Saturday, September 26

Galveston 10-ball Champion

I did win it. Barely. It wasn't pretty. I was literally overwhelmed when I finally sank the winning 10-ball. I just had to lay on my back there for a moment. It was past midnight Sunday 20th of September.

I Noticed a missed call from my friend and avid pool player/promoter/commentator-friend Jay Helfert. So I called him back: He said "you know Mika, the true champions find a way to win even when they are playing bad."
That actually made me feel better. I know what some of you are thinking. Mika must be nuts to even worry about stuff like this. He just won the freakin' Championship! I wish it was uncomplicated like that. But I have to take precaution and analyze what happened. I don't want to be in that situation again. I know I might be, but the goal is always not to be.

I have to admit it was a really tough mental battle within myself. Warren Kiamco seemed more poised than I have ever seen him.
He was running out well, kicking balls with a very high percentage. I wasn't able to capitalize on my overall 2 to 1 safety percentage. Meaning I was successfully hooking him 2 out his 1 time average.

The first set was a total nightmare. I could not get a hold of the speed of the rails. the cue-ball was erratic, it didn't even seem to grab the "throw" of the balls in the manner it was to. I lost 11-5.

It took a a couple of tough runs and methodical work to start gaining my confidence back. Even then I felt like I was fighting the windmills. It was a total uphill battle the whole way. But I just stuck in there, thinking positive. I had to force myself to think positive.

It came down to the very last game. Second set, 8-8. Now race to 9. I made a ball on the break but could not see the 1, except for a rail-first shot. I tried to play a sort of a one-pocket safety shot because the 1-ball was near the corner but I could just catch the inside of it. I hit it in the right direction, but again the rails bounced like crazy and it came all the way down to the same end of the table it started from. It ended up being a kick-double-bank. SO it went in. Now I was snookered again. Had to kick at the 2. I caught it too thin, leaving Warren a shot. Even worse, he had the angle to make the 2 and break the only cluster on the table while maintaining position on the 3. I waited anxiously in my seat to see the outcome. The tricky part about breaking the cluster was that it was near the side-pocket. So the danger of a scratch loomed over Warren. And it wasn't an easy shot to begin with.... He missed! I think he might have rushed it. Unfortunately he missed the cluster too. So I still had work to do. Nothing seemed easy as the weight of the situation had me really nervous. I had to take extra time for each shot just to make sure it was the best possible solution every time. I was able to create a perfect angle on the 4 to break the cluster to open up the 5. Then I cut the 5 in the corner diagonally across the table. left a good angle for the 6 to go behind the 8 too rails and make it in the corner. I under-hit the 8 landing too straight on the 9. This would mean I'd have to shoot the 10 in off the rail, or near it. I cheated the pocket ever so slightly on the 9, but not too much. That particular pocket was the one that players seemed to have missed the most balls with. Then time to shoot the 10. After a few deep breaths I was ready to pull the trigger...just then, a fly landed on my bridge hand-forearm! WOw! I almost shot. Could have missed. SO I waited for the fly to get lost, preparing again mentally. I jacked up the butt of the cue and pounded the 10 in with confidence. Then I simply let my body just fall on the floor like jelly.

It's over, I thought. phew! What a scare. I am the G.W.C. Champion.

I'm now back home in New York preparing for the U.S. Open. It's actually nice not having to fly around the world before it.

Happy Fall,


Sunday, September 20

In it to win it.

Well it's the Galveston World Classic final day. I was actually thinking of not posting anything yet, as if it could affect the outcome of today's match. Then I figured, I'm way beyond that kind of thinking. After all, I am not superstitious.

So what do we have here? -I am in the so called "hot seat", meaning I am awaiting for the outcome of the only semi-final between Warren Kiamco and Mike Dechaine. Furthermore, due to the true double-elimination format, the winner of that match would have to beat me twice in the finals to earn the title.

So I guess I consider myself a favorite without even bragging about it. If I just play solid, I have two shots at the win. Of course I'd like to close it out ASAP, not leaving any lingering thoughts of a double-dipper for the other guy.

I have had a crazy tournament so far. a couple of really close calls. One of the matches was against Rodolfo Luat. I was up 7-5, then he ran a couple racks, went up 8-7. He was still running the balls to make it 9-7, but then he rattled the 10-ball deep in the corner. So I made it 8-8 and from there broke and ran 2 more racks. I could see he was still a little shaken of missing the 10 ball earlier, so in the next rack he missed an opportunity after my dry break. I closed the door on him 11-8.

