By BRIAN JENNINGS
Cast members of TruTV’s “The Hustlers” made an appearance at Shooters Billiards and Arcade in Southington on Saturday, Aug. 8. Shooters hosted a meet and greet with the members of the show during a sendoff party for numerous teams of the Connecticut American Poolplayers Association (APA) that will be heading to Las Vegas later this month to compete in the National Team Championships.
The event was open to anyone that was interested and the general public had the opportunity to challenge cast members from the show in eight-ball or nine-ball games and win some souvenirs. Six of the 13 cast members of the show were present at the event, including Jennifer Barretta, Mike Dechaine, William Finnegan, Gregg McAndrews, Gary O’Callaghan, and Scotty Simonetti.
Other than being one of the top 10 female nine-ball players in the world, Barretta is also a personal trainer and a mother. She owns a personal training studio and is an ex-body builder.
“It’s been really fun to me,” she said. “I’m just hoping that the show goes to another season, not so much because of the money or the fame, but because it’s so much fun having action in the pool room and competing like that.”
The show mostly takes place at Steinway Café & Billiards in Astoria, New York, where cast members compete against each other for respect, pride, and a shot to be number one on the show’s “Top 10 List.”
Whenever a cast member wants a shot at the number one spot on the Top 10 List, they go to Finnegan to set up the match. As you move up, you get to play more matches for more money. Being a reality show, “The Hustlers” has not only produced a lot of popularity thus far, but has also produced a lot of drama and tension between cast members as well.
“The show has been great for pool and all of us,” said Finnegan. “Nothing is scripted. This is all real. They don’t tell us what to do.”
The meet and greet served as an opportunity to celebrate 13 eight-ball teams, seven nine-ball teams, three Masters teams, three ladies teams, and one doubles team will represent Connecticut in National Team Championships in Las Vegas.
Sal Conti is the owner of Shooters for 20 years and has over 35 years of experience in pool. He has been playing pool since he was eight years old and is the holder of the ESPN Trickshot Magic World Record. Conti said that the month of Aug. is the 20-year anniversary for Shooters and is one of the largest host locations in the Connecticut APA.
“We have 50 teams that play out of here on any given week,” said Conti. “Since we’re centrally located, it just made sense to bring the party here. We’ve done it in the past also. It’s not our first time. For us, if I’m going to attach my business, I want to attach it to the best league that’s out there. I could never say enough good things about them.”
Of the 13 eight-ball teams, seven nine-ball teams, three Masters teams, three ladies teams, and one doubles team to represent Connecticut at the National Team Championships in Las Vegas, Shooters will be represented by four teams, including two nine-ball and two masters teams: “Shooters” (Jennifer Higgins, Garrett Owens, Amy Kulikowski, Nicholas Fonte, Joe Motyka, Daniel Pierce, Mary Hull, and Angela Tinella); “Ooh Piece A Candy” (Mike Pizzoferrato, Austin Ouellette, Justin Pizzonia, Michael Angelicola, Anthony Testa, Matthew Wilkinson, Michelle Pizzonia, and Justin Guillette); “I’m In My Zone” (Alberto Gonzalez, C.J. Parillo, Lester Luczak, and Glen Tausek); and “Where Am I Right Now?” (Efrain Torres, Austin Ouellette, Kevin Guimond, and Brent Boemmels).
According to the APA’s website, the APA is the world’s largest amateur pool league with more than 250,000 members competing in 8-ball and 9-ball leagues throughout North America. The Connecticut APA is the second largest Armature Pool League in the country with over 900 teams and over 6000 active members competing weekly in Connecticut.
The tournament in Las Vegas consists of over 800 teams, which has seven to eight players on every team. The APA gives out 1.7 million dollars in prize money, including a $25,000 cash prize in the 8-Ball Division and a $15,000 cash prize in the 9-Ball Division. The 8-Ball Team Championship is scheduled to take place from Sunday, Aug. 16 to Saturday, Aug. 22. The 9-Ball Team Championship is scheduled to take place from Thursday, Aug. 13 to Monday, Aug. 17.
Other tournaments that are held within the National Team Championships are the MiniMania (consists of a variety of formats), the Ladies 8-Ball Championship (maximum of five players per team), the Jack & Jill Championships (couples), and the Masters Championship (four best players on a team).
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.