Tornado Open Tournament at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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"Texas Tornado" Leads Storm of Pool Players Blowing Into South Florida

Vivian Villarreal knows how to work the angles. Ranked the number one pool player in the world from 1993 to 1998 by the Women’s Professional Billiard Association (WPBA), she has been feverishly working the phones in recent weeks, inviting pros to her tournament that began yesterday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.

Villarreal, from San Antonio, is known as the Texas Tornado for her habit of circling the table quickly and her demonstrative style of play. The tournament is called the Tornado Open.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida sponsored Villarreal on the professional tour for about ten years, but this is first tournament she has arranged here. “They said, ‘Try it,’ and I hope it works,” she says.

The tribe was instrumental in helping Villarreal through a personal crisis, she adds. She adopted a child in 1992, only to have the girl’s biological mother surreptitiously disappear with her in 1997 after a court-approved visitation.

Villarreal said she then spent the next eight years in search of the child, who finally was discovered in Arkansas via a photo on a milk carton. The child is now grown with two children. “Sometimes, I sit back and wonder why it all happened,” she says. “Some have heard about my story, and they say it’s like a movie. I’d go on the bathroom during tournaments and try not to cry.”

During the time the girl was missing, tribe members helped with her quest, Villarreal says. Seminole Tribe president Mitchell Cypress, himself a pool player, adds, “Vivian Villarreal has been a good friend to the Seminole Tribe, and we admire her for her sportsmanship and leadership — and especially for
how she turns life’s challenges into positive outcomes.”

Comments Villarreal, "My life changed so much. I'll never forget David Cypress telling me God brought me to them for a reason. [When my daughter was missing,] he said he saw the pain I go through every day."

The tournament will run through October 2 and will feature nine events, including three professional matches: Scotch Doubles, Men’s Pro 10-Ball, and Women’s Pro 10-Ball, each with a $25,000 added guarantee.

The tournament will also feature several amateur events, which players can enter via the website
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Nick Sortal is South Florida’s expert journalist when it comes to the gambling scene. He covered the openings, expansions, poker tournaments, entertainment, and human-interest facets of the industry for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel from 2007 until taking a buyout in November 2015, capping a 30-year career that included state and national awards and features about naked yoga. He now writes a weekly column for the Miami Herald and also reports about gambling on his site, The Southern Illinois native worked for papers in St. Louis and Indianapolis before joining the Sun Sentinel in 1985. He likes triathlons, country music, basketball, and bragging about his family.
Contact: Nick Sortal