Mark Wilson announces his resignation as Team USA Captain, today, Dec. 22, 2016.

I had a lot of time to think on the flight home from London, where Team Europe pasted Team USA in the Mosconi Cup. The final score was 11-3, which is bad enough. But it was the way Team Europe rolled to victory that really gave me pause. The Europeans were machinelike in their execution. They simply didn’t miss. They didn’t make mistakes. It was actually a beautiful thing to watch. For the stats-driven fan, Europe posted a collective .899 Total Performance Average over the four days. A .900 TPA is considered “world class.”

Professional level is .850. Team USA’s cumulative TPA during the event was .838. The difference is glaring. The beat down was so thorough, talk spread through the event that, after 23 years, the Mosconi Cup’s future could be in peril.Matchroom’s Barry Hearn even went so far as to announce his intention to start a Europe v. Asia event, to “test the Europeans.” Personally, I don’t buy the notion that the Mosconi Cup as we know it is in peril. At least, not yet. Defenders point out that the U.S. dominated the early years in the same way. During those years, however, Europe was continually closing the gap. Anyone who has watched the last five Mosconi Cups can see that the gap between the sides is widening.

What I see, though, are ticket sales and television deals that have grown exponentially over the past fouryears. Europe against the U.S. in tiddlywinks would draw a passionate crowd. Still, it is painfully obvious that Team USA needs to do something dramatic to make this a horserace again.

Which brings us to Mark Wilson. Three years ago, Wilson, one of the game’s top instructors and most ardent supporters, presented Matchroom with a three-year plan to get Team USA back on track. He stripped down the squad and rebuilt it based on character and commitment. In his spare time, he generated more interest and enthusiasm in the U.S. for the Team USA “program” than anyone before.

The results? The first year of the experiment resulted in a one-sided match, which was somewhat predictable. The second year showed promise, with Team USA gamely battling well into the final day. The third year, however, was a disappointing step backwards. As it is wont to do, social media exploded with posts slamming Wilson and the team. A handful of self-proclaimed experts shamelessly threw their hats into the ring as replacements for Wilson. Here’s a tip: Posting your intentions on Facebook pretty much eliminates you from serious consideration.

So, what’s the answer?

I don’t think anyone in the U.S. is more qualified than Mark Wilson, and I have far too much respect for him to suggest that he be replaced as captain of Team USA, but even he acknowledged that is a possibility. After all, the Mosconi Cup is Matchroom’s product, and they certainly don’t need to explain or apologize to anyone for taking the steps necessary to ensure continued growth and success.

So, in the event Matchroom does find it necessary to make a change at the helm of Team USA, here is my suggestion: Johan Ruijsink.

For those not familiar, the Dutch-born Ruijsink captained Team Europe seven times between 2006 and 2014 and posted a 6-0-1 record.

I know. I know. He’s not American. I realize Willie Mosconi just spun in his grave.

Just hear me out.

Johan Ruijsink is one of the world’s top instructors and coaches. The 50-year-old Dutchman took over Team Europe during those years of American domination and turned the squad into the fierce competitors that they are today. His first year at the helm was 2006, when his team tied the Americans, 12-12. After that, Team Europe won six times against zero defeatswith Ruijsink in charge.

Think he was simply fortunate enough to take over Team Europe as they were peaking? The last time Team USA won (2009), was one of only two times between 2006 and 2014 that Ruijsink was not Europe’s captain.

Now, about that “he’s not an American” argument.

Who says the coach must be American. Sports history is littered with instances of foreigners running national teams. Were Americans offended when Romanian gymnastics coaching legend BelaKarolyi took over Team USA and turned it into a gold medal machine? Were American soccer fans up in arms when Sweden’s PiaSundhage took over USA Soccer’s women’s program and produced a pair of Olympic gold medals? The bottom line is to maximize Team USA’s chances of not just competing in the Mosocni Cup. The bottom line is to drive Team USA to win the Mosconi Cup. Of course, Ruijsink is much more than simply a once-a-year-captain. He is a coaching legend in Europe. A former top Dutch player, Ruijsink turned to coaching in the ’90s. His small, six-table room in The Hague was open only to players committed to training. Ruijsink’s training methods turned Holland into a European power, with the likes of Rico Diks, Alex Lely, Nick Van den Berg and NielsFeijen turning their games over to him.

A voracious student of training and coaching techniques, Ruijsink earned a Master Coach degree from the Dutch Olympic Committee in 2000. It is the highest coaching education in Holland, allowing him to coach any sport. Over the past two years, Ruijsink has been coaching in Russia, where the Russian federation hired him to develop its crop of talented young shooters, like Konstantin Stepanov, RuslanChinakhov and rising star Maxim Dudanets. Ruijsink will be bringing his Russian brigade to the Derby City Classic in January.

Trust me on this one. If change is necessary, this is the right man for the job.

