What is Snooker?

Snooker is an individual, non-contact, ball-and-cue sport played on a table between two opponents. Players take turns attempting to strike the cue ball against another ball, pushing it into a pocket. The pockets are located at the corners and center borders of the table. Points are scored by pocketing certain balls in the correct order. The player who scores the most points in a frame wins the frames. A game is won by winning the majority of a predetermined set of frames. Each frame begins with a break-off. A player continues his or her turn until they fail to pocket the next ball in the sequence. Snooker requires intense focus and steady hands to control how the cue ball moves.


It is said that snooker dates back over 140 years ago, and came about in India when the country was occupied by Britain. A british lieutenant named Neville Chamberlain is cited as having invented the basis for the game of snooker in 1875, when he added new colored balls to a similar pool game. By the beginning of the 20th century, the game began making its way across Europe.

Playing Surface

A snooker table, often made of material similar to billiards and pool tables, measure around 12 feet in length and 6 feet in width. The pockets on the table measure slightly smaller than a billiards table, and the surface is covered in a colored wool cloth. Snooker tables often sit lower to the ground than those in other similar sports, perhaps due to the table's increased size making shots much more spaced out.


Snooker players require a great deal of equipment to play the sport. To play at a basic level, snooker players need cue sticks, a set of snooker balls, some chalk, and a rack for the balls. Players looking for added depth to their game should invest in rest cues, hand towels, cue and table repair kits, and even spare cue tips. At any level, having the right equipment will surely enhance one's game.


A simple sport in concept, snooker involves pocketing a number of different colored balls in order to score points. A cue ball is hit into a specific ball in order to hit it into the pocket. Snooker players position their hands in line with the cue ball, and proceed to strike the cue ball. Red balls are worth one point, and most players opt to hit a red ball followed by a black ball (worth seven points) until most if not all the reds have been pocketed. Players battle each other in what is called a frame (one round of play), and whoever scores in one frame wins that frame.

Positions and Roles

When talking about snooker positions, one could be referring to a few things. When constructing what is called a bridge, or the orientation in which the cue rests on a player's hands, a player may opt for a specific hand position for more effective striking. On the other hand, the positioning of the ball either before or after striking will certainly impact play. For example, a player may not sink a shot, which would pass the play to their opponent. However, a player with a good sense for ball positioning may strike the ball in such a way so that the following shot is blocked by other balls, or simply extremely hard to manage. Thus, snooker positioning is an intricate and involved part of the game, despite the term having many applications.

Rules and Regulations

Similar to most competitive sports, snooker involves a variety of rules that players must follow. Everything from fouls to equipment regulations find their way into the snooker rulebook. Below one can find some basic rules of the sport. For more information, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) consistently updates the official rules of the game.

Stalemate: Players may decide if the frame will result in a tie, and therefore may both opt restart the frame.

Red First: Players must break correctly by striking a red ball before other colors.

Push Shot: A player may not follow through their shot in such a way that the cue tip remains touching the cue ball for longer than.

Cue Ball Foul: The cue ball must hit a ball that a player has called. If not, that player receives a foul.

One Foot: Players must keep at least part of one of their feet on the ground when striking.

Off The Table: A ball may not leave the table. If any player knocks the ball off the table, it is considered a foul.

Miss: If a player fails to strike the cue ball correctly, they may receive a miss foul if determined by a referee.

Referees and Officials

Like any competitive sport, snooker players must be monitored closely by referees and other officials, which ensure fair competitive play. Becoming a snooker official at the highest level requires many years of training, and for many their journey begins by identifying which of the sports governing bodies they will be training under. It is then recommended that aspiring refs train at the local level for a few years before applying for the professional level.

Lingo and Terminology

Oftentimes, one may encounter someone who has never even heard of snooker. Indeed, the sport is quite unique, and often confused with billiards. That being said, those within the snooker community are well versed in the vocabulary of the sport. The table below contains many of the terms and slang one may hear if they were to observe a match. Anyone with interest in the sport should brush up on its terminology.

Baulkline: The straight line through the snooker table on which the balls are oriented at the start of a match.

Frame: Either the rack in which the balls are placed, or a singular sequence of play between two players.

147: The maximum score for a single frame.

Century Break: A score that exceeds 100 in a single break run.

