For several weeks, I was eagerly anticipating my first trip to Hong Kong. I had been extremely busy at work since the beginning of the year and I needed a break. And of course as soon as I leave, a major issue emerged in my project back at work. But I have a strong project team and they diffused the issue during my absence.
I left Houston around 9am on Thursday and flew to San Francisco. After a very short layover, I depart from San Francisco for a long 14+ hour flight to Hong Kong. The anticipation and excitement prevented me from sleeping well during the flight over. I also experienced for the first time, what it means to chase the sun. If you depart from San Francisco in the afternoon and fly West around the world, you will never experience darkness during your trip. To combat this, people pull their window shades down and they turn down the lights inside the plane. But there is always one person who doesn’t go with the crowd and this person kept his window shade cracked partly open the entire flight. Grrrrrrr. Note to self. Buy a sleeping mask for my eyes before my next trip.
After landing in HK at around 6:30pm Friday, I took the mass transit train from the HK airport to the Kowloon station. A round trip to Kowloon and back to the HK airport cost 160 HKD. From the Kowloon station, I took a cab to the Guang Dong hotel in the Tsim Sha Tsui district and that cost another 40 HKD. Overall, the train and taxi was much cheaper and faster than taking just a straight taxi trip. Despite not getting much sleep, I was full of adrenaline and I decided to take a walk around, find some tasty local food, and check out the sights.
I didn’t have to go far for my first tasty meal. As a matter of fact, I ate at the small restaurant across the street from my hotel and it was very good and relatively inexpensive. I liked it so much that I would eat there two more times before the weekend was over. This was partly because of convenience, but mostly because it was tasty.
The World event is held at the iDarts Club on Chatham Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui district. This was literally less than a 5 minute walk from the Guang Dong hotel. I arrived at the iDarts Club at 9pm Friday night and the bar was packed with people. What I immediately noticed was the age of the crowd (20-ish to 30s) and everybody was there to play darts. There were 11 DARTSLIVE boards and every board was occupied with multiple players playing casual games. And as soon as a board became available, multiple people were waiting to step up, drop coins into the machine, and take over the board.
The music was loud, the lights were low, drinks were flowing, and people were smiling and having a good time. There was a good mix of both men and women. It was amazing to see a bar dedicated exclusively to darts, full of young people, and all of them were there to play darts all night long. I played a couple of games with a few guys but it was clear to me that if I were to get any focused practice, it would not be at the iDarts Club on this night.
So I went downstairs to the Hot Shot bar where they have 4 DARTSLIVE boards and…you guessed it. The Hot Shot was also packed full of people and all the boards were taken. I had a conversation with a person that worked there and she spoke very good English. She told me that the Hot Shot Bar doesn’t close on weekends until ~8am! Wow. That was cool but I would not be staying up that long and I needed to practice a little before trying to get some sleep.
I walked around and found a bar called the Whale Pub with 3 DARTSLIVE boards. This was a small bar and it was not full of dart players who were looking to play darts the entire night. It was full of young adults who seemed more interested in drinking and having a good time. There was only one board occupied with a few local players. I was able to practice here for a couple of hours before retiring for the night.
The Guang Dong hotel is nice and clean but my bed was as hard as a rock. Literally. It looked like a bed but it felt like a concrete block with a .5 inch piece foam on it. It was a good thing that I was very tired and I like a firm bed. I slept well and I woke the next day hungry and ready to play darts. After eating once again at the restaurant across the street, I set out to explore the city. The area of town where I stayed (Tsim Sha Tsui) is full of shops, restaurants, clubs, and pubs. I will write more about my experience in the city in a future blog.
Saturday is the day to register for the tournament and play in the Shootout. Your performance in the Shootout determines where you are seeded in the bracket. Shootout is like the game Count-Up, except you start at 1 and progress through the numbers to the Bull. You take 1 dart at each number and there is also a point multiplier that increases as you progress to the higher numbers. Obviously, you maximize your score if you hit the triples. You are also penalized if you hit the wrong number. The goal is to score as many points as you can. You get two chances at this game and they take your highest score. I spoke with many people about the strategy of the game and I understood what to do and what not to do. Despite knowing these things, I didn’t score as well as I wanted. Next time that won’t be the case.
