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Triangle Snooker Centre, Street, Somerset set up of balls on a snooker tableOkay, time for another one of my hobbies - you may have already noticed I like to play with big balls (bowling balls that is) - well on occasion I also like to play with a set of smaller balls too, of varying colours, knocking them about using a big stick! Of course I am talking about snooker.
Like any sport, snooker enthusiasts must practise a lot if they are going to be any good and become professionals. I am nowhere near that level as I do not play very often, maybe once or twice a month, but have played for several years so I like to class myself as average - well I can pot some balls anyway - as for my highest break, well I won't divulge that because it is mediocre - ha ha !!
I don't play very much at all now due to other commitments but for many years I used to enjoy a few frames with a friend in Street (a town in Somerset) so I can now hear you asking why I travel 40 miles when I could play in Bristol. Well the simple answer is that while there is nothing wrong with the clubs in Bristol or anywhere else, we went to the one in Street for so long as it is a cosy place and the staff are really friendly and it was local to my friend. A picture of the Triangle Snooker Centre in Street (at night!) can be seen top left.

The game of snooker in general is quite easy to play (as long as you kids are tall enough to reach over the table!!) but the rules can get quite complicated in certain situations during professional matches. Here follows the most common rules of the game:
the baulk line and the DA standard snooker table has dimensions of 12 foot by 6 foot and stands 34 inches from the floor. A match is split into a pre-set number of frames and the winner is the person with the highest number of frames won at the end of the match. A frame is won by the person with the highest score at the end of the frame.
At the start of a frame the table contains
15 red balls (called reds) and six balls of other colours (called colours) and a white cue ball. Each of the red balls is worth 1 point, while the colours have different values as follows:
Yellow 2,
Green 3, Brown 4, Blue 5, Pink 6 and . The maximum score in a frame of snooker is 147 (15 reds, 15 blacks then all the colours - unless an opponent is unlucky enough to commit a foul before potting anything then you could get more than 147 on the scoreboard!). 147's are achieved quite a lot nowadays - mostly in practice matches but you do get to see the odd one on TV now and then.
The balls are arranged at the start as can be seen in the photos on the right (the white cue ball placed between green and brown due to me being left handed - right handed players usually place the cue ball between brown and yellow). The pack of reds form a triangle directly behind the pink. On the table there is a straight line running through the positions of the green, brown and yellow balls - this is called the baulk line. A semicircle is joined to the baulk line as can be seen in the picture to the left (the line and semicircle are not clear due to being black lines so I added them by hand).
the pack of reds The semicircle is known as the "D". Whenever a player has possession of the cue ball (known as "in hand"), usually at the very start, or after a foul where the white goes in a pocket or off the table, the cue ball must be positioned inside the "D".

So at the start the player going first places the cue ball in the "D" and breaks off by striking the cue ball with the cue, sending it down the table to hit one of the red balls without hitting a colour first. If a colour is hit first, fails to make contact with a red or pots the cue ball in a pocket then a foul is committed (see penalties for fouls below for penalty scores). The opponent can either force the player to break again or continue the game himself (the white remains where it is unless it is pocketed, then it is "in hand").
A players turn (or visit) is over when he fails to legally pot a ball, then it is the opponent's turn.
Players must pot balls in a particular order. While reds remain on the table, a player must start by hitting a red ball and ultimately pot it, then he must nominate one of the colours, which if potted is replaced on the table in its usual position (if possible) and then go for another of the reds. The reds and colours alternate throughout the frame and the reds are never replaced on the table. If two reds are potted in one shot this is legal and two points are scored - neither reds are replaced on the table.
Once the final red has been pocketed, the player can still pot any colour. From then on the colurs must be potted in sequence and are not replaced on the table (unless a foul has been committed) - the sequence is as per points value - yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black. The game is over when only the black remains and it is potted (or a foul committed) - however if when the black has been potted the scores are even, the black is respotted and the cue ball "in hand" placed in the "D", and a player is selected to play by whatever means (coin toss etc) and play at the black until it is potted or a foul is committed.

snooker action some of the rests used in Snooker plus my cue on the rightFOUL SITUATIONS:
If the ball to be potted is a red but a colour is potted it is a foul. Likewise if a particular colour is to be potted but any other ball is then it is a foul. If a ball leaves the table the player has committed a foul - any reds stay off but colours are respotted. Deliberately causing the cue ball to jump over an obstructing ball is illegal.
If when respotting a colour it cannot be respotted on its original position because another ball is in the way it is placed in the first available position belonging to the highest valued colour. If all possible spots are covered it has to go as close as possible to its original position.
The cue ball is considered "snookered" when it cannot hit any ball "on" in a straight line from the current position, or from anywhere in the "D" if the cue ball is "in hand". If the cue ball is snookered after a foul then the player is given a free ball, where any ball can be hit and potted, and value of it counts as the legal ball "on". i.e if a red is snookered, and a free ball of blue is nominated and potted, the blue only counts as 1 point (i.e the value of a red), it is respotted and the player then goes for a colour.
Players should not be seen to deliberately miss shots. If the opponent or referee deems a shot to be a deliberate miss, it is a foul. A "push" stroke occurs when the tip of the cue remains in contact with the cue ball when it hits another ball or after the cue ball has begun to move, again this is a foul. A touching ball occurs when the cue ball is touching any other ball that is "on" - then th eplayer must play away from the touching ball or commit a "push" stroke foul.
Players usually use their hand to form a bridge with the cue resting between thumb and forefinger, but certain situations require assistance, especially when it is awkward to reach over the table comfortably, especially with a lot of balls close together possibly inviting a foul! A variety of rests are used to help a player reach the balls comfortably - some can be seen in the photo above left - as you can see there are quite some interesting looking devices there! My black graphite snooker cue can be seen on the right - not very many use these (I like to be different!!)
a busy time at the Triangle Snooker club in Street.Every foul incurs a penalty of at least 4 points, unless it involves a colour of a higher value, when it is the value of the colour. If more than one foul is committed in the same shot then the highest value penalty is incurred. e.g player needs to hit a red, but the blue is hit first (5 point foul) but the blue also hits the black into a pocket thus the foul is 7 points. The penalty is added to the opponents score and the player must play again if requested by the opponent.
In summary, it is a foul if:
The cue ball misses all the other balls,
The cue ball enters a pocket,
A ball that isn't "on" enters a pocket,
The cue ball hits a ball that isn't "on" first,
The cue ball first hits two balls simultaneously and both are not red.
A penaltly of seven points is automatically awarded if a foul is committed before nominating a colour.

So there you have it really, a briefish outline of the game - if you have ever sat there watching the professionals playing on the telly during the tournaments, why not pop down your local snooker hall and try it out for yourself - you may like playing the game. Dont be too worried about all the rules - it is fun just to go and knock some balls around! Try it.

Links to Snooker on the WWW
(lotsa piccies)
(manufacturer) (a snooker retailer in London offering discounts to customers using this link)