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Efren Reyes

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Efren Reyes
OLD, PLH
Efren Reyes playing a shot
Born (1954-08-26) August 26, 1954 (age 66)
Mexico, Pampanga, Philippines
Sport country Philippines
NicknameThe Magician, The Maestro, Bata
Pool gameseight-ball, nine-ball, one-pocket
Tournament wins
MajorOver 70 major titles
World ChampionEight-ball (2004), nine-ball (1999)
Ranking info

Efren "Bata" Manalang Reyes OLD PLH (born August 26, 1954) is a Filipino professional pool player. A winner of over 70 international titles, Reyes was the first player to win world championships in two different pool disciplines. Among his numerous titles, Reyes is a four-time World Eight-ball champion, the 1999 WPA World Nine-ball Championship winner, a three-time U.S. Open winner, a two-time World Pool League winner, and a 14-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 1997, Reyes took home the largest single match purse in pool history of $100,000. Many analysts, fans, and players consider Reyes to be the greatest pool player of all time.[1]

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 one-cushion and three-cushion.

Career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Reyes was born in Mexico, Pampanga in the Philippines on August 26, 1954.[2] He moved to Manila aged five to live with his uncle who owned a pool hall.[3] He cleaned the hall and would sleep on the tables.[3] Because he was not tall enough to reach the pool table, he played while standing on Coca-Cola cases that he moved around.[4]

Gambling from a young age, he won his first match for money aged nine and continued to compete at 3-cushion billiards in the 1960s and 1970s.[3] After establishing himself as a winner, he was discovered by promoters. This gave him the opportunity to compete in larger tournaments.[5]

Professional career[edit]

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.[6] 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. Reyes claims to have earned $80,000 in a single week, making him a folk hero back in the Philippines.[7]

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.[8] Reyes became internationally known at the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in 1994. Having finished third in 1985,[9] he defeated Nick Varner in the finals and became the first non-American to win the event.[10][11]

Two years later, Reyes and Earl Strickland were chosen to compete in an event, named after the recently released The Color of Money movie.[12] The event was a three-day race-to-120 challenge match of nine-ball.[13] It was held in Hong Kong, with a winner-take-all prize of $100,000.[13] Reyes won the match 120–117 despite being 17 racks behind, to win the all-time largest purse in any professional pool event.[13] In 1999, Reyes won the first televised 1999 World Professional Pool Championship. At the time, the tournament was not recognized by the World Pool Association, who ran their own event, although they later acknowledged the event was an official world championship.[14][15] In 2001, Reyes participated in the 2001 Tokyo Open, with over 700 participants and a total purse of ¥100 Million ($850K). Reyes dominated the event, beating Niels Feijen in the finals 15–7 and earning ¥20M ($170K) first prize. At the time, this was the biggest first prize in a pool tournament.[16]

Efren Reyes next to a fan
Efren 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.[17] He reached the final of the 2004 WPA World Eight-ball Championship, where he met Marlon Manalo in the final.[18][19] He trailed 0–4, but won eight straight racks and won the final 11–8.[20] The win made Reyes the first player to win WPA world championships in more than one discipline.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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. However, due to IPT's financial problems, he has not been able to claim this sum.[23]

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.[24] They won seven consecutive racks to win the final 13–5.[25] He also won the 2009 event once again partnering Bustamante.[26] The pair met the German team of Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann in the final and won 11–9.[27][28][29]

As of 2019, Reyes is still actively competing in professional pool.[30] Overall, he is the most successful player at the Derby City Classic, having won the overall championship on five occasions.[31] He has also won five bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Games and an eight-ball bronze medal at the 2002 Asian Games.[30][32][33]

Media and persona[edit]

Reyes is known for his highly creative play.[34][35] 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.[36][37] Reyes' ability to play kick shots lead to him gaining the nickname "Magician."[38][39] 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.[8]

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.[40] In one episode of the TV series Magpakailanman, the story follows a young Efren Reyes (portrayed by Anjo Yllana) in his early pool-playing days as he progresses from a money player to a tournament contender.[41]

Reyes lives in Angeles City, with his wife Susan and their three children.[3] He considers balkline to be his favourite cue sport,[42] and plays chess as a hobby.[3]

Accolades[edit]

Numerous fellow professional players have credited Reyes with being the greatest living player in the world.[43][44] During ESPN television commentary on a semi-finals match between Reyes and Mika Immonen at the 2000 Billiard Congress of America 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."[44][45]

In 1995, Billiards Digest Magazine named Reyes the Player of the Year.[46] 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.[46] Billiards' own elite named Reyes the best one-pocket player of all time.[46] 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?"[46]

Reyes became the first Asian to be inducted into the Billiard Congress of America's Hall of Fame in 2003.[47][48] He was also inducted into the One Pocket Hall of Fame in 2004.[49] Reyes was appointed Philippine Sports Ambassador for the 2005 South East Asian Games.[45]

Efren has been awarded the Philippine Sportswriters Association Sportsman of the Year on three occasions: in 1999, 2001 and 2006.[50] He was given the Philippine Legion of Honor,[51] and included in Time Magazine’s 60 Asian heroes in 2006.[51] He was also awarded the Philippine Order of Lakandula "Champion for Life Award" in 2006.[52][53] He has topped the AZ Billiards Money List five times: in 2001,[54] 2002,[55] 2004,[56] 2005[57] and 2006.[58] In 2006, he set a record by earning $646,000 in a single year.[58]

Major titles and achievements[edit]

Reyes is a winner of over 70 major titles.[48] Below is a list of some of the major championship victories.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]