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Snooker Rules: How to Play Snooker

Watching snooker is a fascinating thing. For some it could be for fun while for some it’s a matter of rivalry. Maybe your favourite player is up against his rival, and you are cheering every point scored by your player.

But, what if you don’t even know the rules yet?

Maybe you have little idea about the rules of snooker but you’re not entirely sure about.

So, don’t you think now is the time to learn how do you play snooker?

Of course. And for that, you don’t need to go anywhere, because below, you’ll be reading all the small and major rules regarding snooker — including the fouls and their penalties.

Rules to Play Snooker

Let’s start with the objective of playing snooker.

1. Objective Of Snooker

If I define it in simple words, the object of the game is to strike the white ball with your cue stick such that it strikes the object ball in turn and causes it to fall in the pocket. With every ball you pocket, you get some points.

It’s played in frames. At the end of the frame, the player with the most points wins the frame. And at the end of the number of frames to be played, the player with the most frames ultimately wins the game.

In what orders do you hit the ball or what’s your object ball in snooker, will be discussed below.

2. How Many Balls Are There On A Snooker Table?

There are a total of 22 balls in snooker. Fifteen of them are red, six of them are color balls (yellow, green, brown, yellow, blue, pink, and black). And there is one white ball, which is also known as the cue ball.

Normal snooker balls are not numbered, but in the USA you might find snooker being played with numbered balls as well.

Now, when you have learnt how many balls are there in Snooker, let’s get started with the rack.

3. How Do You Rack Snooker Balls?

At the start of the frame, red balls are set in triangular fashion, as shown in the illustration. Pink ball goes ahead of them in such a way it’s not touching the red ball in the front.

Looking up the table from the baulk end, on the baulk line, a green ball is placed where the “D” meets the line on the left. The brown ball goes in the middle of the line while the yellow ball where that D meets the line on the right.

The black ball goes on a spot 32.5 cm from the top cushion. If you observe the table, you’ll find it centred from left to right so that the brown, blue, pink, and black balls all sit on an imaginary line bisecting the table.

This racking is known as standard racking and followed in international tournaments. However, in some modifications of snooker, racking can vary. If you are interested in learning those racking, do give our article a read.

4. Who Takes The Break In Snooker?

Normally, toss decides which player will take the break. The player who wins the toss gets the opportunity to place the ball anywhere on or inside the D and hit one or more red balls on an initial break-off shot.

Or, sometimes, both players simultaneously shoot an object ball from baulk in such a way that it hits the foot rail and the one who manages to bring it closest to the rail gets the break.

5. Break In Snooker

Basically, not every shot is supposed to earn you a few points in Snooker. The same is true for the break. If your cue ball hits the red ball in snooker and it goes in the pocket, you get a point and you can continue hitting.

But, luckily, like Pool, there are no specific rules regarding the break. So even if you make a mistake, you avoid any penalty.

In case, the ball doesn’t go in the pocket, your opponent will get a turn.

A lot depends on the break you take on the snooker table about how the game will proceed. In other words, it sets up the tone for the players. If you want to learn how to break in snooker, give our article a read.

6. Play After The Break

Play after the break resumes in the same way. The one having the turn must hit the red ball first, and then the color balls in ascending order (based on their value). For any shot to be legal, it must hit the “on” ball, or the object ball first.

For instance, when you have pocketed the red ball, yet you hit another red ball instead of hitting your object color ball, it’ll still be a foul and the same rule of penalty will be applied.

Let’s have a look at some of the fouls that can occur during the play after the break:

  • Couldn’t manage to hit any ball — in this instance, not only the other player will get points but also the freedom to place the ball anywhere on the table. Or, he can even ask you to have another go on the ball.
  • Pocketing a red ball along with a color ball.
  • Hitting the non-object ball.
  • Pocketing the non object ball.
  • Pocketing the cue ball.
  • Touching any ball before the ball your opponent had hit has stopped.
  • Sending the cue ball or any other ball off the table.
  • Touching the cue ball with any other thing than your cue tip.
  • Playing a jump or push shot. Both shots are illegal in international snooker.
  • Playing a shot with both feet off the ground.
  • Using any object other than cue to measure the distance.
  • Potting two colored balls together is also a foul.

Every foul either costs you four points, or, if the ball in question is of greater points than four, then it can cost you more.

For instance, the ball you sink is of 6 points while you make a foul when you are supposed to hit it, your opponent will get six points.

In short, the number of points a foul can cost you is between 4-7. No less than 4 and no more than seven.

7. In What Sequence Do You Hit The Ball In Snooker?

In snooker, you start with the red ball and then move to the colored ones. For instance, you are supposed to pocket the red ball first, and then you can pocket any of the colored balls: yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, black.

But remember, after pocketing the red ball you manage to pocket a color ball as well, for instance, yellow, now before hitting the green ball, you are supposed to pocket another red ball. In other words, pocketing one red ball gives you the privilege to sink one color ball.

One red ball before every color ball. Until or unless, there are no red balls left on the table.

