Sunday, May 15, 2011

PoolSynergy: Pool Mecca

Welcome to the May edition of:
PoolSynergy is a blog carnival where several pool bloggers collaborate each month to write about a common topic.

This month's topic, brought to you by John Barton, is Pool Meccas. This was another topic I struggled a bit with, partly because I think I was being too narrow with my definition of the term "mecca" and partly because I am still fairly new (relatively speaking) to the world of pool and simply don't know everything that's available out there.

With the PoolSynergy deadline looming, I chose to write about a subject I'm familiar with: Las Vegas.

Why do I consider Las Vegas a pool mecca? Well, I can't say it's about the permanent facilities... it's more about the temporary ones that pop up on an annual basis that attract thousands of cue toting pool enthusiasts from across the country and even around the world... and to me, this was a perfect fit for the term "mecca" being used to describe a place many people flock to. I've got to say, walking into one of the big ballrooms to see literally hundreds of tables lined up is awe-inspiring!

Indeed, as I write this, thousands of players and dozens of vendors are in town at the Riviera for the BCAPL Nationals. This is a HUGE event held every year in the month of May. To clarify a bit, it's not really a single event... more of a gaggle of events held in close proximity both date-wise and location-wise for the convenience of the attending pool enthusiasts. There are numerous divisions of competition, and I'm not even going to attempt to list them all. Connected events also include the 2011 US Open One Pocket Championships (in progress as I write) with match-ups such as Cory Deuel taking on Efren Reyes (playing on Table 8 right now). Also in town this month is the 2011 US Open 10-ball Championships. Although I don't compete in the BCAPL events (yet), I always make an effort to spend some time there because there's a lot of great pool to watch and tons of vendors to check out.

Last week was the ACS Nationals. While I'm aware of this event, I have to admit that I haven't participated or even peeked in on it yet, so I don't know a whole lot about it. I do recall seeing that it generated some controversy in the last year in a couple of ways: they moved to the Tropicana this year (used to be at the Riviera) and the dates for this event overlapped somewhat with the BCAPL Nationals listed above. Apparently, there was potential for conflict if someone wanted to compete in both events. My understanding was that they were going to do their best to reduce/eliminate any conflict, so we'll have to see how things worked out.

Last month was the APA Singles National Championships. This is an event that I personally competed in both this year and last year. Like the events above, the APA Nationals is a huge event that draws thousands of players from all over the country. There were also some competitors from Canada as well as Japan. Getting to the APA Nationals is a bit of an accomplishment in itself since you have to qualify for it through local and regional qualifier tournaments. The APA Team National Championships are help later in the year around the August time frame.

Besides these major league championships, there are several other events that pop up in town from time to time, such as the Mosconi Cup. I missed it last time I was in town due to some other commitments I had, but I'm going to make every effort to make it this year.

Be sure to check out the Pool Mecca posts from other PoolSynergy authors as well!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

APA Singles Nationals n Stuff

Fairly short blurb to close out APA Singles Nationals last Thursday-Saturday...

As previously mentioned, I qualified for the APA 9-Ball Singles Nationals this year. Unlike some other national tournaments, it's not possible to buy in to this one... you have to earn it by winning a regional qualifier, so just making it is a pretty big deal. I've been very fortunate to qualify twice in my short pool playing career (last year I qualified in 8-ball).

Last year I was really happy just to be there and approached the whole thing as getting some much needed experience. I was extremely happy to do something better than two-and-out and knew I'd be back.

This year, as you might imagine, I had higher expectations. Now I was the one who had been there before and knew the ropes, etc, etc. Once again, I didn't go two-and-out which was good... but really I had hoped for much more. So I have to say I'm disappointed overall which in turn gives me additional incentive to work harder next time, be more prepared, learn from this year's mistakes, etc, etc. Once again, I'll be back!

Another bummer was that I got knocked out by a player from Las Vegas (ironically in the round after I knocked out another Las Vegas player). WTF? Here I am in a national tournament that drew hundreds of players from all over the country (and other countries, actually - there were players from Canada and Japan as well)... and I end up mostly playing local people I know? I've played the guy who knocked me out several times. He's not only in the same league, he's in the same division! He's a good shot, we've swapped games, etc... but it's pretty anti-climatic when in that sea of hundreds of pool tables the two of us don't even bother to put on our name tags or check IDs or chat about where we're from or whatever. Blah.

I left the Riviera on a high note though - after being eliminated, I headed over to the Mini-Mania tournament room to see what was available. Mixed scotch double 9-ball @ 1PM caught my eye - it was a 32-board; a sizable field for a Mini. A few possible partners immediately came to mind, so I figured I'd start with the one(s) most likely to be interested and in the building. I got an enthusiastically positive response to my text from Amy Encinias - bingo! She came over to the Mini registration desk within minutes and we signed up before she had to dash off to another match.

Amy and I have played against each other a couple of times and we've both seen each other play several times, but we've never played together as partners. I looked forward to the opportunity even though I knew we'd probably be up against some teams in town for the Jack & Jill competition (and therefore likely to have spent more time playing as partners). Since Mini-Mania tournaments are single elimination, each individual match was a do-or-die situation... so the pressure was on!

As with other APA 9-ball matches, this one was scored as a race to a final point count (the 1-8 balls each being worth one point while the 9-ball was worth two points). Based on our combined SLs, Amy and I had to race to 42. One of the teams we played against only had to race to 25 since they had a lower combined skill level - yikes! To make things worse, they won the lag and got a bit of a jump on us in the first rack! We managed to get our feet under us though and started piling up points and eventually prevailed.

We rolled through three other teams and ended up in the finals - yeah! The team we met in the finals was very good - we could not afford to make mistakes against them, but unfortunately we made a few. They took advantage, and defeated us. I was very happy with taking 2nd place in that field though! It put some cash in our pockets and a smile on our faces.