In this question we discussed the etymology of the word "snooker" as a noun, based on a game played on a pool table. But dictionary.com references a form of the word, "snookered" as a slang verb that means to "deceive, cheat, or dupe: to be snookered by a mail order company." (I wonder what the editor had against mail order companies?) Unfortunately, the word's origins are unknown to that site. Any ideas?
snooker (verb): "to cheat," early 1900s, from snooker (n.), probably because in the game novices can easily be tricked.
That said, the term is also used in the game itself to represent a position of difficulty. Wiktionary alludes to this in its entry:
- In a situation where the cue ball position is such that one cannot directly hit the required object ball.
- (informal) In a difficult situation, especially because of the actions of others.
Snookers are not that simple to achieve or to get out of. To snooker somebody would be to place an opponent in a difficult situation and to be snookered would imply that you are in a difficult situation. Snookering your opponent is part and parcel of the modern game. But I can see that it could be extended to mean to trick. Considering the game's British roots, it might have been considered ungentlemanly to resort to an intentional snooker (as the primary aim is to pot the balls), thereby lending the term connotations of deception and cheating.
An American equivalent would be the idiom, behind the eight ball.
As a Brit, I have never understood "snookered" to mean "to deceive, cheat, or dupe".
Chambers gives one meaning as "to thwart (a person or a plan)", which is what I've always understood it to mean.
Oxford Dictionaries suggests that there are different British & US meanings:
British: leave (someone) in a difficult position; thwart
US: trick, entice, or trap
Based on the comments above, to "snooker" someone is to maneuver them into an unpleasant situation, perhaps a dead end. That could be a perfectly "legitimate" move, in a game or business dealing.
But it has the connotations of "take advantage of." If you uses that as a starting point, the meaning could be twisted around, at least to "cheating."
Essentially, the difference between "snookering" and cheating is whether you take advantage of someone "fair and square," or otherwise.
A snooker table has holes that are narrow with curved rails leading into the deep throat. When the cue ball is in this throat, particularly if against the rail, the cue ball may only be shot pretty much straight out from the hole, and not along either adjacent rail. If your target is thus inacessible, you are “snookered”.