Thread: The Lag
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Old 02-21-2019, 11:51 AM
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Default The Lag #9

June 2, 2018

The Lag #9
The 2018 Buffalo’s Pro One Pocket and 9-ball Open, My Experience

Since its inception in 2015 I have attended every one of these. The 2018 tournament was the second annual tournament at the new Buffalo’s on Bloomfield. There are things about the old place I miss, like the general aura. I mean, when you walked into Buffalo’s on Airline it felt as though you had just entered a time warp landing somewhere between 1963 and 1975! With the exception of top notch, modern equipment the place just had the feel of yesteryear and you knew as soon as you walked through the door that this was a place where pool happened! Pool players and high stakes pool matches took priority and you better stay out of the way! A sign on the wall by the front two 9 foot Diamond tables read, “NO GAMBLING cheap on the front tables. Go in the back!” That sign said it all! Does cigarette and cigar smoke bother you? You better find somewhere else to enjoy your microbrew and play cutthroat with your buddies because if there was a big match going on, you could cut the air in the old Buffalo’s with a knife! I loved it! Everything about it! When I heard he was moving I was somewhat heartbroken because pool rooms like that just don’t exist anymore in today’s politically correct environment and every pool room having to bow down to the leagues just to keep their doors open. But I understood the area of Airline where he was located was not exactly welcoming to anyone from out of town. A big time player with a big time stake horse practically needed an armed bodyguard to go to the car any time after dark. So even though I was going to miss the old Buffalo’s, I looked forward to the new one opening. I saw pictures posted online as Buffalo and Painter scrambled to make the move. I was working full time again so I did not have the free time to just take a jaunt to New Orleans to check it out. I was back in the working class and once again had to request time off from work to do anything. My first request for time off was to attend the 2017 tournament at the new Buffalo’s on Bloomfield! When I walked through those doors for the first time last year, I was amazed! I was in awe! I was in disbelief! It was like Buffalo had taken the old place, pumped it full of steroids, and plopped it in this huge building in Jefferson! It had the same feel as the old place only about 5 times as big! Somehow Buffalo had managed to bring the aura with him and transplant it in this building with 25-30 foot ceilings! And the setup? Let me tell you, Buffalo knows how to set up a pool room! We all know how annoying it is to be playing a serious match and have a bus load of folks come in and have to walk right by your table to get to the bar. Then, right by your table again to go to the restroom. Then, since there are so many of them, they stand up to do their partying which is way more important than the silly game you are playing on the table they are now using to prop themselves up. Well, that does not happen at Buffalo’s on Bloomfield! There are no pool tables close to the bar and there is plenty of seating at the bar and in the bar area for that bus load of power drinkers on their way back from the Quarter. When they have to go to the restroom, yeah it’s at the other end of the building but there is a walkway with 4-foot walls on either side to guide them all the way to the hallway where the restrooms are located! Once there, they are likely to sober up because that hallway acts as a wind tunnel for the air conditioning system. Once you turn that corner, you are within the a/c! It’s at least 10 degrees cooler, if not more, in that hallway! Basically, it is obvious that there was some serious thought put into the layout of the place with the pool players in mind. How often does that happen anymore? Almost never!

This year I arrived on Friday so I missed the One Pocket Calcutta and early matches. But again, I have to say, I am always impressed when I walk into Buffalo’s. There are always little, subtle changes that add to the “feeling” of the place. And in the case of this big tournament with Ray Hansen and Poolaction TV on location, the arena set up for the feature table was perfect! Seating around the bar tables was done in such a way so as not to interfere with the players as well so plenty of spectators could get a close up view of some of the world’s best as they played 9-ball on Diamond bar tables!
I hung around for a little while on Friday evening just to take it all in. I love being at Buffalo’s and after several months of working without any real time off, sitting in the middle of Buffalo’s on Bloomfield for me is as relaxing and refreshing as throwing down a towel on the beach and laying in the sun for most normal people! I was able to say hello to some people I had not seen since last year. I was able to see some folks in person whom I had met only through Facebook. I was able to watch some great One Pocket being played. The match between Jason “Jaybird” Brown and Roberto Gomez was quite an exciting match! That little Roberto is a shot maker. He will shoot at anything at any time and make the shot! He very quickly jumped out to a 4-2 lead over Jaybird before Jaybird finally was able to slow him down. I have to say, Jason Brown put on quite a display of what heart and sheer desire to win can do! He started moving like a world class One Pocket player. No longer was Roberto able to just free stroke balls at his hole. Now, there was a price to be paid should he actually miss! That added pressure caused him to put some more thought into his shot selection and show his inexperience in One Pocket. Jason scrambled back to tie up the score at 4-4 or double hill. Roberto even said to Jason at one point, “Jason, give up!” which seemed to give Brown even more desire! Roberto ended up winning the final game as Jaybird found himself in an early trap and could not escape. Roberto did not immediately get out, but the ball count was 7-0 real quick. Even in that position Jaybird continued to fight until the bitter end! I was extremely impressed with the heart he showed during that match! There was some good gambling going on as well, which always gets my attention more than anything! But after a tough week of work, I was ready to go to the room and catch some sleep. I planned on playing in the 9-ball open and I knew once it started sleep was going to be something that could only be caught a little at a time, if at all, for the next couple of days! So Friday night I turned in early to prepare my old ragged body for the abuse it was about to endure.

