Snooker Foul and a Miss

The Foul and a Miss rule is probably the most complicated rule in any game played with round balls and a cue stick on a rectangular table. It is rarely fully understood and often miss-characterized. Even among avid Snooker players, most don't remember all the details. Now I know some of you are going to say, yes I do know the rule well, and you probably do. But unfortunately the rule is not without some subjectivity in application, and trying to really understand its interpretive parts is difficult.

Having to implement this rule in Virtual Pool was very difficult and time-consuming. The interpretive parts caused particular issue, and getting the details right wasn't easy either.

What I can say up front about the design of the rule implementation is:

  • I am somewhat of an expert on rules after having to read and implement so many rule sets. I did assist in rewriting the BCA rules which for some games became the World Rules.

  • We did talk to a professional referee in reference to some of questions we had about Foul and a Miss

  • We also communicated with several Snooker clubs about how they apply Foul and a Miss

So first in review, I'm going to cover the basic parts of Foul and a Miss. Not discussed here are all the little details of when the rule does not apply based on score, balls on the table, etc.. You can read about all those here:

When your opponent completely misses the ball/s on, it is a foul, and in most situations a Foul and a Miss. If it is considered a Foul and a Miss, you have a choice. You can have your opponent play again from where all the balls stop, or make you opponent take the entire shot over. The entire shot over means that all the balls are put back into place. In Virtual Pool we can guarantee the shot is exactly the same, in RL, that is impossible, just best guess.

So given that all the exception cases for Foul and a Miss don't apply for a complete miss, exactly how do we determine if the shot was a Foul and a Miss?

It is a Foul and a Miss for sure: “If the striker, in making a stroke, fails to first hit a ball on when there is a clear path in a straight line from the cue-ball to any part of any ball that is or could be on, the referee shall call FOUL AND A MISS “

So what this is saying is if not a full Snooker, where full means to part of the ball on can be hit, it is always called Foul and a Miss (note except for the points, balls exceptions).

Where things get less clear is when there is a full snooker on the shot. This paragraph pretty much covers everything else:

“The striker shall, to the best of his ability, endeavour to hit the ball on. If the referee considers the Rule infringed, he shall call FOUL AND A MISS unless only the Black remains on the table, or a situation exists where it is impossible to hit the ball on. In the latter case it must be assumed the striker is attempting to hit the ball on provided that he plays, directly or indirectly, at the ball on with sufficient strength, in the referee's opinion, to have reached the ball on but for the obstructing ball or balls. “

The bit about only the Black remaining is one of those exception cases, but essentially this says that unless the ball on is impossible to hit then the referee has to make a ruling.

When they say “impossible”, that means really means impossible, NOT unlikely, very unlikely, or for all practical purposes unlikely. For an example of impossible, imagine the cue ball in the pocket jaws with 3 reds around the pocket, and no gaps large enough for it to fit through. If the ball on is a colour this is an impossible hit. Jump shots are not legal in Snooker and there is no path out to contact a colour.

So how does the referee decide is if is a Foul and a Miss when not impossible? Well the first sentence of the paragraph quoted gives the criteria:

“The striker shall, to the best of his ability, endeavour to hit the ball on.”

So the rule references the players ability or skill level, why? Well to fully appreciate that statement you have to look at why the Foul and a Miss rule was implemented. The purpose is to stop players from missing on purpose to gain advantage in the game. Think about a situation where playing the shot to hit the ball on will most likely result in a large scoring run for your opponent. Missing, taking the point penalty, and even shooting again might be better than trying to hit the ball on. So the Foul and a Miss rule was put in to prevent this.

Many of you get the understanding of Foul and a Miss from watching professional snooker. Professional Snooker is the easiest situation in dealing with the interpretive part of the rule. Since all the players are pros, it is easy to come up with a pretty consistent criteria for if the shot is a Foul and a Miss. For pros they are going to call Foul and a Miss almost always, even for shots requiring 3 or 4 rail kicks, masse shots, etc. These guys are the best so they call it that way, even if the pro really was trying to hit the ball, they are going to call Foul and a Miss.

When less skilled players are playing Snooker, it can't be called the same way as for the pros. Imagine a guy how is lucky to make 2 balls in a row having to hit a multi-rail kick shot where the path must be changed by applying spin to the cue ball. The guy could lose 100 points or more and never hit the ball on.

