Efren “Bata” Reyes: US Billiard Player of the Decade
Efren “Bata” Reyes, whose world 9-ball feat in Cardiff, Wales in 1999 sparked the renaissance of billiards in the world, was named the Player of the Decade by the United States Billiard Media Association.
The 55-year-old Reyes, who was also inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2003, has raked in nearly $1.7 million in earnings the last 10 years, excluding his latest winnings of $47,500 in Indiana last week.
Reyes clinched his fifth Master of the Table Crown during the 12th Annual Derby City Classic at the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Indiana, US.
He beat fellow former world champions Johnny Archer of the US, Mika Immonen of Finland and Ralf Souquet of Germany for the coveted Player of the Decade plum.
“He (Efren) is an inspiration for the Filipinos.” said billiards patron Aristeo “Putch” Puyat.
Reyes won more than 20 major pro pool titles during the decade, starting with the $30,000 Camel Pro 8-Ball Championship triumph in 2000. Of his 22 major victories, the amiable pool legend captured four one-pocket crowns, four 8-ball titles and 15 9-ball titles. He also ruled the Derby City All-Around tournament five times.
The string of victories came after Reyes became the first Filipino to win the World Pool (9-ball) Championship title in 1999 in Cardiff. He also took the World 8-ball title in 2004 in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.
He also triumphed in the International Pool Tour (IPT), won two titles (2005 IPT King of the Hill and 2006 IPT North American Open) and pocketed $765,000.
Efren Timbol Reyes (born August 26, 1954) is a Filipino professional pool player from Angeles City and a two-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 nicknamed “Bata” and “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. Because he was not tall enough to reach the pool table, he played while standing on Coca-cola cases that he moved around. At night, while he was dreaming of playing pool, the pool table was his bed.
He is called Bata, which is Filipino for “Kid”, because there was another older pool player named Efren when he was young. To determine which Efren onlookers were referring to, he was nicknamed “Efren Bata“.
Gambling from a young age, Reyes played three cushion billiards in the 1960s and 1970s. After establishing himself as a winner, he was discovered by promoters. 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. At the start of his career he used aliases to hide his true identity so he would be allowed to compete. By the mid-1990s, he became one of the elite players of the Philippines alongside Jose Parica and Francisco Bustamante.
Numerous fellow professional players have credited Reyes with being the greatest living player in the world. During ESPN television commentary on a semi-finals match the between Reyes and Mika Immonen at the 2000 Billiard Congress of America Open 9-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.”
The fame of Efren Reyes began when he won the US Open Nine Ball Championship in 1994 by defeating Nick Varner in the finals. He was the first non-American ever to win the event.
Two years later, Efren Reyes and Earl Strickland were chosen to face each other in an event called the Color of Money, named after the 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 US$100,000. Reyes won the match 120-117 and the big prize. This was the largest single-winning purse in a pool event.
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. This tournament was not recognized 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 “official” world title, but this was a much smaller 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 held in Tokyo and had over 700 players with a total purse of ¥100M ($850K). Reyes dominated the event by beating Niels Feijen in the finals 15-7 and earned the ¥20M ($170K) first prize. At the time, this was the biggest first prize in a pool tournament.
In 2002 he won the $50K winner-take-all International Challenge of Champions, defeating Mika Immonen in a deciding rack after both players split sets.
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 beat Marlon Manalo to become the first-ever WPA World Eight Ball Champion. With the win, he became the first player in WPA history to win two world championships of different disciplines.
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, due to IPT’s financial problems, he hasn’t claimed much of this money as of 2007.
For 2007, he was ranked #2 in Pool & Billiard Magazine‘s “Fans’ Top 20 Favorite Players” poll.
In 2008, Warren Kiamco, 38, defeated Efren Reyes, 11-6, in the First Senate President Manny Villar Cup Billiards Tournament on May 10, 2008 at the Sports Center of StarMall Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
In 2009, The Filipino tandem of Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante beat the German tandem of Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann in a grueling 11-9 win to take their second championship title. This, along with the semifinal finish of the other Filipino tandem of Ronato Alcano and Dennis Orcollo, was the best performance put up by a host nation in the tournament’s history.
In 2010, Reyes clinched his 5th title in the 12th annual Derby City Classic as overall champion, making him the most successful player by far in the tournament’s history.