Joe Davis

Joseph Davis OBE (15 April 1901 – 10 July 1978) was an English professional snooker and English billiards player. He was the dominant figure in snooker from the 1920s to the 1950s and has been credited with inventing aspects of the way the game is now played, such as break-building. With equipment manufacturer Bill Camkin, he drove the creation of the World Snooker Championship by persuading the Billiards Association and Control Council to recognise an official professional snooker championship in 1927. Davis won the first 15 championships from 1927 to 1946 and remains the only undefeated player in World Snooker Championship history. He scored the championship's first century break, in 1930.

Joseph Davis
Joe Davis.jpg
Davis c. 1920
Born(1901-04-15)15 April 1901
Whitwell, Derbyshire, England
Died10 July 1978(1978-07-10) (aged 77)
Hampshire, England
Sport country England
Highest break147 (1955)
Tournament wins
World Champion

Davis was a professional English billiards player from the age of 18 and was World Billiards Champion four times between 1928 and 1932. He was the first person to win world titles in both billiards and snooker. After his 1946 World Snooker Championship victory, Davis no longer played in the World Championship but participated in other tournaments and exhibition matches until 1964, winning four News of the World Snooker Tournament titles. He also continued to wield considerable influence over the professional game through his chairmanship of the professional players' association, his co-ownership of the venue Leicester Square Hall, and his negotiation of television contracts. His younger brother Fred Davis was the only person to beat Joe Davis in a competitive snooker match without receiving a start.

In 1955, Davis was the first player to make an officially recognised maximum break. He collapsed whilst watching Fred play Perrie Mans in the semi-final of the 1978 World Snooker Championship. Whilst convalescing, Davis contracted a chest infection that led to his death on 10 July that year.

Early life and billiards careerEdit

Joseph "Joe" Davis was born in Whitwell, Derbyshire, on 15 April 1901; he was the eldest of the six children of coal-miner and pub landlord Fred Davis and his wife Ann-Eliza. Joe's snooker-playing brother Fred was the youngest of the six children.[1][2] Joe learnt to play English billiards in the billiard room of The Queen's Hotel, his family's pub in Whittington Moor, and was coached by local player Ernest Rudge. Joe also read Charles Dawson's book Practical Billiards. He scored a century break in billiards at the age of 12 and won the Chesterfield and District Championship at the age of 13.[3](pp108–110) Davis would later manage billiard halls that were owned either by his family or by Rudge.[1]

Davis became a professional billiards player in 1919 at the age of 18.[4][5]:30 In 1920, he lost to Fred Lawrence in the semi-final of an invitational professional tournament at Thurston's Hall. He also lost to Lawrence in the final of his first open professional championship, the 1921 Midlands Counties Billiards Championship.[5] Davis won the 1922 Midlands Counties Billiards Championship, beating Tom Dennis 6,417–4,433 in the week-long final.[1][6]

Later in 1922, a victory in the second-division championship, which included a win in the final over Arthur Peall—son of former world champion W.J. Peall—gave Davis an entry into the Billiards Association and Control Council (BA&CC) Professional Championship.[1][5]:54 According to The Birmingham Daily Gazette he was "outclassed" by Tom Newman in their professional championship match, losing 5,181–8,000.[7] davis failed to qualify for the 1923 event, losing to Lawrence in the second-division semi-final,[8] and although he was eligible for 1924, Davis chose not to enter. In 1925, only Newman and Tom Reece entered the championship.[9](pp79–81)

In 1926, Davis and defending champion Newman were the only entrants in the Professional Championship. Newman beat Davis 16,000–9,505,[9](pp212–213) with an average score of 82.9 per visit.[9](p82) Davis reached the final the following year and despite making a break of 2,501, he was again defeated by Newman.[9](p83) In his third final, in 1928, Davis defeated Newman to become the world champion at English billiards for the first time, making sixty centuries in the last final to be played with ivory balls.[9](p84) Davis successfully defended his title for the next three years. In the 1929 final against Newman, Davis made 63 century breaks and his average score per visit to the table was 100.[9](p86) In 1930, he set a new record average score-per-visit of 113.3, beating Newman 20,198–20,117.[9](p94) The event was not held in 1931 as most of the leading professionals did not enter, mainly due to a disagreement with the BA&CC over the cloth to be used. The only entrant was Willie Smith, who was not declared champion. In 1932, Davis faced New Zealander Clark McConachy in the final; McConarchy had won three of their four warm-up matches but in the championship itself, Davis won 25,161–19,259, scoring over 11,000 of his points through a series of runs of "close cannons", in which the three balls are kept close together for consecutive cannons.[9](p96–100) Davis contested the final again in 1933 and 1934, losing on both occasions to Australian Walter Lindrum.[9](pp212–213)