So we have to adjust the criteria for calling Foul and a Miss based on the skill level of the player. Lucky for us Virtual Pool already has a skill level identifier for Snooker called a rating. The rating is a numerical representation of player skill level. Here is how VP decides foul and miss based on skill level:

Rating Criteria

> 1900 Possible to hit with a multi-rail kick with cue ball spin, up to 4 rails

> 1700 Possible to hit with a 1 rail kick with cue ball spin

> 1500 Possible to hit with a 1 rail kick no cue ball spin

< 1500 not called unless there is a direct path to the ball (not a full snooker)

This method is not perfect, but it does a reasonable job in most situations of making a fair call. We may tweak the criteria or skill level breaks, as time goes on, to make this a better fit to player skill.

Hope that give all of you a better understanding of Foul and a Miss and the VP referee implementation of the rule.

Steve Chaplin

Virtual Pool 4 Online

Super Admin
Category: Virtual Pool Real Life Pool

32 Responses to Snooker Foul and a Miss

    Alyt February 27, 2014 at 01:21 pm

    Thank you for that nice post, usefull.

    A chance to see an option to completly activate "foul and a miss" in friendly matches?

    Jeef February 27, 2014 at 01:33 pm

    "I'll lose a lot of matches to a friend before a tournament, to make sure when it starts my rating is below 1500".

    How does that sound?


    How would I implement such a rule on VP4? If the player is on a snooker, he nominates the yellow, if the cueball travels in an area of X inches from the designated targed, referee will not call a miss.


    X can be anything we are comfortable with, and X can be larger or small depending on the "rating".

    However, keep in mind that you're dealing with human beings, who will always find a way to cheat. Me, personally, wouldn't involve rating on anything, but it's up to you.

    And I'm sorry to say but I'll completely stop playing VP4 if the miss rule is not even implemented fully for friendly matches. Like I said, I've been playing snooker for over 10 years and everywhere that I go, people use the faul and a miss to profissional levels: you missed? Try again. It's fun, everybody agrees. It's the way it's supposed to be.


    Edit: Continuing the rant:

    The other day I was playing a guy with 1492 rating. I layed him in a pickle, a very good snooker, perfectly placed. He tapped the cueball to the side, against the rail, leaving me nothing but crappy options. No return. That is a proposital faul, which in real life would be called a miss doesn't matter what, and the player would receive a warning.


    And you might say "But if we fully implement, players might win hundreds of points from a snooker", I'm sorry but I really don't see it happening. It's one in a million.


    Look at the amount of players you have here, they are all snooker lovers who waited and waited for this game, and now are disappointed on what was done with the miss rule. These are your fans. Look at the comments, check the percentage of them that wants the full miss rule implemented. 


    The miss rule is for both players, so you can't say it's unfair.

    Edited February 27, 2014 01:49 pm
    Super Admin February 27, 2014 at 03:59 pm

    The Foul and a Miss rule is skill specific. I think that was clear in what I wrote up.


    If you did not get a Foul and a Miss with a 1492, then the Snooker was not a full Snooker.


    You seem to think low level players won't miss many points. I have seen this already in test where players lost more than 30 points trying to hit a ball.


    This statement really says you don't understand how the rule is written or what I said "The miss rule is for both players, so you can't say it's unfair".


    I never said it was unfair. You seem to be implying it is fair to hold both players to the same standard even though the rule clearly does not say that.


    We will probably put in an option for on/off/skill based Foul anda Miss. That is not how the Snooker rules are written, but we have options for lots of games that are not official rules. We try to put in what players want. But that probably won't happen anytime soon as we have a long list of things to get done.  

    Edited February 27, 2014 04:00 pm
    RTC-UK February 27, 2014 at 05:16 pm

    Nice posts all & good to read.
    No Comment though, as I play Pool on The Pub Table :-)

    Alyt February 28, 2014 at 01:04 am

    "We will probably put in an option for on/off/skill based Foul anda Miss."



