Snooker is a cue sport that is played on a large (12 ft × 6 ft, 3.6 m x 1.8 m) baize-covered table with pockets in each of the four corners and in the middle of each of the long side cushions. It is played using a cue, one white ball (the cue ball), 15 red balls (worth 1 point each) and 6 balls of different colours (worth 2–7 points each). A player (or team) wins a frame (individual game) of snooker by scoring more points than the opponents, using the cue ball to pot the balls in the manner described below. A match consists of a previously agreed-upon number of frames. Snooker is particularly popular in English-speaking and Commonwealth countries, and the Far East, with the top professional players attaining multi-million pound career earnings from the game.

The history and origins of the game of snooker are generally regarded as being in the latter half of the 19th century. Billiards had been a popular activity amongst British Army officers stationed in India, and variations on the more traditional billiard games were devised. One variation, devised at the officers mess in Jabalpur during 1874 or 1875, was to add coloured balls in addition to the reds and black which were used for Pyramid Pool and Life Pool. The word "snooker" also has military origins, being a slang term for first year cadets or inexperienced personnel. One version of events states that Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain, of the Devonshire regiment was playing this new game when his opponent failed to pot a ball and Chamberlain called him a "snooker". It thus became attached to the billiards game now bearing its name as inexperienced players (of which most were due to it being a new game) were labelled as snookers.

The game grew in the latter half of the 19th Century and the early 20th century and by 1927 the first World Snooker Championship was organised by Joe Davis who, as a professional billiards and snooker player, helped moved the game from a pastime activity into a more professional sphere. Joe Davis won every world championship until 1946 when he retired. The game generally went into a decline through the 1950s and 1960s with little interest generated outside of those who played. Things saw some improvement when in 1969 the BBC commissioned the snooker tournament Pot Black to demonstrate the potential of colour television, with the green table and multi-coloured balls being ideal for showing off the advantages of colour broadcasting. The TV series became a ratings success and was for a time the second most popular show on BBC2. Interest in the game increased and the 1978 World Championship was the first to be fully televised. The game quickly became a mainstream sport in the UK, Ireland and much of the Commonwealth and has enjoyed much success in the last 30 years, with most of the ranking tournaments being televised. In recent years the loss of tobacco sponsorship has lead to a decrease in the number of professional tournaments, however new sponsors have been sourced and the popularity of the game in the Far East and China, with talent such as Ding Junhui, ensures that the future of the game looks secure.

Snooker matches take place on a 12 ft by 6 ft (3.6 m x 1.8 m) snooker table which has 6 pockets. 15 red balls and 6 "colours" (yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black balls) are placed on the table and are played by striking the cue ball with a cue, as is common with other cue sports.

The object of the game is to score more points than the opponent by potting balls in a predefined order. At the start of a game the balls are positioned as shown and the players take it in turns to hit a shot, their aim being to pot one of the red balls and score a point. If they do pot a red ball then the red remains in the pocket and they are allowed another shot - this time the aim being to pot one of the "colours" (points value, 2 points for the yellow, 3 for the green, 4 for the brown, 5 for the blue, 6 for the pink and 7 points for the black). If successful then they gain the points value of the colour potted, it is returned to its correct position on the table, and they must try and pot another red again. This process continues until they fail to pot the desired ball, at which point their opponent is allowed back to the table to play the next shot. The game continues in this manner until all the reds are potted and only the 6 colours are left on the table - at that point the aim is then to pot the colours in the aforementioned order. When a colour is potted it is now not brought back onto the table and instead remains in the pocket. When the final ball (the black) is potted then the game is over and the player with the most points wins.

Points may also be acquired in a game when a players opponent fouls (see Snooker rules for full definitions). A foul can occur for numerous reasons, such as hitting one of the colours first when the player was attempting to hit a red, potting the cue ball, potting a coloured ball when it was not "on" (i.e. the player was not attempting to pot it). The points gained from a foul by the players opponent can vary but will always be at least 4 points, and can be 5, 6 or 7 points if the colour ball of that value is fouled.

One game, from the balls in their starting position until the last ball is potted is called a frame, a match generally consists of a predefined number of frames and the player who wins the most frames will win the match overall. Most matches tend to consist of a relatively small number of frames, however longer matches exists to test all aspects of a players game such as the final of the World Championship which is 35 frames in length (first to 18), and is played over two days.

