Confused if billiards and pool are the same thing? In short, they are not. The term billiards is an umbrella term for all the cue sports (games played with cue sticks and hard billiard balls on a raised surface such as a table). So, pool is basically a type of billiard game, played with billiard balls. Two most popular types of cue sports are carom billiards and pocket billiards (aka pool).
Also called carambole billiards (or just billiards in non-British English) is a type of billiards in which the table is entirely bounded by the cushions, and only three balls are used, unlike the pool game.
Pocket billiards, which is most commonly called pool, is a game that consists of sixteen small balls (a cue ball and fifteen object balls). It is played on a pool table having six pockets built into the rails to pot the balls into.
Differences between Billiards and Pool:
The cue sports evolved from ancient outdoor stick-and-ball games, referred to as “ground billiards.”
Carom billiards as a class of games goes way back to the 15th century, and it evolved from lawn games just like golf. It was long the most popular type of billiards and still remains an important international sport. Carom billiards’ most popular game, three-cushion, is played and intensely popular in regions like Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In earlier times, this game was an extremely complicated and challenging game to play.
Pool billiards in its modern form dates back to the 1800s. Only a few people know that the most popular game, eight-ball pool, is derived from an earlier game, B.B.C. Co. Pool, invented by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company around 1900 (popularized in 1925).
However, the most intense pool game is the nine-ball, which has been the choice of professionals since the 1970s.
The objective of billiards is either to score a fixed number of points or the most points within a set frame time, which is determined before playing the game.
The goal of pool is to pot the numbered or colored balls using the cue ball with the cue stick. The goals of this game vary region to region because every country may have its own set of rules. For example, in Russian billiards, points are scored for pocketing the cue ball.
The billiard balls may vary in size, design, and number area to area and game to game. Until the late 1800s, the dominant material that was used to make these balls was ivory or clay; wood was also used for cheaper sets of balls. However, the balls made of ivory were costly, and there was a need to find a substitute for this material. This led to the development of celluloid, which was the first industrial plastic.
Ever since, the balls are made of various compounds of plastic such as phenolic resin, polyester, and acrylic.
There are two cue balls (one’s either marked or colored) and one red object ball in billiards. Some games may have two object balls and two cue balls.
Pool game generally has sixteen balls including a cue ball and fifteen object balls (either stripes or solids, or reds and yellows).
The billiard balls are bigger than the pool balls (with a diameter of 61.5 mm). The weight of each billiard ball is between 205 and 220 grams.
Pool balls are internationally standardized to be 57 mm in diameter and of the same weight as of the billiard balls. However, British-style balls are even smaller in size (51 mm), and may also feature a smaller, lighter cue ball.
All the pool tables (we can add the link to our best pool tables article) are rectangles, twice in length as compared to their width (except some tables like bumper pool and some novelty tables). High-quality pool tables have a multi-slab slate bed which has the baize stretched over it.
A carom billiards table is standardized to have a play surface of 9.3 by 4.7 feet. You might also see some American tables having the dimensions of 10 by 5 feet. On the other hand, English billiards are played on large tables measuring 12 by 6 feet.
Pool tables have a playing surface of 9 by 4.5 feet. Smaller models of pool tables can be as small as 8 by 4 feet or 7 by 3.5 feet, making an ideal choice for homes and bars/pubs. Until the 1920s, larger pool tables of 10 by 5 feet were standard.
Tables of carom billiards and pool billiards are covered with a fine-woven cloth called baize, which is usually made of 100% worsted wool or 100% synthetics. Traditionally, the cloth color is green, but now you can see tables having different colors of cloths with prints like team or company logos.
The word baize is a commonwealth term, which is preferred in North American English. It is also mistakenly referred to as “felt.”
Most players prefer faster-playing 100% woolen cloth as it makes it easy for them to pace their shots with quite an accuracy. This type of cloth is most commonly used on home tables and high-end pool halls and parlors. However, practically, there is no core difference between pool and carom cloth. One can use the same cloth on both the billiards and pool table.
Carom billiards do not have a rack as only three balls are used in the game, and they may be released randomly, depending upon the specific game in question. While on the other hand, a triangular rack made of either plastic or steel is used to arrange the fifteen object balls at the beginning of the straight pool, 8-ball pool, or many other types of pool games. While a diamond-shaped rack is used in nine-ball.
The stick with which the billiard games are played is called a cue, which was earlier developed from a golf-club-like implement called the mace in the mid-1800s. Most modern billiard cues today are wooden, have leather tips, are often hand-made, and may have different types of decorations on them.
Pool cue sticks are usually a little longer than carom billiards, having slightly smaller tips. However, both games’ cues are the same in construction and materials.
Also, there is a two-piece personal cue that can be easily carried in a case. Depending on the cost, cues are made of various materials such as varieties of wood, while cheap, low-quality cue sticks are made of ramin.
Cue aids such as chalk cubes are also available that is applied to the tip of the cue stick during the game in order to prevent miscuing, especially when trying to impart spin to the ball.
Most common game
Three-cushion is the most common game of billiards. In this type of game, the player must use a specific cue ball to hit the other two balls on the table (object balls) at least three rail cushions, and then the other remaining ball, in order to score points.
In pool, the most common and popular game is the eight-ball pool in which each player claims a suit (either stripes or solids/ reds or yellows), pots all the balls of that suit, then legally pocket the 8-ball in order to win the game. But these rules aren’t fixed because they vary game to game and region to region, as mentioned above.
Billiards is a broad term that includes many games, including pool, which means they are not the same thing, but surely relatable. We hope that this article has helped clear all your confusions regarding the differences between billiards and pool.