How to Play Snooker (Rules, Tips & Tricks)

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Snooker is a popular cue sport that is a fun – although a bit more difficult – alternative to the standard eight-ball pool. It is set up a bit differently but the game is still the same, in that the object is still to shoot pool balls into pockets.

This page will take you through the differences between snooker and regular pool and what you need to play it as well. You’ll find all the rules of the game and, finally, a few tips and mistakes to avoid to get better at this enjoyable game.

What Is Snooker and How Is It Different from Regular Pool?

Snooker is a lot like regular pool in that you hit a cue ball with your pool stick in an effort to make a ball into the six pockets on the table. However, this is about where the similarities end, these two games are different in many ways.

Firstly, snooker tables are bigger than normal pool tables mainly caused by the fact that the game uses more balls than normal eight-ball and the initial setup requires a bit more space. Also, the pockets on a snooker table are narrower and the balls and pool cues are slightly smaller than regular pool balls and cues as well.

Snooker is most popular in places like the United Kingdom and India while it is much lesser known in the United States. That said, it has its niche in the States, and there certainly are places and people around that have snooker tables.

For more details on how regular pool and snooker differ, read this article.

What Equipment Do You Need to Play Snooker?

To play snooker you will need some fairly similar equipment to regular pool. You’ll need cues, a set of 22 snooker balls (including the cue ball), a table, and some chalk for your cues. A mechanical bridge isn’t necessary but is nice to have because of the larger table.

That being said, remember that even though normal pool uses all these pieces of equipment, they are not interchangeable. Snooker uses different sizes for all these and you will find it frustratingly difficult if you try to use regular pool sticks or balls to play snooker.

Still, there are ways in which you can play snooker on a regular pool table.

Snooker Balls

How to Play Snooker: The Rules

With the basics out of the way, let’s dive into the rules of snooker.

Scoring Points

Snooker starts off with 22 balls total, including the cue ball. There are 15 red balls, 6 differently colored ones, and the cue ball. These balls all have point values assigned to them (except the cue) and they go as follows: the red balls are all worth one point, the yellow ball is worth two, the green ball is worth three, the brown ball is worth four, the blue ball is worth five, the pink ball is worth six, and the black ball is worth seven.

To score points you must first make a red ball, then make a colored ball of your choice, then another red ball, and so on until every red ball has been made.

If you sink one of the colored balls before all the red balls are in, that ball goes back on the table to its starting position (we’ll go over all the ball’s starting positions in the next section) and the points that the ball is worth are added to your score along with the one point you got for making the red ball.

Starting Positions

Setting up a snooker game begins by racking up the 15 red balls and placing this rack about a quarter of the way up the table much like you would do in regular eight-ball pool. After this, it is time to set the colored balls in their positions.

The brown, yellow, and green balls are all placed in a straight line at the other end of the table, again, about a quarter of the way up the table. The balls should go yellow, brown, green from left to right if you’re looking from the rack-side of the table.  The blue ball is placed right in the middle of the table between the two center pockets, the pink ball is placed directly in front of the rack of red balls almost touching the top red ball. Finally, the black ball is placed behind the rack, in line with the back-center red ball about a hands length away from the edge of the table.

Most snooker tables will have marks where to place these balls but if they do not, you can make a rough guess keeping these positions in mind.

Snooker Table Set-Up

The Break

You can flip a coin or play a game of rock, paper, scissors to decide who goes first. Whoever shoots the break must shoot from in between the brown, yellow, and green balls. This space is called the “D” area.

The player who shoots first must hit a red ball first and if they make one they go for a colored ball and play on from there. If the player does not make a red ball on the break, the opponent then shoots for a red ball and the game plays on.

If the player breaking does not hit a red ball or hits a colored ball first on their shot it is a foul and the opponent gets penalty points (see the “fouls” section below).


If a player commits a foul on their turn their opponent gets a minimum of four points and can choose whether to play the ball as it lies or pass their turn to the opponent to replay their shot from where the ball lies. In the event that the cue ball is scratched, or “in-off” as most snooker players would say, penalty points are applied and the player who shoots next can place the cue ball anywhere in the “D” and attempt their next shot.

You also cannot jump the cue ball in snooker. If a ball leaves the table in any way, this is a foul and the opponent is awarded four points. Then the play resumes as the ball lies unless it was hit off of the table. If that’s the case, the next player can place the cue ball anywhere in the “D” for the next shot.

Other fouls in snooker include when you hit a colored ball before a red ball if you have not sunk a red ball first. In this case, the opponent gets awarded the number of points that the colored ball struck is worth so long as it is above four.  The same rule applies if you sink a colored ball before sinking a red one first. The value of that ball (minimum of four points) is added to your opponent’s score and the colored ball is then put back on the table in its starting position.

If a player makes a red ball when shooting for a colored, this is also a foul. However, the red ball that gets sunk does not get put back on the table, and play continues after penalty points are awarded and the opponent chooses whether to shoot or pass.

In the end game, after all the reds are sunk, if a player hits a colored ball out of order, it follows the rule in hitting a colored ball before a red, in that the opponent gets penalty points equal to the colored ball’s value that was struck (minimum of four points). If the colored ball is sunk, place it back in its starting position.

There is also a foul for shooting a “push shot” or double-tapping the cue ball. Other than this there are some other fouls that some snooker players play by but these are considered house rules and won’t be mentioned here.

How to Play Snooker (Rules, Tips & Tricks)

The End Game

Once all the red balls have been made, both players begin shooting for the colored balls, starting from the lowest point value one to the highest. This time, if the colored ball is sunk, it does not get put back on the table and play continues until the black ball is made.

After the black ball is sunk, the player with the most points wins the game. However, if a player commits a foul with just the black ball on the table, their opponent wins and the game is over. Much like in eight-ball, if you scratch on your eight-ball shot, you lose automatically.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

This may seem a bit obvious but the biggest mistake to avoid are committing fouls. Fouls in snooker are particularly costly and can be the difference between winning or losing at the end, so try to keep the cue ball out of pockets and be precise with your shots.

Also, there are many different strategies for the break. A particularly good one is not to try and make a red right off the bat, but leave your opponent with a tough first shot. It is fairly unlikely you will make a red ball on the break, so hit the cue ball lightly and try and nestle it behind another ball or leave it close to the edge of the table so your opponent will have a harder time making their first shot.


Snooker is a fun alternative to normal pool that any billiards player can pick up quickly and enjoy with some friends at the bar or in your game room over a few drinks.

Now that you know all the rules and equipment necessary, the only thing left to do is practice and get your technique and strategies down to take your snooker game to the next level. Keep in mind the tips and tricks from earlier and enjoy playing this lesser-known, but wonderful game.