Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mika Immonen vs. Warren Kiamco

I'm posting up video as I can find it from the Galveston World Classic. This is from the 10-ball finals between Mika Immonen and Warren Kiamco. I've blogged about it before. Both players brought their A-games to Texas.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Galveston World Classic: Mika on Mika

Still recovering from the Galveston World Classic, trying to figure out player stats and more for piece in an upcoming edition of Billiards Digest. Along the way I've come across a good description of a key 10-ball match between Mika Immonen and Shane Van Boening. Mika himself posted up the first-person account on his blog, aptly titled "Mike's Blog." You can find it here. Mika acknowledges problems with his 10-ball break, and an early thought that Shane would run away with it after the Dakota Kid ran up an 8-4 lead. "I had two hill-hill battles with him preceding this event, and it looked like this one was not going to be any different," the Iceman wrote about his thinking before the match began.

Immonen, Billiard Digest's 2008 Player of the Year, went on to win the 10-ball event. Skip Maloney, of AZ Billiards, has a good description of Mika's dramatic final against Warren Kiamco posted here. And remember to look for more details about the tournament in an upcoming edition of BD.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Galveston World Classic: Alcano over Archer in 8-ball, Immonen over Kiamco in 10-ball

Ronnie Alcano bested Johnny Archer in the eight-ball final at the Galveston World Classic on Sunday. That's Alcano in the photo.

In the 10-ball final, it was Mika Immonen over Warren Kiamco. As predicted, Kiamco did not go down easily. Because Kiamco came up through the loser's side, he had to beat Immonen in two sets in order to win the final. Kiamco managed the first set, but lost in the second.

For their victories, Alcano and Immonen take home $15,500 and $25,000 respectively. Efren Reyes on Thursday won the one-pocket event and Yu Ram Cha on Tuesday came out on top in women's nine-ball. The inaugural Galveston World Classic, held in the very attractive Moody Gardens resort in the island city, also featured an amateur competition and a wheelchair competition. It finished up on Sunday. Promoter Louis Vickio of Houston promises to put the show on again next year.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Johnny Archer versus Ronnie Alcano in 8-ball final at Galveston World Classic

Playing nearly flawless pool, newest hall of fame inductee Johnny Archer beat Roberto Gomez 7-2 in the eight-ball semi-final at the Galveston World Classic. Archer broke and ran four times in his march to victory, leaving Gomez fidgeting and helpless in his seat. The younger player managed a few runs, but a scratch in the final game sealed his fate. Archer now faces Ronnie Alcano in the final. On the 10-ball side, Mike Dechaine faces Warren Kiamco in the semi final. The winner of that match meets Mika Immonen tonight in the final match. Efren Reyes has already won the one-pocket event.

The winner of the professional women's nine-ball event was Yu Ram Cha, who beat Allison Fisher in the final match on Tuesday. Fisher will be feted in October along with Johnny Archer as the newest inductees into the Billiard Congress Hall of Fame.

Iceman leads in 10-ball at Galveston Classic

Mika Immonen keeps on rolling at the Galveston World Classic. After sending Shane Van Boening to the loser's bracket in the 10-ball event late Friday, the 36-year-old Iceman then went on to dispatch Mike Dechaine 11-3 in a match late Saturday.

Despite the lopsided outcome, the match featured some spectacular shots and tough safeties from both sides. In Rack 4, for instance, Mika came with a tough combo-bank shot into the side pocket. That helped Mika unlock that rack, which left the men tied 2-2. Dechaine ran out most of the next rack to take a 3-2 lead. In rack 8 the two men got into a bit of trench warfare, with both playing repeated safeties. Ultimately, however, Dechaine would leave a little too much showing, and The Iceman then went on to win that game, plus the next seven.

Mika, winner of the 2008 U.S. Open Nine-Ball title, can now finish no worse than second in the Galveson 10-ball event. Dechaine meanwhile must go to the loser's side, where he faces Warren Kiamco today for a chance to meet Mika again for the 10-ball title. As a side note: Kiamco is playing tough. He has already dismantled giants Johnny Archer, Efren Reyes and Fransisco Bustamante on the loser's side. He's a man not to bed trifled with.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Varner places fourth in Eight-Ball segment of Galveston World Classic

Nick Varner has placed fourth in the eight-ball segment of the Galveston World Classic. He was eliminated Saturday afternoon by Johnny Archer, who beat the Kentucky native 7-1 during a match televised for the Internet. Archer's methodical and calculated attack left little chance for error for Varner, who early during the match missed two very makable balls.

