Efren “Bata” Reyes didn’t even bother to pack away his cue sticks into his leather case. He simply gathered the two wooden tools of his trade in his hand--tools which over a 40 year period have made him a revered legend worldwide--and walked straight out of the brightly lit TV table arena, into the lobby and then out of the Kaohsiung Business Exhibition Center and into the warm dark night of southern Taiwan.
Briefly, this defeated master of all pool stopped to unscrew the sticks, then continued on, completely unnoticed by the few fans and fellow players who were standing outside. Down the sidewalk he went, step after purposeful step, a forlorn and lonely figure, disappearing into the darkness and the sanctuary of a hotel room three blocks away.
This was not the way it was supposed to end. The legend, the master, the man whom nearly all other pool players base their proficiency at not just 9-ball, but all billiard games, was, for all intents and purposes, out of the 2005 World Pool Championship (he was officially ousted the following day).
It’s not just that Efren lost. Nobody wins all the time in 9-ball. The game is too wide open, with too much luck and circumstance involved. And the depth of talent worldwide seems to grow exponentially every year.