Snooker careerEdit

Coinciding with Davis' peak as a billiards player, public interest in billiards was waning because the top players were becoming so proficient the game was seen as boring for spectators.[4] By 1924, amendments to the rules to make high breaks more difficult were discussed but breaks of over 1,000 became increasingly common.[9](pp81–86) As a billiard hall manager, Davis noticed the increasing popularity of snooker and with Birmingham-based billiards equipment manager Bill Camkin, persuaded the BA&CC to recognise an official professional snooker championship in the 1926–27 season.[1] In 1927, the final of the first snooker world championship was held at Camkin's Hall; Davis won the tournament by beating Dennis 16–7 (20–11 after "dead frames" were played to take the total to the agreed 31 frames) in the final, for which he won £6 10s.[10][11]:27–30[12]

Davis won the world championship every year until 1940,[13] and made the tournament's first official century break in 1930.[11]:16–17 In 1928, the final was held in the back room of a pub owned by the losing finalist Dennis;[3]:49 in 1931 and 1934, the tournament was twice contested only by Davis and another player.[14]:1 In 1934, Davis travelled to Australia to play Horace Lindrum in an invitational match, The World Snooker Challenge, which some called an unofficial world championship. Davis beat Lindrum by 46 frames to 29. From 1935, the championship became more remunerative for players.[3]:49 The 1940 final was contested between Joe Davis and his brother Fred; Joe took an early lead but Fred won 11 frames in a row to take a 20–14 lead. Eventually Joe won the match 37–35, with Fred winning the dead frame that took it to 37–36.[12]

Due to World War II, the world championship was not held again until 1946.[12] Davis successfully defended his title, his 15th consecutive win, and thereby held the title for 20 consecutive years. As of 2020, he has won more world championships than any other player.[10] Davis retired from the event following this victory, having won the title at all 15 events from 1927 to 1946, making him, as of 2020, the only undefeated player in the history of the world championships.[15][16] Davis remained the best player until his retirement in 1964; his brother Fred came closest to Joe's standard during this time.[3]:50–51 According to snooker historian Clive Everton, Joe Davis' retirement from the world championship reduced its prestige, a view that is shared by snooker journalists and authors Hector Nunns and David Hendon.[3]:50[17]

With the exception of the world championship, tournaments were played on a handicap basis; Davis would concede a set number of points in each frame to his opponents, for example beginning each frame from 0 points whilst his opponent started from 14.[3]:50–51 He won the News of the World Tournament on three occasions during the 1950s,[11]:27–29 whilst his brother Fred and future world champion John Pulman each won it twice.[18] In 1959, Davis attempted to popularise a new version of the game called snooker plus, which had two extra colours—an orange and a purple—and was used for the 1959 News of the World Snooker Plus Tournament.[11]:123 According to Everton, "the public rejected the game for the gimmick it was".[19]

Davis scored the first officially recognised maximum break of 147 on 22 January 1955 at Leicester Square Hall in an exhibition match against Willie Smith.[20] Because the match had taken place under the rules used by professionals that included the "play again" rule under which the opponent can require a player who has made a foul shot to play the next shot as well, the BA&CC initially refused to recognise the break because it was not made under their own version of the rules. The BA&CC recognised the break in April 1957, shortly before the "play again" rule was incorporated into their own rules for amateur players.[3](p50)[21]

In 1962, at over 60 years of age, Davis made a televised break of exactly 100 on his first visit to the table in the first frame of a match against the sitting World Champion John Pulman; the break consisted of seven blacks, two pinks and five blues, and came to an end when Davis missed a long red into the top right hand pocket. The missed shot was the only time during the break when Davis was faced with a difficult pot, such was the quality of his positional play.[22]

