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A player taking a shot at a practice snooker table, photographed from the opposite end of the table using a low camera angle to give forced perspective
Four-time world champion Mark Selby playing at a practice table during the 2012 Masters tournament
Highest governing bodyWPBSA
First played1875 in India
TypeCue sport
EquipmentSnooker table, snooker balls, , triangle, chalk, rests
VenueSnooker hall, indoor arena
OlympicIOC recognition[1]
World Games2001 – present

Snooker (pronounced , )[2][3] is a cue sport that was first played by British Army officers stationed in India in the second half of the 19th century. It is played on a rectangular table covered with a green cloth (or "baize"), with six pockets: one at each corner and one in the middle of each long side. Using a cue stick, the players[a] take turns to strike the white "cue ball" to pot the other twenty-one snooker balls in the correct sequence, accumulating points for each pot. An individual frame of snooker is won by the player who has scored the most points by the end of the frame. A snooker match ends with one of the players having won a predetermined number of frames, thus winning the match.

Snooker gained its identity in 1875 when army officer Sir Neville Chamberlain (1856-1944), stationed in Ootacamund, Madras, and Jabalpur, devised a set of rules that combined black pool and pyramids. The word snooker was a well-established derogatory term used to describe inexperienced or first-year military personnel. In the early 20th century, snooker was predominantly played in the United Kingdom where it was considered a "gentleman's sport" until the early 1960s, before growing in popularity as a national pastime and eventually spreading overseas. The standard rules of the game were first established in 1919 when the Billiards Association and Control Club was formed. As a professional sport, snooker is now governed by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, founded in 1968.

The World Snooker Championship has taken place since 1927. Joe Davis, a key figure and pioneer in the early growth of the sport, won fifteen successive world championships between 1927 and 1946. The "modern era" of snooker began in 1969 after the broadcaster BBC commissioned the television series Pot Black, later airing daily coverage of the World Championship which was first televised in 1978. Key figures in the game were Ray Reardon in the 1970s, Steve Davis in the 1980s, and Stephen Hendry in the 1990s, each winning the World Championship on multiple occasions. Since 2000, Ronnie O'Sullivan has won the most world titles.

Top professional players compete in regular tournaments around the world, earning millions of pounds on the World Snooker Tour, a circuit of international events featuring competitors of many different nationalities. The three main professional tournaments--the World Championship, the UK Championship, and the Masters--together make up the Triple Crown Series, considered by many players to be the most highly valued titles. Competitive snooker is also available to non-professional players, including seniors and people with disabilities. Although the main professional tour is open to females, there is a separate amateur women's tour organised by World Women's Snooker. The popularity of snooker has led to the creation of many variations based on the standard game, but using different rules or equipment, for example six-red snooker, the short-lived "snooker plus", and the more recent Snooker Shoot Out version.


Portrait of a British army officer in full dress uniform with aiguillettes and service medals, facing forward with one hand on hip
Sir Neville Chamberlain, a British Army officer who devised the game and its rules in the late 19th century

The origin of snooker dates back to the second half of the 19th century.[5] In the 1870s, billiards was popular among British Army officers stationed in Jubbulpore, India, and several variations of the game were devised during this time.[5] One version, which originated at the Officers' Mess of the 11th Devonshire Regiment in 1875,[6][7] combined the rules of two pool games: pyramid pool, played with fifteen red-coloured balls positioned in a triangle; and black pool, which involved the potting of designated balls.[8][9][10] Snooker was further developed in 1882 when its first set of rules was finalised by British Army officer Sir Neville Chamberlain,[b][6][11] who helped devise and popularise the game at Stone House in Ootacamund on a table built by Burroughes & Watts that had been brought to India by boat.[12] The word snooker was, at the time, a slang term used in the British Army to describe new recruits and inexperienced military personnel, and Chamberlain used it to deride the inferior performance of a young fellow officer at the table.[5][11]

