Why do snooker players apologize for flukes?
We’ve all been there – you take a shot intending to pot one ball or are aiming for a specific pocket, you miss, but somehow the ball goes in another pocket? You can also cannon into another ball knocking it in unexpectedly or just knock another ball in through good fortune.
These occurrences are always a happy coincidence when you experience them but when you are on the receiving end of one of these shots they can be infuriating!
When one of these shots go in they are more commonly known as a fluke. During a friendly game, you can laugh about a fluke shot, sometimes be glad your opponent has made it, and even at times expect your opponent to make fluke shots when they don’t yet possess skill or accuracy.
For professional snooker players though, this is far from accepted and is even considered to be a bit of an embarrassing moment. If you’ve seen a snooker player raise their hand to an opponent or shrug and shake their head then it’s intentional, so in this article I’ll cover just why apologizing for a fluke is so important.
Why Do Snooker Players Apologize For Flukes
Snooker players apologise to their opponent for fluke shots to indicate and acknowledge that the shot was not intentional. This is done to show good gamesmanship and to demonstrate that the player did not pot the shot on skill but rather by luck.
When a fluke shot happens during an amateur game, especially in other billiard games like pool, a fluke shot is often expected.
Snooker on the other hand is a game of tactics and skill. Not only are fluke shots more difficult to make due to the size of the table but they are frowned upon due to the skill aspects of snooker. Players and spectators want to see intentional and difficult shots being made.
Sometimes though, a fluke as bound to happen as its a life occurrence, not just prevalent in snooker so when a fluke shot does happen, players will acknowledge it and apologise.
A Shrug and a Sorry
If you watch professional matches, you will see the simple shrugs of players when they know that luck has played a much more important role in their scoring than their own skill. You may not realize, but the shrug is actually inclined toward their opponent after a fluke pot and is done to acknowledge that it was a fluke.
This acknowledgement between players is to show a form of respect, a fluke is accidental so by acknowledging this to your opponent, it shows a level of class and dignity. It can also be used to indicate to any spectators that it was not intentional.
What is a Fluke?
A fluke in snooker is when a player unintentionally pots a ball. This can be done by potting a ball into a pocket that they were not directly aiming for or by potting a ball that they did not aim to pot. A fluke can also be done in snooker when a player inadvertently snookers their opponent.
The pacing of a snooker match is such that you can observe very clearly a player measuring attack and trajectory angles for his or her next shot. It becomes apparent very quickly when a player has fluked, when watching a game on tv they will show you what shot the players are looking to take alongside a projected path for the cue ball and target balls.
Check out some of these flukes to see what we mean:
A Friendly Game
Snooker, as opposed to eight ball and its cartoonish caricature of being played by burly bikers in roadside bars, is a light hearted game and is also considered by many to be a game for gentlemen. This is of course not a unisex term for the modern game but the dress code does indicate this game is for those that follow a code of conduct.
Apologizing for a fluke and tapping the table after a good shot are simply gestures meant to preserve congeniality and tradition for everyone involved.
Lucky shots (just like luck in any major sport) are still as much a part of the game as deftly maneuvering the cue to safety behind a ball that is out of play.The shrug of the shoulders is simply meant to keep the atmosphere light and connection to tradition strong.
A Traditional Sport
There are several gestures included in the matches from habitual finger drumming on the table before a shot, similar to a bowler’s shuffle before his next frame. There’s the table tap when the opponent has played a particularly impressive shot and blocked or even snookered the player with their upcoming shot.
For players who understand the shrug or amateurs who go as far as to vocalize the apology, the intent is clear: “I got away with an unintentional lucky shot. Sorry about that.”
Nobly Born Game
One of the reasons snooker maintains its identity as a gentleperson’s sport versus its more pedestrian eight and nine ball billiards cousins is that its origins within the British military’s officer’s corps traces back to an actual named man in history.
Whether or not Colonel Neville Chamberlain is the actual originator of snooker or he stands as the foil of the caricature of the kind of man who would invent the sport, it still identifies as a game played by gentry.
Gentry-born activities all have historical pleasantries. Fox hunting has rigid rules, strictures, and liturgies. Parliamentary procedures have required phrases to communicate even the simplest of ideas. Snooker, a game created by a Colonel in the British military, would carry the same originating culture.
Officers at the time would be people who earned their rank both by dint of their accomplishment as well as by virtue of their station within the ranks of the nobility.
The rules that existed at its inception and the traditions that would form over the next decades had a high likelihood of preservation.
Luck is Valued Less Than Skill
Snooker is a game that requires attention to skill and strategy. Snooker stands as the chess to 9 ball’s checkers.
Its strategy level is worlds above and beyond. Once players reach the professional level, strategy is fairly standardized, but the maneuvering of the cue around the table to block potential go-ahead shots by the opponent play as much a part of the game as potting any of the balls on the table.
Because of the high level of strategy required for the game, any utility of luck in getting ahead of your opponent is considered beneath the exceptionally inflated dignity of the game.
Some players, league coaches, sponsors, and fans of defeated players have gone as far as to petition official rules committees to disallow fluke points from counting toward final scores. Much like potting a ball out of sequence, the foul would count as null or even in favor of the opponent.
Rebelling Against Tradition
There are, of course, those players who decide that traditions with which they hold no personal investment are unnecessary and will refuse to offer the traditional apology for potting on a fluke. Most beginners will be educated by those instructing them about how to play the game. Decent coaches will teach a new player the traditions as much as they will teach strategy.
Therefore if a player does not offer an apology after sending a cannon shot through a mass of red balls and accidentally potting one, it is more than simple ignorance. It is an intentional choice, much like bowling at the same time as the person in the lane next to you or chewing potato chips with your mouth open.
Understand, there is no penalty assessed to a player who refuses to apologize for flukes or tap the table following an incredible shot. You may just find that the list of people willing to step up and play a match with you is understandably small.
There are even a few players at the professional level who have decided to opt out of the fluke apology. Again, it is a personal choice, and they are highly skilled players who rely on more than simple luck to win. However, in such a richly structured game, it is one that means that their fans absolutely adore them and anyone else is thoroughly annoyed at their continued participation in the game.
In snooker, players will apologize for a fluke shot because it is a gesture and acknowledgement for good etiquette. Luck is going to be inevitable and if a player can acknowledge this with a raise of the hand or shrug of their shoulders then the opponents and spectators can accept it much easier.
Snooker is prided on its high level of skill required to play the game so apologising for a fluke is a way to maintain these standards and demonstrate that it wasn’t intentional. While apologising for a fluke is not compulsory, players are severely frowned upon for not showing this gesture.
If you are new to the game or snooker and happen to pot a ball by fluke, make it a habit to show decency and gamesmanship by apologising to your opponent.
It’s the right thing to do!