How to play snooker: The basic principles of the game

In this little article we will go through the very basics of how to play snooker and just a few basic rules to get you started playing.

A snooker table is 12 feet by 6 feet in size, has 6 pockets and the game is usually played by 2 people. Sometimes 4 people can play and this is known as a game of doubles.

The first thing that you will need is a snooker cue to play with. Most snooker clubs have a selection of whats called “rack cues” to choose from and are ideal for those new to snooker. As you advance, you may want to upgrade to your own cue. You can buy these from a range of shops, or you can have them custom made to your requirements. Along with a cue, you need to make sure you have a fresh piece of chalk and remember to chalk the tip of your cue before each strike.

Click here for info on choosing a snooker cue that’s right for you.

You may not know how to set up the balls correctly so lets go through this part next.

There are 15 red balls, 6 colours (yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black) and a white ball known as the cue ball. The reds need to be grouped together in a triangle which is usually found above or below the table. You will notice little markings on the table cloth known as spots. This is where the coloured balls are placed. If you want to know how to play snooker correctly, its important that you place the balls in the correct places. The diagram below shows exactly where each ball belongs.

how to play snooker

The black is positioned below the triangle of reds. The pink ball above the reds. The blue ball is placed in the centre spot. The yellow, green and brown are spotted on the baulk line area that is shaped like a D.

Generally, 2 people play snooker but there are times when you might want to play on your own or with more people. Sometimes when you want to know how to play snooker better, playing on your own can be a good idea. Occasionally 4 people play known as a 4 ball or doubles, but for this article we will demonstrate the usual 2 person game.

You will also benefit from learning the snooker stance and a solid bridge hand.

The first shot played is called the break off shot. One player is chosen to break open the triangle of reds. First thing we need to do is place the ‘cueball’ (white ball) in the D section of the baulk area. You are allowed place the ball anywhere you wish in the D but not outside it. Most players place the white ball on the line between the brown and green. Some players like the white between the brown and yellow like the picture shows below.


how to play snooker


At this point we need to get into our snooker stance position. If you have no idea how to create a good snooker stance, then i recommend you take a look at this article. This is an important aspect on learning how to play snooker.

Once you are ready to make the break off shot you should place the cue between your bridge hand, line it the cue to the white ball so it is hitting the triangle of reds. If possible, aim for the edge of the triangle of reds so the white ball will bounce off the top cushion and return to the baulk area of the table, making it as difficult as possible for you opponent to score on his shot.

Note: You may only hit a red ball first when its your turn. If you hit a colored ball purposely or by accident, then it is deemed a foul. This gives your opponent foul points. Additionally, if the white balls goes into the pocket for any reason, then this is a foul shot and your opponent gets to place the white ball anywhere in the D section or he can make you play from the D if the shot is hard. 

You may only use the white ball to hit with your cue. If your cue touches any other ball on the table, it is also deemed a foul shot.

After a few shots, you may have an opportunity to pot a red into any of the six pockets available. If you pot the red ball you get one point for this. Anytime a red is potted, you get another shot straight away. On the next shot you can go for a coloured ball. You cannot hit another red otherwise it’s a foul shot.

Each of the coloured balls have different values;

  • Yellow = 2 points
  • Green = 3 points
  • Brown = 4 points
  • Blue = 5 points
  • Pink = 6 points
  • Black =7 points

Ideally you will want to pot the colour that carries the most value but this is not always possible. Giving yourself the best opportunity to score as much points as possible is better even if it means potting some lower value colours. After potting the colour, you must then pot a red again and NOT a colour.

If you miss the colour you intended to pot, then it automatically becomes your opponents turn to take the next shot. This sequence of events continues until all of the reds on the table have been potted.

When there are only colours left of the table, it is important that they are potted in exactly sequence. Firstly the yellow ball is played until potted, followed by the green, brown, blue pink and finally the black. When the black is potted the game is over and the person with the most amount of points wins that frame.


The video here demonstrates a typical colour clearance in sequence

The more you practice playing snooker, the better you will become. Be patient and always try to improve on the last time you played. Eventually the rules will become second nature to you.

Now you know the very basics of how to play snooker. The game is far more complex than this, however this guide is for those that have never tried to play before and gives a simple tutorial on how to play the game.

It’s a good idea to check out YouTube snooker videos. This will teach you the basic principles and rules of the game.

When you have learnt the basics, you can then move on to other techniques such as playing the screw shot.




Hi im Rob, the owner and editor for along with some other popular websites. Snooker has been a passion of mine for many years, so being able to create a website that people enjoy is a pleasure.
Connect with me directly on Facebook through the button below.

Robert McGee

Hi im Rob, the owner and editor for along with some other popular websites. Snooker has been a passion of mine for many years, so being able to create a website that people enjoy is a pleasure. Connect with me directly on Facebook through the button below.

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