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Reyes Racks in $500,000
Sep 11, 2006, 12:20 PM

The breaks were as dry as the air in Reno, Nev., during the final match of the International Pool Tour’s World Open. A historic half a million dollars hung like a carrot dangling before the two competitors: American Rodney Morris and Filipino Efren Reyes. Both players were clearly affected by pressure, but after the smoke from the fog machine cleared, Reyes’ experience playing for surreal sums of money won out, and “The Magician” made a suitcase of money appear before him.

Bad breaks were the story of the match. Ironically, it was Morris’ break that provided the armor he needed to survive the grueling eight-day round-robin tournament, but in the final match he scratched on the break in three games. And Reyes, world renown for his magical cue-ball control, seemed to have lost his authority over the white orb in the all-important final, botching two 8 balls due to poor position.

The music was pumping as the well-dressed crowd found their seats in the ballroom of the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino. A laser light show on the Diamond table, fog, and the lights from the overhead “mothership” made for a dramatic introduction. Morris’ silhouette looked considerably slimmer than he was just a few months ago, and the boxy shoulders of Reyes were a familiar sight in the IPT finals, as he won the King of the Hill event in December. “Let’s get ready to break ‘em!” shouted the announcer and the crowd was on its feet.

After all that, the silence was shocking as Reyes won the lag. His dry break was the start of a series of unsuccessful attempts on the part of both players. Morris stepped up and shot the 1 ball down the rail. "Wooh! Got that one out of the way!" he yelled, cutting into the silence and the tension. Morris easily manuevered through the rack, 1-0.

The reverse occurred in the next rack, as Morris' break was fruitless and Reyes cleaned up to tie it at 1-1. In game three, Reyes broke dry and Rodney stepped up, but looked perplexed by a locked up 3 ball. He sank four balls before missing the 3 in the corner. Reyes made good of the gift, and pulled ahead, 2-1. Morris was able to capitalize on yet another dry break by Efren, knotting the score at 2-2. The crowd began to murmur about the bad breaks, and to everyone's surprise, the Rocket jerked to the side on his break shot, sending the cue ball skidding into the pocket after it had a crack at the rack.

Reyes' cue ball began its uncharacteristic misbehavior, as he found himself with a tough shot on the ball before the 8. He sank it, but shook his head in disgust at his position on the 8. He regrouped twice before shooting, and much to the dismay of his many followers, flubbed the 8 in the corner pocket. "It make me feel nervous — when I’m shooting that, I’m shaking a little," Reyes said after the match.

After exchanging dry breaks and splitting the next four racks, the score was tied at 4-4. Reyes had changed his break-cue shaft while sitting in his chair, next to cornerman Santos Sambajon, and in the next rack, he shot with a slow-medium speed, with only two balls rolling past the side pockets. Morris wasn't daunted by the dense clump, and ran out as fans yelled "Rocket!" "Alriiight!"

He deflated their support with another scratch on the break, and soon the score was tied again, 5-5. Efren broke dry, but Morris was foiled by a trouble ball again, as the 5 was locked up near the side pocket, and he missed the 6 trying to free it up. Reyes had a difficult layout as well, but managed to run out, nudging the ball before the 8 into the daunting black ball to attain perfect position.

At 6-5, Reyes had his first successful break, pocketing one ball. Three balls in, his errant cue ball acted up again, and he looked to the sky for answers as he worked his way through a series of bad lays. Once again, it caught up to him at the 8, and "Bata" botched it again in the corner pocket. Morris played a masterful safe, and Reyes fouled, hitting a stripe before the 8, though he was able to miraculously pocket the 8 and the crowd went berserk!

The score was tied again at 6-6, and a race-to-2 would determine the winner of $500,000. The pressure penetrated Morris' focus, and once again, he scratched on the break. You could see the relief in Reyes, as he masterfully ran out the rack to get on the hill. In the final rack, he rose above his previous breaking problems, and connected perfectly, knocking one in. His one problem ball, the 6, he confidently stroked left-handed, kissing the 13 as it fell into the corner pocket. The crowd could feel the end was near, and the murmurs grew into a frenzy as he pocketed the final 8.

Trudeau came out with a suitcase overflowing with money and a towering trophy. Morris was clearly disappointed in himself, but addressed the crowd with class. “I’m really happy that I’m alive to play for this much money in this event,” he said. Morris will receive $150,000 for second place.

Reyes made a short speech in Tagalog. Afterward, when asked what was most important to him about the win, he said, “Both the money and the title! They’re expecting us to win in our country.”

Surely the beloved "Bata" will return to a packed airport in Manila with fans swelling with national pride.