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Free Ball

Postby rontherocket

Can anyone answer the following. It cropped up recently in a game and caused quite a bit of controversy:
All the reds have been potted and just the colours are left and a free ball to be taken. There is the yellow ball over a pocket and the green ball next to it. The green ball is nominated for the free ball. The green ball is hit and knocks the yellow ball in. Is this 2 points or a foul?

Re: Free Ball

Postby acesinc

Quick answer: fair stroke, 2 points, yellow stays in pocket, green is now the ball on.

If that is all you want/need, stop reading. If your interest is deeper, read on.

Free ball is possibly the least well understood Rule of Snooker, more so I believe than Foul and a Miss. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to pontificate on the subject. The Free Ball rule is simple enough in its most basic form, but there are subtle nuances to it (such as the example) which can easily become confusing. So to make every circumstance of Free Ball absolutely clear, it is easiest to write about it using a sort of a code language.

So from this point on, when referring to any ball on, I will refer to it in one of three possible ways (I will use red for example, but it might be any colour): first is red, meaning an actual red ball. Second is "red", meaning any free ball which is nominated in place of red. And third is RED, meaning the point value scored as a result of the pot of the red(s) and/or "red".

Confused? Hopefully, it will become clear...

So, if red is the ball on and a "red" is nominated, the striker MUST hit the free ball first. If for instance, a red and a possible "red" are very close together, the striker CANNOT nominate the "red" then just shoot in that direction figuring that it doesn't matter which ball is struck first. If the free ball is nominated, then the red is struck first, it is a foul. This is always the case. If you call a free ball, you must make contact with that free ball first as anything else is a foul.

If a "red" is nominated, legally struck first, then the "red" and/or another red fall into a pocket, then all RED points are scored. For instance, free ball, yellow is called as "red", it can be played as a plant into another red which is potted, 1 RED is scored. Perhaps the yellow "red" is potted and another red is also fluked on same stroke, score is 2 (for 2 REDS). However, this is ONLY true for reds, because in the usual course of play, it is possible to pot and score more than one red on a single stroke (three is the most that I have personally ever seen). This is not true with a colour.

On the other hand, if a "colour" is nominated for a free ball, the situation is similar BUT DIFFERENT. Using the OP's example, green is nominated as "yellow", and so must be struck first. There are three possible LEGAL strokes in which a ball or balls may be potted: 1) "yellow" is potted, score 2 (YELLOW), and the green is re-spotted, yellow is still the ball on, 2) "yellow" is planted (or white is cannoned) onto the yellow which is potted (OP's example), score 2 (YELLOW) and the yellow stays in pocket, green is now the ball on, and 3) "yellow" and yellow are both potted, score 2 (because only one YELLOW can possibly be scored in usual course of play), yellow remains in pocket, green is re-spotted and green is now the ball on.

1) above is how things normally happen. People tend to get confused when 2) or 3) happen.

Think of it this way....any colour may be legally potted one time and one time only (stays in pocket) in the final colour sequence (yellow-green-brown-blue-pink-black) but a "colour" can be potted and re-spotted any number of times when used as a free ball. Anytime a colour is legally potted in the final sequence, it stays off the table, whether it was potted directly, potted as a plant from a free ball, or potted in conjunction with the free ball, the only important factor being that it was potted in the course of a fair (non-foul) stroke.

Circumstance 3) above is most confusing because common sense says that if a red and a "red" score two points, then a yellow and a "yellow" should score four points. Right? But the difference is that in the usual course of play, it is possible to score multiple reds in a single stroke, but it is not possible to score multiple yellows in a single stroke, therefore multiple YELLOWS are not allowed even in the case of a free ball. I have also known a person or two to incorrectly believe that it is a foul to pot both the free ball and the natural ball (or, as the OP may be suggesting, to pot the natural ball after playing at the free ball). In the case of potting both, the free ball just acts as a dummy place holder...not a foul, but doesn't score any points either.

If you have made it this far, and if the above information makes sense to you, Congratulations! You are in the top one percent of the class! My referee's training instructor told me that it was not uncommon even for professional players to misinterpret this rule when faced with such a situation.

Re: Free Ball

Postby rontherocket

Many thanks Acesinc for the clarification. I certainly opened a can of worms! I have read your reply (and printed it off) several times and I think it is beginning to sink in. It has certainly opened my eyes on this aspect of the game!
Much obliged.

Re: Free Ball

Postby rudhran

Is it neccessary to play a free ball shot when a free ball situation is called by the refree?

Re: Free Ball

Postby acesinc

rudhran wrote:Is it neccessary to play a free ball shot when a free ball situation is called by the refree?

Absolutely NO. To explain in some depth...

Any time a foul of any kind occurs, the referee shall state "Foul!" At the time, the incoming striker has what are generally referred to as "the usual options" these being 1) He just plays his shot exactly as he would have anyway, i.e., if Red is Ball On, then he plays at Red, etc. 2) He has the option of putting the fouling player back in to play the table as it is, in other words, after the foul is declared if the incoming striker does not like the situation of the table (maybe because there are no pots available), then the incoming striker states, "Play again" and the fouling striker must then play the shot at hand whatever it is.

If instead the referee declares, "Foul! Free Ball." then the incoming striker still has the usual options as above, but now the incoming striker also has a third, special option whereby he can nominate a different colour as the Ball On for his stroke. This is ALWAYS an OPTION and whether the incoming striker chooses this option simply depends on the lie of the balls....he will play the Free Ball if he can see a good path to building a high scoring break. If there is a Red sitting in the jaws of a pocket, maybe he will ignore the Free Ball option and play the Red anyway. If there is no good scoring shot available, maybe he will put the opponent back in to play again (after all, he is snookered...that is why "Free Ball" was called in the first place. The incoming striker can choose any of these options at his discretion.
Last edited by acesinc on 10 Jan 2017, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Free Ball

Postby Dan-cat

Acesinc: the only poster on Snooker Island where it is occasionally necessary to print off his posts


Re: Free Ball

Postby Dave66

If someone has just fouled and there's only the pink and black left on the table and it's a snooker, can you nominate the black and snooker behind it? This happened at our club last night and someone said that this is the only time it's allowed. Cheers.

Re: Free Ball

Postby acesinc

Dave66 wrote:If someone has just fouled and there's only the pink and black left on the table and it's a snooker, can you nominate the black and snooker behind it? This happened at our club last night and someone said that this is the only time it's allowed. Cheers.

Yes, this is a legal stroke, a specialty rule and the only time one is allowed to use the nominated Free Ball to snooker. The situation rarely crops up so it is a common source of confusion when it happens so for anyone who would like the evidence made clear, you can look up Section 3., Rule 12. (b) (ii).