I woke up Sunday, well rested, confident, and ready to play. I arrived early at the iDarts Club and began to practice. When the draw was posted, I found my name and saw that I would be playing in the first round. If I got past the first round, I would meet up with my friend and world champion, Paul Lim, who drew a bye in the first round. I was excited at the prospect of playing Paul and I suspected that we might play on stage and be streamed live across the internet on USTREAM. But I knew that I should not look past my first round opponent and I went back to practicing and focusing on my first match.
Soon, one of the DARTSLIVE officials came over to me and said I was up next. To my surprise, my first round was scheduled for the stage and streamed live. I’ve played on camera before, but never streamed live and never during a world championship caliber event. It’s easy to say that you should put it out of your head, but until you’ve been there before, you never really know how you’re going to react to it.
The World format is best of 5 legs. You diddle for the start. The winner of the diddle goes first. Loser of the leg goes first in the next leg. The format is 701 fat bull master out, then split bull Cricket, then 701, then Cricket. If a 5th tiebreaker leg is required, you cork to have the option to go first or choose the game (701 or Cricket). One thing I liked about playing in The World event is that you do not pay to play while you are in the tournament. Your entry fee covers the coin drop for all of your matches and also the Shootout. That was cool.
In my first match, I didn’t play to my potential but I’m sure my opponent didn’t either. Despite this, I made it through with a score of 3-0. Best of all, I have the first match under my belt and I have the experience of playing on stage. After that match, I spent some quiet time alone and analyzed my performance. I thought about what I did well and what needed improvement. I then went back to the practice board to refocus and prepare for my next match with Paul Lim.
On the day of the tournament, The Hot Shot bar downstairs is reserved by DARTSLIVE and it is used for practice. You can watch darts on the many TVs in the room and there are DARTSLIVE officials stationed in the Hot Shot bar and they’ll tell you when you are up next. Because the iDarts Club is full of spectators and there are no boards available for practice in the club, you will find most of the players practicing in the Hot Shot bar. It becomes crowded and each of the 4 boards in the Hot Shot has 5 or more people in rotation. It is difficult to practice and find your rhythm in these crowded conditions. It’s a good thing that I had quality time on the board the night before and during the earlier days leading up to this event. My second match would soon be called, and I guessed it right, I was going to play Paul on stage.
Paul wins the diddle and starts first in 701. I played better than I did in my first match but it was not enough and Paul is up 1-0. The second match is Cricket and I get to start. I open up with a 9 count on 20s and I didn’t let up. I win the Cricket game and the score is now 1-1. Paul starts the third leg of 701 with a hat trick (i.e. 3 bulls for people who do not know soft tip darts lingo). I match Paul with a hat trick. Paul hits another hat trick and I match it with another hat trick of my own. Paul eventually misses a bull in his next 2 turns and and I answer both turns with hat tricks. After 4 turns, I’ve hit 12 bulls in a row (4 hat tricks) and my score has 101 points remaining. Then it’s my turn and I hit the 13th bull on the first dart leaving myself 51 points. I focus on the triple 17 and I nail it on my 14th dart. In this event a 14 dart 701 game is ‘virtual’ perfect game and it is a special accomplishment known as a ‘World 14’. It was very satisfying to throw my first World 14 and throw it on the stage. The match score is now 2-1 in my favor. Paul strikes back and wins the next leg of Cricket and the match score is tied 2-2. This puts us in a tiebreaker leg and time to diddle for the bull. I won the diddle and I elected to go first in the 5th game tiebreaker. As expected, Paul calls the game of Cricket.
I start the Cricket game with a weak 4 mark on the 20s and Paul replies with a 9 mark on the 19’s. Just like I did in the 2nd leg, Paul protects his lead and I’m chasing points the entire time. I narrowly miss a 9 mark on both the 16’s and 15’s, either of which had the potential to turn the game into a different situation for me. In the end, Paul wins the tiebreaker game and advances with a 3-2 score.
I could have been disappointed but I wasn’t. I was proud of the way that I played and gained valuable experience in The World event. The icing on the cake was hitting a World 14. There were only 3 players that threw a World 14 that weekend and each of us got 3,000 HKD for this accomplishment. I made new friends with people from different countries and I had a blast. Most importantly, I am now more confident in my abilities in this event.
I recently completed my registration for The World Stage 3 in May 2012. My airline ticket and hotel are booked and I purchased an eye mask for sleeping. I can’t wait to return.