Davis was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1963.[21] He continued to play professionally until 1964.[3](p50) Davis died on 10 July 1978,[2] two months after becoming ill while watching his brother Fred play Perrie Mans in the 1978 World Snooker Championship semi-final. The day after the match, he collapsed in the street and required a lengthy operation. He died from a chest infection he contracted whilst recuperating from the operation.[3](pp48–51)[23]:67 The house in Whitwell where he was born bears a plaque commemorating him.[11]:27–30


Joe Davis won four world billiards championship titles and 15 World Snooker Championship titles over a 20-year period during which he was undefeated. Other than in handicapped matches in which he conceded a start, he lost only four times, all of which came towards the end of his career and were against his brother Fred,[1] Everton has said of Davis' influence on the game in the early 1920s;"In those days, the prevailing idea was to pot a red or two, a couple of colours and play safe but in the time he could spare from billiards Davis devoted considerable thought and practice to evolving the positional and breakbuilding shots, sequences and techniques which are taken for granted today".[3]:49–50

Fred Davis, the second person to become a world champion at both snooker and billiards,[24] said his brother Joe was "a very good player before anyone else knew how to play the game".[3]:49

Joe Davis was not able to focus with his right eye; he played with his cue to the left of his chin.[4] Coach Frank Callan, in his book "Frank Callan's Snooker Clinic", compared the most successful player at the time, Steve Davis to Joe Davis and concluded Joe Davis was the better player. Callan also stated; "many players who tried to emulate Joe's stance (which was unusually off-centre due to left eye striking) simply gave up the game when they found they couldn't play like that".[25]

Steve Davis was heavily influenced by Joe Davis's book How I Play Snooker when learning to play.[15][17] Ronnie O'Sullivan said of one of Davis's coaching books; "2007-8 … was one of my best years and it was all because I was reading the Joe Davis book".[26]

Davis's influence on the game was such that, according to Callan, "his word was law".[25] Everton said following his retirement from the world championship, Davis "through his force of personality … controlled the game", being the pre-eminent player, chairman of the professional players' association, a co-owner of the Leicester Square Hall, the main venue for professional matches, and the negotiator for television contacts.[1][23]:9–10

Personal lifeEdit

Joe Davis married Florence Enid Stevenson (b. 1898/99) in 1921 and they had two children. The marriage was dissolved in 1931. In 1945, he married Juanita Ida Triggs (b. 1914/15), who was a singer performing under the stage name June Malo.[1]

Snooker performance timelineEdit

Tournament 1926/
Daily Mail Gold Cup[nb 1][nb 2] Tournament Not Held 1[27] 1[28] 4[29] 6[30]
World Championship[3]:54–55 W W W W W W W W W W W W W W
Tournament 1945/
Sunday Empire News Tournament[nb 1][18] Tournament Not Held 1 Tournament Not Held
News of the World Snooker Tournament[nb 1][nb 3] Tournament Not Held 1[11]:91 3[31] 7[32] 1[11]:91 2[11]:91 2[11]:91 1[11]:91 5[12] 5[33] 2[34] 1[11]:91
Sporting Record Masters' Tournament[nb 1][14]:4 Tournament Not Held 1 Tournament Not Held
World Championship[3]:54–55 W A A A A A A Tournament Not Held
Performance Table Legend
W won the tournament #R/N lost in the early rounds of the tournament
(N = position in round-robin event)
A did not participate in the tournament
  1. ^ a b c d Round-robin handicap tournament
  2. ^ Billiards event before 1936/37 season
  3. ^ Snooker Plus event in 1959/60 season

