Janet Gaddis has been to the national pool tournament in Las Vegas a couple times before.
But this time around she won't be officiating -- she'll be competing.
The 49-year-old Cape Girardeau resident served as a referee in the annual tournament in 1998 and '99. She said it was a fun job, but a tough job nevertheless.
"If there was a close call or if two balls were real close together, I had to watch it closely," she said, "and it was really stressful because these people are playing for high dollar, and your call determines if they keep playing. I had to do some practice and study the rule book."
Now she's looking for her own national title. Her team, Cape Fear from Brothers Again Lounge, claimed the Cape Girardeau bracket in the American Poolplayers Association 8-Ball local team championship at the A.C. Brase Arena Building earlier this month. That qualified Cape Fear for the national event Aug. 22-29 in Las Vegas.
Gaddis said the team didn't expect to win the local tournament after two team members departed for vacation before the semifinal round.
"We were shocked," she said. "But I think at nationals we've got just as good of a chance as all the other teams that are going out there. They'll be just as nervous as we are."
Until August, the Fear plans to get together occasionally to practice and to "discuss some team strategy," Gaddis joked.
APA tournaments are based on best-of-five series. Eight players make up a team, but only five play per series. Each match in a series is one point, and the first team to win three points advances to the next round. The number of times one player must defeat another to win a match is determined by each player's rating on a scale of 2 to 7, with 2 being the weakest level. When a 7 plays a 2, the 7 must win seven games to win the match before the other player wins two. Team lineups cannot exceed 23 in the five matches.
Once a player wins a match on a certain level, he or she cannot drop below that rating.
Gaddis, whose rating is a 4, has been playing competitive pool for 13 years, beginning with a local women's league. After about five years, she began playing in mixed leagues and now competes on Cape Fear along with her husband, Tom.
"A lot of times a team will get too many people and have to break up and start over," she said. "I've been on a lot of different teams because people sometimes just get burnt out on it and you have to find new people."
That hasn't been the case with Gaddis, who placed third out of nearly 70 in a regional singles tournament in 2001; unfortunately for her, only one person qualified for nationals.
"It was exciting," she said, "but if you don't get first you don't get anything."
If Gaddis and the Cape Fear win the 500-team event in August, it would the third national championship won by a Cape team in the last 10 years. The town also brought home titles in 1994 and 2001.