Pool is a sport with a rich history of players who have shaped how the world plays and perceives the game. The first recorded official billiards championship was held in England in 1870. Since then, players worldwide have participated in this championship to test their mettle against the best of the best.
When the chalk finally settled, who came out on top? Here are some of the world’s most decorated pool players; many argue that any one of these could be in the running for the greatest player of all time.
A few names to note would be Efren Reyes, Earl Strickland, Mike Sigel, Willie Mosconi, and Ralph Greenleaf.
- Jacob Brown
Efren “Bata” Reyes
Efren Reyes is arguably the most well-known player in the world. It could have something to do with him racking up over 100 professional tournament wins and over eighty international titles.
He’s been affectionately nicknamed “The Magician” for his shots that seemingly defy the laws of physics and reality. Reyes is at the top of the list because most billiard players would say he was the best in the world — and with a decorated resume like his, it’s hard to argue with that logic.
Staying on theme with getting fun nicknames, Jeanette Lee’s title, “The Black Widow,” comes from her style of play. Despite her sweet and kind disposition, she dominates the game and leaves her competitors in the dust.
Known for being one of the most influential and greatest female billiards players from the United States, Lee has secured over twenty-seven national and international championship titles. She isn’t just a powerhouse in the female pool realm either: she’s competed against the best of the best, including Efren Reyes.
Willie Mosconi, or “Mr. Pocket Billiards,” got his nickname from creating a unique line of trick shots. Mosconi was more than just a many-trick pony; he’s revered for winning the World Straight Pool Championship fifteen times — in a row!
Even more impressive is his world record for hitting an astonishing 526 consecutive balls in straight pool. Mosconi dominated the pool scene from the early 1940s to the 1950s and added his influence to the popular 1961 film “The Hustler,” where he taught Paul Newman how to play the game.
Allison Fisher isn’t just one of the greatest pool players in the world — for many, she also holds the distinct title of being the best female player in the world.
Winning her first world championship at only 17, she’s since succeeded in winning three World Nine-Ball Championships, winning another twelve World Championships, and shattering records with an insane fifty-three WPBA entitlements by 2009.
She wouldn’t be on this list if she didn’t have a great nickname — Allison Fisher is known to her competitors as “The Duchess of Doom,” a fitting name considering her past accolades and playstyle.
Mike Sigel’s inclusion on this list is a no-brainer; he’s won over 108 pool championships throughout his career and is also a ten-time winner of the World Pocket Billiard Championship.
Sigel’s nickname, “Captain Hook,” stems from his ability to force his competitors to use safety plays, essentially “hooking” them into doing his will. He’s also famous for his dexterity in playing with both his left and right hand.
Sigel’s induction into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 1985, when he was only 35, made him one of the youngest pool players ever to be considered as a peer among the best pool players of all time.
Without Ralph Greenleaf’s contributions, it may have taken much longer for pool to become established as a professional sport in the United States. He was among the first players to be inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame and has won the World Pocket Billiards Championship an impressive 20 times.
Greenleaf was one of the original true greats, making his mark on the billiards world from around 1920 to 1940. Ralph’s nickname was “Boy Wonder,” a reference to another prolific billiards player who also became an overnight sensation in the pool world.
William “Willie” Hoppe
Speaking of the billiards player Ralph Greenleaf was compared to — that was William Hoppe, also known as “Boy Wonder.” His accomplishments include winning fifty-one world titles from 1906 to 1952 and winning his first title at only 13.
This impressive feat earned him a place as one of the most durable sports champions ever. Many of the records he set are still in place today, including an awe-inducing run of 622 in 18.2 balkline; he achieved this during an exhibition match in 1912. Hoppe is in the top half of the best pool players of all time for most billiards enthusiasts.
Pool Inspirations Across Time
Becoming a great billiards player takes a lot of practice, dedication, and passion. These seven players had more than that. They brought something different to the table, shook up the billiards world, and carved a name for themselves in history.
Their unforgettable feats inspire pool players worldwide, and their legacies show that if you’re determined and persistent, greatness may be within your grasp.