    Well that would be awesome. Thank you

    Jeef February 28, 2014 at 09:17 am

    you wrote:


    < 1500 not called unless there is a direct path to the ball (not a full snooker) 



    And I wrote:


    The other day I was playing a guy with 1492 rating. I layed him in a pickle, a very good snooker, perfectly placed. He tapped the cueball to the side, against the rail, leaving me nothing but crappy options. No return. That is a proposital faul, which in real life would be called a miss doesn't matter what, and the player would receive a warning.


    So, he's rating is below 1500, which acording to you will not trigger a "miss" called even if he doesn't try, as long as there's not a direct path.

    He was not the first and will not be the last. When players with rating below 1500 start winning tournaments were we have 1700/1800 player's rating, or when a final is lost on an exploit of this kind, this will blow up big time.

    9balldotcom February 28, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Jeef when you get players like that who dont know the etiquette of Snooker and you help him out by telling him he cannot do that.He must make a valid and genuine attempt to hit the ball.

    I understand where you are coming from in your post and some newbie not knowing Snooker etiquette simply rolling to a rail ,Ive had that experience and I dealt with it as i explained above.I also made sure that i did not play him again.

    Jeef February 28, 2014 at 11:27 am

    10% don't know the rule, other 90% do know and when you try to say "hey that wasn't nice", he'll reply "lol, fu!"


    I will leave this subject quiet for now, I've shown my opinion, that's as far as I can go.


    I'll start recording all my matches and I'd like to know where can I go to report players who behave this manner, and also to get that specific match erased from my stats, since I'll quit each one of them immediatly.


    Thank you.

    Super Admin March 4, 2014 at 01:00 pm

    "When players with rating below 1500 start winning tournaments were we have 1700/1800 player's rating, or when a final is lost on an exploit of this kind, this will blow up big time."


    Only thing being blown up big time is this discussion.


    Players < 1500 are not going to win tournaments with a bunch of 1700-1800 tournaments unless they are handicapped.


    This is been blown way out of proportion. Your going to lose 8 out of 30 games to a 1500 player, with 1 of these because of how Foul and a Miss in implemented, and this is the end of the world. Guess you feel cheated because he got one game you think he should not, 22 out of 30 isn't going to be good enough. 


    You complain it is unfair, when all we did was follow the rules. If you want to complain, go complain to the people who wrote the rules.


    If I turned on the full Foul and a Miss rule, instead of 3 or 4 people complaining about wanting a full pro snooker implementation of the rule for all players, I would have 20 people complaining about losing 40 points because they could not hit the ball. At least they would have a valid complaint because the rule would be improperly applied.


    As far as details of the rule, yes we can change those. As I stated, "We may tweak the criteria or skill level breaks". If you think it could be better implemented, we can have that discussion.


    If you want to debate the rule interpretation, go talk to a pro snooker referee like we did.


    Edited March 4, 2014 01:22 pm
    IMAJICA March 4, 2014 at 04:52 am

    I don't play much snooker but I feel some of Jeefs pain. Just put people who don't play the game in its proper spirit on your Shiite list! And if you are up against them in a tourney well consider it extra motivation! 

    Super Admin March 5, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Well we can probably do something about that. Those are the tweaks to the VP4 specific implementation of the skill based referee that need to be done.

    Unfortunately this discusssion has been little about that and more about wanting an implementation that does not respect the rule as written.

    Edited March 5, 2014 11:40 pm
    Randy_T March 5, 2014 at 12:32 pm
    Wouldn't have been easier just to leave Snooker out of VP4?
    Super Admin March 5, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Wish I would have. I put it in because the Snooker players wanted it. Little did I know they really didn't want the rule, they wanted what they see on tv. Of course that is not really fair, not all of them are saying that.

    Randy_T March 6, 2014 at 06:57 am

    I'm sure that those Snooker people in Europe are smart enough to write the code for "Virtual Snooker".

    Alyt March 9, 2014 at 01:36 pm

    Well please leave it as it is, i'm scared to see snooker removed :-P 

    Jeef March 9, 2014 at 09:06 pm

    @Super Admin,


    Ok then, let's compromise on something:

    Instead of forcing the full rule down everybody's throat, then please just add the option to turn full rule on and off for friendly matches.


    Me, personally, won't bother player tournaments or ladder or anything that involves playing snooker with people I don't know. I'm here for only 1 reason: to improve my real life snooker skills.