Snooker was given its first definite reference in England in an 1887 issue of the Sporting Life newspaper, which led to a growth in popularity.[6] Chamberlain was revealed to be the game's inventor, 63 years after the fact, in a letter to The Field magazine published on 19 March 1938.[6] Snooker became increasingly popular across the Indian colonies of the British Raj, and in the United Kingdom, but it remained a game mainly for military officers and the gentry,[13] and many gentlemen's clubs that had a billiards table would not allow non-members inside to play.[6] To cater for the growing interest, smaller and more open snooker-specific clubs were formed.[6] The first official snooker tournament was the 1908 American Tournament, held between 1907 and 1908 in London and won by Charles Dawson when the sport was used as an extra feature to billiard matches.[14][failed verification] In 1919, the Billiards Association and the Billiards Control Board merged to form the Billiards Association and Control Club (BA&CC) and a new, standardised set of rules for snooker was first established.[15]

Played in 1926 and 1927, the first World Snooker Championship was organised by Joe Davis and known as the Professional Snooker Championship.[5][16] Being a professional English billiards and snooker player himself, Davis moved the game from a recreational pastime to a professional sporting activity.[17][18] Utterly dominant, he won every world championship until 1946, when he retired from taking part in the championships.[19] Snooker then went into a period of decline through the 1950s and 1960s, with little public interest in the game beyond those who played it,[20] and the World Championship itself was discontinued in 1957.[7] In 1959, in an attempt to boost the game's appeal, Davis introduced a variation known as "snooker plus", with the addition of two extra colours, but this failed to attract attention and was very short-lived.[21][22]

The return of the game to the public consciousness was due to the growth of colour television. In 1969, David Attenborough (then the controller of BBC2) commissioned the snooker tournament television series, Pot Black, primarily to showcase the potential of the BBC's new colour service, as the green table and multi-coloured balls provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of the new broadcasting technology.[7][23][24] The series became a ratings success and was, for a time, the second-most popular show on BBC2.[25] Interest in the game increased in the next decade and the 1978 World Snooker Championship was the first to receive daily television coverage.[26][27] Snooker quickly became regarded as a mainstream game in the United Kingdom,[28] Ireland, and much of the Commonwealth, and has remained consistently popular since the late 1970s, with most of the major ranking tournaments being televised.[8] In 1985, an estimated 18.5 million viewers watched the conclusion of the World Championship final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis, a record viewership in the UK for any broadcast after midnight.[29][30]

In the early 2000s, a ban on tobacco advertising led to a reduction in the number of professional tournaments,[31][32] which decreased from twenty-two events in 1999 to just fifteen in 2003.[33][34] However, the popularity of the game in Asia, with emerging talents such as Liang Wenbo and more established players such as Ding Junhui and Marco Fu, boosted the sport in the Far East.[35][36] By 2007, the BBC dedicated 400 hours to snooker coverage, compared to just 14 minutes 40 years earlier.[37] In 2010, promoter Barry Hearn gained a controlling interest in World Snooker Ltd. and the World Snooker Tour, pledging to revitalise the "moribund" professional game.[38][39][40] Since then, the number of professional tournaments has increased, with 44 events held in the 2019-20 season.[41] Snooker tournaments have been adapted to make them more suitable for television audiences, one example being the Snooker Shoot Out, which is a timed, one-frame competition.[42] The prize money for professional events has increased as the sport continues to grow, with the top players earning several million pounds over the course of their careers.[43] The winner of the 2020 World Snooker Championship received £500,000 out of a total prize fund of £2,395,000.[44]



A full-size snooker table in a brightly-lit room with bookcases and a boardroom table in the background, all cordoned off at the right-hand side as part of an English country house display
A full-size snooker table set up for the start of a game
Close-up view of an open snooker ball box with three rows of five red balls to the rear, one row of colour balls towards the front, a white ball to front left corner, a black ball to front right corner, and two chalk cubes at the front between the white and black balls
A complete set of snooker balls
Close-up view of a horizontal scoring band showing the numerals 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, with a ceramic pointer resting above the 10, two cue tips resting against the 12, and a box of chalk sitting on a shelf beneath
A sliding scoreboard, some blocks of cue-tip chalk, white chalk-board chalk, and two cue sticks
A man playing snooker on a baize-covered table, preparing to strike the white ball using a cue stick that he is holding with his right hand; the end of the cue stick is resting on the cross-shaped head of a long stick which he is holding with his left hand
A shot using a rest, allowing the player to reach farther down the table