Other terminology used in snooker includes a players "break", which refers to the total number of consecutive points a player has amassed (excluding fouls) when at one visit to the table. A player attaining a break of 15, for example, could have reached it by potting a red then a black, then a red then a pink - the player then missed the next red and so the break ended at 15 points. The traditional maximum break in snooker is to pot all reds with blacks then all colours without missing a pot, which would yield 147 points, often simply known as a "147".

Equipment required to play snooker can be limited simply to a table a set of snooker balls and a cue. The table size can vary from full size (12x6 foot) to quarter size (4x2 foot) and can come in a variety of styles (such as fold away or dining table convertible). Little else is required to play the game apart from a few accessories such as rests (sometimes required due to the large size of a full size table), a triangle to rack the reds and a scoreboard. The principle drawback of snooker on a full size table is the size of the room required to hold the large table (22 ft x 16 ft)- this limits the number of locations that the game can easily be played in, and while pool tables are common to many pubs, snooker tends to be played either in private surroundings or in public snooker halls.

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA, also known as World Snooker), founded in 1968 as the Professional Billiard Players' Association, is the governing body for the professional game. Its subsidiary, World Snooker, organises the professional tour. The organisation is based in Bristol, England. Over the years the board of the WPBSA has changed many times, which some argue is an indication of in-fighting within the sport. The amateur game is governed by the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF).

Professional snooker players can play on the World Snooker ranking circuit. Ranking points, earned by each player through their performances over the previous two seasons, determine the current world ranking. A player's ranking determines what level of qualification they require for ranking tournaments. The elite of professional snooker is generally regarded at the "Top 16" ranking players, who are not required to pre-qualify for any of the tournaments.

The most important event in professional snooker is the World Championship,[29] held annually since 1927 (except during the Second World War and between 1958 and 1963). The tournament has been held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (England) since 1977, and was sponsored by Embassy from 1976 to 2005. Due to the fact that tobacco companies are no longer allowed to sponsor sporting events in the United Kingdom after 2005, the World Snooker Championship had to find a new sponsor. It was announced in January 2006 that the 2006–2010 world championships would be sponsored by online casino The status of winning the World Championship is great, and it is the most highly valued prize in professional snooker, both in terms of financial reward (£200,000 for the winner) as well as prestige. The World Championship is televised extensively in the UK by the BBC and gains significant coverage in Europe on Eurosport and in the far east.

The group of tournaments that come next in importance are the ranking tournaments. Players in these tournaments score world ranking points. A high ranking ensures qualification for next year's tournaments, invitations to invitational tournaments and an advantageous draw in tournaments. Third in line are the invitational tournaments, to which most of the highest ranked players are invited. The most important tournament in this category is The Masters, which to most players is the second or third most sought-after prize.

In an attempt to answer criticisms that the televised tournament matches can sometimes be slow or get bogged down in lengthy safety exchanges and that long matches causes problems for advertisers, an alternative series of timed tournaments has been organised by Matchroom Sport Chairman Barry Hearn. The shot-timed Betfred Premier League was established, with the top eight players in the world invited to compete at regular United Kingdom venues, televised on Sky Sports. Players have twenty-five seconds to take each shot, with a small number of time-outs per player. While some success has been achieved with this format it generally does not receive the same amount of press attention or status that the regular ranking tournaments do.

There are also other additional snooker tournaments that have less importance, do not earn any world ranking points and are not televised. These can change on a year-to-year basis depending on calendars and sponsors. Currently the Pontin’s International Open Series is organised as one of these additional tournament series by World Snooker.

In the professional era that began with Joe Davis in the 1930s and continues up until the present day, a relatively small number of players have succeeded at the top level. The most notable are those who have had the ability to win ranking tournaments consistently and perform at the highest level. In the modern era the financial rewards for reaching these high levels are significant, with career earnings in the multi-million pound territory for the top professionals. Reaching and maintaining a place amongst the snooker elite is a tough task, with the standards of the game being such that it requires many years of dedication and effort as well as natural ability.

Certain players have tended to dominate the game through the decades. Ray Reardon is generally regarded as the principal player through the 1970s, Steve Davis through the 1980s and Stephen Hendry through the 1990s, winning 6, 6 and 7 World Championships respectively. In the 2000s no one player has dominated; however, Ronnie O'Sullivan has at times shown dominance but has been unable to show a consistency through tournaments or across multiple seasons.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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