The Game of Snooker

The object of the game is to score more points than the opponent by potting object balls in a predefined order. At the start of a frame, the balls are positioned as shown and the players take turns to hit a shot in a single strike from the tip of the cue, their aim being to pot one of the red balls and score a point. Whenever a red ball is potted, the shooter is allowed to pot one of the colours. If successful, they score the value of the colour potted, and it is returned to its correct position on the table. This process continues until they fail to pot the desired ball, at which point their opponent comes back to the table to play the next shot.

The game continues in this manner until all the reds are potted and only the 6 colours are left on the table; at that point the colours must be potted in the order from least to most valued ball – that is, yellow first (because smallest value of 2 points), then green (3 points), brown (4 points), blue (5 points), pink (6 points) and finally black (7 points), with the balls not being returned to play. When the final ball is potted, the player with the most points wins. A player may also concede a frame while in turn to strike if he/she considers at any time that points available on the table will not be enough to overcome the opponent’s already gained points. In professional snooker this is a common occurrence. Points may also be scored in a game when a player’s opponent fouls.

A foul can occur for numerous reasons, such as hitting a colour first when the player was attempting to hit a red, potting the cue ball, or failing to escape from “a snooker” (a situation where the previous player finished his/her turn leaving the cue ball in a position where none of the balls on can be struck at both extreme edges free of obstruction by any ball not on). Points gained from a foul vary from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 7 if the black ball is involved.

 
One game, from the balls in their starting position until the last ball is potted, is called a frame. A match generally consists of a predefined number of frames and the player who wins the most frames wins the match overall. Most professional matches require a player to win five frames, and are called “Best of Nine” as that is the maximum possible number of frames. Tournament finals are usually best of 17 or best of 19, while the World Championship uses longer matches — ranging from best of 19 in the qualifiers and the first round proper, up to 35 frames in length (first to 18), and is played over two days, extended if necessary until a winner is determined.

 
Professional and competitive amateur matches are officiated by a referee who is the sole judge of fair play. The referee also respots the colours on to the table and calls out how many points the player has scored during a break. Professional players usually play the game in a sporting manner, declaring fouls the referee has missed, acknowledging good shots from their opponent, or holding up a hand to apologise for fortunate shots, also known as “flukes”.

Other terminology used in snooker includes a player’s break, which refers to the total number of consecutive points a player has amassed (excluding fouls) when at one visit to the table. A player attaining a break of 15, for example, could have reached it by potting a red then a black, then a red then a pink, before failing to pot the next red. The traditional maximum break in snooker is to pot all reds with blacks then all colours, which would yield 147 points; this is often known as a “147” or a “maximum”.

Accessories used for snooker include chalk for the tip of the cue, rests of various sorts (needed often, due to the length of a full-size table), a triangle to rack the reds, and a scoreboard. One drawback of snooker on a full-size table is the size of the room (22 by 16 feet (6.7 m × 4.9 m)), which is the minimum required for comfortable cueing room on all sides. This limits the number of locations in which the game can easily be played. Whilepool tables are common to many pubs, snooker tends to be played either in private surroundings or in public snooker halls. The game can also be played on smaller tables using fewer red balls. The variants in table size are: 10 ft × 5 ft, 9 ft × 4.5 ft, 8 ft × 4 ft, 6 ft × 3 ft (the smallest for realistic play) and 4 ft × 2 ft. Smaller tables can come in a variety of styles, such as fold away or dining-table convertible.