Sharing The Light – Robin “The BankRoll” Dodson

Our next player needs no introduction as far as her playing accomplishments go. However, it’s most likely that very few readers have ever heard the amazing story of the events that caused her to turn her life over to God.

I began playing pool at age 12 (many moons ago) at a local family billiards in Westminster, CA.

I started with the four pinball machines on the second floor and worked my way down to the tables – only because the cute boys who played pinball also played pool.  Who knew that my new interest in boys would lead me to my lifelong love for the game of pool?

My love and passion were not only for the game itself, but also for all those personalities/players who joined in alongside me all those years. I love pool players!  Funny how God would give me a talent for a sport and a love for those who loved it too (very cool)!

Age 12 (probably the most relevant year of my life); here is my story.

Not sure about you, but when I was incredibly young, for whatever reason, I used to think about dying. Not so much about the pain of it, but more so the never-ever-be-again part. I used to think, NEVER EVER BE AGAIN? I thought that was sad to say the least. So, when I heard the Gospel for the first time at age twelve – that Jesus came to earth to invite us to spend all of Eternity with Him in Heaven – you can bet I was ALL OVER IT! 

I had never heard of Jesus, I had never heard HIS STORY. I was so in awe (then, hearing about Eternal Life was awesome icing on the cake)! 

I would like to say I was a sweet little Christian girl from that moment on, but not having any other info or mentor, I soon went on my merry way. And, being a teenager by then, I was a train wreck ready to happen.

My teen age years were rough. I skated through some drama, and got burned to a crisp by others. 

But through it all, I never forgot Jesus; rather, He never forgot me! 

Back in the day, I had never played in a tournament. It was just matching up one-on-one. I was a kid and did not have any cash to play unless someone staked me. And I for sure was no big-time gambler. I Loved to win – and then go shopping! 

I used to clean the tables and ashtrays for my free pool. I made all the rounds for the guy who worked in the pool room. We both got a great deal. I sure did anyway, because I LOVED playing pool! 

My nights of sleeping under the pool tables came a few years later (I was one of the boys/players by this time).  We’d take naps hoping not to miss the soon coming action at the Billiard Palace (going home took way too long, and who knew if I would be grounded)! Of course, being grounded should have been an understatement, because I would sneak out my bedroom window and be gone by the time my mom would check in on me in the morning. 

Pool had my undivided attention, and whatever the consequences were, nothing compared to the “school of hard knocks” I would soon be taught. 

I still love remembering those long nights watching all the Champions coming into the Billiard Palace to match up. I loved sitting and watching ball after ball going into the pockets. And the money flying around the pay-ball games – priceless! 

I’ll tell you a story: When I was 16, my idol was Ronnie Allen (Mind you I had never met him, but the stories about him captured my imagination. Aww, he was my idol!)

 One night I heard “Ronnie is coming.” It seemed like forever before the doors finally opened. And then it happened – Ronnie Allen walked in! And to my surprise, he turned and walked right in my direction. When he noticed me, he walked straight over to me and asked, “What are you doing in here?” I was devasted!  Then he said, “You should be home in bed!” Of course, my mouth dropped, and that was the end of the conversation. For the whole idol thing, it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be… lol (I heard later that Ronnie had a bunch of kids at home. I guess the dad in him popped out.) 

Keith McCready was one of the hot shot kids who could hold his own with the champs. I was always pulling for Keith to win. I watched, and who knew I was being groomed even then to become a champ, too? That, however, did not come until many years later.

What happened next was, UGH, drugs, teenage pregnancy, then more drugs. My life slipped so far into the drug scene that pool took a serious back seat. 

I was a mess. I remember Robert (my son) in his play pen eating crackers (I will never forget that). I was so broken. I got down on my knees and prayed, “God if you are real, will you help me?” 

All I can say from that prayer is, WOW! It was like NIGHT AND DAY! Let me see if I can give you a little glimmer of what happened:

I went from an apartment with Robert to an outreach called the Harvest House. It was a home for mothers who had children and would like to learn how to raise them with the Bible being the teacher.

Robin’s three sons: Drake, Travis and Robert

I wanted that so much! I packed Robert and I up and moved into the Harvest House for 1 ½ years. Growing and Growing, and still Growing! I had no idea what the Bible said. I never went to church growing up. So, I became a sponge to say the least. Thankfully, we went to Bible Studies, prayer meetings, and also reached out to help others in need. 