A standard full-size snooker table measures 12 ft × 6 ft (365.8 cm × 182.9 cm), with a rectangular playing surface measuring 11 ft 8.5 in × 5 ft 10.0 in (356.9 cm × 177.8 cm).[45] The height of the table from the floor to the top of the cushions is 2 ft 10.0 in (86.4 cm).[4] The table has six pocket holes, one at each corner and one at the centre of each of the two longer side cushions.[46] One drawback of using a full-size table is the amount of space required to accommodate it, which limits the locations where the game can easily be played. The minimum room size that allows space on all sides for comfortable cueing is 22 ft × 16 ft (6.7 m × 4.9 m).[47] While pool tables are common to many pubs, snooker tends to be played either in private settings or in public snooker halls.[48] The game can also be played on smaller tables using fewer red balls.[45] Variant table sizes include 10 ft × 5 ft (305 cm × 152 cm), 9 ft × 4.5 ft (274 cm × 137 cm), 8 ft × 4 ft (244 cm × 122 cm), 6 ft × 3 ft (183 cm × 91 cm) (the smallest for realistic play) and 4 ft × 2 ft (122 cm × 61 cm). Smaller tables can come in a variety of styles, such as fold-away or dining-table convertible.[49]

The cloth on a snooker table is usually a form of tightly woven woollen green baize, with a directional nap that runs lengthwise from the baulk end of the table to the far end near the black ball spot. The nap affects the speed and trajectory of the cue ball, depending on the direction of the shot and whether any side spin is placed on the ball. Even if the cue ball is struck in precisely the same manner, the effect of the nap will differ according to whether the ball is directed towards the baulk line or towards the opposite end of the table. The cloth is not vacuumed because this can damage the nap; instead, it is brushed in a straight line, from the baulk end to the opposite end, with multiple brush strokes directed along the table (i.e. not across the table). Some table men then drag along a dampened cloth, wrapped around a short piece of board (like a two by four) or the straight back of a brush, to collect any remaining fine dust and to help lay down the nap. The cloth is finally ironed. Strachan cloth, used in official snooker tournaments, is 100% wool. Some other types of cloth include a small percentage of nylon.[50][51]

A snooker ball set consists of twenty-two unmarked balls: fifteen reds, six colour balls, and one white cue ball (which is shared between the players). The six colours are one each of yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black.[45] Each ball has a diameter of 2+116 inches (52.5 mm).[4] At the start of the game, the red balls are racked into a tightly packed equilateral triangle and the six colours are positioned at designated spots on the table. The cue ball is placed inside the "D" ready for the break-off shot.[4] Each player has a cue stick (or simply a "cue"), not less than 3 ft (91.4 cm) in length, which is used to strike the cue ball. The tip of the cue must only make contact with the cue ball and is never used for striking any of the reds or colours directly.[4]

Snooker accessories include chalk for the tip of the cue, various sorts of cue rest for playing shots that are difficult to play by hand, extensions for lengthening the cue stick, a triangle for racking the reds, and a scoreboard which is typically attached to a wall near the snooker table. A traditional snooker scoreboard resembles an abacus and records the score for each frame in units and twenties, as well as the frame scores. A simple scoring bead is sometimes used, called a "scoring string" or "scoring wire".[52] Each segment of the string (bead) represents one point. The players can move one or several beads along the string using the ends of their cue sticks.[52]


A computer-generated picture of a snooker table viewed from above, drawn exactly to scale, with the snooker balls shown in their starting positions
Aerial view of a snooker table with the balls in their starting positions. The cue ball (white) may be placed anywhere in the semicircle (known as the "D") at the start of the game.


