Mississippi firefighters qualify for Vegas tourney

Published 10:19 pm Friday, July 21, 2023

A group of local firefighters are on their way to Las Vegas this August after winning the Memphis APA 9-Ball WPQ (World Pool Qualifier) which was held June 17-20 and split between two locations, Sharpshooters and High Pocket’s.

The team named Suicide Solution, consisting of mainly local firefighters with many years of combined experience, competed in 15 matches through the course of the four-day tournament.

They defeated team-Wrong Ball Bill in the finals, and left over 100 others in their wake.

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Along with two other teams, Suicide Solution will be representing Memphis at what’s called the ‘World’s Largest Pool Tournament,’ held at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino Aug. 3-12.

What stands out most about the victory for John “Chief” Havas of Sardis Lake Fire Department was that throughout the entire course of the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals, his team never had to play a fifth game, which is often needed when playing 9-Ball using the point system, to win by being the first to reach 51.

“If you can get to 51 in the fourth game then you don’t have to play a fifth, because there are only 100 points available,” he explained. “That’s how strong we were,” said Havas, of his six-man team, consisting of four from Panola County.

Havas, along with fellow firefighters Michell “Shellie” Putnam, Courtney “Court” Davis and James Davis, are all on Station 5.

“I started this team up because it’s family folks…we’re all on the fire department together,” he said.  “We’re all family.”

Havas joked that the only team member not related to anyone is “Big” Bob Davis.

“But we’ve adopted him, so we’re good.”

Team members also include “FedEx” Frank Cleveland.

Although the brackets for the Vegas tournament still haven’t come out, there will be roughly 1,300 teams competing, representing over 40 countries.

With regards to any preparations for the big upcoming tournament, Havas said he won’t change much about his normal routine.

“I try not to change too much. I try to do the same thing I do everyday,” he said. “I get on my knees when I get up in the morning, and I get on my knees when I get to bed. That’s the way my life works.”

Havas, who personally doesn’t even own a pool table, said if he was to play a recreational game it would likely be at a local billiard hall. He also feels that sometimes it’s good to play on a full-size, nine-foot pool table because it can make it easier to turn around and play on the seven-foot, which is used in tournaments.

“But it would have to be on the day before.  I wouldn’t want to do it on the same day,” he said because of the adjustment needed to the cue ball speed when adapting from a larger table to a smaller one.  “That’s very important – you’re cue ball control.”

This will be Havas’ second trip to Vegas, having competed last year with a different team and finishing 65th in the world in the 8-Ball tournament.

His greatest personal feat since he began taking the game seriously – within the past decade or so – was finishing 25th as a solo competitor.

“But then I decided I was spending too much time away from home,” he said, which led him to embrace team play more recently.

Havas credits “just keeping things simple” and the “simple country life” found in Panola with his overall success.

“I try not to complicate everything,” he said.  “The more you complicate the game, the worse you’re gonna be at it.”