“Giant-Killer” Luat Ousts Reyes

Rodolfo Luat

Veteran Rodolfo "Boy Samson" Luat emerged as the giant-killer in the Hope P1 million All-Filipino Billiards Open with rousing back-to-back wins over Warren Kiamco and Efren "Bata" Reyes and was set to meet the loser of a crucial showdown between Antonio "Ga-Ga" Gabica and Asian Games gold medallist Lee Van Corteza at the television studios of IBC 13 late last night.

In another classic duel of two of the superstars of international pool, former World No. 1 Francisco "Django" Bustamante was scheduled to battle reigning World Pool Champion Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan with the loser facing Gandy Valle in a knockout match in the losers bracket.

Luat who has always remained in the shadows of his more illustrious countrymen Reyes and Bustamante on the international circuit played some of his best pool so far to whip Kiamco, three-time runner-up in the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour last year before scoring a shockingly easy 9-5 win over Reyes in a match where the magic appeared to have deserted last year's top money winner and a favorite around the world. While everything appeared to be going for Luat, Reyes who won three legs of the San Miguel Asian Tour last year, in contrast, couldn't make his shots and bowed out of the tournament after earlier routing Edgar Acaba 9-2.

After Reyes lost the lag to Luat, Reyes blinked early and allowed Luat to take the first two racks. But "The Magician" battled back gamely to take the next two racks to even the count at 2-2 and traded runouts with Luat in the next two racks. Reyes blew a chance to grab the lead after Luat came up empty on his break in the seventh frame but to the horror of the fans Reyes' shot on the 3-ball saw it rattle out of the pocket enabling Luat to clean up to go ahead 4-3.

Luat then virtually stole a rack on Reyes' break and held on to his own to move comfortably ahead 6-3 before Luat eventually sealed the deal with a 1-9 combo on the 14th rack after Reyes got nothing from his final break in the tournament sponsored by Hope and Talk N' Text.

Valle, a gold medallist in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok scored a pulsating 9-8 win over Joven Alba and then beat youngster "Jeff Bata" De Luna 9-7. De Luna, like his hero "Bata" Reyes had an off night as he scratched three times on the break to virtually hand the match to Valle on a silver platter in the alternate break format. Valle will meet the loser of the Bustamante-Pagulayan showdown in another crucial losers bracket match.

The tournament sanctioned by the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines headed by its president Ernesto Fajardo is being staged in cooperation with respected businessman-sportsman Aristeo "Putch" Puyat, the recognized "Godfather" of Philippine pool and Marc Roces, president of Jemah Television. The two best finishers in the tournament outside of seeded players Reyes, Bustamante, Pagulayan and Le Van Corteza will be given slots in this year's San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour which opens in Singapore on March 4.