For this month’s PoolSynergy topic, Mike Fieldhammer wants our opinion on what makes a pool tournament experience great. I’m sure some people will say it’s the size of the tournament, the venue itself, or the amount of money paid out. Not me. What I find most interesting and enjoyable is being a witness to the human element – the interactions between the personalities involved. Have you ever seen Alex Pagulayan in person? How did God fit so much personality into such a small frame? Looking for a truck load of witticisms and one-liners? Sit next to Earl Strickland while he’s shooting in a match and you’ll get all you can handle.
You don’t have to be at a national class tournament to have a great time. You can have some really great experiences in smaller local tournaments. Smaller tournaments tend to give you more opportunities to meet really interesting people. For example, last weekend I played in the Chico Chaisson Memorial tournament at the Broken Rack in Emeryville, California. It was a relatively small One Pocket tournament (about 30 players) held in honor of a Chico Chaisson, a gentleman who practically lived at the Broken Rack for years and who recently passed away. Although the tournament was small, it drew some high caliber players, including Rafael Martinez, George Michaels, Baby Frank, and Billy Palmer. Being brand new to the One Pocket scene, and since this was my first entry into a One Pocket tournament ever, I was just there to learn the game. The players that I spoke to were very helpful and willing to give me some pointers before the tournament started. I continue to be amazed at how open and friendly most pool players are. In my first match, I played a guy named John Henderson. Being new to One Pocket, I’d never heard of him. He introduced himself and we shook hands. I immediately apologized to him because I didn’t know all the rules, but John said that was fine and he was willing to answer any questions that I had. I asked a couple clarifying questions about scoring and what to do on scratches, and then we started our match. My approach to the game was very simple: I just shot safeties every chance I got, and then tried my best to bank any ball I could see. When the smoke finally cleared, I had somehow managed to score more points than John, and win my very first One Pocket match. John was a very gracious opponent, and I wished him the best of luck in the rest of the tournament. I ended up with a 2-2 record and I was very happy with that result. It wasn’t until two hours AFTER leaving the tournament and driving home that I discovered that John Henderson was a world class One Pocket player who placed 7th in the US Open One Pocket tournament in May 2011! And I had no idea who he was! I guess ignorance is bliss.
The highlight of the tournament, in my opinion, came later that night after I had left. Richard Cook, a.k.a. Bucktooth, had been watching One Pocket matches all day long, and finally had to get in on some of the action himself. He negotiated a One Pocket match with Hugo, a local player, with the following restriction: if Hugo would play one-handed, Bucktooth would play him using a broom stick. I don’t know what the bet was, or who won the match, but that’s not really important to me. I just hate that I missed such a classic matchup. Here’s a picture of the match taken by a friend of mine Reid Stensrud.
So, to sum it up: What makes a great tournament experience? Meeting interesting people and watching their personalities interact. It’s almost like reality TV, except, it really IS real! To read articles from the other PoolSynergy authors, visit Mike Fieldhammer’s blog here.