|Winner John Morra, Photo courtesy of Vi Quynh|
By: Erik Hjorleifson
This past weekend at Hard Times Bellflower one of the most iconic poolrooms in North America played host to the 7th annual Hard Times 10 ball shootout. An impressive field of 41 players turned out each paying a $125 entry fee with a generous $5000 added. World standardized ten ball rules were in effect and the races were to 9 on the winners side and 8 on the losers side. Notables in the field included Alex Pagulayan, Francisco Bustamante, John Morra, Rodney Morris , Oscar Dominguez along with many other local and regional champions.
One of the interesting things about all events played at Hard Times is that the table conditions are tougher than what you would see at an average professional tournament. Normally you would see pro's play on 4 and a half inch Diamond tables, at Hard times which has locations in Sacramento and Los Angeles play is on gold crowns with 4 inch pockets. This difference in pocket size makes for a more enjoyable tournament when pro players are competing. Run outs are not automatic and some of the safety play that ensues is quite interesting. It also makes it tougher to make a ball on the break, from the matches that I was able to watch I saw both Alex Pagulayan and Francisco Bustamante breaking from the side rail because they were having a hard time making a ball with the conventional head on break.
On day one John Morra drew hard times regular Rodney Morris and John served notice that he would be a force to be reckoned with in this tournament advancing with a 9 2 win. Day one also saw Alex Pagulayan defeating Ernesto Dominguez and Franciso Bustamante defeating Oscar Dominguez, veteran champion Santos Sambajon also made his way through to the final four on the winners side.
Sunday proved to very exciting, Morra and Pagulayan both won their first matches and faced off in the winners side final. After trailing 7-5 in the race to 9 format Morra dug deep and came back to win the match 9-7, taking the hot seat. After losing to Morra in the final four on the winners side Bustamante battled back to face Pagulayan in the third place match. This would be a great match coming right down to the wire with Bustamante pulling off the thrilling hill hill win.
The finals would not disappoint as well, after staying close the whole match Morra pulled away to make the score 10-8 in the one set extended race finals to 11. Bustamante got a couple small rolls in the next two games and leveled the score at 10 10. Believe it or not the hill game probably took about 20 minutes after Butamante got out of line after caroming the 8 ball. About a 6 exchange safety battle ensued and it is a testament to both players world class level the creativity and skill that was seen until finally Morra gained the advantage potting a tough long 5 ball and running out for the win.
Very well deserved to all of the final 3 players as you could see that on this weekend they were truly class of the field and congrats to John Morra as he has added a very tough win leading up to the world championships in Qatar.
Here is the video of the final few racks.
1st John Morra $3000
2nd Francisco Bustamante $1500
3rd Alex Pagulayan $1100
4th Edgie Geronimo $800
5th Oscar Dominguez $600