In the blink of an eye Saturday morning arrived. I checked my phone to find it full of texts and PMs from people on their way wanting me to sign them up for the 9-ball tournament. No problem, glad to do it. Pool is part of my life and helping pool players is what I do. After a nice breakfast downstairs at the Inn, it was a 4 minute Uber ride to Buffalo’s. I quickly found Painter and signed up all who had contacted me then went to hit some balls on the immaculate Diamond bar tables at Buffalo’s on Bloomfield! Before I even got started, Tommy Farrow and Bill Webb from Mobile walked in the door. I steered them to Painter to get signed up before they joined me to hit balls. Of course, Bill was beside himself because Efren was sitting at one of the tables in the bar area with Corey Deuel just hanging out watching TV. Tommy and I proceeded to warm up while Bill went fanboy on Efren and had a picture taken. He came back grinning from ear to ear over that! After an hour or so, the place started really filling up. Other players wanted a chance to hit balls and warm up so we gave up our table to sit and wait for the calcutta to begin. More and more players kept signing up! Paperwork was misplaced. It kind of looked like a circus at the director’s table. But running two tournaments a week I understand how it can turn chaotic real quick even with just 20-30 players, so the fact that they were dealing with over 100 players kept it from bothering me that the calcutta did not start right on time. You really have to expect that at an event as large as this, especially with another tournament taking place right alongside of the 9-ball. Finally, the calcutta was underway. Ray had divided the players into 3 groups: the upper echelon which he auctioned off first, the shortstops went second, then the unknowns or non threats went last. With 112 players or so, a 3 hour calcutta was not surprising! After taking in over $31,000 in calcutta cash, the first matches were called and the tournament was underway!
It’s funny how some things work out. Tommy Farrow from Mobile, and Karl Humphries from Pensacola, drew each other in the first round! Pensacola and Mobile are like Slidell and New Orleans. Pensacola players play in Mobile and Mobile players play in Pensacola. Needless to say, Tommy and Karl know each other and have played in many of the same local tournaments. So to drive to NOLA and draw each other in the first round was a bit ironic.

Players in the One Pocket tournament were allowed into the 9-ball tournament once they were knocked out of the One Pocket. The way it was set up, they knew by the time the 9-ball started there would be only 4 left in the One Pocket. Those 4 would not play in the 9-ball tournament, but the rest of them could if they wanted. This made for some real land mines in the bracket with players like Jeremy Jones, Jason Brown, Roberto Gomez, Billy Thorpe, and Efren Reyes coming in! Besides them, there were plenty of others who could break one off in you like Rob Saez and Alex Calderone to name a couple!
As the night went on, I played 2 matches, winning them both much to my own surprise! The first guy was a NOLA local and I don’t remember his name. The second guy, Paul Dodge, I remembered because there was some bidding on him in the calcutta. I really felt like I should have lost to both of them but somehow I squeaked by, going double hill with Paul. Checking in at the director’s table I was informed I would have to play one more match that night and it would probably be awhile as my opponent, Kid Chris, was in a high stakes gambling match and they had agreed to call his tournament match with me last. Someone had to be last, I suppose. Sure, why not let it be me. I’m only playing the best 9-ball of my life! I don’t mind being put on ice for 3 hours before playing again. Oh well, the free time gave me a chance to do some spectating.

I think the coolest thing I saw the whole weekend was an elimination match between Roberto Gomez and NOLA local, David Haar. Tommy, Bill, and I just happened to be sitting by the table where the match was called, so we had front row seats. David had a huge group of fans come to watch the match as well, though their words did not do much for David’s confidence as they ribbed him (as friends do) more than anything. As the match got started and Roberto jumped out to an unsurprising lead, Roberto began to cheer for David as well! It was one of the greatest things I’ve seen at an event like this! Roberto who, if given the chance, could put a large package together, cheering and trying to pump up David who, well not to be too critical but I doubt he has ever put a 3-pack together. David did finally get to move his penny after a 1-9 combo. You would have thought the Saints just won the Super Bowl if you were in there when that happened! With the score at 6-1 in the race to 7, Roberto gave David a chance. He called the 9 ball in the corner and attempted to make the cut which looked impossible. He scratched. David got a second game! If I remember correctly, Roberto broke and scratched the next game. A high pitched, “Uh-oh!” came out of his mouth as David only needed to shoot in the 1 ball then another easy combo on the 9! David had 3 games! “OK, that’s enough now!” Roberto exclaimed laughingly. “Are you happy with that score?”
“I was happy to get 1 game!” David replied.
Then Roberto finished him off. His attitude toward David during the whole match was awesome! He was not stoic and quiet, he was jovial and helpful! He wanted David to try hard. He wanted to boost David’s confidence. Most of all, he gave David an experience he will never forget! Sure, Roberto could have just run over David in no time and got it over with. But instead, even though he beat him handily, letting him win a game or two, he gave him a very positive experience and a lifelong memory. I hope David understands the significance of what happened during that match. I’m sure he does.

