What’s the Difference Between Billiards, Pool, & Snooker

Billiards, pool, and snooker appear to be very similar but the three vary based on the number of balls, pockets, table size, cue stick size, and several other factors. Some people use the term billiards and pool interchangeably. This isn’t completely incorrect however. Pool is a type of billiards game. Have we confused you yet? Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between billiards, pool, and snooker.

Differences between Billiards, Pool, & Snooker:

  • Billiards – played on a table that has no pockets and uses 3 balls. One red ball, one white ball with a spot, and one white ball without a spot.
  • Pool – played on a table with 6 pockets with 9 to 15 object balls plus an additional cue ball. The number of balls depends on the type of pool you’re playing. More on that below.
  • Snooker – played on a table that has 6 pockets. Snooker tables are larger than pool tables but the pockets are smaller than a pool tables’. Snooker is played with 15 pink numberless balls, 6 numbered object balls, and 1 cue ball.

Billiards Table

Billiards

Billiards is a family of games that are played on a table with pockets and a cue stick. “Carom billiards” was the original name. Billiards is a type of game with many others falling within this category, collectively called “cue sports.” Cue sports, or billiards, include all sports that are played with a cue stick and billiarded balls on top of a cloth covered table with leather (or rubber) borders. Billiards is divided into 3 sub-categories; pocket billiards or “pool,” carom billiards, and snooker.

Fun Fact: The word “billiard” originated from the French word “billart” which means “mace.” The mace was an object that was used before the modern day cue stick.

Pool

 

As stated above, pool is a type of billiards game. The term “pool” is used to refer to billiards games that use pockets (pocket billiards). Pocketed billiards was the original term used for the game. “Pool” is a short for “poolrooms.”

Back in the 18th century, gamblers came to poolrooms to bet on horse races which was illegal back then. The money was “pooled” into a large pot. In order to make poolrooms appear to be less suspicious, poolrooms often had pocketed billiard tables. Gamblers would play casually while they waited on the results of the real game. Out of this, the pool table received its name.

Within the sub-category of pool there are many different types of pool including 8 ball (most popular), 9 ball, straight pool, and one pocket pool. Each pool table has 6 pockets. The cloth on a pool table is much slower than a billiard table. Pool balls are a standard 2 1/4” in diameter.

Difference Between Pool and Billiards

  • Table Size – Pool tables are at least 3.5’ x 7’ while billiards tables are much larger with a minimum size of 5’ x 10’.
  • Balls – Pool uses anywhere from 9-15 object balls depending on which game you’re playing. Billiards uses 3 balls that are larger than pool balls.
  • Cloth – The cloth on a pool table makes the balls travel slower. Cloth on a billiards table is fast.
  • Cue Stick – Pool cues are longer and have a thinner shaft. Billiard cue sticks are smaller but have a thicker butt and a shorter ferrule that makes the stick taper faster. They also have a wooden pin joint and a small tip.

Snooker

Snooker table at Grove Farm

Snooker uses 21 balls (measuring 2 1/8”) plus an additional white cue ball. There are 15 red, 1 yellow, 1 brown, 1 blue, 1 pink, 1 black, and 1 green. In snooker, the yellow, brown, blue, pink, black, and green are referred to as object balls. Snooker is different from billiards and pool because there are three balls that can be used as a striker to hit other balls whereas you can only hit the white cue ball in the former. As if to make things more complicated, Europeans prefer 6 x 10 snooker tables while Americans prefer smaller 5 x 10 tables.

The main goal of snooker is to score more points than your opponent by pocketing red balls and object balls (alternating). Once all the red balls have been pocketed, you can then begin to pocket the remaining object balls in a specific order.

Conclusion

Billiards, pool, and snooker are three different games that are all played on a cloth covered table. The main difference is the size of the table and the number of balls used in the game. Although they are closely related and have even evolved from one another, they are distinctly types of cue sports.

More Fun Reads:

  1. More About Pool Tables
  2. Snooker Rules – How to Play the Right Way
  3. How to Play 9 Ball Pool – Complete List of Rules