Six days of commentating on the Matchroom ranked 'Sharks International 9 ball open', after three days of races to 30 each day between Fedor Gorst and Dennis Orcollo, Fedor ran out a comfortable winner after three days 90 - 54. Is Dennis past his best, or is Fedor just that good? It's a bit of both. Dennis struggled with the break, but Fedor also broke on the Sharks' great white arena table better than anyone I have seen during my Twenty-six days in the Philippines, except for maybe Ko Ping Chung, who won the International Open Nineball title.
The break was made so difficult by the rules they play at Sharks; it's like a triple whammy: nine on the spot, break from the box, and the 3-point rule. The only saving grace was that it was alternate breaks. If it had been winner break, the score might have been even worse for the Filipino Hall of Famer. Fedor plays so amazingly that it should be illegal at times, but even 'Robocop' couldn't arrest Fedor's charge to the required 90.
Sharks is the first and only online betting site where gamblers can go online and bet on literally
every rack, basically 24/7. There are various challenges throughout the day, including a three-man ring game called 'The 3 Kings.' The winner stays on, the race to 30, and players compete for an average of 20,000 Pesos to the winner, roughly USD 350; the second receives 10,000, and 3rd takes home 5,000 pesos. There are also one-on-one matches, usually between the top-flight Filipinos we know, the likes of Carlo Biado, Francisco Bustamante, James Aranas, Johan Chua, Anton Raga, Jeffrey De Luna, Lee Van Corteza and Warren Kiamco, all of them super nice guys too.
There are another 20 regular players in Sharks that would give many top pros
worldwide a run for their money. The talent here is just insane. Players like Michael Feliciano, who got all the way to the final of the Matchroom Sharks International 9 ball, losing out to the
middle Ko in an anything but mediocre performance, pushing Ping Chung all the way, finally having to settle for 2nd best at 17-13. Out of the 128 entries, 64 of them were Filipinos, 50 of them reached the last 64, they had 13 representing the Philippines in the final 16, and 3 were in the semi-finals, and I bet many of you non-playing pool fans won't have heard of one of them such is the depth of talent in the Mecca of pool. For the record, those names are Oliver Villafuerte, otherwise known as Batman or Coy Coy, who has more names than Efren Reyes, Patric 'Devil Boy' Gonzales, and the eventual runner-up Michael 'Agent X44' Feliciano.
I am not a betting man, but you may wonder why his nickname is Agent X44. If not, skip to the next paragraph; if you want to know, keep reading. Agent X44 was a Filipino equivalent of James Bond called Tony Falcon, played by actor Vhong Navarro. Michael Feliciano apparently resembles this famous actor, hence the nickname. He wasn't shaken or stirred by the opposition from all over the world and picked up 15,000 USD for this particular mission.
The Sharks Great White Arena is the newer version of the other Sharks challenge arena 'Tiger Arena' is located just a couple of blocks away from Tomas Morato Avenue, and that too operates on what seems to be a 24/7 basis which has been visited by many top stars from around the world, including SVB, Darren Appleton, and Earl Strickland. The Dutchmen Niels Feijen, Yannick Pongers, and Tim De Ruyter will fly into Manila on the 28th of August for some challenges, following in the footsteps of recent visitors to the great white shark aquarium. Including multiple world champion Kelly Fisher, who was in town to play against another rising star from the pool factory that produces great talents one after the other, the sensational Chezka Centeno.
Kelly is nicknamed 'Kwik Fire' for a good reason, but 'The Flash' is in a different gear. She is even faster than Tony Drago in his prime; she gets off to such a flying start, and before you know it, the rack is over while we mere mortals are still assessing the 2 to the three ball. In fact, Drago was fast but slower than this Dragster. She was gone in a flash.
Chezka ended day 1 with 30 racks to Kelly's 21. It was the first time in the glass arena for
the Yorkshire lass, and it's fair to say it was a unique experience, and she certainly never had the best of runs. She spoke to me just before day two on what she needed to improve. Watch her interview here. https://fb.watch/mEuxNeEnDd/
Chezka Centeno is hard to keep up with as a commentator and player. She is very dangerous and can do damage even from a seemingly safe position. You leave her an inch or two off the rail with, almost 9 feet away from the pot, and she invariably smashes it in and will draw back the entire table for the next ball. Once she gets away from you, it is tough to catch up. She will admit that her playing is a less than orthodox style. She does miss balls here and there by so much that they rarely stay near the intended pocket, which means she does tend to fluke more balls than most other players and get lucky safes here and there, also. Still, there is no arguing that this hugely naturally talented 26-year-old has a big future ahead of her. Kelly just couldn't seem to claw her way back, and after finishing day one trailing by nine racks, day two ended with Kelly 20 racks behind.
