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Snooker Rules and Regulations: A comprehensive guide to the rules governing the game


Hello readers, welcome to this in-depth guide about the rules and regulations that govern the game of snooker. Snooker is a fascinating cue sport that requires precision, strategy and skill. While the basic premise is easy to understand - pot balls in the correct order to score points - there are many intricacies to the rules that shape how the game is played at a high level. In this post, I aim to explain all the key rules in a clear and comprehensive manner so you have a solid foundation of understanding how snooker works.

Let's start with some context about the origins and objective of snooker before delving into the specifics. Snooker first emerged in the latter half of the 19th century in India among British army officers. Over time it gained widespread popularity in Britain and beyond. The name snooker is thought to have its origins from a slang term used for first-year cadets or inexperienced enlisted men. Today, it is established as one of the major international cue sports, governed by the World Snooker Tour.

The objective in a snooker game is to score more points than your opponent by potting the balls in the correct order. There are 22 balls on the table - 15 red balls worth 1 point each and 6 coloured balls (yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black) worth 2-7 points respectively based on their colour. To start a frame, the balls are set up in a fixed configuration and the player must pot a red followed by a coloured ball. This is known as a break-off shot and allows the player an early chance to score points. From there, reds and colours must be potted in descending order of value.

Let's dive into the core details about Snooker Rules and Regulations:


● The snooker table measures 12 feet by 6 feet and has six pockets. It has cushings and is covered with a green baize cloth.

● The balls consist of the 15 reds and 6 colours mentioned earlier.

● Cues must not exceed 57 inches in length and have no added weights. They are tapered at one end to allow potting balls.

● Other equipment includes rests, chalk for cues and measures.

Set Up and Break-Off

● At the start of a frame, the balls are placed in a predetermined position on the table - reds arranged in a triangle with the colours in the D shape.

● The break-off shot comes after the balls are racked. The player attempting the break must strike the cue ball from baulk and it must contact a red ball fully.

● If any balls are potted, the breaker continues at the table. If no balls are potted, it becomes their opponent's turn.

Order of Play

● After a ball is potted, the next shot must be played from where the cue ball finished, barring any fouls.

● Reds must always be potted before a colour and in no particular order. But colours must be potted in ball-in-hand order of points - yellow to black.

● The player must nominate the next ball they intend to pot or can announce a safety shot instead to hamper the opponent's chances.

● If reds are cleared from the table, colours are potted in their numerical order based on points value.


● Reds are worth 1 point each and colours from 2-7 points based on their hue as mentioned before.

● A player's score keeps accumulating as they continue potting balls in the permitted order during a single visit to the table.

● The first player to reach the predetermined target score wins the frame. In pro matches it's generally 147 points in one frame.


● There are various types of fouls that can occur during play like snookering an opponent, foul shots, pushing/nudging balls etc.

● For any foul, the incoming player gets ball-in-hand. They can place the cue ball anywhere on the table except on/near a cushion or touching another ball. This gives them an advantage.

● A player also forfeits their turn if they pot the cue ball or drive it off the table entirely, incurring a foul.

Let's examine some of the key fouls in more detail:

● Snookering - This occurs when a player places the cue ball in a position such that the opponent cannot attempt potting the nominated ball without first hitting another ball. This is not a foul per se but leaves the snookered opponent at a disadvantage.

● Foul Shot - When attempting a pot and any ball other than the nominated one is pocketed, it constitutes a foul. This also happens if the nominated ball is potted but does not hit a cushion first as is compulsory.

● Push Shot - Deliberately moving or nudging any ball with the tip of the cue during execution is not allowed and results in a push shot foul. Care must be taken to avoid this while playing position.

● Jump Shot - Jumping the cue ball over any ball, even lifted slightly above the cloth, is a severe foul. The cue must remain in contact with the cloth during the shot.

● Touching Balls - Any contact between the cue and non-nominated balls or object balls and each other before a shot is deemed a foul and incurs a penalty.

These are some of the common shot fouls that can occur. Players must take utmost care to avoid them as they hand the advantage to their opponent by committing a foul.


After potting a ball, a player has the option to continue at the table or pass the turn to their opponent. This depends on certain shot outcomes:

● If the shot results in the potting of the correct ball (red followed by colour), the player continues.

● If the shot is a push out where the cue ball is played into a safe position but no balls are potted, the incoming player can choose to continue or ask their opponent to play the next shot.

● If a foul or involuntary pot of the cue ball occurs, the player forfeits their turn instantly.

So in summary, as long as the player pots balls in the legal order without fouling, they can continue building their break and score.


As mentioned earlier, certain shot outcomes like fouls result in ball-in-hand for the incoming player. This means:

● They can place the cue ball anywhere on the table except on/near the cushions or touching another object ball.

● From this position, they have the option to attempt a pot or play safe, avoiding potting an easy ball for their opponent.

● Ball-in-hand is a strategically useful tool as it allows the player coming to the table to manoeuvre the cue ball into a better position for their next shot.

