The Snooker: The British Officer and A Gentleman

The History of Snooker: The Game of a British Officer and A Gentleman

Snooker is a game made popular by British Army officers stationed in India in the second half of the 19th century. The game of snooker is attributed to Neville Chamberlain (who is not to be confused with his contemporary of the same name The Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who vastly under estimated Hitler pre-WWII) who was an officer in India and when he was playing a new flanged game popular among officers his opponent failed to “pot” a ball and he called him a snooker. Snooker was a British military jargon for a novice or inexperienced soldier so Neville was pretty much call his adversary a rookie. The name caught on for both neophytes to the game and the game itself. Snooker because of this is popular in British Commonwealth countries and former colonies such as Australian and India. The game of snooker is also increasingly popular in India’s neighbor of China. Both the tiger and the dragon of Asia have produced some of the greatest snooker players in the last couple years.

How to set up the balls for Snooker

Snooker Balls Layout

Snooker: How to Play

Snooker is similar to pocket billiards (pool) in that it is played with a cue (stick) and balls. The snooker balls have different colors and are worth different points.  The balls consist of one white cue ball, 15 red balls worth one point each, and six balls of different colors: yellow worth 2 points, green worth 3 points, brown worth 4 points, blue worth 5 point, pink worth 6 points and finally worth the most is the black that is worth  a grand 7 points.

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to score more points than the opponent by potting object balls in a predefined order. Potting is putting the ball in the pockets. The game or frame starts with the balls positioned in a very specific order that is quite different from pocket billiards. The players take it in turns to hit with their aim being to pot one of the red balls and score a point. If they do this then the red ball remains in the pocket and they are allowed another shot. On this shot the aim being to pot one of the colours. If you get a colour in and are successful, then they gain the value of the colour potted. It is returned to its correct position on the table and now you must try to pot another red. This keeps going until they fail to pot the desired ball, at which point their opponent comes back to the table to play the next shot.

When all reds are Potted

The game continues in this manner until all the reds are potted and only the 6 colours are left on the table. Now when only the colours are left on the table then at this point your aim is then to pot the colours in the order yellow 2, green 3, brown 4, blue 5, pink 6, black 7. Now in this part of the game when you pot a colour, it remains off the table. When the final ball the black ball is potted, you add up the points from throughout the frame and the player with the most points wins.  It is suggested that you have a score tally of some sort to keep track of the points because games or frames can often get confusing with a large number of points.


Potting reds and colours are not the only way to score points in snooker though. The other way that points may also be scored in a game is when a player’s opponent fouls. What is a foul you might ask? A foul can occur for lots of different reasons, such as hitting a colour first when the player was attempting to hit a red, potting the cue ball (like scratching in pool), or failing to escape from “a snooker.” What is a snooker you might ask? Well as Neville called his foe in that famous namesake game it is a situation where you finished your turn leaving the cue ball in a position where your rival cannot pot a ball because the object ball cannot be hit directly. Points gained from a foul vary from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 7 if the black ball is involved.

The Snooker Table: The Big Green Baize

Snooker tables are similar to pocket billiard tables (pool) in that they have six pockets, two in the middle along the length and four in the corner. The pockets are measured around 70 mm (3.5 in), though in some high-class tournaments in England and India they may use slightly smaller pockets to increase difficulty. The amount of “undercut” in the pocket determines how easily a ball is accepted. Compared to a billiards table, snooker table pockets are rounded, while pool tables have sharp corners. This affects how accurate shots need to be to get in a pocket and on rail shots from one end of the table to the other.

Size of Snooker table

A snooker table is much larger usually measuring a length of 12 feet and a width of 6 feet. The table is covered in a woolen cloth, usually green called baize. Baize is the felt that is on a snooker table, and comes in the standard green. Unlike billiard and pool table cloth or felt which is napless, allowing a faster smoother play; snooker used a napped variety which means it is fuzzy and understanding the effect of the nap is part of the game. The popular British phrase on the green baize comes from snooker and baize is dyed green because in the early days of billiard or cue sports it was to mimic grass or lawn. Baize and billiard cloth though similar in appearance is not felt and most often is woolen though sometimes cotton.

Snooker Cushions

Also like pool tables, a snooker table has rails that are rubber lined called bumpers that allow for the ball to play or bounce off them. These are more commonly called cushions in snooker. The last important part of a snooker table is the baulk area. This is a line that runs parallel to the bottom cushion and is 29inches away from it. A semicircular “d” is drawn towards the bottom cushion with a radius of 11.5 inches. This is where the cue ball must be placed on every beginning shot.  The yellow, red, and green balls are also placed on the parallel line at the beginning of the game and the rest of the balls are placed at designated spots on the table.  The bed like most quality pool tables is made of slate.

Title Tags: History of Snooker, How to Play Snooker, Snooker Table,


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