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Hallelujah: Winners Sing Out as IPT Field Narrows, Grows Richer

Jubilant shouts and the deep thud of cue butts slamming the floor echoed through the Venetian Hotel and Casino on Thursday night as 18 pool players took another step closer to the $350,000 top prize at the $2 million IPT North American 8-Ball Open – and another 18 saw their dreams cut short.

“Haalllloooooooo!” cried Efren Reyes, as he sank the winning 8 in a must-win hill-hill match against Mick Hill of the U.K., and pumped his fists to the ceiling. He punctuated his triumphant shout with a relieved chuckle, as he watched the cue ball come an inch from scratching in the corner.

“YES!” shouted Englishman Darren Appleton, upon hearing that bracket imate Cory Deuel had lost his last match of the day, leaving the door open for his own ascension into the next round.

“Thank you! Thank you! See you tomorrow, everybody! Yiiiii yiiiiiii!” shrieked Ronato Alcano of the Philippines, after his stats were posted on the official scoreboard and he saw that he beat America Dee Adkins for the third sport in his bracket by a percentage point.

After a 12-hour day of round-robin play, the field of 36 players in round four winnowed to 18, who were guaranteed $30,000 each by virtue of advancing to the fifth round of play. Their 18 eliminated compatriots pocketed a none-too-shabby $17,000.

The Filipino contingent continued its dominance and bettered it chances for claiming the championship, placing seven players in the last 18: Reyes, Alcano, Francisco Bustamante, Marlon Manalo, Dennis Orcollo, Alex Pagulayan and Rodolpho Luat.

The U.S. placed three players in the fifth round with Gabe Owen, Larry Nevel and David Matlock. The U.K. is two strong with Appleton and Daryl Peach. Germany’s last two hopes were Thorsten Hohmann and Ralf Souquet. The remaining four players were Evgeny Stalev of Russia, Australia’s Quentin Hann, and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, and Rico Diks, representing the Netherlands

As the clock rounded 8 p.m., it was gut-check time for several players who had recorded records of 2-2 and needed a win in their final match for a shot at advancing. Players took their turns in front of the tournament’s billboard-sized scoreboard, nervously drawing numbers in the air as they tried to figure out the calculus of the bracket and how they would fare in different scenarios.

Players on the bubble with 2-2 records included Reyes, matched against Hill (1-3); Alex Pagulayan, playing against fellow Filipino Dennis Orcollo (3-1); and Deuel, set against Filipino Marlon Manalo (3-1). Matches that paired players with identical 2-2 records included Frenchman Yannick Beaufils vs. Niels Feijen of the Netherlands; American Earl Strickland vs. Alcano; and Francisco Bustamante vs. Santos Sambajon, both of the Philippines.

American Gabe Owen was stuck in a must-win position from the third match of the day. He faced fearsome Filipinos Bustamante and Sambajon in his first two matches and lost both of them. He needed to win the next three matches to have a hope of advancing.

“I just thought, screw it – just let it go. You only live once, just do it,” Owen said.

He proceeded to beat Reyes, 8-6; then Hill, 8-6; and in the longest match of the fifth set, Ivica Putnik of Croatia, 8-5. Sinking the last 8, he yelled and pumped his fist at jackhammer speed.

“My feet are killing me,” he said afterwards.

One of three Americans left in the field, Owen felt he had a shot at the title. “I feel like 8-ball is my best game, and I’m getting underrated here,” he said. “I’ve been practicing nothing but my 8-ball break for the last six months. Even in 9-ball tournaments, I’ve been breaking from the box. Screw $5,000 for winning a 9-ball tournament when you can win on the IPT.”

Stalev of Russia already knew what he would do with the $350,000. “I promised my friend [IPT member] Fabio Petroni that we would go on a vacation to Hawaii with five girls,” he said.

Stalev was one of the few players whose record was strong enough by early evening to count on advancing. Others were not as lucky.

“The pressure … the pressure … the hunger … I’m so tired,” said the rail-thin Alcano after squeaking by Strickland, 8-7, in their 8 p.m. match. He tossed his cue in the air, caught it and then did a stiff jig as Strickland packed up his cue case and ignored repeated requests for an on-camera interview by IPT staff.

Even countryman Reyes, perhaps the best big-money player in history, felt the pressure and dogged several shots in his 8-7 win against Hill. He often appeared listless and confused, and several observers opined that the rugged, five-match-a-day schedule was getting to the 51-year-old Hall of Famer.

