Snooker: All Eyes on Riyadh 2025 for Lucrative Golden Ball Bonus

  • The 2024 Riyadh World Masters of Snooker featured an exciting new golden ball
  • Riyadh 2025 will see the reward increase even more for a 167 break - offering $1m 
  • The new feature shifts the focus of players, from tactical acumen to the here and now
Golden ball
The 2025 Riyadh World Masters of Snooker will allow players the chance to bag $1m by potting a 167.

A golden twist

It’s snooker but not as we know it. Well, almost as we know it but with a giant, mega-lucrative, golden twist. I refer, of course, to the recent World Masters of Snooker in Saudi Arabia, won by Ronnie O’Sullivan last week.

Although an O’Sullivan victory is far from surprising, the competition included a new dimension that has the potential to trigger the biggest shake-up in the sport’s 150-year history.

The twist came in the form of an additional ball – a golden one – that if potted at the end of a maximum 147 break was worth an additional 20 points to the player, hence the ‘maximum-167.’ More pertinently, this would net the player a cool $500,000.

A break from snooker tradition

At the start of each frame, in addition to the 15 reds and six traditional colors, the golden ball is placed on the baulk cushion directly opposite the brown ball, remaining there as long as there is a chance for the player to achieve a maximum 147. As soon as that becomes impossible – i.e. when a color other than black is potted after a red – the golden ball is removed from the table for the rest of the frame.  

the mouthwatering prospect of it being achieved was a real one

The golden ball, of course, adds another level of difficulty to an already rare achievement – only 200 147-maximums have been achieved in professional tournament snooker. However, such is the level of skill from the world’s top ten, who were all present in Riyadh, the mouthwatering prospect of it being achieved was a real one.

But it didn’t happen.

The closest anyone came was in John Higgins’ second-round match against Mark Williams, which the Scot went on to win 4-2. It was in the game’s opening frame that Higgins had his fleeting brush with destiny when, after potting 15 reds and 15 blacks, he found himself out of position on the yellow. He proceeded to miss it by the smallest of margins:

The stakes will be even higher in Riyadh 2025

So it wasn’t to be in Riyadh 2024, but the organizers are determined that theirs is to be the tournament where the glass ceiling of 147 is smashed, even vowing to up the prize fund for a 167 to $1m for 2025.

While this certainly adds to the jeopardy, it also plays havoc with the match-winning mentality the top pros have been honing since they first picked up a snooker cue. Until now it’s all been about the winning; accumulating enough frames to win the match and proceed to the next knockout round where the ritual is repeated until, theoretically, there is no-one left to beat. In such a technical sport, process is everything and these top players have known only this… until now.

the prize for the magic 167 dwarfed the prize for winning the tournament

In Riyadh, the prize for the magic 167 dwarfed the prize for winning the tournament, where O’Sullivan picked up a still-mouthwatering $320,000. Now, with the golden prize increasing to $1m in 2025, the differential between winning the tournament and potting the golden ball will likely be even greater.

So, a huge shift in mindset is needed; one that eliminates the need for players to accumulate frames in that traditional, steady way. Instead, the biggest prize will be won by the player who can harness all of his focus, energy, and skill into one breathtaking frame of snooker.

Nerves of steel needed for 167

A heady mix of explosiveness but also nerve-less skill is what will eventually win the day in future editions in Riyadh. For a 167, the need for patience, tactical acumen and forward-thinking is all but removed and the mindset will need to be all about the here and now. A significant change, even for seasoned pros.

I’ll get it next year – you don’t want to get it all at once.

The players, unsurprisingly, have embraced this Saudi-led revolution. O’Sullivan, the game’s unofficial spokesperson, was unequivocal in his support for the tournament, its concept, and the increased prize fund next year: “I’ll get it next year – you don’t want to get it all at once. I thought I’d win the tournament this year and get the golden ball next year.”   

To see if he will or not, we have to wait until February 2025 but O’Sullivan and his fellow top pros now have a year to practice with a golden ball, realigning their mindset to the one required to land their sport’s biggest prize.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *