Reyes Reigns in Galveston

Efren Reyes (Photo Courtesy Dave Thomson - Medium Pool)

Just after 1 a.m. on Friday morning, September 18, Efren Reyes stood in front of  cameras and a microphone held by the Galveston Classic's tour director, Ken Shuman, and explained that yes, he was very happy to have won the match that earned him the title of the Classic's first One-Pocket Champion.

“Well, you know, I feel good now, because I win,” he emphasized. “but you know before, I got a lot of pressure.”

It was pressure that was felt in the room, where about 150 spectators watched and gasped and applauded. It was shared by members of an audience of over 1,700 viewers of the UStream broadcast, who kept typing “Wow!” While the nature of the one-pocket game can often make spectating akin to (as one UStream contributor noted) “watching paint dry,” the final game of this Galveston Classic One-Pocket tournament, was as riveting a game of pool as you're ever likely to see.

On Tuesday, Reyes had been delivered to the west bracket's semifinal match by Shannon Daulton, who'd started the tournament with two come-from-behind wins and hadn't given up a single game since his second round, 3-2 victory over Shane Van Boening. Daulton got into the hot seat with a 3-1 victory over Reyes, and though he later expressed a great deal of respect for Reyes' opponent in the semifinals – Cliff Joyner – he fully expected that it'd be Reyes coming back at him.

Two days went by, during which a certain amount of heat was applied to the ‘water' of anticipation. More was added, as Reyes dropped Joyner into third place without losing a game early on Thursday evening. By the time Daulton and Reyes stepped to the table for the final match, the pressure was boiling the ‘water.'

It was a true double elimination format, so if Reyes wanted that first-place, $15,000 check, he was going to have to defeat Daulton twice. Fast forward through an opening set, as Reyes forces a second set, giving up only a single game. Reyes opened the deciding match by scratching on the break and though he'd do it again in that opening game and allow Daulton to sink the first three balls, he came back to win the opener with an 8-2 ball win. In a 7-minute second game, Reyes took only 10 shots, sinking eight of them to go up 2-0.

In game three, the longest of the second set (25 minutes), with Reyes breaking, Daulton took an early 5-0 lead off of his first six shots. He'd sink only one more, as Reyes clawed his way back to within one at 6-5. Reyes got a look at his first potential $15,000 winning shot in that game, but when he missed it, Daulton sunk his eighth and lived to fight another day.

Daulton started to bear down in the fourth game, taking only 15 shots to sink his eight. Reyes, who sank only two balls in 10 trips to the table, never got a look at a match-winning shot and it was hill-hill.

“It's only fitting,” said tour director, Ken Shuman, moments before the start of the final game, “that it all boil down to this.”

For the first time in either set, Reyes changed his chosen one-pocket on the final break. It worked for him, apparently, because after Daulton took his first shot in that deciding game, Reyes ran four in a row. Daulton came right back and sank three. Eight trips (four each) to the table later, Reyes made it 5-3, but Daulton stepped up and sunk three in a row that put him out in front 6-5. His shot at the next ball, however, landed into a knot of three of them in front of Reyes' pocket. The cue ball kicked backwards, leaving Reyes a clean shot at one ball and with pinpoint control of the cue, gave him position to sink the next two, including what turned out to be only his second shot at the $15,000 winning ball.

“I played as good as I possibly could,” said Daulton in a post-match interview with Shuman. “Looking back, even in that last shot I played, I played position and it was as much as millimeter, twice, that cost me the tournament.”