Local pool team earns trip to Vegas for national tournament
Steamboat Springs — When Gabe Downey moved to Steamboat Springs in December, it didn’t take long before he started asking about pool leagues at the local VFW. He had played competitively for a few years in Denver and wanted to keep going.
However, earning a trip to Las Vegas was never in the plan.
“I ended up putting a team together. It was actually just a group of people that were just hanging around the VFW,” Downey said. “We were just having fun. The trip to Vegas and winning didn’t even cross our minds. It was a fun experience.”
The local eight-ball league, played each Tuesday during 12 weeks, is part of the American Poolplayers Association, which claims to be the largest pool league in the world. And last month in Oak Creek, Downey’s team surprised itself by winning the league tournament championship to earn a spot in the APA national championships in Las Vegas.
The national tournament runs Aug. 16 to 22 and will be played at the Westgate Resort and Casino. On the line is a first-place prize of $25,000.
“I imagine it’s going to be pretty stressful, but it’s going to be fun, too,” said Kristy Anderson, a member of Downey’s team. “The championships we just played in Oak Creek were super stressful. I can’t even imagine playing with 1,000 other teams in Vegas. It’s teams from all over the country.”
Downey’s team is called “How’s your schluter?” which he said had been a running joke between he and his brother, Jed, who is also on the team. A schluter is a division piece that often separates carpet and tile.
The five-person team qualified for the national tournament after finishing first in points during the regular season and played its way through to the tournament championship. In the tournament finals, they played another team from Steamboat, The Leftovers, and eventually won even though one of their players, Clint Penix, was forced to play in a neck brace due to a previous injury.
“It was down to four of us for the finals and Clint had to play again and he was again our ringer. He was our MVP for the tournament,” Downey said. “We just kept winning and Kristy couldn’t believe it. She was pretty excited.”
The team was comprised of a seven-player roster during the season, but only five will travel to Las Vegas for nationals — Gabe Downey, Jed Downey, Wayne Amsbary, Penix and Anderson. Brian Basinksi and Dave Allard are the other two members.
On top of getting to go to Las Vegas, the local pool league is awarding each member $500 in travel expenses to help get them to the tournament. Their current plan is to drive and save as much money as possible.
“I’m pretty excited. I haven’t been to Vegas since stuff was free,” Anderson said. “I kind of want to drive because I want to save all my money for the five-star restaurants at the Bellagio.”
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