Meet The Magician, Efren “Bata” Reyes (the GOAT of Pool)
Table of Contents
There have been many billiard greats over the years – Willie Mosconi, Rudolph Wanderone, Luther Lassiter, Earl Strickland, Mike Sigel, Johnny Archer, Buddy Hall… the list goes on and on. But one pool master stands above everyone else – Efren “The Magician” Reyes.
Efren Reyes is a legend, and has been dominating on pool tables for over 40 years. Efren won his first professional tournament back in 1978. He is also a huge reason why pool is so popular in the Philippines.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the greatest pool player of all time, Efren Reyes. Not only about his life on the pool tables, but his personal life, financial success, and influence on the world of billiards. Enjoy!
Who is Efren Reyes?
Efren Reyes was born in Pampanga – a province in the northern Philippines, in 1954 to parents Pedro Reyes and Romana Manalang. He was the 5th of 9 children, and grew up very poor.
Efren’s big break came very early, when his parents agreed to give him more opportunity by sending him to live with his uncle 50 miles away in Manila. This helped give Efren his first exposure to billiards, because his uncle owned a pool hall.
When did Efren Reyes start playing pool?
Efren Reyes started playing pool at 5 years old, soon after moving to Manila. It is well known that during his early years, he had to stand on empty soda cases and move them around when playing because he was so short. He even slept on a pool table most nights.
Reyes started winning money playing pool when he was 9, and earned the nickname “Bata” (or, “Kid” in Filipino). He continued to win tournaments and hustle the locals throughout the 1960s. By the mid 1970s, Reyes was well known throughout the Philippines and was already one of the top players around.
When did Efren Reyes turn professional?
Reyes played in his first professional tournament – the Philippines vs. Japan Pocket Billiards Competition, in 1978 alongside other Filipino pros Jose Parica, Rodolfo Luat, Jorge Dacer and Manuel Flores. He and his team won this event two straight years before the event ended.
Reyes would go on to have continued dominance through the early to mid 1980s in his home country, leading to his desire to play pool in the United States and make a name for himself on the world stage.
Efren Reyes arrived in the United States in 1984 for the first time. Though he was already a professional, Reyes’ very early days in America consisted of him hustling players to the tune of $80,000 in winnings in just several weeks (based on his account).
One of Reyes’ first tournaments in the US was the 1985 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship – an event that would later catapult him into international fame.
Efren Reyes’ Championships
Efren Reyes has won over 100 professional tournaments in his career across a variety of disciplines – 8-ball, 9-ball, one-pocket, rotation and cushion billiards. His versatility, creativity and knowledge of the game is truly one-of-a-kind, which is why he’s called “The Magician”.
While all wins are impressive, there are several major events that stand out on Efren Reyes’ resume:
- WPA World 9-Ball Championship
- U.S. Open 9 Ball Championship
- Tokyo Open
- World Pool League
- WPA World 8-Ball Championship
- Sands Regency 9-Ball Open
Let’s dive more into each event…
WPA World 9-Ball Championship
Reyes won his first and only World Nine-Ball Championship in July of 1999, beating Chang Hao-Ping in the final by a score of 17-8. This event took place in Cardiff, Wales.
Watch the match in it’s entirety here:
U.S. Open 9 Ball Championship
Efren Reyes became a household name in 1994 when he won his first and surprisingly, his only Open 9 Ball Championship. He beat American Nick Varner by a score of 9 to 6. Including this event, Reyes went on a run for the ages for 4 straight years, reaching the finals from 1994 through 1997.
Unfortunately, he lost to Reed Pierce (1995), Rodney Morris (1996), and Earl Strickland (1997) after his 1994 win. But, this run helped solidify Reyes into billiards royalty, and was a sign of things to come later on in his career.
In 2001, Reyes dominated the Tokyo Open 9-Ball Championship, setting a record in the process. He won the $163,000 first place prize, which at the time set an all-time record for the biggest ever payout in a pool tournament.
In this event, Reyes bested Dutch player Niels Feijen in the finals by a score of 15 to 7.
You can watch Efren’s victory here:
World Pool League
It no longer exists, but the World Pool League gathered some of the best pool players in the world for a 9-ball tournament that took place in Warsaw, Poland for 7 straight years – 1999 through 2006. It was not actually a league, but rather a prestigious Invitational Tournament.
Reyes won the World Pool League 9-ball event two straight years – 2001 and 2002.
WPA World 8-Ball Championship
Reyes won the inaugural World 8-Ball Championship in 2004, further solidifying himself as one of the best players in the world.
This event ran for 9 straight years from 2004 to 2012 in the United Arab Emirates. It’s surprising to most that this event no longer exists since 8-ball continues to be one of the most popular billiard games in the world.
Sands Regency 9-Ball Open
One of Reyes’ most prolific events was the Sands Regency 9-Ball Open. In all, he won 4 championships – two consecutive wins in 1985 and 1986, then again in 1995 and 1999.
