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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Vanduser man experiences success in pool tournaments

Monday, June 20, 2005

Clay Graviett of Vanduser plays a game of pool.
VANDUSER - Clay Graviett knows how tough it is to qualify for the American Poolplayers Association national tournament.

He, with varying team members, has participated in the national competition in Las Vegas every year since 2001, with the exception of 2002.

"It's so hard to get to go to Vegas," he said. "You have to win a single elimination tournament at Cape, and you have to do four or five matches (in the tournament) to qualify."

And it's not just excelling in the tournament, with teams competing from throughout Southern Illinois, Arkansas and Southeast Missouri, that is important. To even be able to play on that board, pool teams have to participate in league play year round, and win their division and playoffs first.

But Graviett's team, the Claybirds, did just that. And at the American Poolplayers Association local team championship tournament June 3 through 5 at the A.C. Brase Arena Building in Cape Girardeau, they placed first in their bracket.

This win also qualified them for one of five spots the Cape event could fill to play in the national tournament.

The seven other members of the Claybirds who will be competing in Las Vegas this year are: Gary Owens, Bobby Penrod, Glen Bentley, Curtis Causey, Travis Glueck, Tony Belt and Andy Johnson. Some of these members were on the team that won third place last year in Las Vegas.

Graviett is captain the Claybirds, who participate in APA league play on Wednesday night.

They also play in pool tournaments Friday nights at Vanduser, where Graviett's family opened a pool hall, Claybirds Billiards, three years ago.

In eight-ball, the game they play, players are assigned a skill rating from two to seven. "Whenever you play a match, you send your scores in," he said. "It goes into a computer and the computer rates you by performance."

Graviett is a seven. While it is good to be high, it also has some disadvantages. "It's a handicap," he said.

A combination of five of the eight players make up a team, whose total skill rating can't exceed 23.

When a team's numbers get high, it gets more and more difficult to play by the 23 rule - so teams have to split up.

But that can be a good thing.

"They want players to go on and form more teams, resulting in a bigger league," Graviett said.

For Graviett, choosing this combination is all about strategy.

"You don't play the same players every time because you are trying to match up the players on another team," Graviett said. "That's why you have eight to make a total of 23."

Just as other sports such as basketball and baseball, the best team doesn't always win in billiards, Graviett noted. That's why it is so important to pick a winning combination of five players, matching their ratings to those of the other team.

Playing pool started as a family past time for Graviett, who learned from his father. "My dad and I got involved in 1993, playing with some friends of ours in Cape," he said.

They played there until about three years ago, when the family opened their pool hall and a closer league was formed.

In fact, half of their team that won the national tournament in 2001 was family. The group won $25,000 for their accomplishment, which was split amongst the eight members.

And Graviett himself dominates when playing billiards. In April, he attended the singles tournament and won fifth place in the single elimination event, hosting players from all over the United States and Canada.

While Graviett admitted he plays to compete, it's more than just that. It's a hobby, and a social event. "It's something that friends and family can get out and do together and have a good time."