In the game of pool, nobody holds a cue stick better than the Filipinos. They live on the felt table like fish to water. They’re the best naturally- gifted pool players in the world hands- down.
This rag-tag group of men has put the Philippines in the sports' world map with nary a support from credit- grabbing politicos that our country is notorious for. Credit should go to the Puyat Brothers, Putch and Aristeo for having the faith in them early on when they realized the potentials of these “hustlers” in the cigarette-smoked filled local circuit and introduced them to the world that quickly embraced their “new” and exciting brand of pool play and thus, paved the way for others to follow.
Efren “Bata” Reyes, Francisco “Django” Bustamante, Jose “Amang” Parica, Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan, Marlon “Marvelous” Manalo, Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat, Leonardo “Rattlesnake” Andam, Dennis “Surigao” Orcollo, Lee Van Corteza, Ramil “Bebeng” Gallego, Santos Sambajon, Jr., Warren Kiamco, Antonio “Nikoy” Lining, Antonio "Gaga" Gabica and Ronnie “Calamba” Alcano ---
--They are some of the biggest names in the world of pool today.
Billiards is a game of concentration and calculations. It is an art form that can be seen in the way each player wields the cue stick and the grace of their stroke. It involves math and physics with accuracy, power and luck on the side.
To a pool player the adrenaline rush you derive from breaking the balls during the “sargo” can be likened to a cataclysmic orgasm and the serenity one feels while pocketing those colored balls can be Zen-like. No wonder, Filipinos love the game so much and nobody in the world can surpass the passion that they derive from playing pool.
Once upon a time, billiards in the Philippines did not have the same glitter as it is now today. It used to be the domain of shady characters, of drunks and gamblers, of the “estambays” and “basaguleros” as well as wayward students cutting classes from school.
I remember some of my friends in high school who would get the rap from their parents from playing billiards while skipping school and many of my friends nevertheless, endured the pain of the rod for the love of the cue stick and the thrilling affair with the felt table. I was never a good pool player and will never be. I was only there to watch my friends play and bet on the side once in a while.
These wet-behind -the -ears players trying and playing to look like the grown- up hustlers that they aspire to always elicited a laugh in my heart whenever I remember those good old days. It was a rite of passage for the most of us and that was before we went our separate ways after high school and took very different paths in life.
It was cheap then, just 75 cents a game and you can play the Filipino billiards’ staple in those days --the 15 ball- rotation and “karambola”; 9- ball oddly is unheard of then until the Magician wielded his magic in Cardiff, Wales in 1999 and pool playing is never the same again in the Philippines.
Today, the Filipino pool masters are the biggest draws whenever and wherever they compete; in the lucrative US Circuit, in pool-crazy Europe or their stamping ground which is Asia. They strike fears into the hearts of their opponents and they’re cool under pressure. They make shots that defy logic and make the casual observer literally and figuratively scratch his head in amazement!
For most pool players, beating a Filipino player in a tournament is an achievement in itself; it is the yardstick for every billiard players worth his/ her cue to say the least.
This year alone, Filipino pool players lead the way in money earnings among the pool sharks and they've won almost every major tournament in the world that they entered into to further cement their status as the best pool players in the world.
Here are some of the major tournaments won by Pinoy Pool Players this year.
World Pool Championships- Ronato Alcano
PartyPoker.com World Cup of Pool- Team Philippines (Reyes & Bustamante)
World Pool League Championships- Dennis Orcollo
IPT North American 8- Ball Championships- Efren “Bata” Reyes
IPT World Open 8-Ball Championships- Efren “Bata” Reyes.
San Miguel Asian 9- Ball Tour- Efren “Bata” Reyes
Bali 9- Ball Open- Francisco “Django” Bustamante
All Japan Championships - Lee Van Corteza
Asian Games 9- Ball Championships- Antonio "Gaga" Gabica