It was during this time at the Harvest House (I had not played pool for a couple years) that I read some verses in the Bible about going back.  I mentioned to the ladies that I thought God was talking to me about playing pool again. They laughed and said, NO WAY! Of course, all they knew about me was being a heroin addict (that was our first introduction to each other). So, they figured going back was nowhere in God’s plan for me. 

So, I dismissed the idea, and continued – yes, continued Growing in my Faith, my knowledge of God’s Word, and my relationship. YUP, I was a full-blown Jesus-loving Freak!!! 

I have tons of stories, but to get to the punch line, five and a half years passed. The verses I thought about playing pool came back around in my Bible reading again. 

This time I went to my pastor and asked him if he thought I was nuts. I told him, I think I am supposed to play pool? His answer was much different (with the ladies, I was just not ready).

He said, “Robin, I cannot go to the places you will be going. You, however, have a reason with your talent. Just remember, don’t get your eyes solely on the game, remember the people; Jesus LOVES the people!” I never forgot that pastor’s wise advice. I LOVE pool players. There was never a dull moment; all the stories are tucked away in my treasured memories.

To say my game came back fast – not so quick. But the lesson I learned after day 3, I looked up and said, “God, I will never be like I used to be.”  My relationship with God has never been one-sided. He spoke right back to me in my Spirit and said, “I don’t want you like you used to be, but you are doing pretty good for 3 days”. 

My game did improve better than ever. In total it was 5 ½ years since I had got on my knees and prayed that prayer, “God if you are Real, will you help me”. 

Onto my first Pro Event. One of the first opponents I had was Lori Shampo. Trust me, I was blown away (I was looking in the mirror of my days past)! I could tell a story on that meeting, but moving right along, I will tell you about the match after ours, instead. 

I LOST that next match!  

The story I tell you may sound lame to you, but it happened just the same. I do not even remember who I played; all I remember is going up the elevator not too happy to say the least!

 I was alone so I felt free to speak out loud, “So, what was that all about!” Like I said, I know it is lame on my part, but for whatever reason, I was thinking, if I hit the ball close surely it would go in for me!

 I got into the room and laid on the bed in the hotel, and again not having a one-sided conversation, His still small voice spoke clearly in my Spirit, “I won’t cheat for you.” UGH! Trust me, that was painful to hear. Did I really act like that? I was so saddened, and so sorry. 

My next match, my “spoiled brat” lesson was learned: I was changed one more inch in character.

Pool became my passion again – just prioritized a bit differently. Colossians 3:23 says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Let’s fast-forward before I lose your attention: To get my credits in, I read in Pool & Billiard magazine that I won over 28 titles (I was impressed).

 Over the years I have been asked, “Robin which were your most memorable tournaments?” I would have to say there were two: 1st was my first World Championship. My mom came with me.  It was in Germany. She was over-the-top the best fan I have ever had! 

And the 2nd favorite comes with another mom story: My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; I took 3 months off the WPBA to stay with her. She went to be with the Lord 100 days later. My next event was in San Diego shortly after. I made it to the finals playing LoreeJon. I remember after the match raising my trophy up and saying, this one is for you mom! I know my eyes were filled with tears, along with many of my friends who knew why I took a hiatus for those few months. Coming back to WIN was an all-time Blessing!

BCA Hall of Fame Induction in 2005

I played on the WPBA Pro Tour for 20 years. I retired in 2002. I was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2005, and the WPBA Hall of Fame in 2009 (Talk about icing on the cake!). I had the words “Well Done” inscribed on my Hall of Fame ring. It was a Well-Done Career. My prayer is to hear those words again at the end of my life here on earth.  Matthew 25:23 says, “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”

Wondering what I was going to do next (I had no idea; pool was all I knew), I got a phone call and was asked if I would be interested in teaching students in a retirement community? I thought, “How Fun!” I accepted and found out I had a new love! I began teaching in three different communities over the years. Some of my students never picked up a pool cue their whole life! It was a challenge that I took on and I loved every minute of my time with them. They even became good enough to compete with each other. 

One of Robin’s instructional communities

I held monthly tournaments in-house and occasionally brought all three communities together to compete at Danny K’s. It was amazing seeing them all bused into Danny’s. I think it was as much a highlight for them as it was for me. Priceless!!! 

COVID-19 has stopped the lessons. Lord willing, one day they will return. My students are doing well, and I am grateful. For now, I am enjoying the retired life. 

Roy, on the other hand, works to take care of us (I have an amazing husband)!

Saying YES to God has given me Years and Years of an amazing life.