Staying hungry for a world championship can be tough, especially once a title plaque has made it into the trophy case. But for the Tex Mex Billiards Team, one trophy isn’t enough.
The Brazoria County friends will start defense of their BCA Pool League Mixed 8-ball Platinum Division team billiards championships Wednesday, set on becoming the event’s first repeat champion in almost 50 years.
“It gives us motivation to want to break that cycle where no one has won it back to back,” Tex Mex team member Cesar Arechiga said. “Last year was a little nerve-wracking because it was the first time that we had been competing as a team together. For us to win, it makes a big difference this year because I feel like we are more ready and more prepared to go in there and snap it off again. The back-to-back for us is just an added incentive.”
The last time there was a repeat champion was 1972, and the 2018 Tex Mex squad of Arechiga, Juan “T.J.” Ortiz, Robert Gonzalez, Coby Rabourn and Jose Delacruz are are back for the title defense.
Rabourn already has had success on the tables at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casnio, winning the 9-ball singles Platinum Division title.
“As a team, we communicate on things throughout the year, but really we are there for each other,” Rabourn said. “There will be times where we won’t win every single game or match, but we need to just remain upbeat. I still remember in final match last year; we were down 9-6 and poured it on and won the next seven of eight to win the championship.”
Consecutive victories against Vegas Strong in the final two matches capped the Tex Mex run, but there will be a new top challenger this time.
“I saw one of the guys from the opposing team, Vegas Strong, and their team isn’t even in this year,” Rabourn said. “They had a couple of guys who couldn’t make some of the qualifiers, so their team kind of fell apart.”
Tex Mex hopes it doesn’t repeat it early struggles from the 2018 tournament, Arechiga said.
“It was the tables. They played on Pro Diamond tables which are good tables because they have real good felt — good cushions and the pockets are tight,” Arechiga said. “But that was something that we struggled with last year. Back home we play on tables that are more forgiving when shooting a ball not exactly in the jaws of the pocket, and it might come off the rail and actually make it, whereas playing on those Pro Diamonds, everything has to be hit in the jaws, because if it is a mishit, it will be spit out. That is what hurt us last year, but we adjusted.
“This year, we kind of knew going back we were going back to the same tables. So whenever we played tournaments or league in the last year, we tried being as precise as possible by hitting the jaws of the pocket. We treated it like we were playing on those professional tables.”
Gonzalez, who at 69 years old is still going strong on the felt, proved to be a calming influence when the team struggled.
“Last year, I just told them that if someone doesn’t play well, that we have their back,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t want anyone to get upset, because in my mind, I just wanted them to keep their mind in the game. I really tried to talk to them and just keep them calm.”
The Mixed 8-ball Platinum double-elimination format will pit individual players against each other until a team gets to 13 victories. No players can play each other twice in the format.
“For our first time there last year, it was hard because it seemed like we were hit and miss at the start,” Arechiga said. “There were times when Coby was playing pretty well and then the next match he was struggling, but I was playing well. So consistency showed up at different times with each player, which helped a lot because if one guy wasn’t playing well, the other four were, so it was kind of hard to lose that way.”
Arechiga will be playing in the Platinum 9-ball tournament with Oyster Creek’s Ricky Hughes and Gonzalez along with alternates Frances Arechiga and Karol Hughes. Rabourn also will have played the Mixed 8-ball Singles Platinum. Ortiz, Gonzalez and Delacruz are only playing the Mixed 8-ball Platinum tournament.
“Everyone seems to have progressed from last year,” Arechiga said. “We did struggle last year, but yet we pulled through and won. That only gave us confidence going in this year knowing that we got that much better from one year ago.”