Archer won the lag, then ran out two racks to begin with. He broke dry on the third rack, but Varner couldn't capitalize, and Archer won that game as well. The fourth also went to Archer. Varner picked up a game about midway through the match, and did so in high form. Facing a tough layout with two of his balls locked up on the far rail, Varner played a safe while simultaneously sending the object ball down table to a spot near the troublesome cluster. Archer then fouled, giving Varner ball in hand. Varner then used the manufactured helper ball to break out the cluster and proceeded to navigate a very tricky layout.

But that would be Varner's only victory. At one point, Varner got so locked up after a tough roll that he had neither a shot nor any obvious safety. Archer now can do no worse than third in the eight-ball segment. Also left alive are Ronnie Alcano and Roberto Gomez. Archer faces Gomez Sunday at noon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Galveston World Classic

Heading out tonight for the Galveston World Classic. Looks like Efren Reyes won the 1-pocket part of the event. The eight-ball and the 10-ball finals are scheduled for Sunday. The organizers have promised generous payouts, including $50,000 for first place in the 10-ball Open. The event is new and ambitious and a welcome addition to Texas, which historically has hosted relatively few world-class tournaments.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Memories From Karen Fox, widow of Bankshot author

Tom Fox, the late husband of Karen Fox, co-wrote the Bank Shot and other Great Robberies, the autobiography of Minnesota Fats. Much of that work was based on interviews with Fats' wife, Evelyn. Karen remembers the difficult interviews with Fats leading up to the writing of that book, which was published in 1967.

"They (Fats and Evelyn) were an odd couple. They had a great affection for each other, and took very good care of each other in a crazy kind of way. She was very consistent. Pool players, when they were making a lot of money, when the hustling was good, buy expensive cars and shoes. But even when times were bad, she (still) had an incredible wardrobe.

When Tom wrote the book, I spent a lot of time with Evelyn. Fats would get to the point -- you know, he was such an ego maniac -- where it was hard to fill in the glue between the gems. We had just moved to Philadelphia. I had to take a bus to Dowell, Illinois to finish up the research with Evelyn. He (Fats) would go into rages. They were funny -- he would have these ego attacks. And so Evelyn had to fill in the blanks, so Tom could get the book out.

It was a freak fluke that the book was ever sold. It happened on a street in New York. I remember how it went down: Tom got out of a taxi and just ran into somebody and they got to talking about pool. It was Roy Chanell, president of World Publishing, and he was a pool nut. And so the book was sold (from that conversation). He (Tom) had to provide and outline, and then it was a done deal."

Monday, September 14, 2009

NYC Grind with Mike Sigel and Tony Robles

This video is brought to us from a very cool site, It features footage from a 200-point straight pool exhibition match between former world champion and player of the year Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel and seven-time Tri-State Player of the Year Tony "Silent Assassin" Robles. Hall of Famer Sigel, one of the all time greats, was featured in our poll of America's best ever players. The match in this video was held on May 26, 2009 at Amsterdam Billiards. The NYC Grind's Alison Fischer (no not that Alison Fisher) provides some great commentary and a shot diagram, which you can find here. It's looks like they had a great night.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

An interview with Karen Fox, widow of Minnesota Fats biographer Tom Fox

Karen Fox, widow of Tom Fox, attended the first Johnston City tournaments with her writer-husband in 1961. Both Karen and Tom worked at the Evansville Courier and Press, a newspaper published from the hometown of backroom legend Hubert "Daddy Warbucks" Cokes. Tom Fox would later help Minnesota Fats pen the "The Bankshot and Other Great Robberies," which was republished by Lyons Press in 2006.

What follows is a partial transcript of various interviews with Karen Fox, the first conducted in August of 2000.

"Tom was a sports writer at the time, and he was a very good newsman, as well as being a good sports writer. Somebody called at the sports desk at the Evansville Sunday Courier and Press, and told him that this great Evansville Indiana pool player, Hubert Cokes, an oilman, was going to be participating in the tournament. They said that Tom, with his love for characters, should go to Johnston city, and watch Cokes play.

And this guy, on the phone, said that Cokes was a heavy money-player.

He and I had just started dating, and we had just seen The Hustler a couple of weeks before he got that call. He could not believe that out in the middle of nowhere, in Southern Illinois, were all these incredible pool players. They had this really good tournament room, with good acoustics, and bleachers, in the back. There was a concrete block room where, after the tournament was over, there were heavy-duty gambling. And Tom knew it was a national story.

We got to see it first hand. You know, television has a way of sterilizing stuff like that. ... But what we saw was pure, and raw, and real. There was a moment in time, a freeze frame, that we had that privilege to see. Those guys were incredible characters.