The Sands Regency Open was a well-known event that took place at the Sands Regency hotel in Reno, Nevada back in the mid-80s to early 2000s.
These were some of the biggest wins Efren Reyes ever had. While this is just a peek into his dominance, it gives us some perspective into just how good Efren was, and still is, at pool.
Efren Reyes vs. Earl Strickland
One very popular topic in the billiards world is the fierce, but respectful rivalry between two of the greatest pool players ever – Efren Reyes and Earl Strickland.
If you aren’t familiar with Earl Strickland, we’ll provide a quick summary!
Earl Strickland is from North Carolina and started playing pool at age 8. Like Reyes, Strickland has also won over 100 titles in his career, and is known for his high energy and enthusiasm during matches (sometimes to his detriment). He has won the Billiards Digest Play of the Year Award 5 different times and owns 3 different world titles.
Efren vs. Earl head-to-head record
There is no official tally of who won more matches against the other. This is due partially to the lack of technology and match documentation early in their careers. That being said, it is believed that Strickland has more wins in head to head play against Reyes.
Earl Strickland’s notable wins against Efren Reyes:
- 1994 PBT World 9-Ball Championship finals (see the match here)
- 1997 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship finals (see the match here)
- 2003 World Pool Masters quarterfinal (see the match here)
- 2014 Battle of Legends 8-Ball (see the match here)
Efren Reyes’ notable wins against Earl Strickland:
- 1995 Sands Regency Open finals (see the match here)
- 1997 Color of Money Challenge (see the match here)
- 2014 Battle of Legends 10-Ball (see the match here)
The Best Pool Shot Ever Made
The greatest pool shot of all time is undoubtedly the “Z Shot” Efren Reyes made during the 1995 Sands Regency 9-ball tournament. When Reyes beat Earl Strickland at this event, he did so in incredible fashion.
It was during the final game in a race to 13, and both players were all square at 12 wins a piece. It also took place right after a critical mistake from Reyes, making the shot even more miraculous.
The Efren Reyes Z Shot
Because words can’t do it justice, you need to watch for yourself below. Efren was dead to rights behind the 6-ball and had to go all the way across the table, off of two rails (z-shape), and knock the 5-ball in the corner to continue his turn.
The Dr. Dave Billairds channel does a great job of explaining just how significant this shot was in this video.
Reyes has made many amazing shots in his career, but the Z Shot is the greatest example of why Efren Reyes is known as The Magician.
How Much Money Has Efren Reyes Won?
Not all of Efren Reyes’ prizes were documented throughout his entire career, but from 1985 through 2023, he has amassed about $2.2 Million in tournament earnings. Efren Reyes’ net worth is thought to be anywhere from $2.5 Million to $5 Million.
There are likely endorsement deals that we don’t have the full details of, as well as undocumented tournaments that Efren has won through the years.
Other Awards and Accolades
Outside of his tournament wins, there have been numerous other awards and achievements that Efren Reyes has earned throughout his career. Here are the most notable:
- Billiards Digest Magazine Player of the Year – 1995
- Billiards Congress of America Hall of Fame – 2003
- One-Pocket Hall of Fame – 2004
- Time Magazine Featured Reyes as one of “60 Asian Heroes” in 2006
- Philippine Sportswriters Sportsman of the Year – 1999, 2001, 2006
- Most money earned by a player in a single season (2005-2006) – $845,000
Where is Efren Reyes Now?
Efren Reyes still lives very close to where he’s from with his family in Angeles City – a city in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines.
Reyes still plays pool at the age of 68, and has not yet retired from pool. While he doesn’t play a lot of events these days, he attracts crowds wherever he goes, for good reason. Efren Reyes has been a god-send for the sport of pool, and has helped keep it alive all these years.
Recently, in January of 2023, Reyes finished 3rd in the Derby City Classic One-Pocket event, bringing home $6,300. In 2022, Reyes showed flashes of his brilliance at the Iron City Open in Birmingham, Alabama, by placing 2nd in the one-pocket division, and winning $1,050.
Reyes’ most recent win took place at the 2021 Seniors One-Pocket Classic in Houston, Texas. Reyes Won $3,600 at this event and defeated American James Davis Sr. to take the championship.
To many, Efren Reyes is undoubtedly the greatest pool player to ever hold a cue, and this is proven by his wins in the prime of his career and his overall versatility.
Outside of his 9-ball success, he is also thought to be the greatest One-pocket pool player of all time. No one has been able to achieve the success between so many billiard disciplines, like Efren Reyes.
We encourage all fans of pool and billiards to watch any Efren Reyes videos they can get their eyes on. It is some of the greatest billiards footage you will ever see. We are very lucky to be able to experience his greatness in our lifetime.
As always, Happy Shooting!