Of course, there are questions I can’t answer. Would Matchroom go for such an idea? Hearn is a pretty shrewd operator, so I’d have to guess this idea has already crossed his mind. And given the fact that he desperately wants to see the U.S. competitive again, and the fact that he loves a good storyline, I can’t see why he wouldn’t entertain contacting Ruijsink. Would Ruijsink consider coaching Team USA? Can’t say for sure, but two years ago he told me he was stepping down as coach of Team Europe because he “didn’t see the challenge in coaching Team Europe any longer.”

The $60,000 question, though, is this: Would American players put aside their egos to be coached by a foreigner? Unless they are more pigheaded and self-absorbed than I imagine, they should.

I guarantee one thing: Announcing Ruijsink as Team USA captain would scare the living bejeezus out of Team Europe.

BCA Hall of Famer Robert Byrne Dead at 86

Prolific billiard author, carom aficionado, longtime contributing editor to Billiards Digest and Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Robert Byrne passed away Tues., Dec. 6., at his home in Dubuque, Iowa. He was 86.

Mr. Byrne was best known for a string of successful billiard instructional books and videos, the most popular of which was “Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool and Billiards,” first published in 1978. “Byrne’s Standard Book” was a must-have for aspiring pool and billiard players and has sold more then a half-million copies. His first effort in the sport, however, came in 1972, with the publishing of “McGoorty, A Pool Room Hustler,” a biography of noted San Fancisco-based hustler Danny McGoorty.

In 1982, Mr. Byrne published “Byrne’s Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards,” a collection of the greatest trick and fancy shots of all time, most with a story tracing the shots origins. Mr. Byrne also published “Byrne’s Advanced Technique in Pool and Billiards” (1990), “Byrne’s Book of Great Pool Stories” (1995), “Byrne’s Wonderful World of Pool and Billiards” (1996), “Byrne’s New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards” (1998) and “Byrne’s Complete Book of Pool Shots: 350 Moves Every Player Should Know” (2003). In addition, Mr. Byrne produced seven instructional videos based on his “Standard Book” and “Treasury of Trick Shots.”

Originally a civil engineer by trade, Mr. Byrne developed his writing skills as a reporter for a construction industry trade magazine, and published three books before becoming a full-time writer in the late 1970s. He authored seven novels, many times using the names of pool and billiard acquaintances as characters.

After stints residing in Northern California and Colorado, Mr. Byrne returned to his native Dubuque in the late ’90s with his second wife, Cindy Nelms Byrne. He contributed a column to the Dubuque Daily Herald for the final 16 years of his life.

Mr. Byrne received the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America Industry Service Award in 1994, and was elected to the BCA Hall of Fame in 2001, earning induction alongside his longtime friend and world billiard champion Raymond Ceulemans of Belgium. After initially contributing to the National Billiard News, Mr. Byrne was swayed to join Billiards Digest by magazine founder Mort Luby, Jr., when the magazine was launched in September 1978. Mr. Byrne contributed instructional columns, tournament coverage and feature stories for more than 25 years.

Mr. Byrne leaves a legacy as the game’s most prolific author, a man whose words and instruction drew millions of players to the table. Gifted with an analytical mind and incredible wit, he was one of the game’s true gentlemen and an industry treasure.

Teams Set For Mosconi Cup

With the announcement of the final “wildcard” selections by the opposing captains, the final rosters for Team USA and Team Europe are set with four weeks to go before the 23rd Mosconi Cup commences at the Alexandra Palace in London, Dec. 6-9.

Team USA captain Mark Wilson used his wildcard picks to add Mosconi Cup veteran and recent Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inductee “Rocket” Rodney Morris and 29-year-old Justin Bergman to the roster. It will mark the tenth Mosconi appearance for Morris and the third consecutive appearance by Bergman. The duo will join Shane Van Boening, Skyler Woodward and Mike Dechaine, who earned automatic spots on the team by finishing in the top three in points over 28 tournaments throughout the year. Only Morris did not play on the 2015 team that fell to Team Europe, 11-8, in Las Vegas. (Corey Deuel was the fifth member of Team USA in 2015.)

Team Europe captain Marcus Chamat handpicked reigning World 9-Ball Champion Albin Ouschan of Austria and England’s Darren Appleton, who will be making his eighth consecutive appearance, to join Holland’s Niels Feijen, Scotland’s Jayson Shaw and England’s Mark Gray. The three automatic berths on Team Europe were awarded to the points champion of the EuroTour (Feijen), the top European points earner on a World Events Rankings (Shaw), and the highest-ranked player on the Combined (Gray, who placed third behind already-qualified Shaw and Feijen). Feijen, Appleton and Ouschan also appeared for Team Europe in 2015.

As is customary, the wildcard announcements were greeted by second-guessing in social media. American fans questioned Wilson’s selection of Bergman, ranked sixth on the U.S. points list, over fifth-place finisher Oscar Dominguez. (Morris finished fourth in points.) Given the fact that the 2015 squad was made up of the top five point-earners, and the fact that Bergman lives in southern Illinois, not far from Wilson’s St. Louis home, charges of favoritism and “politics” were bandied about as fans weighed in. “I don’t have a bias and I don’t give those claims any credence,” said Wilson. “I simply picked the team that I thought gave us the best chance of winning this year. I analyze things like late-season performance, strengths and weaknesses and how they fit in with the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the team.

