After much deliberation I decided to try my hand at the NAPA National Championship for 10-Ball.  I had also qualified for 8-ball, but since that was a week before the 10-ball event, I decided to choose the format I liked better to cut down on travel costs.

After a 9 hour drive, we get checked in to the hotel and find our way to the tournament room.  It was spread out nicely, with tables in about 6 sections of the entire lower level of the hotel. 80 tables were available and all 80 were opened up (no coins).  Several familiar vendors were around: The Drill Instructor, Omega Billiards, Hustlin’ and Dead Stroke and a cue technician booth that I never got to swing by.  However, there are no signs as to which tables are where.  I’d expect signs around the areas like “Tables 40-59” “Tables 1-19”, etc.  Also, finding the tournament brackets required some meandering.  

After speaking with the people in front of the brackets, I learned that 10-ball would not, in fact, be starting at 9am the next morning, but instead at 5pm.  This meant that I had plenty of time to get some practice in and maybe jump in a mini event.

So, I again had to wander around until I found the mini-tournament desk (basically 3 people behind a folding table with notepads on it).  They have no schedules of minis, no limit of available minis and no particular format.  I liked how this was done though, because I could walk up and see there wasn’t anything of my liking available and ask to start a sign-up board for a 10-ball A-class mini.  And that’s exactly what I did.  Paid my $10 to enter and went to practice while I waited.

They announced the new mini option several times, which is great.  It filled up about an hour later (as in there were 8 people who signed up) and off I went.

I played pretty well, winning my first match 5-1.  Then I waited only about 10 minutes for my second match, in which I continued to get some good rolls and play well.  I won that match 5-0.  And just like that, I was in the finals!  I talked to my opponent and we decided to go ahead and split it since it was about 11:30 at night and he was scheduled to play early the next morning.

Later on I entered a Master-class 9-ball mini since it was having trouble filling and I didn’t want to wait forever for another A-class event.  This was a straight race to 6, call the 9, slop everything else counted (10-ball was call-everything).  I was already nervous going into it, and I think I psyched myself out of stroke, cuz I played horribly.  It didn’t help that the guy I was playing called the 9 every chance he got, but he always made sure to pocket the object ball then fly at the 9 (which even though it was a called shot, missing the call-shot, but pocketing the object ball allowed him to continue his inning).  He played well, and in fact he put a 4-pack on me, which included some early 9’s, but still.  However, I lost 1-6 and was out. (single elim)

I played a few more practice racks then went to bed.

Friday, I let myself sleep late, got up and met up with my teammates for lunch.  We walked a few blocks around downtown to get to the food court where I had a pretty tasty chicken wrap.  Back to the hotel to grab sticks and my backpack (phone charger, energy snacks, and whatever else I might need).  The brackets hadn’t yet been completed at 4:45 (some story about a computer virus problem).  Finally they get the bracket written up and posted.  I had a bye the first round and had to wait some more.  I went back to warming up on a practice table.  I wasn’t played all that well, so decided to just rest while I waited.  Had some water and watched some of the other matches going on.  I purposefully did not watch the match I was waiting on so that I could not possibly form any opinions on my potential opponent.  I checked the board frequently to see if they were ready for my match and finally they were, around 6:30.

An important side-note: They were not announcing any matches.  Not a one. They didn’t even announce that the next format tournament had begun.  They just assumed everyone knew and would come check the board for their match.  The only time they called a match was when one of the players was late to their table.  This caused no end of issues, especially when they moved the time of a match and told no one.

I start my match and it’s clear we are both struggling a little bit: making silly errors both in position and shotmaking.  I was on my way to a break and run, but got horrible shape on the 9 ball (easy enough to make, but forcing a position on the 10). I missed the 9 and overran position on the 10, which lead to a scratch.  So, instead of grabbing the momentum for the match, I handed it over.  After that, my opponent snapped in a 10-ball, then had his own break and run.  After being up 2-0, in a 4-6 race, I was now down 3-2.  I get on the hill first with the next 2 racks, then he gets on the hill the next one.  It’s now hill-hill and we’re playing very defensively.  We trade a series of kick-safes until he forces me to leave him a shot on the 7, but he under-hit it and leaves himself tough on the 8, he plays a roll-up safe against the 8, at the middle diamond on the long rail.  I kiss off the 8 and the cue ball gets behind the 9 on the headspot for a snooker.  Now I’m really excited, thinking I’ve just played the safe that will win me the match.  He gets out the jump cue, and I’m still not worried, as it’s a super tough jump/cut (essentially a spot-spot shot, jumping over the full 9 ball.  He jumps, gets a good hit, but the balls track around the table and he ends up getting a safe out of it.  I’m now forced to jump over the 10-ball and cut the 8 up the rail.  I over-cut the 8 and the balls again go running around the tracks and start to rotate around the 10-ball. But, I would not be as fortunate, and left him the only edge he needed to slice the 8 into the corner.  THEN HE DOGGED IT! He undercut it and left me a thin, but perfectly manageable cut into the same pocket.  I make it and am looking at a 3/4 ball hit on the 9, nearly straight into the corner.  I take a breath and pull back, swing through .. IT BOBBLES. Then stands up.  I just missed the 9-ball on double-hill hill and left him a perfect 2 ball out to win the match; which he does.

