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Efren Reyes

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Efren Reyes
OLD, PLH
Efren "Bata" Reyes playing a shot
Efren "Bata" Reyes at the 2012 WPA World Nine-ball Championship
Born (1954-08-26) August 26, 1954 (age 68)
Angeles City, Philippines
Sport country Philippines
Nickname"The Magician", "Bata"
Professional1978
Pool gamesNine-ball, Eight-ball, One-pocket, Rotation, Balkline, One-cushion, Three-cushion
Tournament wins
World ChampionNine-ball (1999),
Eight-ball (2004)

Efren Manalang Reyes OLD PLH (born August 26, 1954), popularly known by the nickname "Bata" (English: "Kid"), is a Filipino professional pool player. Reyes is widely considered the greatest pool player of all time. A winner of over 100 international titles, Reyes was the first player to win the WPA World Championships in two different pool disciplines. Among his numerous titles, Reyes is a WPA World Nine-ball Champion and WPA World Eight-ball Champion, a U.S. Open winner, a two-time World Pool League winner, and a thirteen-time Derby City Classic winner. Reyes also represented the Philippines at the World Cup of Pool, winning the event with his partner Francisco Bustamante in 2006 and 2009. By defeating American player Earl Strickland in the inaugural Color of Money event in 1996, Reyes took home the largest single match purse in pool history of $100,000.

Reyes is nicknamed "The Magician"—for his ability on the pool table—and "Bata", to distinguish from a fellow pool player by the same name. In addition to pool, Reyes has played international billiards, specifically Balkline, One-cushion and Three-cushion.

Career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Reyes was born in Pampanga, Philippines, on August 26, 1954.[1] He moved to Manila aged five to live with his uncle who owned a pool hall.[2] He cleaned the hall and would sleep on the tables.[2] Because he was not tall enough to reach the pool table, he played while standing on Coca-Cola cases that he moved around.[3]

Gambling from a young age, he won his first match for money at the age of nine and continued to play money games with locals in the 1960s. by the mid-1970s Efren established himself as one of the best players in the country, due to this he stopped playing 3-cushion billiards in the late 1970s in order to find people who would play him for money, in the game of Rotation.[2] At the same time, he was discovered by a journalist who wrote an article about Efren which allowed him to be discovered by promoters. This gave him the opportunity to compete in larger tournaments.[4]

Professional career[edit]

In 1978, Reyes competed in the Philippines vs. Japan Pocket Billiards Competition, where Reyes represented the Philippines alongside Jose Parica, Rodolfo Luat, Jorge Dacer and Manuel Flores, where the Philippines team won two years in a row until the event ended. In 1979, Reyes defeated Japanese champion Takeshi Okumura to win the All Japan Championship in nine-ball, although not winning the all around title that year.

In 1983, Reyes took on Pepito Dacer in the finals of the Philippine Professional Pocket Billiards Championships, which was played in rotation. The finals were played in race-to-39 and the players competed over 11 racks on a weekly basis. On the seventh week of play, Reyes defeated Dacer 39–32.[5] During the 1980s, when Reyes was considered a top-class player in his homeland but not yet internationally recognized, he went to the United States to hustle in 1984. Reyes claims to have earned $80,000 in a few weeks, which made him a folk hero back in the Philippines.[6]

Reyes began winning a number of tournaments in the United States, Europe and parts of Asia, garnering attention and recognition worldwide. At the start of his career, he used aliases such as "Cesar Morales" to hide his identity so he would be allowed to compete.[7] Reyes became internationally known at the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in 1994. Having finished third in 1985,[8] he defeated Nick Varner in the finals and became the first non-American to win the event.[9][10]

Two years later, Reyes and Earl Strickland were chosen to compete in an event, named after the recently released film The Color of Money.[11] The event was a three-day race-to-120 challenge match of nine-ball.[12] It was held in Hong Kong, with a winner-take-all prize of $100,000.[12] Reyes won the match 120–117 despite being 17 racks behind, to win the all-time largest purse in any professional pool event.[12] In 1999, Reyes won the first televised World Pool Championship that was hosted by Matchroom Pool. At the time, the tournament was not recognized by the World Pool Association, which ran their own event, although they later acknowledged the event was an official WPA World Championship.[13][14] In 2001, Reyes participated in the 2001 Tokyo 9-Ball Open, with over 700 participants and a total purse of $555K. Reyes dominated the event, beating Niels Feijen in the finals 15–7 and earning $163k first prize. At the time, this was the biggest first prize in a pool tournament.[15]

Efren Reyes next to a fan
Efren "Bata" Reyes after winning the 2005 IPT King of the Hill Shootout

