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Billiards in the Philippines

On cue: Banking on billiards in the Philippines

We’ve all played billiards before. And whether you admit it or not, we’ve all pretended to be pros at it. Yet most of us forget that we actually do have pros for this sport—and highly successful ones at that.

Having said that, one name might have popped into your head: Efren “Bata” Reyes. Also known as The Magician, he has over 100 professional titles. Many pool aficionados consider him one of the greatest pool players of all time. And, he hasn’t even stopped. 

Just last May, he earned yet another medal in the Southeast Asian Games. And even though this was only one bronze medal, he was treated like the celebrity he is as he played in front of thousands of people in Vietnam in the men’s 1-cushion carom event.

While Reyes is undoubtedly one of the most well-known athletes in the country (and across the world), perhaps a little less acknowledged is how successful the Philippines as a whole has been in this sport.

In the pocket
The Philippines' billiards medals and titles from 2012 to 2022.

The Philippines is a dominant force in Southeast Asia for billiards (referred to in tournaments as Billiards and Snooker). In the Southeast Asian Games, our athletes have consistently been making it to the podium. In total, the Philippines has the most medals for the sport in the tournament.

Across the world, on the other hand, we may not be as dominant as we are in the region. But, we do put up a fight, especially at one of the highest levels: the U.S. Open Pool Championship. The U.S. Open Title is one of the most coveted titles in the sport, making this one of the biggest tournaments. 

In the U.S. Open Pool Championship’s history, the Philippines’ athletes have made it to the finals on 13 occasions, four of those being in the last 10 years. 

You’d probably guess that Efren “Bata” Reyes probably has a lot to do with this, and you would be right. He is currently the only Filipino player to have made it to the finals four times. But, he is not the only player who has made their mark on the international pool scene. 

Pool pros

The only other Filipino athlete to earn a gold medal at the U.S. Open Pool Championship is Carlo Biado. This was his first finals appearance in the tournament.

On top of this, he also has three gold, two silver, and two bronze medals from the SEA Games. Even at the age of 38, Biado’s presence is that of an ingenue just about to hit his peak. 

Another athlete who deserves more hype is Rubilen Amit. She holds 10 gold and six silver medals from the Southeast Asian Games alone, and as impressive as this already is, she even made history outside the region. 

In 2009 and 2013, she won the crown as champion of the WPA Women’s World Nine-ball Championship, making her the first Filipino woman to win a world title in the sport. 

And there are several notable athletes who have also been a huge part in making billiards one of the country’s most successful sports: Lee Vann Corteza, Dennis Orcollo, and Jose Parica to name just a few more.

What’s next?

If you just missed out on the 2021 SEA Games billiards events but still wanna watch some pool action, you’re in luck.

This year, Carlo Biado will be competing in the 2022 World Games. The World Games is an international multi-sport event held by the International Olympic Committee specifically for sports not included in the Olympic Games. This means that it is a huge deal for Carlo Biado, and a chance to win another gold medal at this event.

While for many billiards may just be a bar activity, as a professional sport, our athletes truly thrive.