Oh my god, it was awesome. When tom started going over there, he took a bunch of us the 90 miles from Evansville. It was a drive. I worked at the paper too. We had just met. And he e took a whole load of us over there. He had a station wagon. It was so far, that (eventually ) everybody else stopped going, but I loved it."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lassiter & Shorty in Johnston City

Here's another great video of Wimpy Lassiter and Boston Shorty playing one-pocket in Johnston City, Illinois. It's from ABC's Wide World of Sports. Lassiter won everything there was to win at Johnston City. You can read more about the famous tournaments an the newly renamed Johnston City Hustler Tournament blog. (It was formerly the George Jansco blog. Same content. Just more stuff.) That's a picture of Shorty, on the left, with fan Ross Parker Simons in 1965. You can read more about Shorty at, which has inducted him into its Hall of Fame. Shorty also won big in Johnston City.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Great Story about the Knoxville Bear

Chris Wohlwend, writing for Like the Dew: A Journal of Southern Culture and Politics, has penned a great story about Eddie Taylor, the famous Knoxville Bear. Remembered as one of the greatest bank pool players ever, Taylor is a member of both the One Pocket Hall of Fame (2004 inductee) and the BCA Hall of Fame (1993 inductee). He was also the winner of the all-around title in Johnston City in 1964 and the Stardust Open in 1967.

Wohlwend draws upon some old conversations with Taylor for his story. For instance,the story quotes Taylor describing some of his technique for road hustling:

“A guy in Lexington, Kentucky, showed me how to lose games on purpose. How to talk a big game until the money got big, then start really playing. I’d go on about how good I was, how I’d played Ralph Greenfield the week before and they’d all be laughing at me. They knew I meant Ralph Greenleaf, and thought I was too stupid to know his real name. I’d lose and then I’d say, ‘Well, I can’t really play unless we’re playing for big money.’"

Pool & Billiards Magazine editor Thomas Shaw has noted in a separate article that Taylor was born in the mountains of Anderson County, about twenty miles from Knoxville, on October 1, 1918.

"When I was about eight years old my Daddy bought me a little toy table," Taylor told Shaw. "Later on we lived near the amusement park where the fella who owned the batting cage bought a 2 1/2 x 5 foot table and I got to playing on that. Then we moved downtown near the YMCA and I played on the table there. It just seemed that everything came natural. This boy and I used to go across the street from the school and the guy would let us play one game of rotation for a nickel. Then I started laying out from school and playing. My mother finally caught me and threatened to blow up the poolroom but I just found another place until she caught me again."

Taylor died of cancer on Sept. 5, 2005, at his home in Bossier City, outside Shreveport, Louisiana. Want to read more? Billiards Digest ran an interview with the Bear back in 2005. also ran a long interview in 2004.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Johnston City & The Jansco Brothers

Here's another Johnston City video, this one featuring trick shots by Ronnie Allen, Champagne Eddy Kelly, Weenie Beenie and others. Jim McKay from Wide World of Sports hosts. The Johnston City jamborees began with the release of The Hustler, and lasted until 1972. They were organized by George and Paulie Jansco, who also created the Stardust Events in Las Vegas. The Johnston City events were clearly the most colorful pool tournaments of the 1960s, as they brought road players from all over. The closest thing to Johnston City these days are the annual Derby City events, which features plenty of action -- but on a much grander scale. You can read all about the Johnston City events in Hustler Days.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mike Shamos: The History of Combos

The diagram at left is brought to us by Mike Shamos (at right), curator of the Billiard Archive. Writing in the September 2009 edition of Billiards Digest, Mike tells us about the history of combination shots -- running all the way back to 1807. One of the shots illustrated here shows a "combination kiss-bank scratch," which would have been worth 8 points in an early cue game known as "English Billiards." The game rewarded players for caroms, pocketing balls and scratches. It required three balls and a table with six pockets. The shot pictured here was taken from a diagram in E. White's A Practical Treatise on the Game of Billiards, from 1807. As Shamos points out, the shot is "a tall order at a time when cues didn't have tips and most players still used a mace."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Untold Stories in Billiards Digest: Greenleaf questioned in murder before winning first title

Shortly before winning his first national title, pool legend Ralph Greenleaf was picked up by police as part of their investigation into a grisly murder. The young victim had been abducted, possibly tortured, and then ... beheaded. You can read more about the infamous murder and the celebrated champion in my Untold Stories column in this month's Billiards Digest. An earlier column described the end of Greenleaf's career. This latest column is about its beginning -- and Greenleaf's startling detention.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jersey Red vs. The Ice Man.

"Now watch this, Mr. Nagy. I'm gonna bank the eight off the end rail and it's gonna kiss off the deuce and the one ball's gonna tear up the stack and I'M GOIN' OUT! This is the RAIDER! Whoo! Eight off the deuce and racky-dacky! Ha, look at that!"

-- An excerpt from a match-up between Jack "Jersey Red" Breit and Gene "Ice Man" Nagy, as recorded word-for-word in John Grissim's 1979 book, Billiards. Chapter nine includes the complete transcript of the session. It reads like a Hollywood script. Very cool.