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How to play Snooker - game rules

Game objective

Snooker is a two-player billiards game which is played using 15 solid red balls, a white cue ball, and six colored balls. Players alternate turns and score points by pocketing balls. The player who scores the most points during the match wins.

Balls for playing snooker

Table Setup

This is what the snooker table looks like at the start of the game.

Snooker table while breaking balls.

Players alternate turns

Snooker is a game for two players. As in other billiard games, snooker players alternate turns. If player 1 makes the shot, they continue shooting. If Player 1 misses the shot, they lose their turn and Player 2 gets a chance to shoot. If Player 1 commits a foul (even if they make the shot), they lose the turn and Player 2 gets a chance to shoot. See the Fouls section for a full list of fouls and corresponding penalties.

The Break

When breaking, the player can place the white cue ball anywhere within the half circle. After being struck by the cue, the cue ball must hit a red ball before hitting anything else (balls or rails), otherwise it’s a foul (See list of fouls below).

Game Basics

A snooker game has two phases.

Phase One
The basic rule of Phase One is that each player must alternate between pocketing the solid red balls and the colored balls. After the break, a player must pocket a red ball first, then a colored ball, then a red ball, then a colored ball, and so on, until all the balls on the table have been pocketed. After a red ball is pocketed, it stays in the pocket. But after a colored ball is pocketed, it is then automatically removed from the pocket and put back on the table.

Phase Two
After all the reds on the table have been pocketed, the game rules change in two ways: 1.) The colored balls are no longer put back on the table when pocketed, and 2.) The colored balls must now be pocketed in order according to their point value (listed below). When the six colored balls have been pocketed, the game is over. The player who has accumulated the most points throughout the game wins.

Ball Point Value

Snooker points table

Colored Balls must be designated

Each time a player is supposed to pocket a colored ball, the player must first designate which colored ball he will attempt to pocket. The player does NOT have to designate the pocket, only the ball.

Snooker Table for the declaration driven ball.


The reds are never designated. If a player is supposed to pocket a red, he may pocket any red into any pocket. The player may also legally pocket multiple reds with the same stroke without incurring a penalty.

Fouls

  • When a foul is made, the non-fouling player will receive penalty points equal to the value of the ball "on", or the value of any of the "foul" balls, or 4 points, whichever is highest. When multiple fouls are made in one shot, only the most highly valued foul is counted. Penalty points are therefore at least, 4 points, and at most, 7.
  • If a player is supposed to pocket a designated colored ball and does not pocket that ball, it is a foul, even if he pockets some other ball(s). The player loses his turn, gains no points, and the opposing player is awarded the point value of the designated color ball.
  • If a player is supposed to pocket a red ball, and instead pockets a color, it is a foul. The player loses his turn, gains no points and the opposing player is awarded the point value of the pocketed colored ball.
  • If a player who is shooting reds, pockets any colored ball (even if he also pockets a red) it is a foul. The player gains no points, loses his turn and the opposing player earns the number of points assigned to the color ball that was pocketed.
  • If a player is shooting the designated colored ball,pockets any other ball (even if he also pockets his designated colored ball) it is a foul. The player gains no points, loses his turn and the opposing player earns the number of points assigned to the color ball that was pocketed.
  • When breaking, the white cue ball must be placed within the semi-circle shown in the picture. The player breaking is only able to shoot the cue ball from within the semi-circle. After being struck by the cue stick, the cue ball must first contact a red ball, otherwise it is a foul. The penalty for this foul is that the player loses his turn and the opposite player receives the appropriate number of points relative to the foul committed.
  • As stated above in the Game Basics section, a player must alternate between pocketing reds and pocketing colored balls. When a player is supposed to pocket a red ball, the cue ball must first contact a red ball. If the cue ball contacts a colored ball first, a foul is committed and the player loses his turn. The opposing player will earn points for the ball that was illegally contacted.
  • As stated above in the Game Basics section, a player must alternate between pocketing reds and pocketing colored balls. When a player is supposed to pocket a colored ball, the game will prompt him to designate the colored ball he wishes to pocket. The cue ball must first contact that designated colored ball. If the cue ball contacts a different colored ball first or a red ball first, a foul is committed and the player loses his turn (even if the designated colored ball was pocketed). The opposing player will earn points for the ball that was illegally contacted.
  • If, after being struck by the cue stick, the cue ball does not contact any ball, it is a foul. The player loses his turn and the opposing player receives the appropriate number of points relative to the foul committed.
  • If the cue ball is pocketed (scratched), the player loses his turn and the opposing player receives the appropriate number of points relative to the foul committed. The cue ball is then removed from the pocket and given to the opposing player who can then place it anywhere within the semi-circle.

Strategy

The objective of the game is to earn as many points as possible. The black ball is the highest valued ball, worth seven points. Hence, the best strategy is to try to pocket the black ball as often as possible. An ideal game would go something like this: Pocket a red ball, pocket the black ball, pocket a red ball, pocket the black ball, etc…until all the red balls have been pocketed.