Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Some Snookery Goodness

The last two Mondays, the Doctor and I have been playing snooker. Neither of us have played in years, and there is one fact that overwhelms all others: the table is freakishly ginormous. At 6' x 12', it absolutely dwarfs the standard bar pool table (4' x 8'). Also, the balls are smaller, and the pockets far less forgiving. Anyone who has played pool is generally aware of these facts, as well as many who've only seen pool/snooker played. Expected awareness can't actually prepare for the experience, though. Needing to use a 10' long reach is quite humbling.
Did I mention that the table is fucking huge? I did? because, you know, it's huge.

Anyway, the point of this entry is to talk about the Rules*. There are tonnes of them. Here are the official rules, if you care to look. Most of them have to do with all the simple stuff, like table layout and taking turns and point values. These were things that the Dr and I knew. First a red, then a colour, then a red, etc, and repeat until your luck runs out. But there were lots of niggling situations we'd get into where we were unsure whether a foul had been committed, or what should happen next. Now I know, I think, and soon you will too.

1. Fouls are added to your opponents score. For some reason both the Dr and I were of the belief that foul points should be subtracted from the offenders total. Perhaps the rules used to be this way, but were recently changed? Maybe it's so that the scores are higher and make for slightly more interesting tv. Or maybe this is a local custom. Whichever way, this makes no difference as to who wins a game. However, it can be psychologically distressing to foul twice in a row and lose nearly a third of your points, the lowest foul being 4 pts.

2. There is no obligation to hit a rail or sink the object ball. There was only minor dispute over this, as I thought that at least two balls had to hit rails on the break, and that a failure to either sink a ball or hit a rail constituted a foul. We played, though, as though the opposite was the case, the Dr because he thought he was right, myself because I wasn't sure and didn't think I was good enough to always comply with those rules. I'm fairly sure I confused myself with my experience playing 9 ball.

3. Ball-in-hand is from the D. I have no idea why neither of us remembered this. Whenever the cue ball is pocketed, or flees the table, the opponent has bih. Our experience playing 8 and 9 ball left us believing that this ball can be placed anywhere. Both of us thought this was wrong, but couldn't remember what was correct. This led to some drastic penalties for the scratch: I would lose 4 for the foul, then the Dr would have a relatively easy time making an additional 8 on a red-black run. 12 pts is quite a bit when our games end at about 40vs30. Yeah, we still mostly suck. If you don't know what the D is, here's a picture of the table layout.

4. Spotting balls. After a coloured ball is either potted or launched from the table, it must be placed on its home spot (note that red balls thusly launched are not spotted). No spotted ball is to touch any of the other balls on the table (this is the part we didn't know). If this prevents a ball from being spotted on its home spot, then it gets spotted on the highest point spot available. If there are no available clear spots, then it is spotted as near to its home point as possible on a straight line from that point to the top of the table. In the case of pink or black, this may not be possible, in which case go the other way. Ancillary to this, the pink does not touch the reds at the beginning of the game. This is a rule that we continuously broke. I don't know if I ever knew it or not.

5. You may ask your opponent to shoot again if they foul! This gets an exclamation point, because I don't think I've ever seen it before. The impact is huge: if you hate the position you're in after your adversary fouls, you can dastardly make them shoot again. I wonder how often this will actually be used...

6. An intentional miss. This rule is a bit more complicated. If you think that your opponent made no clear attempt to try to hit an object ball, and they fouled, not only do you get to make them shoot again if you don't like the new position, but you can make them shoot from either the new spot or the old one. Devilish. This rule will never be used by either the Dr or I, as we both have the trying-to-hit meme far too entrenched. NB: this rules out all declared "safety" shots, the only instance where either of us would think of deliberately missing. Well, I think that this is true for the Dr, based on his actions; who knows what really goes on in that wooly head of his.

7. When snookered after a foul, you can nominate any ball to be the necessary object ball. Yet one more rule about bad positions after a foul. Let's say that after the Dr fouls, I find myself snookered behind a pink and a blue, and can't see any of the three reds left on the table. This seems particularly unfair, especially since jump shots constitute fouls. The remedy is that I can shoot at any ball I can see, whether it be one of the balls that snookers me or not, and declare it a "free ball". I then need to either hit it (or one of the red balls) in order to not scratch. If I sink it, it counts as 1 pt and is then spotted. I then can shoot a colour as per normal. If I was in the final stages of the game (when there are no reds on the table) and needed to hit the green but was unable to see it, then the free ball is a surrogate green, and if potted counts 3 pts. It is then respotted, and I must then shoot at the actual green. And some final weirdness, but I may have this part wrong: if you snooker your opponent after declaring a free ball, this constitutes a foul. No nastiness allowed, this is a gentleman's game.

8. Cueball - object ball contact. It constitutes a scratch to shoot the cue ball towards the object ball if they are in contact, as this will require you to "push" the cue, or touch it more than once in the stroke. However, shooting away from the object ball can be damned hard, and there may be no other object ball in plain view. It seems weird to be snookered by the very ball you need to hit, and it must've also seemed weird to the people who make the rules. You do not have to hit anything when you shoot away, and it isn't a foul. This may influence one shot during a two hour period, which for us comprises about 6 games. Again, yes, we suck.

9. No points are awarded for potted balls if a foul was also committed. This was something that the Dr thought should be a rule, and I did not. We went with counting legally potted shots if there was also a scratch. The new rule will make for some slightly more careful playing on my part. I don't think it influenced any of the outcomes, at least not nearly as much as infractions of rule 3.

10. Only the black remains. There are some weird rules about the very end of the game. If only the black is left, the game ends when either the black is potted, or when a foul is committed. This means that if there is more than a seven point difference, there is no way for M Second Place to win. If there is a tie at the end, the black is spotted on its point, and someone (decided by however you choose to determine to decide...) then must shoot from the D, and play continues until the black is potted or a scratch occurs. I guess they aren't that weird. I find only allowing for one scratch to be a bit strange, but it is unsporting to presume that your opponent will mess up more than once.

* Yes, my return to Blogworld is accompanied by minions of boring bean counters. Not humorous anecdotes of crazy mishaps, not Snooker Gone Wild, not even a snarky parody of these rules (which I so want to do, but probably won't). Deal. Besides that, I got to write about spotted balls just enough as it was.