American Pool Vs English Pool: A Full & Informative Guide

  • By: Rob
  • Date: April 23, 2023
  • Time to read: 10 min.
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Yes, you read that right – there is a difference between American pool vs English pool, and it’s pretty big despite them being played on a pocket table, with the use of balls, cues, and all that other good stuff needed to play 8-ball. 

So, how can they be so different? If you’re not sure how to tell the difference or even which game you have been playing, then you are in the right place. 

American pool vs English pool has some subtle differences that you may not notice at first glance. The main differences are with the table size, the pool balls, and the rules. There is also smaller differences between the cues used and the types of pool games that can be played.

Without a doubt, not all pocket pool games are created equal. Each game has a unique playing style and different variations are preferred by different people. The same can be said for American pool and English pool, different flavors enjoyed by different people.

So, for you to be able to enjoy the popular game, you need to know the difference between English and American pool. The good news is that you have landed on the right page where you will get a detailed comparative analysis of American pool vs English pool.

Let’s get started!

American pool vs English pool, which is best suited for you

American pool is tailored to give you a quick, thrilling game, It’s fast and fun. English pool is an exceptionally strategic game that’s slower but more tactically challenging.

British pool uses English tables are smaller, they are great for tactile games and positional snookers.

Note that English pool balls usually come in a set of reds and yellows with one black ball or 8-ball. 

However, if you are to compare the rules of American pool vs English pool, you’ll find, aside from some minor differences, they are almost identical. 

The use of red and yellow balls makes it difficult to play variations of pool which require the numbered balls as English pools don’t sport numbers on their balls, unlike American pool balls.

Lets take a look at what we have learned so far, I will break everything down in more detail a little later on:

American PoolEnglish Pool
Table SizeBiggerSmaller
Ball styleSolids/Stripes2 Colors
8-Ball playSimilarSimilar
9-Ball playCan playCan’t play

Pool Quiz For You:

Why can’t you play 9-Ball using a traditional English pool table using traditional English pool equipment?

If you can answer that, then you are ready to move onto the next part where I delve a little deeper into the difference between American pool vs English pool

American pool table vs English pool table

Here, we want to get into the finer details between English pool vs American pool – to help you know exactly the differences and benefits of both great cue sports.

I wrote an article on the question “Is Pool a Sport?” Check it out if you’re interested.

English pool table

We have briefly seen that English tables are smaller than their American rivals, so lefts dive deeper to explore the differences.

You can find many English tables that are either 6 ft or 7 ft long. 

Many people choose them for their home games room due to this small size. If you are a little tight on space and want adequate room to be able to walk freely all-around your table, then this can fit your needs. 

Hathaway Fairmont Portable Pool table(Amazon Link)

As already mentioned, American tables are bigger, actually, they can be much bigger. The most standard size of American pool tables are 7ft, 8ft or 9ft long. 

Do not think that a 7 ft American table is the same in size with a 7ft English table. 

American pool table

When the dimensions are the same, the unique design still makes them different. The American table will be larger in this case. 

Another vital element that we should also compare is slate. If you check well, you will find out that American tables have sectional slates that are supplied in a number of pieces. 

If you’d like to know, “What is a Slate Pool Table” and How to Tell if a Pool Table is Slate, I wrote articles about it.

Why do manufacturers do that? The large slates are challenging to handle or transport. As such, the manufacturer supplies them in sections, usually 3 pieces of slate. 

The most common alternative is an MDF bed, which is cheaper than slate, it’s also prone to warp after some time whereas slate doesn’t get affected by the elements and stays true, hence why it’s more expensive.

If an English table has a slate bed, then it’s most likely just a single piece.

Slate pool tables
American TableEnglish Table
Playing field Size7,8 & 9 ft6 & 7 ft
Table SizeBiggerSmaller
Table Bed3 piece slate/MDF1 piece slate/MDF

Learn More…
If you want to know more about the differences between Slate and MDF pool table beds, then go check it out. Quite a few nuggets of information in there!

American pool balls vs English pool balls​

The size of pool balls is also critical in making English and American plays so different.

Let us start with American style pool balls. 

I like these because they are instantly recognizable. Moreover, I see them as the most straightforward set to explain. The American balls are 2 ¼ inches and are either attractive stripes or well solid/spots balls.

Also, the white ball matches the object balls in size as well as weight.

English balls, however, have some unique features that some easily fail to recognize. 

Both the cue ball and object balls differ in size. The former is smaller while the object ball is 2 inches. 

English pool balls

If you have a coin-operated table, the difference will allow the white to travel through the table when potted. Because of the larger size, the object balls will get hed up in the mechanism.  

While many tournaments do not use these tables, you may use them in English tournaments.

The weight of the balls are also different, with American balls being heavier.  

American BallsEnglish Balls
Size2 1/4 Inches2 Inches
StyleSolids & StripesRed & yellow

The difference between table pockets and felts

The shape and size of the pockets and felt are noticeably different as well. The pockets from American-style tables are large and can perfectly fit two balls.

The perfectly angled pockets also make the felt to appear like blades. 

English pool balls red

During game-play, this manufactures some extraordinary interesting effects. In particular, it ensures that shots alongside the felt are significantly much easier.