Chezka reacts to her lead over Kelly Fisher https://fb.watch/mGQ7ztF5cE/
The days are long at Sharks, and the hours are sometimes a killer in Manila, not just for the
players. The non-stop action requires a big team of production engineers who work skillfully and quickly to bring you the highlights of every rack straight after the rack ends. The Production team showed me how they do it. Wow needs so much concentration on every shot, just like the referees who spend hours on end on their feet, having to stay focused on every shot. At least the players get a moment to relax when their opponent is at the table. There is a scorer, a guy who drives the whole show and brings the viewers the camera angles we enjoy seeing. The person in control of opening and closing the betting after every rack, the graphics team, and the two people in charge of keeping the whole place clean 24/7. It is a team effort to bring you a stream to enjoy where you can watch top-class pool for free all day, every day.
I had the honour of sitting in the booth, a small room outside the arena, joined by local commentators Genesis Del Fierro, Bob Guerrero, Kelvin/ AJ Ong, Manny Argonza, Canon
(Now I know why they gave him the nickname Canon. I thought I talked a lot, but this man
is a constant barrage of English vocabulary. Some words even an Englishman doesn't
understand that fire out of his mouth, a cross between Eminem and Julie Andrews,
I shared the booth with AJ and Manny on Day 3, and I had a special guest on the mic, Wei Tzu Chien, who joined me to chat about her 90 - 87 victory over Filipino legend Rubilen Amit.
What a lovely woman 'Bikay' is, a tremendous multiple World 10-Ball Champion and a very astute businesswoman. She once had a commercial business with Johan Chua, and the qualified accountant also has an Awarma business in a Manila Mall with Carlo Biado. She wanted to become a lawyer before she took up pool full-time after her Father persuaded her to concentrate on the sport. She showed such promise from the early age of 12. I don't think you would hear the line "Don't become a lawyer, be a pool player" from many parents. Still, it was clearly sound advice as Rubilen went on to win two World 10 ball titles in 2009 and 2013 after defeating Kelly Fisher and was the first-ever female Filipino to win a Pool World Crown. She also won numerous medals in different disciplines at the SEA Games.
Wei Wei 'The Wave' was also preparing for the upcoming Scotch doubles clash, teaming
up with Kelly against Rubilen and another rising star on the Filipino pool scene, Denise
'Den Den,' or 'Dengerous' Santos would also be a race to 90.
Back to the clash of the 'Filipino Flash' and Kwik Fire, it was always going to be an interesting
match, the experience and speed of Keelly against the young and speedy fire at anything that
doesn't move kind of attitude, and Kelly started the final day trailing by 20 racks, needing 50 to
win, and Chezka just 30. Kelly did close the gap at one point to 13 racks behind, but it always
seemed just as a comeback was in the cards, Kelly would scratch off the break, or Chezka
would smash in a fantastic long ball after a safety from Kelly enforced on her after running
out of position when she seemed sure to run out. It was a frustrating match over the three days, and Chezka regained her 20 rack advantage, and that's how the contest finished: Chezka
over in a flash, Centeno 90, Kelly not firing on all cylinders, Fisher 70.
After another long, arduous battle fought over three grueling days between the duos of Rubilen
and Denise against Kelly and Wei Wei, I was left exhausted, confused, and bemused about the race's format and length. The break was so tough using the break from the box, the nine on the spot AND, the 3-point rule. The break is just way too difficult using all three factors, especially for the Women. They never use breaking from the box on their tour, and even the Matchroom tour doesn't implement the 3-point rule with the box break. I loved the alternate break they used, but another negative point for me is the races to 90. I think a race to 60 over three days is sufficient to find the best player overall, and I think you would see a much higher standard of play if either the breaking from the box or the 3-point rule was removed for the matches at Sharks. Having said that, they are pushing the game and allowing local players to earn a decent living. The gamblers get their fix from gambling on every rack if they so desire, and we pool fanatics addicted to watching pool get our daily dose of excitement.
My time at Sharks was a new experience for me, and I would love an invite back again
in the near future, there are plenty of battles in the planning for the future, and the lure of the
opportunity to play against so many unheard-of but talented players from this mecca of pool
will see a steady flow of players from all over the world continuing to visit the Philippines to hone their skills against what I believe to be the biggest collection of outstanding players on the planet.
