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Old 09-21-2006, 09:50 PM
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NH Steve NH Steve is offline
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: New Hampshire
Posts: 8,378

I dug up an old post I wrote after going to the DCC back in 2004:

The best pool I saw was definitely watching Efren Reyes. After watching Efren for quite a few hours over the course of the week, I noticed that he seems to approach the table differently from other players (I’m not always real quick on the uptake). Watching him look over the table when he is getting ready to shoot, he moves around a lot less than most players – often just standing still in one spot for quite a while, then maybe moving to another side of the table and standing there for a while; only rarely, and ever so briefly, does he bend down to take a closer look at anything. I wonder if it isn’t because he ‘thinks’ about the game differently than other players – almost as if while others are thinking hard solely with the cognitive part of their brain, Efren is using whole other parts of his brain to ‘feel’ out his options in his own primal ‘pool language’.

By the way, Efren was being shadowed by a reporter from the NY Times supposedly, supposedly doing some kind of feature on 'The Magician'.

I even had a chance to watch Efren play a little chess with Corey Deuell (with Corey hitting up Efren for a spot of rook -- naturally), and I saw that same kind of focus playing chess as he played out potential moves in his mind, before he made his actual move on the board. No wonder he likes chess – and One Pocket!

One night Efren and Cliff Joyner matched up in a race to eight for a bundle, with Efren giving Cliff 8-7. They battled pretty evenly until about 6-6, when Efren pulled away for the win. Efren made a sweet long cross corner bank with just barely enough legs to reach his pocket for the final ball to close out the set. Naturally even if he had missed, he laid the cue ball right up on the head rail. The shot was something like this:


Here’s an old Efren Reyes story told to me by a player by the name of Willie Flieson from Chicago: “When Efren first came through Chicago, I made a Rotation game with him, and I really thought I had him. If at any time in the game, Efren failed to hit the lowest ball on the table, I won; if at any time I asked Efren what pocket he made any ball, if he couldn’t name the pocket, I won. And, I only had to get 30 points. At that time, I was a pretty good player, but I couldn’t win. Whenever Efren couldn’t hit a ball directly, he wouldn’t kick at it, he’d masse around the balls to hit it. I didn’t have a chance.”

By the way, Efren consistently warmed up with a little casual rotation, and at one point he easily ran off a couple of racks and then walked away for his match without a miss. The consensus opinion seemed to be that the Philipine players did not play either one Pocket or Banks before they invaded over here.

The Chicago players also talked about how Efren wasn’t a great banker when he first came through Chicago – many players were beating him at banks. But after he stayed around a while, he had learned enough that he could hold his own, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Other players talked about how when Efren first came to Philly, the top players were giving him something like 10-8 and beating him, but after just a few days the handicaps reversed, with Efren giving them 10-8.
There was also a description of an entertaining high stakes side show that took place that year:
Of course if you got tired of watching Efren, there were a dozed or so pretty good match ups going on either in the tournament room or the ‘practice room’ at all hours of the day or night (and I do mean all hours). The most entertaining ‘action’ that I saw was the after hours match up between up and coming young women player Rachel Abbink and big time gambler John Mataya.

It started in the practice room (aka ‘action room’) with Grady appearing to back Rachel against Mataya in One Pocket for a little something a game. Strictly no coaching was allowed for either player, and Rachel claimed not to know how to play One Pocket – in fact she certainly demonstrated shooting the wrong shot many times. Mataya looked like he had a better understanding of One Pocket, but was fully capable of missing even the easiest of shots – simply not that strong a player. Rachel on the other hand, looks like one of the real up and coming straight shooters of the women’s regional tours, and apparently she’s been known to gamble a little bit. (Rumor has it that she was the girlfriend of Larry Neville for a while – which of course could acquaint her with just a little One Pocket.)

