Entertainment & Life

Billiards’ best players in Sacramento this week for Markulis Memorial Tournament

Oscar Dominguez will be among the stars at the seventh annual Chuck Markulis Memorial Tournament.
Oscar Dominguez will be among the stars at the seventh annual Chuck Markulis Memorial Tournament. John Sturgis Photography

Oscar Dominguez travels the globe in pursuit of pool perfection. America’s former No. 1 player, Dominguez just returned from Shanghai, where he faced hundreds of other billiards professionals in a $100,000 tournament covered on China’s version of ESPN.

“In Asia, I get stopped in shopping malls for autographs,” Dominguez said. “It’s actually a booming sport over there. In Shanghai, there are pool halls on almost every corner, like liquor stores here. It’s quite amazing.”

Dominguez’s next stop is Sacramento. He’ll be among several pool stars in town this week for the seventh annual Chuck Markulis Memorial Tournament at Hard Times Billiards.

South Dakota’s Shane Van Boening and Scotland’s Jayson Shaw, ranked first and second, respectively, by the Billiards Congress of America, are entered to play, said Hard Times owner Karen Markulis.

“We expect more world-class players will be here,” she said.

The tournament features two distinct billiards variations: One Pocket, a methodical game of strategy, and fast-paced 9-Ball. One Pocket play wraps up Thursday with 9-Ball slated for Friday through Sunday. Markulis expects more than 100 players in the 9-Ball division. Fans are welcome to watch; doors open at 10 a.m. each day with play continuing until about 10 p.m. each night. The 9-Ball championships will be Sunday.

Dominguez, 29, admits billiards is in his blood. His father, Ernesto Dominguez, has played professionally for more than 30 years. Although he’s played some form of billiards since preschool, Oscar had no intention of following his dad into the deep end of pool. An accomplished point guard at Sherman Oaks’ Notre Dame High, he wanted to play a different sport – professional basketball.

“I played basketball very competitively, but after high school, I realized my future was in pool,” Dominguez said. “I’ve been totally focused (on pool) ever since.”

Dominguez, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar, reached the nation’s top ranking in 2009, but the travel proved overwhelming.

“I was staying in hotels nine months out of the year,” he said. “It wasn’t worth it. So I decided to scale back quite a bit. Now I’m traveling four or five months a year and mostly playing on weekends. It’s still a lot of travel, but more manageable.”

Pool and basketball share some things in common, he observed. “There are a lot of similarities between basketball and pool, particularly in how you approach the game. People ask me about the pressure. It’s like having to make two free throws in overtime to tie the game; that’s the pressure you feel in pool on every single shot. You know if you miss, it’s over.”

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

Markulis Memorial Tournament

Where: Hard Times Billiards, 5536 Garfield Ave., Sacramento

When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. through Sunday

Admission: Free

Details: (916) 332-8793, www.hardtimesbilliards.com

Highlights: See some of the nation’s best players compete in 9-Ball, Friday through Sunday.