Finally, my match with Kid Chris was called. It was nearly 2:00 am. The winner had to return at 1:30 pm on Sunday, and the loser had to be back by noon! How important was it to win this one? As we got started, I could see Chris’ mind was not on this match. Chris is a much better player than I and under any other circumstances would crucify me in bar table 9-ball. We went double hill! Fortunately, even after the extended wait, I was still playing the best 9-ball I have ever played. I don’t even remember how, but somehow I won the last game! I couldn’t believe it! Chris was very polite. He shook my hand and told me how well I played and that he didn’t know I played that well. He told me he was glad I won after making me wait that long and assured me that he did not just let me win. He went back to his big table match and I headed back to the room!

There was no getting up and going downstairs for breakfast on Sunday morning! We slept way too late for that! It was a McDonald’s all day breakfast item for us, then back to Buffalo’s. My first opponent Sunday was going to be none other than, Tommy Farrow! Tommy and I play real close and if you asked each of us separately, we both would probably say we have the edge over the other! It was clear to me as our match started that I did not have the same break I’d had the day before. That is a huge factor in bar table 9-ball! I took an early lead by capitalizing on mistakes Tommy made, but he caught me by not making any more of those mistakes and taking advantage of my break which was not working in my favor at all that day. I did reach the hill first and was left a long rail bank on the 9 ball. I rattled it and left it for Tommy. He still was not at the hill yet. The next game, I left him a long rail bank on the 9. He nailed it! That put him on the hill with me. Again, I do not remember exactly how that last game went down, but Tommy got me. He played better than me that day so he deserved it. That win put him in the money and the loss kept me one match away from the cash. His next match would be against Billy Thorpe. That alone would make the whole weekend worthwhile!

On the one-loss side my next match was against Zack Sanderson, another local player but a strong one, nonetheless. I was starting to get my stroke back from the day before, but my break was still not there. I put up a good fight against Zack, surprising him a little as we also went double hill, but in the last game I got out of line on the 7 ball and was forced to go for the shot as there was no safety to be played. I missed, not by much but you know what they say about getting close. It’s no good in 9-ball. Zack got out to move into the money rounds sending me packing one out of the money (17-24).
Out of the 9-ball tournament I was able to watch a little of the One Pocket before deciding to go take a nap. We returned later that night just in time to see Justin win the One Pocket from the one-loss side over Tony who was in the hot seat. Back to the 9-ball we were able to watch the last few matches. Jeremy Jones took out Billy Thorpe in a match with one of the most comical jump shots ever! Taking advantage of being able to climb on the table Jeremy, who is by no means a small man nor a young one anymore, sat right in the middle of the table to position himself to reach a jump shot on the deuce. He hit the shot perfectly, but watching him get out of the way of the moving balls was even more comical than watching him climb up there! He managed to do it without touching anything and pulled it off! Next he faced Roberto. Their match went double hill with Roberto breaking. Double J took third.
The rest is history. Roberto double dipped Efren in the finals. Had it not been 3:00 am, it might have turned out differently.

That was it. The event was over. But it’s Buffalo’s and there were a bunch of players looking for action. One Pocket, Banks, 9-ball, it was all going on like always at Buffalo’s!
We hung around for another day and unfortunately, I got sick on Monday evening. No action for me but I got 16 straight hours of much needed sleep before heading back to Mississippi on Tuesday!

It was a great time! I love this event and I love Buffalo’s on Bloomfield! I look forward to this event all year and savor every moment! I have not been to a lot of places across the country, but I have been to a few. I would bet there are not many places like Buffalo’s, if any, in the country! They go all out for this event and it is well worth it for anyone who loves pool to make the trip from anywhere to attend! I certainly plan on being back next year and as many after that as there are! Great job, Buffalo, Bullseye, Painter, the Buffalo’s staff, Ray Hansen and Poolaction TV! You put on another fine event!
"You can have the bragging rights, I'll take the cash!"-me
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