The object of the game is to score more points than your opponent in each frame. Points are gained by striking the white cue-ball with a cue in the direction of other balls to pot them in one of the six pockets.
Begin by potting red, followed immediately by any other colour preferrably the one with the highest value. The player must nominate the desired colour, although it is usually clear which ball the striker is playing and it is not necessary to nominate.
When a colour ball is potted immediately after a red ball the colour ball is taken out of the pocket and placed on its original spot. If that spot is covered by another ball, the ball is placed on the highest available spot. If there is no available spot, it is placed as close to its own spot as possible in a direct line between that spot and the top cushion, without touching another ball.
When all 15 reds have been potted, a player must pot the remaining colours in order of value from lowest to highest value. This is yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black.
A break is the number of points scored by a player in one single visit to the table. A player’s turn and break end when he fails to pot a ball, when he does something against the rules of the game, which is called a foul, or when a frame has ended.
It is also possible to accumulate points when your opponent fouls. The following shots are classified as foul strokes.
A foul is:
- failing to hit any other ball with the cue ball
- hitting first with the cue ball a ball that is not due to be potted
- potting a ball that is not due to be potted
- potting the white cue-ball
- hitting a ball other than the white with the cue
- making a ball land off the table
- touching the cue ball with something other than the tip of the cue (except while positioning after potting)
- playing a “push shot” where the cue, cue ball and object ball are in simultaneous contact
- playing a “jump shot” where the cue ball jumps over a ball before first hitting another ball
- playing a shot with both feet off the ground, one foot must stay on the ground.
- potting a ball that is not due to be potted when two balls or more balls are potted in one shot
A free ball occurs after a foul shot where the resultant layout of the table leaves the opponent “snookered“. The opponent of the player who committed the foul can choose any other ball on the table as a replacement for the intended ball, and pot that as if it were the intended ball. For example, if the intended ball is a red, and the free ball is a pink, the player will receive one point for potting the pink (which is then respotted).
In the event of a tie
If a frame is tied then the players must play a black ball game. Whoever pots the black first is declared the winner.
The game begins with these balls on the table
- 15 red balls – 1 point each
- 1 yellow ball – 2 points
- 1 green ball – 3 points
- 1 brown ball – 4 points
- 1 blue ball – 5 points
- 1 pink ball – 6 points
- 1 black ball – 7 points
- 1 white ball – the cue-ball, foul if potted
Unless a break begins with a free ball, the maximum score by a single player from one visit to a table is 147. This is only possible if a player pots a black after every red ball.
Matches are played over an odd number of frames (eg. best of nine frames). To win a match a player must win more frames than his opponent.
The game is played on a table measuring 6 ft by 12 ft (3.7 m × 1.8 m).