It was time to leave Manila and head to Thailand with Kelly, who had arranged a last-minute exhibition at my local pool room in Pattaya, Thailand, Double Kiss.
Kelly's Brother owns a really nice condo in Pattaya, and surprisingly, this was Kelly's first visit to this fantastic country. I have been coming here since 1989 and have watched the pool scene expand so much in a predominantly snooker-playing nation. Those of you as old as me will remember James Wattana, of course, but pool is growing. There are some great places to play here, but the best is Double Kiss.
11 predator Apex 9-foot tables on the 'Tournament side of the room' and the opposite side
2 Xingjue full-size snooker tables. Coincidentally, Xingjue is a Chinese manufacturer and one of Kelly's sponsors. I will return to her unorthodox entrance to Double Kiss and more about the room later.
Rewind to the night before, being as it was Kelly's first visit to Thailand, I took her to see
the beach and the tourist areas, thousands of bars around Pattaya, and the length of the beach
It is strewn with restaurants and bars; almost all the bars have a pool table. The bar we were having a drink at was called Lucky Star. It's changed a bit over the years, but an outside bar with a roof and two bar box tables pays 20 baht (80 cents), and the winner stays on. No one was playing, so I told Kelly I thought it would be cool and fun if she and I played a game. She didn't take too much persuading, especially having me as an opponent. No one knew who Kelly was as every ball she potted met with huge applause. Come on, people love seeing a Lady beat a male, but the beauty was they didn't know that this particular female was a multiple world champion. I did win the odd rack that kept my one fan happy who cheered my every ball. But it was like one of those TikTok videos where a top pro like Ronaldo dressed as an older man invades a football match and runs rings around everyone. It was a lovely moment that entertained the entire bar if only they realized who they had the pleasure of watching on a 'Normal' night out in a Pattaya bar.
But the next day was the exhibition in Double Kiss, so we got an early-ish night after a quick glimpse of the famous Walking street, a nice bit of Thai Cusine, and then back to the condo to prepare for Saturday night.
So, Pattaya is notoriously busy with traffic; after five attempts to get a taxi to go and pick Kelly up, I decided with time running out, the only way to get Cinderella to the balls was by motorbike taxi, yes, Kelly Fisher, six-time world snooker champion, three-time English billiard champion, two time World 9 ball champion and a ten ball world champion arrived to do a pool exhibition on a motorbike if you want proof, click here to see Kelly’s on bike video https://www.instagram.com/p/CwLbQNzI-ma/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA== and my video of her actual arrival https://fb.watch/mG_gGnrSd3/
So, rewinding to where I mentioned the tables in Double Kiss, as you walk in, there are two full-size Xingjue snooker tables, and Kelly noticed the make and then spotted her autograph on them. Kind of fabulous, huh? There is also a Chinese 8-ball, a 9-foot Carom table,
9-foot Rasson, a Diamond, and 4 GR8 pool tables, all 9 feet.
As a Predator-sponsored player, Kelly soon felt at home on the main table. She would be
playing challengers, and there was some strong opposition from three local Thai Ladies looking to test their skills against the world number 1. Pear from Bangkok put up a great show, as did
another very talented player, Nam, and Thailand's very own equivalent of the 'Black Widow,'
Fon. A few guys tried their luck; Johnny English, not that one, fired blanks. Navy Dave sunk
under fire from Fisher and Mel Russel. Well, what can I say? He walked up to Kelly and asked
her to please beat him in under a minute to save him from having to edit the clip, which some
sites require. Do you want to see it? https://fb.watch/mJOZxY9VoU/
You might have recognized the commentator on that clip.
Kelly answered questions from an interested crowd, had lots of photos with fans, and signed
lots of autographs, including one on the Predator Apex table, adding to the two existing ones on
the two snooker tables.
Kelly's 3-day trip ended with a tour of some places of interest and a lovely lamb chop meal in
'Pepper and Salt' on the dark side, nothing sinister although it might sound it, that part of
As legend goes, Pattaya is named 'The Dark Side'; it was the last part of the city to get electric.
It was a fleeting first-time Kwik visit for Kelly, but she will definitely be back. She flew off to China the next day for promotional work and then to play in the China World 9 Ball Open from September 3rd to 10th.
Follow Kelly on Facebook and Instagram at kellyfisher9ball