What are the rules of snooker?

what are the rules of snooker 

Snooker is a billiards game that is played with colored balls, which players take turns striking in an attempt to earn points. Like many sports, whoever scores the most points wins. Similar to pool, the game is played on a large table, and players must adhere to many different rules during play or face the possibility of fouling and/or losing their turn. Read on to understand the basics of snooker’s ruleset, as well as to understand how the game is formatted.

Getting Started

Snooker matches are typically played in a series of frames, with the player who wins the majority of points during a frame, or the majority frames during a match, being crowned the victor. In order to win a frame, a player must outscore their opponent. Points are scored by potting balls in a particular order or when an opponent fouls.

In typical tournament play, snooker players match up against others in an attempt to win the most matches. Frame’s may be played in a “best of three” or “best of four” frame style, with the latter being more common. 

Interestingly, it is possible to win a snooker match on the break, without an opponent having a chance to counter. Such an event is known as a maximum break, also known as the famous “147.” Some of snooker's best players have achieved maximum breaks, and they are quite the spectacle to watch, as they require an immense amount of skill, concentration, and knowledge of the game.

Basic Rules

While snooker may appear to be similar to other pool games on the surface, it is in fact much different. Ball colors and rules for striking and potting are among the most notable differences, and the snooker table itself is a few feet larger in length than those of other games.

Each player has 60 seconds to strike the cue ball during their turn. When starting a frame in snooker, a player has 60 seconds to place the cue ball in what is called the half circle and strike the cue ball into a red ball. A red ball must be struck before any other color during any striking play if there are any red balls left on the table. Each colored ball, of which there are seven colors, is tied to a point value. Red balls have the lowest value, which is one, and black balls have the highest value, which is seven. Whoever legally scores the most points in a frame wins that frame.

The name of the game, a “snooker” shot, is achieved when a player, typically one who has no clear shot during their turn, positions the ball in such a way so as to block the opponent from making a play on their next turn. Typically, a player will strike the cue ball at an angle against the bumpers of the table in order to position the ball close to or exactly where they desire to position a block.

Snooker shots require great skill and can be quite geometrically complex, with the cue ball oftentimes striking many bumpers before making it into snooker position. Snooker plays can be combated with skillful playing and by using certain rests to lodge the ball out of the difficult spot, however, they will often result in a foul if played improperly.      


Snooker Equipment

At the start of a match, colored balls are placed in a particular manner on the table. Each ball, of which there are 21, corresponds to a certain point value. For example, reds are the lightest value, at one, and together there are 15 red balls (thus, 15 points). The other colors, which are green, pink, blue, brown, yellow, and black, are all worth different values. The cue ball is white, and is used to strike other colored balls.

Snooker players play the game with a variety of tools at their disposal, such as wooden cues, chalk, and rests. Cues are used to strike the cue ball. Chalk helps the cue apply spin to the cue ball, as well as allows players to make better contact with the cue ball. Lastly, rests allow players to make accurate shots that are obscured by other balls, or by sheer distance along the table.  

The Playing Surface

Snooker tables, like other billiard tables, are finely constructed out of wood. Common wood types used to construct these tables include walnut, oak, and mahogany. These tables are also lined with cloth felt, which is tightened onto the table to ensure a smooth and fast playing surface. Cloths used by the World Snooker Tournament are often made from Merino wools, allowing for maximum performance and quality.

Naturally, due to snooker using many more colored balls than other billiards and pool games, a snooker table is larger in size than those of other billiard type games. Snooker tables are 12 feet in length, and 6 feet wide.  


What are some important snooker terms?

In order to understand the rules of snooker, it is important to familiarize yourself with some of the game’s terminology.

For example, “striking” refers to using a pool cue to knock the cue ball into another colored ball. “Potting,” also called “pocketing,” refers to the colored ball that has been struck by the cue ball entering a pocket legally. When this happens, a player is afforded another turn, until they either foul or make some other mistake, such as failing to pocket a ball. A single snooker match between two players is referred to as a “frame.”

What is a foul in snooker?

There is not a singular foul in snooker, but in fact there are many ways to foul, each with their own set of consequences. For example, potting the cue ball awards your opponent 4 points, and effectively ends your turn. If a player takes longer than sixty seconds to hit the cue ball, another 4 point foul is given.

Fouls can also yield point values greater than 4 points, such as striking or potting the wrong color of ball on your turn. When this happens, the opponent is awarded the point value of that particular colored ball. However, foul points will not go lower than 4, so accidentally striking a red ball illegally will still award an opponent 4 points.