At the same time, you can also notice that the cushions’ shape is too angular and create an ideal ‘blade’ for your balls.

Obviously, with an English-styled pool table, the pockets are much smaller than many think. 

This ensures that it can accommodate the small ball-size. Two balls can securely rest on the mouth of the pocket.

Remember that English pool tables have napped felts, and they are available in various weights. 

On the other hand, American billiard tables have “speedball” felt. Since the last one does not nap, it positively changes the speed of the game.

Here’s an article I wrote about the Best Pool Table Feltcheck it out if you’re interested.


American pool cue vs English pool cue​

You can also differentiate the two by looking at their pool cues. 

If you carefully look closely at an American pool stick, you will notice that it is largely made from less dense maple wood. 

The cue tip and ferrule are also unique. The tip is between 13 and 14mm, which make it ideal for the larger cue ball. 

However, the ferrule is much larger than this. Usually made of plastic, which is intended to give the pool stick some exceptional shock absorbing qualities, carbon fiber is also used. This means that the ferrule makes the cue the best for striking the larger, heavier balls.

English cues are unique in that they are thinner-bodied. At the same time, they have a significantly thinner tip that measures about 8-9 mm wide. Given the small size, English cues use a smaller ferrule that is made of brass, plastic is sometimes used, too. 

The remaining part of the stick is made from ash wood giving it a unique look and grainy appearance. 

Another thing that you need to note is that the size of the cue only makes it ideal for the smaller balls.

American CuesEnglish Cues
Length58 Inches57 Inches
Tip13 – 14mm8 – 9mm

Learn More…
Snooker cues are very similar to English pool cues in a lot of ways, if you want to see them compared to American pool cues then check out my article on Snooker cue vs pool cue HERE

Can you use English Pool Balls on American Table

People may wonder if they can use English pool balls on an American table. The answer is yes, you can use English pool balls on an American table but you may not get the best results.

There are a few discrepancies between English and American pool tables that will cause issues when you try to mix equipment.

The diameter of an English pool ball is too small for the height of an American rail, so it’s not really ideal to use English balls on an American table.

The pockets are also different sizes, so you’ll have to adjust your aim when playing on a different type of table.

American pool tables have a rail cushion nose height of between 1 3/8 inches – 1 7/16 inches. 

That is a perfect height for American balls that are the standard 57 mm in diameter.

English pool balls are smaller at 51mm in diameter, making them too small to be used on American pool tables.

Which Game is Harder

English pool is the best for those desiring to hone their gaming skills. 

The American option is common across the world, and you will find their table in most tournaments.

 Most people are practicing using it, and most likely, that is the reason many think it is easier. 

But, as we have seen, many other elements, such as the lightweight “speedball” of the felt that affect the speed of play, also make American pool an ideal option for many.

From my own personal experience, as a brit, I grew up playing the English style for many years, the tables you will find in nearly every “pub” in the UK. 

Because of their more tactical nature, slower cloth, and smaller pockets, I would say they are harder tables to play on. 

After I moved from the UK, I ended up playing more American-style pool, and I have to say, although I find it easier because of the style of the play and speed of the tables, it’s more exciting.

Both have their pros and cons, but if I went into a pool hall that had both tables, I would probably pick the American style one simply because its faster and therefore more fun.

What do They Call Pool in England

So what do they call pool in England? Officially, it’s called backball pool. However, black ball pool or English pool is more commonly known as just “pool”. It’s a popular pub game in England and is enjoyed by people of all ages.

English pool is similar to American 8 ball. The main difference is that English pool uses red and yellow balls, while American 8 ball uses stripes and solids. Another difference is that the English pool table is usually smaller than the American 8 ball table.

American pool tables, as mentioned are 7,8 or 9 feet long while English pool tables are 6 or 7 feet.

American Pool vs English Pool Rules

American pool vs English pool (blackball) rules has a few differences in the way they play 8-ball, but not too many. I will cover the difference between the rules here:

In English pool you can do what’s called a skill shot, where you can pot your ball and your opponent’s ball in the same shot. This can be used to your advantage in some situations, perhaps you can make a cannon shot and make use of this rule.

Another English pool rule that is different to American pool is when a foul is committed. Playing English pool, If your opponent fouls, you are allowed to pot one of your opponent’s balls as a “free ball” – This can be useful if your opponent’s ball is covering the pocket you for example.

If a foul has been committed USA 8 ball you will have a “ball in hand”, meaning you can place the ball anywhere on the table. UK 8 ball you will have “2 shot carry” Where you will have two shots that are carried on until you miss a 2nd time.

These are just some of the main differences between American pool vs English pool rules.


We have seen that there are so many differences between American pool vs English pool. Maybe you are even wowed by the fact that a game that looks remarkably similar can have several subtle differences. Each has unique benefits.

Both English and American tables provide the perfect mix of design and shape that meet the various needs of users. Manufacturers know that what is ideal for one person may not be for another. 

So if you’re still asking which one is best for you, my best answer is that this boils down to personal preferences. Choose the one that best suits your desires. However, do not ignore the differences that we have talked about here because they will determine your overall game-play experience.

Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.

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