Are Billiards and Pool the Same Thing? (Snookers and Carom too?)

rack of pool balls in triangle rack on table

Is it Pool? Or Billiards? If you’re just as confused as I was when I first started shooting pool, it’s totally normal.

Are billiards and pool the same thing? Pool is actually a type of a Billiard game. Billiards (or “Cue Sports”) refers to when a game is played with a cue stick where you strike a ball on a cloth-covered table surrounded by bumpers (cushions).

People in the United States often use “Billiards” and “Pool” interchangeably as the same thing.

There are 3 different major types of Billiard games:

  • Pool
  • Snooker
  • Carom

Every billiard game starts with the same goal of hitting a ball with a cue stick to eventually win the game. Each different type of billiard game has a set of different rules, equipment, and terminology.

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Each type of billiard game is usually more popular in other countries versus others.

An example is in the United States, Pool is really common. Another example is Snooker is the most popular in the United Kingdom. Pretty interesting right? Stick around and we’ll go over everything.

What Exactly is Pool?

Pool is a game that is played with Numbered Balls, 6 Pockets and on a rectangular table where the size can be 7 feet, 8 feet, or 9 feet tables. The most popular type of pool game in the US is 8-ball.

8-Ball is actually the worlds most widely played Cue Sport game. Pretty amazing right?

Other types of pool games are:

  • 9-Ball
  • 10-Ball
  • Straight Pool (Also known as 14.1)
  • One-Pocket
  • Bank Pool

These are all different pool games which fall under the umbrella of Billiards. It’s like saying that the car you drive is a Honda Accord. Your Honda is a type of Vehicle. Just like Pool is a type of Billiards. Makes sense?

If you want to know how to specifically play 8-Ball and the different rules there are in bars versus the rules in league play, check out my post here.

What is Snooker?

Snooker is a specific type of Billiards game that is played 22 total balls with 6 Pockets on 12-foot tables where the objective of the game is to have more points than your opponent. The balls are Non-Numbered and have 6 different colors which all have different point values if you make them.

  • Red = 1
  • Yellow = 2
  • Green = 3
  • Brown = 4
  • Blue = 5
  • Pink = 6
  • Black = 7

As you can see, making certain balls gives you more points versus other balls. Each ball has an assigned point value.

How Do You Win in Snooker?

To win at Snookers, you have to have more points than your opponent by making balls; with the caveat that the red ball and other colored balls must be pocketed alternatively.

When the 6 colored balls (non-red balls) are made, they are returned to their designated positions on the table. When there are no red balls left, the other 6 colored balls do not return. After that, when all the balls are made, whomever has the most points wins the game.

Snooker tables are considerably larger than Pool tables. The average pool table is 4×8 (8 feet table) where a snooker table is 6×12 (12 feet table).

Snooker is the most popular in the UK but is common in other countries too like China.

What is Carom Billiards?

Carom Billiards (also known as Carambole) is played on a 10-Foot table with no pockets where the table is normally heated (to increase the speed of the balls).

One of the most popular types of Carom is “3-Cushion” wherein the simplest explanation is the objective of the game is to score points by “caroming” your own cue ball off your opponent’s cue ball, the red object ball, and 3 Rails. Hence, the nickname “3-Cushion”.

Caroming means a shot where the cue ball hits off of another ball or rail. It’s like rebounding off the ball you hit to hit something else.

How To Play 3 Cushion Billiards

Let’s break it down 3 Cushion rules in layman’s terms.

There are 3 balls:

  • Red Ball
  • White Cue Ball
  • Yellow Cue Ball

One person has the White Cue Ball while their opponent has the Yellow Cue Ball. The rule to score a point is very specific where your cue ball must:

  • Hit 3 cushions
  • Hit The Other 2 Object Balls

Example: I am shooting the White cue ball and I hit my opponents Yellow cue ball, 3 cushions, and then the Red ball. I have successfully scored a point.

Any of the requirements of scoring a point can be completed in any order. This means I can hit the red ball, yellow ball, then 3 cushions and that still counts as a point.

The first person to reach 40 points win the match.

Other types of Carom Billiards include:

  • Cushion Caroms (Indirect Game)
  • Balkline and Straight Rail
  • Artistic Billiards (Fantasy Billiards)
  • 4 Ball (4 Ball Carom)

Carom Billiards is considered one of the more difficult billiard games because the player has to know a good amount of overall billiard knowledge to succeed in the game.

“Carom” is short for “Carambole” which is sometimes used interchangeably for the game of Straight Rail

As you can see Carom Billiards is very different from Pool and Snooker. Unfortunately, Carom is not very common at all in the US but is more common in Europe; specifically France. It is also popular in other Asian Countries like Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.

Related Questions

Where Did Billiards Originate From?

Billiards may have originally come from stick & ball games played on grass and a stick and a mallet-like head and balls (think croquet) from the 15th century. It is said that the word billiard came from the French word billart or billette which translates to “Stick”. History says that some form of billiards was even played by King Louis XI of France!

Apparently, a lot of high class royalty people played early billiard forms of games.

No one can say 100% for sure where it truly came from but many say it could’ve came from northern Europe and perhaps specifically France.

Eventually the game would evolve over time where the equipment changed to pool sticks and pockets were formed. England was a major player in the 1800’s where you saw the equipment vastly improve.

Billiards gained a lot of popularity in the US after the movie “The Hustler” came out which sparked a lot of hype around the game.

What Are The Differences Between Snooker and Pool?

The major difference is that Pool is usually played on an 8 foot table (4×8) where Snooker is played on a 12-foot table (6×12) and the different colored/numbered balls. Snooker has non-numbered balls with specific colors with assigned point values where Pool has up to 15 numbered balls.

Since the table is bigger in Snooker, this requires snooker players to usually shoot with longer cues. Additionally, the pockets are smaller on a snooker table versus a pool table. This makes it much more difficult to pocket a ball.

Snooker is a specific type of Billiard game where the winner is declared by whomever has more points; whereas there are several different types of pool games like 8 ball or 9 ball where their objectives differ.

What Are The Differences Between Carom and Pool?

Carom is a much more difficult game with no pockets where pool has 6 pockets and is usually played on a smaller table. Caroms most popular game 3-cushion, has the objective to strike 3 cushions and 2 object balls on the pocket-less table to score point(s). This makes it increasingly harder compared to pool.


Benny is the owner of Supreme Billiards and has been shooting pool and teaching people how to shoot pool for a few years now. He enjoys showing new players techniques and drills to improve their pool game.

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