by Paul Berg
If you missed the live Inside POOL free live HD stream, free lessons aren’t your thing. However, if you were at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino for Friday and Saturday’s action at the 14th Annual Derby City Classic, you missed the chance for many more. Some odd threats of weather conditions made it tough to get from Louisville, KY to Elizabeth, IN at the outset, yet all the animals in the zoo of the wild pocket billiards world are represented, and the hospitality couldn’t be sweeter.
Whether it was the pink 4 ball from the Accustats crew’s view of the Diamond under the hot lights of table one, or an Aramith purple scattered across two luxurious floors with 34 more tournament tables and plenty of legendary signs leading to more secret sections of the jungle, the start to the grueling grind set the cold night on fire in the 9-Ball Banks division. Straight pool has a magical 14.1 brew fermenting, while the firmaments will open to the beasts of One Pocket and rotation’s little brother 9-Ball soon enough. While the sprawling first round of the three jeweled crown of the main events carried on it’s first round on the players’ first barrel of a buy-back structure that allows two chances in each discipline, the great ring game tradition caught the galleries attention.
Scott Frost was the big winner out of six capable bank pool players, and your egotistical narrator mustered up an interview earlier in the night to encapsulate what he was unable to witness first hand. The rail was buzzing after sunrise about their favorite ousting some local sons, as “The Freezer” let go of his defensive mindset after a tough start to the tournament. I caught up to him after a victory on his rebuy that was as impressive to me against the noise as the big dollar score was to the crowd the night before.
“I was jet-lagged; played my first match against Dennis Orcollo. He beat me 3-0. I had plenty of shots, but that table …” Frost didn’t trail off as we discussed the battle with his manager Larry Schwartz, but the conditions can be explained quickly. The lights for television cause a drying process on the cloth and sweat for birds, dogs and cats of any kind. The pressure is amplified in many ways in a world where the camera is pervasive and the level of scrutiny is intense. “Larry talked me into playing the ring game. I’m late for the ring game, don’t even want to play.” Confidence is a must in this shooting game, but with an opening 2 ball cross side, you get some bang for your buck. “After that everything changed.”
A rock rolling down a mountain with a snow covered ease comes over Frost often. “A locomotive,” Schwartz declared him, describing how easy shots and positions sometimes materialize in a game where defense is often a liability to execution. Another of Schwartz’s promising whipper-snappers is “poker player” Chris Gentile, while the Kentucky captain John Brumback, one of its native sons Shannon “The Cannon” Daulton, and “under-rated” Troy Jones were in the field as well. Once Jones got down to man to man battle with Frost, fan support and dominance carried him to the winner take-all prize.
The morning brought education in many forms. While it’s easy to get a game with Efren “Bata” Reyes cheaply as Columbia, SC’s Kevin Brown found out to great amusement, what was going on in the New Orleans room was a stronger dose of medicine. Grady Mathews and Danny Diliberto taught new wave thought on old defensive ideas without a break shot in straight pool, followed by Brumback (with a little help from Freddie Bentivegna, who wears great names like Bugs and Taylor on his sleeves and heart) recreating an outstanding video lesson on secrets of banking without spin, as many of the Filipino masters have seeped those arts out of the game. Over in front of the IP’s live stream from the Harrison room, things happen faster but with less credit to forefathers. A mingling of the two can result in young pool devotees like little five month old Gibson having an easy time entering a man’s game. Clyde Ellis has created an Apple device-compatible application for calculating bank and kick shots from multiple levels of skill and understanding.
The “Bankshot Calculator” “came to me in a vision,” Ellis explained to the rising American great Mike Dechaine. The poor bugger had his I-pad stolen during the Mosconi Cup, but the lesson was passed to Nick from Atlanta on how to use some of it’s features. “I have a manly box no real man would steal,” Ellis joked of his pink-bordered version of the device. As all this merging of thought occurred outside, another werewolf of London was honeymooning a sweet 110 ball run in 14.1 on the demonstration table on camera while folks chatted with him. John Schmidt‘s time is coming at this event of course, and he might be right that the great Willie Mosconi would never blast a 526 on the stringent Diamond equipment. A young lady named Angel taped the whole conversation in some fasion, and the unification of education continued.
The Phillippines likes to make their presence felt with their stroke and style around and on the baize. Just before the noon hour, Santos Sambajon Jr. had to face local character Candyman in discussion rather than bank pool, and Alex Pagulayan chimed in. Holidays in the islands around Busayan are a bit different, and free time is tough at the Derby. Those lessons are elementary, but an old true beef in the pool world has become clear to a fellow under Polaris. Jose “The Iron Man” Parica was known as “Amang” in the native Tagalog, while “Bata” Reyes is a different whale altogether. Both words translate roughly to “Kid,” but “Spanish Mike” clued me in to the difference. Parica is the kid from the West, while Efren is the kid from the north. Dillemma solved? You might as well try to debate Ali/Marciano around these parts where Hoosiers and Cardinals meet head on.
Out in the halls the grand gifts the casino offers are not nearly enough. Every shooter needs his rifle, and the splendor of the cues runs deeper than Capone’s next to Joe Salazar’s ridiculous selection. Beauty is in the eye of every beholder, and David Grossman has reached a point in a Floridian’s life where he wants to sell his able Dennis Searing.
For fans of banking balls, no matter how many cushions it takes, matches abounded. The fourth round is still in progress now to my knowledge, and semantics in language are the apple of my eye. Which one is up for debate, but two stood out in particualr after having been away from the game for a stretch.
Any time names like Larry “The Truth” Nevel and Ronnie Wiseman clash, it is worth a look. Nevel was the clear victor, but the case rack told the tale. With a need for four balls to close a five ball deal, the great Nevel miscued on a lengthy travel from the “measled” cue ball to his object, and still slowly rolled the vertical cross-corner shot in to start a run of three. The hustler in purple short sleeves was unable to close out the older Michigan man in his orange coat, and Wiseman cagily banked in the green 6 ball across the Simonis cloth. Nearly pocketing a rolling eight couldn’t hold off Veritas, and Wisconsin’s own cheddar grabbed a difficult shot off the defensive remains as Wiseman shrugged off the inevitable.
The closing match on table one was a little more vicious. Hall of Famer Truman Hogue went the distance with Evgeny Stalev, a not-so-cold war under the brightest lights. After displaying the back and forth of planning cautiously and blasting away in retort, it was the great banker on his own soil taking down pool’s equivalent of a Russian gangster. The ghost of Mark Tadd haunts the halls as well, displaying for Stalev how easy mashing them in can be for a “stoic,” as Derby organizing legend Paul Smith described the delight of any connoisseur. Those who want to know more, talk me out of my notebook. There’s so many themes around this game that young, old, and any one from the world wide table can jump in. The cards and the dice are nice too on this soil, so thank any Indian you might see stumbling through the halls. If you want to remember where you are, just keep your eyes peeled. If you want to remember where we’ve been, start on a trek today. The detour signs might be down by now, but if you come across a Barbara or a Nick, they can probably point the way.
Signing off until my kind of Sunday … LOGJC