Foldes, 10-2, to win his tour card. The Killer Pixie jigged around the table, crying out, “I made it! I’m in the IPT now!”

“It’s not only the IPT,” Pagulayan admitted afterward. “I’ve been here all week. I was doing good in the banks, and for some reason, they played like God on me. I was doing good in one-pocket, and for some reason Efren — he didn’t play like Efren. He played better than Efren. And then in 9-ball, Luat beat me, played his best against me. … At least I got this. I think I got the most important thing, I think. That might make me a millionaire, I think.”

Ralf Souquet felt almost as fortunate, breaking something of a dry spell to win the 9-ball division at Derby City. Among the top three players in he world in 2002, Souquet has struggled recently with physical and personal woes, and was seeking chiropractic treatment in Louisville for intense back pain during the Classic.

After crushing Luat, 7-0, in the 9-ball final, Germany’s “The Kaiser” was all smiles.

“I don’t know what it is,” Germany’s “The Kaiser” demurred. “… I do have a new girlfriend.”

Irrepressible Pagulayan Wins Second Major in All-Filipino U.S. Open Final

Alex Pagulayan ran undefeated through a 256-man field to win the 30th Annual U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships, which this year could well have been called “The Philippine Open” after placing three Filipinos in the top three spots.

“A win is a win is a win,” an ebullient Pagulayan said after beating Jose Parica in an error-filled final, 11-6. Parica had knocked Francisco Bustamante out of the running in the losers’-bracket final, 11-10.

Pagulayan first beat Parica in the winners’-bracket final, 11-6, and then earned the $40,000 top prize by taking advantage of a Parica miss on the 4 in the 17th rack of the finals. It was a dream come true for the tiny Canadian-by-way-of-the-Philippines, and his second major title after winning the 2004 World Pool Championship.

“The only dream I have left is to grow another two inches – either taller or the other way, I don’t care,” the irrepressible Clown Prince of Pool joked.

It was a bittersweet win for a couple reasons. Parica failed again to take the title after reaching the semis of the U.S. Open several times, and the finals at least twice. And Pagulayan, perhaps the most talented player of his generation, said after the event that he has all but forsaken mainstream U.S. pool events for poker – both tournament play and online gaming.

“The money is terrible,” he said, echoing a longtime lament of many top pool pros. “I can make a lot more playing poker.” For the time being, Pagulayan expected only to compete in the States at the Derby City Classic and U.S. Open.

Upsets Galore at U.S. Open as Former Champs Drop to One-Loss Bracket

The giants all fell from the winners’ bracket on Friday night at the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Chesapeake, Va., as Johnny Archer, Francisco Bustamante, Efren Reyes, Ralf Souquet, Niels Feijen and Jeremy Jones dropped to the one-loss side in the same round of matches.

The carnage started at 9 p.m. Friday with Filipinos Alex Pagulayan and Francisco Bustamante lagging on the TV table. The wily Pagulayan jumped to a quick 5-0 lead, allowing his foe near the table only once – and that was for a push. Regaining his world-beating form after two years of ho-hum play, the resurgent Bustamante rocketed back to take the lead at 9-8, but a hung 4 ball in the 18th rack brought Pagulayan back to the table, where he ran out and then ran the next two racks for an 11-9 victory.

“At the end I got lucky with the 4 ball,” Pagulayan said. “That was the key to the match. I was thinking when it was 8-8, just give me one more chance.”

On the next table over, Filipino expatriate Jose Parica kept one step ahead of countryman and longtime rival Reyes to win, 11-9. Reyes was joined soon on the one-loss side by several other former Open champions: Johnny Archer fell to Troy Frank, 11-6; Jeremy Jones lost to Andreas Roschkowsky, 11-9; and Ralf Souquet dropped a hill-hill slugfest with upstart Sylver Ochoa, 11-10.

This was all in the same round, mind you, and all within an hour of each other. Other significant winners’-bracket results from the 9 p.m. round included Nick Van den Berg smashing Charlie “Hillbilly” Bryant, 11-4; Viet Nam native Tang Hoa elbowing Holland’s Feijen, 11-8; and Charlie Williams halting Ernesto Dominguez.

That left eight men still in the winners’ bracket, and dozens left to brave the extraordinarily deep one-loss bracket in this field-of-256 competition with a $200,000 prize fund. At 3 p.m. EST, Tang will play Roschkowsky, Pagulayan will face Frank, Van den Berg will meet Parica, and Williams will lag against Ochoa.