Billiards Vs Pool (Here’s The Difference)

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Have you ever been in a pool hall or someone else’s house and been asked to play billiards but weren’t sure what they meant? Do they want to play billiards? Do they mean pool? What exactly do they want you to play?

Even though people often use the two terms interchangeably, they are not the same. Billiards and pool are two different games, but billiards is also a broader category that pool can fall under. To make it simple: pool has pockets on the table, while billiards do not

This distinction may sound confusing at first, but it is actually quite simple to understand the difference between the two terms. To find out more about billiards and pool, read on. We look at billiards both as a specific game and a category for other cue sports. Let’s get started.

What Is The Difference Between Billiards And Pool? – The Pockets

Generally speaking, billiards is any tabletop game that is played with a cue stick and ball. Since pool is a game that falls under this definition, it is a billiards game.

With that in mind, pool is a specific billiards game with pockets on the tabletop. For this fact, the tabletop pockets are what distinguish pool from other billiards games, like English billiards. 

If you are playing a tabletop game with pockets, then you are playing pool. On the other hand, you are playing billiards if you’re playing a tabletop game without pockets.

Billiards: A Term Describing Cue Sports

Before looking at billiards and pool specifically, it is important to know that many people use the term billiards as a broad category. In other words, billiards can simply be a term that describes any cue sport, that is, a game that uses a cue ball and a cue stick.

It may be helpful to think of pool as a type of billiards game. In other words, all pool games classify as billiards, but not all billiards games classify as pool. This is because billiards is the larger game type that pool falls under.

Within billiards, the games will often be separated into 3 subcategories: pool, carom billiards, and snooker.

If someone wants to play billiards specifically, they will often call it carom billiards, but many people also might talk about English billiards. These terms refer to the actual game of billiards, not the general category describing cue sports.

Other people will use the word billiards simply to talk about any game involving a cue stick or cue ball. People may ask you to play billiards when they actually mean pool. It is normally easy to know what someone means when they say billiards.

Just look at the table. If the table has pockets, then they want to play pool but are calling it billiards instead. If the table lacks pockets, then the player actually does mean billiards. In that case, you might want to distinguish what kind of billiards they want to play.

See Also: Snooker VS Pool: Which is Harder

Playing Billiards

Carom billiards

So, billiards is a tabletop game with a cue ball and stick, but it lacks pockets. What else is there to know about billiards?


Billiards, often referred to as carom billiards, is played on a pocketless table.

It only uses 3 balls. The balls can be red, white with a spot, and white without a spot or red, white, and yellow. The white and yellow balls act as the cue balls. The billiard balls will be 2-7/16 inches in diameter.

Although the table’s exact size will depend on the game you’re playing, most carom billiards will be either 7 feet, 8 feet, or 9 feet. The 7 foot table is often found in bars or recreational places, whereas the 9 foot table is often used for professional and tournament uses.

Since billiards does not use pockets, it makes sense that the tables are pocketless. 

How To Play

The object of the game is to score more points than your opponent. You will agree on a total. To win the match, you must reach the agreed-upon total. How you get points is by bouncing the cue ball off the other two balls located on the table.

For more detailed Rules:

English Billiards

There are different ways to play billiards, but the most popular is English billiards. Though named after its country of origin, English billiards is played all over the world today.

At the start of the game, the red ball will be placed on the spot, and then the first player shoots. You add the second cue ball whenever it is the second player’s turn.

Playing Pool

Once again, pool is technically a classification under the general term of billiards. It is different from playing billiards in that it uses pockets on the table, but it also uses a cue stick and cue ball.


Pool games will use anywhere from 6 to 16 balls, although most people are used to playing with the entire set.

Each of these balls will be 2-¼ inches in diameter. Eight of these balls will be numbered 1 to 8 with a solid color, seven will be numbered 9 to 15 with a stripe of color, and one will be a solid white cue ball.

The table used for pool is often the same table used for billiards. They will be either 7, 8, or 9 feet in length. Like with billiards, professionals often play on 9 foot tables. The only exception is that it will have pockets, often six.

How To Play

It is impossible to give a simple explanation of how to play pool. There are a variety of pool games. How you play pool will largely depend on the game you are playing specifically. Most pool games require you to shoot balls into the pockets.

You will often agree upon a number that must be reached for the person to win. Straight ball is a specific type of pool that requires you to call the ball you intend to hit before you go. This game is much more complicated than other types of pool for this reason.

8 Ball Pool

The most popular pool game is 8 ball. In 8 ball, you will play with one other opponent. One opponent will select the solid colors, while the other one will select the striped colors.

The object of the game is to be the first person to pocket all of their group first. To win the game, you must pocket the 8 ball after pocketing your designated colors.

Related Questions

What is snooker? 

As we mentioned above, the third category of billiards is snooker. Snooker uses pockets like pool, but it is generally agreed upon that snooker is much more difficult than pool. This is due to the need to be more precise in your hit, as well as the more complicated rules.

See Also:
Snooker Cue Vs Pool Cue (Here’s the Difference)
Pool Table VS Snooker Table

How is snooker different from billiards and pool? 

Snooker requires 21 balls that are 2-1/8 inch in diameter, making them smaller than billiards and pool balls. You will have three striker balls. You must pocket the red balls and the object balls to get points.

After you have pocketed all the red balls, you can pocket the rest of the object balls, but you must pocket them in a specific order.

Snooker also has a larger table. This means that you must hit the smaller balls, which have a smaller surface area, a further distance. Additionally, the pockets are rounded on snooker tables. This means that you must hit the ball dead center of the pocket in order for it to go in.

Snooker Table

Because of the smaller surface area on the balls, larger table, and rounded pockets, snooker is generally considered more difficult than most other billiard games. It requires much more accuracy, precision, and knowledge of the game. 

Should I play billiards, pool, or snooker? 

What game you play depends on the table you have. If you have a table with pockets, then you might want to go ahead and play pool. For those without pockets, play billiards. Both games are super fun and great to play as both a beginner or a more experienced player.

Snooker, on the other hand, maybe a bit more difficult to play. It has a different table and ball set. So, you can really only play snooker if you have a specific set designated for the game.


As you can see, billiards and pool are not the same things. Billiards can be used as a general term for multiple cue sports. In this case, pool is a category within the sport.

At the same time, billiards can refer to a specific game in which a cue ball and cue stick are used without pockets. Pool, on the other hand, uses pockets in addition to the cue stick and cue ball. This makes the pockets the main distinction between pool and billiards.

Next time someone asks you if you want to play billiards, you can more confidently know exactly what you are playing. Just glance at the table you are playing on, and you will quickly be able to know what the other person wants to play.  

See Also:
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What Happens When You Call the Wrong Pocket in Pool?

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