“In the case of Rodney,” Wilson continued, “He went to the last six events. The effort and results were there. He gives us the best chance of winning.Last year it just happened that the team I chose finished one through five in points. That doesn’t mean that is the way it was meant to be. People seem to have a hard time with the concept of what the wildcard pick means.”

The concept of a “wildcard” selection was even more pronounced in Chamat’s selection of Appleton for Team Europe. While the former World 9-Ball Champion has been a member of six Mosconi Cup-winning squads, Appleton suffered through a subpar 2016, failing to crack the top 10 in the European Combined points list.

“No player really stood out for me for the last spot,” said Chamat. “There are so many good players in Europe, but I had to weigh the ups and downs. Darren is a big-match player with huge experience. And he is an awesome team player. I could have picked other players, but I believe in Darren. This is the biggest event for all of us and the pressure will be amazing. I think Darren will be amazing, too.”

The Storm Before the Calm

A week prior to the start of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships, players across the United States were informed that they would be required to complete a World Pool-Billiard Association Player License Agreement if they intended to play in the WPA-sanctioned event, setting off wave of questions, allegations and criticism across social media, and threatening the success of the international tournament. The announcement, posted online by the Billiard Congress of America, the North American representative federation to the WPA, seemed to catch many players off guard. The posted announcement and attached license offered no explanation as to why the license was necessary, nor why the players were finding out about the stipulation just days ahead of the country’s biggest tournament. For most players, the license was viewed as a heavy-handed measure meant to place the players at the mercy of the WPA.

“I see only negatives and no positives,” one American player posted on a Facebook thread that prompted hundreds of responses. “Nothing to help the players. Just fines and being excluded from events if they don’t comply with each and every part of this contract.”

At the core of the backlash were stipulations in the license agreement that seemed to make heavy demands of the players and threatened harsh penalties for non-compliance, like fines for missing player meetings, fines for missing publicity appearances, and restrictions on logos affixed to player clothing. Additionally, the license also prohibits players from competing in events not sanctioned by the WPA if that event meets the WPA’s sanctioning criteria.

A “slave agreement,” is how one former player referred to the license. “I’m really surprised that this has become such an issue,” responded Ian Anderson, president of the WPA. “The Player License has been working for some months now, and was a requirement at the men’s World 9-Ball Championship in Qatar in July and the China Open. I’m guessing that it is the players who would only play in one WPA ranking event a year that are so unsure about it all.”

In fact, Anderson went on to point out, virtually every foreign player attending the U.S. Open, as well as a dozen North American players (including American Shane Van Boening), had already signed the license and received a WPA Player Card earlier in the year when they participated in the World 9-Ball Championship and/or the China Open.

According to Anderson, the need for a player license arose in 2014 when promoters of a Chinese 8-ball event tried to force players to sign contracts that would have prohibited their participation in other Chinese events without approval for up to three years.

“I assured the Chinese that the WPA would have a player agreement done to cover the concerns that China claimed it had.”

Anderson also attempted to shed light on the two most contested stipulations of the player license: preventing players from participating in other events; and players being held hostage by the WPA.

“This is not about telling players where they can and cannot play,” he said. “For one, it protects organizers against having their event undermined by someone deciding it a good idea to have a tournament on the same dates as a WPA ranking event.

“Also, I think everyone has missed the very first paragraph of the license, which says, ‘Either party may cancel this license at any time.’ This means that after playing in the U.S. Open, if the player felt he was too restricted or unfairly treated because of this agreement, he could terminate his license immediately.”

Still, the fact that the announcement was made so close to the start of the U.S. Open and the WPA’s late explanation may well have had an adverse reaction on entries into the tournament. According to U.S. Open producer Pat Fleming of Accu-Stats, numerous players called with concerns and complaints.

“There were a lot of complaints,” Fleming said, as he was preparing the tournament site in Norfolk, Va. “Lots of, ‘What’s this?’ There’s not telling how many players who were on the fence decided not to sign up. All of a sudden entries stopped coming in.”

Fleming added that the field, which was expanded to accommodate 164 players this year, was full, but a number of foreign entrants cancelled due to visa issues. American players failed to snatch up the open spots, leaving the final field at 149. Fleming was hesitant to infer that those spots would have been filled had it not been for the WPA Player License.

‘Rocket’, ‘Belle’ Enter BCA Hall of Fame

For smooth-stroking lefty “Rocket” Rodney Morris, the call informing him of his election into the Greatest Player wing of the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame came as both a shock and a relief. “I want to cry,” Morris said after getting the news. “It’s validation and recognition of all the years and hard work I’ve put into this game. [It is] especially gratifying because I came from a broken home, was raised on the streets and made just about every mistake you can make. But I persevered, which proves that everyone can do something great if they dedicated themselves to it.”

Morris, 46, will be joined in the Hall of Fame by “The Texas Belle,” Belinda Calhoun, who was elected in the Veteran Players category. The United Billiard Media Association announced the results in a release, July 19.