    We have too many players "cheating" online. Oh, cheating how? you might ask. Well, they just roll every ball in dead weight from the other side of the table, shots that are just impossible in real life, due to being really hard following the cue in a straight line, hitting the center of the cueball, and the table drifts (no table is perfect), or using ridiculously low FOV so you can "snipe" the balls. Since I'm sure you guys are not even considering adding fantastic improvements such as table drift and cue not always in the center of the white when you come to the shot, and limit the FOV to realistic numbers, then I'll keep playing against some friends of mine who play with me in real life as well. And all these friends of mine want nothing more than full miss rule.


    So, please consider adding this as optional for friendly matches. That way, you're pleasing everybody. You have my word I'll stay away from anything else

    Alyt March 10, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Yeah adding an option to turn it on for friendly matches would be great.

    Super Admin March 11, 2014 at 11:41 am

    We can put in an option, just may be a while before we get to it, there is a lot to do still for online.

    I would not call what you are refering to as "cheating". That is not a word to use lightly in an online game. VP is different than RL. We may address certain issues in the physics model to prevent rolling balls. But players are going to adjust their game to whatever the conditions are in VP, just like they do in RL. That is called being smart, not cheating. 

    rdocaregnato March 10, 2014 at 08:33 pm

    I agree, just turn the "full miss rule" on/off for friendly matches!!!

    deraltefritz April 29, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Super Admin wrote:

    "We may address certain issues in the physics model to prevent rolling balls."

    Now I'm getting excited. Any idea how difficult that is going to be / what time frame we might expect such a physics enhancement?

    Wolfpack May 7, 2014 at 03:30 am


    Edited August 14, 2014 08:39 am
    Quatsch83 June 5, 2014 at 07:52 am

    What is the rule if someone misses and then scratches? I think right now it treats it like a scratch and the miss options are not presented.

    Fantastic Mr Fox December 1, 2014 at 07:41 am

    Either have the miss rule or dont have the miss rule. I don't get why you are trying to 'level the playing field' with the way the ratings effect its use. Its like having 'catch up' on a car racing game. That should be for the players to decide not a sweeping rule that effects everyone.

    Much better would be the option to add a handicap in snooker. Ok so you play someone less talented then they could ask for a 30 point start. Its not right that they can put you in an impossible snooker and then relentlessly miss you yet you can do nothing in return. As I said ... have the miss rule or dont, but dont mess with it, its hard enough to police in the real game without adding complications that are already being exploited. Basing anything on ratings (much like tournament handicaps) is not an accurate way to do it.

    One final thought .... the miss rule was invented to stop players of a professional standard playing deliberate fouls, not the average VP4 player. I'm a traditionalist so I'd rather have the rule but it needs to be the same for all. There is too much of this 'make it easier for weaker players' going on. The game (or the bulk of tournaments) shouldn't be like this in my opinion. Why should you win a tournament without playnig well enough to deserve it? or why should a rule be adjusted to benefit a weaker player? If its going to be done it should be down to player discretion (a game option) not a blanket rule. 

    Is it unfair that some players are better than other? or is it unfair to penalise players based on ability? Thats life!

    Super Admin December 2, 2014 at 01:57 pm

    Because that is the way the rule is written. I didn't write the rule, just followed it. Many players assume that the way it is called for the pros is exactly what the rule is, that isn't true. And I did communicate with a few snooker clubs in the UK to see how they handled it. Some didn't use it at all, some did something like what VP4 does, basically lowering the standard to the skill level of the players. We also communicated wtih Michella Tabb about this. You applying your interpretation of what you think it is to come up with "penalize players based on ability" which is a misstatement of the implementation.

    Me personally I think it is a dumb rule, used as a band aid instead of re-writing the rules to be better. But that is how the Snooker rules have evolved because they don't want to make major changes to the game. 

    We are going to add point handicapping to Snooker, but that really has nothing to do with Foul and Miss. We may make an option to remove it for tournaments, but of course then players are going to complain it isn't there.

    Edited December 2, 2014 01:59 pm
    Fantastic Mr Fox December 10, 2014 at 07:45 am

    Either way, the whole tournament ranknig system and handicapping system needs addressing. It is draconian. I happen to play alot of vp4 which means my ratings are often cosiderably higher than others. Yet many of those others are no lesser players than me. So then I enter a tournament against them and suddenly i'm 4-0 down paying to 7?


