17 Annual Super Billiards Expo breaks records for tournament entrants
by Paul G.D. Berg
“Bracketologists” following the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship have been pouring study into predicting likely winners and measuring seeding accuracy in one of America’s more treasured past times since the participants in the tournament were announced last Sunday. They could spend years sifting through charts in the pocket billiards equivalent of March Madness that runs March 19-22.
Early Thursday morning at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, PA, 16 sets of brackets with 64 slots on each of them were unveiled for a swarm of 864 aspiring champions. With 2008’s winner Chris Futrell restricted from competing again in consecutive years, a battle of bar table 9-ball for the annual Amateur Open in just one of a host of events for pool players of all stripes at the 17th Annual Super Billiards Expo. Futrell will try his hand in the junior ranks in the 19-and-under age division, and he has also had previous success in Valley Forge in winning the 14-and-under division in 2005.
As hordes of T.A.P. league players join the pandemonium with The Association for P.O.O.L.’s concurrent “Rally in the Valley,” the Super Billiards Expo is promoter Allen Hopkins’ extravaganza for the broad family of pool fans and players. The Am Open shattered its previous record for entrants, and the other divisions followed suit in a strong showing that will hopefully translate to good results for the vast array of vendors lining the halls between 144 Diamond bar tables packed with play at all hours. The seniors’ and women’s divisions drew 384 and 168 entrants, respectively, and both get underway Friday, while the full fields of 64 in each junior division begin play on Saturday. If that weren’t enough, a pro-am and “second chance” event will bring the total buy-in count well over the 1,700 mark. Tournament directors Jerry and Nadine Mazzola corral the mayhem of these seven events under the umbrella of SBE amateur tournaments next to professional contests in 10-ball and artistic pool.
Spheragon will be streaming the event using Ustream:
FREE LIVE Streaming of Players Championship
The event also will be accessible via Inside POOL Magazine and Spheragon
Another sprawling staff keeps the T.A.P. operation running downstairs from the Mazzolas’ hub, and singles’ tournaments in five different skill strata have begun with full or nearly full fields in each. Friday the team portion of the Rally begins, with a maxed-out field of 144 teams playing a minimum of four times in a unique format. Pools of four teams play a round robin set of three bouts amongst each other tomorrow to determine three brackets for the weekend, with single-elimination knockout the format from there in the best three out of five matches. Champions in both the singles and team events will be determined on Sunday.
“That’s what T.A.P. is all about, the players,” said Pete Emann, one of the many staff humming about the tournament desk. “It’s not just double elimination and you’re out.” Emann’s wife Chris Turow is the tournament director for the mini-tournaments that will keep the convention center floor buzzing with pool players, surrounding other tables with match-up action as the game’s great gamblers appear out of the woodwork.
The progress of today’s play advanced the teeming Amateur Open to the third round, and 256 of the original 864 competitors remain when play begins on Friday. In a best two-out-of-three races-to-five format, the 9-ball action today was swift and decisive, as favorites moved on without significant advent. Past winner Chris Loar and perennial high finisher Jerry Hager are two players to watch. The youth of Jason Klatt, Adam Behnke or Curtis Coleman could be served to follow successes for Futrell and John Morra in bypassing junior eligibility for more lucrative open competition, while wily veterans like Richie Richeson, Larry Price and Ike Runnells litter the chart and push the “amateur” boundary as strong contenders.
If Matt Clatterbuck, Mike Painter or Danny Green can balance their dance cards in after-hours play, any is a serious threat, while dark horse picks aplenty are hidden on the charts. Lee Holt is perennial strong finisher, while Yu Ram Cha has opted to challenge the men for the larger purse. In a tough tournament that rarely produces a pure Cinderella story, perhaps eyeing names like Juan LeBron Cassanova on the bracket (a real entrant) is wishful thinking, but for the mass of pool enthusiasts eyeing the maze of brackets, busting through long odds to victory is the order of the weekend.