As the tournament progressed, it looked like destiny well scripted, as Katrina evacuee Mike Surber advanced through one half of the winner’s bracket, and One Pocket Hall of Fame honoree Nick Varner moved through the other half. Surber might have had a little extra motivation to win, because it was he that topped Varner to lay claim to the winner’s side and await a finals opponent.
Meanwhile it was Gabe Owen, who lost his first match of the tournament, but seemed to gain momentum on his long journey through the loser’s bracket, that earned the right to challenge Surber by ultimately sending Varner to third place. Owen then capped his long road to the title by defeating Surber for the $2500 top prize.
This fourth annual, and ever more popular event, drew a stellar field of 50 One Pocket players, from locals to Philipino stars, and from young guns barely out of their teens to seasoned veterans like Dave Bollman and Grady Mathews. And while the young guns like Teddy Garrahan and Brandon Kotonis gave the seasoned pros fits, they were ultimately left aside as the pros prevailed.
With the abundant talent on hand at Fast Eddie’s, and an unseeded draw, it was inevitable that there would be early match-ups between favored players, and indeed the very first round saw Jose Parica draw Shannon Daulton, while Varner drew Santos Sambajon and Larry Nevell drew Francisco Bustamante, among other notable matches.
As the tournament progressed, it seemed like every round there was one great match-up after another, with many of them going to hill-hill. Late in the loser’s bracket, popular showman Scott ‘Freezer’ Frost was true to form in winning several very exciting hill-hill matches in a row, including one against defending champion Ron Wiseman, and another against Larry Nevell. The Freezer’s win over Wiseman finally turned over a lucky ball that barely trickled into Frost’s pocket after what looked like a disastrous kiss that would have left Wiseman an easy run-out. The Frost-Nevell match seemed to come down to the last ball every game, including one game that Frost won on a spectacular four-railer.
Mike Surber had traveled to the tournament with fellow Gulf Coast player Glenn Kelly, and while they both reported that their own homes appeared intact, neither had been home since they evacuated before Katrina hit. Katrina had taken its toll, however, as two close members of Glenn’s family had reportedly lost their homes, and as a casino employee, Surber’s job had likewise been washed away. They were hoping to return home after the tournament, but with forced evacuations still in place that might not be possible.
Congratulations to Gabe Owen on a well deserved win! I’d also like to thank the owners, and the entire terrific staff of Fast Eddie’s, for their outstanding hospitality for this event. Likewise, tournament director Buxton Turner did a great job of maintaining a smooth flow with a crowded field, and if there were any player disagreements, I never heard one the entire time I was there.