On attending a snooker tournament

I enjoy watching snooker. It’s a somewhat-international-but-mostly-UK cue sport. You can see an example frame here:

These events are broadcast live, with a live audience (except for the Championship League), and range from a best-of-7 format (1-2 hours) to the World Championship finals, which are best-of-35 (2 full days of play for one match!).

World Snooker, the organization behind snooker-the-sport, have been working on expanding the sport’s reach, and so they’ve hosted a tournament each year in Riga, Latvia, among many other venues (Gibraltar, Germany, India, China x3, etc). The Riga tournament finals are usually well-attended, but the first couple days of the tournament are not well-attended. Cheap tickets (20 EUR/day for the first two days) mean that I can afford to spend a long weekend in Riga and see the world’s best snooker players in a relatively-small uncrowded venue. It’s a lot of fun.

I’ve also attended the Masters in London (several thousand people, sold out), and the Player’s Championship in Llandudno, Wales (probably almost a thousand people).

Today, I wanted to write about being in the audience for a snooker tournament. As you may notice in the video above, you’re seated in theater-type seating around the table. For earlier rounds in the tournament, there are multiple tables there; for the later rounds, there is only one table typically.  Seating is assigned, with the first couple of rows designated ‘VIP’ at a higher price.

In many ways, attending is more like theater than sporting event. You’re silent during play, applauding and chatting only at appropriate times. You can only enter or exit the arena/theater during breaks in play, preferably during the mid-session interval (halftime/intermission).

The fans show support differently, too; there’s no giant ESPN posters, no groups of shirtless painted men. Maybe some shirts or jackets showing support for a specific player, but even that isn’t common.

If you have watched snooker, and are thinking about attending a tournament, I’d encourage it. The smaller the tournament, the closer that you’ll be to the players, and the higher chance of getting autographs and those kinds of interactions. Attending a day of snooker is definitely a marathon, though – the full day can easily run 12 hours. Be prepared with the occasional snack and some water.