Born in Anaheim, Calif., but raised in Hawaii, Morris scored his biggest win in 1996, topping the legendary Efren Reyes in the final of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships. The 26-year-old Morris still considers his title-match win the highlight of his illustrious career.

“Efren was at the top of his game,” Morris recalled. “When I used to practice, I always visualized playing Efren in my mind. That’s how I trained myself. Then, to beat him in the U.S. Open final was unbelievable. Now, to be able to say I’m in the Hall of Fame with him is even bigger.” Just when Morris was hitting his competitive stride, though, he was convicted on federal drug charges and spent nearly four years in jail. Remorseful and recommitted, Morris returned to the pro tour in 2001 and promptly won the Sands Regency Classic. Over the next six years, Morris added the UPA Pro Tour Championship, the World Pool League crown and the World Cup of Pool title. In 2006, Morris suffered his biggest heartbreak in competition, falling to Reyes in the final of the ill-fated International Pool Tour World 8-Ball Championship in Reno. Reyes earned $500,000 for the title, while Morris had to settle for $150,000.

“Efren was my biggest win, and my biggest loss!” Morris said. Morris also made eight appearances representing Team USA in the Mosconi Cup, earning MVP honors in 2004. Still active, Morris has added titles at the Turning Stone Classic and the U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships in recent years. Calhoun, 63, was born in Austin, Texas. As Belinda Campos, she became one of the Women’s Professional Billiards Associations biggest starts in the ’80s, winning a pair of BCA National 8-Ball Championships titles, the Texas River City Open crown and the NPCA Classic Cup. Calhoun was dominant in 1985, winning the Women’s World 14.1 title, the WPBA National 9-Ball Championship and the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship. Calhoun’s big year earned her Billiards Digest Player of the Year honors.

“I had resolved myself to the idea that [getting into the BCA Hall of Fame] wasn’t going to happen,” said Calhoun, who had been moved into the Veteran Player category after failing to earn election in the Greatest Player category before turning 60. “This is a wonderful surprise. I’m honored. I had always thought my career was deserving.” In extremely tight voting, Morris edged WPBA champions Gerda Hofstatter and Vivian Villarreal by a single vote. Kim Davenport, Shannon Daulton and Jeremy Jones were also on the ballot.

Corner Bank 10-Ball Series Postponed

For the second time in less than two months, pool fans and players in Canada have had the rug pulled out from beneath them. First, the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) announced in March that the 2016 World 8-Ball Championship would be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in August. A group of investors working with The Corner Bank billiard club and sports bar promised a $250,000 prize fund.

A month later, the group announced its decision to pull out of its involvement in the tournament. The WPA, according to Corner Bank owner Jim Wych, was apparently also dealing with a Chinese promoter for the rights to the World 8-Ball Championship. The Chinese promoter allegedly promised a five-year commitment to produce both men’s and women’s championships, with $300,000 prize funds for each division. (The WPA’s deal with the Chinese promoters is slated to be signed in July.) In late May, The Corner Pocket announced a six-event 10-ball series, with $25,000-added events scheduled for September, October, November, January and February. The series would conclude with a $100,000-added Grand Championship in April. A June 15 follow-up press release defined the playing format, prize fund breakdown and stated that all six events would carry Mosconi Cup points for American and European players.

Just five days later, however, Wych issued yet another statement, this time announcing the cancellation of the 10-ball series.

“It is with a great sense of disappointment,” the press release read, “that the owners of The Corner Bank in Toronto must announce that their plans for The Corner Bank 10-Ball Series are now on hiatus. Quite simply, our guarantee of funding evaporated over the weekend and has made our plans for beginning a series this September unrealistic.”

The press release added that efforts would be made to “re-engage” the financial supporters of the series. “I’m terribly disappointed,” Wych said in a telephone interview shortly after the announcement went public on AZBilliards.com. “This is a huge opportunity missed for a lot of us. There was such enthusiasm building for this series.”

Without casting blame on the WPA, Wych acknowledged that the investment group that had promised to back him may have looked at anything less than a sanctioned world championship as not impactful enough.

“A big part of the draw for the investors was the event’s draw with Asian players,” Wych said. “There is a big Asian community here. The fact that so many of the top players are Asian, and that they would likely come to Toronto was important to them. Perhaps they didn’t think the series would give them the same punch.”

Wych said he had yet to speak formally with the investors, but maintains hope that the funding is not gone forever. “When we first discussed bringing a big pool event to Toronto,” Wych said, “the response was, ‘What can we do?’ I didn’t think it hinged completely on a world championship. Bottom line is I didn’t go to contract with them to lock in the funding. I probably didn’t stay on top of it as well as I should have.” Wych added that he planned to continue his efforts to bring major tournament pool to Toronto.

“I hope to get everything back on track soon,” he said. “It’s possible we will have to reconsider going back to a single big international tournament. We’ll see.”

Behrman dead at 70

Behrman-DeadBARRY BEHRMAN, the colorful founder and promoter of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships and longtime owner of Q Master Billiards, died April 23, in Norfolk, Va. He was 70.

