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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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June: it’s been a magical ride
June 2018

Maybe I missed one, but to my recollection, this is the first official “retirement tour” in pool history.

Pool players tend to do one of two things: They up and quit the game, or they just play in fewer and fewer tournaments until they just stop playing altogether. Mike Sigel did the former. Legends like Nick Varner and Buddy Hall did the latter.

But a full-fledged “retirement tour?”

Actually, it’s a pretty cool idea, particularly when the retiree is from a far-away land and, once he’s “retired,” we will likely never see him here again.

And so the soft-spoken foreigner who had perhaps the biggest impact on the sport over the past 30-plus years is, allegedly, taking his final bows. Players who draw him on his final tournament swing are taking selfies with him and posting about “having the honor” of playing him one more time.

Welcome to the Efren Reyes Retirement Tour.

Traveling with longtime friend Rolando Vincente, Reyes, now 63, recently embarked on what he insists will be his final tournament tour in the U.S. After taking fifth at the first Asian Culture Day Pool Tournament in Las Vegas, at which he was also honored by the Asian Culture Alliance with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Reyes played one-pocket and 9-ball in New Orleans and, finally, the 8-Ball Classic in Duluth, Minn. From Minnesota, Reyes is scheduled to return to the Philippines, where he will hang up his competitive cue for good. (Personally, I’m just a shade skeptical. Pool players, like boxers, always seem to come back for more after they’ve insisted their careers are over. We’ll see.)

The nice thing about a formal retirement tour, however, is that it offers an opportunity to properly pay tribute. I think back to the farewell tours of sports greats like baseball star Derek Jeter and basketball legend Kobe Bryant. (Hopefully, the tournament promoters and fellow players won’t be sending him back to Manila with cliché parting gifts, like a rocking chair!) And if there is a player in pool who deserves to be feted this way, it is Reyes.

Since arriving on the international pool scene in 1985, when he barnstormed the U.S. and embarrassed every American player he faced while winning the Red’s 9-Ball Classic in Houston under the name “Cesar Morales,” Reyes has dazzled the pool world like few before him and no one since. He introduced us to a style never before seen at the table. Using the knowledge and skills he acquired playing 3-cushion billiards as a child, Reyes left fans oohing and aahing, and opponents scratching their heads at his ability to easily escape traps and hooks. There is virtually no argument that Reyes’ crafty and precise kicking changed the game.

At the core of Reyes’ creativity at the table is his brilliant mind. Make no mistake; Efren Reyes may not have a formal education, but he is as smart as they come. His skills on a chessboard are well documented. And his love of challenges led to his conquering of virtually every game he encountered. Coming from a 3-cushion and rotation background, Reyes had never even heard of one-pocket before coming to the U.S. Sparring in Chicago with the likes of Leonard “Bugs” Rucker and Freddy “The Beard” Bentivegna, Reyes quickly went from student to master. Today, Reyes is considered by many to be one of the best — if not best — one-pocket players of all time.

Reyes’ best skill, however, was his ability to play his best when the top prize included many zeroes. On at least four occasions, Reyes captured what was at the time the largest first prize in pool history.

But one of the most amazing records on Reyes’ resume is his 34-year streak of not having a single enemy. The pool world has hoards of well-liked players, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen a player as universally loved as “Bata,” a name (Tagalog for “Kid”) he earned as a young player.

How did he earn that kind of admiration and respect? Humility, for one. Reyes never once showed up an opponent or moaned about a loss. And when he won, he usually seemed almost apologetic. He always tapped his heart, as if to say the nerves almost got the better of him. Either way, he always flashed that sheepish little smile of his.

I also think Reyes consciously spoke infrequently and usually in short sentences. After 35 years of traveling to the U.S., I’m pretty sure his understanding of English is a lot better than he lets on. But he knows that his cue does most of his talking for him, and that less is more when it comes to words.

While some players look for other ways to make money, and others play again because they run out of money, I don’t expect Reyes to fall into either category. Not only has he won many millions of dollars over his long career, but I don’t suspect he requires a lot to meet the demands of his lifestyle. He never struck me as a slave to fashion or material goods.

One thing is for sure: The pool world will miss Efren Reyes. He has always been must-see when he was in a tournament because fans always knew they would witness a shot or move they’d never seen before.

I know I will miss him. He made the game a joy to watch and he was a joy to

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