Here are the values of different balls you find on snooker table:

  • Red – 1
  • Yellow – 2
  • Green – 3
  • Brown – 4
  • Blue – 5
  • Pink – 6
  • Black – 7 (the highest value snooker ball)

I’m sharing a few common terms you’ll hear a lot while watching snooker. These instances mostly occur during the play, after the break.

8. Some Common Terms & Instances Occurring During The Play

Let’s start with the cannon. A common trick used by players to kill two birds with a single stone.

  • Cannon: Cannon is a trick to make contact with two balls at the same time, so that you can get the other ball as well in a better position. However, this is only legal when your cue ball hits the object ball first and then touches another ball.
  • Touching Ball: Touching ball is a rare phenomena that occurs when your cue ball is sitting right beside another ball and touching it. In such instances, you are not supposed to hit that ball and you must play a shot without touching it. Or else, it’ll be a foul.
  • Snookered: A lot of people have asked what it means to get snookered in snooker. Snookered means hitting the cue ball in your turn in such a way that when it’s your opponent’s turn, it becomes almost impossible for him to hit the legit ball. And most likely, he’ll end up committing a foul.
  • Free Ball: Free ball in snooker is another rare phenomena. It occurs when you have committed a foul and your opponent gets the turn but the situation of the table is that he can’t hit any legit ball — just like being snookered. In such instances, your opponent can choose any other ball to hit instead of the red balls and that colored ball will count as the red ball.
  • Potting Two Reds: Potting two reds in one shot is legal in snooker. And because each of the two balls worth one point, you’ll get two points. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll get two turns. You’ll get only one turn after potting the reds, and if you manage to pot the object/color ball in this turn, you’ll get another turn.
  • Legally Potting Two Colors: But you might be thinking isn’t it a foul? Yes, in normal circumstances it would be a foul. But it becomes legal when you have a free ball situation and there are no reds left on the table. One colored ball becomes the free ball while the other remains the colored ball. So potting them together becomes legit.
  • Foul On Black: Now that’s quite a tricky thing to understand if you have never practiced playing snooker with all the rules. What happens when a foul is committed on the back ball? Does the game end? Or does it continue? I’m afraid this can’t be covered here in detail. To understand it in depth, I recommend you check out our article on foul on black.
  • Intentional Fouls: Normally, intentional fouls don’t do any good to you. However, in some instances, we have seen players misusing rules by intentionally causing faults in a situation where they stood no chance to win the frame. Intentional or unintentional, fouls only escalate your troubles and increase your opponent’s score.
  • Flukes in Snooker: Yes, they are bound to happen and perfectly legal. A referee can’t peek inside the player’s mind in order to determine if he really wanted to hit a particular ball or not. Intentionally or unintentionally, if he has pocketed a legit ball, it’ll always be legal.
  • 3 Miss rule in snooker: If a player has failed to hit a ball on three consecutive turns, despite having a clear sight of the ball, the referee can warn him. In severe cases, referees can even award the frame to the opponent. However, this rule doesn’t apply when you are snookered.

9. End Of Frame

Snooker matches consist of odd numbers of frames, 11, 15, and 17. Each frame ends when all balls on the table are pocketed and the one with the most numbers of points is declared winner of the frame.

However, if a game has reached a situation in which one player has an unbeatable lead, the other player can concede the game — or in other words, forfeit.

10. End Of The Match

And finally, when the fixed number of frames have been completed, the player with most frame wins is declared the winner.

How Long Does a Snooker Game Last?

There is no fixed time. You can’t even predict how long a certain game is going to last. First of all, it depends on the number of frames. Secondly, it depends on the skill level of players.

To determine how long can a snooker game last, we must go through various situations that may occur during a game. And also, a few other factors, which we have discussed in a separate article.

Maximum Break In Snooker

Though it’s very rare, the highest break can be made in normal circumstances is 147. In a professional tournament, the first time this break was achieved in World Championships on 21 April, 1997 by none other than Ronnie O’ Sullivan.


Does Scratch on red ball in snooker?
Actually, the term scratched is mostly used in Pool. In Snooker, we call it the “on” ball. You can scratch red if you pocket it when you are not supposed to do so.

Why do snooker players tap the table?
Tapping the table is a common gesture when you are applauding your opponent over a good shot.

Can you shoot backwards in snooker?
No, there is no such instance in which the referee allows you to shoot backward.

How many points do you need to win a frame in snooker?
More than your opponent. At the end of the frame it becomes clear who stands with the lead.

How are snooker points calculated?
Number of points you have earned by sinking a ball or as a result of your opponent’s foul are calculated and a total score is displayed on the screen with every shot.


Snooker is undoubtedly an exciting game. But, you must know how to play it. A lot of people think snooker is just about sinking random balls. However, there’s a proper sequence in which you are supposed to hit the ball. And if you have noticed, it’s not about scoring but making it difficult for your opponent to score, with every shot you take. I’m sure, with the above mentioned snooker rules, you have learnt all about endless possibilities that might occur during this game.

About Maryam Shaw

Hello Everyone! I am Maryam, the reason behind creating this website is to help people with the detailed information and reviews about sports products