The objective of the game is to score more points than one's opponent by potting object balls in the correct order. At the start of a frame, the balls are positioned on the table as shown in the illustration opposite. Starting with the cue ball in the "D", the first player completes a break-off, requiring them to hit any red ball of the triangular pack by striking the cue ball with the tip of their cue. The players then take alternating turns at playing shots, with the aim of potting one of the red balls into a pocket and thereby scoring a point. Failure to make contact with a red ball constitutes a foul, which results in penalty points being awarded to the opponent.[4] At the end of each shot, the cue ball remains in the position where it has come to rest (unless it has entered a pocket) ready for the next shot.[4]

When a red ball enters a pocket, the striker[c] must then pot a "colour" of their choice.[d] If successful, the value of the potted colour ball is added to the player's score, and the ball is returned to its designated spot on the table. The player must then pot another red ball followed by another colour. The process of potting reds and colours alternately continues until the striker fails to pot the desired object ball, at which point the opponent comes to the table to start the next turn.[4] The act of potting successive object balls and scoring sequentially in this manner is to make a "break" (see Scoring below).[4] At the start of each player's turn, the objective is to first pot a red ball; this is always the case until all the reds are off the table.[53] The cue ball may contact an object ball directly or it can be made to bounce off one or more cushions before hitting the required object ball.[4]

The game continues until all the reds have been potted and only the six colours are left on the table.[4] The colours must next be potted in the ascending order of their value, from the least valuable to the most valuable ball, i.e. yellow first (worth two points), then green (three points), brown (four points), blue (five points), pink (six points), and finally black (seven points); each ball remains in the pocket after being potted.[4] When the final ball is potted, the player with the most points wins the frame.[4][e] Players will often play on even after they do not have enough points remaining on the table to win the frame, hoping to force their opponent into playing foul shots.[4][53] If a player deduces that there are not enough points available on the table to beat the opponent's score, that player may offer to concede the frame while at the table (but not while the opponent is still at the table); a frame concession is a common occurrence in professional snooker.[4][53]

Computer simulation of a snooker break-off shot at the start of a frame

If the scores are equal when all the object balls have been potted, the black is used as a tiebreaker. In this situation, called a "re-spotted black", the black ball is returned to its designated spot and the cue ball is played in-hand, meaning that it may be placed anywhere on or within the lines of the "D" to start the tiebreak. The referee then tosses a coin and the winner of the toss decides who goes first. The game continues until one of the players either pots the black ball to win the frame, or commits a foul (losing the frame).[4]

Professional and competitive amateur matches are officiated by a referee, who is charged with ensuring the proper conduct of players and making decisions "in the interests of fair play". The responsibilities of the referee include: announcing the points scored during a break; announcing the penalty points awarded after a foul has been committed; replacing colour balls onto their designated spots after being potted; and cleaning the cue ball or any object ball upon request by the striker.[4]:39 Another duty of the referee is to recognise and declare a stalemate when neither player is able to make any progress in the frame. If both players agree, the balls are returned to their starting positions and the frame is restarted (known as a "re-rack"), the same player taking the break-off shot as before.[4]:33 Professional players usually play the game in a sporting manner, declaring fouls they have committed which the referee has not noticed,[54] acknowledging good shots from their opponent, and holding up a hand to apologise for fortunate shots, known as "flukes".[54][55]


Colour Value
Red snooker ball Red 1 point
Yellow snooker ball Yellow 2 points
Green snooker ball Green 3 points
Brown snooker ball Brown 4 points
Blue snooker ball Blue 5 points
Pink snooker ball Pink 6 points
Black snooker ball Black 7 points

Points in snooker are gained from potting the object balls in the correct sequence. The total number of consecutive points (excluding fouls) that a player amasses during one visit to the table is known as a "break".[45] A player could achieve a break of 15, for example, by first potting a red followed by a black, then another red followed by a pink, before failing to pot the next red. A maximum break in snooker is achieved by potting all reds with blacks, then potting all six colours, yielding 147 points; this is often known as a "147" or a "maximum".[56] As of 20 January 2021, there are 166 confirmed instances of players scoring a maximum break in professional competition.[57]

Penalty points are awarded to a player when a foul is committed by the opponent. A foul can occur for various reasons, most commonly for sending the cue ball into a pocket, or for failing to hit the correct object ball (e.g. hitting a colour first when attempting to contact a red). The latter is a common foul committed when a player fails to escape from a "snooker", where the previous player has left the cue ball positioned such that no legal ball can be struck directly in a straight line without being wholly or partially obstructed by an illegal ball. Fouls incur a minimum of four penalty points unless a higher-value object ball is involved in the foul,[f] up to a maximum of seven penalty points where the black ball is concerned.[4]:26-28 When a foul is committed, the offender's turn ends and the referee announces the penalty. All points scored in the break before the foul was committed are awarded to the striker, but no points are scored for any ball pocketed during the foul shot.[4]

