Wu Kun-Lin had been close to the finish line in a handful of major events in recent years only to stumble when he reached the finish line.
So, when he reached the last day of September’s Diamond Las Vegas Open, Wu was resolute to finish the job this time. So determined, that the 22-year-old found himself walking around the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, host facility for the tournament, giving himself pep talks to try and remain composed.
“I talked to myself to get off of the pressure in the final day,” Wu said. “I felt much pressure because in the title match, both me and Omar had not won a title yet.”
Wu survived a strong performance by Estonia’s Denis Grabe in the semifinals and coasted past Kuwait’s Omar Al Shaheen in the championship match to post an undefeated record and win the third annual Las Vegas Open, ending his title drought and picking up $15,000.
“Sometimes I was very close to winning so the only thing that I thought of was winning a title,” said Wu. “That was my goal and I made it.”
Now Wu is back to try and repeat as champion, as the Alfa Las Vegas Open opens play today, kicking off 11 days of professional and amateur pool at the CueSports International Expo at the Rio. This year’s Expo features a new title sponsor for the professional open events – cryptocurrency Alfa – added a professional women’s tournament while expanding the men’s field from 128 players to 192 – with three of those registered being the Ko brothers, who are making their return to international competition for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic begin in 2020.
Three years ago, in the very same arena where he will be competing this week, a 23-year-old Pin-Yi Ko, used a combination of tight safety play and sound shot making to upend Germany’s Joshua Filler and earn the World 10-Ball championship – his first major championship after a handful of close finishes. Helping the young Ko battle his nerves was older brother, Ping-Chung Ko, who walked and talked with his younger sibling during timeouts. When COVID-19 began spreading in March of 2020 and lockdowns occurred, the brothers from Chinese Taipei found themselves sequestered at home for nearly two years. With restrictions lifting worldwide, these two competitors, 2020 Las Vegas Open winner Jung-Lin Chang and a handful of top-flight competitors from the Far East Asian country are now back in town and ready to compete after the long layoff.
The last time Greece’s Alex Kazakis competed in the U.S. Pro Billiard Series, nothing seemed to be easy. The Greek needed not one, not two, but four consecutive victorious extra-inning shootouts to edge Kuwait’s Bader Al Awadhi and win the inaugural Wisconsin Open last month. The reigning World Pool Masters champion returns to action this week while in the midst of a stellar start to 2022, having followed up his Wisconsin win with a sixth-place finish in the Predator Premier League Pool event in England and having won February’s Cajun Coast Classic 9-ball tournament.
Earning top honors at Premier League Pool for the second consecutive year was Austria’s Albin Ouschan, who is back in Las Vegas looking to build upon a 2021 which saw him take home three major events, including a second career World Pool Championship and the International Open. Ouschan, who has a pair of 17th place finishes at the Las Vegas Open, was so dominant in big events last year that he earned the Player of the Year award from Billiards Digest magazine.
With the competition now expanded to 192 players spectators will have a non-stop roster of top pros to watch throughout the four-day event, including five-time United States Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening, reigning Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player Jayson Shaw, former United States Open 9-Ball and World 9-Ball Champion Joshua Filler and former Mosconi Cup MVP Skyler Woodward. Also making the trip are reigning World 10-Ball champion Eklent Kaci, four-time Mosconi Cup competitor Billy Thorpe and reigning Kremlin Cup champion Tyler Styer. Previous Pro Billiard Series champions slated for competition include reigning Ohio Open champion Mario He and rising young superstar Aloysius Yapp of Singapore, who won last year’s Michigan Open.
The Alfa Las Vegas Open takes place March 23-26. The Alfa Las Vegas Open is followed by the Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which runs March 28-April 1 and The Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, which runs March 30-April 2.
The events coincide with the CueSports International Expo, which brings thousands of amateur pool players for the BCA Pool League World Championships as well as the USA Pool League National Championships.
Find the Alfa Las Vegas Open draw on the Predator Pro Billiard Series website.
The Alfa Las Vegas Open is streamed for free on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.
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Follow @probilliardseries on Facebook, @probilliardseries on Instagram or @PBilliardSeries on Twitter to follow the next events.
This year’s field of players will be playing for a larger prize fund, as Pro Billiard Series co-creators Predator Group and CueSports International announced last month that the total added money for this year’s six events has grown to nearly a half-million dollars – including $55,200 for this year’s Alfa Las Vegas Open. Each of this year’s events will have more than $52,000 added which will upgrade these tournaments all to World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) Category 3 sanctioned events, securing the exclusive dates on the WPA calendar and allowing players to earn more WPA ranking points from each event.
The winner of each 2022 event will receive a guaranteed spot in the 2023 Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which will be held February 27 through March 3 in Las Vegas. Additionally, a minimum of the top 12 players in the Predator US Pro Billiard Series rankings who are not otherwise invited by the WPA, a WPA continental federation or a promoter wild card, will also earn spots in the 2023 Predator World 10-Ball Championship.
The Predator Pro Billiard Series is a series of open, professional events held around the world to provide more opportunities for professional and aspiring pool players to compete in high-quality events, earn more income, sharpen their skills, and earn their way into the Predator World 10-Ball Championship held in Las Vegas each year as part of the CueSports International Expo.
The Predator U.S. Pro Billiard Series by CSI feature six open professional events during the calendar year. Created by league operator CueSports International together with the Predator Group, these tournaments will run in tandem alongside of CSI league events being held throughout the country. The winner of each competition receives a guaranteed spot in the following year Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which will be held during the annual CueSports International Expo in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel and Casino.
These events are played on Predator Apex professional tables covered with Predator Arcadia Reserve Performance Cloth, with Predator Arcos II balls, and under the Predator Arena billiard lights.
CUESPORTS INTERNATIONAL (CSI) is an international pool league and event leader and is currently comprised of three divisions: CSI Leagues, CSI Events and CSI Media. CSI Leagues manages the BCA Pool League and USA Pool League, CSI Events produces numerous amateur and professional events around the globe and CSI Media creates live streaming and digital content. Through its vision and strategic alliances, CSI is “shaping the future of pool.” For more information about CSI or any of its divisions, visit www.playcsipool.com.
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