LAWTON – Finishing up his turn on the Diamond brand pool table, Duncan resident Chad Williams seemed pleased, even though it was hard to tell behind his required mask at the Apache Casino Hotel on Lawton’s east side.
“Yeah, it’s a really good event,” Williams said, noting that this was his first competitive match as part of the annual CueSports International Oklahoma State Championship for competitive pool playing.
And with 32 pool tables in the casino’s event room, there was little wiggle room as the 322 competitors worked to get all of the pool balls in the pockets of the table.
Carrie Paye, director of hotel operations at the Apache Casino Hotel, said she and the management were very pleased with the success of the tournament and that the hotel was full. She also said she was pleased that everyone social distanced and wore masks during the tournament that lasted much of the week.
“We are sorry we could not have spectators this year,” due to COVID-19, Paye said. “But when it’s safe again, we hope to allow spectators.”
Pool player Felix Galindo and his girlfriend Ruby Gaytan were present at the event, waiting their turn in the back of the room. Galindo, captain of the No Pressure pool team, had been playing pool off and on since the age of 13. He was now 47 and had started taking pool seriously following a divorce. This, he said, gave him more time to focus on the game and to travel to places like Lawton where he could compete for cash prizes.
As Carrie Paye noted earlier, masks while playing, the participants in the 2020 CueSports International Oklahoma State Championship were busily putting cue stick to cue ball and knocking them into the pockets. And seeing it all happening at once – 32 tables in all and 60-odd players at work – it was a bit of a surreal blur.
Based in Henderson, Nevada, CueSports International (or CSI, for short) is headed by Ozzy Reynolds, a Virginia native who worked at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia before buying CSI from previous owner Mark Griffin.
“I was hired as general manager in 2014 and in late 2018 I purchased (CSI),” Reynolds said. A pool player since childhood, his choice to head CSI and hold pool tournaments seemed to be a great fit for Reynolds, who has overseen pool tournaments in states across the country, including one at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas which features 320 pool tables.
The sizes of the tournaments, Reynolds said, “varies from year to year.”
“This is one of the smaller events,” he added.
But a glance at CSI’s schedule shows that Lawton is in league with events taking place in cities ranging from Las Vegas to Tucson, Arizona.
Reynolds had attended a CSI competition in Lawton before (they have been coming here since 2017) and had been here for the week.
A cornhole tournament is scheduled for this coming weekend and more events are planned through the end of the year.
Going into 2021, Apache Casino Hotel is already scheduling some fantastic concert events, including the bands Kansas, America, Queensryche w/ Great White, Cheech & Chong, and Boz Scaggs.
For more details, visit www.apachecasinohotel.com