Thursday, July 23, 2009

Very Early Efren Reyes

I was just flipping through my old pool books the other day, trying to track down a bit of info for a column, when I rediscovered this interesting passage in John Grissim's book, Billiards. Grissim describes an encounter he had during the mid-1970s with a player from the Philippines. At the time, this player -- who went by the nickname "Bata" -- was wholly unknown outside that country. Grissim was traveling around Asia when he came across the then 20-something-year-old kid in a Manilla pool hall.

"I allowed myself to be steered into the money game, an in-and out affair in which the starting bet was 21 pesos, about three dollars," explained Grissim. "My opponent, a good looking kid named Efren Reyes, was taking some ribbing from friends as he chalked up.... As a score of spectators crowded around Efren broke the balls, leaving an open table but only one decent shot, barely -- those old five by tens are big tables. That was all she wrote. The kid ran out. Efren had the smooth motions and subtle touch that charaterize excellent players everywhere, regardless of age."

Reyes, of course, later gained a reputation as one of the very best players in the world. Grissim's quick pool match occurred about a decade before Reyes first came to the United States under an assumed name.

One other note. In his description of his quick eight-ball match, Grissim describes a variation of the game in which he and Reyes were required to pocket the one and the 15 into the side pockets. This variation is common in Latin America. It's called "jugando con la zona." I played this way many times when I lived in Costa Rica. It raises questions as to how this variation spread to the Philippines, which also has Spanish colonial roots.


Gabe J said...

Met a guy from Sicily a couple months back during a dinner in Siena, Italy. He said that in Sicily there is a popular variant called "Shanghai", which is like 8-ball except the money ball is the 1, and the 8 and the 15 have to be made in opposite side pockets. I've tried it a couple times, and it does change the strategy a lot because the choice of color (still stripes or solids - 2 through 8 and 9 through 15) depends heavily on the positions of the 8 and the 15 - if you can make the 15 easily into one of the side pockets, your opponent will have to make his 8 into the opposite side which could be quite demanding! I wonder if these variants are related to the one you mention here?

Anonymous said...

Well, the "Shanghai" variant is played in Sicily (and now in all Italy) on a table with very tiny pockets. The pocket is about half the size of a regular pool table pocket. The size of the shanghai pocket is slightly bigger than the ball.
It's a very huge difference..