Billiards vs. Snooker

What's the Difference?

Billiards and snooker are both cue sports that are played on a table with balls and a cue stick, but they have some key differences. Billiards is typically played with only three balls: one white cue ball and two object balls. The objective is to score points by striking the object balls with the cue ball and pocketing them into the table's pockets. On the other hand, snooker is played with 21 balls, including 15 red balls, 6 colored balls, and one cue ball. The aim in snooker is to pocket the red balls first, followed by the colored balls, while accumulating points. Snooker is known for its complex rules and strategies, requiring players to plan several shots ahead. Overall, while both games share similarities, snooker offers a more intricate and strategic gameplay compared to the simpler nature of billiards.


Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash
Number of Balls1622
Table SizeVaries12 ft x 6 ft
Ball SizeVaries2 1/16 inches
Number of Players22
ObjectivePocket all ballsScore more points
Point SystemNonePoints awarded for pocketing specific balls
Maximum Break147147
Table Cloth ColorVariesGreen
Table Cushion MaterialRubberRubber
Table Pocket SizeVariesSmaller
Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Further Detail


Billiards and snooker are two popular cue sports that have captivated players and fans around the world for centuries. While both games are played on a table with cues and balls, they have distinct differences in terms of rules, equipment, and strategies. In this article, we will delve into the attributes of billiards and snooker, exploring their unique characteristics and highlighting the factors that set them apart.

Table and Equipment

One of the most noticeable differences between billiards and snooker lies in the size and design of the table. Billiards tables are typically larger, measuring 9 feet in length, while snooker tables are even larger, usually measuring 12 feet. The extra length of a snooker table allows for more intricate shot-making and strategic play.

Another key distinction is the number and arrangement of balls used in each game. Billiards is played with three balls: one white cue ball and two object balls, usually red and yellow. On the other hand, snooker employs a total of 21 balls, including 15 red balls, 6 colored balls, and one white cue ball. The colored balls in snooker have different point values and are strategically placed on the table.

Both games require the use of cues, but the cues used in billiards and snooker differ in terms of length and tip size. Billiards cues are typically shorter and have a larger tip diameter, allowing for more power and control. Snooker cues, on the other hand, are longer and have a narrower tip, enabling players to execute precise shots with finesse.

Rules and Gameplay

When it comes to the rules and gameplay, billiards and snooker have distinct sets of regulations that govern how the games are played.

In billiards, the objective is to score points by striking the cue ball to hit the object balls and pocket them into the table's pockets. Each pocketed ball earns the player a certain number of points, and the game continues until a predetermined point limit is reached or a player fails to pocket a ball.

Snooker, on the other hand, is a more complex game with a higher level of strategy. The primary objective in snooker is to score more points than the opponent by pocketing the red balls followed by the colored balls in a specific sequence. The player must alternate between potting a red ball and a colored ball until all reds are pocketed. After that, the colored balls must be potted in ascending order of their point values. The game ends when all balls are pocketed or when a player concedes.

Both games require players to demonstrate skill in cue ball control, shot selection, and positional play. However, snooker demands a higher level of precision and strategic planning due to the larger number of balls and the specific sequence in which they must be pocketed.

Scoring and Point System

The scoring systems in billiards and snooker are also different, reflecting the variations in gameplay and ball arrangement.

In billiards, each pocketed ball earns the player a predetermined number of points. For example, pocketing the red ball may be worth 1 point, while pocketing the yellow ball may be worth 2 points. The player with the highest score at the end of the game wins.

Snooker, on the other hand, employs a more intricate scoring system. Each red ball pocketed is worth 1 point, while the colored balls have different point values ranging from 2 to 7. The maximum break in snooker, achieved by potting all the balls in one continuous visit to the table, is 147 points. The player with the highest score at the end of the game emerges as the winner.

Strategy and Skill

Both billiards and snooker require players to possess a certain set of skills and employ strategic thinking to outmaneuver their opponents.

In billiards, players must focus on precise shot-making, cue ball control, and positioning to set up subsequent shots. The ability to calculate angles, judge speed, and apply spin to the cue ball are crucial skills in billiards. Players must also consider defensive strategies, such as leaving the cue ball in a difficult position for the opponent.

Snooker, on the other hand, demands a higher level of precision and strategic planning due to the larger number of balls and the specific sequence in which they must be pocketed. Players must carefully plan their shots, considering the position of the balls on the table and the potential for future shots. Safety shots, where the player intentionally leaves the cue ball in a challenging position for the opponent, are also an important aspect of snooker strategy.

Both games require players to possess excellent hand-eye coordination, concentration, and the ability to think several shots ahead. However, snooker's more complex gameplay and larger table size often make it a more mentally demanding game, requiring players to exhibit a higher level of patience and tactical thinking.

Popularity and Global Reach

Billiards and snooker have both enjoyed significant popularity and have attracted a dedicated following around the world.

Billiards, with its simpler rules and faster pace, has gained popularity in various countries, particularly in the United States. It is often played in pool halls, bars, and recreational centers, with numerous professional tournaments held annually.

Snooker, on the other hand, has a strong following in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. It is considered a major sport in countries like England, Scotland, and Australia, with prestigious tournaments such as the World Snooker Championship drawing large audiences and top players from around the globe.

While billiards and snooker have their regional preferences, both games have a dedicated fan base and continue to grow in popularity worldwide. The availability of televised tournaments and online streaming platforms has further contributed to the global reach of these cue sports.


In conclusion, billiards and snooker are two distinct cue sports that offer unique experiences to players and fans alike. While billiards is characterized by its simplicity and fast-paced gameplay, snooker stands out with its complex rules, larger table size, and strategic depth. Whether you prefer the precision and finesse of snooker or the quick thinking and shot-making of billiards, both games provide endless hours of entertainment and opportunities to showcase skill and strategy.

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