Wayside West charity poker room remains open after shooting

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Wayside West, the popular Kalamazoo charity poker room, was rocked by a fatal shooting on April 17 when 23-year-old Damian Tejada was shot to death inside the poker room.

Robert Strong, one of the regulars at Wayside West who was there that night, told us about the shock everyone felt.

“If you’re not used to hearing gunshots, you probably just thought, ‘Why are people shooting fireworks inside the poker room?’ ” In spite of the fatal shooting, players continue to come out for the tournaments and cash games offered by the five-table poker room. The night of our visit, there was a $40 rebuy tournament and a $1-$2 no-limit hold’em cash game running.

“The players in this room are like a community,” Strong said. “Everyone knows everyone. So when something like this happens, it’s a surprise.”

The sports bar is in one of Kalamazoo’s safest areas, with new franchise restaurants lining both sides of the road. Though the shooting was not related to the poker room, it still prompted the establishment to release a statement that no event like this had happened in the 50-year history of the sports bar, and it should be consider a tragic random event that could have happened anywhere.

— Email Frank at anteupmichigan@gmail.com.