We shake on it and each mention how it was a good, tough match.  We joked about how neither of us really brought our A game for some reason. I wished him luck in the rest of the event and went to see when I played next.

The brackets said 9:15pm for my next match, so I went back to my room to try and reset.  I realized that I felt tired, heavy; and couldn’t really figure out why.  My best guess was all the walking we did during lunch (in 90 degree sunny weather), then instead of resting the 30 mins prior to my match I meandered mostly.  Upstairs/outside for a smoke, downstairs to watch a match, walk around, check the brackets, upstairs for a bottle of water/soda, downstairs to check the brackets, etc… All while carrying my cues and my backpack.  I left my backpack in the room, since I wasn’t snacking, wasn’t charging; no reason to carry an extra 15 pounds around.

I grabbed my soda and just went to the patio to spend some time outside in the shade, relax a bit and chit-chat with other players.

At 9 I went to check the brackets to see if they had a table assignment; and they did – I was on the streaming table!!  Somehow, I just had a feeling I would end up there. 🙂 I’m glad I did, it only adds to the experience (not to mention the ability to review my match later).

I will upload the video from my match to my YouTube channel later tonight, but in case you missed it, here’s the summary:

I start off shooting pretty well and quickly find myself up 3-0.  Then I totally lose my mind and decide to be FAR too aggressive instead of playing a really simple safety; it costs me the entire match.  My guess is that the guy decided that if I wasn’t going to play smart, neither would he. The problem was, he made his ridiculous shots, I missed the one I tried. The moment changed when I over-spun whitey and missed the ENTIRE 8-ball on a thin cut to the side.  Then later, the table stole my chance to steal a rack by rolling off more than 2 inches causing me to airball on hanging 7-ball.  I lost 3-5 and was out of the tournament.  

So much for my liking my chances at cashing because I was at the bottom of my player class bracket (meaning I play everyone even, or get weight).

I meander the rest of the night, waiting for a mini to play in, which never happens.  I close the night having some drinks with the mini-organizers and listening to ridiculous barking, and watching some ridiculous action.  I hit the sack around 5am.

In closing, I really don’t think it was worth the money to go to this event; especially not for how poorly it was ran.  The tables did NOT have individual table lights, making the dark balls hard to see.  There were no match announcements, no communication with the players about what was going on and when.  There were no bracket updates online, hell the brackets for anything beyond the 8-ball event weren’t posted at all.  Almost no action to be had after hours, save for the drunk guys looking for $100 racks of barbox 9-ball… no thanks.

However, I got the chance to talk with the organizers and people running the national office, and if they’re able to do what they’re trying to do in the next year… I will gladly eat these words, and do what I can to attend the event next year.  I really hope they take to heart all the lessons they learned by trying to run their own event this year (previously it was handled by Bad Dog Billiard Productions).

The next afternoon my road partner and I decided to see what else was around and during that conversation I realized that we were only 20 minutes from Johnny Archer’s room, Marietta Billiard Club.  So, of course we had to go!  And I’m so glad we did.  Upon walking in, you’re confronted with about 30 9-foot tables. 

As it turns out, they were having a weekly 9-ball handicapped tournament there, so of course we had to enter.  But, I continued my pattern of getting to the hill then stalling out, and again went 2 and out. 🙁  However, my 2nd match, the opponent was a real killer. Guy named Paul (of asian descent); plays about a good as Schutzius (for the locals).  He was a real pleasure to watch… just wish my chair wasn’t the match chair. haha

I can’t wait to get a chance to go back there.  The tables were fast, tight, but not overly tough, maybe 4 11/16 pockets? – red circle cue balls and really bouncy rails.  All Olhausen or Gold Crown tables, no Diamonds.  And the weirdest part – NO MOUNTAIN DEW!!  This place is owned by NOTORIOUS MD drinker, Johnny Archer!!  I’m really surprised by this.  But, Mello Yello is… well, it’s almost close enough. haha

Overall it was a great trip, if for no other reason than the experience and the lessons I learned.  But it’s taken me a few days of getting over the depression of performing so poorly to start to realize what I learned.

My next mission: Learn how to win.