When the German pair of Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann won last year's PartyPoker.net World Cup of Pool, they did it via a 10-4 romp over a young Thai team of Kobkit Palajin and Nitiwat Kanjanasri in the final. This year a tougher field awaits them at Robinson's Place Ermita from September 4 to 9.
There are a total of 31 nations competing in this year's event with the Philippines entering two teams as the host nation.
The galactic duo of Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante, twice winners of this event, are back as the Philippine B team who will face Hong Kong in the first round. The "magkumpare" versus Hong Kong's Bobby Lee Chen Man and Kenny Kwok will be the last TV match on Tuesday at around 7:00 p.m. on Solar Sports.
Dennis Orcollo, who lost the 2010 final with Roberto Gomez as his partner and flamed out in the Quarters with Ronnie Alcano last year, has a new shooter at his side: Lee Van Corteza. They comprise an all-Mindanao Philippines A team that are a real threat to take the trophy. They begin their quest against Switzerland, composed of Fil-Swiss Ronni Regli and former world junior champ Dmitri Jungo. This match is the last TV match scheduled for September 5, Wednesday, also at around 7:00 p.m.
The United States will be brimming with confidence because the 2008 duo that lifted the trophy has been reunited. Hawaii's Rodney Morris is mated with South Dakotan Shane Van Boening. Last year Americans Corey Deuel and Mike Dechaine, exited early. Morris and Van Boening have a tricky first round match against India. Raj Hundal, born and raised in England, partners with Amar Kang, who was raised in the United States. Both are Punjabis representing their ancestral home.
England will be tough to beat. World 9 Ball champ and world Number 1 Darren Appleton will work with his buddy Chris Melling to try and win the title. Their first opponent will be the Belgians, Serge Das and Cliff Castlemain.
China has won this event twice with Li He Wen and Fu Jian Bo. But last year that pairing stumbled at the first hurdle to the Swiss. Li, who finished second to Darren Appleton in the 2012 World 9 Ball championship, will now go for his third World Cup of Pool with Liu Haitao. They kick off their drive for a third title against Singapore.
One can never underestimate Chinese Taipei, even though they are fielding an unknown pairing of Han En Hsu and Hsing Ting Chen. Chinese Taipei typically has a qualifying tournament for this event and it's possible that these two are the fruit of that heat. They will be heavily favored in their opening assignment versus Indonesians Roy Apancho and Muhammad Dewi Simanjuntak.
The Dutch duo of Huidji See, a former 9 Ball champ, and Nick Van Den Berg will be a dark horse. They kick off by playing Croatia's Karlo Dalmatin and Philipp Stojanovic.
Alex Pagulayan will be participating in his first World Cup, but unfortunately for Pinoy fans of the Killer Pixie, he will be representing Canada with John Morra. Pagulayan went to Canada as a teen and developed his game there, although he has previously represented the Philippines in the SEA Games in both Pool and Snooker. If Canada defeats Marcus Chamat and Andreas Gerwen of Sweden then they will likely collide with Philippines B in the round of 16.
The tournament format is, as always, Scotch Doubles (alternate shot) Nine ball single elimination race to 8, with the semifinals a race to 9 and the final an extended race to 10. There's a 35-second shot clock with one extension per team per rack.
Scotch Doubles emphasizes teamwork and communication. As evidenced by the two Chinese wins, neither member of the team needs to be an elite player, but both must be at least solid. Only four nations, the Philippines, USA, China, and Germany have ever won this event.
The winning team splits the US$60,000 first prize. The total purse is US$250,000.
Seedings were used to create a balanced bracket but the top half, featuring Germany, Philippines B, Canada, USA, and China appears to be a wee bit tougher than the bottom half where Philippines A is.
The event is sponsored by Party Poker and is a presentation of Matchroom Sports. Enjoy Live TV coverage on Solar Sports every day of the event. Diamond is the supplier of the official Pool table.
The event website is http://www.matchroompool.com/page/WorldCupofPool/Home. Wikipedia has an extraordinarily detailed site on the event at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Cup_of_Pool.
Tickets will be sold at the venue, Robinson's Place Ermita. It is hosting the event for the second time. China won it there in 2010.
You can follow Bob Guerrero on Twitter @bhobg333.