Differences and Similarities Between Pool and Billiards

Most of the time, the words pool and billiards are used interchangeably as they both refer to games played on similar-looking tables with a cue and balls. However, what many people don’t realize is that these two words have different meanings, and the games also have some striking differences, particularly in table features. 

Originally, billiards pertained to any type of cue sport, including pool, carom billiards, and snooker. Pool, on the other hand, refers to a game played on a pool table. This is why a lot of people today are asking, “Are billiards and pool the same thing?” In fact, even the people who play either of the games are not sure about the distinguishing characteristics among the two. 

If you are into these games, then you’ve probably thought about this question, too. People usually have their own assumptions and judgments. For instance, some might think that they just have different regional names but are the same game. But that is actually incorrect. If you have the same question in mind, you’re in the right place. In this post, we are giving you the differences and similarities between pool and billiards. 

Cue Sports

Cue sports are known as billiard sports, which are all basically indoor sports. It is a group of sports that are played using a cue stick and billiard balls. These are placed on a cloth-covered table that has rubber or leather cushion boundaries. Cue sports are divided into three subgroups, which are carom billiards, snooker, and pocket billiards. All of these are three totally different games, which are unified under the name “billiards.” 

Both pool and billiards belong to the group of cue sports. In fact, this can be the only similarity that the two games have, but there are lots of differences. 

What is Pool

man playing a game of pool

Did you know that pool is not the original name of the game? What most of us call pool is originally known as pocket billiards. The history of the game goes back to the 18th century when it was played in the poolrooms, where the gamblers of horse races used to “pool” the money that was used to bet. Hereafter, the game got connected to the poolrooms and the gamblers. In the later time, pocket billiards was initially the pastime of the rich and refined people. Even though many initiatives were done by the rich class, the name pool got stuck to the game, and it is still known today. 

The game of pool uses various equipment than that of carom billiards. It is played on a pocketed table. The balls used in this game are smaller compared to that of carom billiards. There are various types of pocket billiards the are played around the world. Some are under famous names, such as eight-ball pool, one pocket pool, nine-ball pool, and straight pool. 

A pool table has 6 pockets that are bounded at the sides of the table. The cloth of a pool table is slow compared to that of the billiard table. Also, two sets of balls are used in this game. One set of colored balls and the other set of striped balls. These sets are mixed into a single set of 7 balls, which is set up with a set of 8 black balls. 

What is Billiards?

a game of carom billiards

The name “billiards” can be given to the whole group of cue sports. The original term is “carom billiards.” It is also sometimes called “carambola billiards.” It is played on cloth-covered but pocketless tables. There are many types of carom billiards, such as straight rail, cushion carom, three-cushion billiards, artistic billiards, and balkline. 

The word “carom” is a kind of abbreviation of the Spanish and Portuguese term “carambola,” which means rebound after hitting. The term came into general use in late 1860, and it was used to describe the red ball. The balls used in carom billiards are larger and heavier compared to that of the pool balls. In addition to that, the balls used are heavier and larger compared to the pool balls. Also, the cloth used is fast, where the balls move more swiftly. 

The game is played with three balls. One red, one white, and one yellow. Among these balls, the yellow and white balls can both be used as cue balls or strikers. The main goal of the three-cushion billiards is to hot both the target balls with the cue balls while making three rails in tandem. That process is referred to as “carom.” 

Billiards vs. Pool: What Are the Differences?

After learning what pool and billiards are, the equipment used, and how they are played, you can take a look at the table below for their differences:

Comparison Criteria Billiards Pool
History As a class of games, billiards dates back to the 15th century. Like golf, it evolved from lawn games that are similar to croquet. The modern form of the game of pool as we know it today dates back to the 1800s. But there are variants of pocket billiards that have been popular from the earliest days of billiards.
Cue The game of billiards is played using a stick called a cue. It developed from a golf-club-like implement called the mace in the mid-1800s. Today, modern billiard cues feature leather tips. They are mostly wooden and hand-made. The cues used in a game of pool are a bit longer compared to the cues used in carom billiards. They also have smaller tips. There are many mass-produced and inexpensive cues for the game that are available today.
Balls Balls in billiard usually come as a set of 2 cue balls and 1 red object ball. There are games that call for 2 object balls and 2 cue balls. Pool balls normally come in sets of 2 suits, which are usually stripes and solids, of 7 object balls each, an 8-ball and a cue ball. 
Ball Size The balls used in billiards are 61.5mm in diameter, and they weigh between 205 to 220 grams. The standard size of pool balls is 57mm in diameter and of the same weight. British-style balls are smaller and lighter, mostly just 51mm in diameter.
Cloth Used The table used in billiards is covered with a finely-woven cloth referred to as baize. It is usually made using 100% worsted wool. It is traditionally green, which represents the lawn where ancestral games used to be played. At the present time, lots of colors are available.  In the game of pool, the table used is also covered with baize. But the cloth used makes the movement of the balls a bit slow, unlike in billiards where the table is fast. Most of the time, the cloth is made of 100% synthetics. There is also a wide array of color options and prints. 
Table Size The playing surface of a standard carom billiard table is 2.84 x 1.42 meters, which is equal to 9.3 x 4.7 feet. There are some American models that come in 10 x 5 feet. Other games, such as English billiards, are played on tables as big as 12 x 6 feet.  A standard pool table’s surface is 9 x 4.5 feet or 2.7 x 1.4 meters. It is smaller and is mostly seen in homes and bars or pubs. There used to be larger 10 x 5 feet versions, which were common until the 1920s. 
Goal The goal of the game is to score either a specific number of points or score the most points within a time limit, which is determined at the beginning of the game.  In pool games, the goal is to use the cue ball to pocket object balls in a specific order or in specific pockets. 
Rack In most carom billiard games, no rack is used. A triangular rack is used in arranging the object balls at the start of the games of straight pool, eight ball, and others. A diamond-shaped rack, on the other hand, is used in the game of nine-ball.
Most Common Game The most common billiard game is three-cushion billiards. In this game, the player needs to use a specific cue ball to contact one of the other two balls on the table, at least three rail cushions, and the remaining ball to score.  The most common pool game is eight-ball. In this game, each player competes to claim a suit, pocket all the balls in the suit, and pocket the 8-ball legally. All of these while denying the opponent opportunities to do the same with their suit. The ball should not be pocketed. 

These are the differences between billiards and pool. The only similarity that these games have is belonging to the group of cue sports. Other than that, billiards and pool are two very different games in terms of equipment and game mechanics. We hope this post helped you learn more about the differences and similarities between pool and billiards.