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They Call Her Dani

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  • They Call Her Dani

    Thursday – Travel Day

    My road trip started at 6:30 AM. I made two stops to pick up two of my Kracker Jack’s 5 teammates, and I drove us all the way down to Chattanooga, stopping twice for gas and food. In the van with me was our team captain, also named Mark, and our only zero handicap on the team, Brian, who brought The Color of Money and Pool Hall Junkies for us to watch along the way, and he also packed some snacks. We had an extra set of cues with us, which belonged to Jamie, who was flying there from Denver due to work. We made fantastic time and got to the Hilton Garden Inn around 5 PM. The Chattanooga Billiard Club East was only a couple miles from our hotel, and after chilling for an hour or so, we made our way over.

    We went to the administration room that was set up and registered, and I immediately got to meet and talk to Mike Sigel, who by request told me his quick version of the story when he first played Earl. The tables at the CBC played great and were a little stingier than they looked. Friday night I tried sneaking the 8B past a stripe hanging in the pocket and they got jammed on their way falling in the pocket and slowly bounced back onto the shelf. I thought they were stuck in the fall so I asked for a ruling, which was interesting, but that’s another story. We got a lot of practice in, and I felt pretty comfortable at the tables. We were playing on a 9’ table, and Brian was getting a game in here and there with the guys next to us, who were playing on an 8’ table. I learned pretty quick that you needed to use pocket speed whenever possible or you’d rattle a ball that wasn’t hit perfectly. I made it a point to let the others know every time they rattled a ball that was shot hard. I probably got under their skin a bit but there was not enough time to stay mum. We closed out the 9’ table and moved over to the 8’ table when the others left. When Scott and Dani showed up I immediately started playing with Scott to let the others play on the 8’ table as much as possible. Scott and Dani played a few games before getting ready to head back to the room. They had some team t-shirts made up that they’d give us in the morning. Just before they were ready to leave, Jamie showed up. Brian and the other Mark left with Scott and Dani to head back to the hotel. I stood to play some with Jamie, who used my cues since his were at the hotel. I offered more than once to go back and get his, but he was fine using mine. Whatever. It was around this time that our league operator (another Scott) arrived, who quickly explained to me who LoreeJon Hassan was. All weekend, all the players adored her because she was so approachable and genuine.

    Jamie and I walked out with Scott, who gave us our team polo shirts. Scott drove down all by himself to come and watch and support us. He was absolutely just as excited as we were to be there. It was like having another teammate.

    Friday – T-Shirt Day

    We got to the venue dressed in our t-shirts and there was already a crowd waiting for the doors to open. We got some more practice in, and I kept stressing to the team how important it is to use pocket speed. The players meeting went pretty long and then we had the draw. Right out of the gate we drew the team I had in my mind as the favorite. Fusco’s Finest included Pete Fusco and Phil Wines. Anyway we had a real dogfight and we knocked them in the losers. I don’t remember who I played and I don’t remember who we had matched up on Pete, but I do remember that Jamie beat Phil. We had a short break before our next match, which is when it occurred to me that we might now be one of the favorites. We had a good draw for our next match, except it was our other Kracker Jack’s team, so it was going to be bitter sweet either way. I got a text from my wife to call her and when I did she was pretty upset and told me some scary news about my brother in law’s wife. This happened just a few minutes before our second round match was about to start. Then of course it turned out that I ended up playing first. I played nearly perfect though, and the others followed up with wins to finish off the second round match 3-0. We’re now guaranteed 5th/6th, place, which doubled our payout from 5K to 10K. I convinced Jamie to stay and practice with me and the others followed suit. Sometime later I saw one of the guys from another Fusco’s team, who were all wearing very nice shirts made by Tiger. I started out asked him how they managed to get sponsored by them, and I found out that the guy was sponsored by Kamui. The entire conversation probably took about a minute. Before the night was over, I struck up a conversation with LoreeJon, who provided me with a few good stories, which was just awesome.

    When we got back to the hotel room, while on a call with Mitch, I put him on speakerphone so he could tell Jamie the person he beat earlier had just beat Alex Pagulayan even playing one pocket a week or two prior in a Philly tourney. Jamie’s eyes lit up.

    Saturday – The Comeback

    After waking up and getting ready, I stepped outside into a thick heavy hot air. It was kind of hot Friday too, but it felt much more humid. When we got to the venue, we learned we would be playing on the other side of the building. I didn’t remember even hitting a practice ball before my match, I was more worried about the teammates feeling comfortable. During my match, though, something was wrong. I was missing balls and I didn’t know why. Maybe the playing conditions were different on this side of the building? Jamie lost 1-4, I won 4-1, our captain lost on the hill, and Brian lost 1-4.