If dissatisfied with the position left after a foul, the next player may request that the opponent who committed the foul should be made to play again from where the balls have come to rest. If the foul has left no valid shot available for the next player, the referee may call a free ball, allowing the player to "nominate" any object ball in place of the shot they might normally have played.[4] Doing so with all 15 red balls still in play can potentially result in a break exceeding 147, with the highest possible being a 155 break, achieved by nominating the free ball as an extra red, then potting the black as the additional colour after potting the free-ball red, followed by the 15 reds with blacks, and finally the colours. Jamie Cope is recorded as being the first player to post a verified 155 break, achieved in a practice frame in 2005, with other players such as Alex Higgins claiming to have made a similar break.[58][59]

A close-up view of a pockmarked white ball to the front and left of a red snooker ball which is itself next to a corner pocket in top right-hand corner of the image. The tip of a cue stick is visible in bottom right-hand corner of the image, about to strike the white ball.
A close-up view of a cue tip about to strike the cue ball, the aim being to pot the red ball into a corner pocket.

One game of snooker, beginning with the balls in their starting positions and ending when the last ball is potted, is called a "frame". A snooker match generally consists of a predetermined number of frames and the player who wins the most frames wins the match. Most professional matches require a player to win five frames, and are called "best of nine" in reference to the maximum possible number of frames. Tournament finals are usually best of 17 or best of 19, but some tournaments, such as the World Championship uses longer matches - ranging from best of 19 in the qualifiers and the first round up to best of 35 for the final (first to 18), and is played over four sessions of play held over two days.[60]

Governance and tournaments


Professional snooker players compete on the World Snooker Tour, which is a circuit of ranking tournaments and invitational events held throughout the snooker season. All competitions are open to professional players who have qualified for the tour, and selected amateur players, but most events include a separate qualification stage. Players can qualify for the tour either by virtue of their position in the world rankings from prior seasons, by winning continental championships, or through the Challenge Tour or Q School events.[61] Players on the World Snooker Tour generally gain a two-year "tour card" for participation in the events.[61] Some additional secondary tours have been contested over the years. A two-tier structure was adopted for the 1997-98 snooker season; comprising six tournaments known as the WPBSA Minor Tour was open to all professionals, but only ran for one season.[62] A similar secondary UK Tour was first played from the 1997-98 season, which was renamed the Challenge Tour in 2000, Players Tour Championship in 2010 and returned as the Challenge Tour in 2018.[63]

The global governing body for professional snooker is the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), founded in 1968 as the Professional Billiard Players' Association.[64] The WPBSA owns and publishes the official rules of snooker,[65] and has overall responsibility for policy-making in the professional sport of snooker.[66] World Snooker (rebranded the "World Snooker Tour" in 2020) is the wholly owned commercial subsidiary of WPBSA responsible for the professional tour.[67]

World rankings

Every player on the World Snooker Tour is assigned a position on the WPBSA's official world ranking list, which is used to determine the seedings and the level of qualification each player requires for the tournaments on the professional circuit.[68] The current world rankings are determined using a two-year rolling points system, where ranking points are allocated to the players according to the prize money earned at designated ranking tournaments.[69] This "rolling" list is maintained and updated throughout the season, with points from tournaments played in the current season replacing points earned from the corresponding tournaments of two seasons ago. Additionally, "one-year" and "two-year" ranking lists are compiled at the end of every season, after the World Championship; these year-end lists are used for pre-qualification at certain tournaments and for tour-card guarantees.[68]

