When Bobbi Williams and Leo Deroche learned their eight-ball billiards team from Rack City in Bangor had qualified for the The Association for Pool National Championships in Las Vegas, they saw it as more than an opportunity to showcase their prowess with the cue.
The Bangor couple, who are engaged, are planning to get married on Oct. 21, while in Las Vegas for the weeklong tournament.
“He got into it when we started dating,” Williams, who is an insurance agent, said. “I’ve been playing in the leagues for three years.”
Rack City, a pool hall located on Broadway, will be sending two teams — an eight-ball squad and a nine-ball contingent — to The Association for Pool National Championships.
The tournament will be held at the Orleans Casino, which is off the Vegas strip.
Ben Harvey, who owns and operates the TAP league out of Rack City, said the facility has eight teams that play a nine-ball format and nine that play in the eight-ball format.
The facility hosts eight-ball tournaments Wednesday nights and nine-ball on Mondays.
Harvey said the nine-ball contingent heading to Las Vegas consists of Frank Dennis, Jason Richards, Kevin Booth, Josh Ireland, Tyler “Sonny” Dunbar, Fred Gillis, Claude Poitras and Ross Wheaton.
Williams and Deroche are joined on the nine-ball team by Dennis, Austin Hanson, Corey Hanson, Nicole Hanson and Chad Bazinet.
With the exception of Gillis, who is from Lincoln, all the other players hail from Greater Bangor.
Corey Hanson and Nicole Hanson co-own Rack City while 13-year-old Austin is their son.
Harvey said a TAP league consists of three sessions during a calendar year, with the top two teams in each session advancing to a nationals qualifying tournament.
Teams must then win the qualifier to get to the nationals.
“When we get there, we’ll group in with three other teams,” Harvey said, explaining the format. “We’ll play a round robin with those three teams.”
During the round-robin segment, each team plays each other once, and a subsequent single-elimination round follows. A single player from each team will play an individual match against an opponent, Harvey said.
Between 300 and 400 teams are expected to be in attendance, Harvey said, with $10,000 or more in prize money up for grabs in each bracket, depending on the number of teams. Total payouts could be as high as $100,000.
Williams said players have to pay for are their food while in Las Vegas, while TAP takes care of other expenses.
“They get us there and they give us a pillow,” she said, referring to the flights and lodging are arranged by TAP.
While billiards certainly provides players with a fun, laid-back atmosphere, there is a level of competition that players enjoy.
“One of the things that really draws people to TAP is it’s a much more accurate measure of your skill,” Williams said. “Every time you step up to the table, it counts.”
But players of all skill levels are welcome, and the growth of the game is what truly matters.
“We just love to play,” Williams said. “You get to meet a lot of people that you wouldn’t normally meet.”
Harvey is also looking to expand TAP throughout eastern Maine. Rack City is the only location in the state that houses TAP leagues.
“I’m working on getting into several other locations, one being Pep’s Sports Bar in Dexter,” he said.
Harvey did say that Rack City, which opened three years ago, is a top-notch facility with state-of-the-art pool tables, and even more tournaments at the facility could be on the horizon.
“We’re hoping to add some weekend tournaments,” said Harvey, who added Rack City also recently added some scotch doubles tournaments.
Corrected on Sept. 14 at 12:55 p.m. to reflect the correct name for The Association for Pool.