Bill Werbeniuk

William Alexander Werbeniuk (/ˌwɜːrbɛˈnɪk/ WURR-ben-IK; 14 January 1947 – 20 January 2003) was a Canadian professional snooker and pool player. Recognisable for his girth, he was nicknamed "Big Bill". Werbeniuk was a four-time World Championship quarter-finalist and also a UK Championship semi-finalist, reaching a career high world ranking of #8 for the 1983–84 season.

Bill Werbeniuk
Bill Werbeniuk.jpg
Born(1947-01-14)14 January 1947
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Died20 January 2003(2003-01-20) (aged 56)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Sport country Canada
NicknameBig Bill
Highest ranking8 (1983/84)
Best ranking finishQuarter-final (x6)
Tournament wins

Early lifeEdit

William Werbeniuk was born on 14 January 1947 in Winnipeg.[1] His paternal grandfather had immigrated to Canada from Ukraine; his father, according to Werbeniuk, "was one of the biggest fences in Canada" and "committed armed robberies, peddled drugs, every larceny in the language."[1] His father also owned Pop's Billiards on Logan Avenue in Winnipeg, where Werbeniuk began playing snooker as a child.[1] Werbeniuk spent a portion of his youth travelling with Cliff Thorburn and playing pool for money.[2]


Werbeniuk won the Canadian Snooker Championship in 1973, with a 16-15 victory against Robert Paquette after being 12-15 behind. This qualified him for the North American Championship.[3] He took the North American Championship title by defeating Cliff Thorburn 26-22, winning five of the last six frames after the pair were level at 21-21.[4]

His playing record included an 9–8 quarter-final loss to John Pulman in the 1975 Canadian Open and quarter-final losses in the 1978 and 1979 World Championships to Ray Reardon and John Virgo respectively. He reached the semi-finals of the UK Championships (when it opened to non-UK based residents) but lost 9–3 to the reigning world champion Terry Griffiths. He suffered a third World quarter-final defeat to Reardon in 1981 by 13–10.

In the 1983 Lada Classic, Bill reached his first major final, but was beaten by Steve Davis 9–5. Werbeniuk again reached the quarter-finals of the World Championships, in the same year, losing 13–11 to Alex Higgins, and reached his second major final in the summer, losing 7–3 to compatriot Cliff Thorburn in the Winfield Masters in Australia.

Alcohol consumptionEdit

Werbeniuk was noted for the copious amounts of alcohol he consumed before and during matches – at least six pints before a match and then one pint for each frame. In total, he drank between 40 and 50 pints of lager per day.[1][5] Doctors advised Werbeniuk to drink alcohol to counteract a familial benign essential tremor.[6] Later in his career he also took propranolol, a beta blocker, to cope with the effects of his alcohol consumption on his heart.[7]

Werbenuik was reported to have successfully claimed the cost of 6 pints of lager before every match as a tax deductible expense.[2]

Some of Werbeniuk's alleged feats of drinking include: 76 cans of lager during a game with John Spencer in Australia in the 1970s;[1] 43 pints of lager in a snooker match/drinking contest against Scotsman Eddie Sinclair in which, after Sinclair had passed out following his 42nd pint, Werbeniuk was reported to say "I'm away to the bar now for a proper drink";[8] 28 pints of lager and 16 whiskies over the course of 11 frames during a match against Nigel Bond, in January 1990 – after which Werbeniuk then consumed an entire bottle of Scotch to "drown his sorrows" after losing the match.[1]

Split trouser incidentEdit

A memorable incident occurred during a televised match against Dennis Taylor in the World Team Tournament. Werbeniuk tried to stretch across the table, but due to his size was having some difficulty. Eventually he split his trousers. The ripping noise it made caused many in the audience, including his opponent, to laugh out loud. Werbeniuk took it in good humour, asking the audience "who did that?" as if insinuating that the noise was attributed to flatulence.[9]

Trick shotsEdit

In another incident, playing against Joe Johnson, Werbeniuk made what the announcer termed the "pot of the century" when he potted a long red by jumping the cue ball so that it bounced in front of and over an interposing red, knocking the object red in.[10] Later in the match, he got an unusual fluke, when he missed a simple brown to the top corner, but it cannoned out of the pocket, off the opposite cushion and into the centre pocket on the same side.[11]

Use of propranololEdit

Werbeniuk was ranked 8th in the world in 1983[5] and reached the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship four times before propranolol was banned in snooker competition, as it was classified as a performance-enhancing drug by the International Olympic Committee, the anti-doping rules of which were adopted by World Snooker.[5] Werbeniuk insisted that his use was medicinal only and under doctor's orders, but was fined and sanctioned anyway.[5]

His career effectively over, he returned to Vancouver,[12] where he lived with his mother and brother.[2] A bankruptcy order was filed against him in 1991, and he lived on disability benefits.[1]


Werbeniuk died of heart failure on 20 January 2003, six days after his 56th birthday.[13][14]