Behrman contracted a bacterial infection in late February and spent the remainder of his days at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, in and out of intensive care. According to Behrman’s son, Brady, the infection led to septic shock, which causes a dramatic drop in blood pressure. Brady said doctors were never able to stabilize his father’s blood pressure, which caused many of his organs to eventually fail.

“They did everything they could to try to get his blood pressure up,” said Brady. “But he was never really able to be off the machines keeping him alive. Eventually, his internal organs began to fail. Mentally, he was pretty sharp and alert, but physically he was never going to get back to normal.” Brady said that his father was removed from life-supporting systems on April 22, and passed away peacefully around noon on the following day. “We were all there,” said Brady, who was joined by his sister, Shannon Behrman Paschall. “My dad was frustrated and tired near the end, because he knew he was never going to be normal again. He didn’t want to live that way.”

The family celebrated Behrman’s 70th birthday April 1 with a small party at the hospital.

Behrman opened his first incarnation of Q Master in 1971 at the age of 25. Inspired by tournaments such as the events run by Bill ‘Weanie Beanie” Staton at Jack and Jill Billiards in Arlington, Va., and the then-annual Billiard Congress of America U.S. Open 14.1 Championships in Chicago, Behrman staged the first U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship at his Norfolk poolroom in 1976. The event was won by future Hall of Famer Mike Sigel. As Behrman’s poolroom business flourished, the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships also grew. The tournament quickly became the most prestigious and one of the most lucrative events in the country. Fields swelled to 64 players in the ’80s, 128 players in the ’90s and more than 200 players in the 2000s.

The 2000s also saw Behrman’s reputation tarnished by several prize fund shortfalls and an eight-month stint in jail, the result of hosting illegal casino nights at his home and failure to pay back taxes on his poolroom. To his credit, Behrman took his punishment without excuses and eventually righted his prize money issues. In recent years, the promoter agreed to allow a players’ representative to oversee prize fund collection and distribution, and in 2015 turned over the collection and disbursement of prize monies to Accu-Stats Video Productions President Pat Fleming.

In fact, Behrman announced his retirement as U.S. Open promoter following the successful 2015 tournament, turning over the hands-on running of the event to Fleming. He had also announced his intentions to sell Q Master, with 72 tables the largest billiard room in the country. Former champions expressed their condolences on social media. “The billiard community lost a great asset, but heaven gained a special man,” wrote 1999 U.S. Open champion Johnny Archer. “Even though we had our differences, Mr. Behrman was a good friend of mine. I have not missed a U.S. Open since 1985. It won’t be the same without Mr. U.S. Open.” “RIP, my friend,” wrote four-time champion Shane Van Boening. “This guy had a lot of heart for professional pool players. I’m sad that he’s gone.” “So sad,” wrote two-time champion Darren Appleton. “We had our ups and downs, but he was good to me when I was champion. He phoned me virtually every day for two years. Barry gave his heart and soul to the U.S. Open. Incredible achievement.

“Will always remember the traditional car ride in his sports car from the venue to the poolroom for the after party!”

Prior to his death, the Berhmans finalized arrangements with Fleming to assume full control of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships.

“The dates for the 2016 U.S. Open (Oct. 16-22) are secure with the Norfolk Sheraton Waterside and the WPA (World Pool-Billiard Association),” Fleming said recently.

Berhman is survived by his son, Brady, daughter, Shannon (Paschall), and two sisters.

Behrman Hospitalized

(Editor’s Note: Behrman is scheduled to be moved out of ICU and into a rehab facility Tues., March 1)

Feb. 25 — Longtime promoter and poolroom owner Barry Behrman remains in serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, Va., three weeks after being found unresponsive on the floor of his Virginia Beach, Va., home.

According to Behrman’s son, Brady, the Q Master Billiards owner and U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships founder is battling the effects of MRSA-based pneumonia, which caused septic shock. (MRSA is dangerous bacterial infection that can be resistant to antibiotics. The infection can affect internal organs and can cause dangerously low blood pressure and abnormalities in cells.) The younger Behrman is unsure exactly when his father was stricken. “I got a few text messages from him around 7 p.m. on Feb. 3,” Brady said. “The next day he didn’t show up for work at the poolroom. A few employees went to his house around 2 p.m. and found him on the floor.”

According to Brady, the elder Behrman was somewhat lucid after being admitted to the hospital, but his condition quickly deteriorated.

“He was talking a little the first day,” said Brady. “But he went downhill quickly. All his organs were affected. His heart was in AFib [Atrial Fibrillation – irregular heartbeat]. They had him on medication to control his blood pressure. There was very little communication from him for the next two weeks. I think he recognized me, but he couldn’t speak or make gestures.” Behrman was on a ventilator for more than two weeks.

“They were basically just keeping him alive for the first two weeks while they tried to narrow down what the main issue was and how to treat it,” Brady Behrman said. Fortunately, MRI and CAT scans were clear, said Behrman, signifying that his father had not suffered a stroke. Two weeks in, Behrman was alert and beginning to follow commands. Brady posted a video on his Facebook page in which his father uttered a phrase he is known for sharing, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”

“He’s a fighter,” Brady said. “The doctors can tell he’s fighting this. He was a wrestler. Went undefeated in 1965.” Behrman said that there is no prognosis on his father’s recovery, but that the doctors seem more comfortable with the direction in which the elder Behrman is headed.

