Billiards vs. Pool

What's the Difference?

Billiards and pool are both cue sports that are played on a table with balls and a cue stick, but they have some key differences. Billiards is a more general term that encompasses various cue sports, including pool. It is typically played on a larger table with no pockets, focusing on carom shots where the cue ball must hit both object balls. On the other hand, pool is a specific type of billiards that is played on a smaller table with six pockets. Pool games, such as eight-ball and nine-ball, involve pocketing specific balls in a certain order. While both billiards and pool require skill, strategy, and precision, the main distinction lies in the table size and the objective of the game.


Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash
Number of Balls316
Table Size10 feet7, 8, or 9 feet
Game TypesStraight Rail, Three-Cushion, etc.Eight-Ball, Nine-Ball, etc.
Cue Stick Length57-59 inches57-59 inches
Table ClothTypically greenVarious colors
ObjectiveScore points by hitting ballsPocket all assigned balls
Scoring SystemPoints-basedBall-based
Shot TypesBank shot, Carom shot, etc.Straight shot, Bank shot, etc.
Commonly Played WorldwideYesYes
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Further Detail


Billiards and pool are two popular cue sports that have captivated players and enthusiasts for centuries. While both games are played on a table with cues and balls, there are distinct differences in terms of rules, table size, and gameplay. In this article, we will explore the attributes of billiards and pool, highlighting their unique characteristics and discussing the various aspects that set them apart.

Table Size and Equipment

One of the primary differences between billiards and pool lies in the size of the table. Billiards is typically played on a larger table, measuring 10 feet in length, while pool tables are commonly 7, 8, or 9 feet long. The larger size of the billiards table allows for more challenging shots and requires players to have greater control over the cue ball.

Another distinction is the equipment used in each game. Billiards is played with three balls: a white cue ball, a red object ball, and a yellow object ball. The red ball is worth one point, while the yellow ball is worth two points. On the other hand, pool is played with 16 balls, including one white cue ball, seven solid-colored balls, seven striped balls, and the black 8-ball. The objective in pool is to pocket all of your designated balls (either solids or stripes) and then sink the 8-ball to win the game.

Gameplay and Scoring

When it comes to gameplay, billiards and pool also differ in their rules and scoring systems. In billiards, players must strike the cue ball to hit the red and yellow object balls, aiming to score points by pocketing them. The player with the highest score at the end of a predetermined number of rounds or innings is declared the winner.

On the other hand, pool has various game variations, including 8-ball, 9-ball, and straight pool. In 8-ball, the most popular pool game, players are assigned either the solid-colored balls or the striped balls. They must pocket all of their designated balls and then sink the 8-ball to win. In 9-ball, players must pocket the balls in numerical order, with the player who sinks the 9-ball winning the game. Straight pool, also known as 14.1 continuous, requires players to reach a predetermined number of points by pocketing any ball on the table.

Scoring in billiards is straightforward, with each ball pocketed earning the player its designated points. In pool, however, the scoring can vary depending on the game being played. In 8-ball, for example, each pocketed ball is worth one point, while sinking the 8-ball at the end awards the player eight points. In 9-ball, the balls are worth their numerical value, with the 9-ball being worth nine points.

Strategy and Skill

Both billiards and pool require a combination of strategy and skill, but the approach to the game differs. In billiards, players must focus on precise positioning and controlling the cue ball to set up subsequent shots. The larger table size and fewer balls make it essential to plan several moves ahead, considering the angles and potential carom shots.

Pool, on the other hand, often involves more tactical decision-making. Players must strategically choose which balls to target and plan their shots accordingly. The presence of multiple balls on the table adds complexity, requiring players to consider both offensive and defensive strategies. In games like 8-ball, players may also need to strategize how to use their opponent's balls to their advantage or set up difficult shots for their opponent.

Both games demand a high level of skill and precision. Players must possess excellent cue ball control, accurate shot-making abilities, and a deep understanding of angles and spin. Mastering the art of positioning and executing shots with finesse is crucial in both billiards and pool.

Popularity and Cultural Impact

Billiards and pool have both enjoyed significant popularity and have made their mark on popular culture. Billiards, with its rich history dating back to the 15th century, has been associated with elegance and sophistication. It has been featured in numerous movies, books, and artwork, often depicted as a game played by gentlemen in luxurious settings.

Pool, on the other hand, has a more casual and accessible image. It gained widespread popularity in the United States during the 20th century, becoming a staple in bars, pool halls, and recreational spaces. Pool has been prominently featured in movies like "The Hustler" and "The Color of Money," further cementing its place in popular culture.

Both billiards and pool have also evolved into competitive sports, with professional tournaments and leagues held worldwide. The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) governs international pool competitions, while the Union Mondiale de Billard (UMB) oversees billiards events. These organizations have helped elevate the status of both games and attract a dedicated community of players and fans.


In conclusion, while billiards and pool share similarities as cue sports played on a table with cues and balls, they have distinct attributes that set them apart. Billiards is played on a larger table with three balls, focusing on precise positioning and scoring points. Pool, on the other hand, is played on smaller tables with 16 balls, requiring strategic decision-making and pocketing designated balls to win the game.

Both games demand skill, precision, and a deep understanding of angles and spin. Billiards has a long-standing history and is associated with elegance, while pool has gained popularity as a more casual and accessible game. Regardless of personal preference, both billiards and pool offer endless hours of entertainment and opportunities for players to showcase their talent and strategic prowess.

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