The more dramatic match wass against Shane, of course. I had two hill-hill battles with him preceding this event, and it looked like this one was not going to be any different. Actually, let me take that back. Van Boening did look like he was going to run away with it. He fluked a 2-ball in four rails and broke a cluster to run out for a 3-2 lead. on top of that he continued to break and run two more. 5-2. I tried to hang in there, but my break was off. I scratched twice of my break. Honestly, I still have to work on my 10-ball break to get it up to speed with him. So he was all the way up to an 8-4 lead when I had another chance. I ran out, but again left him a table for him to make a commanding 9-5 lead.-Not so fast though. he made a position error on the 7. left it straight in along to long rail. 8 was on the other side, He tried a back-and-forth table lenght draw with english but hit it bad and nrealy scratched in the corner. From the jaws of the pocket long cut-shot on the 8....missed! He over-cut it. I had a relatively easy shot to the side for the 8 and then shape for the 10 the other side. Then I finally found the sweet spot for breaking, and ran out two racks to even the score at 8-8. Next rack I missed a long to in the corner because I was trying to get too perfect for the 3. He ran out. I think then he then scratched on the break. I had a tough out, tricky position from the 1 to the 2, to get to the 3 etc. I treid to billiard the 9 in the side of the 3 but instead of it going in, it hung there. Luckily he was snookered. 3 was clustered with two other balls near the corner. He then made an intentional foul hitting the 9-ball away from the side. He probably forgot that he had a scratch of the break. So now he was on 2 fouls. I clipped the 3 really thin and soft and buried both the cue-ball and object ball. When I told him he was on two fouls, he eyes widened in surprise, then his body language told me that he was already kicking himself for making the intentional foul earlier. He missed the masse shot I got the rack: 9-9. I'm not sure what happened the next rack but I know he got to the hill first. He broke, but the 1 and the cue-ball got kissed around. he had to play safe. I safed him back. Then he came with a really nice thin cut-shot on the one, but didn't have position on the 3. He plays safe drawing the cueball all the way to the other side near back rail. 3-ball near middle opposite rail. I took a really long hard look at the situation. Decided to go for a long back-cut bank. Had to even swerve around the 8 to make it. It went in! I narrowly missed the scratch in the side of the 8, and went down for a position on the 4. I proceeded with the out.
Hill-hill again, I broke, made a ball. Had a shot on the 1, made it. Got short on the two. had to hit it a little fuller with english to avoid the scratch. I am nervous. I rattled it but it bounced back from the opposite rail to the original corner. wow, what a roll. It wasn't over yet though. I had a tricky position on almost every ball(or was it because I was nervous?). I kind of hooked myself of the perfect angle on the 7 to the 9, but managed again to swerve around the 9 to make the 7 pocket speed. Then just cut the 9 in the side and rolled the 10 gently in to the corner for the win! Phew.

Next was Mike Dechaine for the hot seat.

Mike got of to a good start going ahead 2-0. I managed to retaliate, and after I was up 7-3, it didn't look like Mike was going to get back in the game. He contantly missed key positions, then having to play safety-battles. I seemed come out ahead most of the time creating a commanding lead. I even 3-fouled Mike as well. I had some fortune of the breaks too. When I didn't make a ball, he had to play safe or push. It really went my way most of the time. I didn't commit the unforced errors that he did and went on the win the match 11-3.
I think Mike needs a little more experience on TV, He'll be fine. He has a lot of fire-power, just needs to get used to the cameras. I guess.

Finals will start 9PM Eastern time. Local Houston time 8pm.

Check out the action at for live stream on the web.

Monday, September 14


Here is my new Cue. 

Wednesday, September 9

Philippines are the World Cup Champs!

After a great opening round against Sweded (8-3) its dissapointing to tell you that we lost to China in the 2nd round. They simply managed to capitalize on every opportunity they had, running out most of the time. When they didn't run the whole rack, they either pushed to a safety or left us hooked.
Me and Markus Juva weren't able to retaliate even when we did have a slight chance to get back in the game. A dry break would really do that to you.

Not surprisingly, the Philippines managed to crawl past the finnish line ahead of the rest of the pack. They had a fairly good draw and by the time they got to the tougher matches they were able to show their true skills. The Semifinal against China was the first scare for them. They looked like they were going to run away with it first but then China produced a great come-back. It was 8-8 when Fu Djanbo decided to go for a seemingly low-percentage carom shot. He missed and left Efren and Django the out. It wasn't easy, but it was certainly nice to start with 1-ball straight in the side instead of a safety(had Fu taken the right shot on)

They ran out and the stage was set for a great final against the German Icons Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann.

The final was full of drama. Lots of fantastic run-outs, and a bit of dogging it too. I am assuming the conditions were getting tougher too because the heavy rain outside and 2000 thousand fans breathing in their neck.
Efren must have escaped 5-6 safeties with his superb kicking and Bustamante would offer the much needed firepower.
The Germans looked like heavy favorites at 9-7 and breaking but somehow the tide would turn again as if it was written in the stars.
Efren and Django indeed shone the light and proved that Philippines is the nr.1 Pool country in the world.

If you have a chance to see the finals re-run, great. Highly recommended.