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Snooker is a billiards game, played on a special table, with one white cue ball, 15 red balls and 6 balls of various colours (the 'colours'). It is particularly popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and Australia. There has recently been a surge of interest in East Asia, with players from Thailand, Hong Kong and China entering the rankings. The intention of the game is to score points by causing the red and coloured balls to be played into the pockets along the edge of the table (in all 4 corners and the middle of each of the long cushions).

Table of contents
1 History
2 Governing body
3 The game
4 Tournaments
5 Notable players
6 Snooker equipment
7 Glossary
8 See also
9 External links


The game of billiards dates back to the 15th century, but snooker is a more recent invention. In the late 19th century, billiards games were popular among British army officers stationed in India, and players used to experiment with variations on the game. The most commonly accepted story is that, at the officers' mess in Jubbulpore in 1875, Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain (no relation to the later Prime Minister) suggested adding coloured balls to a billiards game. The word 'snooker' was army slang for a first-year cadet. This came to be used for novices to the game, and eventually for the game itself. British billiards champion John Roberts travelled to India in 1885, where he met Chamberlain. Chamberlain explained the new game to him, and Roberts subsequently introduced it to England.

Snooker championships date back to 1916. In 1927, Joe Davis, by far the best player of the time, helped establish the first professional world championship, and won its prize of 6.10s. He went on to win every subsequent world championship until 1946.

Snooker suffered a decline in the 1950s and 1960s, so much so that no tournament was held from 1958 to 1963. In 1969, the BBC, in order to demonstrate their new colour broadcasts, launched a new snooker tournament, called Pot Black. The multi-coloured game, many of whose players were just as colourful, caught the public interest, and the programme's success wildly exceeded expectations.

A few years later, the world championship was first televised, and snooker became a mainstream professional sport. World rankings were introduced in 1977. Money poured into the game, and a new breed of player, typified by Steve Davis, young, serious and dedicated, started to emerge. The first televised 147 was achieved in 1982 by Steve Davis. The top players became sterling millionaires. There was even a comic snooker song in the pop charts: Snooker Loopy by Chas & Dave;.

Perhaps the peak of this golden age was the world championship of 1985, when 18.5 million people (one third of the population of the UK) watched Dennis Taylor lift the cup after a mammoth struggle that went on well after midnight.

Snooker remains immensely popular in the United Kingdom, second only to football amongst television viewers.

Governing body

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), founded in 1968 as the Professional Billiard Players' Association, is the governing body for the professional game. Its subsidiary, World Snooker, organises the professional tour. The organisation is based in Bristol, England.

The amateur game is governed by the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF).

The game

Snooker is played on a 6' by 12' (about 1.83m by 3.66m) table with six pockets, one at each corner and one in the middle of each long side. At one end of the table is the so-called 'baulk line'. On this line the yellow ball (2 points) is on the left, the green ball (3) on the right and the brown ball (4) in the middle. At the exact middle of the table starts the blue ball (5), and yet further down the pink one (6), followed by the red balls, touching each other and placed in a triangle behind the pink, and finally the black ball (7). The white cue ball can be placed anywhere inside The D (the semi-circle behind the baulk line), although it is normal for players to start by placing the ball on the line, between the brown ball and either the green or yellow ball.

The game consists of two phases. In the first phase, the players have to play a red ball (that is, play the cue ball so that it is a red ball it first touches). When they succeed in potting a red ball, they get another shot, now at a colour. When this colour is potted, it is replaced on the table - if possible on its own spot, otherwise on the highest remaining spot, or if all spots are occupied, as close to its own spot in a straight line (perpendicular to the baulk line) as is possible without touching the ball sitting there. After this another red has to be played, etcetera.

When potting a colour, the game's rules state that a player must nominate the ball he is playing for to the referee; however this is not necessary on most shots because the choice is obvious. The choice is usually only made explicit if two or more coloured balls are in close proximity or near the same line of sight.

After the last red and the following colour have been played, the second phase begins. In this phase, all colours have to be potted in the correct order (yellow, then green, then brown, then blue, then pink, then black).

One scores points by potting the correct ball - 1 point for each red, the ball's value for the colours. One also scores points if the opponent makes a mistake such as:

Penalty points are 4 points, the value of the ball that should be hit or the value of the ball that was faulted with, whichever is highest. If a foul has been committed by not hitting the ball on first and the referee judges that the player has not made the best possible effort to play a legal shot, then a "miss" is called and all balls on the table are returned to their position before the foul. (In top class play, this will usually only require the cue ball and a couple of other balls to be moved.) When a foul shot has been played, the player who committed the foul may be asked to go back to the table for another shot if the position is still difficult to play from.

The highest possible score in a break that can be achieved without receiving penalty points is 147; in that case, the player must pot the black ball after each red ball in the first phase of the game. Scoring 147 points in a single break rarely occurs in match play.

The highest possible score achievable in a single break is 155 points. That happens when an opponent fouls before any balls are potted and leaves every red ball at least partially obscured by a colour. The player nominates and sinks a colour which is scored as a red, then sinks the black for a total of 8 points. He then clears the table to score the 147 points mentioned in the previous paragraph, and adds that to his 8 points for a total of 155 (see also highest snooker break).


The most important event in professional snooker is the Embassy World Championship, held annually since 1927. The tournament has been held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (England) since 1977.

The group of tournaments that come next in importance are the ranking tournaments. Players in these tournaments score world ranking points. A high ranking ensures qualification for next year's tournaments, invitations to invitational tournaments and an advantageous draw in tournaments.

Third in line are the invitational tournaments, to which most of the highest ranked players are invited. The most important tournament in this category is the Benson & Hedges Masters;.

Notable players

Some of the most famous snooker players are:

Snooker equipment


See also

External links