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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Efren "Bata" Reyes

Efren Reyes (born August 26, 1954) is a Filipino professional pool player from Angeles City and a 2-time world champion. Reyes is considered to be one of the all-time greats in the games of nine ball and one-pocket. He is often known by his nickname "Bata", and is also referred to as "The Magician".


Reyes was born in Pampanga in 1954 and moved to Manila with his family, at the age of 5. In Manila, he worked as a billiards attendant at his uncle's billiards hall, where he started learning the various cue sports. At a young age, he played for money, and in the sixties and seventies, played carambola billiards (also known as three cushion billiards). After winning very often, promoters around have discovered him. This gave him the opportunity to compete in big time tournaments.

Reyes began winning a number of tournaments in the US, Europe and in parts of Asia. Thus, he started to gain attention and recognition worldwide. In fact at the start of his career he would use "aliases" to hide his true identity just so as to be allowed to compete. By the mid-1990s, he became one of the elite players of the Philippines along Jose Parica and Francisco Bustamante.

Notable Successes in Pool:

The fame of Efren Reyes began he won the US Open Nine Ball Championship in 1994 by defeating Nick Varner in the finals. For 8 years, he was the first and only non-American ever to win the event until Ralf Souquet won it in 2002 and Alex Pagulayan in 2005 who is also a Filipino.

A couple of years later, Efren Reyes and Earl Strickland were chosen to face each other in an event called the Color of Money, named after The Color of Money movie. The event was a 3-day race-to-120 challenge match of 9-ball. It was held in Hong Kong and has a winner-take-all prize of $100K. Reyes won the match 120-117 and the big prize. This was the largest single-winning purse in a pool event until it was equaled by an offer at the Texas Hold'em Billiards Championship, an event won by Marlon Manalo in 2005.

Although Earl Strickland was the first to win the WPA World 9-ball Championship, Reyes, in 1999, became the first to win it broadcast on television. Note - this tournament was not recognised at the time by the WPA, but Reyes was later retrospectively acknowledged as the winner of one of two world championships held in 1999. Nick Varner won the other than-"official" world title, but this was a much smaller scale event than the one Reyes won. The two tournaments were merged for the following year, with both men listed as the champion for 1999. At the time, the Matchroom Sport-organised event in Cardiff, Wales, was called the World Professional Pool Championship (despite the entry of many non-professional players).

In 2001, Reyes won the International Billiard Tournament. The event was in Tokyo, Japan, has over 700 players and total purse of ¥100M ($850K). Reyes dominated the event by besting Niels Feijen in the finals 15-7 and earned the ¥20M[1]($170K) first prize. For 4 years, this was biggest first prize in a pool tournament.

Then in 2003, he became the first Asian to be inducted into the Billiard Congress of America's Hall of Fame.

Near the end of 2004, Reyes bested Marlon Manalo to become the first-ever WPA World Eight Ball Champion. This was his second world title.

In December 2005 Reyes won the IPT King of the Hill 8-Ball Shootout. Reyes won a record-breaking $200K for first place by beating fellow Hall of Fame member Mike "the Mouth" Sigel two sets to none (8-0 and 8-5).

In 2006, Reyes and Francisco Bustamante represented their country as Team Philippines in the inaugural World Cup of Pool. They defeated Team USA, formed by Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris, to capture the title

That same year, Reyes won the IPT World Open Eight-ball Championship over Rodney Morris 8-6. He earned $500K which was the largest prize money tournament in the history of pocket billiards. Unfortunately, he hasn't claim much of this as of 2007 due financial problems of the IPT.

One of the World's Most Profitable Players:

As a player in professional pool, Reyes has been known to have won a number of money-rich tournaments worldwide. This makes him one of the most profitable players around. To prove it, he topped AZ Billiards Money List 5 times; 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 2006 he set a record by earning $646K in a single year.

Film and Ambassador:

In 2003, Mr. Reyes was featured in the Filipino movie Pakners with the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr..

Reyes was appointed Philippine Sports Ambassador of the 2005 South East Asian Games alongside some of the Philippines' greatest athletes (Allan Caidic, Rafael Nepomuceno) to promote the event throughout the country.

Nicknames and Aliases:

"Bata" - Reyes is often called by his nickname "Bata" (Tagalog for ""youth" or "kid"), given to him by friends at his regular pool hall to distinguish him from an older Efren.

"The Magician" - Reyes, along with the other "Filipino invasion" players revolutionized the way pool is played by their introduction to the sport of pinpoint precision kicking (going into a rail with the cue ball and then hitting an object ball). Reyes' ability to "kick safe" and to kick balls into intended pockets is legendary. This ability, coupled with his superb skill at other aspects of the game, led U.S. professionals to give him the appellation "The Magician." Before Reyes and his compatriots came over to the U.S., no one there had seen anything like their kicking skill set.

The so-called Filipino Invasion players consist of a group of fine Filipino players all of whom came to the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s and quickly took the professional pool world by storm. The first of these innovators was Jose "Amang" Parica, followed (not necessarily in chronological order) by Mr. Reyes, Francisco "Django" Bustamante and, to a lesser extent, Rodolfo "Boy Samson" Luat and Leonardo "Dodong" Andam. There are many other fine professional players who have followed in their footsteps, including Ramil Gallego, Santos Sambajon Jr., Antonio Lining, Marlon "Marvelous" Manalo and Alex Pagulayan, current 2005 US Open Champion and 2004 World Pool Championship winner, but only the first three original "invaders" are consistently considered among the small elite who dominate the very top of pool's professional rankings.

"Cesar Morales" - "[The] first time I came over to the states, I used an alias of Cesar Morales. Pool players in the US already knew Efren Reyes as a great shooter from the Philippines, but they [hadn't]...seen...[me] person." — Efren Reyes.


* Aside from being a notable player in the game of nine-ball, Reyes possesses a masterful skill in straight pool (14.1), a game completely obscure the Philippines. In 1995, Efren Reyes dominated the Maine 14.1 Event besting very well-known names such as Jim Rempe and Earl Strickland. His highest run in that tournament was 123.

* In 2000, Reyes competed in the US Open 14.1 Championship. Although he didn't win and had to settle for third, he conquered notable players such as Oliver Ortmann, Thomas Engert and Mike Sigel. He even made an impressive run of 141 which was more than the one he made five years before.

* Efren Reyes, along with Francisco Bustamante, is featured in a video game called World Championship Pool 2004.

* He is the first movie and the late Fernando Poe, Jr. in "Pakners" in 2003.