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Game of pool.

What Is the Difference Between Billiards, Pool, and Snooker?

Billiards and Pool are two terms that are often used interchangeably. For the non-professional players, it’s easy to see why these two table sports seem the same thing. But while they do have similarities, there are also distinct qualities that set them apart. And then, we have a snooker, which adds to the confusion.

These three – billiards, pool, and snooker – all use cue sticks, tables, and balls. But what are the differences between these popular table sports? This Quedos blog post will give you the answer.


Billiards History

In the 15th century, billiards’ roots can be traced back to a lawn game similar to croquet. The game was mostly known in Northern Europe. Only the royalty and noble people were able to play. Over time, this game evolved with more styles. From an outdoor sport, it moved indoors, where it required a wooden table. There was a simple border, and a green cloth was on the table. The colour was specially chosen to resemble grass.

Years later, the table game was given a name derived from the French terms bille, which means ball and billiart, meaning wooden sticks.

The billiard table also underwent modification since players had to keep picking up balls on the ground. Cue sticks, on the other hand, emerged in the late 1600s.

Man playing billiards


Pool History

The history of the pool is the same as billiards since the game did stem from billiards. You will find a more in-depth look at the game’s background in this blog post. You will also learn more about the improvements in pool cue sticks. If you’re interested in pool (and billiards) ball, you can read the history behind them here. As mentioned in our previous blog posts, the name “pool” came from the betting process where pool refers to a collective bet (ante). Back in the day, however, pool tables were found in horse race betting parlours. They served as a way for bettors to pass the time while waiting for their races.


Snooker History

It was around the 1800s when snooker was introduced. This makes snooker the youngest of the three. Neville Chamberlain, a lieutenant, wanted to modify certain things about the “black pool.” The game involves one black ball and 15 red ones.

The lieutenant thought that he should add other coloured balls. And because those balls were newly introduced into the game, he called his version of “black pool” as a snooker. The name came from the newbies of the Royal Military Academy, which are called “snookers.”

Snooker game


Billiards vs Pool vs Snooker

When people talk about billiards, they mean The Carom or carambola billiards. It’s a cue sport where the player strikes the billiard balls, moving them around the table. Carom is what we know as billiards. The biggest distinction is when the table is bounded by cushions. In the game of billiards, there are only three balls used.

Meanwhile, when talking about pool, it’s often seen as the same game as billiards, but pool is more known outside the United States, including Australia. It involves 16 balls, which are made up of 15 object balls and one cue ball. The pool table consists of six pockets, which split the cushions and are built into the rails.

Snooker is played on a table similar to a pool table but uses nine to 15 balls. So, to summarise:

  • Billiards is played on a table without pockets. The game only has three balls, which are red, white (with a spot), and another white one (without a spot).
  • Pool involves a table with six pockets. You need 15 balls, but some people play with just nine. Don’t forget the cue ball.
  • Snooker uses a table that has six pockets, but the table is generally larger than pool tables. However, the pockets of the snooker table, though, are smaller. You need 15 balls to play snooker. All these balls do not have a number but are all red. You also need six object balls, which are numbered, along with one cue ball.

As you may have noticed already, the balls are the most considerable distinction in the three games.

In snooker, you have:

  • A total of 22 balls
  • One white ball called the striker ball
  • 15 red balls
  • Six other balls, one for the following colours: brown, yellow, pink, black, green, and blue
  • 2 1/16 inches in diameter

For billiard balls, you have:

  • Three balls
  • One for each colour: white, yellow, and red
  • White and yellow act as the striker
  • Measure 2 7/16 inches in diameter

Finally, let’s talk about pool balls. The game is different from the other two. We have mentioned that you will need nine to 15 pool balls, along with the white cue ball. The exact number will depend on the game’s direction. Most of the time, you will use 16 balls (including the white ball). They measure 2 ¼ inches in diameter. Eight of these balls are coloured with numbers 1-8. The other balls are striped and numbered from 9-15.

Another difference is the table for each game. Here are the facts that you need to bear in mind to know where to play your preferred table sport:

  • Billiards and pool are often played on a seven-foot to eight-foot table.
  • Professional billiards tables are often larger than pool tables. The tournament table for billiards goes nine feet in length.
  • A snooker table, particularly the English variant, is quite massive. You can find tables measuring 12 feet. The American version, though, is typically ten feet in length.
  • It’s easy to distinguish billiards because the table used does not have pockets.
  • For pool tables and snooker tables, you will see six pockets.

Although snooker, pool, and billiards are quite distinct, many people play them using any table. For example, they play snooker on a pool table, where a professional table measures seven feet long and 3.5 feet wide.

For home or personal use, pool tables typically measure 6′ x 3′. If you have limited space, you can have the table customised to fit your room, but most Australians prefer 7′ x 3.5′. As you may already know, pool tables measure differently depending on the location where you’re playing. For American and British sizes, refer to this blog post.

Another huge difference between the three table games involves the rules, which can be quite complex. For simplicity’s sake, we will make sure that even newbies understand the rules associated with these sports:


1. Billiards

To score points, which are known as counts, you need to bounce the cue ball off the other two balls. Note that these two other balls are already on the table, and remember that white and yellow are the cue balls. You play against another individual or team. The goal is to make sure that you get awarded the most points. To know who will begin the match, you will have to string, which can either be based on an imaginary line (head string) or the number of wins (scoring string).

Points are granted in three ways:

  • Cannon: Hit the cue ball to hit the other cue ball and then hit the red ball next to get two points.
  • Winning Hazard: You pot the red ball to get three points.
  • Losing Hazard: You score if you hit the other cue ball, which should then hit the red ball and pocket the ball to get three points. Another way to score is by hitting the red ball first and then one cue ball for two points. Hit the cue ball using the other cue ball and then target the red ball, which should not be pocketed to earn two points. You can also get two points if you hit the red and the other cue ball at the same time.

Just like with most games, the player or team with the highest score wins.


2. Pool

If you’re playing pool, the game can be played in different ways because of the many pool variants out there. That’s why you should first know about the rules and the number of balls you’re going to play with. Pool can be played with eight balls, which consist of 15 balls. For a nine-ball pool, you will have nine balls, while a three-ball pool has three balls.

The first shot is known as the break, which determines the type of balls each player will need to pocket to win. The one who wins the break shot will choose whether to play with coloured or striped balls. To win the pool game, you will need to pocket the number 8 ball after you have pocketed all seven balls. You also win if your opponent accidentally pots the 8 ball, which is illegal. Another way to be declared the victor is to knock the 8 ball off the table.

In a call-pocket game or straight pool, you can choose which ball to pocket. However, you have to announce it before shooting. You should not pocket any other ball aside from the one you selected.

To win the pool game, you will need to pocket the number 8 ball after you have pocketed all seven balls.


3. Snooker

Snooker is organised into frames, meaning the player wins one by one by getting the most points. The process involves using the cue ball to pocket the red and coloured balls.

Here is the point system for each ball:

  • Red: 1 point
  • Yellow: 2 points
  • Green: 3 points
  • Brown: 4 points
  • Blue: 5 points
  • Pink: 6 points
  • Black: 7 points

You cannot pocket red balls continuously. For example, if you just pocketed a red ball, the next one should be a coloured ball. Then you follow it up with a red ball and so on. If you pocket the wrong ball, it’s called a foul, which gives your opponent a turn. Also, you do not earn any points.

All three table sports are fun to play. Pool is the most popular in Australia. If you’re looking for a pool table, you’re in the right place. Quedos makes beautiful, high-quality pool tables where you can enjoy all types of pool games. Contact us today and become an owner of a pool table from an award-winning team of professional craftsmen.