Career finalsEdit

Snooker world championship finals: (15 titles)Edit


Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1 1927 World Snooker Championship   Tom Dennis (ENG) 20–11
Winner 2 1928 World Snooker Championship   Fred Lawrence (ENG) 16–13
Winner 3 1929 World Snooker Championship   Tom Dennis (ENG) 19–14
Winner 4 1930 World Snooker Championship   Tom Dennis (ENG) 25–12
Winner 5 1931 World Snooker Championship   Tom Dennis (ENG) 25–21
Winner 6 1932 World Snooker Championship   Clark McConachy (NZL) 30–19
Winner 7 1933 World Snooker Championship   Willie Smith (ENG) 25–18
Winner 8 1934 World Snooker Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 25–22
Winner 9 1935 World Snooker Championship   Willie Smith (ENG) 25–20
Winner 10 1936 World Snooker Championship   Horace Lindrum (AUS) 34–27
Winner 11 1937 World Snooker Championship   Horace Lindrum (AUS) 32–29
Winner 12 1938 World Snooker Championship   Sidney Smith (ENG) 37–24
Winner 13 1939 World Snooker Championship   Sidney Smith (ENG) 43–30
Winner 14 1940 World Snooker Championship   Fred Davis (ENG) 37–36
Winner 15 1946 World Snooker Championship   Horace Lindrum (AUS) 78–67

Other snooker tournament wins: (9 titles)Edit

Outcome Year Championship Runner-up Score Ref
Winner 1934 World Snooker Challenge   Horace Lindrum (AUS) 46–29 [35]
Winner 1936 Daily Mail Gold Cup   Horace Lindrum (AUS) Round-robin [27][18]
Winner 1938 Daily Mail Gold Cup   Willie Smith (ENG) Round-robin [28][18]
Winner 1948 Sunday Empire News Tournament   John Pulman (ENG) Round-robin [18]
Winner 1950 News of the World Snooker Tournament   Sidney Smith (ENG) Round-robin [11]:91
Winner 1950 Sporting Record Masters' Tournament   Sidney Smith (ENG) Round-robin [14]:4[36]
Winner 1953 News of the World Snooker Tournament   Jackie Rea (NIR) Round-robin [11]:91
Winner 1956 News of the World Snooker Tournament   Fred Davis (ENG) Round-robin [11]:91
Winner 1959 News of the World Snooker Tournament   Fred Davis (ENG) Round-robin [37][38]

Billiards world championship finalsEdit


Outcome No. Date Championship Opponent in the final Score
Runner-up 1 May 1926 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 9,505–16,000
Runner-up 2 May 1927 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 14,763–16,000
Winner 1 May 1928 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 16,000–14,874
Winner 2 April 1929 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 18,000–17,219
Winner 3 May 1930 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 20,198–20,117
Winner 4 March 1932 Billiards Association and Control Club Championship   Clark McConachy (NZL) 25,161–19,259
Runner-up 3 May 1933 World Professional Championship of English Billiards   Walter Lindrum (AUS) 21,121–21,815
Runner-up 4 October 1934 World Professional Championship of English Billiards   Walter Lindrum (AUS) 22,678–23,553

UK professional billiards championship finalsEdit

The UK championship was instituted in 1934. It was not held from 1940 to 1946.[39]

Outcome No. Date Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1 1934 United Kingdom Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 18,745–18,309
Winner 2 1935 United Kingdom Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 21,733–19,910
Winner 3 1936 United Kingdom Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 21,710–19,791
Winner 4 1937 United Kingdom Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 22,601–18,321
Winner 5 1938 United Kingdom Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 20,933–19,542
Winner 6 1939 United Kingdom Championship   Tom Newman (ENG) 21,601–18,383
Winner 7 1947 United Kingdom Championship   John Barrie (ENG) walkover


