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Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006, 17:06 GMT
What is the miss rule?

Jan Verhaas in action
Jan's beady eyes in action
There is one rule in snooker that gets everybody's tongue waggling.

A player tries to escape from a very tricky situation and the white ball misses its intended ball by the width of a hair on Peter Ebdon's head.

"Foul and a miss," the referee declares, while most of us watching the TV in our armchairs are thinking "that's so harsh".

So what is the rule all about? There was only one person to go to for advice.

"A miss is called if the referee thinks a player has not made a good enough attempt at striking a ball," the world's top snooker referee Jan Verhaas told BBC Sport.

According to the game's governing body World Snooker, the rule states: "The striker shall, to the best of his ability, endeavour to hit the ball on."

Any exceptions? The miss rule is not applied if the black ball is the only remaining ball on the table, or a situation exists where it is impossible to hit the ball on.

In the latter case, the rule continues: "It must be assumed the striker is attempting to hit the ball on provided that he plays, directly or indirectly, in the direction of the ball on with sufficient strength, in the referee's opinion, to have reached the ball on."

The players know us and know we're human and so we never have big arguments

Jan Verhaas

And those two words "referee" and "opinion" are crucial when applying this rule and would appear to be the cause of much of the debate.

This is not a black and white (or red, green, yellow etc) situation like hitting the wrong ball. The referee has to decide the intention of the player.

"It is all about the referee's interpretation," the Dutchman added. "It is difficult sometimes, but everybody in the professional game seem to be happy with this.

"Many people will say the player has missed by a tiny amount, but we are talking about the best players in the world here.

"When they are dealing with a tricky snooker we expect them to hit it. They will tend to go for a ball in a more difficult escape but they've got to hit it."

With so many balls on the table and the intensity of some games, this must be a difficult rule to administer sometimes?

"It's usually fine as long as you're concentrating enough. You make the decision before the shot has been made," Verhaas said.

Jan Verhaas eyes up the balls
Born: 5 Oct 1966
Birthplace: Maassluis, Holland
Lives: Brielle, Holland
Qualified: Class 3 in 1990, Class 1 in 1995
First pro match: Tony Drago vs Steve Davis 1993
Career highlights: Two World finals & four Masters finals

"When the snooker is laid you analyse the balls and decide if he's got to hit it, or how close they should get to the object ball.

"You weigh up all the angles and know exactly where all the balls are."

After a foul and a miss has been called, the next player may ask the offender to play again from the position left or, at his discretion, from the original position.

This means the referee returning all the moved balls to the position they were in before the offending shot. Video technology was introduced last year to help officials with this.

With this rule open to interpretation, you would think there would be more fall-outs over the baize.

"We sometimes make wrong decisions," Verhaas said, "but the players don't seem to argue."

"They sometimes complain after the match, but the players know us and know we're human and so we never have big arguments."

For further details on the miss rule and other rules, check out the World Snooker website.

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