The object illustrated is a wooden triangle-shaped rack, used in the game of snooker to hold fifteen red balls; also used in pool, but not ‘English billiards’ which has only three balls.

Snooker is one of several games, generically known as billiards. It is played on a cloth covered table. A full-sized billiards table measures six foot by twelve foot. Billiards developed from an outdoor game played in France over 500 years ago.

Snooker was invented by British Army Officers serving in India, in the 19th century. The object of the game is to score more points than your opponent by hitting a white cue ball with a wooden cue so that it, in turn, knocks a coloured ball into one of six pockets around the table. The coloured balls have different values. There are 15 red balls worth one point each and one each of the following colours – yellow (2 points), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7). Points are also won if an opponent misses a shot.

Before play starts the 15 red balls are placed in the rack with five at the base of the triangle, which forms the row immediately in front of the players. Each succeeding row has one less ball, with just a single ball at the apex. The coloured balls are placed in the spot allocated to them, the triangle is removed and play commences with the first player hitting the cue ball into the red balls. The second player then takes over and aims at a red ball hoping to score points. Only when a player fails to score points does the other player take a turn. As long as there are any red balls on the table, one of these must be hit before moving on to any other colour.

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More information:

Date 1900s, 2010s
Material(s) Wood
Item number MBPO109

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Which two players contested the televised 1985 World Snooker Championship final?
  • Do you remember who won?
  • Have you ever played snooker, pool or billiards? If so where?
  • What colour is the baize cloth which covers a snooker table?
  • The object illustrated is a triangle or rack, not a frame. What is a frame in snooker?
  • What is the ‘maximum score’ in snooker?
  • What was the popular, regular BBC TV snooker programme called?
  • A player may be ‘snookered’ during a game. What is a snooker?

User Stories

I remember the excitement of watching the final of the 1985 World Snooker Championship on TV. This broadcast has the highest viewing figures of any show on BBC 2 and finished after midnight.

In Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, the latter says “Let it alone. Let’s to billiards. Come Charmian,”

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