By NYC Grind Contributor Geoff Conway “Pool Junkie”
At 8:30 pm on Thursday, July 21, 2011 the much-awaited Accu-Stats Challenge Match between Hall of Famer and five-time World Champion Allen Hopkins and New York City’s veteran player Tony “Flaco” Rodriguez, was held in the Simonis Arena at Breaker Billiards, Clifton, NJ.
This match had everything that was expected from it. The match was streamed live and FREE from the Simonis Arena, using the Accu-Stats Arena Rules. It certainly had plenty of excitement as the score line first went one way and then the other.
Both players really showcased their skills in the safety department, and both were eagle-eyed in the execution of their full-length bank shots which brought their one pocket skills to the fore.
Even though both players in their formative years as pros had used a similar format to the push out rule that comes immediately after the break, they took a while to get a complete grasp on the rules of play. However, it did not take them long to realize that it is wise for the player at the table after the break, to force his opponent to push.
Allen seemed to pounce on the run out opportunities straight away, and soon had a 2-1 lead in what was scheduled for a race to thirteen games 10-ball. However, Flaco soon got in the swing of it and they soon had the score level at 3-3.
Unfortunately, Flaco went into a holding pattern at this point, as Allen won the next four racks to put the score at 7-3. Mr. Rodriguez fell foul of the same mistake as has been made by many of the previous challenge match contestants, that of taking on a high risk shot after being pushed to several times, and taking on the shot more out of frustration. Not a wise decision.
Well, what do you know, Flaco dug deep and really played some great pool and took the next six games to put himself ahead 9-7. Check out the Accu-Stats Ustream recording and review the live stream coverage of the 7/21 match to see how good this comeback was: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16158166
At this point, Mr. Hopkins was showing some signs of frustration, and must have had a talk with himself, as was witnessed by his fight back over the next two games, which leveled the match at 9-9. The capacity audience were getting very excited at this point, as the Arena Rules which cater for an early hill-hill situation if the score is tied at 9-9, 10-10, 11-11 or the normal hill, hill at 12-12 meant that the winner of the very next game would win the match.
Allen broke rack nineteen and made a ball, then electing to make Flaco push… This turned into several safety plays from each player until Flaco decided to play a 1/10 combo, which looked as though he may have thought that even if he missed it he would still leave the one ball tied up in a cluster by the side pocket.
This was a big mistake, as he not only opened up all the balls by the side pocket, but scratched off the side of the 10 ball into the bottom left pocket. Allen shot out of his chair and could not believe his luck, and soon pocketed the 1, 2, and 3 balls, leaving a simple shot on the 4 ball into the top right pocket. “Oohs” and “ahhs” were heard all round the arena as Mr. Hopkins miscued and left the 4 ball sitting directly in front of the side pocket.
This time it was Flaco who was out of his seat in a flash, and started out on what looked like a pretty easy run out. He was running out to perfection until he made the 9 ball into the top left pocket and took the cue ball two rails to get on the 10 ball and came up short. This left him an almost ninety degree shot with the London Bridge. More “oohs” and “ahhs” came from the crowd as the 10 ball wobbled in the pocket and did not drop.
Allen and Flaco shook hands as Allen surveyed the full length of the table shot, which he played rail first to make the 10 ball to win the match. This match could not have been any closer, with both players having had the chance to win this exciting match.
This match certainly made Pat Fleming very happy, as the players highlighted all of the things that Pat has been wanting to see from his Arena Rules format: the chance to witness both players being involved in each game, plus some scintillating safety play from both players… along with the excitement of the three arena shot clocks counting down right in the players faces, and finally an early hill-hill match at 9-9.
NYC Grind founder and creative director Jerry T was on site filming the match, and we’re exciting to be debuting his brand-new video below:
What more could you ask from this crowd-pleasing match. Both players loved the format and said they would love to return for another Challenge Match. Maybe we will see a rematch in the near future, and I for one would love to see how they adjust their Arena Rules strategies the next time they meet.
Stay on the NYC Grind for more news on upcoming Accu-Stats Challenge Matches in the Simonis Arena.
Check out more photos by Joseph Ratke from the match-up below: