In straight pool there is a rule to prevent nursing, which means nudging a ball to the rail as a safety. Without this rule players could spend hours just playing one safety after another nursing balls along the rail.

In snooker, however, there is no such rule, and, in fact, a player does not even need to hit a rail, so players could safety just by nudging balls a quarter of an inch on each hit, although I do not seem to see them do this. Is there any reason why snooker players cannot nurse balls?

2 Answers 2


The premise of the question is fundamentally wrong. Playing the ball to a difficult position and leaving the racked reds as intact as possible is a common early-game tactic.

Only when the reds are freed up do the players begin earnestly seeking points, but this is the only point where such nursing would become possible.

The tactic works because the players are required to make contact with a ball on, meaning a red, at each visit. The size of the table (and the skill of players to make a pot on any loose ball and set up the colour afterwards, at the higher level) makes this an extremely difficult thing to maintain for an indefinite time. Eventually the racked reds are sufficiently broken to enable a substantial break, and leave insufficient cover to resume "nursing".

However the opportunity to begin snookering the opponent grows as the number of balls on dwindles, so the switch between aggressive attack and conservative defence can occur multiple times throughout a frame.


After watching enough professional snooker I finally figured out the answer to this question.

The answer is that they can indeed nurse balls and the way this is dealt with in snooker is a re-rack. So, basically what happens is that if both players indicate they will nurse, then they agree to a re-rack and the game is annulled and a new game is started.

  • 1
    This isn't correct. Players can nurse for as long as they want; a rerack is only used when no progress is being made towards a potted ball, a situation that is not synonymous with nursing. Nursing can continue for as long as this is possible, such as in the 2015 World Grand Prix final (O'Sullivan v Trump) or the 2016 UK Snooker Champs last 16 match (Highfield v Williams).
    – Nij
    Jan 29, 2019 at 6:13
  • 1
    @Nij - This is the correct answer. It is not conducive to an entertaining game to watch very talented snooker players such as O'Sullivan and Hendry just keep tapping the balls literally all night, which is potentially possible. This situation can have a stalemate called. The referee has 2 options. The referee can give a warning that if no real attempt to play a pot is made, the frame is restarted with no penalty to either player or the referee can ask the players for their agreement to restart the frame at that point. Either way, the frame cannot play on all night like this. Jan 16, 2020 at 20:41
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    The rules don't care about what is "conducive to an entertaining game" - they care about what is conducive to the game being played. Pro players eventually find an advantage or an escape or another way off the trap. This answer says, if both players decide they will try to nurse and hope the other makes the mistake first, it will be a rerack without any further attempt to continue the frame. It is manifestly untrue, there are games recorded involving top players who spend extended periods (some longer than entire frames) just nursing. @ChrisRogers
    – Nij
    Jan 18, 2020 at 3:14

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