How To Play Snooker: A Beginner's Guide

Snooker balls set on green felt, view from above
Snooker balls set on green felt, view from above

Snooker is a popular pool table game, which can sometimes be confused with pool or billiards. A major point which differentiates snooker from other cue sports is that the main goal is to pocket the coloured balls in the correct order to score more points than your opponent. 

It sounds simple enough, but it is important to understand the rules of snooker, how to set up snooker, common snooker fouls and what equipment or accessories you'll need to play. This will ensure a fair and correct game is played, with less arguments around the table!

Here’s everything you need to know about how to play Snooker.

What Is the Difference Between Snooker and Pool?

Sometimes people use snooker and pool interchangeably despite being very different games. In addition to the actual game rules (which we will go into in a moment), here are several other key differences between pool and snooker

  • Traditional snooker tables are larger (12’ x 6”) than traditional pool tables (usually 7’ x 3’6” or 8’ 4”). However, the game can be played on any sized table.
  • Recommended cue tip size is similar for both snooker and English 8 ball pool (between 8mm - 10mm). American pool cues generally have much larger cue tips (between 12mm-13mm).
  • Pool (often called Kelly Pool) balls are numbered 1-15 with stripes or solids. Snooker is played with 22 balls: 1 white cue ball, 6 coloured balls and 15 red balls. Snooker can also be played with 17 balls, which features a smaller amount of red balls. This is often played on smaller and standard sized pool tables (6ft, 7ft or 8ft). Snooker balls can be 2” (most commonly used ball size in Australia), 2 1/16” and 2 1/4” (most often used in the USA).

What Are the Rules of Snooker?

As mentioned before, snooker is played with 1 white cue ball and a variety of coloured balls, each with unique point values. The objective in snooker is to score more ball points than your opponent during each frame, by using the white cue ball to sink the coloured balls. A ‘frame’ is a single game of snooker. A snooker game generally consists of a predetermined number of odd-numbered frames, commonly ranging from 7 to 21 (to the players’ discretion). 

To score points, players must shoot the white cue ball to sink/pot a red ball first (which equals one point). Then the player must attempt to sink any chosen coloured ball, followed again by a red ball, then another coloured ball, until all balls have been pocketed. Each time a coloured ball is pocketed, that player gets points as each colour represents a different point. Whilst in game, don’t forget to add up these points. A snooker scoreboard can help! 

Didn’t pocket the right ball? Then it is your opponent's turn. 

The game continues until all balls are potted.

Snooker Balls – Point Values and Colours

As mentioned earlier, each colour represents a different point.

Red ball = 1 Point

Yellow Ball = 2 Points

Green Ball = 3 Points

Brown Ball = 4 Points

Blue Ball = 5 Points

Pink Ball = 6 Points

Black Ball = Highest value - 7 points 

How to Set up the Snooker Rack

Here’s a breakdown on how to set up a full set of snooker balls:

  • The 14 red balls are placed in a pyramid, with the pink ball at the end point/tip closest to the D.
  • The green, yellow, and brown balls are placed in a line across from the pyramid, along the ball line marked on the table.
  • The blue ball gets placed in the middle of the table.
  • The black ball is placed behind the pyramid, halfway between the pyramid base and pool table cushion.
  • The white cue ball is used to break from inside the D.


Snooker Game Regulations

Snooker matches involve an odd number of frame (e.g. the best of 7 frame or 21 frames). 

Here are some important snooker game regulations to remember:

  • Flip a coin to decide which player goes first 
  • The cue ball is used to break from inside the D area (a red ball must be struck first)
  • All balls must come to a complete stop before the next shot is played
  • The cue ball must hit the nominated ball first (although there are certain exceptions for red balls)
  • Red balls are not replaced once potted
  • Coloured balls are re-spotted (replaced) until all the red balls are gone. Re-spotting means that coloured balls are replaced if they are potted by putting them back in the same position they started the game in. If their original spot is occupied by another ball, the ball gets placed in the next highest value vacant spot or as close to its starting position as possible if all spots are taken.
  • The snooker free ball rule refers to a player hitting any ball of their choice, as long as they nominate it first only after a foul.


Understanding Snooker Scores

The winner of a snooker game or competition is the player who wins more frames than their opponent. Frames are won by scoring the most points in that particular frame. As mentioned before, a frame is a single game of snooker. An odd-number of frames are predetermined prior to playing.

Here’s a quick look at understanding snooker scores: 

  • Potting a red ball earns the player one point (reminder: after this they must then nominate a colour to attempt to pot on their next shot)
  • Coloured balls are re-spotted (replaced into their original spot); red balls are not
  • Balls are potted in a sequence: red, nominated colour, red, nominated colour, etc. until all the reds are potted without error
  • The remaining six coloured balls are then potted in order of ascending points, with black being most valuable
  • Max score from one visit to the snooker table is 147 (this is achieved if a player manages to pot a black ball after every red ball for a total of 15 reds and 15 blacks)
  • A player keeps going until he commits a foul or misses a ball, at which point it is the opposing player's turn

What Are Snooker Fouls?

A shot or action against the rules of snooker is called a foul. If a player commits three snooker fouls in a single frame, the player is out and the opponent automatically wins the frame. 

Here are examples of common snooker fouls:

  • If you pot a ball in the incorrect sequence
  • Disobeying an official’s instruction
  • Intentionally missing a shot or not hitting any balls
  • Failing to hit the nominated ball
  • Touching any ball with your body or hands
  • Touching any ball (other than the white one) with your snooker cue
  • Potting the white ball
  • Hitting a ball off the table
  • Jump shots (hitting the cue ball so it jumps in the air over any part of a ball before hitting another ball)
  • Playing a shot without at least one foot on the ground. Whilst players are permitted to lean on the table, players must ensure at least one foot remains in contact with the ground.


What Is A Snooker?

A 'snooker' refers to balls being placed in a way that the player cannot directly hit the next ball. This is done in hopes of forcing a foul to earn four points.

Recommend Snooker Table Size

The traditional snooker table size is 12ft by 6ft (also called a full sized table), but smaller table sizes are also used. Most pub sized tables are 7ft. A snooker table consists of six pockets, with one pocket at each corner and two at the centre of each longer side.


Snooker Equipment

It only takes minimal equipment to play the game of Snooker. If you want to play snooker, here’s what you need:

When choosing balls for snooker, there are a variety of options, including smaller 17 ball sets played on tables sized 7 or 8 foot. 

For an affordable option, we recommend Mitchell Super Snooker Balls.  For high-quality snooker balls, we recommend Aramith Premier Snooker Balls, available in both a smaller 17 ball set intended for use with 6, 7, 8, or 9 ft snooker tables or a full 22 ball set for larger 9, 10, or 12 ft tables.


Have More Questions on How to Play Snooker?

If you have questions on how to play snooker or would like personalised product recommendations, we love providing customers the best tips and tricks on all cue sports. Reach out to our dedicated team.