John Virgo

John Virgo (born 3 March 1946) is an English former professional snooker player and more recently a snooker commentator and TV personality.

John Virgo
Virgo in 2003
Born (1946-03-03) 3 March 1946
Salford, Lancashire, England
Sport country England
NicknameMr Perfection, JV
Highest ranking10 (1979/80)
Career winnings£293,472
Highest break139 (1987 English Professional Championship)
Century breaks39
Best ranking finishSemi-final (4 times)
Tournament wins

Snooker career

Early professional career (1973–1978)

Virgo's first notable appearance in a major tournament was during the 1973 American Pool Tournament for The Indoor League where he lost in the semi-final. He turned professional in 1976, at a time when players such as Ray Reardon, John Spencer and Eddie Charlton were at the forefront of the sport. Although he had just turned 30 upon turning pro, Virgo was still among the youngest players on the circuit at the time. In 1977, he reached the semi-finals of the UK Championship losing to eventual winner Patsy Fagan by a single frame 8–9.

UK Champion and Top 10 player (1979–1990)

Virgo's snooker-playing fortunes peaked in 1979 when he reached the semi-final of the World Championship, and went on to win the 1979 UK Championship (though this was not a ranking event at the time). En route to the final, he beat Tony Meo, Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor. He overcame the reigning world champion Terry Griffiths in the final, despite being controversially docked two frames because of a miscommunication regarding the start time of the next session of play.[1] He reached his highest ranking, world number 10, during the 1979/1980 season.

In 1986, Virgo reached the semi-finals of the British Open, losing 4–9 to Willie Thorne.[2] He ended the 1989/1990 season as world number 14, but dropped out of the top 16 the following season.

Later career and retirement (1991–1995)

In 1993, he entered the qualifying stages of the Grand Prix and the UK Championship but failed to qualify for the main events, losing both times in round seven.[3] Virgo retired from professional play in 1995.

Career as exhibition player and TV commentator

As part of his exhibition performances, Virgo performed trick shots and comedic impressions of other snooker players. During the 1981 World Championship, he performed some of his impressions, including Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, Steve Davis and Ray Reardon. He repeated this act in further World Championships, usually after semi-finals that had ended earlier than expected.

He is now a TV snooker commentator, working primarily during the BBC's coverage of ranking events. From 1991 to 2002, Virgo was co-presenter of the snooker-based TV game show Big Break with Jim Davidson. During each show, Virgo participated in the "trick shots" segment, where a competitor who had been ousted from the main quiz would try to copy a complicated snooker shot performed by Virgo in order to win a prize.

Virgo is well known for shouting "where's the cueball going?" during his commentaries, whenever a shot is played in such a way that the cueball is in danger of going into one of the pockets.[4] Virgo will also make the same familiar exclamation about one of the "coloured balls", if it is fluked, or approaches very close to the pocket.

Other activities

Virgo's tribute book to the late Alex Higgins, Let Me Tell You About Alex, was published in February 2011 and described as "explosive".[5] In April 2012, his book Amazing Snooker Trick Shots was published.

In 2012, Virgo featured in Nicholas Gleaves' debut radio play Sunk who guides a young man in his dream of becoming a snooker champion while battling to avoid a life of crime. This was broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Virgo has recently worked with a pool and snooker table company called Liberty Games to create a web-based series of trick shot videos known as the Trick Shot Academy.[6]

In 2014, Virgo released a trick shot app, John Virgo's Snooker Trick Shots, available on Apple and Android devices. It has Virgo performing 45 trick shots and contains diagrams and video clips for each. It also has Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins performing three trick shots including 'Higgins Goes Bananas'.

Virgo is currently embarking on a new venture, opening a new vegan café, Virgo's Vegan Cafe, in his home city of Salford, with help from fellow snooker player and friend Peter Ebdon.

Personal life

Virgo lives in Cobham, Surrey. He has two children, a son, Gary, from his first marriage, and a daughter, Brook Leah, from his second marriage. He separated from his second wife, Avril, in 1991, after eight years together.[7] In 2009, he married Rosie Ries, then deputy managing director at John Blake Publishing.

Virgo was once gunged on Noel's House Party. He is a fan of the football club Manchester United F.C. In 1996, he appeared as a celebrity contestant on the short-lived Saturday night BBC light entertainment show Full Swing, alongside John Lodge from The Moody Blues and former Arsenal goalkeeper Pat Jennings; he did not make the final.

