Anthony Beeler is a no-nonsense billiards player, tactician of the pool table, and pool instructor of the highest caliber, providing lessons from his home and on the internet. He plays the game the way it should be played, with beauty, grace, and a simple elegance that sets him apart — moving around the table as an artist does on the white canvas — his cue is his brush, and the table is his canvas.
He began his journey in the game at the young age of 12 or 13 in the small Kentucky town of Jacktown. That’s where he began a trial of fire in which he came out bronzed, not burned, but rather rose through the ranks like a prize fighter rising to the top.
As I begin my interview with him, I notice his cultured, country accent; it makes me think of a southern gentleman.
He has a calm, easy-going demeanor that soothes me like a good Cabernet (although I don’t drink anymore; haven’t for over a year now.) I get the sense that he lives by a code few do these days, and would be a great friend to any lucky enough to earn his friendship.
Beeler tells me of his introduction into the game: “Well, I started when I was around 12 or 13 years old, and there was a little, country grocery store that was near my home and they had two pool tables in there. And living out in the country, that was kinda the community activity on the weekends, where all the farmers and the local crowd would gather, and there would be a big pool tournament that they would have. We’d have forty or fifty players; And when I was first wanting to play, you would draw for a partner, and you’d draw a name out of the hat, and that’s how you got your partner, and I took a little liking to the game. I didn’t play very well at that time, but eventually I got to be one of the better players in the tournament and started winning the tournament pretty regularly with, you know, different partners that I would draw, and some of my friends told me that I was reaching a pretty high level, and I need to start going to Lancaster, Kentucky… I started going there and playing at JR’s poolroom. So, I started doing that, and there were some really high level players up there, and I didn’t win for a long, long time — a lot of semi-pro caliber players, you know, that were playing on Friday nights, and they’d have like fifty to sixty players in their tournament, and sometimes they’d have over one hundred players, but I got to where I was winning that sometimes… Come to find out, a lot of the better players in the state of Kentucky were playing in that tournament, you know, at that time. We had a lot of great players living in the state.” He says they had players like Nick Varner, Buddy Hall, Earl “The Pearl” Strickland and Keith McCready living in the state at that time. He says that he remembers watching McCready run out 9-Ball racks on a snooker table at “warp speed”.
Amazing! I feel like I’ve just taken a relaxed ferry ride across the Suwannee, and traversed the divide to another realm, one where pool balls drop in pockets, center mass. And I feel that I must take his pool instruction or lose the opportunity of a billiards aficionados lifetime.
So, that’s exactly what I do. I get online and begin his billiards course and am forever changed as a pool player — forever altered like the indelible ink I write my words with on paper to any who would listen — he takes you on a journey of step-by-step instruction, counting out the pantomime: 1, 2, 3, 4.
If you’re smart, you will listen to the chorus, as it reverberates like a bass drum, setting out a tune — a melody if you will — of the essence and heart of the foundation needed to be a true billiards champion. His instruction, I believe, can help pool players at any level of the game.
Beeler says that it was 1999 that he felt his game clicked and he took it to another level. “Well, it was 1999. That’s whenever I started playing really well. I’ve kept track of my whole history. I can tell you every pool tournament I’ve ever won. I keep all the information, who I played against, and different things. It’s just a thing that I do.
I monitor my progress, you know, how well I’ve been playing, what year, how many tournaments I’ve won, and lots of different things, but in 1999 I won 62 pool tournaments that year. And of course there’s only 52 weeks in a year, but I was playing really good that year, and that’s when I started playing at a ‘different level’ I guess you’d say.”
He was just 23 at that time. He said pool was really big in Kentucky at that time, and that “you could go and play in two or three tournaments a week if you wanted to, and I had a really successful year that year. But I think it was 2004 that I began playing better than that. I beat several pro players in 2004.”
He tells me he won the Lancaster tournament ten times. He says that the two different pool halls that held that event have since closed down, but that he’s also won events held at the Rack & Cue in Campbellsville, KY — which is still in operation.
“I’ve won 11 of their tournaments,” he says of the Rack & Cue — where the state 9-Ball tournaments are held. “Every good player in the state of Kentucky goes to play at the Rack & Cue,” he tells me.
Anyone interested in taking instruction from Beeler can go to his website to gain access to his course. He says that on his site people can review his credentials and the pro players he’s beaten. “I’ve got four top 25 national finishes,” he tells me.
He’s read quite a few books in the game of pool, and tells me that in 2004 he studied the mechanics of pool, how to integrate them into his game, and became interested in that kind of thing.
“There’s very few instructors in the world, and you got all these people that are wanting to learn how to play the game, and so I thought, ‘You know what? I’ve got a background in teaching — I’ve worked as an educator, well it’s going on sixteen years now’,” he says — working in K12 education, “I love to play pool, and I love to work and teach people things, so I thought ‘Why not teach people how to play pool?’ ’”
He also gives one-on-one instruction from his house, but says that he created the virtual billiards academy because he realized that many couldn’t make the trip to his house to get that personal touch
“So that, people that want to take my class — they can do it over the internet from the comfort of their own home, and they can still get the same information that someone that would come to my house to take the lessons would get. They get the same class over the internet, and they can do it whenever they want to. If they want to log in and work on the lessons at 3AM, then they can do that,” says Beeler.
He has many different rates to accommodate any pocketbook. He also has his students video themselves playing and then gives them a “prescription” or method to help them correct faults in their game.
Of more on his achievements in the game, he’s run seven straight racks of 9-Ball before, and says he doesn’t really play 10-Ball that much, but that he’s also run six racks in a row of 8-Ball, and has a high run of 127 in straight pool.
Of his break and runs strung together in consecutive order, he tells me, “I’ll tell you one story though, speaking of racks run in a row. I was playing a race-to-five tournament — this was in Lancaster, like I was telling you earlier, and I was playing Tom D’Alfonso in the finals, and he lost the flip (coin toss) and I ran five racks and out and he never shot in the finals… I couldn’t have found a better time to put a five pack together than in the finals of the event.”
All around, Anthony Beeler seems to be a very genuine person, who really loves the game of pool, plays at a professional level himself, and provides instruction in the game to all who want to improve — and I end our conversation feeling optimistic about the future of pool with people like Beeler involved in the game.
Beeler wrote — in conjunction with some of the other ACS (American Cuesports Association) instructors — the National Instructors Manual, which outlines many of the topics he covers in his curriculum.