Getting Schooled by Toothpick. ~ Anthony Beeler

I was 17 years old and was just starting to get my feet wet with serious competition.

J.R.’s weekly 8-ball tournament in Lancaster, Kentucky was viewed by many as the strongest tournament in the state. When I arrived on the scene over 50 players had already paid their entries. During the tournament, one player in particular caught my attention. In fact, the man referred to as “Toothpick” waltzed all the way to the finals of the 52-man field. This wasn’t by coincidence. At that time, Ronnie Lane was one of the best defensive 8-ball players that I had ever seen.

After watching a few games, it was easy to see that Ronnie played 8-ball like most people play chess, executing shot after shot with a toothpick hanging out of the side of his mouth. Every move and every shot was both deliberate and calculated. Many times he would either pocket his opponent’s ball for strategic purposes or roll a ball in front of a pocket to congest traffic for his opponent.

At the same time, I too was making my way through the one loss side and it was becoming apparent that there would be a showdown between the two of us in the finals. There were a lot of clusters in our final rack, and I knew it was going to be a long defensive battle. After running a few balls, I attempted a difficult defensive shot and fell short of the mark. At that point, Ronnie had positioned his balls out in the open and decided to attempt a run out. During his attempt, Ronnie played himself out of position on his final striped ball and was left with the layout below.