Another World – Las Vegas Pool

by Robert Waddell

I mentioned previously that I was involved in an 8-ball league and my team won a trip to the international championships in Las Vegas. I got home two days ago and I’m still not right!

Vegas is nothing but a tribute to excess, plain and simple. Temptation everywhere, action ’til you can’t stand it, the list goes on.

Freemont Street, a must see if you go to Vegas

Being a snooker player/lover/fan I’m not a huge fan of trying to rundown play by play of 8-ball matches, at least not in tournament perspective anyway. Suffice it to say my team performed far beyond my expectations and we managed a respectable 33-40 finish. Normally that kind of result would’ve pissed me off but then a little perspective filtered it’s way through my Vegas stupor and I’m happy with what we achieved.

Venue tables

The field was something like 440 teams from all over the world. Everyone gathered to play a game that quite frankly (and I’m sorry if this offends anyone, this is personal choice\viewpoint) is simple among the available cue sports. Honestly I’m not suggesting you don’t play the game but really at a certain point ability tops out and it’s REALLY HARD to draw the line on greats.

20,000 players there, all capable of running out. Sure you can lop off half as “almost” good enough. Give them 10 breaks and they might run out 2-3 times.

Next you’ve got about half of the remaining players who might get in the 50% range. I consider this group the great “unknown” in this event, you never know who might show up on a given game. Depending on my desire to play, and usually I’m pretty indifferent to the game, I tend to fall in this category. Tell me I’ve got one match for $10k and I’m far more likely to play lights out than I am if I’ve got 10 matches before I get at the cash. For any wondering, that’s not tournament winning mentality…

Our last 25% is a closely knit mish-mash of players who can ALL just break and run table after table on a given day and this is where I have my issue with the game.

You can reasonably predict matches in snooker, if 50th in the world plays #1 he’s better than 80% to lose (stat pulled out of nowhere, do not quote me on that) and the skill level defining 1st from 50th is very obvious. This is not the case with 8-ball.

Snooker is a game that many play but few master, probably in the one percentile or less range. Bar box 8-ball is simple enough that you could find 5% or more of the playing population falls into that elite category. Again, stat pulled from my nether regions….hey, this is an opinion piece.

Final point to my rambling… I find the skill level too low for it to be simple to determine the best. On any given day I think the world #1 bar box 8 ball player could lose a match to any player in the top 500. One might say that could happen in snooker but I have no doubt the frequency is drastically different.

My team, left to right, Sergio, James, Norm and Nick

Anyway back to the event. The format is 5 man teams playing a 25 game match with every player having one game against each of the opposing team’s players. Score 1 point per ball sunk, 3 points for the 8 making maximum score 10 points for a win.

We played 4 matches a day for the first 3 days negotiating 12 rounds and went out on the 4th day. All in all I was quite pleased with that as idle time in Vegas makes for an empty wallet.

I don’t think my team would’ve done as well had we not gotten a nice suite. I was down 3 years ago for the same event and got a ground floor room that had a view of the back alley. Barely room to fit the beds in the place never mind room for luggage. The end result of a bad room is that you don’t want to go rest there in between matches so you wind up in the casino losing money and drinking for free.

Picture taken from the balcony of our room at Riviera

Needless to say you end up getting pissed and pissed off (gambling losses) in between matches which severely impacts your performance. My previous visit I had a stronger team but we couldn’t go as far. It’s amazing how something so simple can have such a huge impact so ALWAYS make sure you’ve got a comfortable place to hang. I learned this 20 years ago but never realized how important it was until now.

On to some of the points of interest……

Johnny Morra, tremendous talent

While down on the trip I ran into a friend of mine named Johnny Morra. For those familiar with Canadian Snooker Johnny is the son of Mario Morra, a long time player on both snooker and 9-ball circuits. Like father like son, John has evolved into a tremendous 9-ball player who’s moved into the elite tournament status and he had been invited to play in the world masters event. I didn’t have an opportunity to see who the field was but I’m sure it was tough. End result for John was a 5th-8th place finish and $4k prize money. At only 21 years of age John is certain to have a long and bright future in the sport. He was a little tilt when I ran into him but that’s to be expected of any young lad who turns 21 while in Vegas!

Another tremendous up and coming player I ran into is Brittany Bryant. For those unfamiliar with her history you can visit her website. Brittany has played with numerous top players and even has the claim to fame of having taken Allison Fisher hill-hill in a best of 19.

Britanny Bryant (tremendous talent) and Sergio

We ran into Brittany in the first day or two, she’d been down for some events that were long since ended but she was sticking around for the crazy action that could be found. Pushed a little further she confessed to having been there for 20+ days at that point! Incredible is all I can say, after a week in Vegas I’m dying to get out so 20+ days is some serious endurance. Ah to be young and in action… All the power to her, she’s going to continue to be a fixture in the game for many years to come.

There was lots of gambling going on throughout the events and I was privy to probably the sickest match I’ve ever heard of. A professional online poker player with more money than sense decided he wanted to play for $20k US race to nine, 9-ball. The conditions? Well this guy will only play champions. If you haven’t won a title or you’re not a big name in the sport he won’t play you.

I’m all for stepping out and playing better players but this guy has taken it to a stupid extreme. Generally one should play opponents as good as or better yet, a little better than you. It’s the best way to improve your game and by playing those close to your abiility you shouldn’t wind up getting hammered and damage your confidence.

Handicapping can help level the field but at some point one has to admit at least to themselves that they’re out of their league. Some just can’t admit that, ego won’t permit it and so they get in way over their head. This guy was a classic example. He was getting probably the most ridiculous handicap I’ve ever seen offered but was still losing.

The handicap you ask?

Pro gives up every break.
Amateur gets ball in hand after every break.
Amateur gets spotted the 5,6,7,8 and 9 ball. (If he makes any one of them he wins, even off the break – the craziest spot ever when combined with giving up the break!)

One has to wonder how the guy could lose with that kind of handicap but he did and in a big way. In my opinion if you can’t win with this kind of a spot then cue sports aren’t for you, or it’s your first time picking up a cue. That this guy kept setting up matches with top pros and losing match after match at $20k a pop just screams ego issues/more money than brains. The pros were loving it and this guy just didn’t care. I guess he just wanted to brag to his friends that he “beat” a title holder but as of the day I left he had yet to win a match.

This is me out front of the Rivera showroom for the “Crazy Girls” show. 42 centigrade that day, could’ve cooked eggs on the butts!

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