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William Joseph "Willie" Thorne (born 4 March 1954) is an English professional snooker player and commentator.
A brilliant junior, Thorne became national under-16 champion at both snooker and billiards in 1970. He never really converted this early promise into professional success, however, only ever winning one ranking tournament (the Mercantile Credit Classic in 1985). The same year, he reached the UK Championship final against the then dominant Steve Davis, and seemed to build himself into an unassailable position. But a dreadful miss on a straightforward blue on its spot during the first frame of the final session seemed to shatter his confidence. Davis took the frame and eventually won the final with some ease.
It's arguable Thorne's career never really recovered after this defeat. He peaked at number seven in the world rankings in the mid-1980s, whilst also battling a serious gambling problem. In one famous incident, Thorne bet £38,000 on a match involving John Parrott, betting that Parrott would lose as he had lost his cue and had to use one at random from the rack. Also, in an interview with the Guardian Newspaper in 2004, Thorne admitted to placing bets worth up to £20,000 on one horse. He fell into serious debt and depression, but thankfully for the snooker world he has beaten both of these problems. Willie and his family have borne the cost of his gambling addiction, and he was forced to sell off his snooker club in Leicester to cover a huge loss at cards.
Thorne's bald head makes him instantly recognisable, and he has become a popular senior character in the game, commentating on snooker for television on the BBC. Alongside other Matchroom professionals, Thorne featured in a popular song "Snooker Loopy", written and performed by Chas & Dave. Willie's cameo line was "Perhaps I ought to chalk it", in reference to his glaring crown putting off his opponents.
He is often known as "Mr. Maximum" due to the fact that he has hit well over 200 147 breaks in practice, though only one in tournament play. Alex Higgins recently claimed in an audio interview that the size of the pockets on Thorne's snooker table were so huge that if you had been walking past them, you would have fallen in! Notwithstanding this comment, Thorne was known as a fantastic breakbuilder and possibly the "missing link" between old school percentage play and the current attacking potting game. His commentary is generally well-received and incisive - beware of the "flat-backed pack"! He is famous for phrases such as "not a certainty yet" and "although he's x points behind, I make him slight favourite here".