Pot: When the ball enters a pocket, the shot is referred to as a pot.

Scratch: A cue ball that enters the pocket, or similar foul.

Snooker: A shot that leaves the target ball blocked by the position of another ball. Typically, this results in a very difficult shot for an opponent.


Snooker is a game that requires great precision, and oftentimes coaches can offer a greater level of understanding on the technical fundamentals of the game. Whether the desire is to improve hard technical skills or soft positionally skills that refine over time, receiving training by a snooker professional can greatly improve one's game.

Skills and Techniques

With over 140 years to refine the sport of snooker, players have gained a great degree of knowledge about how to properly and successfully compete in the sport. Over time many techniques have emerged as staples of the game.

For example, spin control is crucial for tackling difficult shots and post-strike ball positioning. Similarly, different types of shots, such as the massé shot to help overcome a snooker and the stun shot to help keep your ball in the same area after a strike, are techniques that greatly improve one's game if learned and done correctly. Another helpful addition to someone's game is an understanding of the different ways to construct a hand bridge, as well as of making good use of different types of head rests.


All snooker strategies in essence lead back to the same basic objective: to score more points than your opponent. Thus, many players have developed strategies to help them achieve maximum point values during a frame. One of the most basic point scoring strategies includes potting the black ball after potting each red ball, if possible. This is because the black ball offers the highest point value.

More advanced strategies utilize what is known as break-building, which essentially involves continuously making shots upon break without giving your opponent a chance to respond to your play. Another strategy, known as a safety battle, sees players intentionally blocking off a shot from their opponent because they are unable to complete one themselves. These are just a few of the many strategies a snooker player may employ.


Practice makes perfect, and snooker players must understand the advantages of practicing. In a game where accuracy is king, and difficult situations or set ups are possible, it is vital that players consistently practice to improve their game.

Some common drill types include lineup, color, zipper, long potting, and shot at nothing drills. Lineup drills involve lining up the reds along the baulkline, whereas zipper drills simulate breaks by offering players only one pocket in which to hit the reds. Whether one plays the sport at an amatuer or professional level, drills help immensely to improve hard technical skills.

Snooker Brands

Because snooker tournaments are highly regulated, equipment manufacturers have little wiggle room when it comes to specifications. Nevertheless, many brands thrive in specific areas, such as cue design, chalks, and cloth. Many of the best brands have extremely long reputations in the sport, and their products have been used by legends of the sport. Below are a few snooker brands to note.

PeradonCue Manufacturer
StrachanCloth Manufacturer
RileyCue and Table Manufacturer
MasterChalk Manufacturer
PowerGlideCue Manufacturer

Snooker Youth Organizations

While snooker may seem like a suit and tie affair fitting only of an adult crowd, youths have ample means to begin their snooker careers. The International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) hosts annual, international events for both Under 21 and Under 18 age brackets. Similarly, many 147 clubs, such as those by the WPBSA, take place all over the globe.

Snooker Coaches

Legendary players oftentimes have a legendary coach to credit for helping them achieve greatness. Sometimes, professional players even become coaches themselves. There have been many great snooker coaches. Listed below are many notable coaching names in the snooker community.

Brian CoxWPBSA Grade A Certified Coach
Gavin YorkWPBSA Level 2 Certified Coach
Nic BarrowFormer UAE National Coach, Former Coach of Ronnie O' Sullivan, Founder of The Snooker Gym
Rebecca KennaWPBSA Level 2 Certified Coach
Matt AndrewsMentor, Behavioral Specialist/Coach

Snooker Players

Many have played the sport of snooker, and many have claimed elite status and cemented their place in snooker history as legends of the sport. Most know of Ronnie O' Sullivan, considered by many to be the greatest player of all time. However, so many have left their mark on the sport, many of whom have been listed in below:

  • Ronnie O' Sullivan: 19 Triple Crown Wins, 1000+ Century Breaks, 36 Ranked Titles
  • Stephen Hendry: Ranked Number One over Eight Years, Seven World Titles, 36 Ranked Titles
  • Steve Davis: Ranked Number One over Seven Years, First Snooker Millionaire, Oldest Player to Win a Ranked Match (2010)
  • Alex Higgins: 20 Ranked Titles, Two World Championship Titles, One Triple Crown Win
  • Mark Williams: Ranked Number One over Four Years, One World Title, Three Ranked Titles (in a single season)
  • Judd Trump: 17 Ranked Titles, Three Triple Crown Wins, Youngest Player to Achieve a 147
  • Neil Robertson: 18 Ranked Titles, Four Triple Crown Wins

Snooker Leagues

For anyone interested in joining a snooker league, there are plenty of options. Globally, the Championship League acts as a professional tournament series. Locally, there are dozens of leagues to choose from, and the league available to you is entirely dependent on where you live.