Performance and rankings timelineEdit

Tournament 1973/
Ranking[15] No ranking system 14 17 12 12 10 9 9 8 14 17 24 33 47 UR UR 146
Ranking tournaments
Grand Prix[nb 1] Tournament Not Held QF 2R 1R 1R 1R 2R WD A A LQ
UK Championship Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 1R 1R 1R 1R LQ A A LQ
Classic Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 1R 1R 3R 2R 1R WD A A LQ
British Open[nb 2] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 1R QF 1R LQ WD A LQ LQ
World Championship 2R 2R 2R A QF QF 2R QF 2R QF 2R 2R 1R LQ 1R WD LQ LQ WD
Non-ranking tournaments
The Masters NH 1R A A A A A A A QF 1R 1R A A A A A A A
Irish Masters[nb 3] NH A A A A A A A A A 1R A A A A A A A A
Matchroom League[nb 4] Tournament Not Held RR Not Held A A A A A A
Former ranking tournaments
Canadian Masters[nb 5] NH Non-Ranking Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking LQ Not Held
International Open[nb 6] Tournament Not Held NR 2R 1R 1R 2R 1R 2R LQ A Not Held
Former non-ranking tournaments
Norwich Union Open A QF Tournament Not Held
World Matchplay Championship Not Held QF Tournament Not Held
Holsten Lager International Tournament Not Held 1R Tournament Not Held
Canadian Masters[nb 7] NH 1R QF QF QF 2R QF A Tournament Not Held A A A R Not Held
Padmore Super Crystalate Tournament Not Held QF Tournament Not Held
Pontins Camber Sands Tournament Not Held QF Tournament Not Held
International Open[nb 8] Tournament Not Held 1R Ranking Event Not Held
UK Championship Tournament Not Held A A SF 2R QF A A Ranking Event
Classic Tournament Not Held A A A F Ranking Event
Tolly Cobbold Classic Tournament Not Held A A A A SF A Tournament Not Held
British Open[nb 9] Tournament Not Held RR RR RR RR RR Ranking Event
New Zealand Masters Tournament Not Held W QF Not Held A A Not Held
Australian Masters[nb 10] Tournament Not Held A A A A F 1R 1R A A NH A Not Held
Pot Black A A A A A A A A A A A 1R QF Tournament Not Held
Performance Table Legend
LQ lost in the qualifying draw #R lost in the early rounds of the tournament
(WR = Wildcard round, RR = Round robin)
QF lost in the quarter-finals
SF lost in the semi-finals F lost in the final W won the tournament
DNQ did not qualify for the tournament A did not participate in the tournament WD withdrew from the tournament
NH / Not Held means an event was not held.
NR / Non-Ranking Event means an event is/was no longer a ranking event.
R / Ranking Event means an event is/was a ranking event.
  1. ^ The event was also called the Professional Players Tournament (1982/93–1983/1984)
  2. ^ The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)
  3. ^ The event was also called the Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament (1974/1975–1976/1977)
  4. ^ The event was also called the Professional Snooker League (1983/1984)
  5. ^ The event was also called the Canadian Open (1978/1979–1980/1981)
  6. ^ The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  7. ^ The event was also called the Canadian Open (1978/1979–1980/1981)
  8. ^ The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  9. ^ The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)
  10. ^ The event was also called the Hong Kong Open (1989/1990) and Australian Open (1994/1995)

Career finalsEdit


Individual finals
Outcome Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Winner 1973 Canadian Snooker Championship Robert Paquette 16-15 [3]
Winner 1973 North America Championship Cliff Thorburn 26-22 [4]
Winner 1974 North America Championship
Winner 1975 North America Championship
Winner 1976 North America Championship
Runner-up 1983 The Classic
Winner 1983 New Zealand Masters
Runner-up 1983 Australian Masters


Team finals
Outcome Year Championship Team/partner Opponent(s) in the final Score Ref.
Winner 1982 World Team Classic Canada England 4–2


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Bill Werbeniuk". Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Everton, Clive (24 January 2003). "Bill Werbeniuk". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Comback wins snooker title". The Ottawa Citizen. 3 February 1973. p. 12.
  4. ^ a b "New champ". The Ottawa Citizen. 15 February 1973. p. 21.
  5. ^ a b c d Virgo, John (29 April 2006). "Where Are They Now? – Bill Werbeniuk". Hersham, Surrey, UK: self-published. Archived from the original on 29 April 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2008.
  6. ^ Carter, Neil (2012). Medicine, Sport and the Body: A Historical Perspective. A&C Black. p. 123. ISBN 9781849666800. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  7. ^ Kelso, Paul (23 January 2003). "Snooker star with insatiable thirst for the game dies at 56". London. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  8. ^ White, Jim (15 October 2001). "Interview Stephen Hendry". The Guardian. London.
  9. ^ "BBC SPORT | Other Sport | Snooker | Bad Boys: 'Big' Bill Werbeniuk". Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  10. ^ Video on YouTube
  11. ^ "Amazing Snooker Fluke" on YouTube
  12. ^ Cashmore, Ellis; Cashmore (2003). Sports Culture: An A-Z Guide. Routledge. ISBN 9781134675821.
  13. ^ "Snooker mourns Werbeniuk" BBC Sport website (22 January 2003)
  14. ^ "Bill Werbeniuk, 56". The Chronicle Herald. 26 January 2003. Archived from the original on 28 July 2003. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Ranking History". Retrieved 24 December 2017.

External linksEdit