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by Mike Panozzo Jul 16, 2003, 4:22 PM EST

Undefeated group-winners Ralf Souquet, Alex Pagulayan and Efren Reyes continued their stellar play at the 2003 empirepoker.com World Pool Championship in Cardiff, Wales, by cruising to wins in the first round of knock-out matches Wednesday afternoon. Canadian Pagulayan and Philippine giant Reyes won by identical 9-5 margins. Pagulayan, the top seed following the group stage of the 128-player event, beat Japan’s Shintaro Sugaya, while Reyes, who drew the toughest Round of 64 opponent, knocked off America’s No.1, Johnny Archer. Souquet earned a 9-6 win over Canada’s Raymond Cruz.

Defending champion Earl Strickland of the U.S., eschewing the glasses he sported in the group stage, but occasionally utilizing plastic slip-ons on his fingers to raise his bridge hand, easily dispensed of German Thomas Engert, 9-3.

Other Wednesday winners included Americans Rodney Morris, Max Eberle and Teddy Garrahan, Dutchmen Neils Feijen and Nick van den Berg, and 2002 semifinalist Ching-Shun Yang. For complete Group standings, and Final 64 pairings, visit: http://www.worldpoolchampionship.com/results.asp

Tournament Notes
Cardiff Insider
by Gary Baker

* THE World Pool Association found themselves having to make a strange decision on a piece of equipment that Earl 'The Pearl' Strickland has got in his armoury.
Strickland has already found himself the subject of funny glances by wearing sunglasses since Sunday when playing, although the five-times world champion dispensed with the shades for his last 64 match with Germany's Thomas Engert on Wednesday.
Senior referee Michaela Tabb had to consult with WPA sports director Thomas Overbeck on an extention that Strickland has got which fits on his fingers.
Bascially, "The Pearl," when he wants to make his hand higher because the cue ball is tight next to an object ball or if he wants to play a jump shot, places white pieces of plastic on the end of his fingers which gives him a two-inch lift to his hand.
There were worries that this device was illegal but when Tabb, who was refereeing Strickland's last 64 match with Engert, asked if they were allowed Overbeck said there was nothing in the rules to stop the reigning world champion using them.
And, as Engert discovered, they can be effective. Strickland, when faced with a long snooker down the right rail, put the extentions on and jumped the obstructing ball, sending the object ball straight into the bag. Strickland coasted to a 9-3 win.

* FORMER world champion Ralf Souquet has been quietly making his way through the tournament, with "quietly" being the optimum word.
The Kaiser has not been seen on the TV yet despite having been scheduled to have at least one match there in the opening four days.
Souquet won all his group matches to qualify easily through to the last 64 where, again, he found himself on an outside table to take on Canada's Raymond Cruz, with the German winning the match 9-6.
So, after that match, Sky TV decided that they just HAD to let the world see the 1996 world champion and took him to the commentary box for a few words.
The Kaiser was actually slotted to play on the TV table on Monday. However, his match with Indonesia's Siauw Wieto was the last match on of the afternoon and past the time that the television company were able to broadcast.
Then, on Judgement Day, Tuesday, Souquet was again scheduled to play on the main table.
He explained: "I was supposed to take on Imran Majid (from England) but I was through to the final 64 and Majid was out. So the producers decided to put Tony Drago (Malta snooker player) on instead.
"But I don't care if I on TV or not, so long as I win the title at the end!"

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