TULSA — The center of women's billiards this week is Tulsa where pool sharks from around the world will be chalking up their cues and competing in the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship at the River Spirit Casino.
This is the fourth year the event has been held in Tulsa and second straight year at the River Winds. The tournament is part of the Women's Professional Billiards Association tour and awards $100,000 in prize money. The tournament will be filmed and broadcast later on ESPN. Events kick off with a charity pro-am Wednesday, then tournament play Thursday through Sunday.
“We are excited to be back in Tulsa with River Spirit as our host. The venue was chosen when River Spirit approached the WPBA. We were looking for a long-term partnership for this event,” says WPBA President Tamre Rogers. “The U.S. Open is one of our most prestigious events. River Spirit Casino and the fans of Tulsa are enthusiastic and we look forward to bringing them another fantastic event. Everyone in Tulsa has been very friendly and excited to interact with their favorite players and we appreciate the opportunity provided to us.”
This year will feature a local twist — Magoo's billiards in Tulsa hosts a qualifying tournament, which started May 26 and continues today and Tuesday, to select four local slots in the tournament field of 64.
Skilled pool players can make a living through prize money, sponsorship deals and coaching and training sessions. Currently ranked second in the WPBA standings, Allison Fisher is a legend in women's pool and won last year's event and the $10,000 first prize. Fisher earned over $39,000 in prize money in 2011 and more than $40,000 each year from 2008-10 and twice that in some years. She will be looking to defend her title against a field of immensely talented women.
A native of Peacehaven, Sussex, England, Fisher began playing pool at age 7 after watching snooker pool on TV. She received a small table for Christmas one year, and pounding shots on the table became her favorite pastime. After getting home from school, Fisher went straight to the table to practice.
“When I was 14, my careers education teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I left school,” she says. “I replied, ‘A professional snooker pool player.' Then he said: ‘Yes, but what do you really want to be?'”
Fisher turned pro only a few years later, winning 11 world titles in snooker from 1983 to 1995. She set off for the U.S. in 1995 to continue her pool career in other forms — and continued to dominate. She has won eight U.S. national championships, four world championships, a total of 39 WPBA titles overall and 75 pocket billiards titles since 1995.
And winning the U.S. Open 9-Ball title is nothing new — 2011 was her fourth victory. In 2009, she was inducted into the Billiards Hall of Fame.
Fisher, who now lives near Charlotte, N.C., says Tulsa has proven to be a great stop for the WPBA.
“I really enjoyed the event being hosted there. The staff were great as were the fans,” Fisher says. “The U.S. Open is one of the best events along side the Tour Championship for me. I am looking forward to competing again. It has been a while, but my game is OK. My training regimen is up and down really because I have a two-year-old son. I try to spend some time getting strong in the gym and practice on my own doing drills.”
For the uninitiated, 9-Ball is played with balls numbered one through nine. After the break, players must strike the lowest ball first before any other. Other balls may be pocketed out of order as long as the lowest ball is hit first. Fisher offers some insight on what fans should expect to see from these pool sharks: “Great sportsmanship and truly great pool.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Rockwall, Texas, and his book, Raising the Stakes: True Tales of Gambling, Wagering and Poker Faces, will soon be available at www.