For over 20 years Ken Geragosian had to cope with the daily stress associated with being a highly successful certified public accountant in the downtown St. Louis business district.
Then one day, Geragosian decided he’d had enough.
At a time when most are reaching the top of their chosen professions, Geragosian, an O’Fallon native, decided it was time to trade in his calculator for a pool stick, a piece of chalk and a golf club.
Simply stated, Geragosian retired.
“I don’t know if I would say I was burned out. Being a CPA can be extremely stressful and I worked a lot of hours every week. I just decided I had enough and so I retired,’’ Geragosian said. “What do I do now? I play a lot of pool and a lot of golf.
“Now, golf and pool can be stressful too. But I can handle it.’’
The 52-year-old Geragosian does far more than just ‘play’ pool.
A top player and league competitor in the metro-east for the past decade, Geragosian achieved the ultimate earlier this spring when he won the American Pool Players Association 8-Ball Classic singles championship in Las Vegas.
Competing at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in April, Geragosian won eight matches in the 130-player bracket which included many of the top players in the nation. The semifinals and finals, which were held at the Top of the Riviera Banquet Room, featured stadium seating with several hundred spectators watching as Geragosian, a 1981 graduate of O’Fallon High School, won the title and $15,000.
Geragosian won all eight of his matches.
“I wasn’t really nervous all weekend until we got to the semifinals and finals. Lots of people watching, playing for the title ... that gets to you a litle bit,’’ Geragosian recalled this week. “When I won the tournament, it took a while to really sink in. When it did, I was actually speechless. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win it until I got to the semifinals and finals. It was then I realized I had a chance.
“They pay a lot of places out there (Las Vegas) and so I’m thinking if I can win a little spending money and maybe a little gambling money, it would be a good trip. Like I said, I never thought I had a chance to win it.’’
Geragosian competes in the Level 6 bracket, with Level 7 being the highest level one can achieve. Players are rated among how they do in local APA leagues and can move up or down depending on how they play in league competition.
Although his brothers Dennis and Butch were avid players, Ken actually didn’t play much at all until 2003.
Up until then, he just did it for for fun. And actually, he still does.
“Dennis and Butch played a lot. Kind of like what I’m doing right now. But they did it 25 years ago,’’ Geragosian said. “I actually didn’t play a lot until I started playing in league in 2003. I graduated from Eastern (Illinois University) and I played a little bit of pool in bars when I was in college. But nothing really serious. Just for fun.’’
Geragosian qualified for the American Pool Players Association 8-Ball Classic championship by winning a local tournament in St. Louis. He followed that with an APA regional title in Decatur in March.
In preparation for the local, regional and national tournament, Geragosian said he spent more time on his game than he ever had before.
“I would say from late February until I went to Las Vegas, I was practicing 25-30 hours a week,’’ Geragosian said. “By the time I left for Vegas, I was probably playing the best pool of my life.
“I don’t play many tournaments and I don’t travel often to compete. Maybe once in a while I’ll go with a group of friends for a tournament for a getaway weekend, type event. But nothing real serious.’’
Once in Las Vegas, however, the stakes were raised. Each match is the best-of-nine games with the first one who wins five being the winner. Held during a three-day weekend, Geragosian did not play at all the opening day of the tournament
“Honestly, I wasn’t really nervous going out because like I said, I never thought I would win it. It was more excitement than anything else,’’ Geragosian said. “I played two matches on Saturday. The long day was the last day when I played six matches. I started at 9 a.m. and played straight through until 6:30 p.m. with 30 minutes off for lunch.
“It was a grueling day and I was tired. But you can’t let yourself think about being tired. I just tried to stay focused on each match. I played smart. Most of my matches ended up 5-3 or 5-2. I didn’t shut anybody out. There wasn’t a time during my matches when I thought I was was really in danger of losing, but there also wasn’t a time when I thought, during a match, that I had it won. You can’t let yourself think like that. It’s one match at a time.’’
Geragosian’s closest call came on the final day.
Tied at four games each, Geragosian watched as his opponent had a chance to run the table and win the match.
“The guy played great. I could have lost that match,’’ Geragosian said. “He had a chance to run the table but he made a mistake when he blocked the 8-ball and left himself with no shot. He makes that shot, he wins the match and I’m not here sitting here talking to you right now.’’