CAMP TAJI, IRAQ
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — The relentless clatter of pool balls colliding reverberated throughout the Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility, as players watched each other's moves amid a sea of green felt.
The competition was friendly, yet fierce, as 32 pool enthusiasts converged for a nine-ball elimination tournament at Camp Taji, Feb. 26 — 28, to see who would emerge the victor during the three-day period.
The tournament was organized by Sgt. Albert Richmond, from Clearwater, Fla., property book office non-commissioned officer in charge, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division—Center, who said he wanted to arrange a large tournament before he left Iraq.
"When I got here last May, I tried to start up some leagues but they didn't work out, so I started running tournaments instead," Richmond said. "I decided to run one last big tournament, so I got some sponsors and better prizes to make it fun for all the participants."
Pool is enjoyed by many on base, Richmond said; not just among U.S. Soldiers, but people of all nationalities.
"It's very popular, especially amongst the Ugandans, and the tables here at this MWR are among some of the best in Iraq," Richmond said. "The tables are always full here, every weekend."
Richmond said he was able to secure sponsors for the tournament, both on the base and off, including back in the United States.
"Fort Worth Billiards donated almost a thousand dollars worth of pool related items to give away as prizes," he said. "We have a minimum of 10 cues for the winners, some chalk holders and shirts as well."
Richmond said the main attraction of pool while deployed has been the camaraderie and release it brings from the everyday pressure of being away from home.
"It definitely helps make the time go by ... I love playing pool and organizing tournaments; the competition is great," Richmond said. "When I was [stationed] in Korea, I used to run tournaments too but there, I only had one table — here, I have four."
"It's a lot more challenging, but a lot more fun," he added.
One of the competitors during the tournament was Spc. Clinton Corean, from Spearfish, S.D., a radio transmission operator for 1st ACB, who said the joy of pool comes from never being fully able to perfect its art.
"To me, the game of pool is something that can't be mastered," Corean said. "It's a game that takes a different kind of mind to play because you have to be able to calculate geometry, trigonometry and physics, all in the blink of an eye.
"It also takes good hand and eye coordination to control the pool stick," Corean said.
Corean said he is a frequent competitor at the pool tables and thought the idea of the elimination tournament was a good one.
"It's a good boost of morale for the pool players here and provides a different change of pace," Corean said. "It's a release from the daily stress."
The competitive nature of the players is always evident, but friendly in spirit, said Corean, as most players are in the same situation.
"We're all away from home and trying to make the best of being here but in a way, this tournament is as close to home as we can get for recreational atmosphere," he said.
Corean said he always tries to figure highly in any tournament and, after winning his first four games at the tournament, predicted a good finish.
"I'll at least be in the top two."
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