Billiards, Pool, Snooker: What's the Difference?
There are a lot of different names in the world of billiards. What’s the difference between billiards, pool, and snooker?
History of Billiards:
“Billiards” is a game that originated in the 15th century, adapted from an outdoor game similar to croquet. British royalty brought the game inside and made it a table-top game with bumpers and 3 or 4 balls. Unlike modern pool tables, the original game did not have pockets. The object of the game was to hit your target ball, have it bounce three times against the bumpers, then hit the second target ball.
Billiards quickly grew in popularity and spread across Europe and the world. While billiards was first thought of as a game for British royals in the 15th century, it quickly became part of mainstream culture and was widely recognized. In fact, it was so well-known that it is mentioned in the Shakespeare play “Antony and Cleopatra” which was first performed in 1607.
Today, the term “billiards” is more of a catch-all phrase referring to many table-top games. In the US the more common catch-all phrase is “pool”. Specific names of common, modern games are eight-ball, nine-ball, and Snooker.
In the U.S. the most popular game is eight-ball, which consists of a white cue ball, 7 striped balls, 7 solid-colored balls, and the black 8 ball. The object of the game is to get all of your balls (striped or solids) in the pockets (using the white cue ball as the striker) before the other team, then successfully “calling” and sinking the eight ball. Doing this would mean you successfully sunk eight balls (hence the name) before the other team.
Another popular game is nine-ball, which uses a diamond rack (unlike eight-ball which uses the more traditional triangle rack), nine balls numbered 1-9, and the white cue ball. The rules to this game are slightly different. When it is a player's turn, they use the cue stick to hit the white cue ball, but the first ball to be contacted by the cue ball must be the ball with the lowest number on the table. Sinking balls in pockets can be done in any order, but for a legal point you must hit the ball with the lowest number first.
Both eight-ball and nine-ball can be played on tables varying in size, as long as they are pool tables and have 6 pockets. Common sizes are 7-ft, 8-ft, and 9-ft tables (to choose the right size table for your home, check out this blog post). These games commonly use a 57” cue stick, but there are varying sizes depending on the height of the player or for limited space. Cue sticks can range from 48” to 58”.
Snooker was a game adapted from the traditional billiards in Britain. This game requires a slightly larger table, 12-ft, and uses 22 balls (white cue ball, 15 red, 1 yellow, 1 brown, 1 blue, 1 pink, 1 black, and 1 green). The unique difference with Snooker comes in the order in which a player must sink balls. With each “break” (or player’s turn) the player must sink a red ball first, then a colored ball, then back to red and so on. If a player legally sinks balls in accordance with the order, they keep going until they miss or illegally sink a ball, then the break ends and goes to the next player.
A Beloved Game:
Billiards has been played in the U.S. since its inception by people immigrating from all over the world. It has remained a popular game and beloved past-time for centuries. Today, people gather to play billiards in their homes, restaurants and bars, and communities centers of all kinds; there are 35 million Americans that report playing billiards games regularly (at least once a month). It is a versatile game that can be adapted to any skill level and ability -- and most importantly, it brings people together!