Diana Hoppe photo from AZBilliards

This went on for a while with a few guys getting into side action. Grady got a little tense about all the side action cutting into his own angle with Rachel – and rightfully so – it was certainly more than a little over the top…

Grady had to leave the room for one game, and let ‘Teddy the Greek’ from Detroit take over with Rachel. Rachel won the last game, but then as the woofing picked up Teddy musta got a bit distracted, ‘cuz he got a little unclear on whether or not they never got paid for the last game. Then there was talk of Rachel giving Mataya a small spot, then for a bit it looked like it was all over, but…

But then all of a sudden Mataya’s machismo seemed to kick in and the bet suddenly shot up, with Grady and Rachel putting up significantly more cash at 7-5 on the money but playing Mataya even in the ball count in race to four games. (Now all of this took nearly an hour to play out, mind you, and the entertainment quality of the woofing and arguing and negotiating was pretty incredible – I’m sorry, you really had to be there.) Mataya egged on all the sweaters to put their money up, but they’ve ‘gotta bet something’. Anyone who wanted to get in on the action had to put up a pretty substantial minimum – yet sweaters were falling all over each other to rush to get in on the action, putting up quite a bit at a whack – money was dropping from everywhere onto the table, got fanned out and counted, then noted on a piece of paper and then fanned out and counted and more, and more. Mataya had on those deep pocketed style trousers with a rather large stack of bills and just kept peeling them off to all takers. Absolutely nobody wanted to ‘bet on the guy’ – Even after Mataya was done covering everything, newcomers still rushed into the room waving money shouting ‘anybody like the guy’ in a desperate bid to get in on the action. Famed backer and high roller Harry Plattis drew Mataya aside for a little quiet consultation and…and…maybe a piece of the action or whatever… George Middleditch did a great job keeping all the potential flare-ups on the civil side and keeping the whole scene flowing along… Teddy the Greek counted the money quite a few times to figure out if he got paid for the one game when Grady had stepped out of the room.

Apparently the guys from the BCn got tipped to what was happening because after the first game of the set, Grady asked all the principles and the 50-100 sweators if they’d be agreeable to move to the TV table and go liveon the internet. With the party’s agreement, all of a sudden the whole crowd surged out of the little ‘practice room’ and down the long vendor’s hall toward the tournament room and the TV bleachers. As the crowd rushed down the hallway they gathered more sweaters from the innocent bystanders that they passed -- wondering what all the excitement was about, and getting swept right along. By the time the crowd reached the bleachers it was easily a couple of hundred strong!

Rachel took her place under the lights right away, but John had to make a little detour up to his room to change into his full regalia – sporty red sweater and huge gold cross hanging from a chain around his neck. John’s brother Jim ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ Mataya took a ringside seat in the tv table ‘pit’, hollering to anyone who would listen about how he hasn’t played pool for thirty years and everyone is still afraid of him. Of course when five or ten guys in the bleachers jumped up to challenge him, he’d say ‘ya gotta shoot with the limb’, meaning one handed, or ‘you gonna go dig up Mosconi or Ralph Greenleaf to play me, I havent’ shot since the Civil War’…and on and on…) He was only allowed to talk during his brother’s innings – so he took full advantage when he could

Harry Plattis and Bert Kinnister took over the Accu-Stats booth (Could you guys who signed up for the BCn hear their commentary? We couldn’t in the tourney room, and I would have loved to hear them – they clearly were having a good time up there.)

After Rachel won the first game, John came alive and won the next two, and all the side action sweaters sure did appear to start to seriously sweat as it looked like John was coming off the stall. Grady – who acted as both the MC and ref for the big race to four games – was trying real hard not to break the no coaching rule as it became pretty apparent that Rachel wasn’t too sure of herself at A Pocket Apiece. Some of the sweaters were having an even harder time keeping their mouths shut, although they had considerably less into the game than Grady did.

And then… and then… I crashed.
Like I said, you had to be there…and you’re really cheating yourself if you don’t go some year yourself…

(Apparently Rachel came back to win the big set later that morning – myself, I had a plane to catch) Post script – John Mataya must have had enough excitement himself, too, since I spotted him in the airport the next day…
"One Pocket, it's an epidemic and there ain't no cure."
-- Strawberry Brooks
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