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Why do we play snooker? 7 great reasons for taking up the game.

Watching the legends is one answer to the question Why do we play snooker

Ask a climber why they want to take on a mountain and they’re likely to tell you they do it “because it’s there”. At least, that’s what Mallory said over a hundred years ago.

Ask a snooker player “why do we play snooker” and you might get an equally bemused response. It’s not a question players often hear. So we’ve been putting it to our members. Their answers gave us quite an insight into the reasons why people play this wonderful game. Have a read. What you learn about the benefits snooker has to offer might persuade you to pick up a cue more often, or even for the first time.

Why do we play snooker?

Originally, snooker was a pastime enjoyed in officers’ messes in colonial India. No doubt it was a way for the soldiers to amuse themselves with a little friendly competition away from the rigours of their day job. You can read a detailed history of the game on the WPBSA website.

Yet, if you were able to ask them, my guess is that those Victorian officers were at the table for many of the same reasons as we are in the 21st century. Entertaining though the game most certainly is, amusement is only part of the story.

Tuning out the daily noise

Many of our members find that the concentration required to try and play snooker properly makes them forget about the pressures of daily life. When they’re thinking about potting and position, they can’t worry about their to-do-list.

That’s true of most hobbies, but there’s something especially therapeutic about a quiet, darkened snooker room. The hush surrounding the bright lights over the cloth creates an immersive atmosphere which tunes out everything else. It’s just you, your opponent, and the table. The outside world can wait.

Calm with logo

That’s an opinion backed up by some 2017 research by the WPBSA which found that improved mental health was a significant upside to playing snooker. You can read more about their research in our post on the 5 psychological benefits of playing snooker.

The pleasure in problem-solving

My business partner, Steve Kent, is definitely not alone in enjoying the challenge of solving the myriad problems that each frame presents. For him, there are only two perfect states for a snooker table to be in: at the start, before the pack has been broken, and at the end, when all the balls have been cleared. Everything in between is a form of chaos that needs to be tidied-up. And working out how to do that is both absorbing and pleasurable.

One of our newer members, Ant Harvey, takes a similar pleasure from the geometry of the game and the immense detail you can go into when you’re trying to understand why and how things happen on the table. He’s the type of player that seeks to unravel all of the game’s mysteries, and loves the process.

The joy of mastery

Completely mastering snooker is impossible. Despite winning the 2024 Masters (his 8th), even Ronnie O’Sullivan said he hadn’t managed to. It’s the pursuit of mastery that provides a lot of the game’s enjoyment.  Long-time Surrey Snooker Academy member, Dave Hodgetts, describes it as chasing the 147, even though you know that it’s never going to happen.

Without getting too academic, the search for mastery that Dave describes is one of the three fundamental motivational drives identified by American author Daniel Pink (the other two are autonomy and purpose). We get a powerful motivation from sensing that we are becoming competent at something and a huge satisfaction from recognising that we can control our performance. The feeling we get from executing a great shot makes us want to do it again and again. It’s often referred to as “competence motivation”.

Self-reliance

Snooker rewards those who prefer the challenge of solo sports. If you enjoy the feeling that the results are all down to you, then this game provides a particularly rich experience. Every shot and every tactic is your choice alone. The game provides the feedback, not your teammates or the coach on the touchline. It suits an introspective personality in a way that team sports can’t, though that’s not to say that extraverts don’t enjoy the game too.

No barriers to entry

Our youngest member is not yet 10; our oldest is in his eighties. No great physical prowess is required to play the game. Unlike athletic sports, you can continue to improve your performance regardless of your age. O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams – Snooker’s “Class of 92” – are still operating at their peak, despite approaching their fifties. That makes snooker a great game to take up in later years.

The fact that it’s an indoor sport also makes it more attractive for many who want to be able to play, whatever the weather.

Sociability

Snooker might be a solo game, but it’s not played alone. It’s a great sport for connecting with others. Golf has the 19th hole, the après-ski is a vital part of that winter sport, and a good snooker club will provide a welcoming sense of community for those looking to make friends.

Inspired by the greats

The greats of the game are one of the reasons we take up snooker.

All these great reasons aside, someone has to inspire you to take up the game. It could be a friend or a family member who introduces you to snooker but, for me, it was the greats of the 1980s. As a child I marvelled at the skills of people like Alex Higgins and Steve Davis. When I persuaded my parents to buy me a half-size table it was heroes like Jimmy White I was trying to emulate. Today I’m still inspired by fantastic players like John Higgins. I’m always analysing his game and trying to learn from his brilliance.

So, snooker is a game that can be played to a decent standard at any age, in any weather conditions, alone or with friends old and new. A game that takes you out of yourself, stretches your mental ability and challenges your self-control. Great reasons which more than answer the question “why do we play snooker?”

I’d love to hear your comments.

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2 Responses

  1. Great post!

    What keeps me coming back is a fascination with things that are conceptually simple yet run incredibly deep. Snooker has this in spades. The game is so much more than the sum of its parts. Its ability to reveal itself (and in turn what it reveals to me about myself) in incredibly small yet engaging chapters make it like a never ending book I’m unable to put down.

    1. Thanks Carl, I’m glad you liked it! Your analogy to a multi-chapter book is very accurate. I’m looking forward to helping you read some chapters together 🙂

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Academy co-founders Brian Cox and Gareth White

Brian Cox and Gareth White

Co-founders of the surrey snooker academy

We want our members to experience the kind of playing environment, equipment and coaching normally only enjoyed by professional snooker players.

Brian and Gareth

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