A new wave of interest has swept over Snooker in recent years, and betting on this venerable game has never been so intense. The rise in popularity is owed not only to an increase in televised tournaments, but also to sponsorships, promotions, increasingly larger prize pools, and new ways of wagering, such as in-running bets. Snooker has gained a huge following internationally, too, especially in China.
Snooker got its name in the 19th century when members of the British Armed Forces took to calling losing billiards players “snooker.” Organized tournaments began in 1916 with the introduction of the Amateur English Championships, followed in 1927 by the first World Snooker Championships.
Interest in the game ebbed and flowed until the BBC began broadcasting the championships live in 1973. A few years later, the first world ranking of players was established and standards were set by the sport’s governing body—the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.
Today, the Snooker scene is dominated by a dozen or so top professionals. Three-time World Champion John Higgins still held the crown as the 2010 season got underway, but he faces increasing tough competition from the likes of Mark Selby and the phenomenal Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan, who played to a dramatic 10-9 finish in the Snooker Masters at Wembley Arena to start the year, with Selby coming out on top. Other highly ranked players include renowned veteran Stephen “The Golden Boy” Hendry, 28-year-old Australian star Neil Robertson, and 16-time titlist Mark J. Williams, among others.
Snooker betting centers on the major events of the season. Besides the Masters, which is an invitational limited to the top 16 players from the preceding year, there are numerous qualifiers leading up to “ranking” events. They begin with the Welsh Open in late January, followed by the Irish Masters, the British Open, the Snooker Grand Prix, the U.K. Championship, and ultimately the annual Snooker World Championship, with its grand prize worth £200,000 or more.
Big international tournaments include the German Masters in Berlin in February, the China Open in Beijing in March, and the World Open in Glasgow in September. And there are other Snooker events worthy of wagering on throughout the year, such as the Euro Players Tour, the World Seniors, and the Star Xing Pai Players Tour, to name a few.
Snooker betting typically takes one of two forms. Ante post bets can be made on most of the events mentioned above, with bookmakers giving fixed odds on who will win the tournament outright as much as several months before play begins. Then, as the tournament commences, wagers are made on the individual matches, choosing which of two players will emerge the winner of a head-to-head competition. For the latter, handicaps are often offered to even out the odds, giving the better player some frames deficit, rather like spread betting.
Another type of wager gaining in popularity is “frame betting,” predicting the final score of a match prior to its start. And now there is in-running or live betting, which allows wagers to be made as the game is in progress. Options include next frame winner, top break, come from behind, total centuries over/under 70.5, and more.
Numerous online bookmakers now accept Snooker bets. BetFred, sponsor of the World Championships, is probably the best known. The sportsbooks of Bodog, Ladbrokes, William Hill, and BetFair also offer markets on all the major snooker events. Many of these web sites provide free bets of up to £50 to newcomers. Shopping around can also yield a few bonus-orientated bookmakers who are willing to provide money-back rebates on matches lost, thus making it easier and less risky than ever to get started with Snooker betting.