Efren Bata Reyes as Caesar Morales! I chanced upon this article on Efren Bata Reyes, aka The Magician, as I was browsing EasyPoolTutor.com on billiards and Filipino pool players. The article, "8-Ball, Corner Pocket," was written by Phil Zabriskie and published in the December 2001 issue of Time Asia. It is one interesting read, friends! And I kid you not!
Morales stayed inconspicuous; the guys he came with did not. They were making bets, saying not only would Morales and his $10 cue win his matches, but he would beat the finest shot makers and gamblers in the country by two, three or four racks, in a race to 11. Ludicrous. No rookie no-name could pull that off. Besides, pool was an American game. Sure there were good players from Europe,
This guy won the tournament. And he cleaned up in the back room, during the big-money action that starts when the crowds go home. Before the fans left, though, the mystery shark signed a few autographs. Only then did he reveal himself, signing not Caesar Morales, but his real name, Efren Reyes.
Nita's carinderia is a modest little place on a side street in
Already a folk hero, Reyes became a legend at the 1999 World Championships in
At Nita's, Reyes spends about 20 minutes on the table before unscrewing his cue. He wipes his brow, then begins cataloging the aches and pains that are chipping away at his game. His eyes have gotten worse, he says. His elbows and shoulders hurt, and his belly makes it harder to stretch across the table. Everything has gotten worse since he quit smoking in 1997, he says. Some people in the
But just days before this catalogue of woes, Reyes was in
When he started, Reyes stood on cases of Coke so he could reach the table. His family was poor. For a time, Reyes lived with an uncle who ran the Lucky 13 pool hall in
There's a distinct Filipino style of billiards, says Helfert, "flowery," with a lot of movement in the backswing. More crucially, observes Billiards Digest editor Kirstin Pires: "The Filipinos are great gamblers. They always play their best when there is winner-take-all money." In tournaments, consolation money is still a payday. But when $10,000 or $20,000 is on the table, and only one man can take it home that's why it's gambling they find that additional motivation provides a little extra focus.
"No one in the world can stay with him hour after hour," says George Breedlove, a former top player. Backers still put up the money, Reyes still gets his cut, but the stakes have grown. Three years ago, legendary gambler and professional poker player T.A. Preston Jr., a.k.a. "Amarillo Slim," was in a
At dinner, Reyes ignores his aches and pains and concentrates instead on the food, fish and rice, one light beer, the friends (all men) he's assembled around him, and, later at a karaoke bar, the lyrics to Before You Go by Matt Munro and Englebert Humperdink's The Way It Used to Be. That weekend, he took his bad eyes and bad elbows to the Tokyo-9 Ball Tournament and won the most lucrative event in the sport, pocketing about $160,000. The following weekend, he won again, this time in
Pool is a game of positioning: you shoot to sink when you can and play safety when you must, and the hustle is always on. Reyes lives as he plays, staying home, safe, when he's not playing, decrying his sad slide, then going to Tokyo or Wales or Reno when there's money on the table. The last time we meet, at Nita's, he answers questions, poses for pictures, but he's clearly ready to do something else. What exactly, he doesn't know. Maybe wander around town, he says, and look for a game.
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