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Everton, Clive (23 September 2004). "Davis, Joseph [Joe]". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31013. Archived from the original on 3 September 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (8 July 2019). "Joe Davis". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Everton, Clive (1985). Guinness Snooker: The Records. Enfield: Guinness Superlatives. ISBN 0851124488.
  4. ^ a b c Williams, Luke; Gadsby, Paul (2005). Masters of the baize : cue legends, bad boys and forgotten men in search of snooker's ultimate prize. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing. pp. 15–26. ISBN 978-1840188721.
  5. ^ a b c Davis, Joe (1976). The Breaks Came My Way – Autobiography. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-01686-7.:30–39
  6. ^ "Easy for Davis". Nottingham Journal. 27 February 1922. p. 7 – via British Newspaper Archive. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Davis beaten in billiards championship". Birmingham Daily Gazette. 17 April 1922. p. 6 – via British Newspaper Archive. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Billiards". Nottingham Journal. 26 April 1923. p. 7 – via British Newspaper Archive. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Everton, Clive (2012). A History of Billiards: (the English three-ball game). Malmesbury: ISBN 9780956405456.
  10. ^ a b " World Championship – History". World Snooker. World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. 2 March 2011. Archived from the original on 15 March 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Morrison, Ian (1987). The Hamlyn Encyclopedia of Snooker. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-60055604-6.
  12. ^ a b c d e Kobylecky, John (2019). The Complete International Directory of Snooker Players – 1927 to 2018. Kobyhadrian Books. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-0993143311.
  13. ^ Hale, Janice (1987). Rothmans Snooker Yearbook 1987–88. Aylesbury: Queen Anne Press. pp. 246–249. ISBN 0356146901.
  14. ^ a b c Hayton, Eric; Dee, John (2004). The CueSport Book of Professional Snooker: The Complete Record & History. Lowestoft: Rose Villa Publications. ISBN 978-0954854904.
  15. ^ a b Davis, Steve (9 April 2015). Interesting: My Autobiography. London: Ebury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4735-0248-2.
  16. ^ Nauright, John; Zipp, Sarah (3 January 2020). Routledge Handbook of Global Sport. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-317-50047-6.
  17. ^ a b Nunns, Hector; Hendon, David (2020). "Full History of Snooker". WPBSA. Archived from the original on 10 August 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  18. ^ a b c d e Morrison, Ian (1989). Snooker: records, facts and champions. Enfield: Guinness Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 0-85112-364-3.
  19. ^ Everton, Clive (1979). The History of Billiards and Snooker. London: Cassell. p. 80. ISBN 0304303739.
  20. ^ "First official 147 break in snooker". Guinness World Records Limited. Archived from the original on 25 December 2019. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Obituary: Mr Joe Davis". The Times. London. 11 July 1978. p. 16 – via The Times Digital Archive. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  22. ^ BBC Snooker Century Breakers VHS home video 1993
  23. ^ a b Everton, Clive (2 December 2011). Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards: The Inside Story of the Snooker World. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78057-399-1.
  24. ^ "Tributes to cue king Fred Davis". BBC Sport. 16 April 1998. Archived from the original on 3 May 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  25. ^ a b Callan, Frank; Dee, John (1989). Frank Callan's Snooker Clinic. Partridge. ISBN 978-1-85225-069-0.
  26. ^ O'Sullivan, Ronnie (10 October 2013). Running: The Autobiography. London: Orion. ISBN 978-1-4091-1224-2. Archived from the original on 15 February 2017. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  27. ^ a b "Snooker Gold Cup won by Davis". Morning Bulletin. 21 December 1936. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  28. ^ a b "Snooker tournament". Staffordshire Sentinel. Stoke-on-Trent. 29 January 1938. p. 7.
  29. ^ "Snooker – The handicap tournament". The Times. London. 23 January 1939. p. 4.
  30. ^ "Snooker". The Times. London. 12 February 1940. p. 2.
  31. ^ "£1,500 snooker placings". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. Leeds. 22 January 1951. p. 3.
  32. ^ "Snooker". The Times. London. 21 January 1952. p. 4.
  33. ^ "Fred Davis wins". The Billiard Player. No. 448. London: Billiards Association and Control Council. April 1958. p. 7.
  34. ^ "Snooker". The Glasgow Herald. 17 November 1958. p. 4. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  35. ^ "Snooker in Australia". Nottingham Journal. Nottingham. 7 November 1934. p. 11.
  36. ^ "Davis needs three to win". Aberdeen Press and Journal. Aberdeen. 10 June 1950. p. 4.
  37. ^ "Snooker Plus". The Glasgow Herald. 20 November 1959. p. 6. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  38. ^ "Snooker Plus". The Glasgow Herald. 23 November 1959. p. 10. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  39. ^ The Billiards and Snooker Control Council Handbook and Rules. London: Billiards and Snooker Control Council. 1971. p. 95.