Miscellaneous Rules

There are a few other supplementary snooker rules that govern specific situations:

● Shake Hands - When all reds are potted, players can mutually agree on the score at which the frame ends, foregoing the formality of clearing all colours as well.

● Stalemate - If neither player is able to score points for a period of time, the referee can declare a stalemate and re-rack the remaining balls.

● Fouling while snookered - A player still commits a foul even if they are snookered and unable to hit the nominated ball legally.

● Restoring positions - If balls are disturbed accidentally before a shot, they will be replaced to the extent possible by the referee.

● Time allowed - Players are given a fixed time (40 seconds in pro matches) to execute each shot before a time foul can be called.

These rules govern edge cases and help resolve unforeseen situations that may arise during a frame. The referee enforces these laws as the final authority on the table.

You may now have noticed that snooker regulates every tiny element to ensure precision and fairness. At a high level, split-second decisions and execution under pressure separate the best from the rest. The rules set a framework that allows strategic nuances and chances to come into play together.

Let me elaborate on a few strategic aspects the rules:

● Position play - Managing the cue ball position after each shot, both for offence and defence, is key. Good position allows controlled pots or safety plays. Risky situations must be avoided as they can hand momentum to opponents.

● Tactical fouls - Sometimes committing a minor tactical foul may be preferable to leaving an easy open pot. It gains the ball in hand for defence. Of course, consecutive fouls increase penalties.

Safeties - When scoring is difficult, smart players manoeuvre the cue ball into snookered positions or behind object balls to block easy pots. This frustrates opponents and buys thinking time.

● Scoring rate - Unlike other sports, points come in fits and bursts as breaks are made. Good match players know when it's best to slow down the scoring pace by playing safe to retain control.

● Butt of the queue - For close-range technical shots, players rest the thicker butt end of the cue on the table for steadiness. This allows outrageous cannons and pots while limiting mistakes.


What are the basic scoring rules in snooker?

The basic scoring rules are that each of the 15 red balls is worth 1 point, the six colours (yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black) are worth 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 points respectively. To score points a player must pot red balls followed by colours, in descending order of value. Only when all reds are potted do colours then need to be potted in their numerical colour order.

What are fouls and how do they affect scoring?

Fouls include things like potting the wrong ball, fouling when attempting to pot the nominated ball, touching balls with the cue tip before shooting, etc. If a foul is committed, the player forfeits their turn and their opponent is awarded "ball in hand". This means they can place the cue ball anywhere on the table to their advantage. No points are scored for the foul shot.

What is a push shot and when is it a foul?

A push shot occurs when a player deliberately moves or nudges any ball with the tip of the cue during a shot. This is not allowed in snooker and seen as a foul, as it disrupts the position of the balls. The cue tip must strike the cue ball cleanly with a single forceful stabbing motion, not pushing or nudging any other balls.

What is snooker and how does it affect play?

A snooker occurs when a player leaves their opponent in a difficult position where it is very hard to hit the nominated ball without first striking another ball. This is not a foul in itself but provides a strategic advantage. If snookered, extra care has to be taken by the incoming player to hit the correct ball and avoid committing a foul.

What is meant by "ball in hand" and when does it apply?

Ball in hand refers to the advantage given to an incoming player following a foul from their opponent. It allows them to place the cue ball anywhere on the table, apart from touching any other ball or close to the cushions. This provides a Shot at making their next pot easier after their opponent's mistake.

Why are shots required to hit cushions before potting a ball?

In snooker, for a shot to be legally played, the object ball must hit a cushion before going into a pocket. This is to avoid players from just shooting straight into pockets from short distances without position play. The cushion-first rule forces players to control positional play even on straightforward pots.


In conclusion, snooker is a game governed by extremely precise rules that shape every element of play and scoring. Understanding these laws and systems thoroughly is vital for appreciating the skill, tactics and nuances displayed at the highest levels. While the basic goal seems simple enough - pot balls in order to outscore your opponent - the rules introduce strategic complexities like fouls, ball-in-hand, safeties and more.

Mastering the technicalities, keeping calm under pressure and making well-reasoned split-second decisions all while following protocol is no mean feat. It separates the exceptional players from the rest. The rules provide structure for talent, chance and mind games to come together productively. Their enforcement aims for absolute fairness so that the better performer on the day always wins through skill and merit.

I hope this comprehensive guide has given you significant insights into how snooker truly works beneath the surface drama. The specifics around set-up, scoring, fouls and various edge cases are important to grasp fully. With this knowledge, you can now appreciate the genius of top professionals and their creative rule-bending to gain an edge. Their intuitive understanding of risk-reward within the laws is truly remarkable to observe.

Snooker remains as popular as ever globally thanks to the elegant simplicity of its goals combined with the infinite subtlety introduced due to its well-defined rules. Do let me know if any part of this explanation needs further clarification or expansion. I wish you the very best in developing your own snooker skills and strategic thinking by internalising the framework that governs this truly fascinating game.


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