“He’s doing better,” said Brady. “But every day is different. It’s three steps forward and one step back. Or one step forward and three steps back. It’s a long road ahead. It’s been very emotional for us.” In the elder Behrman’s absence, Brady and his sister, Shannon Paschall, have been handling the operations at Q Master Billiards. Both had worked at the billiard room in the past, although Brady now runs his own technology company in Charlottesville, Va., and Shannon is in real estate. “We’re doing everything we can to handle operations and clean up the business,” he said. “Dad has been wanting to sell the room and we’re doing everything we can to get it ready. The room is his legacy. “Shannon and I were in his office,” Brady continued. “And he has 100 photos up in this little 16 by 10-foot office. And most of them are family photos, which is cool. I told him when he gets through this he’s going off to some retirement community to relax and enjoy himself.”

Behrman opened the original Q Master Billiards in 1971, and has been in his current Virgina Beach location for more than 25 years. The club currently boasts 72 tables, making it the largest room in the U.S. Behrman began hosting the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships in 1976, and celebrated the 40th anniversary of the event in October 2015.

The Best Pool Rooms in Las Vegas

Going to Las Vegas can mean only one thing: having an awesome time by playing various games! Why would you go to Vegas if not to have some fun at casinos or pool rooms? You want to watch the scenery and the city? Go to Los Angeles or some other big city. Vegas is for games!

Casinos in Vegas are easy to find. Just follow the big streams of people entering the tall, beautiful hotels with fancy waterworks in front of them and the flashiest signs. But, you can’t play pool at casinos in Las Vegas, which is why pool rooms exist separately from casinos. You can’t even play pool at online casinos such as those at BlackDiamondCasino.co.za, the best ones for players from South Africa. You can find there lots of reviews and online casino bonuses. So, if you happen to find yourself in Las Vegas, these are the best pool rooms to visit.

Mickey’s Cues & Brews

This is one of the most inexpensive places to enjoy some pool action in Las Vegas. The tables are cheap, the drinks are cheap and there is a jukebox that you can use to play some pool with your favorite tunes in the background. It’s a great place for doing something fun after dinner with your friends or spouse. There are a lot of tables. The beer prices are especially right and the staff are really friendly. The only problem is that it can get really smoky after several cigarettes. But, if you are a smoker you will be happy to inhale all of that smoke due to the poor air circulation.


Gorilla Café

Gorilla Café is a pricey place, but it’s great to chill. There is even an internet café section with blazing fast internet connection with lots of today’s popular eSports games installed. You can even play PlayStation. Unlike most pool places, at Gorilla Café the staff seems to know what they are doing. Four of you can play for one hour for just $9 at very nice tables. You are even allowed to bring your own stick. Gorilla Café hosts regular tournaments and in such situations it can get very smoky too. Nevertheless, the place is very clean and great to hangout.

Cue-D’s Billiards

Cheap beer, jukebox, great for hangouts, lots of secondhand smoke, no table wait times, friendly workers, cheap hourly rates, just like a pool place should be. The genuine atmosphere is what visitors like the most with Cue-D’s Billiards and all of that at an affordable price. You will love the jukebox and the fact that it has virtually any music genre in it!


Good Timez Billiards

Good Timez Billiards is probably the best place to play pool in Las Vegas. It’s another inexpensive place with a nice full bar area unlike other pool places, clean tables occasionally with professional pool players so that you can learn a trick or two, and weekly tournaments. The owners are awesome to hang out with, and there are no people bothering you around. There are big and small tables, and there is a snooker table if you feel up to it. The best part unlike the other rooms in this article is that no smoking is allowed, which is why smokers will probably avoid it.


Destiny’s Child

Fulfilling the promise of his vast potential, Taiwan’s Pin Yi Ko wins the World 9-Ball Championship, dashing Shane Van Boening’s hopes of bringing the title back to the U.S.

By Mike Panozzo

Photos by Richard Walker

There is little argument that the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) World 9-Ball Championship is the toughest tournament in the world to win. Unlike the sporadically staged WPA World 10-Ball and World 8-Ball championships, the World 9-Ball Championship has been staged every year since 1990, with the exception of 2008 and 2009, when the event failed to secure sponsorship. Among the game’s elite, it is the title revered above all others, and every nation’s champion players fight for the opportunity to wedge themselves into the talent-laden 128-player field.

“With some dazzling shot-making (and a few fortunate rolls), Ko jumped into the record books.”

And as if the sheer depth of talent isn’t enough, the fickle and unpredictable game of 9-ball itself makes the task of advancing through the treacherous group stage gauntlet and winning six single-elimination matches even more daunting. One only need look at the unlikely finalists in recent years to realize the degree of difficulty the annual WPA championship provides. For every Darren Appleton, Niels Feijen and Thorsten Hohmann that have reached the title match, the 9-ball world championship has seen its share of Albin Ouschans, Yukio Akagariyamas and Ronnie Alcanos — all world-class players, but hardly perennial international champions. No, the WPA World 9-Ball Championship is not often kind to predetermined favorites.

