By NYC Grind Contributor, Vanessa de la Cuetara
Every sports fan needs to have a bucket list of events they need to attend. On the top of every pool aficionado’s list is the prestigious US Open 9-Ball Championship. For pool fans worldwide, no month is looked forward to more than October. Aside from baseball playoffs and basketball season starting, October is especially important for pool fans and players because it means the prestigious US Open 9-Ball Championship has arrived.
As we speak, thousands of spectators and players from over twenty-five countries are flocking to the Virginia Beach Holiday Inn & Convention Center for the 37th Annual US Open 9-ball Championship, held from October 21-27, 2012. No other event in pool encompasses the amount of talent, diversity, and accessibility as this tournament.
You have world class players like defending champion Darren Appleton from the UK and previous back-to-back winner Mika Immonem from Finland competing with the likes of both local and worldwide up-and-comers, including Salah Al-Rimawi from Dubai and Hani Al-Howri & Majid Al-Zaabi of Abu Dhabi looking to make a name for themselves in the pool community. Salah, for one, has already established himself as a powerful force in pool, being ranked number one in Dubai for the past two years. He is now making history by being the first player from Dubai to compete in this coveted event. Both Majid and Hani are representing Abu Dhabi in the US Open for the first time as well. We look forward to seeing Majid play against USA long time favorite Johnny Archer tomorrow (Monday) at 7pm. As you can tell, the beauty of this event lies in knowing anyone can play among the best to become the best.
So much street credit and worldwide respect is given to this event because of its depth in the field. You don’t have the top two players from any particular city or country, but all the top players and rising stars converging into one arena. In order to claim this sought-after title, one must survive a double-elimination, 256 player bracket in 9-ball, with match a race to 11. The players who manage to make it to the final must then play a single race to 13, with a provision that you must win by two games, with a maximum of 15 games.
Street credit and respect are great to earn, but another driving force this tournament is its large prize fund. This year, the prize fund is just short of $200,000, with 220 players entered and paid with an entry fee of $500. In contrast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Australia native Peter Panopoulos, who explained that in his country, some of the top events pay out only $2,000, making it difficult to rely solely on pool playing as a living. This factor makes events like this one particularly important for some foreign players. Forgetting about the money for a moment, Peter also pointed out that although no matter what you pay in entry fee, the fact that any player can play, no invite needed, and compete against their favorites, such an experience is truly priceless. Panopoulos made it through the first round nearly unscathed, winning 11-1 over John Holland.
For the first time, Barry Behrman (founder and promoter of the US Open 9-Ball Championships), along with his beautiful daughter Shannon, have decided to hold the 2012 event in the newly-renovated Virginia Beach Holiday Inn & Convention Center. Previously, it was held in the Chesapeake Convention Center, and prior to that, it was held at Behrman’s pool room, Q Master Billiards in Virginia Beach. Although the Chesapeake Center will always hold a special place in US Opener’s hearts, the change is refreshing, and many people are looking forward to how the viewing format has changed at the new venue.
Instead of one room holding all 16 match tables, where you cannot see from one end to another, there are four intimate rooms with four tables each. The spectator benches have been built twenty-four inches off the ground (as opposed to eight inches) to give the rooms a real “pit-like” feeling. Just as visually impressive is the color-coded arrangement the event has set up for organizing the seating. It is a treat for all the senses, from deafening silence broken by the the hitting of balls and snapping fingers to to the bright oranges, yellows, and blues that fill the arena-like rooms. You can even smell the “newness” as you walk into the hotel and the event rooms!
One of these rooms is the main event room, which features one TV table and three other match tables. Accu-Stats Video Productions provides live streaming of feature matches on the TV table via Accu-Stats.com for those who can’t be here in person. Along with Accu-Stats’ live feature matches, AZbilliards.com is also providing real-time score updates of all current matches on a monitor outside each room, along with full online brackets. Click here to view the live scoring and brackets page on AZbilliards.
The first day of competition has drawn to a close…with some of the New York area’s best being featured in the event’s opening rounds. New York top pro & Predator Tour founder Tony Robles brought a flawless victory home for NYC on the Accu-Stats feature table against Ernesto Bayaua, at 11-2. 2012 marks Tony’s first time back in the Open in a few years, and as a fan favorite, he will be one to watch. Meanwhile, recent Predator Tour Amateur 9-Ball winner Michael Yednak also saw success in his first round match, winning 11-6 over Craig McPartlin.
On the other hand, one of NYC’s toughest rising stars, Daniel Dagotdot, was defeated by local Virginia-based phenom Chris Bruner by a score of 11-3…while a similar fate resulted at the end of Dan Cintron’s opening match, after he was defeated by top Connecticut-based player Tom D’Alfonso, 11-2. This makes for Dan Cintron’s first-ever appearance at the Open, and along with Dagotdot, he will continue on to fight on the one-loss side. Other players representing the NYC area at this year’s US Open include Zion Zvi and Mike Wong, (who happened to draw one another in the opening round), along with veteran New York player Frankie Hernandez, who will be featured on the live streamed table tomorrow at 11am vs Canada’s Eric Hjorliefson.
Viewers of the live stream got to see a number of top-notch matches… including an exciting match between Dave Bollman and Brian Deska, where the two battled to hill-hill before Bollman managed to win at 11-10 and sighed in relief. Meanwhile, Filipino legend Efren “The Magician” Reyes beat George McLanahan 11-2. The final feature streamed match win of the day went to Tom Karabatsos, who defeated female powerhouse Brittany Bryant of Canada with a score of 11-9. Bryant waged an impressive comeback in this match, grinding back from a 9-3 deficit to make for a thrilling match for spectators.
The following matches are scheduled for the Accu-Stats feature streaming table tomorrow, Monday, October 22:
11:00am – Frankie Hernandez vs. Eric Hjorliefson
1:00pm – Chris Bartram vs. Phil Burford
3:00pm – Rodney Morris vs. Mario He
Stay on the NYC Grind for more updates as the action fires up at the 37th Annual US Open 9-Ball Championship.