Snooker, Gambling And Scraping A LivingMay 5, 2013 12:21 pm
Gambling has always been a regular fixture of snooker halls up and down the UK. Nevertheless, there is something ironic in having online sports betting company Betfair sponsors the World Championship currently taking place in Sheffield, especially with some of the game’s top celebrities succumbing to addiction over the years.
Perhaps snookers biggest gambler was also one of its most flamboyant, namely Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins who blew a fortune on the horses and other wagers. Fellow top pro Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White (photo right) was a good friend of Higgings, but too, suffered from gambling addiction and was bankrupted in the 1990s, and only managed to get his habit under control after passing his prime as a player.
In their time, both Higgins and White were at the pinnacle of the sport and as such reaped the top heavy rewards associated with the game, even if there pockets were emptied just as quick. Spare a thought, then, for players such as Willie Thorne, who hardly made a mint throughout his career and after battling a serious gambling problem most of his life, attempted suicide in 2002 when faced with bankruptcy.
Recent players to suffer from gambling addiction include the bankrupted Silvino Francisco, who ended up working in a fish-and-chip shop, or Mark King, who ran up £100,000 in gambling debts, and later confessed:
“I found myself in a situation where I was even thinking about doing a robbery to get money to gamble. That is just not me, not who I am.”
Unlike players such as Higgins and White, these players would have struggled to make a living from the game of snooker, and recently snooker’s rising star Judd Trump spoke out on the “pitiful” amounts of money snooker players are paid. As Trump explains:
“It’s embarrassing. You’re not earning anything. Look at the average earnings of the top 32 players. If you’re in the top 32, you earn about £30,000. You’ve got to take into account that there’s five tournaments in China. You’re spending £20,000 a year just on flights. Then you’ve got hotels, petrol, accommodation. People inside the top 48 are literally struggling to make a living. They’re probably on less than minimum wage.”
The highlight of the snooker calendar is currently taking place at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, and Judd Trump was eliminated in the semi-final and so picked-up £52,000 for his reward, whereas quarter-finalists received £24,050, and £16,000 went to the last 16.
The final match between Ronnie O’Sullivan (photo left) and Barry Hawkins is set to be concluded on Bank Holiday Monday, with £250k going to the winner and £125k to the runner-up. Ronnie O’Sullivan, 37, is one of the highest earners ever in snooker but recently performed a dramatic u-turn on his decision to retire. As he explained this week:
“In an ideal world I’d love to go out there and play. But any of this money that’s coming to me I have to pay out straight away to keep the wolf from the door. I’ve been backed into a corner. I’ve spent £250,000 on lawyers’ fees over the last three years, plus the court orders and this, that and the other, so there’s no point in me playing, I might as well be skint.”