Have you found yourself wanting to play more snooker or pool, but can’t work out the differences between the two games?
Perhaps someone has invited you to play a game of billiards and you aren’t sure what it is? Or maybe you are looking for a new sport to play and want to know more?
Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you!
We know how confusing these table games can be. For a beginner or even a fan of the game, it can be hard to tell the difference between billiards, pool, and snooker.
After all, these games are all played with balls and cues on a table, how different could they be?
Well, quite different! And the last thing you want to do is play by the wrong rules and risk forfeiting the game. So we are here to help you.
Today we are taking on these three games and showing you their differences (and some similarities) so that you can leave here today an expert! Just keep reading to find out more.
History Of Billiards, Pool, And Snooker
Before we dive into the article, let’s take a step back and look at the history of these three sports.
Back in the fourteenth century, we saw the birth of indoor cue sports, a blanket term for different sports played with a cue. These indoor cue games came from European nobility and their need to entertain themselves all year.
While outdoor games and sports were fine in the summer and warmer weather, they struggled for entertainment in bad weather. It was this need for an indoor game that saw the evolution of these indoor cue games.
They took their outdoor games and transformed them into tabletop versions that could be played indoors, giving us cue sports.
Since then, the games have evolved. In some parts of the world ‘billiards’ is used to describe different indoor cue games like snooker and pool. Similarly, ‘pool’ is used like this in other parts of the world to describe these games.
We see lots of different versions of the games that can fall under the headings of pool, billiards, and snooker.
You can always find someone who uses completely different rules to you when playing pool or snooker. The rules are different across the world, with many accepted versions of the games.
They have come a long way since their conception and today we are here to discuss the different versions and help you tell the difference between these three sports.
Let’s get into the article and see how each game is played!
First up, we have billiards, also known as carom billiards.
This game is played with just three balls on a table with no pockets. It is said that carom billiards was the basis of snooker and pool before the games were adopted.
Now, you might not have heard of billiards, and that’s not surprising.
It isn’t very popular in the United States. We see it played more frequently across Europe, particularly in France where it is believed that the game was invented.
Let’s take a closer look at the tables, cues, and rules of billiards to give you a bit more information about this fine game.
Generally speaking, the game is played on a 4.7 x 9.3 or 5 x 10 feet table. 100% worsted wool is used for the fabric of the table, whereas other tables tend to use a mixture of wool and nylon to create their felt.
So why worsted wool? Well, it offers less resistance than other materials so the balls can travel faster along the surface. When it comes to billiards, you want fast balls!
The reason for this will be explained later when we look at the rules and point scoring methods used in the game.
Along with the material used for the table, another big difference between billiards, snooker, and pool is the lack of pockets on a billiards table.
The lack of pockets really sets billiards apart from the other two games.
Underneath the fabric of the table, there is a heated slate. These sheets of rock are used in most high-end tables and are placed just under the fabric.
They work to give the game a smooth and consistent field of play. They also help players play fast and are a requirement in international carom billiard tournaments.
We only use three balls in carom billiards, a white, yellow, and red ball. Sometimes, the yellow ball will be swapped out for a white ball with red or black dots though.
The balls are different from the ones that are used in pool and snooker.
Billiard balls weigh roughly 7.5 oz and measure 2.42 inches in diameter.
Over the years, these balls have been made with a range of materials including wood, clay, and ivory. But now, the balls are made exclusively with phenolic resin.
The cues used in carom billiards tend to be lighter and shorter than the cues seen in pool halls. They will also have a thicker butter, shorter ferrule, and conical taper that can be used to identify these cues.
If you are ever stuck and unsure what cue you have selected, take a look at the tip too. Billiard cues tend to have a smaller tip than those used in snooker and pool.
Now the weight of these cues will vary depending on the type of game. But generally speaking, a billiard cue weighs between 165 and 18.5 ounces.
They are made with a wood-to-wood joint and high-end cues will also feature a wooden joint pin. They are usually 54 to 56 inches long too.
Let’s find out how the game is played! There are lots of different games played on billiard tables around the world, which means we can expect lots of different rules to get our heads around.
Let’s look at the most popular game, three-cushion billiards.
In this game, points are scored when you use a cue ball to hit the other two balls on the table.
While that might sound fairly simple, your cue ball must hit three cushions after hitting the first ball and before it hits the second ball.
If you don’t hit three cushions, then you forfeit your turn. Then the second player goes.
If they fail to hit the three cushions but manage to hit the second object ball, then they lose a point.
To win the game, one winning score is decided before the game begins. The game only ends when one player reaches that agreed-upon score.
This means that the length of gameplay can vary depending on the set score and the player’s ability to hit the three cushions.
Next, we have pool, also known as 8 or 9 ball, which are the most popular games played on standard pool tables. But even these games have a wide variety of rules which usually depend on local preferences and customs.
To keep things simple, we will just be discussing the most popular kinds of pool played today.
You might still find some other rules when you play in different locations or with different players. Let’s look at the pool in closer detail now.
Tables used at home tend to be slightly larger, measuring at 4 x 8 feet. And during professional tournaments, bigger tables are used again.
