slide.18Let The Games Begin!

The USBA three-cushion national championship begins on April 4, 2013, as part of Allen Hopkins' Super Billiards Expo at the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center in Edison, New Jersey. The tournament will run four days, concluding on April 7 with a three-round single elimination bracket to determine the top eight place winners. A field of 42 players is expected to vie for the national championship crown.

The returning champion, Pedro Piedrabuena from San Diego, is the presumptive favorite, having won five crowns and placed second five times in the last 11 years. His only blemish during this remarkably run was a 4th place finish in 2003. Each year his play has edged up in quality. In 2011, he won the title with a 1.469 average. Last year, he improved to 1.497. Indeed, he had a remarkably 2012 season, winning 6 of 7 tournaments he entered and finishing second to Torbjörn Blomdahl in the other.

Finishing second last year for the third time was Mazin Shooni. He is the holder of the American record for the highest run in a national tournament, clicking off 18 in a row in 2006 when he won his only title in Miami. A resident of New Hampshire, Shooni has been nipping at Piedrabuena's heels the last couple of years and jumped off to a big lead in the 2012 finals, only to slow and be caught by Piedrabuena's great final charge. Shooni will be looking for revenge this year. He won the Malden, Massachusetts, warm up event two weeks ago in dramatic fashion, running 8 and out to edge his finals opponent.

Always in the hunt is veteran Sonny Cho, who took third place last year. Born in Korea, Cho makes his home in New York and plays out of Carom Café. The 2005 national champion, Cho has also placed in the top eight several other times. Known for his ability to score quickly, Cho is very much a rhythm player. Once he finds his rhythm, he is very dangerous.

Also dangerous is the 2012 fourth place finisher, Hugo Patiño. Originally from Colombia, Patiño now lives in New York, where he can be found playing in several different rooms. He took home top honors in the USBA nationals in 2003 and again in 2009. Though he finished fourth last year, Patiño is considered by many to be Piedrabuena's top challenger.

Others to watch include Miguel Torres, the 2008 champion, and Jae Hyung Cho, the 2010 national champion. Cho has been hampered with a shoulder injury since his victory. After surgery in 2011, he has been working to rejuvenate his championship form. Michael Kang, the owner of Carom Café, is considered the best player never to win a national championship. He was runner up in 2000 and 2007. He has been playing at a high level for the last several months, including a second place finish in the Malden, Massachusetts, warm up event two weeks ago. A pugnacious competitor, Kang is never out of a game, fighting to the final point. Veterans Carlos Hallon, from Miami, and George Ashby, from Illinois, will give depth to an already deep field. Hallon is a three-time national champ (1982, 1986 and 1989) who has also finished second five times. Ashby is an eight-time champion.

These top players will be challenged by a deep field of quality players, including past place winners, seasoned USBA tour veterans and several young players with bright futures. The tournament will be live streamed. The event will be live streamed, daily reports will be posted on the USBA web site and real-time matchups, scores and news will be sent out via Twitter.

And for pool players and specatators at the event, the USBA is holding a Pool Player Challenge contest to win $15.00 on Thursday and Friday from 9-11PM. No cost to enter, open to pool players only. Play in a 3-cushion challenge match race to 5 and YOU get the break! Beat the 3C player and you win $15.00. Details below:

Chance to win