    It needs to be based on pot percentage or something that gives a more accurate and more fair way of 'levelling the playing field'.

    Prime example, i lose 7-4 in a non handicapped match against a player yesterday. Yet the same player gets a 4-0 headstart versus me in a 9 bal race to 7 in a tournament. The same player by the way who tops the points rankings. No disrespect to him but how is that right? 

    Similarly, now im worried about your points handicapping in snooker. I play many players who are basically the same skill level as me yet have a few hundred pounts less because they play less. Now ill potentially have to give them a huge start and itll be utterly unfair. This surely must be based on pot percentage because ratings dont tell the full story.

    I mean seriously, if i have to give a huge headstart to everyone just because i play more often then I just wont play and there will be others who feel the same. Its a potential game wrecker!

    As I mentioned in my previous post, this whole handicapping / points headstart system should be an option for the players to decide not a blanket rule where every game you play in you are effected. There should be choice!

    Finally, and once again .... the miss rule .... again, base it on pot percentage not ratings. I played a guy yesterday who opened with a break of 41 (he had a rating on 1350 ish, mine about 2100). A break higher than i've made all week and then he lays a snooker and takes a good few misses on top. I then massively behind lay a good safety myself and cant take advantage of the miss rule so i make 4 points. Its not right! RATINGS DO NOT EQUAL TALENT! The system is not fair at all. I know i'm not the only person sayng this even if i'm one one of the only one blogging about it but lets be honest, of all the players, how many have ever used this blog.

    The bottom line is ... if the game is going to penalise players based on ability then it needs to actually be based on ability not a rough guide that doesnt tell the whole story. I hope this post doesnt sound critical, as you know i love this game, thats why i play it so much, but every time im in a tournament im offended by a handicap system that penalises me in a way that is not fair. If rules that are not based on accurate systems are introduced in to every game then whats the point in playing?

    Heres another good one .... a guy who basically plays nothing but tournamentsand has low ratings because of it. He always gets an advantage because of it and unsurprisingly is the games top ranking points scorer. How would be if the tour de france was won every year by the guy rated 51st. Or if the world snooker finals the guy seeded 43 gets a 4-0 headstart. It doesnt happen in real life so why do it here. Make it optional! and make it fair!

    Thans for listening. All player comments welcomed on this topic! Maybe ill start a new thread.

    Ok I cant seem to find a way to start a new thread, perhaps SuperAdmin you could start one to gauge players opinions on this topic i think its pretty important on the basis that every player will be effected by it. If its a system thats gonig to be insisted on, it absolutely MUST be a system that is accurate and right now its clearly open to exploitation and innacuracy. Especially considering that (albeit trivial) amounts of money are invovled. Tournaments arent free.

    Edited December 10, 2014 07:54 am
    Jeef January 2, 2015 at 05:05 am

    I don't see why is it so hard to just add another option in the game to change the miss rule according to what the 2 players want for that match:


    (  ) No miss rule

    (  ) Rating-based miss rule

    (  ) Full miss rule


    I'm sure you'll see the vast majority of players creating rooms with the full miss rule.

    If this is what your clients want and it's a big improvement to the game (adding new options is always an improvement), then why not?

    Coding-wise, this is very easy to do. The most complicated part you already did (rating-based miss).


    Most snooker players are traditionalists, they watch snooker on the telly and come down to the club (or vp4) and want the same rules.

    I went as far as researching and testing the table settings for months until I had a table that behaved the same way I see on the telly for the world/uk championship tables. Many players who come into my room appreciate these settings. Why? Many players here don't have the opportunity to go play snooker in real life, even though they would love to. They can only see it on the telly and play it in vp4.


    Here in my city (Toronto) I go practice in a club that has around 12 snooker tables. It's always full, even though North Americans are more into pool.

    Every single player there playing snooker plays with the traditional miss rule, all of them (I asked).


    I understand you're trying to stick to the rules, but snooker players are traditionalists and they love it.

    Give the power to the community to choose. Happy community = More players.

    Edited January 2, 2015 05:09 am
    Super Admin January 5, 2015 at 01:13 pm

    It is on our todo list. It isn't as easy to do as you think, if it was trivial we would just do it. There are a lot of items ahead of it and many are long like the Steam port, so it will take a while.

