Legends’ night

Django and Efren played the game the way they do at the pool table.

They have met several times at the pool table, hoping to settle once and for all who between them is better in their chosen sport.

But billiard legends Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante, dismiss such rivalry hyped up by fans, becoming the best of friends instead on and off the felt table. They have nothing more to prove, after all, having beaten the best cue artists in the world individually and in tandem with each other.

For the two of them, there’s no other player they are afraid to face than each other.

Better known as “The Magician”, Reyes is a legend who has dominated pool tables for over 40 years since his very first professional win back in 1978. He is also a huge reason why the pool is so popular in the Philippines.

Reyes became a household name in 1994 when he won his first and surprisingly, his only Open 9 Ball Championship. He beat American great Nick Varner by a score of 9 to 6. Including this event, Reyes went on a run for the ages for four straight years, reaching the finals from 1994 through 1997.

He won the World Pool League 9-ball event two straight years, in 2001 and 2002. He also captured the inaugural World 8-Ball Championship in 2004, further solidifying himself as one of the best players in the world.

Last Tuesday, the two pool tacticians met each other again after a long while. That time, however, they were not brandishing cue sticks. They were instead holding play chips and peering through game cards.

In what was billed as Legends’ Night, Masters Poker presented the two icons in a whole new light. They were joining a celebrity poker invitational considered a coup for the highly popular poker venue in Malate bent on producing poker talents that could beat the best of ém in the world.

Gio Palacios, head of marketing of Masters Poker put it succinctly when he said Filipinos could be world beaters in this emerging mind sport. Django and Efren ‘Bata’ are two role models for the patience and perseverance needed to excel in poker.

Along with four other celebrity players, Efren and Django joined Gio and yours truly in a battle royale of sorts streamed live to an online audience. There was Patty Tiu, a video jockey whose body tattoos and facility with the English language have become a trademark in the poker circles. There was Jaimie Laciste, an influencer; John Pantanilla, a bodybuilder; and Jap Regala, a budding entrepreneur.
Sandra, a professional model, and Masters Poker regular also joined the fun.

Together, they engaged in table talk and battled wits on who could muster enough chips at the end of nearly six hours of grind. Patty was her usual bubbly self, creating most of the action, and wound up with possibly the most number of chips at the end of the play.

Django and Efren played the game the way they do at the pool table. Efren was the more cautious player, analyzing every situation and striking only when he has the goods. Django did it the razzle-dazzle way with his flair for highlight plays. He did end up with the second number of chips.

Gio, as host, had a hard time creating action, often egging yours truly to straddle, a poker term that would allow you to steal the option of raising from the big blind. Being the player next to me, he had the advantage of putting us out of play most of the time. If only he knew, we have never limped that many hands before, resulting in big chip losses for the affable host.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon, or shall we say a tough but rewinding grind for all of us invited guests. The food was great, the promo girls a refreshing sight, and enjoying your favorite game in the company of two legends.

What a night!

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