MANILA, APRIL 7, 2006 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - Never in the history of the World Pool Championship that it has offered $100,000 to the winner.

A purse this big will surely heat up the action when the prestigious event featuring the world’s top 128 pool players is staged in Manila on Nov. 4-12. The total prize money is $400,000.

It’s the first time that Manila will play host to the tournament that was held in Cardiff, Wales from 1999 up to 2003 before being hosted by Chinese Taipei the last two years.

"This is going to be the mother of all pool tournaments," said Yen Makabenta, chairman of the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines yesterday.

The forthcoming event, which was won by Efren "Bata" Reyes in 1999 and Alex Pagulayan in 2004, was officially launched yesterday at the Champagne Room of the posh Manila Hotel.

Reyes, known as "The Magician" in the world of pool, came with 2002 runner-up Francisco "Django" Bustamante and Filipino hopefuls Antonio Gabica, Gandy Valle and Dennis Orcullo.

Makabenta said he expects at least a dozen Filipinos to qualify for the tournament to be organized by Matchroom Sport, and covered live by ESPN Star Sports.

Ernie Fajardo, the BSCP president, said it’s always been the dream of the local billiards association to host a tournament of this magnitude.

"Therefore, we are committed to make this the best World Pool Championship ever," said Fajardo, joined at the head table by Matchroom’s Luke Riches, ESPN’s Harvey Davis and Makabenta.

Makabenta, who also heads Raya Sports, the local organizing group for the 2006 WPC, said the Philippine International Convention Center looms as the venue for the nine-day competition.

This year’s event, which will bring in former champions Nick Varner, Fong Pang Chao, Mika Immonen, Earl Strickland, Thorsten Hohmann and teenage sensation Wu Chia Ching, will cost at least P75 million to run.

To further spice up the event, it was even suggested that Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino boxing hero and a decent pool player, be given a wild card for the star-studded event.

"But we said no. Because if he loses his next bout, people might blame us. He’s good but I don’t think he should compete at this level," said the BSCP chairman.

The tournament, which has offered around $50,000 to past champions, will be beamed live by ESPN Star Sports to countries like Canada, Hungary, Holland, United Kingdom, Australia, US and of course Asia.

"This is just the beginning," said Makabenta, who hopes to sell the tournament better, if and when the Philippines decides to hold it a second, third or fourth straight time like Cardiff.

"We have the option for a second straight staging here in the Philippines. The first will definitely be a hard sell and we’ll be lucky if we can make a little money. But if we can keep it here then maybe we can start collecting," he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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