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04-10-2005, 12:27 AM
'The Magician' dazzles fans and foes alike

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Kuta, Bali

Efren Reyes may not have won the A Mild Billiard International Bali Open, but that did little to damage his standing as one of the world's biggest and most popular pool stars.

Reyes' deft displays of skill on the pool table earned him the nickname "The Magician", and inside and outside the pool hall the 50-year-old Filipino remains a major attraction.

The failure to make his best showing in Bali must have been a disappointment to Reyes after he began his Indonesian tour with a victory in the second leg of the San Miguel Asian 9-ball Championship in Jakarta the previous week.

In Jakarta, Reyes showed his "magic" in his run past Robby Suarly of Indonesia, and Kuo Po-Cheng, Wu Chia Ching and Yang Chin Sun, all from Chinese Taipei.

Reyes pulled off a string of difficult shots, such as a combination shot to pocket a ball in a difficult position and pocketing one ball while nudging another into position for his next shot.

"I always try to entertain my fans when I play," he said recently.

"I have many fans and friends in Jakarta and I was keen to give them some fun too."

Not only does Reyes entertain with his shots, but he amuses fans with his gestures and body language.

He also has shown the ability to avoid being drawn into serious answers by questioning journalists. When asked who he would like to face in the final of the Jakarta tournament, Reyes said with a laugh: "I would love to play a weak player so that I can become champion."

It is not only the fans who enjoy Reyes, but his opponents, in this case Wu Chia Ching, admit to being entertained and impressed by Reyes.

"The way Reyes plays is always nice to see. He has a touch in his game," Wu said.

Born in Pampanga, the Philippines, on Aug. 26, 1954, Reyes moved to Manila when he was five. When he was older, he began working as an attendant in his uncle's pool hall and also started playing games for money.

After establishing himself as one of the best players in the Philippines, he started playing in the United States in the 1980s, still as a money player. He went on to win major tournaments against the best players in the U.S.

Over the next few years Reyes established himself as one of the best 9-ball players in the U.S. and the world, being named the Billiards Digest's 1995 Player of the Year.

He was the 1999 World Pool champion and the World 8-ball champion in 1995, 1996 and 2000.

Now that he has turned 50, some people might expect him to begin slowing down after such a successful career. But not Reyes, who sees no reason he cannot continue to play pool at an elite level.

"I have no plans to retire. I will play billiards in tournaments until my hands are shaking and I cannot shoot anymore," he said.
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