“I don’t feel tired, … I feel the pressure because I’m in danger,” he said. “My opponent played good. Every time he got a shot, he ran out. In the last game, it was too much pressure for me. I didn’t know what to do in the last game. That’s why I was just shoot, shoot, shoot.”

Groups for Round Five: The Final 18

Here they are, folks: the final 18 players at the $2 million IPT North American 8-Ball Open. Play in round six will start at 10 a.m. on the West Coast. The top two players in each bracket will advance to the next round, where the prize money will start at $40,000. The winner of the event will collect $350,000.

Group 1
Quentin Hann, Australia
Evgeny Stalev, Russia
Efren Reyes, Philippines
Larry Nevel, USA
Darren Appleton, U.K.
Rodolpho Luat, Philippines

Group 2
Francisco Bustamante, Philippines
David Matlock, USA
Daryl Peach, U.K.
Dennis Orcollo, Philippines
Ronato Alcano, Philippines
Ralf Souquet, Germany

Group 3
Marlon Manalo, Philippines
Alex Pagulayan, Philippines
Thorsten Hohmann, Germany
Marcus Chamat, Sweden
Gabe Owen, USA
Rico Diks, U.K.

IPT Round Three Complete

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Despite some strong opposition from European players, including the surprising contingent of English 8-ballers, the always tough Filipinos are dominating the history-making IPT North American 8-Ball Open.

Virtually every Filipino competitor who started in the 200-player field has made it through to the 36-man fourth round of play – nine altogether, including three Pinoy hopefuls who needed to win qualifiers to gain entry to the $2 million tournament.

Leading the pack, as usual, was legendary Efren “Bata” Reyes, whose overall record stood at 12-1 after three days of round-robin play. No less impressive was the ball-control mastery of Filipino Marlon Manalo, who held an identical 12-1 record, along with Germany’s Ralf Souquet and Rafael Martinez of Mexico.

Third-round play began on Wednesday at the Venetian Hotel and Casino with the remaining 60 players divied into 12 groups of five. The top three in each group would advance to the fourth round on Thursday with a guarantee of at least $17,000 in prize money; the eliminated players would collect a still-impressive $10,000 each.

By 9:45 p.m., the lucky 36 were known. Their names follow, grouped by country, with their third-round records:

USA: Dee Adkins, 4-0; Jason Kirkwood, 3-1; Earl Strickland, 3-1; Cory Deuel, 4-0; Shawn Putnam, 3-1; Rodney Morris, 3-1; Larry Nevel, 3-1; Gabe Owen, 2-2; and David Matlock, 2-2.

Philippines: Efren Reyes, 4-0; Marlon Manalo, 4-0; Francisco Bustamante, 2-2; Dennis Orcollo, 3-1; Antonio Lining, 4-0; Rodolfo Luat, 2-2; Alex Pagulayan, 3-1; Santos Sambajon, 2-2; and Ronato Alcano, 2-2.

United Kingdom: Rico Diks, 2-2; Raj Hundal, 1-3; Daryl Peach, 2-2; Darren Appleton, 2-2; Mick Hill, 3-1.

Netherlands: Niels Feijen, 3-1; Alex Lely, 3-1; and Nick Van den Berg, 3-1.

Germany: Ralf Souquet, 4-0; and Thorsten Hohmann, 3-1.

Other countries: Quinten Hann (Australia), 2-2; Ivica Putnik (Croatia), 2-2; Mika Immonen (Finland), 3-1; Sandor Tot (Italy), 2-2; Yannick Beaufils (France), 2-2; Rafael Martinez (Mexico), 4-0; Evgeny Stalev (Russia), 2-2; and Marcus Chamat (Sweden), 3-1.

Here are some highlights from the round:

* The biggest eye-opener for many established players at the Open has been the success of the top competitors on the English 8-ball circuit, including perennial champions Mick Hill and Darren Appleton. Both will compete in the round-of-36.

“Us lads have come to play the top players from around the world, and I feel that we haven’t been given a chance,” said 26-year-old Hill. “The point that us English lads want to get across to everyone, including our own back home, is that we’re playing 8-ball, not 9-ball or straight-pool. … A lot of people don’t realize that the English players play 8-ball.”

Among their strengths are excellent cue ball control and solid stroke mechanics, said observers.

“Those guys shoot very straight, and I can respect that,” said IPT member Ike Runnels.

