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"Game" vs. "Frame"

Postby acesinc

Within the China Open thread this bit of trivia came up. I don't often post in the Main Tour section as I don't follow the players and tournaments and stats too closely but I usually browse the subject matter. "Game" vs. "Frame" really falls into the Rules category and was always a topic that beckoned me as a tasty morsel in my pool of knowledge (to which some would refer as my "cesspool of misinformation").

I hadn't heard him specifically but it sounds like SnookerFan referred to Joe Johnson improperly using the term "game" in reference to an individual frame. These sound like they should be easy definitions and so one might expect that commentators would understand the simple differences and that the Rules of Snooker being written as clearly and succinctly as possible would have no problem differentiating the terms as required in order for commentators to use them properly.

Alas, the next several sentences are in my opinion the single most ambiguous portion of the whole of the Rules of Snooker. To quote in full from the Rules:

Standard definitions used throughout these Rules are hereinafter italicised.
1. Frame
A frame of snooker comprises the period of the play from the start, see Section 3
Rule 3(c), with all the balls set as described in Section 3 Rule 2, each player
playing in turn until the frame is completed by:
(a) concession by any player during his turn;
(b) claim by the striker when; Black is the only object ball remaining on the
table, aggregate points are not relevant, and there is a difference of
more than seven points between the scores in his favour;
(c) the final pot or foul when; Black is the only object ball remaining on the
table (see Section 3 Rule 4); or
(d) being awarded by the referee under Section 3 Rule 14(d) (ii) or Section 4
Rule 2.

2. Game
A game is an agreed or stipulated number of frames.

3. Match
A match is an agreed or stipulated number of games.

(Note that officially in the Rules, many of the above words are italicised to indicate that they are also specifically defined within the Rules, but I did not take the time to add all italicisation...too time consuming. Look up the Rules if you want to see the pristine version.)

So reading 1. and 2., it is quite clear that a game and a frame are not the same thing. But then reading number 3. would seem to say that frame and game can simply be used interchangeably because we all know that a Match is simply the Best of X number of Frames. But the Rules use the term "games" instead of "frames".


No one has ever been able to make this crystal clear for me. When I first started playing The Game back in Harrogate, I and the people with whom I usually played would use "frame" and "game" interchangeably. Then, years later, when I actually sat down and read the Rules and became interested in them, I realized that "frame" and "game" are not the same and I must have just been remembering the phrasing used by us dumb Americans because, hey, what the hell do we know? But now, apparently Joe Johnson and even our own endeared Dan-Cat figure "game" and "frame" to be absolutely equivalent terms. So I guess I did used to hear the Britons use the terms interchangeably as well back in old North Yorks.

Even when I received my Referee Training, this ambiguity bothered me so I put the question to my trainer....he waffled, firmly straddling a leg on either side of the fence. He said something to the effect that, well, yes, there is a subtle difference but it really only adds confusion and is not worth bothering about as it doesn't add anything useful to the conversation so just consider that a "Game" is the same thing as a "Match".

And it still bothered me. Why would the Rules, the epitome of a clearly and specifically written document, have such difficulty defining such simple terms? How could I ever look the Rules in the eye again with the same awe and respect I once had?

After many long and sleepless nights pondering this perpetual dilemma, I finally of my own accord came to a conclusion. Admittedly, this is completely my own opinion with no claim of any real authority to finally stamp this project "done" except in my own tortured mind. So, without further ado....

My conclusion is that a "game" of snooker is a bit of an anachronism. It is like an appendix...presumably, it had a function once, but that function has apparently receded into oblivion. It is in the Rules basically because it has ALWAYS been in the Rules. "Game" has no real meaning at the professional level except for the simple, generic sense referring to the Game of Snooker as a whole. By the definition given in the Rules, one would think that a long set match like the Championship Final is made up of a number of "games": first session in the morning of Day 1, then a mid-session interval, then another "game" to finish the morning, then a tea break, another couple "games" in the afternoon with another mid-session interval sandwiched between....etc.

This does not seem to be logical because the players are not actually playing to win each of those so-called "games". Instead, each win or loss within each "game" is simply adding to the total frame tally for the match. They are just "sessions", not "games"; a "game" would presumably have a winner and a loser.

So instead, I take a "game" of snooker to be just informal...let's go down to pub, got an hour and a half before last call, get in whatever frames we can in that time and call it a game.

I think it probably goes back a couple hundred years, to before Snooker even became a thing and the players played the "pool" games: pyramid pool, life pool, black pool. These were usually more than two players and were centered on the bets that were placed and the stakes put up by all players. So for instance, if a "game" of life pool were going on and someone else walked in, they could just buy their way into the "game" by putting their stake in the "pool" at the start of the next "frame". And thus I believe derives the historical difference between "frame" and "game". A "match" on the other hand, is strictly a two person affair (or two team, sorry Dan, doubles snooker does exist though I am also not a big fan myself) so in the case of a "match", the afore defined "game" becomes irrelevant as no other player can buy their way in anyway.

Of course, this is all a bunch of silly nonsense and I suspect no one has read completely through the ridiculousness of it to get to the end here, but if you have made it this far, feel free to lambaste me with any comment you may have.

Re: "Game" vs. "Frame"

Postby GJ

Joe Johnson is as clueless as Dennis Taylor no more to be said


Re: "Game" vs. "Frame"

Postby Dan-cat

Hahaha love it Acesinc, ever the completist. I don't think it's just a Yorkshire thing - but it is perhaps archaic as you suggested. I've heard Jimmy say 'I should have had that game' when referring to a single frame.

Re: "Game" vs. "Frame"

Postby acesinc

GJ wrote:Joe Johnson is as clueless as Dennis Taylor no more to be said


Actually, I quite like the commentation of both Joe Johnson and Dennis Taylor (especially Joe). My kids call me "clueless" all the time so I figure it to be something of a backhanded compliment.

Dan-cat wrote:Hahaha love it Acesinc, ever the completist. I don't think it's just a Yorkshire thing - but it is perhaps archaic as you suggested. I've heard Jimmy say 'I should have had that game' when referring to a single frame.

I love Jimmy White; my second favourite player behind Alex. But in fact, my trainer referred specifically to Jimmy when he relayed an anecdote about a match he officiated and Jimmy played a shot to which he did not properly understand what the resultant position would be. So from that, I always remember my trainer's words: "Don't expect that the players will actually understand the rules. They won't."

Re: "Game" vs. "Frame"

Postby vodkadiet

I get it now. I can relate to it.....

Thanks for explaining it.

Re: "Game" vs. "Frame"

Postby elnino

Just a wee bit more clarification:-

In the vast majority of cases, a Match is the same as a Game.

A match is a stipulated number of games between 2 players, pairs or teams.

Strictly speaking a game is played over a period of days.

eg. If Player A and Player B agree to play a best of 5 each day for a week, with the winner being the one with most Game wins, then the Match would be the best-of-7 Game winner at the end of the week.

Re: "Game" vs. "Frame"

Postby Dan-cat

I'm off for a game of snooker later. We are probably gonna have time for 3 or 4 games. My mate played well last time, I barely got a look in in the third frame. I was relieved to come out of the session two frames all!