In 2015, however, the World 9-Ball Championship delivered perhaps the perfect title match — heavyweights from opposite ends of the globe, each seemingly predestined to win the coveted world championship at some point in their careers.If there are players more devoted to the game or more obsessed with practice and perfection than Taiwan’s Pin Yi Ko and America’s Shane Van Boening, they’ve yet to be discovered. The 26-year-old Ko, a wunderkind since winning back-to-back WPA World Junior 9-Ball Championships, has finally met the pool world’s lofty expectations with wins at the CSI 10-Ball Championship and, more recently, the WPA World 10-Ball Championship in late February. Van Boening, arguably America’s best player since three-time world champion Earl Strickland, has dominated U.S.-based tournaments for nearly a decade, and has shed his reputation for underachieving on foreign soil with back-to-back World Pool Masters titles.

“Van Boening appeared headed to his first world title, having thrashed his first five opponents in the final bracket by a margin of 55-15.”

All of which made the pair’s epic battle in Doha, Qatar such a delicious treat for the thousands of pool fans from around the globe who hung on every shot while viewing the match on a live stream from the mostly empty Al-Arabi Sport Club. And when Ko pounced on an errant Van Boening safety attempt to secure the title, 13-11, in a nail-biting finale, the overwhelming sentiment was that the finalists had not seen the last of one another on pool’s biggest stage.The win made Ko, who battled through several close calls but never wavered in his resolve, the first player to claim two WPA world titles in the same year. For Van Boening, who had authored several otherworldly performances en route to the title match in hopes of becoming the first American player to win the World 9-Ball Championship since Strickland’s 2002 triumph, the loss was bitterly disappointing, although it further dismissed any notion that he can’t stand up to top-flight international competition.The long road to the World 9-Ball final began with a play-in stage for 13 open spots, a stage of uninvited hopefuls that included former World 9-Ball champions Akagariyama and Fong Pang Chao (both of whom advanced). That was followed by the double-elimination group stage, which produced four players from each of 16 eight-player groups who advanced to the 64-player single-elimination rounds. Despite spreading the top-ranked players through the groups, upsets traditionally abound in the opening stages of the tournament and 2015 proved to be no different. No fewer than five former world champions booked early flights home during the topsy-turvy group stage, the most stunning of which was defending World 9-Ball champion Feijen. After winning his opening match, the normally consistent Dutchman suffered through back-to-back 9-8 losses, first to Alexander Kazakis of Greece, then to unheralded South Korean, Ryu Seang Woo. The 30-year-old Woo overcame deficits of 5-1 and 8-5 to stun Feijen and advance to the knockout stages. Feijen had company on his return trip to Holland, as his World Cup of Pool teammate and Euro Tour Player of the Year Nick van den Berg also failed to survive Stage Two.

“Time and again in the finale, Van Boening found himself on the wrong end of Ko’s unintentional safeties.”

A pair of Brit former champions also got to share in one another’s misery on flights back to the United Kingdom, as Karl Boyes (2010 World 8-Ball) and Daryl Peach (2007) failed to advance. Boyes dropped successive matches to Lo Ho, 9-5, and the resurgent Chao, 9-7, while Peach’s elimination at the hands of Mishel Turkey, 9-4, gave the host country its first-ever player in the final 64.

To complete an unusual trend, two former champions from Germany also departed Qatar on what is now deemed “Judgment Day.” Oliver Ortmann (1995) and two-time winner Thorsten Hohmann (2003 and 2013). Not surprisingly, the always-lethal contingent of players from the Philippines led the finals bracket with nine players while Taiwan (7) and China (6) were close behind. What was a surprise, however, was Van Boening being joined by two other Americans (Mike Dechaine and Hunter Lombardo) in the single-elimination stage. Young Canadian challengers John Morra and Jason Klatt joined the fray as well.

One by one, however, the mighty Filipinos were sent packing, with eventual champion Ko, who opened with an easy 11-7 win over Australia’s Justin Campbell, dispatching Carlo Biado (11-4) and Warren Kiamco (11-9). In fact, the only Filipino player to reach the quarterfinals was the nation’s top player, Dennis Orcollo.

Ko advanced to the semifinals with an 11-6 win over Morra, who had displayed plenty of nerve with back-to-back come-from-behind wins over England’s Mark Gray (11-10) and former champion Mika Immonen (11-8). Morra won the final seven games in his win over Immonen.

Tracking Ko to the semis was Jia Qing Wu of China. A decade ago, Wu, then called Chia Chung Wu and hailing from Taiwan, shocked the pool world by winning the World 9-Ball Championship at the tender young age of 16. The baby-faced lefty appeared to have regained that form in Qatar, rolling past world No. 1 Ouschan of Austria, 11-6, countryman Wang Can, 11-9, and surprising Aloisius Yapp of Singapore, 11-7.

