Pool and billiards games are enjoyed around the world by many people. The love of the game led to the first official billiards championship game back in 1870 in England, where William Cook beat John Roberts, Sr. Cook was given the title of world champion, a trophy, and a cash prize of 100 pounds.
Here in the United States, the first official pool championship was held in 1878 using rules for 15-ball pool, where the first player to receive 61 or more points won the game. The first U.S. championship winner was Cyrille Dion from Canada.
The 1870 match led to the creation of an actual pool world championship. It also paved the way for the birth of the Billiards Association and Control Council, the Professional Billiards Players Association, the Billiards Congress of America, and the eventual formation of the WPBSA (World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association).
The Greatest Players of All Time
Over the years, there have been many outstanding pool players and pool tournaments, resulting in some of the greatest players of all time. These players include men and women from around the world and include, in no particular order:
#1. Efren “Bata” Reyes
If you ask anyone who is the greatest pool player in the world, Efren Reyes is the most well-known and top-ranked player. He is also considered the best pool player in the world. He has won over 100 professional tournaments and has earned over 80 international titles, earning him the nickname “The Magician.”
What makes Efren so amazing is that he was the first player to win the World Championship in two different categories. He also is a 4-time winner in the WPA 9-ball championship and the World 8-ball championship. Other outstanding achievements include being a 3-time U.S. Open Champion, 2-time World Champion, and 13-time Derby City champion.
#2. Allison Fisher
Allison Fisher is considered not only one of the greatest pool players of all time but also the best female pool player in the world. She was only 17 when she won her first World Championship. Since then, she has won 3 World Nine-Ball Championships, 12 World Championships, and a record-breaking 53 WPBA entitlements by 2009, resulting in her induction into the BCA.
Furthermore, her accomplishments and pool playstyle earned her the nickname “The Duchess of Doom.” She also teaches pool at the Allison World Champion Academy located in Charlotte, NC.
#3. Willie Mosconi
Willie Mosconi was an American professional pool player who created and developed numerous trick shots, earning him the nickname “Mr. Pocket Billiards.” He was one of the top pool players in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, from 1941 to 1957, he won the World Straight Pool Championship 15 times in a row.
He also holds the world record for the highest number of consecutive balls in straight pool: 526. In 1996, he was one of the first three pool players inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.
In addition, he helped popularize pool with his contributions and consultant work for the 1961 film “The Hustler,” starring Paul Newman. In real life, he taught Mr. Newman how to play the game, set up many of the shots for the movie, and was known to have taken a few shots in place of Mr. Newman that ended up in the released version of the film.
#4. Ralph Greenleaf
Ralph Greenleaf was a pioneer in establishing pool in the United States as a professional sport. He is considered one of the most prolific pool players of his time and was active from 1919 to 1937.
He mainly enjoyed playing straight pool in various formats, which allowed him to win the World Pocket Billiards Championship 20 times. He was also one of the first three pool players inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 1966.
#5. Jeanette Lee
Jeanette Lee is considered one of the greatest and most influential female pool players from the United States. Her style of play earned her the nickname “The Black Widow.” She has a reputation for dominating play and has even said, though she is a sweet person, if it were possible, she would eat her competitors alive at the table.
In addition, she is not just dominant in female pool classes but also in other pool classes, going up against some of the top male players like Efren Reyes. She has won over 27 national and world championship titles. In 1998, the WPBA named her the WPBA Sportsperson of the Year. In addition, the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inducted her in 2013.
#6. Earl Strickland
Earl Strickland is considered to be the greatest 9-ball player of all time. He has won the Mosconi Cup nine times. He is also a 3-time WPA world nine-ball championship winner, 5-time U.S. Open 9-ball championship winner, and he holds numerous titles. He was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2006.
#7. Rudolf Wanderone
While Rudolf Wanderone, also known as “Minnesota Fats,” never won any championships, he was one of the most well-known and proficient pool players of his day. He was also an entertainer, which allowed him to become the most publicly recognized pool player in the United States.
He took on the nickname “Minnesota Fats” from the 1961 film “The Hustler,” as the character in the movie was based on Rudolf Wanderone’s pool hustling days. He also hosted the television program “Celebrity Billiards.”
The Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inducted him in 1984 for promoting pool for numerous decades, resulting in him also earning recognition as the greatest legacy pool player.
#8. Mike Sigel
Mike Sigel has been named by Billiards Digest and Pool as the “Pool and Billiards Player of the Year” three times. He has won over 108 pool championships, including 10-time winner of the World Pocket Billiard Championship and 3-time winner of the U.S. Open Nine-Ball Championship.
He earned the nickname “Captain Hook” for his skillfulness at using safety plays to “hook” his competitors. Another reason he is considered one of the greatest players of all time is his ability to shoot using either his left or right hand. He is also one of the youngest pool players to be inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 1985 at the age of 35.
Aside from these top players, many other players have contributed to the success of pool and billiards over the years and are also considered some of the greatest pool players of all time, including:
- Luther Lassiter
- Johnny Archer
- Buddy Hall
- Ronnie Allen
- Kim Ga-young
- Gerda Hofstatter
- Kelly Fisher
- Ronnie Allen
- Jasmin Ouschan
- Shane Van Boening
Currently Best Ranked Players
The currently best-ranked players by the WPA (World Pool-Billiard Association) include the following top-five ranked men and top-five ranked women players:
- Aloysius Yapp
- Mika Immonen
- Albin Ouschan
- Naoyuki Oi
- Dennis Grabe
- Kelly Fisher
- Siming Chen
- Jasmin Ouschan
- Han Yu
- Rubilen Amit
The Best Player in the World
The undisputed current champion considered the best player in the world is Efren Reyes. Numerous professional pool players have repeatedly named Efren as the greatest and best player in the world. Furthermore, top elite professional pool players also consider Efren the best one-pocket pool player in the world.
In 2003, he became the first Asian pool player to be inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame. In 2004, he was inducted into the One Pocket Hall of Fame.
How to Become One of the Top Players in the World
Anyone who enjoys playing pool and wants to do so professionally has the ability to become one of the top players in the world. All it takes is determination, persistence, practice, and playing pool as often as possible.
To ensure you can play pool whenever you want, you need a handcrafted, quality pool table for your home from Blatt Billiards. We offer a wide range of elite custom tables and semi-custom tables. Find your pool table today or contact us at 212-674-8855 for further assistance.