The top 16 players in the world ranking list, generally regarded as the "elite" of the professional snooker circuit,[70] are not required to pre-qualify for some of the tournaments, such as the Shanghai Masters, the Masters and the World Snooker Championship.[71] Certain other events, such as those in the Cazoo Cup series, use the one-year ranking list to qualify; these use the results of the current season to denote participants.[72] As of the 2020-21 season, there are 128 places available on the World Snooker Tour,[73] with players either in the top 64 on the official ranking list, or finishing as one of the top eight prize money earners during the most recent season, guaranteed a tour place for the next season, this being assessed after the World Championship.[74]


The oldest current professional snooker tournament is the World Snooker Championship,[60] which has taken place annually since 1927 (except during World War II and between 1958 and 1963).[75][76] Hosted since 1977 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England,[75] the championship was sponsored by Embassy from 1976 to 2005,[31] and has since been sponsored by various betting companies after the introduction of an EU-wide ban on advertising tobacco products.[77][78][79] It is televised extensively in the UK by the BBC,[80] also receiving significant coverage in Europe on the Eurosport network,[81] and in East Asia on CCTV-5.[82]

The World Championship is the most highly valued title in professional snooker,[83] in terms of financial reward (£500,000 winner's prize since 2019), ranking points, and prestige.[84][85] The UK Championship, held annually since 1977, is considered to be the second most important ranking tournament, after the World Championship.[86] These two events, and the annual non-ranking Masters tournament, make up the Triple Crown Series;[87][88] being some of the oldest competitions on the professional circuit, the Triple Crown events are valued by many players as the most prestigious.[88] Winning all three is a difficult challenge that has only been achieved by eleven players.[89][90]

With some events having been criticised for matches taking too long,[91] an alternative series of timed tournaments has been organised by Matchroom Sport chairman Barry Hearn. The shot-timed Premier League Snooker was established, with seven players invited to compete at regular United Kingdom venues, televised on Sky Sports.[85] Players had twenty-five seconds to take each shot, with five time-outs per player per match. While some success was achieved with this format, it generally did not receive the same amount of press attention or status as the regular ranking tournaments.[91] This event has been taken out of the tour since 2013, when the Champion of Champions was established.[92] The Champion of Champions saw players qualify by virtue of winning other events in the season, with 16 champions competing.[93][g] Reflecting the game's aristocratic origins, the majority of tournaments on the professional circuit require players to wear waistcoats and bow ties. The necessity for this rule has been questioned, and players such as Stephen Maguire have been granted medical exemptions from wearing a bow tie.[94]

In 2015, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association submitted an unsuccessful bid for snooker to be played at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.[1][95] Another bid has been put forward for 2024 Summer Olympics through the World Snooker Federation, founded in 2017.[96][97] A trial for the format for cue sports to be played at the 2024 games was put forward at the 2019 World Team Trophy, also featuring nine-ball and carom billiards.[98] Snooker has been contested at the World Games since 2001, and was included as an event at the 2019 African Games.[99][100][101]


Non-professional snooker (including youth competition) is governed by the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF).[102] Events held specifically for seniors are handled by the WPBSA under the World Seniors Tour.[103][104][105] World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is a WPBSA subsidiary that organises events and playing aids in snooker and other cue sports for people with disabilities.[48] Snooker is a mixed gender sport that affords men and women the same opportunities to progress at all levels of the game. While the main professional tour is open to female players, there is also a separate women's tour organised by World Women's Snooker (formerly the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association) that encourages female players to participate in the sport.[48]

The highest competition in the amateur sport is the IBSF World Snooker Championship,[106] while the highest level of the senior sport is the World Seniors Championship.[105] On the women's tour, the leading tournament is the World Women's Snooker Championship. The reigning champion is Reanne Evans who has held the women's world title twelve times since first winning the championship in 2005. Evans has also participated on the World Snooker Tour and has taken part in the qualifying rounds of the main world championship on five occasions, reaching the second round in 2017.[107] The most prestigious amateur event in England is the English Amateur Championship; first held in 1916, this is the oldest snooker competition still being played.[108]


Several players, such as Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Allen and Steve Davis, have warned that there are too many tournaments during the season, and that players risk "burnout".[109] In 2012, O'Sullivan played fewer tournaments in order to spend more time with his children, and ended the 2012-13 season ranked 19th in the world; he played only one tournament in 2013, the World Championship, which he won.[109] He has suggested that a "breakaway tour" with fewer events would be beneficial to the sport, but as of 2019 no such tour has been organised.[110]

