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Lady partners aim to win state-wide domino championship

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 23, 2011 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 22, 2011 at 7:23 p.m.

From left: Diane Buzek, Elaine Gillar, Janie Wolf and Gene Gillar laugh and talk as Elaine Gillar mixes up the dominos for the next round Sunday at the statewide domino tournament in Hallettsville.

In a crowded room at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Hallettsville, Janie Wolf and Diane Buzek sat down at their dominoes table. The ladies, who are sisters-in-law, have been competitive dominoes partners for more than two decades at the Texas State Partners Domino Championship, held every third Sunday in January.

"We've never won the championship, the most we've ever played is six rounds," Buzek, 53, said.

Now in its 60th year, the Dominoes Championship attracts skilled players from all over the state, and several contestants from Louisiana and Mississippi. Each of the 92 partner teams entering the championship this year, Wolf confessed, share one similar goal - to win.

"Well, yeah we want to win, all the best players are in this room," Wolf, 56, said.

"We want to win," Wolf and Buzek said together in unison.

Both Wolf and Buzek have played dominoes most of their lives, and Wolf's father even owned a dominoes hall in Hallettsville called Vic's Tavern.

"We grew up playing the game, but when I married into (Wolf's) family, we played all the time. They're big dominoes players," Buzek said.

Even though the near 16-hour event attracts about a dozen women each year, it wasn't long ago ladies were denied access to the competition altogether because of their sex.

"It used to be men's game, women weren't allowed to play until the early 70s," Championship Judge Kenneth Henneke, 71, said.

And Buzek and Wolf shared a laugh as they recalled the first female player to enter the contest more than three decades ago with an androgynous name, in an attempt to side-step the former male-only entrance rule.

"A lady snuck in and registered as 'Pat' in the early 70s. She'd already paid the entrance fee, so they had to let her play," Wolf said. "We didn't play that year, but it was probably the next year we entered. But she was the reason we decided to enter."

And ever since 'Pat' pulled a fast one on championship organizers those many years ago, Buzek and Wolf have entered the competition with a common goal to beat the other partner teams and win the $300 first place cash prize.

"We don't see our competitors as male or female, they're just competitors," Buzek said. "It's a nice little pot of money."

No female has ever won the Championship, but Wolf and Buzek hope they can be the first to start a new trend.

"That would be nice, we're looking forward to it," Wolf said.

With a love of the game that dates back more than 50 years, the pair said they have every intention of continuing on in their pursuit of winning the annual state-wide Domino Championship.

"As long as we're here, we're going to keep playing," Buzek said.



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