The 2018 ACL Pro Invitational set the foundation for the future of the ACL Pro Division. Sixteen competitors from across the country competed for $20,000 under a blazing hot sun on Coney Island, NY on July 4th, 2018. The scene was chaotic, as millions of people flocked the city for the infamous hot dog eating contest right next door. The invitational immediately followed the eating contest on ESPN2, and to date is still the most watched cornhole tournament in history, with over 2.5 million people tuning in. Last year, the invitational featured a random draw format where ACL Pros Frank Modlin and Eric Anderson emerged as Coney Island Kings.
This season, the format is different and the stakes are higher. With the introduction of the ACL Pro Division in 2019, players at the 2019 ACL Pro Invitational will be competing with their regular ACL Pro partner, and this year, the payout has been increased to $25,000. The next logical question is who will be selected to compete in this incredible event. First, all four winners of the ACL Pro Division tournaments from each ACL National will be invited. Next, the four highest ranked teams in the ACL Pro Division who have not already been invited also receive an invitation (note that the ACL Pro doubles tournament for the ACL Final Chase will happen on July 4th). If one team wins multiple ACL Pro Doubles tournaments, then additional top teams from the ACL Rankings will be selected. Finally, four teams will make the pro invitational based on a fan vote. Details for the fan voting will be released at the end of May. Therefore, a total of twelve teams will qualify for the 2019 ACL Pro Invitational this season. However, the invitational television broadcast on an ESPN network will still only have 8 teams. In order to narrow down from twelve to eight teams, the four lowest ranked teams out of the invited teams will compete against the four fan vote winners the day before the invitational broadcast for a play-in opportunity for the television broadcast.
The 2019 ACL Pro Invitation Series will get to know each one of the teams competing in the invitational. We will cover game strategy, personal life, team chemistry, and more. As winners of the 2019 ACL Kick-Off Battle, ACL Pros Jordan Camba and Derrick King are the first two players to win an invitation. Camba and King are not only a dynamic duo on the boards, they are great friends off of it. Both of them are aspiring college students with dreams of becoming full-time professional cornhole players. A win at the 2019 ACL Pro Invitational would bring them one step closer to that goal.
What does it mean to you to be the first team to punch their ticket to the 2019 ACL Pro Invitational?
"To be the first team to automatically be in the pro invitational is honoring.... it's special to me personally because of all of the competition that is in the professional division and to be the team that came out on top in the very first ever pro tournament is an amazing experience and an even better accomplishment. Also it just shows our true potential as a team and hopefully this is just the start of something great for us. " -King
"It does mean a lot to be invited to the pro invitational, but going into the first national in Florida, we knew the winning team was going to get the invite. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win the pro doubles tournament, so it was kind of expected for us." -Camba
You were both there last year, Camba as a player and King as supporting cast, excited to do the experience again?
"Last year I was able to make the trip to NY for the pro invitational, even not playing I wanted to support my partner and the ACL in the best way I could, even if that meant being a spectator for the time being. I’m beyond thrilled to be able to be apart of the pro invitational this year and experience all of the opportunities that the ACL is going to provide to all of us players! " -King
"I cannot wait! Last year I had a blast hanging with everyone throughout the week and playing on ESPN. I expect to do well and be there for the future years as well." -Camba
How did you both become ACL Pro partners?
"Jordan and I became ACL pro partners by just meeting a couple years ago playing the game and becoming really good friends... We thought we would make a great team because we both have a similar game have great chemistry on and off the boards. We played a few big money tournaments before deciding to be ACL pro partners, we won those and knew we had a chance to be one of the top teams in the world. " -King
"We met a couple years ago through cornhole. We both were always at all the big tournaments, and big money tournaments. We partnered up for a couple big money tournaments and did well in them (The main one was DK and I beating the 2017-2018 ACL doubles champs best 2 out 3 twice for $3k on the line), so we just decided to give the pro division a shot. I think over time we have formed a good chemistry on and off the stage, and I think that is what makes us stand out compared to any other team on the pro circuit right now." -Camba
How often do you change your game strategy as a team? If you change it, what dictates the change?
"As a team I feel we don’t change our game ever unless it’s the board/bag conditions or there's an obvious weakness in an opponent. We don’t change our game from team to team because I believe our original strategy can beat any team out there. " -King
"Every game there is a new strategy for me anyway. It really comes down to who we play, If we play against a team that struggles with the airmail we tend to throw sticky bags and like to make a mess around the hole then hit the big shots when we need to. If we play a team that does have a good airmail, then we switch our strategy and just play bag for bag with them. Let them make the mistakes then capitalize when we need to. " -Camba
Do you ever still get nervous? What do you do to calm the nerves?
"If I get nervous while playing a tournament I find it to be early in the tournament. The deeper I get into a tournament it seems like I’m able to focus more and more. I usually have a beer or two before the tournament starts and then sip on something during the tournament just to keep the nerves at a calm level. Music is also a huge thing for me, I’ve been playing with headphones in since I was 13 years old. 8 years, playing with music every tournament. " -King
"I personally don’t get nervous anymore. If I do feel nerves it's typically the first game or two into the tournament, but once I get comfortable, it's all smooth sailing from there. Ice in my veins baby!" -Camba
What do Camba and King need to do to win the ACL Pro Invitational?
"To win the pro invitational as a team we are going to need to play to our standards, be comfortable every game, and never lose focus on one bag. There are going to be some very tough teams but I feel that if we play our game we will always be one of the favorites going into a tournament. " -King
"Show up, and as James Baldwin would say 'Just put the bag in the hole'" -Camba
There's never a shortage of charisma and fun when it comes to Camba and King. They seem to perfectly balance the intensity of the moment with not taking themselves too seriously. I look forward to seeing how they fare the rest of the way, and who will be joining them at the 2019 ACL Pro Invitational.
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