Performance and rankings timeline

Tournament 1973/
Ranking[8] [nb 1] [nb 1] [nb 1] [nb 2] 18 19 10 12 13 19 14 18 19 19 19 15 13 14 31 49 72
Ranking tournaments
Dubai Classic[nb 3] Tournament Not Held NR 3R 1R 1R LQ A
Grand Prix[nb 4] Tournament Not Held SF 2R 2R 1R 2R 2R 1R 2R 1R 1R LQ LQ
UK Championship Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event LQ 2R 2R 2R QF 1R 1R 1R LQ LQ
European Open Tournament Not Held 3R 2R 2R 2R LQ A
Welsh Open Tournament Not Held 2R LQ WD
International Open[nb 5] Tournament Not Held NR SF 1R 2R 2R 2R QF 2R 1R Not Held 1R WD
Thailand Open[nb 6] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event Not Held 3R 2R 1R LQ A
British Open[nb 7] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 2R SF QF 2R 2R 1R 1R 1R LQ WD
World Championship A A A 1R LQ SF 2R 1R 2R 1R 1R 1R 1R 1R 1R 2R 2R 1R LQ LQ A
Non-ranking tournaments
The Masters A A A A A A 1R A A 1R 1R A A A A 1R 1R 1R A A A
Irish Masters[nb 8] A A A A A A A 1R A A A A A A A A A A A A A
European League[nb 9] Tournament Not Held W Not Held A A A A A A A A
Former ranking tournaments
Canadian Masters[nb 10] Not Held Non-Ranking Event Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking 2R Tournament Not Held
Hong Kong Open[nb 11] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event NH 3R Tournament Not Held
Classic Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 1R QF 2R 2R 3R 3R 3R 1R 3R Not Held
Strachan Open Tournament Not Held 1R MR NR
Former non-ranking tournaments
Norwich Union Open 1R Tournament Not Held
Canadian Club Masters Not Held QF Tournament Not Held
Canadian Masters[nb 10] NH QF A SF A A A A Tournament Not Held A A A R Tournament Not Held]
Tolly Cobbold Classic Tournament Not Held A SF A A A A Tournament Not Held
Bombay International Tournament Not Held A W Tournament Not Held
Champion of Champions Tournament Not Held A NH F Tournament Not Held
International Open[nb 5] Tournament Not Held QF Ranking Event Not Held Ranking
Classic Tournament Not Held SF A A 1R Ranking Event Not Held
Pontins Brean Sands Tournament Not Held SF Tournament Not Held
UK Championship Tournament Not Held SF QF W 2R 1R QF 1R Ranking Event
British Open[nb 7] Tournament Not Held RR RR 2R LQ RR Ranking Event
New Zealand Masters Tournament Not Held 1R Not Held A A Tournament Not Held
Australian Masters[nb 12] Tournament Not Held A A A A A F QF A A NH R Tournament Not Held
Pontins Professional A A A A A A W QF QF A A QF A QF A A A A A A A
English Professional Championship Tournament Not Held 2R Not Held QF QF 2R 2R 1R Tournament Not Held
Norwich Union Grand Prix Tournament Not Held A QF A Not Held
World Seniors Championship Tournament Not Held 1R 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 Heldmeans an event was not held.
NR / Non-Ranking Eventmeans an event is/was no longer a ranking event.
R / Ranking Eventmeans an event is/was a ranking event.
  1. He was an amateur.
  2. New players on the Main Tour do not have a ranking.
  3. The event was also called the Dubai Masters (1988/1989)
  4. The event was also called the Professional Players Tournament (1982/83–1983/84)
  5. The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  6. The event was also called the Asian Open (1989/1990–1992/1993)
  7. The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)
  8. The event was also called the Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament (1974/1975–1976/1977)
  9. The event was also called the Professional Snooker League (1983/1984) and the Matchroom League (1986/1987 to 1991/1992)
  10. The event was also called the Canadian Open (1974/1975–1980/1981)
  11. The event was also called the Australian Masters (1979/1980–1987/1988 & 1995/1996) and Australian Open (1994/1995)
  12. The event was also called the Hong Kong Open (1989/1990) and Australian Open (1994/1995)

Career finals

Non-ranking finals: 6 (4 titles, 2 runners-up)

UK Championship (1–0)
Other (3–2)
Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1. 1979 UK Championship Terry Griffiths 14–13
Winner 2. 1980 Bombay International Cliff Thorburn 13–7
Winner 3. 1980 Pontins Professional Ray Reardon 9–6
Runner-up 1. 1980 Champion of Champions Doug Mountjoy 8–10
Winner 4. 1984 Professional Snooker League Dennis Taylor Round-Robin
Runner-up 2. 1984 Australian Masters Tony Knowles 3–7

Pro-am finals: 1 (1 runner-up)

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Runner-up 1. 1975 Pontins Spring Open Ray Reardon 1–7[9]


  1. Wintle, Angela (11 January 2014). "Big Break star John Virgo on trick shots, snooker legends and his Cobham home". Surrey Life. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  2. "CueTracker – 1986 British Open – Snooker Results & Statistics".
  3. "CueTracker – John Virgo – Season 1993–1994 – Snooker Results & Statistics".
  4. Lawless, John (27 April 2015). "Will the Real John Virgo Please Shut Up?". HuffPost. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  5. "John Virgo: My life in the eye of Hurricane Higgins". The Belfast Telegraph. 29 January 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  6. "Trick Shot Academy". Liberty Games. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  7. Cassidy, Denis (2 November 2003). "I'M BIG BROKE; Ex-wife's fury as snooker ace Virgo cuts payments". The People. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  8. "Ranking History". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  9. "pontins". 28 February 2012.
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