    Edited January 5, 2015 01:14 pm
    Perfectionist February 11, 2015 at 02:24 am

    Those three options would be perfect and make everybody happy.

    Orcs of Nazereth December 6, 2015 at 02:01 am

    Fiteen and it'd be good to get going.


    The regular cut snooker fly is hosed deep

    Zaphod77 December 11, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    There is another part to the rule, which i think the current algorithm ignores.

    Snookering the other player withount fouling is part of the game.

    Leaving a player with an easy way to HIT the ball on, but no easy way to POT it so you can then run out the table is also part of the game. 

    It may that on your turn that there is a much more difficult shot that will ruin the run even if you foul.

    This is the situation for which  the foul and a miss rule was developed.  A foul and a miss is intended to be an extra penalty for intentional fouls, to give the other player the option of saying "no, you don't get to ruin my run by fouling when i shot my legal safety fair and square!"

    If the shooter isn't even snookered (can hit the ball full face directly) the foul is presumed intentional, and a miss will ALWAYS be called. This is rivialyl detected by the engine.

    If the referee sees an easier shot than the one you are trying, if you foul the more difficult shot, a miss will be called unless an exception applies.

    If the engine is good enough at detecting possible shots (if there's a bo tplayer this should be easy) it should be programmed this way: if the person does not take the shot that has the greatest margin of error for not fouling that is within their skill level, and fouls, it should be a foul and a miss.  The main exception is if your skill is too low to even do a one rail kick.  If you are that unskilled, there's no reason to call it.

    Your skill raiting is that the game thinks you can do a 1 rail kick.  there's a very hard straight shot, an easier 1 rail kick, and a hard 2 rail kick.  The game checks your skill level, and determines the shot you have the best chance at not fouling on is the 1 rail kick. if you foul that shot, but there was enough power to make it, a miss will not be called.  If you foul the more difficult straight shot or any 2 rail kicks, then it's a miss.

    But what if the shot beyond your skill level is actually the easier shot to not foul on?  Then you can still try for the easiest shot within your skill, and that won't be considered a foul and a miss if the game realises what shot you are attempting.  You can also try the "easier" shot that's beyond your skill.

    If you get nowhere NEAR the object ball it's also an obvious miss.

    The best attempt is the shot that you are least likely to foul on.  If the game realises that you are attempting the easiest shot, a miss should not be called (especially if even the easiest shot is difficult.)

    If the easiest shot is outside your skill range, then attempting the easiest shot within your skill range should not be a foul and a miss.  If you are attempting the easiest shot, or the easiest shot within your skill rating, it is presumed you are trying your best to not foul.

    The actual reason foul and miss is called in pro matches for honest attempts is because those honest attempts were not at the easiest shot the ref saw.  They are honestly not trying to foul.  They want to ruin the runout without fouling.  But it's STILL a miss, because messing the other player up with your own foul is not fair.  But penalizing smeone extra when they are honestly just trying not to foul is aso just as unfair. hence the best attempt standard.    

    Note that the run doesn't even have to be ruined for a foul and a miss to be called.  If it's not ruined, the player will take their turn, nominate a ball if they were snokered by the foul, and just continue the run, waiving off the miss because no advantage was gained from it.

    The so called "traditionalists" don't understand the foul and miss rule. The current ratings based system is close, but not the real rule.  I believe my description of the real rule is accurate, and should be implemented if the engine allows it.

    Zaphod77 December 11, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    for people worried about losing a ton of points off of foul and miss, thers'a an exeption to mitigate this. if you are in snookers required, or would be put in snookers required, a miss is not called unless it's a REALLY FRIGGIGN OBVIOUS intentional foul.

    Even a super low rating won't save you from the "you aren't even snookered" situation.  The 3 misses and forfeit rule should ALWAYS be on regardless of skill, because even the most unskilled player can shoot a straight line to a full face ball.

    ANother idea.  IF somene does a foul and miss, and the opponent elects to reset, provide a "best attempt" button the player can click. if this is clicked, the game will find the shot you were supposed to take to avoid the call, and then take it in such a manner that it does not pot the ball on.

    sdok December 23, 2019 at 08:44 am
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