Snooker leagues typically consist of teams of players, who compete in tournaments which pose them against opponents. Local, national, and global competitions happen constantly, and anyone interested in becoming a part of a snooker team should consider looking into leagues in their respective area.

Championship League SnookerProfessional Snooker League/Tournament
UK LeaguesVarious Leagues in the United Kingdom

Snooker Teams

While snooker seems like a one-person-show, tournaments often play out with teams of players pitted against each other. Most common are national teams, which come together annually to compete in the World Cup Snooker Tournament (WST). Local clubs and snooker communities, however, may form their own teams for local competitions. Below are some of the teams who competed in the 2019 World Cup Tournament.

  • Whales: Mark Williams and Ryan Day
  • Scotland: John Higgins and Stephen Maguire
  • China (A): Ding Junhui and Yan Bingtao
  • Germany: Simon Lichtenberg and Lukas Kleckers
  • United Arab Emirates: Mohamed Shehab and Mohammed Al Joaker
  • Australia: Steve Mifsud and Ryan Thomerson

Snooker Events

Most of the time, snooker events are confined to a few categories: cups, opens, qualifiers, championships, club events, and masters events. While most of these fall under the secondary label of tournament events, they are distinct in their own right. Below are many of these events, and what level of competition they showcase. Keep in mind, skill levels often vary a great deal, as many of these types of events occur at nearly all levels of the sport.

ClubAmatuer or Professional
QualifiersAmatuer or Professional
ChampionshipsAmatuer or Professional
SeniorsSenior Events
Amatuers Youth Events

Snooker Tournaments

Snooker Tournaments pop up all around the globe during many parts of the year. Of course, there are many prestigious pro tournaments that have annual cycles, such as the Championship League and World Cup Series. Additionally, tournament names often change depending on the sponsor or country or origin. The list below shows some of the most common snooker tournaments, all held annually.

  • Championship League
  • World Cup
  • World Snooker Championship (Triple Crown Event)
  • Invitational Masters (Triple Crown Event)
  • UK Championship (Triple Crown Event)

Snooker Books

For anyone itching to know more about the sport of snooker, plenty of great books have been written on the subject. Many, written by WPBSA coaches and pro players, offer more than simply educating how to play the game. Someone interested in understanding snooker at a deeper, more personal level might want to pick up a few of the best books on the sport, many of which are listed below.

Snooker Websites

In today's internet-driven environment, snooker has inevitably made its presence known online. Interestingly, some snooker coaches have even garnered critical acclaim for their web presence, and snooker remains a popular sport to watch online. Whether one hopes to better their game with a few tutorials, or simply brush up on the rules of the game, these resources are sure to help.

WSTWorld Snooker Tournament Homepage
WPBSAWorld Professional Billiards and Snooker Association Homepage
Snooker.orgSnooker Competition/News Resource
SnookerUSAOfficial United States Snooker Resource
SnookerbackerSnooker Resource For Fans
WST (Youtube)World Snooker Tournament Youtube Channel


What is Snooker?

Snooker is a sport similar to billiards, where various colored balls on a table are potted by players using a cue stick. The game dates back over a century, and is most popular in european nations.

Are snooker and billiards the same?

It is easy to see why many people confuse snooker and billiards. Both games are played on a flat, cloth-lined table, and players in both games are tasked with striking balls into pockets. There are several differences between the two such as the table size and height, color and amount of balls, and differing rules.

How many balls are in snooker?

In total, there are 21 balls at the start of a game of snooker. 15 of those are red, while the other six are blue, brown, pink, green, yellow, and black.

How do you play snooker?

In a basic snooker match, two opponents face off in a number of frames. Each frame, a player attempts to score as many points as possible. Points are awarded for successfully striking and potting balls. The player who wins the most frames in a match is declared the winner.