Pot Black

Pot Black was a UK televised snooker tournament that played a large part in the popularisation of the modern game.

In the late 1960s the BBC started broadcasting in colour, and were looking for programmes that could exploit this new technology. The game of snooker, with its rainbow of differently coloured balls, was suggested. The format of a knockout tournament, with weekly single-frame matches, was devised by BBC Birmingham producer Philip Lewis, and the programme first aired on July 23, 1969, on BBC2, presented by Alan Weeks, with referee Sydney Lee and match commentary by "Whispering" Ted Lowe. The first tournament was won by Ray Reardon. Mark Williams holds the highest break record of 119.

The success of Pot Black was immediate and phenomenal, and it became the second most popular programme on BBC2. The tournament featured a round-robin tournament where the total number of points scored could often become crucial. Therefore matches always ended with the potting of the black ball, which is often not bothered with in multi-frame matches.

Pot Black's instantly recognisable theme tune was the ragtime classic Black and White Rag, composed by George Botsford and performed by Winifred Atwell.

Original version

Pot Black ran from 1969 to 1986, by which time professional snooker, with its long matches, had become so popular that the single-frame matches (the finals were the best of 3 frames from 1978 to 1997) that Pot Black offered seemed almost irrelevant.

Pot Black featured all the top players of its time, with many such as Fred Davis , Ray Reardon, Graham Miles and Alex Higgins becoming well-loved personalities. Pot Black helped transform snooker from a minority sport with just a handful of professionals into one of the most popular sports in the UK, where every tournament is fiercely contested and the top players earn millions annually, but there is much nostalgia for the simpler, friendlier days of Pot Black.

Pot Black is sometimes credited with producing one of the most memorable British sports quotes. Legendary commentator Ted Lowe, aware that not all viewers had colour televisions, said the player is "going for the yellow ball by the sidepocket - and for those in black and white, it's next to the blue.". However, this quote is more likely to have occurred during a live snooker match, and not during the pre-recorded Pot Black - especially as it was featured on a '50 Years of ITV' special of It'll Be Alright On The Night, and Pot Black is a BBC show.


It returned in 1991 being shown on BBC1's afternoon schedule. In 1992, The show's bosses introduced a single "time-frame" tournament before returning to the normal format in 1993 before the series ended.

A junior version, called Junior Pot Black, ran from 1981 to 1983 and that was also revived in 1991, for a single year. It was won by Dean Reynolds, John Parrott (twice) and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Pot Black also returned in 1997 as Seniors Pot Black, featuring players who were over 40 at the time. Joe Johnson won the series, having never taken part in the original series. Retired players Ray Reardon, John Spencer, Perrie Mans, Eddie Charlton and Graham Miles took part as well as over 40 (at the time current professionals) Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn, Terry Griffiths, Willie Thorne and Johnson.

A Celebrity Pot Black was held on 15 July 2006 in aid of Sport Relief. It was contested between the team of Ronnie O'Sullivan and Bradley Walsh and the team of Steve Davis and Vernon Kay. Steve Davis and Vernon Kay were the winners and became the first ever champions of Celebrity Pot Black. Dermot O'Leary hosted and Michaela Tabb was the referee for the one frame match.

Current version

A one-day Pot Black tournament was held on October 29 2005, and broadcast on the BBC sports programme Grandstand. The invitational event featured eight players, namely Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire, Matthew Stevens, Paul Hunter, John Higgins, Jimmy White and Shaun Murphy, with Matthew Stevens beating Shaun Murphy in the final.

The 2006 edition of Pot Black took place at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London on 2 September 2006. Mark J Williams beat John Higgins and achieved the highest break in the history of the tournament with a 119 clearance in the final.

The 2007 Pot Black Cup was aired on Saturday 6 October 2007 at 1pm on BBC One. It was won by Ken Doherty (who beat Shaun Murphy 71–36) making him the first Irishman to win the competition.


  • There have only been six century breaks in the history of Pot Black. Eddie Charlton notched the first ever century and his 110 break stood as the record for many years until eclipsed by Shaun Murphy's 111 against Jimmy White in 2005. The highest break is now held by Mark Williams with his 119 in 2006.
  • The original version of Pot Black only had two hosts, Alan Weeks and, towards the end of its run, David Icke. Subsequent revivals have been hosted by Eamonn Holmes (1991 and 1992), David Vine (1993 and 1997) and Hazel Irvine since 2005.


Year Winner Opponent Final score
1969 Ray Reardon John Spencer 88–29 ()
1970 John Spencer Ray Reardon 88–27 (points)
1971 John Spencer Fred Davis 61–40 (points)
1972 Eddie Charlton Ray Reardon 75–43 (points)
1973 Eddie Charlton Rex Williams 93–33 (points)
1974 Graham Miles John Spencer 147–86 (points from 2 frames)
1975 Graham Miles Dennis Taylor 81–27 (points)
1976 John Spencer Dennis Taylor 69–42 (points)
1977 Perrie Mans Doug Mountjoy 90–21 (points)
1978 Doug Mountjoy Graham Miles 2–1 ()
1979 Ray Reardon Doug Mountjoy 2–1 (frames)
1980 Eddie Charlton Ray Reardon 2–1 (frames)
1981 Cliff Thorburn Jim Wych 2–0 (frames)
1982 Steve Davis Eddie Charlton 2–0 (frames)
1983 Steve Davis Ray Reardon 2–0 (frames)
1984 Terry Griffiths John Spencer 2–1 (frames)
1985 Doug Mountjoy Jimmy White 2– 0 (frames)
1986 Jimmy White Kirk Stevens 2–0 (frames)
1991 Steve Davis Stephen Hendry 2–1 (frames)
1992 Neal Foulds James Wattana
1993 Steve Davis Mike Hallett
1997 Joe Johnson Terry Griffiths
2005 Matthew Stevens Shaun Murphy 53–27 (points)
2006 Mark J Williams John Higgins 119–13 (points)
2007 Ken Doherty Shaun Murphy 71–36 (points)

Media coverage

Pot Black currently gets shown on BBC One.

External links

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