Some leagues have allowed clubs to exclude female players from tournaments.[111][112] League committee leadership has defended the practice: "If we lose two of these clubs [with the men-only policies] we would lose four teams and we can't afford to lose four teams otherwise we would have no league."[111] A World Women's Snooker spokesperson commented, "It is disappointing and unacceptable that in 2019 that (sic) players such as Rebecca Kenna have been the victim of antiquated discriminatory practices."[113] The All-Party Parliamentary Group said, "The group believes that being prevented from playing in a club because of gender is archaic."[113]

Important players

A black and white photograph of a man with Brylcreemed black hair, white shirt, black waistcoat, and black bow tie, holding a snooker cue in front of him; his autograph is visible in bottom right corner of photo
English player Joe Davis, founder of the World Snooker Championship, won 15 consecutive world titles between 1927 and 1946.

In the professional era of snooker, which began with Joe Davis in the 1930s and continues until the present day, a relatively small number of players have succeeded at the top level.[114][115] Davis was world champion for twenty years, retiring unbeaten after claiming his fifteenth world title in 1946 when the tournament was reinstated after the Second World War.[116] Undefeated in World Championship play, he was only beaten four times in his life, all of these defeats coming after his retirement and inflicted by his own brother Fred Davis.[116] He did lose matches in handicapped tournaments, but on level terms these four defeats were the only losses of his entire career.[117][116][118]

After Davis retired from World Championship play, the next dominant force was his younger brother Fred Davis, who had lost the 1940 final to Joe.[116] By 1947, Fred Davis was deemed ready by his brother to take over the mantle, but lost the world final to the Scotsman Walter Donaldson.[119] Davis and Donaldson would contest the next four finals. After the abandonment of the World Championship in 1953, with the 1952 event boycotted by British professionals, the World Professional Match-play Championship became the unofficial world championship.[120] Fred Davis won the tournament every year from 1952 to 1956, but did not enter the 1957 event.[121] John Pulman was the most successful player of the 1960s, winning seven consecutive world titles between April 1964 and March 1968 when the World Championship was contested on a challenge basis,[122] but his winning streak ended when the tournament reverted to a knockout format in 1969. Ray Reardon was the dominant force in the 1970s, winning six titles (1970, 1973-1976, and 1978), while John Spencer won three (1969, 1971, 1977).[123][124]

Headshot of a dark-haired man smiling at the camera, with black shirt, black waistcoat, and black bow tie visible
English player Ronnie O'Sullivan has won the World Snooker Championship six times in the 21st century.

Steve Davis (no relation to Joe or Fred) won his first World Championship in 1981, becoming the 11th world champion since 1927 (including the winner of the boycotted 1952 championship, Horace Lindrum).[125][126] Davis won six world titles (1981, 1983, 1984, and 1987-1989) and competed in the most-watched snooker match, the 1985 World Snooker Championship final, which he lost to Dennis Taylor.[29] Stephen Hendry became the 14th world champion in 1990, aged 21 years and 106 days; he is the youngest player ever to have lifted the world title.[7] Hendry dominated the sport through the 1990s, winning the World Championship seven times (1990, 1992-1996, and 1999).[121][127]

Unlike previous decades, the 21st century has produced many players of a similar standard, rather than a single player raising the bar. Ronnie O'Sullivan has come the closest to dominance in the 2000s and 2010s, having won the world title on six occasions (2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013, and 2020), while John Higgins and Mark Selby have won four times (1998, 2007, 2009, and 2011) and (2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021) respectively, Mark Williams three times (2000, 2003, and 2018).[128] O'Sullivan is the only player to have made 1,000 career centuries, and holds the record for the most maximum breaks compiled in professional competition, having achieved his 15th in October 2018.[129]


The popularity of snooker has led to the creation of many variant versions, using different rules or equipment. Variants of snooker are cue games that are based on the standard game of snooker, or similar in origin. Some have only minor rule changes and others are more distinct games. Some versions of the game, such as six-red or ten-red snooker, are played with almost identical rules but with fewer object balls, reducing the time taken to play each frame.[130] The Six-red World Championship, contested annually in Bangkok, Thailand, has been a regular fixture on the World Snooker Tour since 2012.[131] Popular in the women's game, ten-red had a World Women's 10-Red Championship held annually in Leeds, England, from 2017 to 2019.[132][133][134]

