What’s the Difference Between Pool, Billiards, and Snooker?
While the terms ‘billiards’ and ‘pool’ are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. ‘Billiards’ was originally a term to describe a game called ‘carom billiards’ exclusively, but has since evolved into a general term to describe a variety of games played on a table with balls and a cue stick.
While carom billiards and pool are often played with similar equipment, each game is different and thus has different rules. Likewise, snooker is also a game played with similar equipment, yet has its own set of rules.
#1 - Different Equipment
The most glaring difference between pool, billiards, and snooker is the number of balls used to play them.
Billiards: Uses only 3 balls. 1 each of white, yellow, and red, with both the white and the yellow able to act as the striker ball. The balls are 2 7/16 inches in diameter.
Pool: The number of balls can change depending on the variant of the game, however, a full set of balls consists of 16 balls, each 2 ¼ inches in diameter: 8 balls of solid colors numbered 1 to 8, 7 balls with striped colors numbered 9 to 15, and a solid white ‘cue’ ball.
Snooker: Uses 22 balls, including a white ball known as the ‘striker’ ball. The other balls used are 15 red balls, and 1 each of yellow, brown, blue, pink, black, and green. Each ball is 2 1/16 inches in diameter.
#2 - Different Tables
Pool & Billiards: Most carom billiards and pool games are played on either a 7-foot pool table (also known as a bar table), an 8-foot pool table (sometimes called a home or recreational table), or a 9-foot table (known as a pro or tournament table). Carom billiard tables do not have pockets, whereas pool tables have pockets.
Snooker: Pocketed tables are used. American tables are typically 10-foot tables, and English snooker tables are massive 12-foot tables.
#3 - Different Rules
Of course, each game has a comprehensive list of rules, including a number of variations.
Carom Billiards: The main idea in a game of carom billiards games is to score points, called ‘counts’, by bouncing one's own ball, called a cue ball, off of the other two balls on the table.
Pool: There are many games that can fall under the umbrella of ‘pool’, however in straight pool, players can score points by shooting the balls into the table’s pockets (called ‘pocketing’ the ball). Before the game, players agree to reach a certain number of points to be declared the winner (a typical game is 100 points, whereas a professional game is usually 150 points). Players can pocket any ball on the table, and each successfully pocketed ball awards the player one point. Straight pool is a ‘call-pocket’ game, meaning players must declare which ball they intend to go in which pocket before shooting. For the shot to be successful, the intended ball must reach the intended pocket.
Snooker: Snooker games are organized into frames. The player can win a frame by scoring the most points, using the cue ball to pocket the red and colored balls. The red balls are each worth 1 point, whereas the yellow is worth 2 points, the green 3 points, the brown 4 points, the blue 5 points, the pink 6 points, and the black 7 points. Rules govern which ball can be pocketed at on a given turn. Balls that may be pocketed on any given turn are the “on” balls. For example, if a red ball is pocketed, this must be followed by a colored ball, which must in turn be followed by a red ball. If the wrong ball is pocketed, this is considered a ‘foul’ and the player does not receive points for pocketing the ball.
- David Barry