These tend to be 4.5 x 9 feet. So when playing pool, you can expect to come across different sized tables!
Regardless of size, all tables will have six pockets. There is one in each corner, and one halfway down each long side of the table. The tables feature a felt top, made with a combination of wool and nylon.
Compared to the billiard tables we looked at earlier, the fabric on pool tables offers more resistance, making the ball travel at a slower speed.
Underneath the felt, there is a slate surface. We see slate surfaces typically on high-end and professional pool tables, while tables used in bars or homes can be made from wood.
Regardless of the level of the player, slate is the preferred surface as it provides a more even and consistent surface.
As we mentioned earlier, 8 ball and 9 ball are some of the most common pool games.
These are played with 15 and 9 balls respectively, not including the cue ball. A standard pool table ball set will include 15 object balls and one cue ball.
The object balls are numbered 1 to 7 and have a different solid color.
The remaining object balls numbered 9 to 15 feature a different striped color. Finally, you have the black 8 ball.
These balls tend to have a diameter of 2.25 inches and weigh between 5.5 and 6 ounces. The balls used in coin-operated tables (that you find in pool halls and bars) usually have slightly larger balls than others.
When it comes to tournament play or standard ball sets though, you can expect the diameter and weight listed above.
Generally, pool cues are lighter and longer than the billiard cues we looked at earlier. They are roughly 58 inches long and come with a weight range of 18 to 21 ounces.
The cues work through the range in half-ounce intervals, with the different weights relating to a different use for the cue.
The heavier cues are usually used for breaking at the start of the game and lighter cues to get the more accurate shot.
It’s worth noting that this varies depending on the player and their performance.
When it comes to pool, 8 ball is the most common in the US, played in pool halls, homes, and bars.
It is often played with more than 9 balls and is probably the game you will have played or seen played.
You use all fifteen balls and a cue ball to play 8 ball. Take a wooden or plastic triangle stored with the table and rack the balls into formation. You want the black 8 ball to be in the middle of the formation.
There are a few different ways you can decide who takes the first shot and this does vary depending on who you are playing with. The first shot is known as the break shot and will start the game.
After this, two players or teams will take turns shooting the cue ball at the object ball, the goal is to sink, or pott them into a pocket.
The first ball potted will determine which player or team will shoot solids and which shoot stripes. The player who sinks the first ball will decide what balls they will play.
After this point, players can only aim for their own balls. If they successfully sink a target ball, they can continue to play until they miss a shot or win the game.
Otherwise, the players take turns until one of them shoots a ball.
If a solid player sinks a striped ball, it is considered a foul. As punishment, their turn is lost. Sometimes, this is reversed and each player will try to sink the other player’s balls first.
No matter the way you play, the concept is the same.
The first player to get all of their target balls potted can try and pot the 8-ball, the black ball we mentioned earlier. To win the game, you must be the first player to legally pot the 8 ball.
Finally, we have snooker, which works differently to pool and billiards.
The tables, balls, cues, and rules are all different. The only real similarity to pool is that snooker tables have the same number of pockets.
Let’s take a closer look at snooker to help you better understand this game.
Snooker tables tend to be lower-set and will be larger than pool tables. Typical snooker tables are 5 x 10 feet in America and 6 x 12 feet in Europe.
While these tables have the same six pockets as a pool table, they tend to be smaller.
That’s because snooker balls are smaller than pool balls, so do not require large pockets to be potted in.
Snooker tables use a similar cloth and slate bed to pool tables too and provide these tables with the best playing surface.
Snooker uses 21 colored balls and a white cue ball.
The balls tend to be 2 ⅙ inches in diameter, which is a little smaller than those used in pool. In snooker, you have 15 red balls and a yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black ball.
A good way to tell snooker and pool apart is to look at the colored balls used. Compared to pool, all of the snooker balls are a solid color.
Snooker cues tend to have a smaller tip and lighter weight than their pool counterparts.
They tend to weigh between 16 and 18 ounces, with the most common cue weight being 17 ounces.
The cues also share a similar trait with pool cues, measuring roughly 59 inches long.
Just like in pool, one player must break the racked balls at the beginning of the game.
After that, each player takes turns attempting to sink balls to score points. Before pocketing a colored ball, players must pocket a red ball.
In terms of points, red balls are worth one point each and the other colors all have different amounts. You can check these out below:
- Black – 7 points
- Pink – 6 points
- Blue – 5 points
- Brown – 4 points
- Green – 3 points
- Yellow – 2 points
While playing, pocketed red balls remain in the pockets. The other colored balls are replaced after they have been sunk. Each frame is over when all the red balls are pocketed.
At this point, the players will tally up the points they have recorded during the game.
A scoring abacus is used to keep track of the scores.
When playing snooker, you play to a predetermined number of points. The game continues until a player reaches that number. That player then wins the game.
And there you have it, the differences between billiards, pool, and snooker!
While all three games are played indoors on tables, there are many differences, ranging from the materials used, the size and weight of the balls, and the rules followed.
These differences can vary depending on where you play each game too, so we recommend checking with other players what rules they follow before you start playing the game.
And whether you are playing on a large, tournament-style table, or a smaller table, you are sure to have fun!
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