Snooker is a non-contact cue sport popular in many of the English-speaking and Commonwealth countries. Commonly accepted to have originated in India in the later half of the 19th century, today snooker is one of the most popular and loved sports in China. The game has gotten a little more attention over the years worldwide, but not as much as that of tennis, golf, auto-racing or even rugby. Snooker has not yet been included in the Olympics, but has IOC (International Olympic Committee) recognition.
Like snooker, snooker players too don't receive the attention and recognition they deserve - they are virtually unknown outside the countries where snooker is popular. But, snooker has lived up to its name for the top professional snooker players, helping these players with such class and skill attain multi-million-dollar career earnings from the game. Prior to snooker's television boom in the 1980s, the top snooker players drew most of their earnings from challenge matches and exhibition circuits, rather than professional snooker competitions. But, after snooker competitions, especially the World Championship, started to be broadcast on television, the competition's prize money went up; today the total prize fund of World Snooker Championship is nearly $2 million.
Our list below charts the 10 highest career prize money winners of snooker in sanctioned professional snooker competitions. To compensate inflation and compare the earnings of players from different eras, the prize money has been adjusted using the UK Consumer price index according to the year in which the player turned professional. The prize money (£) adjusted for inflation are included in parentheses; the prize money converted to USD are not adjusted for inflation.
So, here are the top 10 highest career prize money winners in the world of snooker.
10 Alan McManus - £2 million (£4 million) - $3.28 million
Alan McManus is a Scottish professional snooker player who turned professional in 1990. He is ranked 41st in the current Snooker World Rankings, and his highest ranking to date is 6th (in 1993-94 and 1996-97). The major achievement of his career was the 9-8 victory over Stephen Hendry, in which he claimed the 1994 Masters title at Wembley. The 43-year-old's highest break to date is 143, and he has accumulated 167 century breaks. In his 24 years of professional play, McManus has gathered career prize earnings of £2 million.
9 Peter Ebdon - £3 million (£5 million) - $4.92 million
Peter Ebdon is an English professional snooker player, turned professional in 1991. He is the former World Champion and UK Champion. Ebdon is well known for his highly focused, conscientiously slow and determined style of play. He has compiled 308 century breaks during his career, and his highest break to date is 147. He won the World Snooker Championship in 2002, defeating Stephen Hendry 18-17, and was runner-up in the 1996 and 2006 events. The 43-year-old has gathered £3 million in career prize money. He is ranked 23rd in the current Snooker World Rankings, and his highest ranking to date is 3rd in 1996-97 and 2002-03.
8 Ken Doherty - £3 million (£6 million) - $4.92 million
Ken Doherty is the only player ever to have been the world amateur (1989) and the world professional champion (1997). The Irish snooker player, turned pro in 1990, was also the World Under-21 Champion in 1989. Overall, Doherty has 6 ranking and 16 non-ranking tournament wins under his belt. The 44-year-old's highest break to date is 147, and he has compiled 316 century breaks in his career. His highest ranking to date is 2nd in 2006-07, the season he won the Malta Cup, defeating John Higgins 9-8. Doherty has gathered career prize money of £3 million, and is ranked 36th in the current Snooker World Rankings.
7 John Parrott - £3 million (£9 million) - $4.92 million
John Parrott is an English former professional snooker player and television personality. He turned professional in 1983 and retired in 2010, collecting £3 million in prize money over his 27-year professional career. Parrott has won 9 ranking and 7 non-ranking tournaments. He won the World Snooker Championship and the UK Championship in 1991. Two years earlier he had lost 3-18 to Steve Davis, the biggest World Championship final defeat of a professional snooker player in modern times. The 49-year-old has spent 3 successive seasons as the World Number 2 in the world rankings. He has compiled 221 century breaks, and his highest break to date is 147.
6 Mark Williams - £4 million (£7 million) - $6.56 million
Mark James Williams, nicknamed 'The Welsh Potting Machine", has won the World Championship twice, in 2000 and 2003. He is the first left-handed player ever to win the World Championship. Williams is well-renowned for his single-ball potting, and is regarded by many snooker pundits as one of the greatest long potters in the game. He turned professional in 1992, and has won £4 million in his career. The 38-year-old has 18 ranking, 2 minor-ranking and 5 non-ranking tournament wins under his belt. Williams' highest break to date is 147, and he has accumulated 298 century breaks. He has been ranked world number 1 for a total of 3 seasons, and is ranked 18th in the current Snooker World Rankings.
5 Jimmy White - £4 million (£15 million) - $6.56 million
Jimmy White is an English professional snooker player, turned professional in 1980. Due to his fluid, attacking style of play, he is often referred to as the "People's Champion". The 51-year-old has collected £4 million in prize money in his 34 years playing the game. White has reached the World Championship Final six times, and he is renowned for losing each one of them. However, he has accomplished 10 ranking and 18 non-ranking tournament wins. White's highest break to date is 147, and he has gathered 318 century breaks in his career. He is ranked 61st in the current Snooker World Rankings.
4 John Higgins - £5 million (£9 million) - $8.21 million
John Higgins is one of the most successful snooker players in the modern history of the sport. After turning professional in 1992, Higgins won four World Championship (1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011), three UK Championship (1998, 2000 and 2010) and two Masters titles (1999 and 2006). He is fifth in terms of world titles won in the modern era. The 38-year-old has won 25 ranking, 3 minor-ranking and 13 non-ranking tournaments. He is currently ranked 10th in the Snooker World Rankings. Higgins has compiled 530 century breaks in his career, and his highest break to date is 147. He has made a total of £5 million in career winnings.
3 Steve Davis - £5 million (£24 million) - $8.21 million
Steve Davis is snooker's first millionaire. He turned professional in 1978, and has gathered £5 million in career prize money, which when adjusted for inflation and other factors comes to be about £24 million, making Davis the highest-earning snooker player in terms of real money. Steve Davis has won more professional titles in the sport than any other player, including 6 World Championships in the 1980s and a record 6 UK Championship titles. Overall, he has won 28 ranking and 53 non-ranking tournaments. His highest break to date is 147, and he has accumulated 345 century breaks. The 56-year-old is ranked 60th in the current Snooker World Rankings.
2 Ronnie O'Sullivan - £6 million (£11 million) - $9.85 million
Ronnie O'Sullivan is considered by many to be the greatest snooker player of all time. He turned professional in 1992, and has gathered career prize money totaling £6 million. He is the reigning World Champion, having won the title for the fifth time in 2013. O'Sullivan has 25 ranking, 3 minor-ranking and 25 non-ranking tournament wins under his belt. He is tied for third with John Higgins on the list of players to have won the most ranking titles. He is currently ranked 32nd in the Snooker World Rankings. The 38-year-old has compiled 724 century breaks in his career, and his highest break to date is 147. He set the record for the fastest competitive maximum break at 5 minutes and 20 seconds at the 1997 World Championship.
1 Stephen Hendry - £8 million (£21 million) - $13.13 million
Stephen Hendry is the highest-earning snooker player in the modern history of the game. During his professional career which lasted from 1985 to 2012, he accumulated career prize earnings of £8 million. Hendry became the youngest professional snooker player in 1985, aged 15, and in 1990, he became the youngest-ever snooker World Champion, aged 21. He has won 7 World Championship titles, a record in the modern era. Overall, he has won 36 ranking and 38 non-ranking tournaments. The 45-year-old was the World Number 1 for eight successive years between 1990 and 1998, and again in 2006-07. His highest break to date is 147, and he has compiled 775 century breaks during his career.