Professional pool player Efren Bata Reyes (centre) shares some billiard tips.
PHOTO BY JMYDS/EXPAT MEDIA
DUBAI – Can you become the world’s greatest pool player in 25 minutes? Definitely not, but that’s exactly how I felt as I played against the living legend himself, Efren Bata Reyes, in Dubai.
I grew up watching this man conquer billiard tables in the Philippines and the world stage, winning more than 70 international titles to date. I never imagined I would one day be able to be in the same room as him, let alone have a one-on-one training session with him!
But that’s exactly what happened as the humble champ gave me 25 minutes of his time for a beginner’s course into the game he loves so much.
At 63, Reyes is still travelling the world where billiards beckons. This month, Dubai was his latest stop where he was invited as a guest at a recent pool championship organised by Impulse Billiards Cafe by Knight Shot.
He tells me he’s headed to the US next to receive a lifetime achievement award. Excited? I asked. Not as excited as competing for the Southeast Asian Games next year, he said. He’s already training for it, he revealed.
‘The Magician”, as he has been fondly called, said it’s now more about the excitement of competing rather than winning awards. He has, after all, racked up titles more than anyone else in the sport: four-time World Eight-ball Champion, three-time US Open winner, five unprecedented Master of Table crowns, 1999 WPA World Nine-ball Champion, two-time World Pool League winner and 14-time Derby City Classic winner.
“You just need more practice,” he told me in Filipino after I missed an easy shot. He should know. He’s been playing billiards since he was a boy, he said. He played every day, but not for hours on stretch “because I get bored”. He didn’t mind playing against anyone, including beginners. In fact, he learned how to make impossible shots by studying how beginners play, he said.
And there’s no truth to reports that he’s retiring, he said. “I am not retiring yet. I can still compete,” he said in Filipino, adding that he will only retire when his body can’t keep up with his mind.
His mind is still as sharp as it was, as he picks on every flaw I made on that billiards table – from my angles to my game strategy. Apparently, I also don’t know how to hold the cue stick properly. He gave me very helpful pointers.
I shouldn’t fret though, he said. Even the Philippines’ big action star had the same problem.
“Si Fernando Poe [Jr] di rin marunong humawak, katulad mo (Fernando Poe Jr also didn’t know how to hold the cue stick, like you),” he said, playfully demonstrating the star’s move.
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