First played by British Army officers based in India during the latter half of the 19th century, snooker was originally devised as a combination of black pool and pyramids, two billiards variants that were popular at the time. The name “snooker” actually derives from a derogatory term used to describe inexperienced military personnel, while the game was considered a “gentleman’s sport” played by the upper classes.
Midway through the 20th century, the popularity of snooker was becoming more widespread, becoming something of a national pastime throughout the United Kingdom, eventually spreading elsewhere around the world. In 1968 the World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association (WPBSA) was formed and to this day, it remains the governing body for the sport internationally.
Iconic Snooker Stars of Yesteryear
Following the foundation of the WPBSA, the level of professionalism and competition grew quickly, largely thanks to the growing prestige as a recognized sport, plus TV coverage of all the major tournaments and in particular. The biggest of these has always been the famed annual World Snooker Championship, which has traditionally been held each year at the Crucible Theater in Sheffield.
Numerous players also became instant household names. One of the first major personalities was Ray Reardon in the 1970’s, who earned the “Dracula” nickname for his hairstyle and sharp-toothed grin. He followed by Steve “Interesting” Davies, who was brilliant around a snooker table, yet often considered to be of a boring demeanor by the media. Also an accomplished pool player, Davis helped Matchroom Pool to found and host the Mosconi Cup, contested annually between teams from the USA and Europe since 1994.
Cliff Thorburn of Canada had won the World Snooker Championship in 1980, yet even he couldn’t rival the rising star of Steve Davis throughout that decade, with the Englishman going on to reach eight finals over the next nine years and triumphing in six. The only players to come anywhere close were Alex Higgins of Northern Ireland, famed for his drinking and smoking between shots, along with Dennis Taylor and his uniquely made spectacles.
By the 1990 World Snooker Championship, another star had begun to shine brightly. Stephen Hendry was “The Golden Boy” of a new generation, impressively going on to surpass practically every record set by Steve Davis. Between 1987 and 2005, Hendry amassed 36 tournament titles, including 7 World Snooker Championship victories. Interestingly, he recently returned to action on a two-year invitational tour card, although now 52, his glory days are firmly in the past.
The Cue Kings of Today
According to the [wpbsa.com](https://wpbsa.com/rankings/world-rankings/) rankings published in July, the number one player in the modern game is Judd Trump, who despite the surname is no relation to a certain controversial former US President. This particular Trump has amassed 22 snooker tournament titles between 2011 and 2021, making him a force to be reckoned with. Still just 31, he could yet become one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.
Just behind Trump in the WPBSA rankings is Mark Selby, another Englishman who has 20 titles to his name. Amongst a tightly packed group of remarkable active snooker champions is Neil Robertson of Australia, who has 20 professional snooker titles. However, and excusing the pun, all three of those players are trumped by Mark Williams from Wales, winner of 23 titles between 1994 and 2021.
But if you want genuinely legendary players of the modern era, there are two in particular that are hard to beat. Hailing from Scotland, 46-year-old John Higgins has won 31 ranking titles between 1994 and 2021, which has earned him just shy of £9.3 million in career winnings. Despite his brilliance and having won the World Championship four times, the last was back in 2011 and that highlights the increased level of competition these days.
If you’re looking for the football equivalent of Tom Brady or soccer equal to Lionel Messi, look no further than Ronnie O’Sullivan. Known as “The Rocket” for his quickfire playing style, the now 45-year-old is the greatest player of all-time. Nobody has yet matched his total of 37 ranking tournament wins and numerous international records, which includes 20 Triple Crown titles, surpassing the previous record of 18 set by Stephen Hendry.
The Great Asian Snooker Hopes
Thanks to the greater number of internationally hosted tournaments, Asia has become a hotbed for some of the best up-and-coming snooker talents. This has also sparked wider interest from TV broadcasters and sports betting companies, who are keen to promote the professional game within a market which is keen to embrace the sport.
The popularity of snooker has also increasingly piqued the interest of Asian bettors, which means that for anyone following the sport with a keen interest, it’s handy to know more about the best sports betting sites and where to find comprehensive online sports betting guides. Thankfully, asiabet.org experts have everything covered, providing useful tips and betting strategies, plus information about how to claim free bets and top bonuses from trusted sites.
Despite being regarded as one of the greatest cue sportsmen of all time, still only 36 and having won 15 IBSF World Billiards Championship titles, Pankaj Advani of Pune in India never achieved success when he briefly made the switch to snooker. As a professional snooker player, the furthest he reached was the semi-finals of the Welsh Open and the Indian Open in 2013, then semis the Six-red World Championship in 2016.
The only Asian player to reach a World Snooker Championship final was Ding Junhui, who was ultimately beaten by Mark Selby in 2016. The Chinese professional has won 14 ranking tournaments, although his most recent was in 2019 at the UK Championship. Now a British resident, albeit still representing China at snooker tournaments, Junhui remains within the top ten of the recently published WPBSA World Rankings.
Hopefully, before too long, we will get to see more Asian players reaching the highest echelons of world snooker.