CueTips Billiards Instruction – What Would Efren Do?

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

By NYC Grind Contributor, Mark Finkelstein

We have all been fascinated by how great Efren Reyes plays, but I have never seen much written about some of the things that he actually does. I watched 4 or 5 hours of him playing and tried to capture what he does, and some of the great shots he shoots.

The first thing I saw was that Efren visualizes every shot. He never gets down on a shot unless he has a clear picture in his mind as to what he wants to do. He walks over to the next cue ball position, stands looking at the shot and feeling the speed in his arm. When he finally gets down, he is locked in on the shot.

Efren Reyes at the 2012 US Open 9-Ball Championships - Photo by Alison M. Fischer

The next thing I saw was the he gets much closer to the next shot than any of his opponents. We can all learn something from this one! He takes great pains to get just a little be closer to the next shot every time. Brilliant! Being closer makes everything easier, pocketing, position play, and draw.

Efren also doesn’t bump in to balls unless he wants to move them! This is another area that he takes pains with to not hit anything unless he wants to.

The last general comment is that he doesn’t seem to hit many shots very hard. He slides and rolls most of his shots. When he uses spin, he is close enough to the next shot so pocketing the ball isn’t a problem.

Now for some of his creative shots.

First let’s look at a safe. I sure didn’t see this, but it is genius once he did it.

Most players would either try to spin the one in, or go directly at the one to play a safe. Efren went rail first to knock the one behind the balls and get his cue ball up table. He got ball in hand and ran the rack out!

Here is another great shot he took in a money game.

What a great two way shot! With all this traffic, there was no clear path to getting on the two with out hitting another ball and taking a chance. He played a two way shot that didn’t hit anything and got him on the 2, played the 1 towards the pocket, and if it didn’t fall, he left his opponent safe.

Here is a position shot that looks simple, but would you see it?

To make sure that he stayed close to the 9, he chose this neat double the rail shot to get on the 9. Keeping the cue ball on this side of the 9 means he can be closer to the 9 and be able to make an natural bridge rather than possibly being stretched out! Going this route also avoids any possibility of hitting the 10 or the 9 and getting in trouble. Another great shot to learn from.

I want to look at another area that Efren excels at that we can all learn from. He always controls the middle ball in combinations to get position for his next shot. Most players make the combination, but lose the middle ball and in a lot of cases, don’t have another shot. Efren never loses the middle ball! Let’s look at some examples to help us learn how to do this.

In the top of this diagram, he made a soft billiard off the two to pocket the 6. By shooting very softly, he kept the 2 near the pocket so he had position for his next shot. Next is the shot at the bottom left. By shooting a stop shot, he used the 1 to pocket the 3, and then the one rolled so that he had perfect position to pocket it.

Finally in the diagram on the bottom right, for this combination, he followed with the cue ball as the 4 was coming off the long rail toward the opposite corner pocket.

In each case Efren studied the shot, took his time and executed the shot to perfection. What I want you also to notice is how much closer he is to the next shot than everyone else. Being this close really makes doing other things much easier.

So to summarize what I think are the essentials of Efren’s god-like game, visualize, shoot softly, and get close to your next shot. If you add these ideas to your game I’m sure you will like the results.


I have mentioned visualizing shots before, but what I want to do here is give you a practical way to develop this skill.

The first thing that you do is pick the spot where you want your cue ball to end up. This is the arrow head at the end of the wide line. I see I can do that without too much trouble. Now trace the path your cue ball will be taking from where it sits to hitting the one and running two rails to the arrow head. While you are standing there, move your arm to feel the speed that you need. You can even imagine the tick, click, plop sound as the tip hits the cue ball, the cue ball hits the object ball, and then the object ball falls in to the pocket.

Once you have this clear picture in your mind, see the object ball roll down it’s line and fall in the pocket.

Once you can see the shot, then get down and shoot it.

This is what Efren does and I think this is one of the big dividing lines between amateur and professional players. The pros see the shot before they shoot it, the amateurs don’t.

See you on the road.

Mark Finkelstein is the House Pro at Slate Billiards on 21st Street in Manhattan.

If you have questions, or would like to see a particular topic addressed, you can email Mark at

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