Geographic variations exist in the United States and Brazil, while speed versions of the standard game have been developed in the United Kingdom. American snooker is an amateur version of the game played almost exclusively in the United States. With simplified rules and generally played on smaller tables, this variant dates back to 1925 but is now largely in decline.[h][135] Sinuca brasileira (or "Brazilian snooker") is a variant of snooker played exclusively in Brazil, with fully divergent rules from the standard game, and using only one red ball instead of fifteen. At the start of the game, the single red is positioned halfway between the pink ball and the side cushion and the break-off shot cannot be used to pot the red or place the opponent in a snooker.[136] The Snooker Shoot Out is a variant snooker tournament, first staged in 1990, featuring single-frame matches for an accelerated format. The idea was resurrected in 2011 with a modified version that was added to the professional tour in the 2010-11 season and upgraded to a ranking event in 2017.[137][138]

Other games were designed with an increased number of object balls in play. One example is "snooker plus", which included two additional colours: an orange ball worth eight points positioned between pink and blue, and a purple ball worth 10 points positioned between brown and blue, increasing the maximum possible break to 210.[21][139] Created by Joe Davis, and introduced at the 1959 News of the World Snooker Plus Tournament, this variant failed to gain popularity and is no longer played.[140] Power Snooker was a short-lived cue sport based on aspects of snooker and pool, which was first played competitively as the 2010 Power Snooker Masters Trophy and again in 2011, but the format failed to gain widespread appeal and was discontinued.[137] Using nine red balls racked in a diamond-shaped pack at the start of the game, the matches were limited to a fixed game-play period of 30 minutes.[141] Tenball was a snooker variant designed specifically for the television show of the same name, presented by Phillip Schofield, which lasted for one series. A yellow and black ball worth ten points was added between the blue and pink, and the game had a slightly revised set of rules.[142][143]


  1. ^ Snooker is played by two independent players or by more than two players as "sides", e.g. four players constituting two sides of two players.[4]:16, 33
  2. ^ This is not the former British Prime Minister of the same name.[7]
  3. ^ The striker is the person whose turn it is at the table, either currently in play or about to play.[4]:11
  4. ^ The term colour is understood to mean one of the six remaining object balls that are not red, i.e. yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black.[4]:16
  5. ^ When black is the only object ball remaining on the table, the striker can claim the frame if more than seven points ahead of the opponent.[4]
  6. ^ An object ball is involved in a foul if it is either the nominated ball on, or the highest-value ball unintentionally contacted or pocketed as a result of the foul.
  7. ^ Under certain circumstances, some runners-up participate at the event.[93]
  8. ^ Despite its name, American snooker is not governed or recognised by the United States Snooker Association, but by the Billiard Congress of America.


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  • Boru, Sean (2010). The Little Book of Snooker. Foreword by Jimmy White MBE. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-5561-7.
  • Everton, Clive (1986). The History of Snooker and Billiards (1st ed.). Haywards Heath: Partridge Press. ISBN 1-85225-013-5.
  • Everton, Clive (2012). Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards: The Inside Story of the Snooker World. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78057-568-1.
  • Gadsby, Paul; Williams, Luke (2005). Masters of the Baize: Cue Legends, Bad Boys and Forgotten Men in Search of Snooker's Ultimate Prize. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84018-872-1.
  • Hayes, Dean P. (2004). Snooker Legends. Foreword by Terry Griffiths. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-3233-2.
  • Hayton, Eric N.; Dee, John (2004). The CueSport Book of Professional Snooker: The Complete Record & History. Norfolk: Rose Villa Publications. ISBN 978-0-9548549-0-4.
  • Peall, Arthur F. (2017) [1928]. Billiards and Snooker (Reprint ed.). Barzun Press. ISBN 978-1-44552515-0.
  • Shamos, Michael I. (2002). The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards. Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1-58574-685-9.

External links

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