This is a question that has confused me for a while. If a player fouls and pots the red when playing on a colour, their opponent gets 4 points, but they have taken a possible 8 points off of the table.

For example, if all of the colours are safe and a player is 32 points ahead having just potted the penultimate red, it could be worthwhile for them to pot the final red rather than play a safety shot. This would then put them 28 points ahead with just 27 points left on the table, compared with the alternative which would be 32 points ahead with 35 left on the table.

Of course, this example would be a deliberate foul and therefore could result in the frame being awarded to their opponent under Section 4.1 of the "OFFICIAL RULES OF THE GAMES OF SNOOKER AND ENGLISH BILLIARDS". However, it is still possible for an advantage to be gained where a player either pots a red accidentally or pots a red deliberately, but in such a way that it appears accidental.

I can't work out why the number of points for fouling a red isn't higher, or why a free ball isn't given to the opponent.

1 Answer 1


Every red down is a possible eight points, giving a total of 120 if all reds can be coupled with a black.

Yet the actual number of reds coupled with blacks is very small, and it's considered an impressive feat to score 100 points in a frame including the final run of colours, let alone 120 points including the final run, let alone from just sinking red and colour.

The actual likelihood of points lost is approximately four: 1 for the red itself and an average of 3 from the attempted shot at a colour, which is not guaranteed to go in and not guaranteed to be the black (in fact, unlikely to go in and unlikely to be the black).

Making the foul worth eight points is disproportionate and badly balanced.

A free ball is only used when the player would otherwise be snookered from a foul, as a means of allowing play to continue. Giving a free ball after a foul sinking red would allow the player to ensure themselves a black or pink, when this is very unlikely to otherwise be available, and again is disproportionate.

The points for fouls are standardised to avoid situations where a player can leverage an excessive gain from a situation such as the one presented.

  • Sensible answer. Are there any references?
    – Phoenix87
    Apr 27, 2018 at 6:34
  • I completely understand your point, but then again simply getting a green coupled with a red is 4 points, and it is relatively rare in professional snooker that the players ever go for the yellow (or any baulk colours for that matter) after potting a red. Also, surely one could argue that fouling on a colour at the end of the frame is a disproportionate foul, as the ball is replaced, and the value of the colour (more than the value for yellow and green) is also given in the foul. Surely this current rule leaves some room for intentional fouls gaining a player an advantage? Apr 27, 2018 at 17:56
  • Snooker existed for centuries before the professionals came along. Asking about historic development while ignoring historic context is half the problem. Yes, there is a small loophole, but that loophole is much smaller than the other one it helps to close, and is much less likely to be of use.
    – Nij
    Apr 28, 2018 at 23:05
  • @Nij, I appreciate the historical context, but occasionally, snooker's governing body make slight changes to the rules, and surely in the professional era, it would make some kind of sense to adjust this rule so that it makes a distinction between a foul (missing, hitting another ball etc.) on the red and a foul whereby a player pots a red. The first could remain as a 4 point foul, but the second could be an 8 point foul, as that is exactly proportional to the advantage gained. Surely the idea of a foul should be to punish a player, not give them a potential advantage? Apr 29, 2018 at 10:19
  • Eight points is certainly not proportional - that is the entire basis of the answer. You are presuming then that every red is followed by a black sunk, which is clearly not the case, most are not black at all, and many are not sunk. That drops the averages of a red-colour pair down by a lot. To make a proportional adjustment is certainly possible, but the method and potential result of doing so is another subject entirely, and is guaranteed not to conclude a value of eight points!
    – Nij
    Apr 29, 2018 at 10:34

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