Bill Werbeniuk

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Bill Werbeniuk
Bill Werbeniuk.jpg
Born (1947-01-14)14 January 1947
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Died 20 January 2003(2003-01-20) (aged 56)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Sport country  Canada
Nickname Big Bill
Professional 1973–1990
Highest ranking 8 (1983/84)
Highest break 147
Best ranking finish Quarter-finals,
World Snooker Championship
(4 times)
Tournament wins
Non-ranking 2

William Alexander "Bill" Werbeniuk (/ˌwərbɛˈnɪk/;[1] 14 January 1947 – 20 January 2003) was a Canadian professional snooker and pool player. Recognizable for his girth, he was nicknamed "Big Bill".

Early life[edit]

William Werbeniuk was born on 14 January 1947 in Winnipeg. He was the son of a Canadian armed robber, fence and drug dealer. His paternal grandfather was a Ukrainian who immigrated to Canada.[2] He began playing snooker as a child in his father's pool hall, Pop's Billiards,[2] and spent his formative years, often with his fellow countryman Cliff Thorburn, traveling across North America playing pool for money.[3]

Playing record[edit]

His playing record included an 8–9 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 3-9 to the reigning world champion Terry Griffiths. He suffered a third World quarter-final loss to Reardon in 1981 by 10–13.

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

Tournament wins[edit]

Non-ranking wins: (6)[edit]

  • Canadian Professional Championship - 1973
  • New Zealand Masters - 1983
  • North American Championship - 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976


Alcohol consumption[edit]

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.[2][4] Doctors advised Werbeniuk to drink alcohol to counteract a familial benign essential tremor.[5] Later in his career he also took propranolol, a beta blocker, to cope with the effects of his alcohol consumption on his heart.[6]

Some of Werbeniuk's most famous feats of drinking include: 76 cans of lager during a game with John Spencer in Australia in the 1970s;[2] 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";[7] 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.[2]

Split trouser incident[edit]

A memorable incident occurred during a televised match against David 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.[citation needed]

Trick shots[edit]

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.[8] 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.[9]

Use of propranolol[edit]

Werbeniuk was ranked as high as 8th in the world in 1983[4] 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.[4] Werbeniuk insisted that his use was medicinal only and under doctor's orders, but was fined and sanctioned anyway.[4]

He played his last professional snooker match in 1990. A bankruptcy order was made against him in 1991.[2] Towards the end of his life, he played professional pool,[citation needed] as propranolol is not forbidden by the World Pool-Billiard Association and other pool governing bodies.


Werbeniuk died of heart failure on 20 January 2003, six days after his 56th birthday.[10][11]


  1. ^ US dict: wûr′-bĕ-nǐk′
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Bill Werbeniuk". The Daily Telegraph (London). 23 January 2003. 
  3. ^ Everton, Clive (6 February 2003). "Bill Werbeniuk". The Guardian (London). 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Carter, Neil (2012). Medicine, Sport and the Body: A Historical Perspective. A&C Black. ISBN 9781849666800. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Kelso, Paul (23 January 2003). "Snooker star with insatiable thirst for the game dies at 56". (London). Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  7. ^ White, Jim (15 October 2001). "Interview Stephen Hendry". The Guardian (London). 
  8. ^ Video on YouTube
  9. ^ "Amazing Snooker Fluke" on YouTube
  10. ^ "Snooker mourns Werbeniuk" BBC Sport website (22 January 2003)
  11. ^ "Bill Werbeniuk, 56". The Chronicle Herald. 26 January 2003. Archived from the original on 28 July 2003. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 

External links[edit]