Is Pool a Sport or a Game?

person playing billiards

I watch a lot of pool, be it 8-ball, 9-ball, snooker, or any of the many variations of billiards you can find played in leagues around the world. If you are anything like me, you may have wondered whether pool is a sport or a game.

Maybe you are curious, maybe you want to win an argument, or maybe you just want to know if you can put “professional athlete” on your Facebook profile. Regardless, the distinction can be a tricky one.

Is pool a sport or a game?  Yes, pool is a sport, including all the variations of pool such as eight-ball, nine-ball, ten-ball, or snooker. Cue Sports are recognized internationally and even have their own governing bodies.

The phrase Cue Sports is an umbrella term to describe any variation of snooker or billiards. The World Confederation of Billiards Sports oversees Cue Sports on an international level.

Of course, if your debates involve some of the more athletic purists, they might argue the right for billiards to be called a sport. Keep reading if you want more information on how to distinguish between a game and a sport, or are curious to hear more about the world of Cue Sports.

What is the Difference Between a Sport and a Game?

Sport Game
A contest or game in which people do certain activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other* A physical or mental activity or contest that has rules and that people do for pleasure: a particular occurrence of a game*

*Definitions taken from Merriam-Webster:

The distinction between sport and game is better compared to the relationship between squares and rectangles. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Likewise, most occurrences of a sport are games, but not all games are sports.

You may ask a friend if they are going to “catch the big game” without necessarily bringing the status of Football as a sport into aspersion. Likewise, the Olympic Games or the World Games refer to events specifically created for competition among sports.

The key feature most people attest to as the difference between a game and a sport is the physical and mental exertion required to compete.

I might play Monopoly according to a specific set of rules, but (with the exception of my inevitable flipping the board out of frustration) I do not need any physical skill or exertion to roll the dice and move a piece. A sport, on the other hand, utilizes real skill and training.

Why Should Pool be Considered a Sport?

You might be wondering where the physical exertion is in billiards. After all, if you can drink and eat while you play, is it really a sport?

Billiards takes more physical exertion than you might realize. Professionals who play tournaments can sometimes play for hours, which can strain the lower back, abdominal, and upper leg muscles.

The technique involved in billiards also takes accurate muscular control and excellent hand-eye coordination. You may not need to chase a soccer ball up and down a field, but playing can cause legitimate strain. If you start playing pool more often, you may begin to find muscles you did not know you had.

Not to mention, playing billiards can take an incredible amount of mental focus. Players are required to understand many different interactions between the balls, including deflection, spin, and pacing to name a few.

Consider professional players, who often have to calculate these minutiae under the pressure of a shot clock. Now add in the knowledge that even a minuscule mistake could cause you to lose the game, and sometimes hundreds of thousands in prize money.

Related Questions

How do I enter into the world of Cue Sports?

The most common way to enter the world of Cue Sports is through a league. Leagues are systems of playing pool that allow you to compete locally and nationally within an official set of rules.

There are different kinds of leagues based on different rules and handicaps that are used. For instance, the American Pool Association (APA) has a different set of rules than the Billiard Congress of America (BCA).

 Oftentimes, leagues will compete locally before sending a certain number of top teams to compete at higher levels. Many pool leagues will give out prize money to the winning teams.

While local pool leagues are the most common, and accessible means of playing more competitively, there are professional tournaments that occur every year that feature incredible athletes. Pool players like Shane Van Boening, Efren Reyes, or Earl Strickland have made the sport look easy with some memorable and mind-boggling performances.

What kinds of Cue Sports are played professionally?

Some of the most common games played professionally in the United States are eight-ball and nine-ball. The association the tournament plays under dictates the specific set of rules for gameplay. Some associations have rules that make it more difficult, such as calling each shot, while others are less stringent.

The United States is not the only area where Cue Sports thrive. Billiards is also popular in the United Kingdom and even Asia. In the U.K. especially, Snooker is a version of billiards that has enjoyed enduring popularity it never quite achieved in the States.

Snooker is a version of Billiards played on a table that is almost twelve feet long. Although Snooker still falls under the category of Billiards, it looks quite different from what most people envision when they think of billiards.

Snooker uses fifteen red balls placed in the normal triangle, but with six other, different colored balls placed at specific spaces around the table. The game is point measured, with each ball pocketed earning a certain amount of points based on their color.

A player can also achieve points for blocking their opponent’s access to striking the correct balls, resulting in a “snooker.” The titular term describes the inability of an opponent to strike the correct ball without using a rail or some other means for an escape. Some professional snooker players to look into are Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, and John Higgins.

Are Cue Sports played only at a national or local level?

Unfortunately, Billiards has yet to gain recognition as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, though there is hope for a successful bid at entry into the 2024 Olympic Games.

One of the obstacles that stood in the way of entry into the Olympic Games in the past was a lack of international recognition for billiards as a sport. There is hope that the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and the World Confederation of Billiards (both of which govern billiards internationally) will be able to sway the committee in the future.

Cue Sports have already been recognized by other global sports events, including the World Games.

The International World Games Association and the International Olympic Committee govern the World Games, so many pool lovers are hopeful that participation in the World Games can sway members of the International Olympic Committee.

That said, Cue Sports do have their own international tournament. The Mosconi Cup is an annual nine-ball tournament that pits teams from Europe and the United States against each other. Only the top players receive invitations to join the teams and are chosen because of their achievements in other tournaments and championships.


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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