    Our next match was another Fusco’s team, Fusco’s Gunslingers. I didn’t recognize any names, but I knew that they would be tough. Our captain decided to make a change in the lineup, specifically putting Dani in Brian’s place, due to the handicap difference (0 vs 3) between them. Brian agreed with it and just wanted what was best for the team. It was decided we would be playing on two tables, so the first match was Dani playing against the sponsored player I spoke to the night before. He came out hot with a 3-0 lead, but she kept her head in it, and kept chipping away until it got back to even, and then she won outright. Our captain lost the second match, then Scott won and Jamie lost. The match was a real dogfight with almost all matches going to the hill. Dani and Scott both won and we needed one more. While I was racking the last game my opponent offered a handshake, which made me aware that it was the hill-hill game. He made a costly mistake during that game. Final 4 Baby. When we got back to the hotel our captain Mark got our team shirts washed for us.

    Sunday – Final 4

    Our match didn’t finish until 4AM, and I didn’t get to sleep until 6AM because I went in the bathroom and watched the end of the match again when I found it online. I got 2 or almost 3 hours of sleep but I wasn’t tired.

    There were 4 teams left and it turned out that there was a guy named Bubba who qualified on both teams. We played one of his teams and the wildcard team that knocked us into the loser’s played his other team. It was decided we would play the first three matches on 3 tables, then after they were all done, play the last two matches at the same time. Our captain decided to sit himself out this match. It was so uncomfortably cold that I was actually shivering at times so I went back to the hotel to get changed. There was a ton of traffic and I was expecting to get a text saying that I was up, but I got back in time. Dani lost 2-4, Brian lost 0-4. Jamie was scheduled to play Bubba so his match got delayed, but he ended up winning 4-1. Scott and I played our matches at the same time and we both ended up winning, but he finished his first. They told us to finish the game out anyway, so we did. At this point we’re guaranteed 40k.

    Final Match

    It was decided that the final match would start out on two tables, then after both matches are finished, we would change it to one table. Our captain put himself back in the line replacing Brian, and he won the first match 4-1. Scott played the second match and started out with an 8 on the break to go up 1-0. It got tied up and then he made the 8 on the break again but scratched for a loss, so he’s down 2-1. He ended up losing 4-2 to make his first loss of the weekend. Jamie played the third match and pulled out another win 4-3 amidst a foul controversy and a camera distracting him on an 8B that he missed. It was a huge win. We only needed one more point and I had a perfect 5-0 record up to this point. I started my match with a break that made 3 balls but still had a triangular cluster and I played a safe with the CB in the stack despite my opponent having a 2 BIH handicap. He chose to preserve his BIHs and kicked a ball in then returned with a safe into the stack, but the 3 ball moved enough for it to be makeable. I took BIH and ran out. He won the next 4 games. I had a change one game but my next two breaks fell dry and he ran them both out.

    It came down to the last match and it was our girl Dani with a 3 BIH handicap versus a guy with a zero handicap. He won the first game, then she came back to tie it at 1-1.

    The Move

    There was a turning point in the third game where I felt she was going to win. A thought occurred to me so I told the captain we should offer a split of the money. He asked me if we could do that and I said it didn’t matter because they would turn it down anyway. He looked at me funny and I explained that it was a move. We discussed with everyone on the team but Dani about offering a split. I expected them to turn it down which they did. I also expected it to get in their heads if she ended up winning the game, which she did and was now up 2-1. I saw them across the room doing the math on their phones, but they didn't dare come back to ask if the offer was still on the table. Dani won another game to go up 3-1. The last game was epic and I’m not exaggerating. Nick Varner and Pete Margo along with Upstate Al, Mike Sigel, and LoreeJon Hassen were doing the commentary and I kept sneaking back to listen in. After her opponent fouled on purpose to tie up two of her balls, Nick Varner said:
    “This guy is digging his own grave!”
    She played another safety but she left him a bank, which he tried and missed. With 5 balls left she went up to the table with BIH and tapped the table with her finger, indicating that this game was hers to win. Then she ran out to win us 100K.

    Brian recovered his table the following week...with 100 bills, lol.

    During Dani’s match, I snuck into the commentator area to listen in...

    Last edited by youngstownkid; 07-03-2019, 03:04 PM.

  • #2
    They Call Her Dani

    Then this happened...

    After a few shots, the alcoholic kind, Dani was walking around looking for certain colors of balloons to take home, lol.
    Last edited by youngstownkid; 07-02-2019, 04:19 PM.