It’s that time of year again! The American Poolplayers Association will be hosting the world’s largest billiard tournament in the world this month and teams from all over the United States, Canada and Japan are preparing to head to Vegas.
Saturday night was a night to behold. Bruce and Ann Barthelette, league operators/owners of the Connecticut APA throw a bash every year to celebrate their teams that earned the right to compete at this spectacular event. World Trick Shot Artist, Bruce clearly puts as much effort into his league as he has perfecting his craft. With many championships under his belt, that speaks volumes.
Even the APA President hopped on a plane that morning to be part of the festivities. Renee Lyle Beddingfield mingled with the guests and spoke to the crowd, getting them all riled up for their Vegas trip. She left the preparation site in Vegas to attend the bash and assured everyone that the APA crew was working hard to make the most of their new tournament venue, ‘The Westgate Resort.’ It was an extra bonus to say the least to have Lyle share some insight as well as some encouragement to the local players.
Barthelette not only showered his players with going away schwag, he decided to add some entertainment into the mix. Keep in mind that this guy is always looking for ways to show his appreciation to his league participants by bringing in the likes of ‘The Black Widow’, aka Jeanette Lee as well as just recently Florian ‘Venom’ Kohler; both of whom are APA affiliated and without a doubt fan favorites.
This year Bruce decided to spotlight a collection of a group of heavy hitting pool players from New York that have been a television hit this year thanks to TruTV. It seems that it has been far too long since billiards has been in the spotlight in the entertainment industry and APA players from far and wide are intrigued and excited to have this sport represented. ‘The Hustlers’ is a reality show based out of New York that features some of the top players in the area. They compete for money and bragging rights as they are part of a ranking system at Steinway Billiards.
Former APA member, Jennifer Barretta shared some encouragement with the players as she too had made the trip to the APA finals in Vegas years ago before turning pro. Barretta turned professional in 2003. In 2004, she tipped the scales by defeating the #4 ranked player during an ESPN televised match; finishing 3rd overall for that tournament.
She made the ESPN list of ’25 Sexiest Female Athletes of 2005’ as well as landing a four page article in Playboy Magazine that same year. With a strand of television appearances and the lead role in the feature film ‘9 Ball,’ it is clear that she is one of the most marketable athletes on the Pro-Billiard scene.
Don’t be fooled by her beauty and girl-next-door appeal; she is a fierce competitor. She is one of the top 10 female 9 Ball players in the world and wouldn’t shy away from participating in a men’s tournament if you paid her. Her drive, desire and discipline make her a force to be reckoned with. Any fans of the show can tell you that.
Mike Dechaine, a Maine native, came back to New England to let the Connecticut players take a shot at beating one of the top professional players on the circuit. This twenty-seven year old may have one of the biggest chips on his shoulder that anyone has ever seen but he is a delight to watch in action. He has such command of the table that anyone playing him wonders if they will ever have a chance to use their stick. He effortlessly pockets balls while lining up his next shot to the point that you wonder if he has a homing device in the cue ball.
The rest of the cast spends a lot of time discussing the fact that no one really has an honest chance at beating him which creates controversy time and time again. His sarcasm and overconfidence on the show almost brings a special type of comedy to the table, especially the out-take discussions and comments which are at times hysterical.
In person, Dechaine was extremely personable and friendly. After watching him for just a few minutes, it is evident that his confidence at the table is warranted.
The ‘Godfather of Steinway Billiards’ was also on hand. William Finnegan is the ultimate deal stealer. It takes a lot of effort to set up a match without this guy being involved. Finny orchestrates the money matches at Steinway; negotiating what he professes to be fair for everyone. Fair? Isn’t this show called ‘The Hustlers?’ Striking an agreement is not always an easy feat and at times these discussions trump the actual matches as viewers learn the true art of handicapping and just how creative you can be when striking up a money match. Finnegan is a character on and off the set it would seem which is good for this new show.
Scotty Simonetti is a true competitor. No one could dispute the fact that utter determination has kept him in the game. He has found a way to compete on a high level despite losing an arm and a leg. Watching Simonetti play with a custom bridge prosthetic is definitely inspiring but make no mistake … He is a true competitor that doesn’t expect any consolations or handouts. Underdog? Watch him and you would think twice about putting him in that category. He told the crowd, “You can overcome anything” as he waved his arm and prosthetic bridge in the air. His words were certainly the most inspiring of the night.
The final member of the cast to entertain for the night was none other than Gary O’Callaghan. This nutty Irishman steals the show more times than not. Viewers are quoting him left and right. Is it because of what he says or how he’s saying it? It could be due to both as well as the fact that everything seems to sound funnier with an accent. He is the spitfire of this group. His emotions run wild at times and brings true meaning to the word drama. Heated moments in reality television?
It’s hard to get mad at this guy though. He is a blue-collar worker by day and plays his heart out on the table at night. Watching him lose his hard-earned cash strikes a chord with the audience so all of his shenanigans are easily excused by fans as their empathy for him catapults his popularity.
In person, Gary was almost soft-spoken and definitely on his best behavior even though you could tell that he was resisting the urge to perhaps shout out in aggravation when missing a shot.
We love you Gary … We do!
All five members of the cast talked with the players as well as participated in challenge matches for charity. Gregg McAndrews and Borana Andoni from the show also made the trip. Autographs were part of the night too and APA players went home feeling pretty lucky to be playing for such a league.
Kudos to Bruce Barthelette for showing his appreciation for his players who in essence are his customers. When speaking with Bruce, he expresses how fortunate he has been to be a part of the American Poolplayers Association for the past 26 years and he is always trying to find new ways to show his gratitude to his participants. After giving away more than a generous amount of gifts and countless prizes, he threw in an extra $1000 at the last minute. “I just want to make sure everyone is having fun,” he stated. What a guy …
The cast of ‘The Hustlers’ represented TruTV well and support of this new show can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.