The Ten Best Snooker Players Of All Time

By Ian John
March 22, 2023

It may be one of the more sedate sports, but the world of professional snooker is still as highly-skilled as any other sporting endeavour.

However, from its heyday in the 1980s, the profile of snooker has declined somewhat since, with legend Ronnie O’Sullivan commenting that the state of the sport was “the worst place it has ever been”.

However, in amongst the match-fixing allegations, there remains at its core, a fantastic, enjoyable, watchable and hugely competitive sport.

And it is a sport that has its own fair share of icons.

With the World Championships coming up at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in just a few weeks, now is a great time to give you the next in our series of the “Ten Best”, this time looking at the ten best snooker players of all time!

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10th Place – Jimmy White

  • World Championship Wins – 0 (6 time beaten finalist)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 10
  • Century Breaks – 325
  • Maximum Breaks – 1

There are many single or even double world champions that are not in the top ten of this list, so how can I include a player that never won the biggest title? The answer is simple; Jimmy White played some of the most incredible snooker in history and went as close as you can go to winning the event, losing six finals.

However, had White won a final or two, he’d be much higher up this list. He was an artist at the table, creating shots that fans were amazed at, and other players could not dream up, with incredible regularity. He is the greatest player never to have won the world title.

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9th Place – Mark Williams

  • World Championship Wins – 3 (2000, 2003, 2018)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 24
  • Century Breaks – 587
  • Maximum Breaks – 3

Few players have been able to pot balls quite as outstangly as the three time World Champion Mark Williams. The Welsh Potting Machine is a perfect fit as a nickname for a plaer who has three maximum breaks in competition and almost 600 century breaks.

Williams has come back from a poor few years in the late 2000s and landed his third world title in 2018, much to his surprise. He is a massive talent on the table and a fully deserving inclusion on this list.

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8th Place – Mark Selby

  • World Championship Wins – 4 (2014, 2016, 2017, 2021)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 21
  • Century Breaks – 754
  • Maximum Breaks – 4

The Jester from Leicester may lack some of the eye-catching skills of some of his contemporaries, but his ability to grind out victories has him labelled as the best match player in the history of the game, which is some accolade considering the likes of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry are in the mix for that.

Selby’s no-nonsense approach to the game and his never-say-die attitude have turned him from a promising youngster into a 4-time world champion and there are many who believe that he has a good few years left in him to add to those titles.

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7th Place – John Higgins

  • World Championship Wins – 4 (1998, 2007, 2009, 2011)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 31
  • Century Breaks – 929
  • Maximum Breaks – 12

The first of two Scotsmen on this list, the Wizard of Wishaw is along with Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan, one of the three members of the 1992 club, outstanding players who made their debut in that season and who are still high in the World Rankings as of today.

Break building is what John Higgins excelled at, as his 12 maximums and 929 century breaks attest to. He is a four-time World Champion on the back of that and has lost a further four finals. He has come back several times from poor form to get back into the top 16 in his career and is fully deserving of his place in the top ten.

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6th Place – Ray Reardon

  • World Championship Wins – 5 (1970, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 5
  • Century Breaks – Unknown
  • Maximum Breaks – 0

Nicknamed ‘Dracula’ because of his swept back receding hairstyle, Ray Reardon was the giant of World Snooker in the 1970s, paving the way for the glory years of the 1980s and 1990s. The softly-spoken Welshman was a fantastic player in his own right, despite never making a maximum break in competition.

However, he did land an incredible five world titles in nine years, dominating the game with outstanding safety play and incredible potting. He did so with a smile on his face and with incredible consistency ensuring he claims a rightful place in this snooker hall of fame.

5th Place – Joe Davis

  • World Championship Wins – 15 times (every year from 1927 to 1940 & 1946)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – N/A
  • Century Breaks – Unknown
  • Maximum Breaks – 1 (first confirmed maximum break)

Joe Davis may have played in a different era to his peers, but his influence on the game cannot be measured. He won 15 world titles from 1927 to 1946, including every World title from 1927 to 1940.

Amazingly, only his brother Fred beat him in competition as he was so far ahead of his rivals that nobody during that early era of snooker could challenge him.

Davis legacy is the game we know today. At a time when Snooker was often just a challenge game with few tournaments, it is hard to know how he’d fare against modern players, but without him, those modern players would never have had a chance to thrive.

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4th Place – Alex Higgins

  • World Championship Wins – 2  
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 1
  • Century Breaks – Unknown
  • Maximum Breaks – Unknown

A look at his resume and you’d think Alex Higgins inclusion is perhaps an oversight. However, it isn’t because the Hurricane, at his best, was one of only two truly certified snooker genii that the game has ever seen.

Higgins’ life story reads like a work of fiction, often embroiled with battles with snooker organisations, other players, fans, the booze, his wives and girlfriends, Higgins was undoubtedly self-destructive but in his most lucid moments, and at his very best, he could produce magic on the table like no other player,  bar perhaps one.

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3rd Place – Steve Davis

  • World Championship Wins – 6 (1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 28
  • Century Breaks – 338
  • Maximum Breaks – 1

If Ray Reardon dominated the 1970s, then Steve Davis was the name of the 1980s. He not only won the Snooker World Championship six times in that decade, losing the final on two more occasions, he played at a level of consistency that only a couple of players have ever matched.

Davis also was the first player to hit a televised 147 in the Lada Classic and his emergence heralded the most popular era for snooker and his final frame loss to Dennis Taylor in the 1986 World Championship remains Snooker’s most defining moment.

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2nd Place – Stephen Hendry

  • World Championship Wins – 7 (1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 36
  • Century Breaks – 776
  • Maximum Breaks – 11

Few people thought a snooker player would dominate a decade as much as Steve Davis did in the 1980s, but in the 1990s, along came Stephen Hendry to set new levels of excellence in the game. He became the youngest ever World Champion in 1990 and by the end of the decade, had lifted the trophy 7 times in 10 years.

Hendry was not just an incredible strategist at the table, he was a massive break builder, as evidenced by the number of centuries and maximums he landed, but he was also a fantastic tactical player, at home in a safety battle as he was potting balls at the table.

For many, he remains the greatest all-round player of all time and I can pay him no higher compliment than that.

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1st Place – Ronnie O’Sullivan

  • World Championship Wins – 7 (2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2020, 2022)
  • Ranking Tournament Wins – 39
  • Century Breaks – 1,198
  • Maximum Breaks – 15

If Alex Higgins was the first genius of the snooker table, then Ronnie O’Sullivan undoubtedly is the second. In terms of being able to pot balls, produce shots that no other player can dream of, clearing the table in just a handful of minutes, O’Sullivan has mastered it all.

In fact, it is perhaps indicative of his talents that people are amazed that he hasn’t won more world titles in his lengthy career. Nowadays O’Sullivan picks and chooses the tournaments he plays in, but he is still one of the best players in the world and will start the World Championship as a likely favourite to win it.

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