Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Day 1 and 2 complete in Vegas

Days One and Two, which make up the first official round of the International Pool Tour North American Open, are now in the history books.

The historic $2,000,000+ tournament with its unprecedented first place prize of $350,000 has seen great play, controversy, and difficulties overcoming the grueling tournament format and tough playing conditions. Here is a slight recap of the goings on at the tournament. For full coverage, visit www.internationalpooltour.com. There you can follow all the action including scoring, pictures, stories, and more.

The IPT has sent home 80 of the original 200 players who showed up for its North American 8-Ball Open Championship, with only 120 returning for Tuesday's matches. Monday began with 100 of the world's finest players, but 40 were eliminated through the grueling round-robin, race-to-8 format. With five rounds throughout the day, players had to play four matches to determine whether or not they would advance. Every player in the tournament so far has played a minimum of eight hours on their day of play; many players played ten or more hours.

the beginning of day one, everyone was smiling and having a great time. By the end of day two, there was happiness on the faces of many, and devastation facing the 80 who have been eliminated from the tournament, including some favorites to do very well and maybe even win the tournament. To see a list of the players who are still playing, and those who have been eliminated, click here!

The equipment is generating plenty of controversy, with many American players disparaging the custom cloth and the European and snooker players thankful for it. However, the most common complaint so far is the general inability of the players to pocket balls on the break. Players like Corey Deuel, Johnny Archer, Jimmy White, Shannon Daulton-all known for their excellent breaking abilities-have all made comments to the effect that they are encountering severe difficulties with their breaks.

The IPT tables made by Diamond have the tightest possible pockets, in order to meet IPT code. The pockets are cut to 4 1/2 inches. However, taking into consideration the thickness of the cloth, the corner pockets are really 4 1/4" - 4 3/8" which make pocketing balls very challenging. The IPT has purposely made the playing conditions so difficult so that only the best players can win. However, being the best in this tournament format requires not only precision skills at billiards, it also requires mental and physical tenacity. The slow nap cloth made by Gorina has proven to be a challenge to American players who don't have much experience playing on this sort of cloth. Many players have tried rolling the ball on safety shots and never reaching a rail. More fouls have been called at this tournament for this very reason than at any other tournament explained one of the official referees. Players do however like the Sardo M-5000 Tight Rack because it eliminates any potential problems caused by a bad rack. Using the M-5000 guarantees a consistent rack every time. To learn about official IPT equipment, click here.

One major story line is how the ladies will fare at on the IPT. So far, the ladies seemed to have trouble keeping up with the rest of the pack, with the exception of Allison Fisher and Sarah Ellerby-both Brits-will advance to Tuesday's play. Loree Jon Jones also played well and advanced to the second round with two wins and two losses. Former World Champion Gerda Hofstatter slid into round two in a three way tie for third place in her bracket. She was tied in wins with Jim Weast and Hall of Famer Ed Kelly. However, Gerda had the best winning percentage and prevailed by only a 1.1% margin over Weast. Many women never won a single match.

The Hall of Famers exhibited similar troubles remaining competitive today. Earl Strickland, Efren Reyes, and Mike Sigel had no worries, but the majority of the HOF members held less than a 50% games-won average.
Needless to say, when exhaustion sets in with the players, tempers flare, and controversy enter the game. There were a few disputes during Round 1. David Alcaide, who was one of the IPT qualification event winners in Veert, The Netherlands, was found to be using a phenolic tip on his break cue. He was penalized one game by the referee and not allowed to use the cue again. Also, in the match between Grady Mathews and Jeff Abernathy, both players were warned for their unsportsman-like conduct. At one point in the match, a referee made a call that Mathews found questionable, causing "The Professor" to go off the air, resulting in a penalty against him dished out by the referee. In his match against Philip Harrison of the U.K., Mike Sigel complained to the referee that Harrison had taken a bathroom break without his express permission. The referee penalized Harrison a game; however, the game was reinstated by Charles Ursitti when Harrison's corner man explained to him that Sigel had never said Harrison was not allowed to take a break. The rule is clear that if a player wants to take a break, he must do so on his inning, or have permission from the opponent. Harrison told Sigel that he needed to go to the bathroom. Sigel said nothing and Harrison took that as acknowledgement of his request. Sigel tried to make a big deal out of it, but by not saying no, it was construed as giving him permission to do so.

To read the rules, click here. Some of these disputes were caught by IPT photographers and are in the photo gallery, click here to see them.

This recap barely scratched the surface of all that went on. Visit www.internationalpooltour.com for the whole story, including in depth stories, photos, statistics, and the list of players who advanced to Round 2. You will be surprised by many of the players who failed to advance. Matches start at 10am (Pacific). Every player tomorrow will play five straight matches.
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