This year marks the 90th anniversary of the first ever World Snooker Championship, won by English snooker legend Joe Davis. He went on to win the following 15 championships until his retirement in 1946 – the year after the tournament came out of its hiatus due to World War II.
The Blitz saw the destruction of Thurston’s Hall in London, which had been the event’s original venue. Nowadays, scores of players travel to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield for two weeks of snooker, hoping to reach the final.
Prior to 1969, players met in a series of challenge matches, but when the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) superseded the Billiards Association and Control Council (BACC) as the game’s regulator, it switched the format to the more popular knock-out tournament that fans know and love today.
Over the years it gradually took on the shape and scope of the modern era, although it jumped around from location to location and was for several years set in Australia. It wasn’t until 1977 that the Snooker World Championship found its spiritual home in Sheffield, where it is due to remain until 2027 – 100 years since it all began.
Gone is the heyday of Stephen Hendry, Jimmy White and Steve Davis dominating the snooker table, although their hot-tempered cohort Ronnie O’Sullivan is still playing. The Rocket is hoping to pick up his sixth Snooker World Championship title and with online bookmakers like William Hill offering odds of 5/1, he is in with a good chance.
However, his unusual two-month protest against the regulatory body has seen the World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn urge him to “grow up” and may impact his playing standards. Sullivan is led by two fellow Englishmen in the odds. Favourite at 4/1 is the former World No.1 Judd Trump, who has had a couple of run-ins with O’Sullivan, beating him at the 2015 World Grand Prix and the following year at the European Masters.
Narrowly behind him with odds of 9/2 is the current World No.1, Mark Selby, who is hoping to retain his title, although whether he can do so with another record-breaking 76-minute frame as in 2016 remains to be seen. Another snooker legend still going strong is Scotland’s John Higgins, who has won the Tournament four times.
To do so again would put him on equal footing with O’Sullivan. Despite a slump in recent years, Higgins enjoyed a revival in 2015 and is currently attracting solid odds of 12/1. On either side of him is Chinese snooker star of the East, Ding Junhui, and Aussie player Neil Robertson. Junhui followed both Higgins and O’Sullivan to become the third player to win three ranking titles before he had turned 20 and his age pushes him in front of Higgins with odds of 11/1.
On the other hand, Robertson, affectionately known as The Melbourne Machine, is one of Australia’s finest snooker players and recently beat Michael Holt in the final of the Riga Masters. Online gambling sites are offering punters the same odds for Robertson as Higgins at 12/1, so it will be interesting to see if they meet.
Further down the rankings are some names that might be worth a punt. China’s No.2 player Liang Wenbo and Scottish professional Stephen Maguire are both courting long odds of 66/1. The former firecracker managed to beat favourite Judd Trump in the 2016 English Open 9-6, while the Glaswegian livewire wizard was once ranked world No.2, although his last professional ranked win was in the 2014 Lisbon Open.
Another Chinese up-and-comer, Yan Bingtao, could be worth a small wager at 100/1. Aged just 17, he is the youngest player to ever win the Amateur World Snooker Championship in 2014, before turning pro two years later. Although he is currently ranked 70th place, he has secured wins against fellow Chinese players Yu Delu and Liang Wenbo, as well as the current No.1, Mark Selby, in the third round of the 2016 Welsh Open.
So if you think you know who will be crowned champion this year at the Crucible Theatre, why not visit William Hill to place a wager? If you join today and bet £10, William Hill is offering an additional £30 in free bets!