Jui-Lung Chen wins NCS 8-Ball Qualifier at Casper’s Billiards in San Leon, Texas

Ernesto Bayaua, Jui-Lung Chen, Lanny Herrin, and Derrick Fontenot

On January 10 and 11, Casper's Billiards in San Leon, Texas served as the site for one of the approximately two dozen National Championship Series (NCS) 8-Ball qualifier tournaments, which are being held throughout the United States.    

In May 2008, Casper's unusual two-story metal structure had been completed, but its future was still just a gleam in owner Roy Robinson's eyes.  Located in a laid-back fishing community on the Texas Gulf Coast, the building overlooks the local cemetery and Galveston Bay.  Visitors questioned both the design and the location, but Robinson was undeterred.  “I plan to hold major pool tournaments here,” he said.

Then in September 2008, Hurricane Ike slammed the Texas coast, and a massive tidal surge inundated San Leon, obliterating or severely damaging ninety percent of the community's businesses and homes.  However, the sturdy structure, overlooking the turbulent bay, survived the storm virtually unharmed.  During the hurricane, a number of San Leon residents took refuge at Casper's, and following the storm, it served as headquarters for many of the immediate relief efforts.

In November 2008, Billiards Digest Magazine selected Casper's Billiards as one of the “Top 10 Newest Billiard Clubs in America,” and the accompanying article called it “the toughest little pool hall in Texas.”  

This month, Roy Robinson's original vision was fulfilled.  He and his wife, Kathy, welcomed 62 players to Casper's first major event:  an NCS 8-Ball qualifier.  Champion Promotions, owned and operated by professional pool player Charlie “Hillbilly” Bryant and his wife, Heather, promoted and directed the tournament.  

A number of highly regarded regional players competed in this event, including Rene Rendon, Jui-Lung Chen, Sam Manaole, Claude Marrier, Dennis Strickland, Manuel Ayala, Lanny Herrin, Derrick Fontenot  and Ernesto Bayaua.  One woman, Courtney Peters, competed against the men, winning two of her four matches before bowing out.  The elder statesman for the tournament was longtime San Leon resident, Barney Garza, who at age 87 is still a player to be reckoned with.

The final four players to emerge from the two-day tournament were Jui-Lung Chen and Lanny Herrin on the winners side, and Derrick Fontenot  and Ernesto Bayaua on the one-loss side.  Chen then dealt Herrin his first loss, 6 to 3, and Bayaua eliminated Fontenot from the tournament, 5 to 3.  Herrin then earned a rematch against Chen, by winning a hill-hill struggle against Bayaua, 5 to 4.  

In the championship set, Herrin struggled with his break, while Chen maintained his masterful control of the table and won convincingly, 6 to 1.

The total payout for this event was $9,280, with 12 players earning money.  The payouts included $3,180 for first place, $1,915 for second, $1,250 for third, and $805 for fourth.   

The four top players — Chen, Herrin, Bayaua, and Fontenot — also qualified to compete in the NCS 8-Ball National Championships, where they'll vie for $32,000 in prize money.  This event will be held at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, February 13 -15.  The winner of the Las Vegas event will then claim one of five spots on the United States team, which will compete at the 2009 WPA World 8-Ball Championship in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, April 5 - 11.  The prize fund there will be $200,000.