Snooker is said to have been invented by British army officers serving in India in the 1870’s. The older game of Billiards was a very popular pastime in the Officer’s Mess, and led to the introduction of a variety of hybrid games. One such variation was to add coloured balls to the reds and black balls used in Pyramid Pool. The word ‘Snooker ‘also appears to have derived from military slang, meaning a first year cadet or any other inexperienced person. One story says that Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain of the Devonshire Regiment was playing the new game, when his opponent failed to pot a simple ball and he called him a ‘ Snooker ‘.
Gambling on Snooker grew in popularity in the English speaking world, and the Commonwealth in the later part of the 19th century and early 20th century, and led to the first World Snooker Championship, played in 1927. The Championship was organised by Joe Davis, who was a professional English Billiards and Snooker player, and was the start of the progression of Snooker gambling from a pastime to a professional sport.
This first snooker gambling championship had qualifying matches at various venues throughout the UK, with the final held at Camkins Hall in Birmingham. Joe Davis won every snooker World Championship until he retired in 1946.
Snooker gradually declined in the 1950’s and 1960’s, with very little interest shown by anyone except those who played snooker as a pastime or professionally. Joe Davis did attempt to revive the game’s fortunes in 1959, by introducing a game called ‘ Snooker Plus ‘, with two extra colours, but it never really caught on.
The breakthrough for gambling on snooker as a mainstream game came when David Attenborough, then Controller of BBC 2, commissioned a snooker tournament to demonstrate the potential of colour television. This was the famous ‘Pot Black ‘series, and the green snooker table and coloured balls were an instant success. The strange thing was that the series was just as popular amongst viewers who did not yet have colour television. At one time this televised series of snooker matches was the second most popular show on BBC2.
Interest in snooker gambling continued to grow, and in 1978 the World Championship at the ‘Crucible’ in Sheffield was the first to be fully televised. Gambling on Snooker rapidly became a money spinner for the top professionals and spread rapidly throughout the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth, with many of the most highly prized tournaments being televised across the world. In 1985, 18.5 million viewers watched the last frame of the World Snooker Championship match between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis, even though it did not finish until after midnight.
In recent years, the loss of tobacco company sponsorship has reduced the number of professional tournaments, but the combination of new sponsors and a surge of interest in the Far East and China bodes well for the future of professional snooker.
The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) was founded in 1968 as the
Professional Billiard Players Association, and is the governing body for professional snooker. A
Subsidiary, ‘World Snooker ‘is responsible for organising the professional tournaments. Professional
Snooker players can all play on the World Snooker main tour, but qualification criteria depends on
‘Ranking’ points over the previous two seasons, which also determine the World Rankings. The Top 16
in the World Rankings are not required to pre-qualify for any tournaments.
The professional snooker tour comprises 96 players, including the top 64 ranked from the previous
two seasons, the 8 highest ranked players on the Players Tour Championship Order of Merit who are
not in the top 64, plus 12 from the Q school and various regional, junior or amateur champions.
The most prestigious snooker gambling tournament is clearly the World Championship, followed by the UK Championship. Next come the invitation tournaments, of which the ‘Masters’ is the most coveted.
The Masters currently invite 18 snooker gambling players from the top 16 ranked players plus the next qualifier
and a wild card. The qualifier and the wild card play the 15th and 16th ranked players to determine who
reaches the final 16.
Recently, concerns over long drawn out frames of safety play have led to attempts to speed up the
game for television. Barry Hearn, Chairman of Matchroom Sport, introduced an alternative series
of timed snooker tournaments.
Premier League Snooker invites 7 players to play at regular UK venues, and is televised by Sky sports gambling.
The players have 25 seconds for each shot, with five time-outs per player in a match. This format
has not yet received widespread press coverage or status in the game.
Power Snooker gambling was introduced in 2010, with 8 players competing for £35,000 at the O2 in London in
October 2010. Each shot is timed at 20 seconds and the match is also timed at 30 minutes. The
winner is the player who scores the most points within the 30 minutes. There are no frames and the
balls are re-racked each time the table is cleared. Barry Hearn has expressed the hope that Power
Snooker will match the success of Twenty20 cricket, with increased attendance and television
Coverage. It will certainly appeal to the Sports Gambler, with a faster turn round of results.
For those not sure of the scoring in snooker, there are 16 red balls and 6 coloured balls on the table at
the beginning of a game ( known as a Frame ). The objective is to strike the cue ball and pot each red
ball in turn, followed by the highest value coloured ball available after each red is potted. The coloured
balls are worth 2 points for the yellow, 3 for the green, 4 for the brown, 5 for the blue, 6 for the pink
and 7 for the black. The red balls are not returned to the table when they are potted, but the ‘ colours ‘
are replaced on or near their spots until all the reds have been potted. The colours must then be
potted in the order of their value, starting with the yellow. If a player fails to pot a ball, or fouls, his
‘Break’ is over and his opponent comes to the table to continue the frame. A Break is the total points
scored on each visit to the table. The maximum break in gambling on snooker is 147, and would be achieved when
a player pots every red ball, followed by a black each time, and then clears all the colours in one visit to
The ‘ highest break ‘ in a match is one of many gambling opportunities in snooker.