A RETURN TO JAKARTA: The expectation after year 2 was that Shanghai would be the target city for year 3. The dynamics of having the event there proved a bit too difficult to navigate, though, as it is an expensive city that is a bit less geared towards foreigners than either Bangkok and Jakarta. In addition, news of the event had made it’s way to Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, and Singapore, all of whom opted in to the event. With 6 teams now competing, we felt that it would be less problematic if the event was once again held in Jakarta, who already had some experience hosting it. With it now being a 6-team event, a decision was made to lower the player participation from 20 to 15. We would simply go from four 5-person teams to three, so that we could comfortably get the match done in 2 days.
THE VENUE and HOTEL: The venue for the event was the Grand Kemang Hotel in South Jakarta, not far from where we played in year 1. Jakarta once again rose to the occasion as gracious hosts, making all of us feel comfortable. With 6 teams now playing, there was definitely a different feel to the event, and a lot of new people to interact with. Jeff Boulmier from Phnom Penh was there as a guest to watch the proceedings in preparation for his entering a team from there the following year. Arrangements were made for a special rate at the Grand Kemang, a genuine 4-Star, and all of the teams stayed there. The event was held in their Grand Ballroom, which was large enough to easily handle the 7 new pool tables that were brought in for the event. It proved to be a great venue for the event.
THE MEET & GREET: The Meet & Greet was held at Fez, a large pool bar that those that were in Jakarta for year 1 remembered fondly. We were all taken there by buses, with vans at the ready to take people back to the hotel or elsewhere when they wanted. The accent at the Meet & Greet was on socializing and drinking, and I think everyone did their part at both. It included a drinking contest. I honestly can’t remember who won, as I was a bit too drunk at the time. I’ve asked some others, and it seems like they were every bit as drunk as well. The beer was free, the food was great, and that is pretty much all that really mattered.
THE EVENT: The growth of the event from 3 teams to 6 brought with it some change. Most of it was good, but not all. A decision was made to change from a team Won/Lost record to a point system. It meant that 3 points would be at stake in each head to head match between cities, with the winner coming away with 3 points. Margin of victory was no longer a factor. Bangkok would play 30 games against each of the other 6 cities, and winning 16 or more would give us a win. If Bangkok could come away with wins against all of the other participants, we would have 15 points and the match would be ours.
Unfortunately, from a competitive point of view, two of the teams showed up at the event short-handed. Shanghai was all set going in to the event with what they felt was a very strong team. Less than a week before the event, the Chinese government opted to make some last-minute and unannounced changes to the immigration laws that played havoc with their roster ( I think everyone in Bangkok can relate). Several of their players were rendered unable to leave the country without being in jeopardy of not being able to re-enter. Manila had a similar problem. There is no active pool league there to draw players from, and they were hard pressed to replace some last-minute cancellations. My counterpart in Manila is Jesse Cambosa, who is on the board of the Makati Amateur Pool Players Association. He has an abundance of Philippine players, but less of an expat community. Singapore brought a fun crew, but it was apparent early on the some of their team were just not up the the standards of a serious competitive event. With Shanghai and Manila both forced to forfeit some games each match, Saigon was the only team that was capable of playing a real role in the outcome beyond the traditional Bangkok vs Jakarta battle.
To compound the matter, Bangkok and Jakarta were scheduled to play all 3 of their matches on day 1. Rob Smith went into the last match with Bangkok up 15-13. He lost the first to make it 15-14. He won the 2nd, though, giving Bangkok a win against Jakarta and all 3 points. Saigon was now the only ones who could spoil it on day 2, but Bangkok had already played 2 of the 3 scheduled matches against them and was up in the score 13-7. All we had to do was beat them in 3 of the remaining 10 games to come out with our 3rd consecutive championship. We eventually won 5, giving us an 18-12 win against them and another 3 points. Bangkok came away with 15 points and the win. Jakarta wound up with 12, losing only to Bangkok.
The good news/bad news, depending on ones point of view, was that Bangkok closed out day 1 with victory all but assured. Breakfast started off with Mimosas, and the drinking and celebrating took center stage for pretty much all of day 2. I counted 12 empty bottles of Absolute on one table alone, and would guess that the hotel bar had a memorable day.