* Fifteen women started the competition on Sunday, and only former snooker stars Allison Fisher and Karen Corr were given much of a chance to advance. One woman was able to infiltrate the third round, and she was a U.K. native, but no one you might expect.

“I sort of in a way proved a point,” said Sarah Ellerby, who collected dozens of 8-ball titles in England before coming to the U.S. to compete on the WPBA Classic Tour. “…There wasn’t as much attention on me as on the other girls, and that’s fine.

“I’m sure that some of the guys were like, ‘The women won’t do well here,’” Ellerby said. “If I could break better, I feel like I could really make more of a dent. I think the women are capable enough to come here and do well.”

Unfortunately, Ellerby fell into a tough bracket in the third round and finished with a 1-3 record. Knowing she wouldn’t advance, Ellerby immediately left for the Las Vegas airport to catch an 11:30 p.m. United Airlines flight to Chicago. There, she would catch a limo for a two-hour drive to Peoria, the site of the WPBA Midwest Classic, which was starting play Thursday morning.

“I’m going to be very tired,” she said.

* Staying on the English for another moment, sharp observers might note that Raj Hundal advanced with a 1-3 record. It’s no misprint. Hundal was in a bracket with players who posted 4-0 and 3-1 records (Reyes and Strickland), leaving the other three players with 1-3 tallies. Of the three, Hundal had the highest games-won percentage (56.49 percent, just over American Gary Abood’s 55.09 percent), which pushed him into the next round. That 1.4 percent difference was worth at least $7,000.

“I’m in! I’m in!” the burly Hundal screamed upon hearing the results. “I’m freewheeling tomorrow! … I’m the luckiest [expletive] in the world!”

* Another surprise at the end of the day was how many players who were forced to qualify for the event ended up in the round-of-36. The 200-player field offered 50 qualifiers, and no fewer than nine made it into the fourth round. They included Filipinos Luat, Sambajon and Alcano.

* Most of the favorites remained in the running for the fourth round, with one major exception. American Johnny Archer faded in his bracket, finishing with a 1-3 record.

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.

Chohan Takes One-Pocket Crown at Summer Jamboree

Tony “T-Rex” Chohan devoured the competition in the one-pocket division of the Summer Jamboree, which culminated June 15 at Hard Times Billiards in Sacramento, Calif. In a field of 37, Chohan remained at the top of the food chain, remaining undefeated after a 5-1 victory in the final over Dennis Orcollo.

Chohan has issued challenges in one-pocket in the past, and held true to his claims that he could beat any player under 50, west of Oklahoma. He began with wins over Gandy Valle, 3-0, Ed Ames, 3-1, and David Reljic, 3-1. In the next to matches, he didn’t allow his opponent on the scoreboard, beating Mark Haddad, 3-0, and administering a quick-and-painless 3-0 loss to Richard Burns in 11 minutes to take the hot-seat.

Meanwhile, Reno Open champion Dennis Orcollo was battling it out on the one-loss side, where he was sent by Ames. Orcollo came back with wins over Valle, Billy Palmer, Lance Salazar, Haddad and Burns to earn his place in the finals against Chohan.

Though Orcollo has been on a hot streak, his lack of one-pocket experience was apparent against Chohan, who jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Orcollo was able to get on the board with one game before Chohan finished off the match in the next game for the 5-1 win.

Chohan pocketed $2200 for first, while Orcollo settled for $1500. Richard Burns and Mark Haddad filled out the top four spots. The $10,000-added Summer Jamboree 9-Ball Division will kick off today at noon.

Complete Results:
1st Tony Chohan $2200
2nd Dennis Orcollo $1500
3rd Richard Burns $1000
4th Mark Haddad $700
5th/6th Lance Salazar, Santos Sambajon $450
7th/8th Billy Palmer, Ed Ames $300
9th/12th David Reljic, Gandy Valle, Tyler Edey, Trevor Smith $225

Haddad Sends Orcollo to the Losers’ Side at Summer Jamboree

The Hard Times Billiards hosted Summer Jamboree began June 14 and will continue through June 19, with 38 players currently competing in the $5,000-added one-pocket division.

Held annually after the Sands Regency Reno Open, the Summer Jamboree features many of the same players, including Reno Open winner Dennis Orcollo, Jose Parica, Santos Sambajon, Warren Kiamco, Tony Chohan and Tyler Edey, all playing in the one-pocket event. Even more top players are expected for the 9-ball event, which will commence this weekend (June 17).

