The Efren Reyes Cup is a Great Idea. Here’s How to Make It Better.

The Reyes Cup, set to debut in October, will be the biggest pool event in the Philippines in a long time.

The local billiards scene was abuzz with excitement a few days ago when Matchroom Sports announced the inaugural running of the Efren Reyes Cup from October 17 to 20 later this year. The team event will be held in Manila.

We have been starved of big-pocket billiards events for quite some time now. In the 00s two world championships were held here, with Ronnie Alcano downing Ralf Souquet to capture the title in 2006 at the PICC.

The World Cup of Pool was also staged here four years in a row from 2009 and 2012, and Reyes and Francisco Bustamante won it in that first year, defeating Germany in the final.

And who can forget Bingkay Amit winning the Women’s World 10 ball crown in SM North EDSA in 2009 then triumphing again in 2013 in Resorts World.

Of course, there were also several other big events staged here by Puyat Sports and Solar Sports back in the day. The San Miguel Asian 9 ball tour also held tour stops in the Philippines. The men’s world 10 ball was also held here four times, with Manny Pacquiao bringing it to Gensan in 2015.

Almost all of these events attracted plenty of media attention. In the days before streaming and social media, cable TV was huge, and I got the feeling that there were millions of eyeballs trained on these spectacles involving Filipino greats of the game. Whether the events were in malls or stadiums, the fans came out to watch.

Then the Men’s World 9 Ball moved to Qatar for a spell, while the World Cup was mainly played in Europe. The women’s world 10 ball was not contested from 2014 to 2021. Last year Chezka Centeno won.

It’s been very quiet when it comes to big international competitions in pocket billiards over the last few years. Last year Sharks Billiards brought in a world ranking event in their purpose-built arena in QC. But that theater is designed more as a streaming venue and not for big crowds.

We have certainly missed these pool tournaments, but somehow the game is once again on the upswing in our country. Chezka Centeno won her first world title in Austria last year, Dodong Aranas and Johann Chua became the third different Pinoy pairing to lift the World Cup of Pool, and an exciting new generation of shooters, I’m referring to AJ Manas, Benok Regalario, and others, are on the rise.

Plus, the sport is flourishing in the recreational sphere as well. Numerous billiard halls have popped up all over Metro Manila. I have personally reviewed several of them in Makati and Quezon City. They tend to be jam-packed with young players. One even just opened its doors in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

So the timing of the Reyes Cup is perfect. It’s an event that can turbocharge the sport going forward. But what is it?

According to their press release, it’s a team event, patterned after the USA vs Europe Mosconi Cup. Only this time it’s Europe against a united Asian team.

This won’t be the first time something of this nature has taken place in the Philippines. In 2015 Dragon Promotions, the company led by pool pro-turned-promoter Charlie Williams held the King’s Cup in Resorts World. An East team featuring Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, and the Ko brothers, Ko Pin Yi and Ko Ping Chung, narrowly lost to a West team composed of American Shane Van Boening, and Euros Darren Appleton, Albin Ouschan, and Mika Immonen.

Only this time it’s Europe vs Asia. And that is a fair contest. Europe has had a well-organized Dynamic Billiard Euro Tour since 1992, with the competition producing world-class players like Germany’s Josh Filler, Eklent Kaci of Albania, and Francisco Sanchez Ruiz of Spain. Europe appears to be in better shape than the United States, which has a disjointed tournament scene. Van Boening is probably still the best American player now. Europe has won twelve of the last fourteen Mosconi Cups.

So this will definitely be a close battle, with the Asia team featuring top Pinoy talent infused with the best from Taiwan. Another player who will likely feature is Singaporean Aloysius Yapp, a prodigiously skilled shooter who finished runner-up to Carlo Biado in the US Open 9 ball in 2021.

The Reyes Cup will be fun, but I wonder about team spirit and cohesion. I really can’t say if the Taiwanese and Filipino teams will gel because they literally don’t even speak the same language. Meanwhile, the Euros have a bond forged in battle against the Yanks in the Mosconi Cup.

But more importantly, part of me still yearns for a team match that could be the spiciest of them all: Philippines vs Taiwan.

It’s amazing how two nations separated by a two-hour flight both became world powers in the sport, in diametrically different ways.

If we were to compare pool to football, Taiwan is Germany and the Philippines is Brazil. Taiwanese poolrooms tend to have tight pockets, hence the almost snooker-like technique of many of their players. It’s a style that favors precision, accuracy, and potting prowess.

But for me, Filipino pool is about flair, creativity, and flamboyance. We have looser pockets on our tables here, which encourages us to go for the outrageous shots, like the caroms, combos, kisses, and the like. Shots that require intense spin and the use of three or four rails when others would use only one. Pinoy shooters are also known for the loosey-goosey grip that Bustamante is the best example of.

Styles make fights, and this could be a great one. Both Taiwan and the Philippines are proud billiard nations. Their fans surely think their country is number one. But the only way to find out is with a proper Mosconi-style team competition pitting the best of theirs against the finest Pinoy shooters. Make it over two weekends, home and away. Imagine the raucous atmosphere and the drama of a nation’s expectations on every shot.

I would love it if a Taiwan vs Philippines team event would be held every year. Name it the Gonzalo Puyat Cup, and name the MVP award after Yang Chin Shun, the brilliant Taiwanese cueist who tragically died of cancer last December. The winner of this event then challenges Europe in the Reyes Cup. Yeah, it might be odd if there were no Filipinos playing in the Reyes Cup, but I could live with that.

With apologies to Yapp and the other non-Taiwanese and non-Pinoy players, a battle for bragging rights over the body of water surrounding Batanes is more compelling than a united Asian side.

Maybe it’s just my wishful thinking. But a fan can dream. Meanwhile, I cannot wait until October 17 comes around and the Reyes Cup becomes a reality. And the drought of big-time pool events in the Philippines will finally be over.

Banner image from Bob Guerrero.

First-ever Reyes Cup slated for October in Manila

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