What Formats Are Used in Tournament Snooker?

snooker formats
Credit: BennyOnTheLoose

There are a lot of different formats that are used in tournament snooker, the world’s toughest cue sport.

The precision, strategy, and skill required to excel in snooker have made it a staple of competitive billiards.

While snooker’s basic rules remain constant, the sport boasts a rich variety of tournament formats that provide unique challenges for players and entertain fans in distinct ways.

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of snooker and explore the different tournament formats that have contributed to its enduring popularity.

1. The Standard Snooker Format
2. Best-of Formats
3. Single Elimination Tournaments
4. Double Elimination Tournaments
5. Round Robin Tournaments
6. The World Snooker Tour
7. Conclusion

The Standard Snooker Format

Before delving into the various tournament formats, it is crucial to understand the standard rules of snooker.

The game is played on a rectangular table covered with a green cloth, featuring pockets in each of the four corners and in the middle of each long side.

Players use a cue ball and a set of 21 colored balls: 15 reds worth one point each and six differently colored balls (yellow-2, green-3, brown-4, blue-5, pink-6, and black-7), each with its designated point value.

In a standard snooker match, two players or teams take turns to pot balls, with the ultimate aim of scoring more points than their opponent(s).

The player who scores the most points within a designated number of frames or a set period wins the match.

Best-of Formats

One of the most common tournament formats in snooker is the “best-of” format.

Matches are usually played in a best-of format, meaning that the player or team that wins a majority of frames or games prevails in the match.

The number of frames or games required to win varies depending on the tournament format and stage.

For instance, in a best-of-9 match, the first player to win five frames is declared the winner.

The most famous best-of format is at the World Snooker Championship, where the final at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is played over a possible 35 frames.

Single Elimination Tournaments

Single elimination tournaments, often referred to as knockout tournaments, are a popular format in snooker.

In this format, players or teams compete in a series of matches, with the loser of each match being eliminated from the tournament.

The winner of the final match is crowned the champion. The World Snooker Championship – one of the sport’s most prestigious events – follows this format.

Single elimination tournaments create an intense atmosphere, as players must consistently perform well to advance and avoid elimination.

One slip-up can result in an early exit, adding an element of drama and unpredictability to the competition.

Double Elimination Tournaments

Double elimination tournaments provide players with a second chance after their first loss.

In this format, players are only eliminated from the tournament after losing two matches.

While they remain in the winner’s bracket, a loss relegates them to the loser’s bracket, where they have an opportunity to work their way back to the final.

The winner of the loser’s bracket faces the winner of the winner’s bracket in the final to determine the champion.

Double elimination tournaments are known for their fairness, as they ensure that a single bad performance does not immediately result in elimination.

This format is commonly used in amateur and regional snooker tournaments.

Round Robin Tournaments

Round robin tournaments are designed to give each participant an opportunity to compete against every other player or team in the tournament (or group).

Players earn points based on their performance in each match, with the player or team accumulating the most points declared the winner.

The number of frames or games played in each match can vary, but it is typically the same for all participants.

Round robin tournaments provide a comprehensive evaluation of each participant’s skills, as they face a variety of opponents.

This format is often used in smaller tournaments or in the initial stages of larger competitions to determine seeding for the knockout rounds.

The World Snooker Tour

The World Snooker Tour (WST) is the premier professional snooker tour, featuring a variety of tournament formats that showcase the sport’s diversity and complexity.

Some of the notable events on the WST include

The World Snooker Championship

This prestigious tournament employs a single elimination format and is played over 17 days, featuring the best-of-19 frames in the first round and extending to the best-of-35 frames in the final.

The longer format tests players’ endurance and mental strength, making it the most coveted title in snooker.

The UK Championship

Another major tournament, the UK Championship uses a single elimination format with best-of-11 frames in the early rounds, culminating in a best-of-19 frame final.

The UK Championship is one of snooker’s “Triple Crown” events, alongside the World Championship and the Masters.

The Masters

The Masters employs a single elimination format with the top 16 players from the world rankings invited to compete.

Matches are best-of-11 frames until the final, which is a best-of-19 frame contest.

The Masters is known for its high-pressure atmosphere at the Alexandra Palace in London and features a shorter format compared to the World Snooker Championship.

The Tour Championship

This invitation-only event features the top 8 players from the one-year ranking list.

It employs a single elimination best-of format, but each match is played over a longer two sessions.

In 2024, the Tour Championship field will increase to 12 players.

The Shoot-Out

The Shoot-Out is a unique and fast-paced snooker tournament that stands out from traditional formats.

Matches in this event are incredibly short, with each frame lasting a maximum of one frame and ten minutes.

Players must make quick decisions and rely on their instincts to score as many points as possible within the limited time frame.

The Shoot-Out is known for its entertaining and unpredictable nature, often featuring surprise winners.

Six Red World Championship

The Six Red World Championship is a captivating and innovative snooker tournament that offers a thrilling twist on the traditional format.

As the name suggests, this event is played with only six red balls on the table, as opposed to the standard fifteen.

The reduced number of red balls quickens the pace of the game and encourages aggressive play, resulting in shorter and more action-packed frames.

The Six Red World Championship attracts top snooker talent from around the globe, providing fans with a dynamic and entertaining display of skill and strategy within a unique format.

This tournament showcases the adaptability of snooker and its ability to evolve while retaining its core appeal to fans and players alike.

A popular format in Thailand, the Six Red World Championship is annually staged in Bangkok.


The world of snooker is as diverse as it is fascinating, thanks to the plethora of tournament formats that challenge players in various ways.

From the revered and lengthy matches of the World Snooker Championship to the fast-paced excitement of events like the Shoot-Out, each format adds its own flavor to the sport.

Whether it’s the relentless pressure of single elimination tournaments or the comprehensive evaluation of skills in round robin competitions, snooker offers something for everyone.

Team tournaments like the World Cup bring a sense of national pride to the game, while innovative formats like the Six Red World Championship keep fans and players engaged with a fresh perspective.

These diverse tournament formats not only showcase the adaptability of snooker but also highlight the enduring appeal of a sport that continues to captivate audiences worldwide, decade after decade.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a casual fan, snooker’s versatility ensures that there’s always a tournament format that suits your preference, making it a truly remarkable cue sport.

Photos: Wikimedia

You may also like...