The first day of one-pocket competition was full of upsets, as Frank Nordmann beat Parica, 3-0, and Ed Ames beat Sambajon, 3-2, in the first round. The hot-handed Orcollo was handed defeat in the third round by Mark Haddad, 3-1.

Haddad remains undefeated, and will face Tony Chohan today. Also remaining on the winners’ side are Richard Burns and Lance Salazar, who will also match wits today.

On the one-loss side, Ames knocked out Parica, 3-1, and could continue to foil the favorites when he meets Sambajon again today. Orcollo is staying alive with a win in his first one-loss side match against Gandy Valle, 3-2. He will face Billy Palmer today.

Orcollo Continues His Hot Streak at Reno Open

Dennis Orcollo, who also recently won the U.S. Bar Table 8-Ball Championship and the Hard Times IPT Qualifier, proved he can hold his own in 9-ball as well, with a run through the field of 159 players at the Reno Open.

Orcollo was smoking the competition, scoring notable wins over Corey Deuel, Tim Hall and Rich Geiler, before taking the hot-seat on Sunday with a dominating 9-1 win over former Reno Open champion Kim Davenport.

Davenport was a die-hard, however, dropping to the one- loss side where he had to face Texan Jui-Lung Chen. Chen’s appearances are rare, but he made the most of this one with wins over Victor Ignacio, Chris Bartram, Bobby Hunter, Gandy Valle, Warren Kiamco and Gabe Owen. He had to settle for third though, as Davenport earned a hard fought 9-7 win to set up a rematch with Orcollo in the finals.

Orcollo looked on his way to another dominating win in the finals as he sprinted out to an early 5-1 lead. Davenport showed his tenacity though, winning six straight games to take the lead, 7-5, and then took the match, 9-7, to force a second set in the true double-elimination finals.

In the second set of the final, Orcollo got to the hill first at 8-7, but scratched on the break and watched in dismay as Davenport tied the match at hill-hill with a flawless table run. Davenport broke the final game and made a ball, but had no position on the 1 ball. Davenport pushed out to a long straight shot on the one and Orcollo took advantage with a slow rolling shot on the 1, followed by a shakey table run to earn the 9-8 victory.

Third Round Brings All-Star Match-ups at the Reno Open

The 2006 Reno Open is underway at the Sands Regency in Reno, Nev., yielding a field of 156 players.

Tournament coordinator Mick McMillin said that the number of players at the tournament, usually at or above the 200 mark, has decreased this year due to the International Pool Tour qualifiers.

Nonetheless, some great pool is being played. The third round brought about several marquis matches, including a match between longtime friends Gabe Owen and Jeremy Jones. Jones now has the upperhand, defeating his friend, 9-5.

Edwin Montal came up against Rodney Morris in the third round, besting him, 9-2, and Dennis Orcollo sent Cory Deuel to the one-loss side, 9-5.

Kim Davenport remains undefeated in the fourth round, and will match up against Filipino Jose Parica. Young Austin Murphy also remains on the winners’ side, winning his first three matches, and will face Bobby Hunter today.

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.

Do or Fly: Last U.S. Qualifier for IPT Brings 78 Players

It’s gut-check time in the world of pro pool as 78 players prepare to fight it out in the last U.S. qualifier for the International Pool Tour, held this weekend at Country Club Billiards in Boston.

Only four more spots are open on the 150-player tour for the 2006 season, and two will be awarded in Boston. The final qualifier is scheduled March 10-12 at House of Billiards Weert in The Netherlands.

Back for another shot at the open slots are such major names as Chia-Ching Wu, the current WPA world 8-ball and 9-ball champ; Europeans Thomas Engert, Vilmos Foldes, and Imran Majid; and Americans George Breedlove, Robb Saez and Frankie Hernandez. Also in the running are Filipinos Santos Sambajon, Warren Kiamco and Ramil Gallego.

Several of these players are making their third or fourth try at the multimillion-dollar tour. Almost every player paid a $2,000 entry fee for the event, with the exception of a few high finishers from earlier qualifiers who earned free passes.

The IPT’s first major 2006 event — the North American 8-Ball Open Championship — is scheduled for July 22-30 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The purse is set at $2 million, and the top finisher will receive $350,000.

This is the second IPT qualifier in as many weekends. Germany’s Oliver Ortmann and Filipino Dennis Orcollo were the top finishers at the qualifier held Feb. 17-19 at Hard Times Billiards in Bellflower, Calif.