“When the opportunity arose, Ko delivered the knockout punch.”

America’s hopes rested on the other side of the 64-player bracket, where Van Boening was starting to find a groove. Painstaking preparation has long been the South Dakota native’s calling card, and Van Boening spent hours on the practice tables in Qatar fine-tuning his break shot. The results were staggering, as Van Boening blasted through four consecutive opponents (Poland’s Tomasz Kaplan, Spain’s Francisco Diaz-Pizzaro, Taiwan’s Yu Chang and Orcollo) by a combined score of 44-14. Particularly impressive was Van Boening’s beatdown of Orcollo. The Filipino (losing finalist to Van Boening in the last two U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships) came into the match on a roll of his own, having demolished Turkey, 11-1, Lombardo, 11-7, and 2012 champion Appleton, 11-2.

But Van Boening ran from the break on virtually every opportunity in the alternate-break format and pounced on every Orcollo mistake to seize a 10-0 lead before winning, 11-1.

Dechaine, arguably America’s second-best player, performed admirably in his first foray overseas. The East Coaster showed plenty of nerve in winning back-to-back 11-10 matches against Taiwan’s Chang Yu and Estonia’s Denis Grabe. In the round of 16, Dechaine battled Pin Chung Ko, the 20-year-old brother of Pin Yi Ko, 9-9. Trailing, 10-9, but en route to forcing a case game, Dechaine jawed the 9 ball. The younger Ko, winner of the 2014 CSI 8-Ball Championship, advanced to the semifinals with a convincing 11-5 win over Poland’s Wojceich Szweczyk.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Dechaine, who will partner with Van Boening for Team USA in the World Cup of Pool. “I learned some things here. I need to stay calm. I also need to figure out my sleeping pattern. But I’m really looking forward to traveling to more of the international events.”

The semifinals offered a number of juicy storylines, with the possibility of the Ko brothers meeting for the title at the top of the list. Having split the 2014 CSI titles, with Pin Yi topping Pin Chung for the 10-ball title and Pin Chung topping Van Boening for the 8-ball crown, the brothers threaten to dominate pool for years to come. Some observers go so far as to contend that the younger Ko is the better player and simply needs more seasoning. Regardless, the duo figures to be dynamic in international events.

Of course, the storyline in the U.S. was the chance for Van Boening to reclaim the title that was won by American players six times between 1990 and 2003. And in the semifinal between Van Boening and Pin Chung Ko, that potential result looked increasingly possible. Continuing his incredible success on the break, Van Boening streaked to a 5-0 lead before Ko scratched out a game. Undaunted, Van Boening simply raced through the next six racks for a startling 11-1 win and a place in the final.

Meanwhile, the elder Ko and Wu were engaged in a tense battle of wills. Wu bolted to an early 6-2 lead, but Ko chipped away and forged a tie at 7-7 when Wu botched an easy safety. The miscue turned the tide in Ko’s favor, and the Taiwanese star edged ahead, regaining the break advantage he had earned by winning the lag. The match was tied at 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10, but Wu could only watch helplessly in the case game, as Ko broke and ran out for the win. The title match was close throughout, due in large part to some good fortune in Ko’s favor. At 4-4, Ko scratched and missed in the same rack, only to leave Van Boening stymied both times. Ko eventually won that rack, then, at 5-5, and botched a 2-9 combination, only to see the 9 carom across the table and into the side pocket for a 6-5 lead.

Van Boening maintained pressure, eventually forging an 8-6 lead that easily could have been 10-4. Ko fought back to tie the match, 8-8, but another scratch handed Van Boening a 9-8 lead in the extended race to 13. Van Boening appeared to be headed to another two-game advantage when a positional error left him hooked on the 7 ball. His jump attempt railed and Ko again tied the match, regaining his serve.

The combatants battled nerves and tough run-outs to 10-10 and 11-11. Ko broke and ran out to reach the hill, 12-11.

As it had several times during the match, Van Boening’s break yielded a pocketed ball, but no open shot. He pushed out to a tricky kick attempt, which Ko quickly handed back. Van Boening’s kick was thick and the 2 ball was left in the open. The unflappable Ko calmly picked his way through the rack, pumping his first at the drop of the final 9 for the 13-11 victory. “I definitely didn’t play perfect in the final,” admitted the elated Ko. “But it is the final of the World 9-Ball Championship and you know so many things can happen. I think we both played good and both made some mistakes. I feel that I got a few lucky rolls to help me win the match. But at the end of the match, I played good. I was able to stay patient.”

“He got a lot of fortunate rolls and got lucky to hook me a couple of times after misses,” said Van Boening. “But I also made mistakes that I should never have made. He played great. I think I made more mistakes than he did and that is what cost me. My break wasn’t working, but that’s the way the game plays.

“It’s an honor to play in the world championship final,” Van Boening added. “I know I can’t win every tournament. I’ll be back.”

“When I won the World 10-Ball Championship, that was great,” said Ko, $30,000 wealthier for the win, “But winning the World 9-Ball Championship is unbelievable. I’m really happy.”