Reyes won the 2002 International Challenge of Champions, defeating Mika Immonen in a deciding rack.[16] He reached the final of the 2004 WPA World Eight-ball Championship, where he met Marlon Manalo in the final.[17][18] He trailed 0–4, but won eight straight racks and won the final 11–8.[19] The win made Reyes the first player to win WPA world championships in more than one discipline.[19]

Reyes won the 2005 IPT King of the Hill Eight-ball Shootout, which offered the highest top prize of any pool event to that date – $200K.[20] In the final, he met Mike Sigel in a best-of-three sets match, winning 8–0 in the first set and 8–5 in the second.[21] The following year, Reyes won the IPT World Open Eight-ball Championship over Rodney Morris 8–6, earning $500K—a larger sum than that he earned at the King of the Hill event.[22]

He partnered with Francisco Bustamante to represent the Philippines at the inaugural World Cup of Pool. They reached the 2006 final, where they met Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris representing the United States.[23] They won seven consecutive racks to win the final 13–5.[24] He also won the 2009 event once again partnering Bustamante.[25] The pair met the German team of Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann in the final and won 11–9.[26][27][28]

As of 2019, Reyes is still actively competing in professional pool.[29] Overall, he is the most successful player at the Derby City Classic, having won the overall championship on five occasions, and winning the event on fourteen occasions.[30] He has also won gold medals and many bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Games including an eight-ball bronze medal at the 2002 Asian Games.[29][31][32]

Media and persona[edit]

Reyes is known for his highly creative play.[33][34] Reyes is often called by his nickname "Bata", which means "kid" in Filipino, given to him by close friends to distinguish him from an older Efren who also played pool.[35][36] Reyes's ability to play kick shots lead to him gaining the nickname "Magician".[37][38] When Reyes first arrived in the United States, he took the name Cesar Morales as he knew that players had heard his name but not seen what he looked like and he wished to continue hustling.[7]

In 2003, Reyes was featured in the Filipino movie Pakners with actor Fernando Poe Jr., which was Poe's last film before his run for presidency and then death later in 2004. Reyes also appeared in the 2007 short film Nineball.[39] In one episode of the TV series Magpakailanman, the story follows a young Efren "Bata" Reyes (portrayed by Anjo Yllana) in his early pool-playing days as he progresses from a money player to a tournament contender.[40]

Reyes lives in Angeles City, with his wife Susan and their three children.[2] He considers balkline to be his favorite cue sport,[41] and plays chess as a hobby.[2]

Despite admitting that his skill has declined by 2019, games involving him continue to draw in crowds such as during the 2019 and 2021 Southeast Asian Games.[42][43]

Accolades[edit]

Reyes on a 2021 stamp of the Philippines

Numerous fellow professional players have credited Reyes with being the greatest living player in the world.[44][45] During ESPN television commentary on a semi-finals match between Reyes and Mika Immonen at the 2000 BCA Open Nine-ball Championship, veteran professional Billy Incardona stated that Reyes was "indisputably the best player in the world—especially when you consider all games—he can play any game as well as anyone, maybe better than anyone ... In my opinion we're watching probably the greatest player in my lifetime and I've been watching pool for the better part of forty years."[45][46]

In 1995, Billiards Digest magazine named Reyes the Player of the Year.[47] The following year, when Reyes was ranked number one on the United States' Pro Billiards Tour, the June 1996 issue of the magazine featured a poll of "billiard cognoscenti"—pro players, billiards writers, industry insiders and the like—to pick the best in billiards in various categories.[47] Billiards' own elite named Reyes the best one-pocket player of all time.[47] The magazine wrote, "While a bevy of one-pocket geniuses abound, Efren Reyes, whose prowess in one-pocket is sometimes obscured by his 9-ball [sic] stardom, was the popular pick. Is there anything Bata can't do?"[47]

Reyes became the first Asian to be inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2003.[48][49] He was also inducted into the One Pocket Hall of Fame in 2004.[50] Reyes was appointed Philippine Sports Ambassador for the 2005 South East Asian Games.[46]

Efren has been awarded the Philippine Sportswriters Association Sportsman of the Year on three occasions: in 1999, 2001 and 2006.[51] He was given the Philippine Legion of Honor,[52] and included in Time magazine's 60 Asian heroes in 2006.[52] He was also awarded the Philippine Order of Lakandula "Champion for Life Award" in 2006.[53][54] He holds the record for the AZBilliards Money List at over $2 million in earnings since 1999 (AZBilliards have recorded the results of players constantly since 1999). He is record-tying with Shane Van Boening for topping the AZBilliards Money List for the year, a record tied seven times: in 1994, 1999, 2001,[55] 2002,[56] 2004,[57] 2005[58] and 2006.[59] He holds the record for earning the most money by any player in a season, winning $845,000 from November 2005 to November 2006.[59]

Major titles[edit]

Reyes is a winner of over 100 professional tournaments, including:[49]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]


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